Starfish won me over with soup … and more

I’ve never been a fan of Asian fusion, but something happened this year. I found myself surprised by some non-traditional Asian cuisine and even liking some of the westernized food on offer. Starfish Laguna is one of those places.

I recently visited again and was drawn to the Hot and Sour Soup ($5), filled with organic pressed tofu,bamboo, shiitake mushroom and finished off with egg drop. I added a spoonful of sambal oelek for more heat, but it was a stellar bowl of hot and sour! — lunch specials come with soup and egg roll.

I was enticed by the description of the Singapore Bamboo Roll ($7) — soy seasoned bamboo, carrot, jicama, cilatro, thai basil served with a roasted peanut hoisin dipping sauce. I was so happy that it tasted exactly as I’d expected it to! The rolls are so refreshing with crunchy vegetables stuffed inside. I can eat two orders of these on my own — easily!

Another item I enjoyed were the Korean Galbi Tacos ($9), served three to an order. The barbequed sesame soy seasoned natural angus beef was flavorful and the spicy gochujang aioli added a nice kick to them. Pickled daikon soothed out the flavors by adding some crunchy tartness.

I love eggplant and insisted on ordering Japanese Eggplant ($10) slow braised with house made sambal, Sichuan peppercorns and bell peppers. I was disappointed. Not only was there no hint of the Sichuan peppercorns’ numbing effects, but the dish was surprisingly bland. We all agreed this was our least favorite item.

Garlic Noodle ($10), priced the same at the one at AnQi was a much larger portion dotted with wild mushrooms, vine ripened tomato and bean sprouts and was so much more flavorful. I will take this over AnQi’s “famous” garlic noodles any day even though the noodles here are much thinner and not as garlicky.

One of my favorite dishes was Beef and Coke Farms Broccoli di Ciccio ($12) a sauteed item with garlic, rice wine and soy. I can eat this with a bowl of steaming hot rice and call it a day.

We ended with Thai Fried Rice ($12), a quite tasty combination of wild gulf shrimp, Chinese sausage, edamame, egg and cabbage. Not your traditional fried rice by any means, but will appeal to both kids and adults alike!

Yes it’s not traditional or authentic Asian fare, but if it’s tasty I’ll eat it AND enjoy it. Just like PF Chang’s, Starfish Laguna has definitely caught my attention with their twist on food I grew up eating. I will be back again for those Bamboo Rolls, hot and sour soup and the beef with broccoli!

I have a $50 giftcard to giveaway to one lucky reader. Tell me what your favorite Chinese dish is and make sure you include your FULL name & email address. “Like” Starfish Laguna and diary of a Mad Hungry Woman‘s Facebook pages, leave a 2nd comment to let us know and you will be entered for a 2nd chance to win.

Starfish Laguna
30832 Pacific Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Tel: 949-715-9200

Starfish on Urbanspoon

casual healthy breakfasts at Zinc Cafe

When I came to breakfast with some friends recently, I didn’t even realize that it was a vegetarian place until after we had ordered. This little Laguna Beach cafe is quaint and the outdoor seating is comfortable, casual and perfect for a leisurely bite whether you’re alone or not.

We ordered at the counter and are given a buzzer to alert us when the food is ready, which took less than 10 minutes for all four breakfasts by the way.

Huevos Rancheros ($8.95) was interesting seeing it comprised papaya salsa, black bean chili, smoked gouda and marinara with a poached egg. I wasn’t sure I liked it because of the combinations as I couldn’t get my head around it.

I’m not a fan of scrambled eggs and although this Scrambled Egg Plate ($9.25) with leeks and parsley was better than I had expected, it wouldn’t have been my first choice. I also loved the raisin nut bread my friend chose with his meal.

Poached Eggs on Toast ($6.95), however, WAS my choice and I am a stickler for poached eggs done right. The ones here were perfectly runny as they should be. I was glad I ordered the double!

What I dislike more than scrambled eggs came on the Healthy Scrambled Plate ($9.25). Scrambled egg whites are served with black beans and brown rice and while I get that this is a high protein, healthier choice option, it isn’t the right breakfast for me. My friend enjoyed it though which was all that matters since it was her breakfast.

We also tried the Cranberry Scone ($1.25) served with organic nut butter — not too sweet and pleasant.

The Croissant ($1.25) was buttery and flaky even though it was cold — they do not warm up any of the baked goods for you — and served with the same organic nut butter.

Zinc Cafe is one of those places where you would feel comfortable even when dining on your own. It is a really cozy spot to just chill, grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

Zinc Cafe
350 Ocean Ave
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Tel: 949-494-2791

Zinc Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon

even my son likes fish at Spike’s Fish House

My feelings towards Spike’s Fish House is this — even if I didn’t like them, I would LOVE them simply because my son, who never eats fish, ate everything we ordered. But then again, if it wasn’t good food, my son would not have eaten it in the first place, so that was a moot point.

The restaurant is casual and serves well for both lunch and dinner. The best part is the freshness and variety of fish available daily. You order at the counter and when your food is ready, they bring it out to you. The setting feels like quasi fast food, but don’t let that fool you, the taste is anything but that.

One of my favorites are the Lettuce Wraps (range between $2.95 and $3.50 depending on fish) which are crisp lettuce cups filled with your choice of fish — my favorites are the snapper or mahi mahi — topped with a slaw and the Spike’s special sauce made with Greek yogurt. Each wrap is less than 150 calories but so packed with flavor you won’t be able to stop at one. My son at first didn’t want it, but after a bite of mine, he wouldn’t give it back.

Fish Tacos ($2.95) are always a hit and when you can choose basa or snapper, essentially, you can have a different taco every time you eat here.

Delicious Sliders ($2.95) with fresh lettuce and Roma tomatoes are a great snack to tie you over between meals. I like mahi on the sliders.

On one occasion, I was not wanting to consume a lot of carbs so I ordered the Swordfish & Mahi Skewers ($10.99) over vegetables with a side of coleslaw instead of rice. So awesome!

The Coleslaw ($1.99) is very tasty, a tad too sweet for me, but I added a squeeze of lemon to it to balance out the flavors.

If you like nachos, you will like these Nachos with ahi poke ($6.49) or with ceviche ($5.99). During happy hour, you can get Basa Nachos for only $3.95! The basa is panko crusted and served with chips and pico de gallo.

I find the Fish House Plates (between $9.99 and $12.99) the best thing when I’m eating alone. You get a plate of white or brown rice with seasonal vegetable and a 1/2 pound of fish. You can choose panko crusted tilapia, cajun or panko basa, salmon, yellowtail, snapper or even shrimp. 

If you’re a chowder fan, the house Chowder ($3.49 cup/$5.99 bowl) is pretty good, but I always tell them I want it scorching hot. It’s a mixed fish chowder and my son devoured an entire bowl on his own. I like mine with some fresh lemon juice spritzed over it.

Fish & Chips ($9.99) were so delicious my son ate one order and wanted another. I’m just tickled because he never eats fish when I cook it. I prefer the sweet potatoes over the regular fries, although the fries aren’t bad.

And last but not least, here’s a tip for you. Order one of the Bowls (ranging between $7.99 to $12.99 depending on fish) and substitute soba noodles (add 50 cents) for the rice. The soba noodles are tossed in their poke sauce and I can eat these alone they’re THAT tasty.

Five dipping sauces are available: Spike’s Sauce, Pico de Gallo, Chimichurri, Poke Sauce and Lemon Pesto Aioli. You can request any of these to be served with your fish. I highly recommend the Spike’s Sauce, Chimichurri and Poke!

There are currently two locations, one in Rancho Santa Margarita and another in Laguna Niguel. If only they would open one closer to me, then I can get my son to eat fish twice a week. Yeah, wishful thinking.

I have a $25 gift certificate to Spike’s Fish House to giveaway to one lucky winner. Leave me a comment with your full name and email address telling me what your favorite fish is and how you like it prepared for a chance to win. Double your chance by, “liking” diary of a Mad Hungry Woman’s Facebook fanpage. Entries close at midnight Sunday, March 25. Winner announced Monday, March 26.

Spikes Fish House
30465 Avenida De Las Flores
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Tel: 949-766-3382

Spikes Fish House on Urbanspoon

27020 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: 949-448-8488

Spikes Fish House on Urbanspoon

just another breakfast spot

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day, but I do like eating breakfast items for dinner. Whenever I do go in the mornings, I like anything with poached eggs as they are my favorite, when perfect. After several visits to Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, I can tell you it has been a hit and miss experience.

First off, I really enjoyed the Steak & Eggs ($9.89), a tender, juicy slice of rib-eye cooked to your preferred temperature. Two eggs — mine were poached (not very well) — with hash browns turned out to be a more than hefty meal.

The Chicken Fried Steak ($8.79) served with two eggs is decent enough. The chicken is moist and reasonably seasoned. I didn’t like the tasteless gravy on top. It is the same gravy they serve the biscuits with — not the best both in flavor and texture.

I’m a huge fan of Eggs Benedict ($8.59) but unfortunately, the one here failed to pass the test. You get an English muffin topped with two poached eggs — completely OVER poached with ham, and a hollandaise sauce leaning on the tart side.

The Irish Benedict ($8.59) topped with corned beef hash also had hard poached eggs. I’m so disappointed that a breakfast place makes such dismal poached eggs.

If you want a sure pleaser, then choose Chorizo & Eggs ($7.95) a three egg scramble with beef chorizo, served with flour or corn tortillas. You also get potatoes or beans and rice with your order.

We also tried French Toast ($6.99), two slices French toast of eggy toast served with two eggs of your choice with bacon or sausage. The toast weren’t bad and if you have a sweet tooth, it would probably be a good choice.

The restaurant is quaint and cozy but with the number of awesome breakfast places dotted in and around the city of Orange, Kimmie’s wouldn’t be on my list to return to any time soon.

Kimmie’s Coffee Cup
190 S Glassell Street
Orange, CA 92866
Tel: 714-288-2899

Kimmie's Coffee Cup on Urbanspoon

Monday fried chicken dinners at Paul Martin’s

Lately, a lot of restaurants have started offering Sunday Dinner meals and it was refreshing to find a place serving up a Monday special instead.

Paul Martin’s Monday 3-Course Fried Chicken Dinner ($22) will satisfy any appetite because you definitely will not leave hungry. I’m a fan of fried chicken, but it’s hard to find GOOD fried chicken. I like mine moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, but I also want my chicken to be flavorful inside and out. More often than not, all the flavor is on the outside.

Not the case here. The description on the menu reads “Pitman Family Farms, all natural buttermilk fried chicken” and even though I have no idea where Pitman Family Farms is, I don’t need to, one bite and it speaks for itself.

But before you get your fried chicken, you start off with either an organic baby lettuce salad or soup, we opted for the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup ($9 a la carte). It was on the sweet side for me — found out they use a little honey in it — but full of butternut squash flavors.

When the fried chicken hits the table you will be amazed at how big a portion you get. Moist pieces of juicy chicken surrounding a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.

One of us ordered the Bistro Burger ($13), Paul Martin’s signature burger using fresh ground natural Angus, cooked to my perfect medium-rare and slathered with black pepper aioli. We added Point Reyes blue cheese, bacon and sauteed mushrooms. It was a deliciously tasty burger — and I’m not usually a fan of burgers either.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon ($6) is a great accompaniment to any meal and we enjoyed it very much. Ample bits of bacon flavor the shredded sprouts throughout.

The 3-course dinner ends with a homemade blondie with vanilla ice cream — not too sweet, warm and gooey with a small scoop of ice cream. It was so much food and we ended up taking leftovers home. I wonder if I can buy a few of those blondies to bring home with me. They’re really very good!

One lucky reader will win a 3-course Fried Chicken Dinner for two at Paul Martin’s. Leave me a comment with your full name and a valid email address where we can contact you if you win. Entries must arrive by midnight Saturday, March 18. Winner will be announced Monday March 19.

Good Luck!

Paul Martin’s American Grill
31 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Tel: 949-453-1144

Paul Martin's American Bistro on Urbanspoon

A cooking demo with KitchenAid

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to an event hosted by the White On Rice couple — Todd Porter and Diane Cu at their studio in Costa Mesa.

The event showcased KitchenAid products as well as the launch of two new cook books, one by Cristina Ferrare and the other, by Joy Wilson. Both were on site demonstrating recipes from their books.

A buffet luncheon was served with lovely home-made pickles, chili, salads and more. It was a great event meeting other women bloggers as well as seeing some old familiar faces.

Thanks to Todd and Diane for hosting a wonderful event filled with deliciousness.

I have a goodie bag which includes a KitchenAid whisk to giveaway. Leave me a comment with your full name and email address and tell me what your favorite KitchenAid appliance is. Entries close on Wednesday, Mar 14 and winner is announced Thursday, Mar 15.