Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Prime Rib from Gulliver's - Irvine

Given a choice of a rib eye steak or prime rib, I'll always go for the steak--except when I'm at Gulliver's. Then it has to be the prime rib.

Gulliver's serves, in my humble opinion, the finest prime rib in OC. It's always a glorious shade of pink, a perfect medium rare, so soft, so pure, an unadulterated taste of the beast. That it lacks the crusty sear of a steak matters little when the meat is this perfect—as good as a slab of roasted cow can get.

And then there are the sides: a hollow cocoon of Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and creamed corned slopped onto your plare by the waitress from a big skillet. The latter two contain as much cream as it does vegetable. The richness basically double-downs on the fact that the meal is already an over-the-top indulgence. So what's a few more calories and fat?

You pour the au jus from a miniature tea kettle. It's a little weak on flavor and the horseradish isn't very strong. But it speaks to the quality of the cut that the prime rib shines regardless.

I’ve concluded that the appetizers here are unnecessary. The pork belly cubes are plated with unattractive glops of an unidentified substance that muddies and muffles the crispy pork.

The crab-stuffed mushrooms swim in a superfluous cream sauce and a gob of sour cream. It all seems like overkill until you realize it's probably how they served those dishes when the place opened in 1970.

Look around and nothing seems to have been updated since then. Gulliver’s is an old school relic cut from the same cloth as Steak and Ale and Cask N' Cleaver, a place your Baby Boomer parents went to spend their first paycheck.

The dining rooms are darkly lit, and full of booths and fireplaces. The waitresses are dressed like wenches. It's kitschy. It's unhip. It’s a shame they don’t make places like this anymore, which is exactly why I think it is a treasure in a city like Irvine.

Gulliver's Prime Ribs of Beef
18482 MacArthur Boulevard
Irvine, CA 92612

Graze Handcrafted Burgers - Santa Ana

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Beard Papa's Store That Went Rogue

This is the creme brûlée cream puff from Beard Papa. It is not something you can get at any Beard Papa, because technically it is not an officially sanctioned product. Only one branch makes it--the Monterey Park one, which, for a lack of a better term, has gone rogue. They've veered off the company script and taken some liberties, because, let's face it, you can't run a profitable business with cream puffs alone.

What they've done--without getting permission or approval from the corporate office--is some creative, out-of-the-box menu departures. They've realized that they needn't relegate the crisp, light-as-air, freshly-baked choux pastry shell for only desserts. If waffles can sub in for sandwich bread, why not choux? And if it's to be a vessel for the savory, why not also do interesting fillings such as a house-made smoked salmon and avocado cream?

And since they're already thumbing their nose at the company charter, why not upgrade the standard Beard Papa's cream puff by lopping off the top, sprinkling it with sugar, then torching it to a glassy sheen? What results is an edible, real life incarnation of the Venn diagram for a cream puff and a creme brûlée.

So far, the corporate masters have not disciplined this franchise's owner and chef (who are, full disclosure, friends of mine). But I don't think they will. Besides, it would be good to remind Beard Papa's corporate who invented the Big Mac: a McDonald's franchisee who went rogue.

Beard Papa's
141 N Atlantic Blvd #106
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Mamon Hillside Eatery - Foothill Ranch

Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Thoughts on Anthony Bourdain

I thought he was invincible--not a man, but a god out of Mount Olympus.

I idolized him. I have his books. I have VHS tapes of all the A Cook's Tour episodes that I recorded when it first aired. In my blog, I've mentioned him more times than I have any other person.

When I go abroad or visit a new city, I try to go where he has gone, eat what he has eaten. When I'm writing and I'm lacking inspiration, I would read something he wrote, hoping just a little of his talent could rub off on me.

But no one could touch Bourdain. The way he crafted a sentence, described a dish, an experience, was unique unto him.

Unlike some of my food writing peers, I never met the man, but I don't think I needed to. His body of work has always lived in my head and will continue to influence and inspire me for as long as I live. He is Elvis Presley. He is Shakespeare. But what I've learned in the past day is that he is also human.

Hook & Anchor - Newport Beach