3hree Fairly Affordable Orange County Meals That I Miss Like Hell When I'm On Tour
Watch out for 3hree Things every Tuesday, where Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California, being an OC native and, of course, music.
I've spent a healthy portion of the past decade in one of two places: On tour, or at home. Tour meant (and still means) wandering into the nearest and most reasonably-priced eatery, stuffing my face with familiar foodstuffs (burgers, salads, sandwiches) from an unfamiliar source (random pubs, sketchy chain restaurants, hotel eateries) fingers crossed, hoping that what had just been tossed bowelward wasn't anything that would affect someone whose entire fecal-offloading-existence-on-tour is contingent on toiletworks that are questionable-to-nonexistent at best (horror stories will be saved for a later post).
Home meant being holed up in my room like a diligent little hermit, my face glued to a computer screen filled with open windows of various recording/sequencing software, creating songs, parts, parts of songs, songs missing parts, some of which have ended up on Thrice records, others of which will most likely die as fragments of mediocre songsmithery on a hard drive that will eventually crash. Going "out" to dinner meant making dinner for myself at home and eating it in the living room, rather than at my desk. In short, I didn't get out much. And as a result, I had no idea how much OC-centric culinary awesomeness I was missing out on.
Riley behind the drum kit. Is he thinking of food?
Enter my ladyfriend (not literally).
A veteran of the Orange County restaurant circuit, she's opened my eyes and palate to more things in the past year and a half than I could ever thank her for. There are three meals in particular that we make a point to go out and get a few times a month, and since I'm currently five weeks deep into a US tour and absolutely craving something other than a hockey-puckish horseburger and a pint of Uncle Fuzzy's Gunt Sweat Lager from Farty McGuiggan's Irish Pub in Wherever, USA, I'm going to torture myself and share these with you (while drooling all over my laptop.)
Since I'm no food critic, and nothing I could put forth via text could ever be a substitute for actually eating and experiencing these meals, I'll spare you the faux-foodie vocabulary (mouthfeel, savory, nose, etc.) and just give it to you straight, while strongly urging you to try these for yourself.
Yum, the Crow Bar
Try this: Ice Cube Salad, The Cubano w/ Sweet Potato Fries, and Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
The Ice Cube Salad is a huge hunk of Iceberg lettuce covered in Pt. Reyes blue cheese dressing, and topped with oven-dried tomatoes and bacon. Normally, I wouldn't touch anything associated with blue cheese, but the blue cheese is subtle and the bacon works its usual magic by making everything better.
The Cubano is a traditional Cuban sandwich filled with roasted pork loin, ham, spicy mustard, pickles, and havarti cheese in a torpedo roll that is pressed in a panini maker. It comes sweet potato fries that are perfectly cooked--crispy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, and served with a cabrales aioli for dipping.
The Bananas Foster Bread Pudding might be my favorite dessert anywhere. It comes to the table piping hot, straight from the oven, and is the most amazing bowl full of gooey banana and caramel goodness, and topped with a cool caramel/brown sugar gelato.
The Crow Bar has a fantastic beer and wine list full of locals and imports, and some great mixed drinks (The Crowjito is the lady's favorite) to wash this all down with.
La Sirena Grill's carne asada tacos, because they didn't have a photo of the calamari ones
Try this: Calamari Soft Tacos and an Avocado-Lime Salad w/ Blackened Ahi
I'm usually a bit hesitant to order breaded/fried fish tacos, because the fish has a tendency to get soggy, and it ends up feeling like you're just gumming a sludgy pile of fish pudding in a tortilla. La Sirena manages to keep its calamari crispy and warm while covering it in some outstanding guacamole, crunchy cabbage and fresh cilantro. Beyond being a delicious mix of flavors, it's a great mix of textures. Two of these is about enough for a full meal, but I'm convinced I could crush a six-pack of these in one sitting--they're that good.
The salad is a refreshing mix of greens, crisp thin onion strings, avocado, and blackened ahi. The thing that takes this dish from great to uncontrollable mouthgasm status is the creamy lime-cilantro dressing. It has the perfect amount of tanginess to balance all of the components. Best of all, this is a fairly healthy meal...or at least I have convinced myself it is, to the point that I'm not afraid to pick it up a couple of times a week.
Try this: Kakuni, Albacore Tataki w/ Ginger Sauce and Seared Scallop w/ Ginger Sauce Sushi Treasures, and Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream
About a year and a half ago, the lady and I had the unfortunate experience of sitting down at Maki Maki (the sushi bar in the Spectrum that looked like a Miami night club) before it closed up shop. Our waitress brought us a plate of sushi that smelled like a cat fart. We took a bite, vurped (vomit + burped) into our napkins, paid our bill and left. To this date, that was the best shitty sushi roll I ever paid for, because it started a love affair with Izakaya Wasa (which is across from Javier's).
The Kakuni is one of the best things I've ever eaten anywhere. It's perfectly cooked pork belly, sitting in a phenomenal sweet soy sauce, topped with spicy Japanese mustard and chilled, steamed spinach. It's the closest I'll ever get to eating a block of bacon, which is why I do it as often as I possibly can, health be damned. (The spinach cancels out the pork fat on the health-o-meter, right?)
The Seared Scallop and Seared Albacore Tataki Treasure Rolls are all about the refreshing Ginger Sauce they're sitting in. I'd eat a kitchen sponge if it was sitting in that sauce. I have to resist the urge to order a hundred of these things, partly because I'm a fat slob, but mostly because they're ridiculously tasty.
Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream. Fried things + Ice Cream = two of the greatest things in existence at in the same place at the same time. There's no need to explain any further.
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