Whipped Cream & Other Delights

Some people live for the thrill of the hunt, others for porcelain cats, still others for the ritualistic cleansing of the human race—now let's agree never to speak of Uncle Lomas again. Then there are those who live for food. Not just the eating of it, but also the preparing, marketing, policing, serving and feeding of it to the world's largest rodents. Food. This is their life. So who better to address the very simple yet illuminating question: If you could eat at any restaurant in Orange County, money no object, which restaurant would you choose? AND if you were really hungry and, looking into your wallet, found you had only 10 bucks, where would you go to eat? Their answers reveal hidden nuggets, guilty pleasures, old standards and, for lack of a better term, Red Lobster.


Michelle Claud
Photo by James Bunoan
MICHELLE CLAUD
CURATOR OF ANIMALS, SANTA ANA ZOO
Whenever there's a bungle in our jungle, we call the lovely, charming Michelle Claud, curator of animals at the Santa Ana Zoo who has overall responsibility for feeding some 300 animals in her care. And, hey, not all of them are Republicans—ba-dum-pah! But seriously, folks, if you think feeding your own brood of rugrats is rough, try keeping a capybara happy. Known as the world's largest rodent (beating out Bob Dornan by a snout hair), it devours a five-gallon drum of yams, corn on the cob and carrots each day. Then there are the snakes that eat dead rodents, monkeys that eat crickets and worms, and the various tropical birds such as toucans and ibises that eat everything from fish to plantains and mangos. No wonder Claud's workplace smells like, well, a zoo. Yes, at the end of a long day of animal husbandry, Claud likes to peel off her khakis, kick off her grungy work boots, and let Calgon take her away. But before she does that, she might grab some grub at one of the following locales. UNDER $10: "There's this little Vietnamese/Chinese place at Newport and Walnut called Golden Chopsticks," says Claud. "It's kinda greasy, but that's what makes it taste so good." Claud suggests their vermicelli with steak and shrimp. 14430 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 838-6856. UNLIMITED: When Claud's feeling sinful, she and her hubby stop by Captain Jack's in Sunset Beach. "Even though snow crab is listed on the 'proceed with caution' list given out by the Aquarium of the Pacific for marine animals [that are being overharvested], Captain Jack's makes really great snow crab, and that's what I'd get, having unlimited funds." Michelle, you're a naughty curator! 16812 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-2514.MOHAMMAD ABDALLA
BUTCHER/OWNER, AL-HUDA MEAT & DELI
That an order for a shank of lamb takes longer at Al-Huda Meat & Deli than at a local supermarket simply means it'll be more delicious. See, Abdalla follows halal guidelines, a preparation tradition derived from the Koran that ensures meat is fresh and free from any contaminants. The results can be tasted in the various beef, chicken and lamb cuts—no pork: that's haram(forbidden) for Muslims—the native of Palestine prepares. 518 S. Brookhurst St., Ste. 6, Anaheim, (714) 776-4252.UNDER $10: Close to Al-Huda is Al-Zahra's Restaurant. "It has a daily dish that ranges from lentil soup to a falafel plate," says Abdalla. "They also have this lamb shish kebab made with fresh lamb and served with a giant portion of jasmine rice. It's all very convenient and cheap, and you can either dine in or take out." 611 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, (714) 774-7999.UNLIMITED: "When I want to feel important, I like to go to Five Crowns," says Abdalla with a chuckle. "The atmosphere, understandably, is very rich, but so is the food. They have some pretty delicious appetizers like fried zucchini and Buffalo wings. But I always make sure to get their steaks. New York, T-bone—it doesn't matter; they're all great. 3801 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (949) 760-0331.

GAIL ALLEN
SWEETS SELLER, A HEAVENLY AFFAIR

Gail Allen owns and runs—and hardly ever leaves—A Heavenly Affair, the Cypress confection shop that for the past 12 years has specialized in custom-made sweets. She's rightly proud of the business she has built, but she's rather self-conscious about how much time she still spends building it. "I don't get out much, which is kind of sad, I guess, in a way, although I don't mind—so what I'm saying is that I really don't know how much help I can be recommending restaurants to anybody else," Allen says . . . well . . . sweetly. 5115 Ball Rd., Cypress, (714) 952-1444.UNDER $10: "I like the Claim Jumper on Beach and La Palma," Allen says. "I like everything about it—the food is great, the atmosphere is good, the service is attentive and friendly, and whatever you order, you always get enough to take something home. My favorites range from the chicken and noodles to the Frisco burger. But maybe my top choice is a bowl of their potato cheese soup." 7971 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 523-3227.UNLIMITED: "I went to the Fish Co.in Los Alamitos last night. That's a wonderful place. I had the orange roughy, but I also like the halibut. Whatever I have, I get it with the mashed potatoes. They are tremendous. Like I said, I don't get out much." 11061 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (562) 594-4553.
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