Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Discovering a New Islands at Irvine Marketplace


Islands Fine Burgers and Fries
13762 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92604

No matter how many restaurants we have on our list to try, how many events we go to, or how many road trips we take, we always seem to make it back to Islands. There are a few reasons for this. My Mom always gets us an Islands gift certificate each year for Christmas, so that accounts for two visits. We are out a lot, so when we choose to stay close to home, we walk to the Islands right by our place. Probably the biggest reason we always find our way back to Islands, is because they make some pretty darn good food there.

The reason for this visit? We were recently invited to experience Islands newest restaurant, which is at the Irvine Marketplace. This Island's is kind of off by itself, or at least it seems that way because no one really goes to the On the Border that is next door, for good reason, but that's a blog post for another day. Looking at Google maps, this Islands used to be a furniture gallery. Long gone are the high pressure salesman, the over priced dining sets, and that new carpet smell. Replaced by the sweet aroma of burgers wafting through the air, the sound of a shaker making another drink, and the small cheer of the guy watching hockey at the bar.

Even though this Islands has only been open for just over a month now, people have definitely found this place. We walked in just before 7PM on a recent Friday, and the restaurant was packed, and stayed that way until we left an hour later. Right after we walked in, we could sense that this is a different kind of Islands. Gone are the fake palm fronds, and the high dividers, which create a much more open, and cleaner looking version of an Islands restaurant than we are used to visiting. I counted nine large TVs turned to all sorts of sports throughout the restaurant and bar area. They were very accommodating when people asked for a certain game on a TV near their table, which as a sports fan, I always appreciate.

Both Katie and I always get the same thing when we visit Islands. We start off with the Cheddar Fries, I have the the Kilauea Burger, and Katie gets the Island Fish Tacos. Since we have already blogged about an Islands experience, we made a conscious effort to try other things off of their menu, as hard as it is to stay away from our favorites. Let's see if some of these will become our go to items in the future.



I can not recall the last time I had a drink from the bar at Islands, but this Big Island Iced Tea is making me regret my earlier visits. Drinking this brought to mind the sweet drinks I had on a tiki raft tour in the Bahamas. They may have been sweet, but they packed a punch if you were not careful. This drink was the same. Vodka, rum, tequila, triple sec, pineapple juice, and a strawberry puree combined to make this fruity drink. Having this drink reminded me of the great offerings that Islands has for happy hour. Not only is this drink $5 at happy hour, but they have numerous appetizers, all of their well drinks, and my favorite cheese fries are all five dollars or under. A really great deal that we need to take advantage of soon.



Since we could not get the Cheddar Fries to start, remember we are trying new things here. We got the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and the Fresh Cut Islands Fries to begin our meal. Yes, we were really venturing out. This was our first time having the spinach dip, but it will not be our last. Spinach and artichoke hearts are mixed with garlic and onion in an Alfredo sauce, then served with tortilla chips and salsa. There was lots to like about this spinach dip. It was not overly cheesy, the serving size was more than generous, and it had some good sized chunks of artichoke in it. A very smooth dip, and not overly greasy or heavy. I was also pretty pleased that this dip came with enough chips. It's always a bummer when you run out of chips, and have to wait for more. Of course we have had the fries at Islands before, but they are just too good to pass up. We could tell that they were fresh cut, fried right, and went amazingly with their ranch dressing. If you don't get the fries at Islands, then you have not experienced Islands fully.



Katie substituted her usual taco order with the Maui Burger with a veggie patty and Onion Rings. this used to be her "go to" item at Islands before she discovered the tacos. She likes this veggie burger because it's big on flavor, and the guacamole is great. This was the first time she has had the Onion Rings here. They were fried perfectly, and substantial enough that she could not finish them all. Of course, I helped her out with that.  




Yes it's true, I did not radically change my usual order too much. I did have intentions of getting the tacos or maybe even a sandwich, but when it came to decision time, I caved in and got the Hula Burger with bacon added. This burger comes with a mound of mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and Swiss cheese. This burger had a little bit of everything flavor wise. It had an earthiness from all of the mushrooms on here, the Swiss cheese contributed a creaminess, and the bacon I added made this burger come alive. The patty was juicy, and had a great meatiness to it. The bun should not be overlooked here. It was toasted perfectly, held everything together, while remaining soft. Yes, I got a Caesar salad to go along with my burger, since we had the Island Fires for an appetizer. This is one of my favorite Caesar's that I have had recently. The produce was fresh and crisp, there were plenty of croutons and grated Parmesan, and the dressing was pretty solid, with just the right amount used on this salad. It made me feel pretty good about myself after opting for the salad over the fries. Maybe I'll turn into a health nut soon enough. Probably not though.



By this time we were pretty stuffed, but we soldiered on for you, our readers. We tried the Kona Pie, which consists of mocha almond fudge ice cream, a chocolate cookie crust, hot fudge, whipped cream, almonds and a cherry. I am not a big coffee lover, but there was enough chocolate on here, that even I liked this dessert. We did not have to fight over ice cream, Katie loved the coffee taste, and even though we were full when we ordered this, it did not last too long after it was sat on our table. A very nice finish to our night at Islands.

Even though we stayed away from our favorite foods at Islands on this particular night, we might have found some new favorites. So maybe we will not be creatures of habit anymore, (I probably will stick with my Kilauea burger though). I kind of like this new version of Islands. It's a little more contemporary, but with the same great food that you expect from Islands. I was also surprised with how well run, and smooth things went on this night. Usually when a new restaurant hits the scene, there are some service issues, or kitchen troubles that need to be ironed out. That was not the case at this Islands location. Our server, Fiona was a real pleasure to deal with. Even though she was working behind the bar, she took plenty of time to chat with us. It was just not the employees that we dealt with either. I was eavesdropping on other servers dealing with customers, and they were all very attentive. I would definitely say that they have a great team working at this Islands.

We would like to thank everyone at Islands for making us feel so welcome. First we need to thank General Manager John Ladd. He took the time during the busy dinner rush to explain what's different about this Islands, and answered all of our questions. We also had the pleasure of meeting District Manager Scott, who made sure that everything was great with our visit. A very big thank you goes out to our server Fiona. She was so sweet, kept things moving along, and really made us feel very welcome. We both really enjoyed talking with you Fiona. Lastly, we would like to pass along our thanks to Venice Fahey for coordinating our visit to experience this new Islands restaurant. Everything was great Venice.

If you would like to experience this, or any other Islands restaurant, go to their website to find your nearest Islands restaurant: http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hoping for a Hot Night at Pitfire


Pitfire Artisan Pizza
353 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

It seems that there is a new dining Mecca in OC, and it is not in Newport, Fullerton, or Villa Park. Okay, I'm sure you could guess that it's not in Villa Park, since there's only six restaurants in that North OC city, and that's if you are counting Subway as a restaurant. No, the new dining hot spot in OC is Costa Mesa, and more specifically, 17th Street in Costa Mesa.

There have been so many openings within the last year or two, that we have yet to hit them all. Pie Not, Sidecar Doughnuts, a new Bruxie location, Tabu Shabu, and Madee Thai Kitchen are all places that we need to hit up eventually. This trip to the densely packed business district of 17th Street had us meeting our good friend Meagan at another place that has opened up within the last two years, Pitfire Artisan Pizza.

Pitfire is a mini chain from LA. They have six restaurants in LA, and this is their first foray into OC. Started by Paul Hibler and David Sanfield in 2003, they wanted to create pizzas that are culinarily driven. It takes two days for their dough to be ready, they try to use as many local ingredients as possible, and they have limited their menu, to help ensure that they are using the freshest ingredients possible. Their pizzas cook quickly, they are ready in two to three minutes, in a wood fired oven that reaches a temperature of over 600 degrees.

We arrived at Pitfire on a recent Thursday evening at 6. I really enjoyed the vibe of this hip and happening pizza joint. Bright colors on the walls, comfortable seating, and a young, good looking staff helped to contribute to the vibe here. Ordering is done at a counter, then the food is brought out to you. The line at the register went pretty slow the two times I went through it, but I attribute that to the mom that had about a million questions for the guy, while her four year old kid was going in and out of the door of the restaurant numerous times. Maybe your kid running around a parking lot unsupervised is more important than why they charge three dollars extra for a gluten free crust. Sorry, just a little rant there. Besides the distracted parent, we liked the atmosphere here, so let's see what we thought of the food at Pitfire.


Not exactly something that you would probably expect to see starting off a review of a pizza place, but Katie wanted to try their Lemon Garlic Chicken Soup ($4.25). This soup started with a base of a fennel herb broth, then braising greens, roasted pasta, and shredded chicken are added to the broth. This soup definitely delivered when it came to the lemon. Katie liked this soup, but was expecting it to be thicker. There was plenty of tender chicken, and she felt the garlic was more pronounced than I did.



A little more traditional item at a pizza place, the Hand-Crafted Chicken Meatballs ($6.75) were my choice for an appetizer. These meatballs are topped with tomato sauce and grated Parmesan. I really liked these meatballs, and I am usually biased by chicken meatballs. These were tender, with a great meaty flavor that almost made me a chicken meatball fan. The tomato sauce did not overwhelm, like some of them can tend to do. A very solid appetizer.


This is the second time we have gone out with Meagan while we were blogging, and this is the second time she has gotten a salad. Guess we have befriended a veggie lover, oh well, she's great company though. This Hand Chopped Salad ($11.25 with chicken added) is Pitfire's version of a signature salad. It comes with lettuce, garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, red onion, provolone, roasted corn, pepperoncini, and olives. Maegan must really enjoy this salad, as she gets it every time she comes here. Her only complaint about this salad was that it needed more chicken. Other than that one minor detail, she left here completely happy.



Ever since we went to Pizzeria Ortica, Katie has been obsessed with finding a pizza with a runny egg on top. She finally found one here at Pitfire. The Greens, Egg and Ham ($11) was topped with braised broccolini, four cheeses, Parmesan, prosciutto, and the aforementioned runny egg. Katie felt this pizza had a nice balance to it. She sometimes feels that prosciutto can be overwhelming, but that was not the case here. The cured ham played nicely with the yolk from the egg and the cheeses. Katie was also pretty fond of the crust here.


If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you are probably not shocked that I got the pizza with the most meat I could find on it. This would be the Sausage Party Pizza ($12). Invited to this meat party was a house made fennel sausage, salumi, bacon, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and saba, which I learned is a condiment made from the unfermented residue of grapes, which is decadently rich and is used sparingly. I really enjoyed this pizza. I could tell that the meats were of a high quality, the crust underneath held up to the toppings, and the cheese was present, but did not overpower. I did not eat a lot of the outer crust, but I'm not really much of a crust kind of guy. A pretty solid pizza, and that's from a guy that enjoys a more American style kind of pizza, with lots of cheese, meats and toppings.



At the registers they had cookies sitting in a basket, so of course we had to give them a try. The better of the two was the Peanut Butter Cookie ($1.25). A decent peanut butter flavor, and good texture, to where the cookie was not too soft or hard. The Chocolate Chip cookie had the same decent crunch to it, but needed more chips added to it. The chocolate kind of got lost here, but still a fair cookie.

I am usually more partial to the pizzas that I grew up eating. You know the kind, Americanized pizzas with tons of cheese and pepperoni, but I really did like the pizzas here at Pitfire. They were very sturdy pizzas, with quality toppings, and I left here without that heavy feeling, like I get walking out of other pizza places. What I mostly liked here was the atmosphere. It is not your typical pizza place with kids running to and from an arcade, apathetic teenagers behind the counter, and a crappy projection TV in the corner showing an infomercial, since they forgot to turn the channel after the game was over. Pitfire had life to it, and the food added to the vibrance here. We are looking forward to coming back again real soon, as soon as we get to the other 83 restaurants that have popped up on 17th Street that we want to try.

Out of five coat hangers, (because when you have a pitfire down at the beach, you always need hangers to roast the hot dogs and marshmallows), five being best to zero being worst, Pitfire Artisan Pizza gets 3 strong coat hangers.

For more information about Pitfire Artisan Pizza, go to their website here: http://www.pitfirepizza.com/

 Pitfire Artisan Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Foothill Ranch is Getting More Urban


Urban Grill and wine Bar
27412 Portola Parkway
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610

When people usually think of Foothill Ranch, they probably think of the 241 Toll Road, Saddleback Church, or maybe some of the companies that do business here, such as Oakley, Wet Seal, or Emergen-C. When people think of restaurants in Foothill Ranch, they almost always think of fast food and chain restaurants, but there are some other options in this inland OC area. You just have to look a little harder to find them.

One place you have to look for is Urban Grill and Wine Bar, which is located right in between a Wahoo's and a Starbucks. I had heard of this place from a fellow food blogger, Nathan of Papa Kaster Eatin' about a year ago. He had visited during lunch, and remarked how much he had loved his burger. That was enough for me to put this place on our list of restaurants to eat at. Sabrina and Anthony were coming our way for dinner, so we decided to meet at Urban Grill on a recent Saturday night.

Urban Grill has been in business for two years now. Opened by David Hall and Jamie Benson, they felt this area needed a quality restaurant and wine bar. They had both worked at one of my favorite spots, Bungalow in Corona Del Mar. They envisioned Urban Grill as an upscale eatery, specializing in classic comfort food. I was pretty excited to see if they could deliver during our visit.

Usually when I think of wine bars, I think stuffy and pretentious. That was not the case here. Urban Grill was rocking at 7PM on a recent Saturday. The restaurant was packed, but we got a seat in the loud, but comfortable dining room almost immediately. This restaurant is dark, with a comfortable spacing between tables, so you are not totally on top of each other. Predictably, the menu here is pretty wine focused. The entire left hand side of the menu is reserved for all of their wines and limited craft beer selections. The food portion of the menu is broken up into small plates, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sides. Pretty straight forward, which is a nice change of pace. We were all tired of listening to Sabrina's boring stories, so we were pretty happy when the food started to make its way out for us. Let's see what we thought.


Not the most beautiful of presentations, but this Daily Flatbread ($12) was a huge hit at our table. On the night we were at Urban, this offering included tri-tip, plenty of red onion, and a spicy red sauce. The spice was definitely present here, while the tri-tip was very tender. I thought the flatbread itself did a fair job of holding everything together, but it was wobbly in the middle parts. Even with this generous serving size, the four of us had no problem polishing this off quickly.



Anthony was intrigued enough by the Daily Soup ($8) offering on this night, to order the Black Bean Tomato Bacon Soup. Afterwards, he was pretty pleased with his decision. This bowl of soup came to the table scalding hot, with plenty of black beans in attendance, and a good amount of bacon flavor. He liked the mix of flavors with this, and called this, "a hearty soup".


When I was checking out the menu before coming to Urban Grill, I was pretty excited by their salad selection. I was not only happy with their variety, but I also liked that they offered half sizes of most of their salads at a very reasonable price. Katie took advantage of this by getting the Half House Chopped Salad ($5). This house salad had a kind of Greek feel to it with the inclusion of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onions, cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and a house vinaigrette. Katie predictably called the produce here fresh, but was also impressed with the half portion size of this. Also of note was the tangy vinaigrette used here, she felt it brought this salad to life a bit.


There was no Caesar offered at Urban Grill, so I went with my usual second choice when it comes to salads, a wedge. The Urban Wedge ($6) came with all of the usual suspects in a typical wedge salad. It starts with hearts of romaine, plenty of red onion, tomatoes, chopped bacon, blue cheese, and a blue cheese dressing. The only thing that Urban Grill added to this salad to make it their own is candied walnuts, which added a nice sweetness and texture component. I liked their version of a wedge. It had a nice balance to it, and there was plenty of blue cheese included here.


Entrees are up next, and we'll start out with Sabrina's selection, the Grilled Vegetable Pasta Primavera ($13). This had a plethora of veggies included in it. Zucchini, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and roasted garlic, along with pappardelle pasta, pesto, a Soave wine sauce, and grated Parmesan made up this plate for health conscious Sabrina. She was very pleased with this big pile of food. She thought the pasta tasted like it was made here, the sauce was excellent, and the artichoke hearts really made this dish pop. She left here happy because it took her only one visit to Urban Grill to find her favorite thing on the menu.



I was torn between what sandwich to try here, so Anthony and I decided to split our sandwiches, so we could try both. The first of our two sandwiches was this Prime Steak Sandwich ($17). This sandwich is made with prime ribeye, provolone, onion strings, and a mushroom skillet sauce, all on a French baguette. This steak was cooked to a wonderful medium rare, with a great meaty flavor, and hints of garlic from somewhere. The cheese added some moisture, but the mushroom sauce was like Wonder Woman's plane, invisible. Extra sauce, or maybe even an au jus, would have gone a long way in making this sandwich even better than it already was. This came with Herbed Matchstick Fries, which were seasoned nicely and had a good crunch to them.



The second of our two sandwiches was this Grilled Tri-Tip Sandwich ($11.50). Joining the tri-tip on the caramelized onion bun was provolone, horseradish cream, and caramelized onions. After having the flatbread with the tri-tip on it, I knew that the meat was going to be good, and it was. It was tender, but just like the other sandwich, this needed more of a sauce. If the menu had not clued me into the horseradish sauce being included here, I would have had no idea that it was on here. We should have gotten some extra on the side. The bun on this one was very sturdy, but soft. A good combo to have in the bread game.


Just like Anthony and I got similar items, Katie followed Sabrina's lead by having something that was similar to Sabrina's dinner, the Chicken Artichoke Pasta ($15). On this one they used the same pappardelle pasta, garlic, tomatoes, spinach, artichoke hearts, pesto, chili flakes, Soave wine sauce, Parmesan, and a touch of cream. Katie was as pleased with her meal, as Sabrina was with hers. She really liked the abundance of fresh veggies used here, and the chicken was tender and moist. When I pressed her about any negatives, she could not think of any.



Usually when we go out with Sabrina and Anthony we always overindulge, and that was the case on this night as well. We tried two additional side items, because of course we did not have enough food already. The Grilled Asparagus with Pesto and Feta ($8) really wowed everyone at our table. The asparagus was tender and flavorful, but it could have used a little more feta on this. Anthony liked this so much he was trying to hoard it for himself. The Urban Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto ($7) earned a split decision at our table. The girls loved this side item, but both Anthony and I kind of thought it was a little too bland, and resembled the Kraft version too closely. The prosciutto helped a little but here, but not enough for me to order this again.



By this time of the night, the four of us were all pretty full, but for you dear reader, we ordered dessert anyways. The Urban Ice Cream Sandwich ($7) gets most of the dessert love from the reviews on Yelp, so that's the one we tried. Two oatmeal based cookies are sandwiched between vanilla ice cream, and then drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. This dessert was good, but the cookie was a little too hard for us to get our forks through it. It really took a lot of effort, and the ice cream squirted out the sides. I liked the cookie, but I probably would have liked to have had them without all the trouble of trying to break through them with a fork.

Urban Grill and Wine Bar is a welcome addition to the Foothill Ranch neighborhood. Although it was not a perfect meal all around, the food that we did have is a welcome diversion from chain restaurant food that is king around these parts. I look forward to trying their pork chop or maybe one of their steaks on our next trip here. I felt the prices were more than fair for the amount of food that you get. Our server Bill was right on top of things, and made some great suggestions throughout the night. Hopefully this will be the start of these kinds of restaurants in Foothill Ranch.

Out of five outfitters, (because when I hear the word urban, I always think of the Urban Outfitter's store, where everything in there is too hip for me to wear), five being best to zero being worst, Urban Grill and Wine Bar gets 3 outfitters.

For more information on Urban Grill and Wine Bar, go to their website here: http://urbangrillandwinebar.com/

Urban Grill and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Getting a First Look at Provenance


Provenance
2531 Eastbluff Dr. 
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Sometimes I really hate my regular job. I know, not really a big shock to hear someone say that, but I only feel this way sometimes. For the most part I am pretty happy where I work. I have been there for 26 years now, and it has afforded me to go on vacations, gives me a roof over my head, and allowed me to go out to a few restaurants. Then there's a day like a couple weeks ago. I had inventory weekend, and it just so happened that there was a media tasting at a new restaurant that I have been waiting to try since I heard about them opening. There was going to be no way that I could get out of work, so in my place, I sent my way better half Katie to enjoy a great afternoon at Provenance in Newport Beach.

Provenance is the new restaurant from Chef Cathy Pavlos of the highly acclaimed LUCCA Cafe in Irvine. If you go into Provenance thinking this is going to be just like LUCCA, you would be mistaken. LUCCA is a Mediterranean restaurant, that draws its inspiration from all of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The culinary inspiration for Provenance comes from the California wine country, and that cuisine is of course greatly influenced by France and Italy, which means, so is the food of Provenance. Just like food of California is influenced by Asian and Latin flavors, the food making its way out of the kitchen at Provenance will have a slight tinge of Asian or Latin flavors on top of French and Italian basics.

Katie came home singing the praises of Chef Cathy. Chef Cathy is of course worthy of these praises. She's an architect by profession, with a degree in Architecture and Art History, a Master's Degree in social Ecology, and a PhD in Environmental Design and Analysis. Literally, she's one smart cookie. She grew up right here in Huntington Beach, but has lived in Italy, and traveled throughout Europe and the East Coast.







Chef Cathy grew up in Huntington Beach when the city was rural, and at Provenance, she's going back to her roots, with a garden right on the premises. Farm to Fork is all the rage now, but that's how she lived growing up, and that is what they are striving for here at Provenance. They are catering to a 35 and up clientele, and these diners are part of the LATTE culture, which means they are looking for restaurants that are Local, Authentic, Traceable, Trusted, and Ethical. It doesn't get anymore traceable than knowing that the vegetable on your plate is from the garden in the back of the restaurant. Just as they were settling in, the food started to make its way out. Let's see what Chef Cathy had cooked up this afternoon.


Speaking of the garden, starting things off was the Salted Garden Beets ($14). Joining the beets on the plate was a Di Stefano burrata, avocado, mandarin aigre-doux, chard, and a sherry-maple vinaigrette. I just learned that aigre-doux means sweet and sour while I was writing this, guess I should have taken French instead of Spanish in school. Katie went nuts over this. She claims that she has never had a better tasting burrata, which played well with the myriad of flavors here. The beets added an earthiness, while the mandarin sauce provided both a sweet and sour combination.


Back in 2005, when LUCCA first opened, Housemade Charcuterie ($23.50) was not as big as it is now. Fast forward to the present, and almost every fine dining restaurant now offers charcuterie. Provenance is no different, but their offering includes; potted rillettes, duck pate, sliced charcuterie, pickled veggies, and mustard's. Katie really liked the variety here.



Next up were a couple of sandwiches off of the lunch menu at Provenance. The Turkey Meatloaf ($15) is something that is definitely right up my alley. Joining the tender turkey meatloaf on this sandwich was applewood smoked bacon, Fiscalini Farmstead cheddar, cippoline in agrodulce, Boston lettuce, tomato relish, sweet pepper jelly, and a house aioli. Not your normal humdrum leftover meatloaf sandwich here. If the meatloaf sandwich sounds unique, the Roasted Leg of Colorado Lamb Sandwich ($16.50) is also not something that you see everyday. It's topped with a Meyer lemon confit, mixed chard's, a Kalamata olive tapenad, and the house aioli. For lamb lovers this one can not be beat. As if the insides of the sandwiches are not enough to make you happy, the bread at Provenance comes from Dean Kim's OC Baking Company, so you know it is going to be great.


Showing off more from the garden at Provenance, the Honey Balsamic Roasted Baby Carrots ($7). With such a simple sounding dish, there was a lot going on here. The carrots were fork tender, and popped with flavor from the addition of a spice blend, dill, chives, and the unusual inclusion of feta cheese.




The bounty from the garden continued to make its way to the table, with these two other offerings. I have never really been a big fan of Rapini ($8.50), but this version has me rethinking that. Topping the usually bitter vegetable is a spicy tomato sauce, green garlic, and my favorite part of this dish, a fried egg. Genius. Chef Cathy has found a way to make even rapini taste good. The Sweet and Sour Winter Squash Medley ($7.50) was plated in such a way, that you could really see Chef Cathy's architectural background. The tall black kale surrounding the squash, and sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds. This dish seemed to scream Autumn.


The lone lunch entree brought out was this Mahi Mahi ($21.50). This fish was encrusted with pistachios, and served alongside a quinoa medley, tomatillos, salsa verde, and a hint of citrus. Katie really enjoyed this earthy dish. She liked the fish, but was taken aback by the quinoa here. She said she could have just made a meal of the quinoa medley.


Now onto the dinner menu, and starting things off was this starter, the Whole Smoked Idaho Trout ($27.50). For smoked fish lovers, this is a must. Topped with ribbons of hearts of palm, capers, artichoke hearts, oven roasted tomatoes, and smoked olive and lemon cream. Katie's not much of a smoked fish fan, so she did not try this, but I really enjoyed the plating here, so I had to include this shot.



The fish parade just kept on coming, with this Pan Fried New Zealand Sole on the Plancha ($28.50). For being pan fried, this fish had a lightness to it, and lacked any noticeable grease. The sole was served with crispy prosciutto, planch potatoes, spinach, tarragon, and infused brown butter sauce. A very nice fish dish, for light eaters who do not want to sacrifice flavor.


New Zealand not only brought us the sole above, but also this lamb. This Rack of New Zealand Lamb might look like its not cooked all the way through, but at Provenance, they cook some of their meats using the top of the line Sous Vide station, which cooks meats all the way through to the desired temperature, in a vacuumed packed bag. It's a cooking process made popular by Thomas Keller, which cooks items evenly, from the inside out. Also served with the lamb is a blood orange leek risotto and a cilantro macadamia nut pesto. A lot more creative than that horrible mint jelly option.


When Katie came home and showed me the pictures that she took, the one that caught my eye immediately was this one of the Roasted Jidori Chicken ($23). A lot of times chicken can be boring, but looking at the chicken here, it made me crave it. It comes with garden veggies, baby Yukon potatoes, blistered Brussels sprouts, and pan gravy. Comfort food, with a modern twist. According to Katie the chicken was some of the most tender she has had. This is a meal that you can feel good about eating.


Just like at LUCCA, Provenance will be serving brunch, but for right now the brunch at Provenance is only on Sundays. No run of the mill eggs Benedict here. This is the Housemade Whiskey and Brown Sugar Cured Wild Salmon Gravadlax. This Nordic style way of serving salmon is placed on top of two house made English muffins, with poached eggs, dilled Hollandaise sauce, and fried capers placed on top of the salmon.


They love their fish at Provenance, and there is no shortage of seafood on the brunch menu here. This Pan Seared Idaho Trout ($17.50) is not something I would normally order at brunch, but the menu description definitely piqued my interest. Two poached cage free eggs, root veggie loose hash-browns, baby garden greens, all with a mustard cognac Bearnaise sauce, comprised this dish. Katie liked every aspect of this plate, but the root vegetable hash-browns really got her attention here.


I love hash for breakfast, but a lot of them are just mediocre. After seeing the picture of this CAB Shortrib Corned Beef Hash ($16.50), I have very high hopes for this version at Provenance. Served with a sunny side up egg, a butternut squash succotash, and a Wasabi Cream, this promises to be full of big time flavors. I look forward to making it here to try this as soon as possible.


Last but not least, we jump back to the dinner menu for this grand finale, the 32 Ounce Certified Angus Beef Porterhouse Steak for 2 ($93). This was brought to the table medium rare, and was one of the most tender pieces of meat that Katie has ever consumed. It is carved off the bone, and served with a plethora of grilled vegetables from their garden, potatoes, and sauces. If you are a steak fiend, this is probably what you should get at Provenance.




Just when they could not eat any more, a nice trio of desserts were brought out. Pastry Chef Alice Castro, formerly of Park Avenue in Stanton, has been brought on board to create the desserts at Provenance. Always a sucker for apple pie ala mode, the Cast Iron Apple Pie ($9) looks like it will be a winner, with a salted caramel sauce and Calvados ice cream. For those that do not know, like me until I looked it up, Calvados is an apple brandy from France. For a lighter dessert, you may want to try the Plate of Cookies and Mini Pastries ($9). Carrot Cake ($9) always gets my attention, and after seeing this one, I had to stop myself from licking my computer screen trying to get a taste of the good looking cream cheese frosting. Just like at Park Avenue, a lot of Alice's desserts feature house made ice creams, with some unique flavors. All the more reason to save room for dessert when dining at Provenance.


For the next couple of weeks after her visit to Provenance, Katie could not help but sing their praises. She told a bunch of people that they must try it with us, so it looks like I will be able to experience it for myself very soon. Provenance was everything that Katie thought it was going to be. The food was amazing, innovative, and Chef Cathy really inspired her. I was pretty upset that I had to miss this event, but glad Katie got to experience it.

For more information about Provenance, go to their web site here: http://www.provenanceoc.com/