Friday, December 23, 2011

La Bastide Bistro - Scripps Ranch, CA

Feasting Flashbacks: North County Noshing
Hot down, summer in…North County. Tiff and Matt had moved out of the city a few months before and even though I’d been enjoying their new Playboy-Mansion-sized pool, I was still pouting about how far away they were. And tonight was no different, especially since we were meeting them for dinner at some strip-mall in Scripps Ranch.

North County’s strip-malls were strung like pearls, plentiful and lined in neat rows, but more like gaudy, costume jewelry than precious gems. Though I had to admit, La Bastide Bistro seemed to possess some real value. My ears perked to the rustle of butcher paper, smoothed on tabletops for a crisp, clean canvas as my nostrils filled with food fumes that could rival pheromones aroused by Chanel No.5.

The intoxication didn’t stop there. A sprite-ly Chateau de St. Martin flitted on my tongue with the lithe of a diver's spring on the board before leaping into delicate flight - a refreshing plunge for the palate.

A plateful of nosh-ables arrived and though I found the pâté a bit passé, the rest of the group gobbled it up greedily, along with the cured meats that provided a perfect distraction from my farm fresh salad.

Jersey girls have a thing about their tomatoes and these were juicy, sweet and ripe. A good yellow tomato is like eating the sun – it encompasses all that is summer. Simple greens and a splash of good balsamic was all the dressing up these beauties needed. Clumps of goat cheese + tomato juices = nature’s vinaigrette.

The halibut was a hellava one with tomatoes, artichokes and baby red potatoes in a lemon/white wine broth, but Bubba was lucky we both ordered the same thing because when the two came to the table, mine was visibly larger. True to my wifely duties, I switched with him, but other table members wouldn’t necessarily have parted with the fuller fillet - uniform portions please!

The hanger steak was cooked with finesse and left tender in its red wine/ cherry reduction, but got a bit mired down with ingredients - the spice rub and sauce seemed to compete with each other. And though the meat paired well with a side of brocollini, you could crack a tooth on the rice.

The rice also acted as a weapon in the paella and I didn't even understand why this dish was appearing on a "Country French" menu. Why have a random, Spanish, specialty dish if you can’t execute it well? The rice was undercooked, the shellfish overcooked - it was a failure in every possible way.

Truffle mac-n-cheese was ok, nothing stand-out and in the end, I felt lucky with my selections – the wine, salad and fish were all a hit – but other orders weren’t so lucky. Worth the hike? Probably not, but I’d keep it in mind when I came up for a swim.

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