Thursday, August 04, 2005

Greetings, tarts! Let's start this foodblogging party, shall we?

Three months ago, Future Mr. Tart and I moved to Riverside, California from Nebraska (I from Lincoln, he from Omaha 50 miles up the road). I had certain ideas of what California food would entail. Visions of fabulous farmers' markets and lots of slow-food-ish, Alice Waters-esque restaurants danced in my head.

The reality? Well, the farmers' markets are indeed good (more on that in a future post--just think beautiful citrus and avocados), and we do have Trader Joe's, a grocery store I'm currently having a torrid love affair with (more on that later too). But the restaurants? No, not so much in Riverside. The inland region of Southern California, which basically starts with Riverside and heads east from there, is very much a chain restaurant kind of place. If you're willing to drive an hour, you're golden, but if you want something close by, you sort of have to settle.

I'm going to make it my goal to prove that wrong. When I find a fabulous meal in the 951 or 909 area codes, I will document it and share with you. But first, I'll show you what driving an hour can bring: Sunday brunch at the Ramos House Cafe in San Juan Capistrano.

Ramos House sits on what is said to be the oldest residential street in California. Supposedly, one of the original families is still occupying the same property since the street was built in 1794. Ramos House isn't quite that old; it was built in 1881 and made into a restaurant about ten years ago.

The place is especially known for its weekend brunch, and that's what we came for on a recent Sunday morning. For a prix fixe price, you get a starter and an entree. We started with mimosas; Mark's was the traditional orange and mine was pomegranate. I love how they're served in mason jars:

Incidentally, their bloody mary looks pretty cool as well -- they stuff a whole freakin' salad in those things. heh. Several stalks of asparagus, a crab claw... alas, next time.

For our starter choices, Mark decided to go with savory and I went with sweet. His was hush puppies with pepper jelly (he wanted to know if the corn husk garnish made me homesick for Nebraska -- yes, a little):

Delicious, not too greasy, great with the pepper jelly. My choice was the apple-cinnamon beignets you see below. That's caramel and creme anglaise swirled on the plate, and if we hadn't been in public I would have licked this plate clean. Aren't these gorgeous?

I may have a certain allegiance to the beignets at Lucile's in Fort Collins, but these were pretty darn close. Actually, the place reminded me of Lucile's in a lot of ways. The old-house setting, the Creole-influenced food, the laid-back clientele. Very cool. For entrees, we switched it up and Mark went with sweet while I went savory. Behold this peach pain perdu:

Oh. My. God. This was heavenly. But not to be outdone, here's my crab hash with smoky bacon scramble, topped with crunchy sweet potato curls:

It's hard to tell from this picture, but there's a crab cake under the eggs and sweet potatoes. It sounds really rich, but it was actually just right, and the flavors were really complex. Dee-lish.

Sarah, Lis, if either of you come visit me, I will happily treat you to brunch at Ramos House. Is that enough of an enticement? Huh? Huh?


Blogger Sarah said...

Tara, you've sold me. Lucile's pales in comparison to this charming slice of gourment brunch heaven!

Don't y'all love the idea of having appetizers for breakfast or brunch?

6:32 PM  

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