I hadn't been excited by local Greek food for years until stumbling upon Tastes of Greece, the closet-sized Hellenic stunner in Laguna Niguel, with flavors as bright and soothing as the baby-blue tones on the walls. Running the place is Elizabeth Gaitanis, who personifies the Grecian tendencies seared into the American mind by Zorba and My Big Fat Greek Wedding--kind, familial, jovial--but with none of the schmaltz.
After the jump are her answers to our questions. And yes, the caps are hers.
HEALTHY, DELICIOUS, FRESH,NUEVO
TRADITIONAL, COMFORT FOOD.
What are 10 words to describe you?
DEVOTED, COMPASSIONATE, PASSIONATE, PESISTENT, CREATIVE, IMPATIENT, HARDWORKING, CURIOUS, FUN-LOVING, ACTIVE, HONEST, INVITING.
Your best recent food find:
FRESH GREEK SEA BASS!!!
Most undervalued ingredient:
OREGANO AND LEMONS FOR FLAVOR AND PROMOTION OF LONGEVITY.
Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
CLEANLINESS, TEAMWORK, KEEP IT GREEK.
One food you detest:
One food you can't live without:
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
POTENTIAL FOR MORE OUTDOOR-RESTAURANT FACILITIES.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
EL POLLO LOCO.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
USE FRESH NATURAL INGREDIENTS--NOTHING PACKAGED OR BOXED.
EITHER AT HOME OR ON DANCE FLOORS WITH MY HUSBAND.
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
MARTHA STEWART. SHE HAS KNOWLEDGE AND APPRECIATION FOR AUTHENTICITY AND DIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL CUISINE PREPARED IN AMERICA.
Favorite celebrity chef:
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
NO COMMENT--WE CAN PROBABLY ALWAYS LEARN SOMETHING FROM ALL OF THEM.
Favorite music to cook by:
ANY MUSIC INSTIGATING DANCE MOVEMENTS, FROM THE CLASSICAL AND GRACEFUL "BLUE DANUBE" TO THE FAST-PACED "LA VIDA ES CARNIVAL" TO THE WELL-KNOWN "ZORBA THE GREEK SYRTAKI."
Best food city in America:
CHICAGO FOR ITS DIVERSITY.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
MORE FAMILY-OWNED RESTAURANTS OFFERING A CULINARY EXPERIENCE AND THE "SPIRIT" OF EACH CULTURE.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
ANYTHING WITH COLORFUL PICTURES TO ENHANCE AND MOTIVATE ME TO CREATE BEAUTIFUL, FLAVORFUL, PICTURE-PERFECT GREEK MEALS.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
THINKING ABOUT WHAT TO PREPARE NEXT TO ENTICE OUR FRIENDS AND PATRONS. IF TIME AND SEASON PERMIT, I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT DANCING, SWIMMING AND SKIING.
What motivated you to open a restaurant?
OUR DESIRE TO SHARE OUR 23-YEAR EXPERIENCE OF THE GREEK CUISINE, CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE.
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Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
TOO MANY TO LIST, HAVING LIVED IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY.
You're making an omelet. What's in it?
EGGS, BUTTER, CRUNCHY FRIES AND FETA CHEESE (THE BEST!!!).
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
YOGURT, FRESH DILL AND FRESH PARSLEY. I CAN PROBABLY SPEND HALF A DAY IN THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT OF A GOOD MARKET.
Weirdest customer request:
CAN'T THINK OF ONE. . . . EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.