“Roast Duckling at Five Crowns, Bone Marrow at Pascal, Pescadou’s Foie Gras, Black Bush Stew at Muldoon’s, True Foods’ Kale Salad was such a big deal, these are a few of my favorite meals…”
“Chris, you’re singing off-key,” reviewed Stasha.
“Maybe, but those culinary concoctions are perfectly in tune with my palate, as were many more delicious dishes we had this year,” I noted.
“We enjoyed some amazing epicurean experiences in 2010, didn’t we?” agreed Stasha.
“That’s one of the things I love about living in Newport Beach: we didn’t have to travel far to find fine dining.”
“But your voice has to travel a mile to find the right note,” laughed Stasha. “Let me sing a few of my favorite meals.”
“But I assumed my favorites were probably yours, too.”
“Not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong – the ones you warbled were great, but my taste buds were treated to a few memorable meals you might have overlooked.”
“Since we had so many great meals, let’s see if we can come up with a Fave Five list.”
I could see she was perplexed by my idea.
“How about we each list our five favorite appetizers, entrées, and desserts.”
“And then maybe our five favorite overall dining experiences of 2010?” she added.
“Now you’re talking. You start – ladies first.”
“Well, starting with appetizers, The Carousel at The Ritz is hands down my favorite because it covers everything: Akvavit-Cured Gravlax, Smoked Idaho Trout, Gulf Shrimp, Dungeness Crab Legs, Shelled Maine Lobster Claws, Duck Liver Paté, Cantaloupe with Parma Prosciutto, and Tartare of Filet Mignon. It’s an amazing selection, and for $22.50 per person, it’s a steal.”
“Next on my list is Barone’s Facci ri Veccia: focaccia baked paper thin and filled with imported Crescenza cheese, topped with Parma prosciutto and drizzled with white truffle oil. I have to go back, just for that.”
“That’s one of my favorites too,” I exclaimed.
“My other three were Muldoon’s Bangers, Charlie Palmer’s Veal Sweetbreads or maybe their Duck Meatballs, and then SOL’s Taco Vampiros.”
“My favorites were the Char-grilled Octopus with citrus oil and saffron aioli from Rustica, the Bone Marrow from Pascal, the Pope’s Hat Pasta stuffed with pumpkin and bitter almond at Pelican Hill’s Andrea Restaurant, and lastly, the Mussels Provençal at Pescadou – with extra bread for dunking in the sauce,” I said with a smile.
“And your favorite entrées?”
“It was a difficult decision, but I’d say Barone’s Spaghetti al Nero di Seppie with shrimp, baby lobster and cuttlefish ink sauce was numero uno,” I told her. “After that, Maine Diver Scallops in a Lemon Beurre Blanc with Vegetable Risotto at Port, the Duck Magret at Pescadou, the Porcini Mushroom Risotto with grated Truffles at Pelican Hill, and Brasserie Pascal’s Roasted Cornish Hen, also served with Black Truffle Risotto and Foie Gras.”
“I see a trend here with truffles and risotto,” Stasha chuckled. “Honestly, those are all good choices, but my top five were Pelican Hill’s Sea Bass with eggplant, red pepper, squash and braised tomato drizzled with ash oil from burnt onions, Balboa Bay Club’s Paprika Goulash, Five Crown’s Roast Goose, Pescadou’s Rabbit Dijonnaise, and the Crispy Duckling at Muldoon’s.”
“I’m getting hungry,” I said.
“No time to eat – we need to finish our lists,” reminded Stasha. “How about your desserts?”
“That’s easy: the Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Rum Sauce, flambéed tableside at Wildfish, was superb. After that, Barone’s Limoncello Tiramisu with white chocolate and caramel, the Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise and raspberries at Bungalow, the Sweet Potato Pie Bar at Haute Cakes, and the Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce at Five Crowns. How about you?”
“I’m just going to add two desserts: the Isle Flotante and the Macaroons, both from Pascal Epicerie.”
“And now the hard part: our five favorite dining experiences of 2010,” I stated.
“I would say The Ritz, Muldoon’s, Brasserie Pascal, and First Cabin at Balboa Bay Club are among my five,” said Stasha. “But Andrea Restaurant at Pelican Hill tops my list. Overall, it was one of the most educational and unique culinary experiences I’ve ever had.“
“I agree. Not only for the impeccable service and superb cuisine, but also the spectacular views,” I recalled. “I felt like I was on vacation in another country.”
“Right? The architecture, landscaping, and ambiance – all the elements came together…“
“Exactly,” I nodded. “I also thought Barone, Five Crowns, Pescadou, and Rustica were outstanding.”
“Well then, shall we agree that Pelican Hill’s Andrea Restaurant was our top epicurean experience of 2010?”
“Without a doubt. I also think we were fortunate to have had enjoyable experiences everywhere we dined during the past year.”
“Very true, and that’s a testament to all the individuals in the restaurant industry – from the chef de cuisine, service staff, bartenders, management, designers, etc. – who understand they are the key ingredients to an exceptional dining experience. There are not enough words in this column to express our gratitude for their efforts,” Stasha said sincerely.
“Then I suggest we offer a toast to those in the restaurant industry.”
“Happily,” Stasha began. “May your kitchens be bountiful, your patrons plentiful, your staff full of cheer and merriment, and may you constantly find joy in your craft to inspire, tickle and delight the culinary critics.”