Archive for the ‘eats’ Category

sugar & spice

  • Filed under: eats
Nov 25, 2009

succumbing to cupcakes at local gem, Sweet and Saucy

I have to admit, I’m somewhat of a sugar junkie. I often wonder where it comes from, but a look back to my childhood easily reveals the beginnings of an addiction. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and my mom must have believed sugar was the best way to fuel a young body. I was fed a steady morning diet of hostess products: ding dongs, ho hos, fruit pies, pink coconut snowballs, twinkies, and yeah, those cupcakes with the hard peel-a-way frosting and the white telephone cord swirl. And when she wanted to make it semi-homemade à la Sandra Lee, she sliced some store bought poundcake and slathered it with Duncan Hines frosting from the can. Yes, that’s right, pure sugar. There was no way this kid was going to eat Cheerios or Kix. I’m sure this was to be a solid foundation for my love of anything sweet.

So you see, sugar and I have history. Though I’ve cut back quite a bit in my adult years, I still enjoy a hit here and there (ok, that’s a bit of an understatement, I still enjoy it quite a lot). When I’m feeling kinda low or need a pick-me-up, I find myself heading over to nearby Sweet and Saucy Shop for a fix. Chef/owner Melody Brandon specializes in custom cakes and desserts, but thankfully provides daily goodies for those desiring instant gratification. A cupcake or two (or more… to share of course) usually does the trick for me. Melody’s cupcakes are light and moist, though the frosting is sinfully sweet.  She offers eight daily flavors plus four more on rotation. This time around it’s chocolate espresso (chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling, espresso, Kahlua cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate crunchy pearls), red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting and coconut shavings, and the seasonal special, pumpkin with salted caramel.

I still have some left, guess what I’m having for breakfast!

Sweet and Saucy Shop
6400 Stearns Street
Long Beach, CA 90815
(562) 397-9190

head to toe

  • Filed under: eats
Nov 10, 2009

whole hog choucroute garnie at Marché Moderne

I wish I could say that I’ve been to the picturesque region in the eastern part of France, situated along the Rhine bordering Germany and Switzerland, and that I’ve enjoyed choucroute garnie and flammekueche in a storybook cottage restaurant, washed down with a few pints of local Alsatian beer. But I can’t. My only real exposure to anything from Alsace has been from travel and food magazines, most recently from an article in Saveur about the beloved Alsatian dish, choucroute garnie (ok, I lied… I have had flammekueche before, but here in LA). When I heard Marché Moderne in Orange County was offering choucroute garnie as part of a seasonal tasting menu, I had to check it out.

This porcine-heavy dish, with obvious Germanic influences, consists typically of sauerkraut, potatoes, and various cuts and preparations of pork (bacon, sausages, smoked meat). Chef Florent Marneau has taken it one step further and has added a modern yet throwback twist to the classic: a head-to-toe rendition of choucroute garnie. In our offal-crazed, whole-animal-fascinated times, Marneau’s version is a cornucopia of all things porky: braised cheeks, confit of short ribs & belly, crispy pig’s ear, jambonneau tranché, ham-hocks au court bouillon, saucisse de Strasbourg fraiche, saucisse fumé, crispy pig’s feet, all beautifully arranged on top of pressure-cooked sauerkraut, German butterball potatoes, and moutarde de Dijon.

carrot/coriander and beet/anise pickles; Alsatian & Belgium beer tasting; lamb ribeye, couscous & merguez sausage

The Choucroute Moderne & “The pig head to toe” as it’s called, is offered with a selection of Alsatian wines and beers. I, along with the others that ordered the dish, chose the beer flight: six shot-sized samplers of brews from Belgium, France, and Germany. A flight of wines is also available. Don’t be fooled by the pretty, linear presentation of the dish, along with the requisite frou-frou plate skid (of moutarde de Dijon). This baby is an overload of pork. Every texture, flavor, and incarnation is covered here, from crispy to chewy-gelatinous to fall-off-the-bone-melt-in-your-mouth, lean to silky,fatty, and buttery. I loved the experience of each preparation, and going from one to the next and comparing the flavors. Though I assume the wine-braised sauerkraut in this Alsatian dish is typically lighter in flavor and acidity than its Germanic counterpart, Marneau’s is lighter than I would have liked;  I somewhat longed for that familiar pungent zing (more like the excellent pickles we snacked on before the main course), almost a necessity in this case to cut the richness of the meats. A few more potatoes (at least more than one meager ball) would have also helped balance the dish better.

Not everyone in the party was game for pork. Another popular choice was the lamb ribeye, couscous, and merguez sausage with cilantro chermoula, medjool dates, fresh garbanzo beans, mint emulsion, almond, meyer lemon confit, and zucchini. The lamb was succulent and tender, and the heady aroma of mint, citrus, and dried fruit evoked images of exotic Moroccan streets.

To round off the tasting was a wonderful dessert of apple tarte a l’Alsacienne, vanilla scented crème fraîche custard, and Chimay beer gelato. The tarte was delightfully sweet, crisp, and buttery, and the ‘beer float’ of gelato and Chimay was genius… I wanted a whole A&W sized mug to myself. If you want a little taste of Alsace, you can find it here (without a flight to France). Just be sure to head down before the end of the month (the two course menu is offered till November 30th).

Marché Moderne
3333 N. Bristol Street, #3001
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 434-7900