It is always nice when an On the Line subject can recommend a colleague. This week is no exception, as it comes from our Dean of Bread. Situated along one of our county's borders, The Crema Cafe has been serving the Seal Beach community for eight years. Weekend waits are inevitable, but Tarit makes sure there's caffeine to help pass the time. My coastal series continues as I spend a morning learning what makes his Main Street spot so sweet.
Are there stereotypes that people have about bakers? We have no life. Sleep early. Wake up in the middle of the night and work. It's mostly true.
How did the cafe name come about? Crema is the very thing that makes or breaks an espresso. It is the cream of espresso where the nose, essence and initial flavor comes from.
You're making breakfast; what are you having? French toast using brioche.
Favorite places to eat. Bluefin in Newport Beach. Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills. Home . . .
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best: Up and coming young and inspirational chefs.
What is your beverage of choice? Tequila and wine. Never together. Herradura Tequila is my true favorite.
Was the bakery always there, or did it come after the cafe? Bakery came after the restaurant. Born out of necessity because I could not find good enough bread to feed my restaurant.
Most popular items on the menu. One the cafe side, it's got to be the Seal Beach omelet. Bakery has to be the almond croissant.
Your earliest food memory: When I was going to boarding school in Singapore, sneaking into the school kitchen at night to cook something that we wanted to eat-- not that we knew how to cook much of anything at the age of 13.
One food you can't live without: I love red meat. I know it is not hip to say that nowadays, but I absolutely love it. I don't eat it every day, but I can never give it up.
Where was your most recent meal? Prime rib at Five Crowns with my family.
Tell us about your culinary experience. My dad inspired me early on. He was a banker and a farmer in Thailand. I remembered him searching out a particular ingredient for making his roast pork. He would not settle for anything but the best ingredients. I learned then (and later on in cooking life, from a close friend and cooking mentor, Chef Patrick Jamon) that when you start with the best ingredients, your chances of messing up goes down tremendously.
Your best recent food find. Rice Paper, a Vietnamese restaurant that a friend of mine, Alfred Martinez, took me to. It's in the Westminster area. Hole-in-the-wall, but the food was really spot on.
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Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?): Two eggs, half scrambled, half poached. NO! (almost said yes)
Most undervalued ingredient: As a baker, I must say it is bread. Too many people serve their wonderfully prepared foods on breads that should not be served. Too much processing; too many chemicals.
Best tip for the home baker: Get a Dutch oven and learn to use it to bake your breads.