Leo The Lion

August is a great celebratory month at our house as we get to acknowledge multiple birthdays.  We are a great pride of Lions – seven in all, working our way into the third generation.   It’s the perfect excuse to  frequent our favorite restaurants.  This week I’m sharing with you two that are definitely worth your time and your dollars. 

Pacifica is a lovely gem on El Paseo on the second floor of The Gardens which we frequent regularly.  It’s a great spot for lunch, particularly when the triple digits subside, as their beautiful outdoor patio makes you feel like you’re dining in a New York highrise, floating serenely above ‘the peoples.’  But in August, we opt for the interior; cool, calm and relatively quiet even though there is quite the happening bar scene at the opposite end of the large space.   We are always greeted by a warm hostess who is expecting us (thanks to Open Table which we use all over the US.)  The wait staff are congenial, helpful and yet unobtrusive. 

As the name implies, Pacifica specializes in a tantalizing variety of seafood, but there is also an impressive list of alternatives for the carnivores.  As always, we were not disappointed.  My three companions went for the special sunset seafood medley; small portions of beautifully presented salmon, shrimp and swordfish, moist and centered in a delicate beurre blanc sauce and accompanied by a puree of potato and sautéed spinach.  Side orders of sautéed mushrooms and lightly grilled asparagus were a perfect accompaniment.   I did my usual grilled salmon  (Dr. Perricone would be proud) and what turned out to be the HIT OF THE NIGHT… Lemon Risotto…OMG can you say “to die for?”  I could have made a whole meal of that…and will very shortly when I make it for an upcoming dinner party I’m planning.  Just have to scurry out back and talk to that Meyer lemon tree and tell it to Get A Move On! 

Meyer lemons are soooooo slow but there simply is no substitute.   Ya know it takes a whole year for those little darlings to ripen up?  Fagitabout those yellow styrofoamy things from the supermarket – Fakers!  Our tree is a bit schizophrenic in that it produces Eureka lemons on the branches that are hanging-out over in the neighbor’s garden (a bit of co-mingling going on over there), while the limbs closest to our orange tree produce huge fruit with decidedly orange, dimpled outer peels.  The Meyers are on the front side of the tree that enjoys the most morning sun.  Anyhoo, back on January 16  I wrote a piece about Seafood Risotto and shared a recipe I’m sure is easily adapted. 

For our birthday dessert the restaurant graciously brought out – with candle – one of those killer deserts I know as a Midnight Seduction.  That name certainly conjures up a few censored thoughts doesn’t it?  This dessert was a baby bunt size that ooozed with warm bitter sweet chocolate which I’m certain is generously infused with Grand Mariner.   Well, we were all “infused” after sharing. 

My all time favorite  restaurant is, and has been since we started coming to the desert, Tommy Bahamas, at the other end of The Gardens on El Paseo.   I order the same thing every single time.  I know.  “Boring.”   But when you find a good thing, why screw around? 

We start by sharing:  their delicious, homemade, mouth-watering, hot-out-of-the-oven rolls with honey ginger butter spread.  Next comes “little tastes” of Coconut Shrimp with mango papaya chutney and Asian Slaw, and Crab Cakes with a sweet chilli mustard sauce.   Then if I’m feeling particularly gluttonous I might indulge in the Crab Bisque with sherry, which is the absolutely the best  this side of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, where She Crabs reign.   My husband generally goes for the Ahi Tuna and I have the luncheon Steak Salad – perfectly grilled and sliced tenderloin of beef, roasted crispy shiitake mushrooms like you have never tasted, cherry tomatoes, some grilled potatoes (that I ignore) and a lovely Vinaigrette.  Then….if you haven’t already rolled yourself out the door…can I just tell you that you really ought to try the Pina Colada Cake with rum, pineapple, chocolate mousse, toasted cocanut…should I continue?

A thousand thank-yous to restaurant manager extraordinaire Waleska Coffman, who always makes our visit seem more like a visit to her own kitchen.  As she flies from busing tables to checking the kitchen to greeting her guests, it’s readily apparent that Waleska not only knows her business, she also makes it her business to know her customers, and a more efficient, eyes-everywhere, warm and engaging woman you will never find.  We are honored by her friendship and grateful for her unfailing, tenacious  attention to the best, beautiful, mouth-wateringly satisfying food in the Valley.