Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Future Is Now at Oceans and Earth

Oceans and Earth
20305 Yorba Linda Blvd. 
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

To a lot of the people of OC, Yorba Linda is a faraway city, a municipality that most have no need to visit. I was listening to my fellow food family at this media event, and to them this is like driving to Argentina. Yes, it took me an hour and three minutes to make it to the, "Land of Gracious Living," from Mission Viejo at 3pm on a recent Wednesday, but the end result of that drive, Oceans and Earth Restaurant is totally worth it.

Full disclosure, I grew up in Yorba Linda. We moved here when I was four years old, and my parents still live in the house where I grew up. I make my way up to North County at least two times a month to visit my family, so I'm used to the time it takes to get up to the birth city of Richard Nixon. When I was growing up here in the 70's, we only had a handful of restaurants. If you wanted something other than McDonald's or Wing's Chinese, you had to high tail it to either Brea or Orange.

With all the building of new houses in the eastern section of town, chain restaurants started to move in, and Yorba Linda became a wasteland of cookie cutter restaurants. Mimi's Cafe, Chili's, and Polly's Pie's to name a few that are still in their original locations. Fast forward to the present, and now independent restaurants are slowly popping up; La Betolla, The Wild Artichoke, and this inventive spot on the corner of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Village Center Drive, Oceans and Earth.

For you long time locals, you know this location as one that changes restaurants frequently. It used to be Le Diplomate Cafe and transitioned to Palomar after that. Oceans and Earth took over a year and a half ago, with a huge makeover to the restaurant. The makeover was overdue, but what really makes this restaurant is its Executive Chef and Owner, the pretty incredible Adam Navidi. This media dinner was not like anything I have ever experienced before. I was amazed to learn that Chef Adam has his very own farm, and while I was imagining an herb garden in a flower box at the side of the restaurant, I learned I could not have been more wrong.

A short drive from the restaurant is Future Food Farms, in Brea. This twenty-five acre farm was incredible. Not only do they have ten greenhouses, which yield a number of varieties of organic lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, veggies, edible flowers, and peppers, but they also raise farm fresh tilapia. This is an aquaponic farm, which means that it's a closed circle, where the water that is used to keep the fish is then used to grow the produce here, and the plants then filter the water and it is returned to the fish. A very ingenious way of doing things, especially in drought ravaged California. I was really amazed at how Chef Adam keeps up with everything here. I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of this operation, but he shrugged it off like it was no big deal. He not only stocks his own restaurant with his bounty, but provides his goods to other restaurants, sells at farmer's markets, and donates some to food banks. Chef Adam does admit he's at a cross roads in regards to his farm. He's not sure if he wants to expand, or if he's good keeping it this size. Time will definitely tell, but this farm shows that farm to table is not just something that is written on the menus here, it's a way of life at Oceans and Earth.

Back at the restaurant after the impressive tour of the farm, our 7 course Chef's Dinner started off with a bang with this Tasting of Tides. This four part plate included a Seared Sea Scallop accompanied by seaweed and an orange-ginger reduction, a Ceviche made up of the Future Farms raised tilapia and Ocean Rose abalone,  a Crab Croquette that also included lobster and moss rose aioli, and last but not least, the soup that more chowder than soup, but one of the best I have had recently, one that combined sea urchin, lobster, stingray nettle, mussels, and seaweed, all in a mugwort stock. Everything came together nicely to make a comforting soup, and one that I had to check myself from licking the bowl clean, but I was trying to be on my best behavior. An excellent start to our meal, and proof that even in landlocked Yorba Linda, it's possible to get great seafood here.

I had no doubt that this Future Foods Farms Salad in a Backyard Grapefruit was going to be one of the freshest salads I have ever had. I mean, I saw him pick it right in front of me. Not only did this taste fresh, but it also was one of the cleanest tasting salads I have had. I also enjoyed how he paired this salad with wonderfully flavored saffron shrimp, avocado, and an inventive shrimp chicharon. I had put the flower that adorned this off to the side, but was urged to give it a try. It produced a nice subtle peppery flavor that I really enjoyed. Who knew?

If Chef Adam has a trademark dish, it's probably this one that has followed him from when he used to work at the Hyatt in Huntington Beach. Just like everyone that has had this at Oceans and Earth, I was pretty impressed with this Pan Seared MSC Chilean Sea Bass. Sea bass is already one of the most delicious fish around, but then you pair it with basil mashed potatoes, caramelized shallots, and a delectable red wine reduction, and you have a real winner. The bass was done perfectly, and obviously very fresh since Chef Adam brought it out to show it off to us. The basil mashed potatoes are going to ruin me for plain mashed potatoes from now on. This one had everyone at our table talking.

The sea bass may have won all the raves from my table mates, but my favorite bite of the night was this Duck Over Wild Mustard Fields. I'm a huge duck fan, and this one was superb. The duck lacked the greasiness one usually associates with this water fowl, and both the leg and breast brought the wonderful duck flavor, while the provided fig jam helped cut the saltiness here. A very nice pairing of sweet and salty, and the success of this dish has me eyeing the Drunken Duck on their regular menu the next time I am at Oceans and Earth.

I could sense that Chef Adam was pretty proud of this Evolution Burger. He proudly proclaimed that just like this gluten free pastry that had bison, cheddar cheese, tomato, onion, and lettuce inside of it, his whole restaurant is gluten free. Something that I'm sure a lot of you love to hear. This "burger," was topped with a very good thick cut potato chip, which was cooked in grape seed oil. Not oily, and it had a fine crunch to it.

I've been eating some great, high quality steak recently, and this trend continued at Oceans and Earth on this evening. Chef Adam used a hot rock to cook a very tender piece of Akaushi Kobe Sirloin, and then paired it with some native red peppercorn, and an excellent avocado chimichuri. I liked this method of cooking, because it allows the customer to cook the beef as long as they like, but this is best eaten no more than medium rare. Really a great finish to our entree portion of our evening.

Dessert was the last of our seven course journey, and it is special here. Made in house, they rotate pies frequently. On this evening we were treated to a slice of Peach Pie and a Berry Pie. Both were sturdy, and could stand on their own, but they were paired with some very good house made ice cream. There was the rosemary vanilla coupled with the slice of berry pie, and the interesting poppy seed ice cream to go along with the peach. Definitely save room for dessert while dining here, if you can.

As I was driving back down the 5 Freeway towards home,  I was thinking about how this is the kind of restaurant that my hometown desperately needs. An independent, chef driven spot which will help to counteract the chain restaurants that still dominate Yorba Linda's dining scene. I could also not help but think that this is a restaurant that is ahead of its time. Someday in the future food will have to be grown this way, and I just hope Chef Adam is there to help prepare it. Not only are they growing food the right way, but I love his inventive touch with the things he grows, and the way he re-purposes as much as he can. It's worth a visit all the way to Yorba Linda, even in rush hour traffic.

I'd definitely like to thank everyone at Oceans and Earth for their kind hospitality and excellent food on this evening. General Manager Barbie Wheatley was amazing with the wine pairings, running food, and making sure we had anything that our hearts desired. She runs the front of the house like a pro. Also big thanks to Chef Adam Navidi for taking the short amount of time that he has in his day to show us around the farm and cook for us. Your passion for not only your restaurant, but Future Food Farms was awe inspiring. Another big thank you goes out to our friend Toni Purry for putting this dinner together, and including us. Many thanks Toni. Lastly, I would like to thank my fellow food family, who make these events even better than they would if I was by myself. You guys all rock, and I love reading all of your stuff, as you help keep me current with what's going on in the OC restaurant world.

If you would like to experience Oceans and Earth for yourself, get more information about them on their website here:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Popping Into Poche Burger

Poche Burger and Kitchen
2727 Via Cascaddita 
San Clemente, CA 92672

The weather has been beautiful lately, and Katie has wanted to get out and walk on our Sundays off together. One of my favorite spots to walk is the San Clemente Beach trail. Not only is it one of the most picturesque walking trails around, it is relatively flat, so it's not so strenuous that we will want to skip breakfast, and take a nap instead. On this particular Sunday we had the pleasure of having my good friend Ozker tag along with us. After our three mile jaunt, the three of us headed to Poche Burger, which is about a five minute car ride from the trail.

Located in the same strip plaza as the San Clemente DMV, which is hands down the most convenient one around, Poche Burger has been in business almost two years now. It's owned and operated by a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, Hooman Mofidi. He needed a change, sold off his successful West Village restaurant, and returned to OC, where he grew up, and attended University High in Irvine.

Taking over the old Corky's Cafe spot, Poche Burger and Kitchen is basically a burger restaurant, but they also have quite a following for their brunch items. That's what we were here for, as we arrived on a recent Sunday morning near noon. Inside the modestly decorated restaurant is about 15 or so tables, and a bar, which has a full range of liquor, beer and wine behind it. The sports bar vibe is unmistakable with three TVs above the bar, and the subtle jab to my Ducks fan gut, with the inclusion of an LA Kings plaque on the wall, with two replica Stanley Cups above it. Even though it's apparent that I'm in enemy territory, I'm still willing to give their food a legitimate shot, so let's see how everything came out for us as we tried to refuel after our walk along the shore.

I have to admit I was little surprised by Ozker's selection, the PB an J Burger ($11). Ozker does not seem like the type to enjoy outrageous food, but he was pretty happy with this burger. The burgers here are half pounders, and this one came with peanut butter, a house made grape jam, grilled onions, and jalapenos, but Ozker did not want these peppers on his burger, as he's pretty sensitive to heat of any sort. He really enjoyed the toasted brioche bun, which really held everything together well here, and provided a nice crunch element. I'd probably get this burger next time I came here, as the jalapenos, combined with the sweet and salty parts really piqued my interest, especially since Ozker did not share any bites with me.

Kate leaned towards a more breakfast vibe with her meal at Poche Burger, when she selected the Breakfast Burrito ($10.75). This was a massive breakfast burrito which featured bacon, chorizo, or steak, scrambled eggs, rice, beans, salsa verde, and cheese added for a dollar more. Katie had the bacon here, and was a little intimidated by the size of this burrito. It was good, but she barley made a dent in this, and had it later for dinner. She was not a big fan of the truffle hash browns though. The truffle really overpowered here, and became too rich for her tastes. If you want a breakfast burrito that you can have for both breakfast and dinner, this is the place to come.

I went for the Chorizo Burger ($9.75) here, which is the perfect hybrid of both breakfast and lunch. Instead of the beef they use in all of their other burgers, this one was made up of a very tasty house made chorizo patty, and was topped with a fried egg, salsa verde, and garlic aioli. This was a delicious burger, and perfect for people that are torn between having lunch and breakfast. The chorizo was not greasy like some tend to be, it held together nicely, and was prominent since they were a little light handed with the aioli and the salsa on this. The bun was also a standout, and a nice change from normal hamburger buns. The fries were a good side item, but were not elevated to anything over that.

I saw Cap'N Crunch French Toast ($11) on the menu here, and could not let an opportunity to order it slip through our fingers. This was also topped with fresh berries, and came with two slices of bacon. This was fine, but I was expecting it to be more like the one at Stacks Pancake House in nearby Dana Point. This version was fair, but it needed more Cap"n Crunch covering the bread. Most bites lacked the sweetened cereal, and was just like regular french toast, which is not bad, but not next level great. Eating the thick cut bacon here got me excited to have a burger with bacon on my next visit.

Poche Burger and Kitchen was a very solid burger spot, and I look forward to coming back again soon to try one of their other burgers, like their much talked about Jalapeno Cream Cheese Burger, or their Bacon Mushroom Burger. No these are not going to crack my top five burgers in OC, but if you are in the area, you definitely need to try them out. Breakfast items were solid, and good sized, so you will most likely skip lunch, and maybe opt for a light dinner. Service veered towards beach casual on this morning, as it was warm and friendly, but not really in any rush to move things along, which is fine on a Sunday morning. Poche is a great option for people wanting to grab a bite after enjoying one of the better walking trails in OC.

Out of five pockets, (because poche is French for pocket, and Poche Beach is right near here), five being best to zero being worst, Poche Burger and Kitchen gets 3 pockets.

For more information about Poche Burger and Kitchen, head to their website here:

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