Archive for September, 2010

big bites in little saigon

  • Filed under: eats
Sep 30, 2010

Recently I had the pleasure of working with my friend Miles Clements on a piece for Riviera Magazine: a roundup of Little Saigon restaurants representing regional fare from Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam. If you know me, I have an ongoing love affair with Vietnamese food, so this assignment was right up my alley. Lucky me.

Miles wanted to cover a couple of restaurants from each of the three regions; half of them were very familiar to me, the others were places I had yet to try. I had to schedule and shoot six restaurants in under a week, and though it was a bit hectic, I had an awesome time meeting the all the wonderful people behind the food. Unfortunately the article was only two pages long, so I’m going to share some of the photos that ended up on the cutting room floor. These are from the first three I shot, the remaining will come in another post.

from Miles:

“Vietnam’s regional cuisines are universes in themselves, each born of a unique culinary cosmology and each requiring separate exploration. The south celebrates seafood harvested from the Mekong River’s muddy tributaries as well as its abundance of tropical fruits — alien things armored in dull spikes and fleshy tendrils. Up the central coast, soups are slicked with chile oil, and rice flour is transformed into supple dumplings and diaphanous crepes. Noodles are ubiquitous in the north, pan-fried into beef-soaked sheets and steeped in heady chicken and crab broths.

Within Orange County’s Little Saigon (with its three story strip malls and mom-and-pop kitchens) are those very dishes. Restaurants here often specialize in regional cooking, like embassies of southern, central and northern Vietnamese flavors.”

Read the rest of Miles’ story here.

Xanh Bistro

chef/owner Haley Nguyen; canh chua (sour soup); the lovely interior adorned with vintage b&w photos from Vietnam; my favorite, ca kho to (braised fish in a black pepper caramel sauce)

canh ca thi la (fish soup with tomatoes and dill)

Xanh Bistro
16161 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(714) 531-2030

Hà Nội Restaurant


in the kitchen; house special cha ca thang long (grilled turmeric catfish with dill and onion)

banh tom (fried sweet potato with shrimp)

Hà Nội Restaurant
9082 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 901-8108

Ngu Binh

banh it kep banh ram (glutinous rice cakes); bun bo hue (beef noodle soup); combo #13 - banh beo, bah bot loc, banh nam

mi quang (dry egg noodles with pork, shrimp, and fishcake)

Ngu Binh
14072 Magnolia Street #107
Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 903-6000

big sur bakery

Sep 29, 2010


Ever since receiving the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook earlier this year, I’ve been eager to visit this curious little place, a restaurant and bakery that somehow survives in the rugged and unforgiving climate of the Central Coast. In their book, owners Philip and Michelle Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson chronicle a year in the life of their restaurant; it’s filled with stunningly beautiful photographs, seasonal recipes, charming stories and personal accounts, inspirational profiles of the purveyors, farmers, and local characters the bakery couldn’t exist without. Flipping through the pages, it’s hard not to fall in love with with the romantic notion of work and life in this idyllic remote region.

Oh yeah, the bakery was going to be a mandatory stop during this summer’s Big Sur camping trip. Hell, you could even say the camping was planned around a visit to the bakery. Anyways, we made the leisurely drive up Highway 1 on day 3; a bit smoky, scruffy, and definitely hungry.

The address simply says Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920. You’d think it would be hard to miss but let the awe of the surroundings distract you as it does on the drive there and you might just pass it up.

You can order coffee, pastries, and goodies from the bakery, or take a seat for brunch (and even dinner). There’s a beautiful patio outside, and if the weather cooperates as it did on our visit, that’s definitely the place to be.

As far as the food, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

cap and cookies

nine grain cast iron pancake; cafe mocha

wood-fired bacon & 3 egg breakfast pizza

grilled gruyere and ham, mixed greens, and steak fries

biscuit with blackberries and whipped cream

We had a nice lazy brunch, stuffing ourselves silly with caffeine and carbs. Definitely a welcomed break from cooking, cleaning, and feeling all scrubby and greasy at the campsite; but who says you always have to ‘rough’ it?

And I leave you with another shot of the coast, just because I couldn’t take enough of these.. bye bye, Big Sur!