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.
Enter my ladyfriend
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
Try this: Ice Cube Salad, The Cubano w/ Sweet Potato Fries, and Bananas Foster
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.
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
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
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
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
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.