In this year’s alphabetized Food Lovers Guide, let’s reserve “P” for the passion with which some people celebrate their favorite indulgences.
Oh, wait. Sorry. It looks like we already reserved the “P” listing for potato chips, specifically artisan Rusty’s Island Chips made with center-cut Bakersfield spuds and French sea salt—perhaps a better choice. But make no mistake: Passion underpins everything that appears in the guide.
We focused our attention on the kind of luxurious bites that can change lives. You know the feeling—almost primal. When the craving hits, nothing else will do. The moment you take a bite, the Earth stops spinning, the firmament opens, and the angels belt out the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.”
For me, it happened the first time I tasted Wagyu beef at Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, and when I discovered the vinegary tang of Ollie’s Bar-B-Q Sauce which, 50 years later, I still order online from an Alabama vendor despite extortionate shipping costs. But locals are passionate about many different things, and we needed an expert O.C. foodie to do the detective work.
So we asked Orange Coast dining critic Gretchen Kurz to identify the high-end nibbles that people here treasure most. She found top local producers and vendors of abalone, truffles, and chorizo; gravlax, honey, and mezcal; morel mushrooms, Roquefort, and saffron. She even found a fantasy escape package to Vegas for a foie gras splurge, a $35 bottle of bourbon-barrel stout, and a $100 margarita.
And while we may never actually spend $5,000 for AnQi’s special pho with Iberico ham broth, blue-lobster noodles, white truffles, and a garnish of 24-karat edible gold leaf, we’re sure some passionate, deep-pocketed pho aficionado will.
Martin J. Smith
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