Pain and Pleasure

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“Why is a poor man like a baker?” I asked Stasha.

“I don’t know, why?”

“Because they both knead dough. Get it? Need dough?”

She stared at me.

“I hope you had a reason for sharing that half-baked pun.”

“Le Pain Quotidien opens its first Orange County location next week in Fashion Island, and it’s only the second location in the world to have an on-site bakery that will offer baking classes to the public,” I explained. “So, even in Newport Beach, a lot of people will knead dough.”

“What else do they have, Dough Boy?”

“Something you’re going to love – a communal table, which is a trademark in all of their restaurants around the world.”

“It’s about time someone in Newport offered a communal table – I like them already,” said Stasha.

“I’m heading to the sneak preview tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

A selection of muffins made onsite at Le Pain Quitidien.

I arrived at Le Pain Quotidien and was welcomed by the restaurant’s GM, Kaylyn Crawford, and bakery manager Jonathan Eng.

An array of menu samples beckoned, including the popular Tartines, their signature Belgian open-faced sandwiches.

I selected slices of Smoked Atlantic Salmon with avocado and chopped dill, Grilled Chicken & Smoked Mozzarella with arugula and basil pesto, Chicken Curry Salad with a side of harissa-cranberry chutney, and Roasted Turkey & Avocado with whole grain mustard and tomato vinaigrette. All tasted fresh and full of flavor, but it was the Grilled Chicken and the Chicken Curry Tartines that got the attention of my taste buds.

Crawford pointed out some of the muffins and pastries on display.

“We have vegan blueberry muffins, brownie muffins, chocolate muffins, pistachio tart, apricot tart, cheese almond Danish, savory cheddar muffins. What can I get you?”

“I’m not a vegan, but I’m curious to see how the Vegan Blueberry tastes.”

I popped the small muffin in my mouth, and was impressed with the flavor  – it  wasn’t bland like some vegan recipes.

Artisan breads in abundance.

Jonathan, who relocated to Newport Beach after serving as the head baker at a New York location, gave me a quick tour of the bakery area.

“This is our new oven, made in France and assembled here on site. It’s a gas oven, steam injected. We can bake 50 to 60 baguettes at a time. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment  – it’s the Rolls Royce of ovens.”

“This is the oven you’ll be using in the baking classes?” I asked.

“Yes, but everything is done by hand. We go through all of the steps of making bread. You’ll mix the bread by hand, and people can load their bread into the oven.”

I learned that Le Pain Quotidien uses organic flour in their bread, serves only organic wines, and they’re a green certified restaurant. They accommodate vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner for in-restaurant dining or take-out service. A wide selection of soups, salads, and tartines all incorporate signature breads.

Le Pain Quotidien will present seasonal offerings on a menu that changes with the seasons, and artisan bakers will create new breads and pastries to retail only in the Fashion Island locale. For more info, visit www.lepainquotidien.us.

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Not far from Le Pain Quotidien is True Food Kitchen, renowned for their healthy menu that tastes decadent and delicious. Executive Chef Michael Stebner has introduced more than a dozen new menu items for fall, ranging from Thai Shrimp Dumplings stuffed with Basil, Mint and Jalapeno, to Organic Tomato and Roasted Kale pizza.

“The True Food menu evolves with the seasons, and we’re always trying to innovate and experiment with flavors,” explained Stebner. “Kale is back in season so we’re incorporating it in the ravioli and pizza. It’s one of the healthiest things you can eat.”

“We’ve also incorporated new items into our kid’s menu, which includes an Almond Butter, Apple and Banana Sandwich, Turkey Sliders, Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, and other kid-friendly items,” adds Stebner. “I wanted to have food that is approachable and not in-your-face health food. It’s enjoyable food that is nutrient dense.”

For those who want to learn more about the True Food lifestyle, Stebner and True Food founder Dr. Andrew Weil will be at the Fashion Island restaurant on Oct. 20 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. for a cooking demo and presentation. Dr. Weil will speak about Veganism and Vegetarianism, and the positive impact this way of life can have, while Chef Stebner will demo the Agrodolce Beets. A variety of vegan food and beverages will be served. Cost is $45 per person. Space is limited, so call 480-751-2176 to reserve a spot.

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Ever wonder what restaurant staff eat before they start their shifts? Wonder no more. Starting Oct. 18, Chef Pascal Olhats’ Tradition by Pascal and Brasserie Pascal will be offering patrons the same staff meals his employees enjoy.

On weekdays between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., his Epicerie (next door to Tradition on Bristol Street) will sell these dinners for only $10 each. And while Pascal is known for his French cuisine, these meals run the gamut from Chinese to Mexican.

“It’s my pleasure to offer these great meals at affordable prices without compromising the quality, which has always been one of my top professional goals in life,” notes Chef Pascal.

Each dinner is packed individually and served to-go only in a warm microwaveable container. For details, visit www.PascalNewportBeach.com.

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