For some reason, the rest of Orange County thinks South County is a culinary black hole. As someone who lives south of the Spectrum I take offense to that. First, haters, let's not forget that we have Break of Dawn. But we're also home to the boss burgers at Riders Club in San Clemente, the impressive one-man-show at Sol del Sur in San Juan Capistrano and the ooey-gooey brownie slabs at Heidelberg Pastry in Laguna Hills.
And if the promising start by Chef Eddy Rocq at his eponymous cafe sticks, the restaurant, which opened last month in the former Efzyn Greek space in Lake Forest, could make that short list real quick.
First, the bad news: Eddy, who runs Rocq Cafe with his wife Deborah, are only open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekdays only, making this the most frustrating restaurant to crave if you're someone like myself who heads north for work each day.
The good news: Rocq has a lengthy resume (executive chef at L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills, pastry chef at Center Club in Costa Mesa and stints at Pinot Provence, Pascal and Aubregine) and the simple, yet refined pastries and sandwiches on the menu display that experience.
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I've never had a macaron in France, so I can't say how these compare, but I know enough about cookies to know these are some damn good ones. A recent array included orange confit, lemon basil, passion fruit, rose, salted caramel and mint chocolate. Averaging $1.65 a piece, I'm slowly going broke supporting my habit, considering you can't just have one, you want to eat them all. Rocq already sells gift boxes of these at Williams Sonoma, but buying them in handfuls is easier on the wallet than shelling out $50 for a box.
I took chicken cordon bleu home in a foam box one day after a visit to the eye doctor, but it really compromised the quality. On they way home, I kept sneaking bites of my wife's panini which was stacked with fatty planks of salmon, creamy goat cheese, cooling dill and a thin apple round. The apple has since been dropped from the sandwich, but I say bring your own if he doesn't add it back first, because it was a nice finishing touch.
Though hours are limited, Rocq has big plans. He'll start teaching cooking classes monthly, with the first one debuting at 6 p.m. tonight (March 21). Each class is $55 and there are still a few spaces available. On the menu is braised short ribs, creamy polenta and a fruit tart. More information: (714) 488-6258.
He runs a catering operation out of the restaurant too, and plans to cook there and send products off to a space in the food court at the new Aria International Supermarket in Tustin. And once he gets a liquor license, Rocq will be open for weekend brunch as well.
A lot of ambition, but will he pull it off? No restaurant has kept the space for long, but as someone who lives here, if there's any one business I'd like to see stay for a spell, it's this one.