10 Favorite Bites of 2015

Since the New Year is a time of reflection, SCVFoodie thought back to the many great meals and sumptuous bites of 2015 (and tried to forget the craptastic ones). So in no particular order, here are some of the more memorable and tasty moments from the past year, in pictures.

1. Lobster Sausage

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The Modern (New York): Lobster Sausage, spaghetti squash and lobster bisque in The Modern’s Bar Room.
 

2. Filet Burger

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The Morrison (Los Feliz): The Morrison’s Filet Burger is a beef patty topped with seared filet mignon, creamy port-salut cheese, marrow butter on an English muffin.
 

3. Uni (Sea Urchin)

Ceviche Project

Ceviche Project (Los Angeles): The Ceviche Project is a great pop-up dinner series, which most recently had a residency at The Mondrian in West Hollywood. The uni dish they served at the August dinner was simply sublime.
 

4. Smoked Salmon Tartine

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Republique (Los Angeles): The Smoked Salmon Tartine with avocado, capers, pickled Persian cucumbers, red onions on multigrain toast was a great choice for brunch on a hot summer day.
 

5. Candied Bacon

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Charcoal BBQ (Silver Lake): The Candied Bacon (crisp, thick and applewood smoked) is crack. So so addictive.
 

6. Donuts

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Donut Friend (Highland Park, CA): You can’t go wrong at the gourmet donut shop, Donut Friend, with its signature and limited-edition creations.
 

7. Turkey Sandwich

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The Original Sandwich Shoppe (New York): Almost every time we’re in the city, we try to make it to Greenwich Village for Rudy’s Fresh Roasted Turkey Sandwich. It’s one of our favorite sandwiches in the world.
 

8. Shrimp and Grits

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Rascal: We attended a whisky pairing dinner (led by our bud Whisky Guy Rob) at this neighborhood joint on La Brea and had a great Shrimp and Grits pairing.
 

9. Lobster Sandwich

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Doug’s Seafood (Bonita Springs, Florida): While Doug’s serves up both Maine- (with mayo) and Connecticut- (drawn butter) style lobster rolls, we preferred the sandwich that featured the lobster meat, with light mayo on sourdough bread toasted until golden brown.
 

10. Wild Boar

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Redbird (Los Angeles): We attended a Single Pot Still (Midleton Distillery) whisky pairing dinner at Neil Fraser’s Redbird in Downtown L.A. The Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin with celery root puree, wild mushroom and pepper cress was the night’s standout dish.

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The Worst Philly Cheesesteak Ever

Just no.
Just no.

At SCVFoodie, we try our best to find the silver lining in all dining experiences, even the disappointing meals. We know that, for the most part, restauranteurs and foodservice workers are hard-working, dedicated people who care about the food they create, and we try hard to be constructive as possible in our criticism. But we also have to be honest.

So all that being said, we had the worst. cheesesteak. ever. at Hot Wings Cafe on Town Center Drive. Not only was it devoid of flavor, but it had this greasy film that coated our tongues and didn’t leave for hours. We tried beer, soda even ice cream to remove the residue, but our efforts were in vain. We think the server probably knew that the cheesesteaks weren’t stellar; she saw that we didn’t even come close to finishing them, and didn’t bother to ask how our meal was or if we wanted the rest of our sandwiches boxed up.

We’d never been in a Hot Wings (it’s a local SoCal chain) before this recent visit, and it seems that it’s an establishment with an identity crisis. Like the now-defunct Titled Kilt and Varsity on the other end of Town Center Drive, Hot Wings isn’t sure if it wants to be a restaurant for the SCV families or a nightclub/sports bar, so it tries to be both. While we spied families with kids in the restaurant while we were there (a Friday night around 7 pm), there was a robust bar scene and large TV screens on the other side of the restaurant. The lights dimmed during our dinner that must have signaled club time.

The restaurant’s decor is no-frills and sterile, and the dinnerware is much too formal, almost mismatched for the cuisine. We don’t need our cheesesteak served on an unadorned heavy white plate—actually we don’t need the cheesesteak. Period.

One good thing about our visit? The fried zucchini was great.

Hot Wings Cafe
24501 Town Center Drive
Valencia, CA 91355

Making Progress at The Daily Harvest

The Daily Harvest is coming to the yellow Victorian buildings in Newhall.
The Daily Harvest is coming to the yellow Victorian buildings in Newhall.

In the late spring, we saw a new sign—The Daily Harvest—pop up among the yellow Victorian buildings along Lyons Avenue. And got really excited. According to what we could find online, the new “cafe & juicery” would offer: Organic Cold Pressed Juice, Seasonal Fresh Food, Breakfast, Salads and Sandwiches.

So we waited. And waited.

The construction seemed to stop and start in fits and spurts. But now they’re back at it in earnest and one of the guys walking into the construction site said they’ll be open “soon” (within the next month). Fingers crossed.

Follow the cafe on Instagram (@TheDailyHarvest) to track its progress.

The Daily Harvest Cafe & Juicery
22722 Lyons Ave. #6
Newhall, CA 91321 

**If the cafe’s a success, then parking will be an issue. The [tiny] spaces at the lot for the Egg Plantation, Honu Coffee and various shops, dance and yoga studios will be at a bigger premium than they are now. But we’ll take parking headaches if that means more food options in the SCV.

Move Over, Red Lobster: Bonefish Grill Opens in the SCV

Bonefish Grill opens at the Valencia Town Center.
Bonefish Grill opens at the Valencia Town Center.

The Santa Clarita Valley gets a new seafood restaurant option on Monday when the Bonefish Grill officially opens to the public. We had the opportunity last week to take a sneak peek at the restaurant’s interiors and sample the fare, and we think the restaurant should do just fine in Awesometown.

A restaurant line owned by Bloomin’ Brands, who also owns and operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Bonefish Grills is definitely more upscale than Red Lobster or California Fish Grill at the other side of the mall. It has a nicely appointed interior that lets in a lot of natural light and doesn’t come off as stuffy.

The bar area is spacious and there’s outdoor seating on the patio available, too. During the media preview on Thursday, the passed appetizers included the restaurant’s signature Bang Bang Shrimp, which was a crispy shrimp dish tossed in a creamy, spicy and sweet sauce. The fried dish and the glaze reminded us a little of General Tso’s chicken, which is tasty, but we can only eat on occasion. Ahi tuna sashimi (sesame-seared rare with wasabi + pickled ginger) were passed out, too, but could have used a touch more seasoning. We didn’t get a chance to try the Lobster Flatbread, but it looked amazing.

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The Fish Taco at Bonefish Grill.

Moving onto the appetizers at the dinner, we had a chance to sample the Blackened Baja Fish Tacos with fresh romaine, mango salsa, lime crema + fresh herb pesto. The menu item comes in an order of three full-sized tacos, which are perfect for sharing as a hearty appetizer or as a meal itself. The Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad was next; the greens were fresh, the grape tomatoes were sweet, and the feta worked well with the shrimp, which was grilled perfectly. The entree size is a huge enough portion for anyone.

Next up for the diners (as if we needed another entree) was the Surf + Turf Mixed Grill: Ahi Tuna Pan- Asian Style, Chilean Sea Bass with Mango Salsa and Filet Mignon. The Ahi Tuna was too much like the appetizer, and we prefer the filet at other steak restaurants better (Ruth’s Chris, The Palm). The steak came out a little lukewarm, and not sizzling, but our party was quiet large, but at least it’s good to know that there are options for non-seafood eaters. The star of the Surf + Turf was the Sea Bass: The fish was tender and mild, and the sweetness of the mango salsa was a perfect complement.

Bonefish Grill's Berry Shortcake and Espresso Martini
Bonefish Grill’s Berry Shortcake and Espresso Martini

The final course was a fresh Berry Shortcake (a number of the restaurant’s desserts are made in-house, and switch seasonally).  The shortcake biscuit tasted homemade, and the creme anglaise complemented the berries. The dessert was a great choice for a heavy meal—just light enough to stuff our faces a little more. The dessert was paired with an Espresso Martini that includes Vanilla vodka, Kahlúa, Crème de Cacao and fresh brewed espresso. It tasted like a sweet, cold brew coffee.

But since Bonefish Grill really wanted to make a good first impression, they surprised the diners with a surprise, second dessert. Three warm doughnuts, tossed in cinnamon sugar magically appeared. There were interesting plastic bottles filled with chocolate and sea salt caramel sauces with tips that could be inserted and injected into the doughnuts to fill them with sauce. It was a little more trouble than it was worth, so instead we topped the doughnut with the sauce and added a little on the side for dipping. Much better. Despite the overly complicated dish, the doughnuts were pretty amazing and highly recommended.

Yes, ultimately, Bonefish Grill is another chain restaurant in the SCV, but if the preview is any indication, its seafood fare will be a welcome option.

Bonefish Grill
24201 Valencia Blvd., Ste 3210
Valencia, CA 91355 (at the Valencia Town Center Patios)
661.219.0021

A New BBQ Joint and Brewhouse Slated for Newhall

Dixie Brown's is slated to open in mid-August in downtown Newhall.
Dixie Brown’s is slated to open in mid-August in downtown Newhall.

SCVFoodie returned to the Newhall Refinery last week for dinner (the Refiner’s Fries, naturally), only to discover that a new brewhouse is being planned across the street.

From what we can gauge from Dixie Brown’s active Facebook page and rudimentary website, they’re slated to open in mid-August and serve up the BBQ basics. They’re also polling people for what kinds of beer they should serve up.

The concept is perfect for those people who might think that the Refinery’s menu is a little too…different.

So Dixie Brown, if you’re reading this, we’d like to throw in a few beer suggestions, too: Racer 5 and then anything Chimay, Clown Shoes or Dogfish Head.

Dixie Brown’s BBQ & Brewhouse
24255 Main Street, Newhall, Calif.
661 481-1188
info@dixiebrowns.com

Taste of the East Coast: Dunkin’ Donuts to Open in Santa Clarita

Dunkin Donuts to open in Awesometown.
Dunkin Donuts to open in Awesometown.

Update 8/1/15: Dunkin’ Donuts is scheduled to open at 4:40 am on Wednesday, Aug. 5 in the SCV. “The first person in both the walk-in and drive-through lines will be rewarded with free coffee for one year. The first location is also handing out tote bags to the first 100 customers.” (h/t The Signal)


We caught this bit of news last week, so East Coast transplants might want to hold onto your seats: The first of several Dunkin’ Donuts is scheduled to open in the SCV at the end of July.

Yes. You read that right.

No more driving to Santa Monica or Encino for the Chocolate Glazed or the Powdered Sugar (our two personal favs). All you have to do in a few short weeks is drive over to Canyon Country (the Sierra Crest Center, 27125 Sierra Highway, #326-A, Santa Clarita, CA 91351).

Now that bit of news definitely puts the “awesome” in Awesometown.

We’ll let you know when it officially opens.

Newhall Refinery’s Handcrafted Cocktails

Newhall Refinery's new cocktail menu includes the Old Fashioned, naturally.
Newhall Refinery’s Old Fashioned

Newhall Refinery is one of our favorite restaurants in the Santa Clarita Valley. The gastropub located in the heart of downtown Newhall is owned and operated by the same folks (Simon and Shannon Mee) behind the Egg Plantation.

The menu offers seasonal and generally locally sourced items, and their beer selection is diverse, varied and rotated. Who else in Santa Clarita would bring in Clown Shoes from Ipswich, Mass.? But sometimes we’re just not in the mood for a pint, and until recently, the Refinery only served beer and wine.

A few months ago Newhall Refinery introduced a complete menu of handcrafted cocktails. While they’re pricey for the area—but not L.A.—at $12 a pop, the ingredients are fresh and use high-quality and sometimes organic spirits and mixers when possible.

Our table tried:

Newhall Refinery's Moscow Mule.
Newhall Refinery’s Moscow Mule.

» The trendy Moscow Mule with Hanson Organic Vodka, muddled mint and lime and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. The bar also gives customers the option to try a different spin with Teeling Irish Whiskey or muddled fresh lavender.

» The light and refreshing Blackberry Fence Hopper with Hanson Organic Vodka, muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice and Turbinado Sugar.

» The classic Old Fashioned: Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon, muddled orange wheel, Abbott’s Bitters, cane syrup, maraschino cherries.

See the full cocktail menu.

The restaurant’s happy hour is short, from 4-5 pm Tuesdays through Fridays, and the cocktails aren’t discounted. The beers and wines are though, as are some of the food items.

Newhall Refinery's hummus.
Newhall Refinery’s hummus.

While you really can’t go wrong with any food pairing off the restaurant’s menu with your cocktail choice, we’re partial to the hummus appetizer as it also has baba ganoush, seasonal vegetables, and crispy naan to share ($11).

If you’re feeling a little more decadent then go for the Refiner’s Fries. Always the Refiner’s fries. The dish features mornay (cheese) sauce, beer braised beef brisket and green onion topping the fries. The happy hour mini-order is $5, but the full order is an even better deal at $8. Like its distant Canadian cousin poutine, it’s more than enough for a meal. Trust us. We’re experts on those fries.

Newhall Refinery
24258 Main St, Newhall, CA 91321
Hours: 11 am-10 pm Tuesdays through Thursday; 11 am to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday; and 11 am to 9 pm on Sundays.

Whisky Pairing Dinner at Rascal

Whisky dinner with Rob Gard at Rascal on La Brea.
First course of a whisky dinner with Rob Gard at Rascal on La Brea.

On Tuesday night, SCVFoodie was fortunate enough to score a seat to Rascal’s first whisky pairing dinner. (Full disclosure, we had an “in”—Rob Gard, the whisky expert and spirits writer guiding diners through the courses is a personal friend.) But he and Rascal’s chef Andy Lee put together a great four-course meal with uncommon whiskies and surprising taste combinations.

We’ll list the pairings by course:

First course: A Linkwood 15 with sheep milk cheese, house-made duck prosciutto, basque chorizo toast, roasted peeled almonds—and a date. We added just a few drops of water to the Linkwood, and it completely mellowed the finish. The difference was amazing.

Second course: A Benromach 10 with shrimp and grits (spiced shrimp with corn polenta grits, chimichurri). A hint of curry on the shrimp was a great touch by Lee and worked well with the peatier Benromach.

Third course: Glenturret 11 with whisky braised pork belly, sautéed picked farmer’s market vegetables and a whisky glaze. To be honest, SCVFoodie isn’t the biggest fan of pork belly dishes (usually way too fatty for our liking), but Lee’s was amazing. It reminded us of lechón—full of flavor and tender. Lee used the Glenturret in the glaze, adding a sharp sweetness to the dish.

Fourth course: A Brenne (French whisky) with a whisky custard bread pudding and creme anglaise. We love love love bread pudding, and pastry chef Danielle Keene’s was top-notch. It was more firm than mushy, which is the way we like it. The Brenne popped with vanilla and caramel flavors, complementing the dessert perfectly.

This week’s special whisky dinner is just the first for Rascal, so follow them on Facebook or Twitter for news about the next one. And just follow Rob Gard because, he knows his whisky. And he’s awesome. (No, he didn’t pay us to say that).

Rascal
801 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles
323-933-3229

Bargain Breakfast Burrito Alert: Burrito Factory

Meet the Burrito Factory's bargain breakfast.
Meet the Burrito Factory’s bargain breakfast.

The Burrito Factory has been around for nearly four decades, opening its first location in Chatsworth, and now boasting three additional locations in Santa Clarita, Sunland and Granada Hills.

SCVFoodie is a big fan of bargains, and we can honestly attest that the all-day breakfast burrito (at least at the Valencia location on Soledad Canyon Road) is a great deal. It’s a decent-sized breakfast burrito—two eggs, refried beans and potatoes wrapped in a tortilla with a side of chips—for $3.25.

Yep. $3.25.

There’s nothing fancy or gourmet about it. What you see is exactly what you get, and in this case, we’re OK with that—especially with a side of salsa and a few shakes of Tapatio.

On the downside, we can’t recommend the Burrito Factory’s guacamole. It’s way too runny. The last batch we had was closer to a chilled avocado soup than guac. Stick to the burrito and you’ll be fine.

Burrito Factory
21032 Soledad Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, Calif. 
661-288-0222

Hours: 7:30 am to 9 pm, Sunday to Thursday. 
7:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday

A Love-Hate Relationship with Dink’s

The breakfast burrito with meat, potatoes and cheese at Dink's Deli in Granary Square.
The breakfast burrito with meat, potatoes and cheese at Dink’s Deli in Granary Square.

The SCVFoodie team has been going to Dink’s in Granary Square for years. We don’t go to the one at the Valencia Town Center because it’s basically the same menu, just more expensive to pay for the Town Center real estate prices. So at Granary Square, we do love the chicken noodle soup, especially when we’re sick and the breakfast burritos (pictured above) are simple, yet delicious. The burritos could be our favs in the entire SCV, but we haven’t done enough taste-testing to compare—yet.

Dink’s in Granary Square is a no-nonsense restaurant where you order and pay at the counter and then they deliver to your table. Simple, right? Unfortunately for Dink’s it’s not. We can’t tell you how many times they’ve lost our order slips between the cash register and the kitchen window. During our last visit, a few weeks ago, we watched as two parties complained because their orders were lost in that Bermuda Triangle. Our order wasn’t lost, but when I ordered a fountain drink, and then took a sip at the table, the soda was warm.

I asked for ice, but the staff told me that they had run out. Don’t you think that this is something you should tell customers before handing them piss-temperature Diet Coke? Or maybe how about buying some ice at the Ralphs at the other end of the shopping plaza? This is why we have such a love-hate relationship with the place. Love the food, but the service leaves so much to be desired.

And don’t even get us started how the food establishment has no restrooms for customers.