Hello everyone! I was in southern California visiting my family for most of last week, and all of the prior week, but now I’m back in SF! This week, I thought I would share with you some of the tasty food I discovered and rediscovered in southern California. If you’re ever in the neighborhood and want to eat like MCM, here’s your chance! These locations are listed in no particular order.
The Cellar, San Clemente
This is where my cheesemonger journey all began . Dawn, the owner, is one of the most astute businesspeople and admirable leaders I have ever met. She has grown The Cellar to a veritable cheese dynasty with multiple cheese shop locations and a grilled cheese place. I’m always amazed at the delicious eats the Cellar’s tiny kitchen churns out, and my cheesy friend Kim is their wine buyer. I went for dinner, tasting a cheese plate (they make some of the prettiest cheese plates you’ll ever see), flatbread, burger, hummus, and arugula salad. The menu changes periodically, and they hold special event meals sometimes.
The Cellar: 156 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
Cucina Enoteca, Irvine
Beautiful. Everything about Cucina Enoteca is beautiful—the décor, the wines, the food. They have two locations, and I met my friend Kim at the Irvine one. I wish I could take everything I saw home with me, from the hanging succulent plants, to the long plate glass window lined with shoe forms, to the mix of industrial shabby chic chandeliers. I highly recommend their fried squash blossoms, stuffed with herb ricotta, accompanied with opal basil pesto and lemon aioli!
Cucina Enoteca (Multiple locations): Irvine Spectrum Center, 532 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92618
Quan Hy, Westminster
Quan Hy offers Vietnamese cuisine, but specifically specialties from Hue, the former imperial city situated in the muggy central region. When I’m in the area, I always have to stop by for my fix of bánh bèo chén, pillowy glutinous rice galettes served in small dishes, each one topped with chopped shrimp, scallions, and crispy pork rinds; bánh ít ram, more pillowy glutinous rice on top of crispy fried rice, filled with mushroom and meat, topped with crispy shallots and scallions; goi hen, clam salad with crispy rice crackers; and mì quang, one of my favorite noodle dishes with turmeric rice noodles, meat, shrimp, peanuts, salad, crispy rice cracker, and a squirt of lime juice, all in a savory, condensed broth. Heaven . . . . I could probably eat here nearly every day.
Marché Moderne, Costa Mesa
Marché Moderne is my mother’s favorite restaurant, and I can’t blame her for loving it. This finer dining room, surrounded by the high-end shops of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, specializes in French cuisine. During my visit, the whole family surprised my mother with dinner here to celebrate her retirement. We feasted on bone marrow, foie gras, oysters, ris de veau, grilled sea bream, and steaks, all of which was delectable. For dessert, I highly recommend their signature Braeburn apple tarte!
Marche Moderne: South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St #3001, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Blue Plate Taco, Santa Monica
A friend of mine recommended we meet at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica for an early dinner. It took over 2 hours to get through traffic from my Orange County starting point, but gosh, they make some pretty tasty tacos here. My group tried the chicken tinga, pork belly, and short rib tacos, and ceviche, all with rousing success. The only downside was the 90 minute limit at the table. If we had been allowed to stay, we would have definitely ordered another round of tacos.
Blue Plate Taco: 1515 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The Groundlings Theatre, Los Angeles
This is the one non-food location on this list! I attended an evening of improvisation performed by the young artists of the LA Opera. Throughout the evening, they sang about working at McDonald’s, a ménage à trois, how to use chopsticks, and then put on an improvised opera at the end. I didn’t know it then, but the theatre is home to an established school and troupe with many famous alumni (including Will Ferrell and Jack Black). They also made those hilarious David Blaine Street Magic videos my little brother used to love so much. If you are in the mood for some smart, hilarious jokes, go! Then afterward, you can enjoy a meal at Mao’s Kitchen a couple doors down.
The Groundlings Theatre: 7307 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
This week, I’m back in San Francisco, but have been called for jury duty, so let’s see if I’m selected!
What are your favorite places to eat in Southern California? I’d love to try them on my next visit there!