When it came time to interview someone aboard another luxe lonchera, Anne Eng's Panfiniti reminded me of a concept my friend would talk about opening if she could. Wrapping our digits around grilled bread and melty fillings is a menu we can all relate to. We also related to Anne's first name. . . .
What are six words that describe your food?
Fresh, appealing, appetizing, flavorful, scrumptious, comforting.
What are eight words that describe you?
Fun, outgoing, friendly, caring, organized, ambitious, assertive, passionate.
Your best recent food find:
Pavlova from Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego — I can't resist a good dessert. It not only is so beautifully presented with fresh berry sauces and flower petals, but it is also delicious with the custard in the middle.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Porcini mushrooms have such awesome flavor; not enough chefs use them.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Keep our work areas clean and neat and have fun!
One food you detest:
The smell and the taste of black licorice just doesn't agree with me.
One food you can't live without:
Eggplant is so good, especially when it soaks up all the sauces that's cooked with it.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Farmers' markets full of fresh fruits and vegetables. SoCo in Costa Mesa is my favorite.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Chick-Fil-A's mini chicken biscuits for breakfast are small, so I can control my portions, but then I always end up eating more than a couple.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Have fun and don't be afraid to change up a recipe.
Gotta have a Tapioca Express after sweating in the food truck without air conditioning.
Favorite celebrity chef:
Iron Chef Morimoto is so creative. I love watching all the different dishes he comes up with. It's also fun trying to figure out what he's saying.
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
They are all different in their own ways.
Favorite music to cook by:
Best food city in America:
Seattle, Washington, is where I grew up, and it has the freshest seafood.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
More mom-and-pop restaurants, such as Antonucci's in Mission Viejo.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County, from a culinary standpoint:
Fewer franchise restaurants.
I love baking. There's a pastry shop in Seattle named Macrina Bakery & Cafe. The owner, Leslie Mackie, has a cookbook by the same name, and it's one of my favorites.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Being a mom to my three kids, hanging out with friends, and hopefully some exercising.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Cooked ginseng root. It tasted so nasty!
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Steel-cut oatmeal with brown sugar and hazelnut creamer.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Ice cream. I have a terrible sweet tooth, and who can resist a good ice cream? Especially spumoni or pistachio almond from Dreyer's.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
A roasted turkey panini without the bread. We put all the ingredients together and the sauce on the side.