On the Line: Erin Whitcomb of Front Porch Pops, Part One

This week, we meet up at Chapman Coffee House, one of Erin Whitcomb's preferred places to chillax (besides the traffic circle in Old Towne Orange). Her Pacific Northwest roots shine through as she shares fruitful creativity and seasonal charm in this week's On the Line. [Editor's Note: Look for the shout-out to a fellow OTL subject!] To follow her food truck cart adventures, like Front Porch Pops on Facebook.

What are six words that describe your food?
Fresh, unique, nostalgic, refreshing, seasonal, delicious.

What are eight words that describe you?
Creative, friendly, passionate, driven, silly, loyal, persistent, inspired.


Your best recent food find:

Keitt Mangoes from Coachella Valley's Tilden Farms. They're locally grown, organic, green and not stringy. I haven't used them [in a popsicle recipe] yet.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Lemon juice — even if you can't taste it, it's still doing its job in the background, balancing flavors.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Check everything else going on in your life at the door; it'll be there waiting when you're done, and the time not spent thinking about it might reveal a new perspective.

One food you detest.
Mushrooms: The texture just doesn't agree with me.

One food you can't live without:
Oranges! They're so versatile and fresh. I'm always drawn to orange-centric dishes. The huge range of citrus here in SoCal is kind of an obsession of mine.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vegan and vegetarian fare. I was vegetarian for about six years. Seabirds does it right.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
Subway is pretty much the only fast food that doesn't make me feel yucky afterward.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Make a trip to a farmers' market part of your weekly routine. Even if you only buy enough for one meal, it'll be shockingly fresh, and it'll make you want to cook more often. You'd be floored by how long some produce sits in cold storage before it goes to a grocery store and how the flavor suffers as a result.

After-work hangout:
The circle in Old Towne Orange. Whether I'm having coffee with a friend or catching up with my fiance after a long day, it seems I always find myself chatting on a bench down there.

Favorite celebrity chef.
I worked the line with chef Tom Douglas at a fund-raising dinner for the community garden I belonged to back in Seattle. All I was doing was plating salad at his elbow, but the conversation I had with him that evening and at some other events I did with him made me realize that I belong in the kitchen, that I needed to follow my passion.

Celebrity chef who should shut up.
Any chef who acts like a big-mouth kitchen jock. If ego were needed to make great food, they'd make it a spice.

Favorite music to cook by:
A little bit of everything, but I always circle back to Muse, the Pixies and Modest Mouse.

Best food city in America:
Will everyone hate me if I say Seattle since that's where I'm from? Nothing beats buying crazy-fresh seafood right off the fishing boats, and nothing here comes close except for Slapfish. Chef Andrew knows his fish — intimately even. Wait, that doesn't sound quite right, does it? [Editor's Note: If you know Andrew, it most certainly does.]

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Awesome breakfast joints and late-night dining. It's hard to find late-night places close to home, but I do like Gypsy Den.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chain restaurants. I'm a city girl at heart, and I wish there were more independent restaurants and coffeehouses.

Favorite cookbooks:
Rover's by chef Thierry Rautereau — his recipe for Pinot Noir sorbet changed my life — and all of chef Tom Douglas' catalog. Oh, and Cooking LIght; its editors taught me how to build flavor without making a dish unhealthy.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Walking my dog, Molly McBoozehound; watching movies with my fiance; or doing something crafty.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Bone marrow. It would never have crossed my mind.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Hazelnut stuffed french toast with bacon, hash browns, fresh fruit and profoundly strong coffee.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Stone fruits from Sweet Tree Farms! The season is almost over, so I'm stocking up on as much of it as I can get my hands on.

Weirdest customer request:
Adzuki bean pops; it's an Asian-inspired red-bean popsicle. I'm working on perfecting it right now, so one of my customers can surprise his wife for her birthday.

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