Dear Creepy Imaginary Sled-Traveling Sky Friend:
I have been a very good boy this year. I brushed my teeth after every drinking binge, I haven't beaten up any of our readers or any of the editors, and I even drove to San Juan Capistrano in rush hour to try some food. So this year, please bring me and my fellow Orange Countians the items below.
1. A Baja seafood shack
Not some upscale Javier Plascencia dining room (though, Santa, I'd take that too, in a heartbeat), and not some Puerto Nuevo tourist trap with watered-down margaritas. I want a low-key place where I can get langostinos (grilled, fried or zarandeado), chocolata clam (a type of clam, not a dish involving cocoa), tacos gobernador and the very best sea urchin. Even Mariscos Chente in distant Inglewood isn't quite what I want, Santa, because they only do fish and shrimp, really.
Oh, Santa, I miss New York and New Jersey. I miss Russ and Daughters; I'd even settle for Zabar's. Sure, I can get good lox from Dry Dock, but there's nothing like being surrounded by foods meant to be eaten at a bagel brunch; smoked fish of all types (including belly lox), pickled herrings, cream cheeses, prepared salads, marzipan fantaisies, and more. While you're at it, could you arrange for some bagels worthy of the name? Thanks.
3. An imported bouchon Lyonnais
Cher Père Noël, bring me a homey, warm, informal, rustic restaurant serving nose-to-tail cuisine in the southeastern French tradition, s'il vous plaît! I long for quenelles de brochet, the French answer to gefilte fish, a heady selection of organ meats and a decent salade lyonnaise with its bacon and poached egg. I promise I won't turn up my nose at the cervelle de canut (though I don't promise to order it, not when I could have a tarte aux pralines or a half a St.-Marcellin cheese), and I promise to finish my heavy-bottomed pot of wine. Just please keep the prices the same, 19€ for three courses.
Not just churrasco, though I'd like Agora and Amazon to have some real competition. Please yank Moqueca right out of its digs on the second floor of a harborside longhouse in Oxnard and plunk it down harborside in, say, Newport Beach or Dana Point. Everyone thinks Brazilians eat nothing but meat and the occasional feijoada, but I want coxinhas, I want moquecas, I want bobó de camarão, I want lashings of dendê oil and tropical fruit desserts. If you could cause a mass migration from Newark, New Jersey's Ironbound to somewhere in these fair orange acres, I'd do my homework every day for the next year.
Every year I ask Tomten (the little Swedish Christmas imp) to bring me Swedish food that doesn't come from IKEA, Danish baked goods (yes, we've a couple of Danish bakeries, but…), and cuisine that forsakes bold flavor for subtle herbs and the best berries (in season, of course). Orange County and Long Beach used to be strongholds of Scandinavian culture, but we've all assimilated and there's no place to go for proper frikadeller (meatballs) or rødgrød med fløde (red berry pudding with cream). Just… please, leave the hákarl (putrefied shark) in Iceland, the surströmming (canned fermented herring) in Sweden and the lutefisk (lye-preserved cod) in Norway, OK? Once was enough. Tack så mycket.