Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Last month, I was invited by Stefani Roberts from Bread and Butter PR to a Pre-Grand Opening Party of one of their clients, Mendocino Farms, at their new location in Marina del Rey. Although their 2 downtown locations are actually closer to me, one is only open for lunch and the other just serves dinner until 7:15. Neither are viable options for me since I don't live or work close by, so I was looking definitely looking forward to tasting the food at this private media event.
The way this restaurant works is that after perusing the menu, you place your order at the counter. There's even a kid's or calves menu as it's referred to. Beware, there is a height limit and if you go over it, too bad. After your order has been taken, work your way towards the end where you can add a salad, soup or drink to your order and then you pay for the whole shebang. With the open kitchen atmosphere, you can literally see your sandwich made from start to finish.
Luckily, I brought 3 friends with me so we literally got samples of most of the sides and we split the sandwiches in quarters so that we could all get a taste of what each of us ordered. When it came to the sides, I really loved my soup. I can't remember what it was called, but it was basically a spicy beef soup. I enjoyed the heat from the broth and really appreciated the chunky vegetables and beef. It's the kind of soup I could eat a big bowl of on a cold night and be completely satisfied.
We also sampled the Spinach Salad, Curry Orzo, Cucumbers and the Potato Salad. I liked the sweet vinegary flavor of the cucumbers and the potato salad had a nice creamy texture to it.
The first sandwich I took a bite out of was actually mine and it was the Aurelio's Apple Carnitas Torta with apple-roasted pork, avocado, chili aioli, romaine, tomatoes, red onion and green apples on toasted ciabatta. The quality of the vegetables was great, both fresh and crunchy; however, I felt like there wasn't enough chili aioli, so the sandwich was a bit dry. However, the addition of the chipotle salsa, which was available upon request, really kicked this sandwich up a notch. If you order this sandwich, definitely order that chipotle salsa. It's fantastic.
Next was the Steak BLT with carved steak, applewood bacon, romaine lettuce, roasted tomatoes, herb aioli and caramelized onions on toasted rustic white bread. You really can't go wrong with steak and bacon on the same sandwich. I liked that the steak wasn't overcooked and it had a nice pinkness to it which made for more tender meat.
The third sandwich I tried was the Prosciutto and Roasted Chicken with local Gioia fresh mozzarella, crushed honey roasted almonds, basil pesto, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes on panini grilled ciabatta. Of the four, this sandwich really surprised me. It had a sweetness to it that was unexpected and I wasn't sure if it came solely from the crushed honey roasted almonds or if the prosciutto contributed anything to the mix. Sweet in a savory sandwich is not something I'd usually go for, but in this case it worked and worked well.
Unfortunately, I saved the Alex's"You Create It" Grilled Cheese for last. I say unfortunate because the cheese wasn't as melted as when it was first served and cold grilled cheese sandwich just isn't as good. However, considering its ingredients which included smoked gouda fondue, pepper jack, jalapenos, tomatoes on panini grilled rustic white bread with the addition of prime honey ham, I know I missed out.
Mendocino Farms also passed a sample of their Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi with braised caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini grilled ciabatta. The pork belly was quite tasty and I would have loved more of it.
As for desserts, they have cookies available for purchase. I really liked the cranberry cookie that I sampled. But if you do a catering order, the desserts will come from Dolce Forno like the lemon bar seen below.
Towards the end of the event, I briefly spoke with Owner Mario del Pero and I really liked his food sensibility. For him, it is really important to stay close to the farms, the farmer's markets and to source as many local ingredients as possible. He even mentioned being one of the Santa Monica Farmer's Market's biggest clients and I believed him. Everything that was served had a freshness to it was very evident.
Mario also spoke the praises of his Executive Chef, Judy Han. Chef Han has an amazing culinary resume. Her first job was at Lucques under Suzanne Goin. She was also a protégé of Alice Waters. Previous work experience also included working at Sona, Grace, Koi and as the Sous Chef of Literati II. Given her background and the quality of the food so far, I definitely see great things for Mendocino Farms.
Overall, I really enjoyed trying the food at Mendocino Farms and look forward to stopping by and this time on my own dime.
4724 Admiralty Way
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292