We make no assumptions when meeting a chef -- although we were surprised to learn that the chef who worked at Lasher's (the establishment before the Attic) was the same person we'd be interviewing. Per Raquel, "I get to run with the menu, so I have a lot more creativity." Throw in the fact she's half-Filipino/half-Irish, and we're intrigued.
Your earliest food memory:
Poi and barbecue fish. I spent three years of my childhood at Bellows Air Force Base [in Waimanalo, Hawaii], and there were luaus almost every weekend.
Favorite meal growing up:
Filipino-style chicken adobo.
Your best recent food find:
Truffle butter and prosciutto di Parma-wrapped breadsticks. [Editor's note: See her response to "Where was your most recent meal."]
Most undervalued ingredient:
A coriander seed is the seed of cilantro. It has such a different character from the cilantro. It just tones stuff down. I use it in a couple of my brine items, as well as in a toasted-coriander vinaigrette.
What do you recommend for first-timers to the Attic?
Pot pie, meatloaf, fried chicken and barbecue ribs for dinner. Boxty Benedict and southern scramble for breakfast.
Let's talk about Bloody Marys.
I like them spicy with pepper-infused vodka.
What are you serving for Valentine's Day?
Steak au poive and courtbouillon. We have a prix-fixe menu. [Editor's note: Here's a link to the menu, in case you're still looking for reservations.]
One food you can't live without:
Rice. It's so versatile, and that's what we had as a kid with almost every meal. For some reason, you can get full, but you don't feel so weighted down. In my rice-maker, I do half white/half red.
Where was your most recent meal, and what did you have?
Pizzeria Mozza -- pork belly and Brussels sprouts.
Best culinary tip for the home cook?
Unless you are baking, recipes are just a guide. Follow your heart, and make your own version.
Any upcoming parties or contests?
Yes. We have a speed-dating event on Feb. 13 for all those singles out there. [Editor's note: Click here for the Facebook event page.]
Bobby Flay. His recipes are great and he "keeps it real."
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Fried locust, or chapuline. I used to work for the Too Hot Tamales [a.k.a. chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger]. I was their executive chef for three years. Someone brought it in and asked if I would like some. I don't really turn anything down, and I don't like to be rude, so I tried it. I mean, it was fried. It was kind of a turning point between me and all Mexican food. It brought me a little closer.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
The Sky Room, Mesa Grill, Uva Bar.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Pancakes from scratch, cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon with toast and homemade peach jalapeno jam.
The Attic hosted an art show last month. How was it?
A huge success! We plan on having one every season with new, up-and-coming artists.
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Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Baby food and pasta. I think the lady could not process hard foods. She would come [to Lasher's] four, maybe five times a year. I would take the time to cook the pasta and the baby food. Even if I wasn't here, the staff knew to cook it for her. We had to cook her pasta down to the point it was practically overboiled. She was so happy we would do that for her; she always brought people because we would accommodate her.
We read something about award-winning clam chowder.
It won three years at the Long Beach Chowder Cook-Off. It's really good! It's a New England-style clam chowder. There's nothing really secretive about it; you just take the time to do it. It's all about the roux and your ingredients. I've been to places where it's too thin, or there's way too much bacon, or it's too thick. Ours has lots of Yukon potatoes, wood-smoked bacon and celery. It's about the timing of when you put your ingredients in. I also like seasoning all throughout the cooking process.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
Bastillas, but I don't know if I have the patience.