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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rooster Unpretentious it is actually Pretentious

Picture Courtesy of Yelp...the Britney sans Ponzu

It was a beautiful saturday, the sky was blue, the birds were singing, we had lined up the grandparents to watch the kids, and alas the Mrs and I had a rare respite from parenthood to go out for a few hours with the children and enjoy each others company in celebration of our recent anniversary.

We had considered several options. Spaghetti Bender in Newport Beach, Marche Moderne in South Coast, some various Italian joints in South OC, a WineBar in MV,  etc etc. But after some research and some cost analysis we decided on Rooster PM, a little hipster cafe in Costa Mesa. The main draw came from some very good yelp reviews in conjunction with no a corkage fee wine policy that earned marks right from the get go. Being the corkage at lots of OC places is $15 bucks and some other places with 0 zero corkage only have that policy on select nights and given the recent economy woes etc etc etc.

So we find it and its quaint location in Costa Mesa next to a dive bar and a clear view of a paint store and their ever so scenic trash dumpsters located squarley across the street....well whats not to love?

Bottle of Ghost Pines Merlot in hand were promptly seated given some bread and pesto. Our waiter opened our bottle and poured our wine into 2 6oz(estimated) beer glasses and brought a 3rd for himself at my prompting. Im of the school its never a bad thing to share booze with your server or your Sushi Chef etc etc. And while some would probably bemoan  no wine glasses....I was content to roll with it. 

As our wine breathed we ordered a glass of Sangria, largely driven by yelp reviews,  as well as a glass of the Venta Morales 2009 tempranillo the waiter suggested. I was impressed at the suggestion largely due to the fact the Venta Morales was not the most expensive wine on the menu which helped build the trust factor with our server. Truth be told all of the wines were very reasonably priced and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Rooster PM also had a wonderful selection of beers with pairing suggestions as well.

We started with the spanish cheese sampler that was brought to the table and thoroughly explained by our waiter as to what each cheese was and I while I hadn't thought about blogging about the evening I did not make notes of each cheese like I should have. I know...Im a naughty, naughty little blogger.

Anyhow, the cheeses were served at room temperature and off the top of my head, there was a goat cheese with mango chutney, a cheese from the basque region, some gouda, a paremesan like offering, and a softer cut of cheese much akin to a Havarti. We delighted in trying each cheese alone and the mixing it with a bit of pesto and then again working the combos with our wine. The Goat Cheese and chutney was fantastic as was the havarti offering which was smooth, creamy, a hint of brine, and opened and expanded with a schmear of pesto. The parmesan like cheese was good as well in the it had all of the flavor of a romano/parmesan but not the bite one may expect. The least of the offerings was the gouda, and not that it was bad but we decided that gouda is essentially gouda. Whereas other cheeses you can take the difference between artisan offering and mass production; Gouda always remains Gouda. For the $12 price though, a nice selction of cheeses and certainly worth the price to experiment with cheese, pesto, wine, etc etc.

Next we rolled with the 3 way mushrooms. I did not ask details on the dish but basically came down some sauteed whites, some italian brown/crimini cheese stuffed, and some battered shitakis served with a sweet honey mustard like sauce though the wife thought there were some curry elements as well. Overall, the hands down winner of this selection was the battered shitakis. The breading/batter was light and fluffy and served as the ideal sponge to hold in the sauce. It almost reminded me a bit of the batter they used in indian cooking for breading potatoes and cauliflower albeit a bit lighter in the color dept. If you go and order this dish-may not be a bad idea to simply bypass the other 2 offerings in lieu of extra shitaki and sauce.

Our last item we ordered was an item they referred to as the Britney which was a 5 oz Filet that seared, then rolled in Panko and finished on the grill and then served atop asparagus topped with Bearnaise sauce. We sliced the meat and it was cooked to a perfect medium rare with the panko adding nice textural notes with the Bearnaise adding a cream like element. Not content to roll with the dish(as good as it was) we asked for a side of Ponzu. Quick back story, in some Asian countries steak is eaten with soy sauce or ponzu. I am generally a kosher salt on my steak kind if guy but since trying the soy and ponzu will not hesitate to go that route. Long story short-the ponku added the perfect additional element of saltiness and sourness that enhanced the both the texture of the panko, the creamy herbaceousness of the sauce, and the flavor of the cut. Even with the Asparagus, that were about the size of Albert Pujols Louisville Slugger, the Bearnaise/ponzu one-two punch was a home run.  We mentioned it to the waiter who then jumped at the chance to try it himself and moments later came back to thanks us for the recommendation saying he never imagined ponzu would fit so well with the dish.

I felt satisfied knowing our little experiment paid a culinary dividend that may lead to the happiness of future gastronomes. Our server mentioned some desert offerings but being we still had an hour of kid free time in conjunction with our wine bottle being empty we decided to head and enjoy what little time we had left. Have to say-our server described the ice cream offerings wonderfully and had we been really going for it would have tried it for sure(salted caramal...el yum.)

All in all...we left tip and all for under $60. Considering Marche Moderne would have been $160 we felt RoosterPM one of the best deals in town for exciting cuisine. We also were felt that in the future it was a place we easily could have taken the kids too without feeling too weird about it. I mention if only we lived closer I would have no issues making a weekly appearance to sample 1 or 2 of the dishes weekly. Also neglected to order the Mac and Cheese which clearly was a popular dish and ordered by what appeared to be a large contingent of college students who were growing in number as the evening progressed. All in all.....mega thumbs up to RoosterPM. I am quite convinced it is only a matter of time before  Anthony Bordaine and some other Food celebs make an appearance to sample the goods. After all, it's almost made for some food or travel channel promo solely based  for the quirk quality alone let alone the unique and high quality food offerings. Glad I could try, hope to be back again, and thanks for saving me $100 dollars I would have spent for similar far at Marche Moderne.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Wonderful night with El Toro Meats and Columbia Crest Grand Estates

BBQ Nights-South OC Style!

Overview of my plate....yum!

Close Up Cross Section of the Sirloin

Top View of the PinWheel

Was fortunate enough to score $20 dollars worth of meat for $10 courtesy of an online promotion and decided to use the evening to do some grilling and blog about it. Basically on the meat side we picked up a nice sirloin steak along with a sirloin pinwheel. For those of you unfamiliar with the pinwheel, its is a steak that is circularly sliced, ran through a tenderizer, then marinated in bordelaise/Worcestershire mixture. It almost has a teriyaki like taste in my book but with a good cut of steak and good ingredients it is arguably one of my favorites.

And to mark the occasion we sprang for a bottle of our new favorite wine in the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot from Washington. We love the cab but thought on this eve we would roll with the merlot since the wife prefers it. And I do have to say....for those of you shelling out 5 or 6 bucks for a bottle of Yellowtail; trust me the 1 dollar more to get the Columbia Crest Grand Estates is well worth it. I gave some friends a sample of the cab a week or so again and most agreed it was as good as any $20 bottle price point.

What made the Grand Estates Merlot most remarkable IMO, was the finish. Like a good cigar or glass of scotch it had a long slow lingering finish that I have never experienced with wine at this price point. I took a sip inside the house and went outside to tender the grill and a few minutes later could still taste the nuances of oak and berry. Once again if you are paying 5 or 6 bucks for an everyday drinker give any of the Grand Estates a try as both the Cab and the Merlot are outright fantastic.

For the meat I used a basic dry rub for the steak and since the pinwheel was pre-marinated did nothing. We prefer our steaks very rare which makes sense for the fact that you can reheat leftovers and still have a bit of pink in the middle. For the veggies I use a pepper melange with some brown criminis over the grill in my now legendary bbq grill woq. I was considering roasting them and making some type of confit or remoulade but decided to keep it simple.

All in all a wonderful night, with wonderful food, with my wonderful family, with wonderful wide made all the more special by the fact it wasn't to be spoiled by my not so wonderful favorite NHL hockey team who by good fortune was not playing on this night and thus not offered the opportunity to spoil the occasion. And for that I thank the lord and the hockey gods for a wonderful, wonderful evening.