Before moving to California, the owners of Finbars Italian Kitchen lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood densely populated with Italian families. Like the rest of the neighborhood, they attended St. Finbar parish, where they gossiped and traded recipes with ?grandmas, moms, and quite a few uncles that all know how and love to cook.? Later, as transplants to the West Coast, they infused the ?straight to the point food? they knew and loved with fresh, California-style ingredients such as cilantro, zucchini, and celebrity secrets. Their menu soon grew to reflect both their traditions and culinary developments, with dishes such as chicken tequila fusilli, pad thai linguine, and New York prime steaks. Today, they serve their freshly made dishes in two locations, where live music entertains diners on weekends.
Award-winning chefs can be found at Prep Kitchen Essentials, sharing knowledge to small groups of students. The cooking-supply retailer and culinary school enlists world-class kitchen artists to teach its introductory cooking courses. This level of access to acclaimed chefs is a rarity in the cooking-school world, and the newcomers who populate these beginner-level classes are immediately inspired as they learn the basics of preparation and the art of elegant presentation. Prep Kitchen's curriculum attracts a diversity of students, including professional chefs-in-training. In addition to adult courses, instructors kindle the talents of budding chefs with children's cooking classes and a summer camp where campers engage in string cheese tug-of-war and tell ghost stories about over-cooked risotto.
The Taco Surf empire grew from the dream of a father and son who, in 1988, decided to found a restaurant that captured the distinctive flavors as well as the festive spirit of Baja California. Basing the menu on generations-old family recipes, the duo stick to tradition by making everything from crispy tortilla chips to tamales in-house. Charbroiled flank steak, slow-cooked pork, and grilled chicken appear throughout the menu; however, the ocean's influence is unmistakably prominent. The iconic Baja tacos arrive brimming with breaded white fish and drizzled with a signature spicy Baja sauce, which the restaurant generously sells by the bottle and by the thimble.
At Surfer Dogs, European-style hot dogs and tropical-themed toppings blend to create an inimitable American treat. Starting with 100% beef, hot dogs transform into unique creations that boast toppings such as their secret sauce, pickled cucumbers, dried onions, tropical fruit salsa, chili and sauerkraut?the last of which harkens back to the hot dog's German history. The made-to-order delicacies even come in a vegetarian version that includes no soy or corn.
As sunlight pours through the lace curtains of McKenna's lemon-yellow tearoom, hostesses deliver light treats and 37 types of tea to frilly, glass-topped tables. Triangle-cut finger sandwiches, cheese- and vegetable-filled quiches, and leafy salads flaunt their fresh ingredients on the restaurant’s chinaware, which sit alongside steaming teapots that transform lunches into sumptuous high teas or shift blame after ill-timed wolf whistles. The shop unfurls its tearoom and garden patio to a myriad of private events, hosting elegant celebrations for bridal showers and children's birthdays, which get magical enhancement with appearances by Snow White and other fairy-tale characters. After nibbling on teatime dishes, patrons can peruse the selection of gifts, accessories, and shabby-chic housewares in the gift shop to help commemorate their outing without filling pockets with Devonshire cream.
The food at Cafe Lafayette alludes more to a sumptuous and expensive restaurant than a simple corner caf?. The kitchen greets the day with Florentine omelets and mango-blueberry crepes, and toothpicks adorned with fringe or tiny semaphore flags skewer sandwiches filled with salami and provolone or waldorf chicken salad at lunch. Dinnertime is when the upscale flavors are at their best, as gnocchi with wild mushrooms and beef stroganoff prepared with short rib share space with the house Pollo Di Lafayette, a chicken breast stuffed with spinach, walnuts, and blue cheese and topped with creamy pesto.