memories are made at San Diego’s Bread & Cie

This post isn’t like any other I’ve ever written before. This involves hands-on experience I don’t ordinarily get from my day-to-day dealings with restaurants. Generally, I’m on the receiving side, not the making side. However, I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let me start from the beginning.

About seven years ago, I was at Tip Top Deli in Carlsbad and picked up a loaf of olive bread by Bread & Cie. I remember devouring it in the car with my then 7 year old wishing we had grabbed another loaf for later. Through the years, I have seen their artisan breads at various farmers markets around San Diego and have even introduced them to native San Diegan friends.

Recently, I stopped into a neighborhood market in Golden Hill before going to dinner nearby and found some granola from Bread & Cie. I fell in love with it immediately and went on a mission to find out more about it. After several emails with Bread & Cie founder and owner Charles Kaufman, the native New Yorker-turned-San Diegan invited me down to his cafe in Hillcrest to make the granola with them.

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The minute I stepped into Bread & Cie, I felt a sense of familiarity, like I had been inside before. It took me a minute or two before I realized that the style and layout was just like Huckleberry’s in Santa Monica. This success to this almost 20-year-old establishment is definitely its people, starting with Charles. His sense of humor is infectious. I watched him joke around with his staff spreading the camaraderie to everyone he comes in contact with.

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As we walk through the restaurant into the back, I noticed the variety of breads on display including brioche, fougasse, olive to name a few. Bakers Eloisa and Lorena were making soda bread this day, and I watched as they molded the bread by hand, then cut the top, brushed it with buttermilk, before moving onto the next tray. True artisan bread is just that, all made by hand.

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When they were done, the process of my beloved granola began. Charles cracked me up as he asked that we make a face with the granola ingredients. Of course I obliged.

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The wet ingredients are mixed in a separate bowl by Eloisa and set aside. Then, the first of the dry ingredients are placed in a large vessel to be mixed with the wet. At this point, Charles gave me some gloves and asked me to get right into it as he took over my camera and deftly snapped away. I gleefully combined the oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds together. It took about five to seven minutes for it to possess an even coating.

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Then we laid the mixture out on a baking sheet and placed it into the oven for 10 minutes at 275 degrees. It is allowed to cool before cranberries, golden raisins, and others are added with remainder of the wet ingredients given another mixing. Another 20 minutes in the oven and there you have it. That’s the granola that I’ve grown so very fond of.

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Charles then brought me to the front of the house and put me to work. I bagged a few items for customers before venturing off to explore everything Bread & Cie had to offer. This is where I watched him interact with his customers, again with charm and humor. He is indeed the foundation of this establishment.

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Bread & Cie makes everything in-house including biscotti, scones, cookies, macaroons, macarons, cupcakes, chocolate eclairs, the list goes on and on. If you want breakfast, there is also French toast.

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But that’s not all. If savory is your thing (it definitely is mine!) then choose from an array of sandwiches, quiches, pizzas, salads — all salad dressings are made in-house as well. I was amazed that this little cafe creates so much in such a small space.

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My time at Bread & Cie came and went rather quickly. I left with a sense of satisfaction, enveloped by a feeling of extreme warmth and happiness. The art of feeding is one that always brings pleasure, at least in my world, it does. After spending the morning with Charles Kaufman, I knew without a doubt, that in his world, it does as well.

Bread & Cie
350 University Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Tel: 619-683-9322

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C4 Deli: Cure for the Common

My friends and I love food. That is a given. I eat out with them a lot, sometimes one on one, sometimes, in a group. Then, I have two girlfriends I get together with from time to time, although lately, we’ve been getting together a lot more than usual, which is always a wonderful thing.

For our last get together, we decided to have brunch at the newly opened C4 Deli: Cure for the Common in downtown Santa Ana, owned by the same people who own Chapter One: The Modern Local across the street. The first thing which struck me was how absolutely delightful the decor and design is.

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We were a little too early for the lunch time sandwiches, so we decided to start with some breakfast items. Smorrebrod ($5.49), a Norwegian style open face sandwich with egg, bacon and sauteed broccoli rabe is served on rye. The runny egg makes this one of the most delicious breakfast sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.

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My friend orders the CA Breakfast Burrito! ($5.99), but I, not being a fan of burritos was not feeling so excited about it. Much to my surprise, I actually really liked it. The filling of corned beef, hash, eggs, potatoes, cheddar and chipotle aioli created a complete flavor profile which allowed for great textures and the right amount of saltiness to make it work.

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If you’re a coffee drinker, make sure you order some, they bring you individual servings in a French press!

B.E.L.T ($5.99) bacon, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, aioli on squaw was unfortunately, very pedestrian especially with the use of iceberg lettuce. Exchanging it for bibb or red leaf lettuce would make a huge difference to the final product.

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I wanted to try one of the sausages since they are made in-house and there are two to choose from, a Bratwurst and Italian sausage ($6.49) comprising fennel. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the sausage at all. The texture was mushy and liver-like and highly unappealing. I’m not sure if the Bratwurst would have been better since I don’t particularly enjoy coarse ground sausages.

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But what I came here for was the Porchetta ($7.99). I remember eating the best porchetta sliders in New York and wanted to relive that experience. Sadly, the porchetta was very disappointing, not in flavor (which was spot on), but in the mouthfeel effect. The outside crispy parts was not crispy at all. I understand that it was not out of the oven that morning, but warming it back up in the oven would have been more appropriate rather than perhaps the microwave? The texture was like bacon cooked in the microwave with the fatty bits not crunchy but on the rubbery side. I was sad.

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Our final sandwich was the Pastrami ($8.99) on rye, which redeemed the last two underwhelming selections. The pastrami was wonderfully seasoned and nicely textured. My only complaint would be that it could have been a little bigger. Otherwise, a very delicious sandwich indeed!

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The portions here are not large by any means as you can tell by the amount we ordered, we managed to eat everything albeit half the pastrami and the sausage which we left behind. For a new establishment it is decent enough and perhaps with a few more months, the kinks would have worked themselves out and everything will be up to standard — well, my standard anyway!

C4 Deli: Cure for the Common
200 N Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Tel: 714-263-1555

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Coffee Tea and Tulips: new menu

It’s been a while since I last was at Coffee Tea and Tulips, but after Chef Michael Samawi gave his restaurant a little makeover, and updated his menu for fall, it was time for a visit. I like that everything here is home-made, and Chef Michael takes a lot of pride in his creations from salad dressings, baked goods and the various dishes inspired by his travels and heritage.

I, along with several others, including Harrison Kho, owner of Harry’s Deli were among those who came to try some of the new items launched recently. The menu has always been eclectic here, most people come for the tea service, a very popular experience for bridal showers, little girls’ birthday parties, Mother’s Day…. but not many people realize there are wonderful lunch time treats ranging from sandwiches to salads also on the menu.

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However, before we started eating, we were all excited to try the various coffees and teas here and everything is made to order and fresh tea leaves are used, NOT teabags. I, of course, went for the iced variety of the fruit teas.

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We started with ‘sandweeches’ you can get as part of the tea service so they are bite sized. Depending on which tea service you select, a combination of the following ‘sandweeches’ will be offered.

Deconstructed Egg Salade, one of my favorites, is topped with capers and sundried tomato. I love capers so it was not surprising that I loved it.

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Tel-Aviv with Chicken and Bacon is a sure pleaser. Who doesn’t love bacon? I wanted a little more red onions, but then again, I always want more onions on everything.  

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If you’re looking for a warm sandwich, Clement St Wrap ($8.25) is my suggestion. It tastes SO much better than it looks. The eggs, cream, shawerma with spinach, tomatoes, feta and za’atar combine together for a breakfast-style wrap like nothing else you’ve had before. It is hearty and is a perfect reflection of Mediterranean flavors that just make your mouth salivate. In fact, I’m salivating just writing it up right now.

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If you are looking for something vegetarian, Dowar al Sabeh Croissant ($7) does its magic. A simple filling of feta dressing, tomatoes and a sprinkling of za’atar is enough to pack a punch of bold flavors.

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A selection which completely brings out Chef Michael’s heritage is the King Hussein’s Shawerma Croix ($8.75) a croissant filled with grilled shawerma dressed with balsamic glazed onions, cucumbers, shaved purple onion and tzatziki. I love the tart finish of the balsamic among the freshness of the cucumbers and purple onion. Strangely, it reminds me of my mom’s braised beef sandwiches we used to eat growing up sans the tzatziki and balsamic glazed onions.

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My absolute favorite was the Carmen Correia ($9.50) with tuna, sliced boiled egg, anchovy and a red pepper pesto made in-house. The flavors were incredible and I’ve tried to re-create this at home but keep missing the mark by just a bit.

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Last but not least, The Wedge Salata ($8.25) is a meal on its own. Greens are served alongside sliced eggs, Fuji apple, feta cheese, purple onion, and of course, bacon! I loved the pita chips giving it a crunchy component and the house-made Goddess dressing to bring it all together.

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Another delicious item is the Fatteh Salade ($8.25), a romaine salad with red onions, hummus, pita chips and pine nuts. It is a meal on its own and embodies the Mediterranean flavors I love and is another great vegetarian offering.

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If you’re looking for a tea party, I highly suggest you call ahead, especially on special occasions such as Mother’s Day. Otherwise, stop in for lunch and you’ll receive personal service from the unorthodox “Artiste” Michael and his wife, Lina. It’s like they’re welcoming you into their home.

Coffee Tea Tulips
25280 Marguerite Pkwy
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
Tel: 949-587-9988

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sammies and more at Big Belly Deli

Austin and I have driven past Big Belly Deli off PCH so many times and keep reminding ourselves that we need to visit. So when our friend Selene suggested we have lunch there, we were all for it! I didn’t know there was another location in Costa Mesa, but that was the one we went to.

The restaurant is small and parking is a bit tough. There are a few spots in the back and a handful out front on the street. We went after the lunch rush so there wasn’t any issue with finding parking or a seat.

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We ordered the 6310 ($6.99) which seemed to be a hugely popular item according to Yelpers. A turkey, bacon, avocado, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion sandwich with mustard mayo on focaccia bread. I really liked this sandwich, I mean who doesn’t like bacon right?

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The Rajun Cajun ($6.99) consists of spicy chicken and sausage sauteed with red onion and bell peppers topped with melted jalapeno jack cheese and aTabasco ranch dressing. I love the kick and the chicken and sausage worked really well together.

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If you’re looking for a hot sandwich, the Pastrami Reuben ($6.49) is a good choice. Hot pastrami is sandwiched between rye bread with Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing and cole slaw, then grilled to crispy perfection.

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We also ordered Pizza ($17.99 large) — half with Pesto Pie — pesto sauce covered with ripe tomatoes, red onions, basil, artichoke hearts drizzled with a garlic herb dressing. It was good but needed more seasoning. I preferred Marcy’s White Out a little more. Seasoned chicken, red onion, mozzarella, tomato and cilantro pizza without tomato sauce. I love white pizzas and this wasn’t bad at all.

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Big Belly Deli is great value for money. The portions are generous and the large pizza feeds four average appetites or 3 to 4 larger ones. You won’t walk away hungry!!

This week I have a $25 gift certificate for one lucky winner to check them out. Leave me a comment with your full name and tell me what your favorite sandwich is, or what your favorite pizza toppings are for a chance to win. Entries close on Sunday 11th. Good Luck.

Big Belly Deli
814 W 19th
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel: 949-226-8333

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Pappas Artisinal injects a breath of fresh air to downtown La Verne

When we drove into downtown La Verne on this particular Sunday evening, the streets were barren, businesses closed. It was pretty much dead. It was like something out of a movie. I noticed La Verne University was across the street but school’s out for the summer. Where were all the other residents?

We couldn’t find the Pappas Artisinal at first, driving around a bit. The signs are not up yet (restaurant opens today at 11am!) as we were invited to a friends and family night by Chef/Owner Travis Flood, formerly at Landmark in Corona del Mar. Austin (The Hungry Dogg) and I were huge fans of Chef Flood’s menu at Landmark and were saddened to see him go, but were undoubtedly excited when we received the invitation to go check out his new venture.

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When I opened the doors to Pappas, I was taken aback, simply because of what I had experienced on the streets and whatever was surrounding it. The decor was really cool! High ceilings with natural lighting highlighted a really impressive space utilizing the natural and emphasizing the eclectic nature of this establishment.

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The menu is simple. Chef Travis serves sandwiches. No nonsense, gourmet style, tasty sandwiches created with meats he personally roasts to perfection. There were beef roasts, pork roasts, chickens on the rotisserie…. and the smells wafting from the kitchen were making my mouth salivate.

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The sandwiches are served on a metal tray. Portion size is generous and hovers around the $8.50 mark. In all honesty, I probably couldn’t finish an entire sandwich in one sitting. If you also order the Baked Potato Fries (which I highly recommend) you can be sure it’ll fill even a big man’s appetite!

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These baked potato fries are so good I couldn’t stop eating them. I’m not a huge fan of potatoes because I’m not fond of the texture, but once fried, I’ll chomp on them like there’s no tomorrow. These delicious slices are first a whole potato baked, then sliced, before thrown into scalding oil to create that crispy texture on the outside, yet still retaining that soft potato-ey center which I don’t like on its own. Together, it is heavenly!

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We tried a handful of menu items and I’m picking out my favorites! Banh Mi Pork Belly was so tender (Austin actually has a photo of me “stealing” a piece while Chef Travis was cutting it up) and topped with aioli, carrots, daikon, sprouts, jalapeno, peanuts, curry and herbs, it was better than most banh mis I’ve had because the do chua, or pickled carrots and daikon still retained a lovely crunch and wasn’t so overly pickled it overwhelmed the sandwich.

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El Pastor is exactly what it sounds like, my favorite Mexican taco filling of al pastor, a whole pork butt seasoned with achiote, cumin, pineapple to give it that rich, slightly sweet taste (the photo above depicts Chef holding the al pastor on the spit), and together with pickled red onions, cabbage and cilantro, this was easily one of my favorites of the night.

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If you are something of a traditionalist, then The Traditional will most likely be your pick. Beef sirloin topped with crispy shallots and horseradish is kicked up a notch with parmesan. Great textures in every bite. A bit messy to eat but every bit worth wearing a napkin bib for.

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I liked The South American using the same beef sirloin as The Traditional, but slathered with a deliciously kicked up chimichurri. Fresh flavors of parsley, garlic and the addition of chilis makes it the spicy delight that is totally up my alley!

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Really sad Chef Travis has moved to LA County and so far from me, but truly happy he has found a home where he is creating delicious food and I hope the people of La Verne will embrace him with the same warmth and passion that he exudes to everything that he does.

Pappas Artisanal
2232 D Street
La Verne, CA 91750
Tel: 718-909-3223

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a heavenly spot of tea at Seventh Tea Bar

I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea is definitely up my alley. There are a lot of coffee spots around but an establishment completely dedicated to tea service is a new concept, one which I’m very happy about. Since Seventh Tea Bar opened, I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count.

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It started with just a glass of iced tea. Then, it was another and then another and there are SO many to choose from. The coolest thing they have is iced tea on tap ($3) and it is literally ON TAP!! They dispense it like draft beer!

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Lemon Ginger, White Pekoe, Moroccan Mint, Young Hyson, Magnolia Scented, Risheehat Estate, the latter being my favorite at the moment. Of course the lemon ginger is the most popular and I love that one as well when I want something non-caffeinated.

Besides the tea itself, Seventh Tea Bar also offers a non-traditional English Tea Service which you can share with your friends.  For two, there is the Bantam ($25), or there is the Grand ($35) which serves up to four.

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Included are some sweets, but what I love most are the Tea Sandwiches, which you can also get on their own if you don’t want a full tea service. Prices for individual sandwiches are listed for your reference.

The Salty Sweet ($7) is a stunning roll smeared with fresh ricotta, dried apricots, pistachio pesto, cracked black pepper and wild flower honey. It is truly a salty sweet experience! **photo courtesy of Anne Watson Photography**

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One of my favorites is the Gravlax Glory ($9), a sandwich with house cured citrus salmon, shallot caper relish, dill creme fraiche and sliced heirlooms on a brioche roll.

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The Mediterranean ($7) is beautifully salty consisting of feta cheese, marinated artichoke and sundried tomato spread, roasted bell peppers and arugula.

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There are also a variety of delicious spreads made in-house by Chef Katherine Louis. You can choose two spreads to go with freshly baked demi baguette for a mere $6. I love all of them: strawberry black pepper preserves, Za’atar spiced goat cheese dip, Kalamata and green olive tapenade, orange rosemary marmalade.

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Sweets on offer include a variety of pastries such as chocolate croissants or regular buttery croissants.

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There are also salted caramel peanut tarts, tiramisu, chocolate tarts and much much more.

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This is a perfect spot to hang on your own or get together with friends. It is comfortable and the super cute decor is such a pleasure to be in.

This week, Seventh Tea Bar is graciously offering one of my readers a chance to win the Bantam tea service for two to win. Leave me a message and let me know why you would love to win this opportunity and who you would bring. Entries end on Thursday. Winner will be announced Friday. Good Luck!

Seventh Tea Bar
3313 Hyland Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 949-284-0596

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