Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ


Breakfast Surprise

Dennis Myers PhotoI look at $1.99 Breakfast signs with skepticism.

Actually I look at all marketing signs of that ilk with skepticism accompanied with the “yeh, right” muttering. But I had just finished delivering my neighbor to the Long Beach Airport, thus performing my usual valet service for those that think since I work at home, I have time. It was time I treated myself to a new experience.

So, upon seeing the sign, I proclaimed the usual rationalization of deserving a treat for being a good neighbor. Pulling into the parking lot, I must admit I really thought I was crazy. This was not going to be a treat. But then what the heck, how badly can someone screw up a $1.99 breakfast? There could not be much to mess up! Besides, there is always a Happy Meal nearby.

First impression was solid. Beautiful facilities with modern seating and plenty of glistening clean stainless steel. Standing there I saw the menu could go to $2.99 if I wanted to upgrade the morning fare. There were other modest varieties, but that upgrade was one my allowance from my wife would cover.

The few people ahead of me were being politely and cheerfully greeted by their first name! The guests smiled! They must be wearing nametags from a convention they were attending, I thought. This was a happy place without the slogan!

My turn. A server in crisp white uniform and apron greeted me with a confident smile and asked what I wanted for breakfast. At this juncture I should mention that the woman had long passed puberty, had no visible tattoos, spoke perfect English, and asked for my order with metered words that allowed me to understand what she was saying! You see when you get older, if you ask someone to repeat what they had spit out like water from a high pressure hose, they don’t slow down, they just repeat their mutterings – only loud! This causes everyone within 50 yards to look at you with sympathy.

Showing appropriate humility, I ordered the $2.99 breakfast. She quickly served with skill an ample helping of scrambled eggs, bacon, browned potatoes, and two beautiful Swedish pancakes with lingberry sauce. The food was not in sealed paper bags fresh out of the microwave. The plate was glistening white china, and not a piece of plastic in sight. Ah, you say the utensils were plastic! No! They were stainless steel, neatly wrapped in a large linen-like napkin.

And get this – the coffee was free served in cups that were real china also! This was looking good!

I seated myself near a window (clean, without adornment or greasy fingerprints), and began my breakfast with a little guilt, but clearly happy with myself for making a selection that was shaping up surprisingly well.

All I can say is the breakfast was a real pleasure. It tasted great, and when I left, my tummy was happy! Oh, you want to know where to get the same great food and service?

Well, the next time you go to IKEA, show up when they open their restaurant, which is a half hour earlier than the store opens. It’s on the second floor. They have a great lunch service also in case you cannot make breakfast.

And you do not have to buy furniture to be admitted.

Ketta Brown’s


Ketta Brown Photo


Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad

Serves 6

1 1/2 c. wild rice

1 T. kosher salt, plus mor to taste

2 1/2 T. lemon juice

2 T. red wine vinegar

2 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. honey

1 T. ground cumin

1 t. curry powder

Pinch cayenne

1/4 c. olive oil

1 15 oz. can garbanzo, drained and rinsed

8 oz. diced, smoked ham (Leave this out to make it vegetarian)

8 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 c. dried cranberries

Black pepper and hot pepper sauce, to taste


Simmer rice and salt until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.  Rice should still be firm to the bite. Drain and rinse.

Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, cumin, curry and cayenne together.  Whisk in the oil.  Add all rest to rice and pour oil mix over.  Mix well. Adjust seasonings.  Serve at room temp.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

The Public Trough


Heard on the street…

A Note From Shaena

Stu and I had the great pleasure of attending the Grand Opening of Katsuya Laguna Beach on Wednesday night. It was a star-studded affair – with NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez and sbe CEO Sam Nazarian on hand to celebrate, along with a bevy of local icons including Mark Christy and Leticia Apalategui, Elizabeth Pearson, Mayor Toni Iseman, Allan and Stefani Simon, Ben Simon, Joe and Jane Hanauer, Morris and Stefanie Skenderian, Marcus and Tammy Skenderian, Horst and Arianna Noppenberger with daughter Chiara, Chris Keller and Amy Amaradio, Peter Blake, Chris and Jill Guziak, Andrea Adelson and Scott Reckard, Alexis and Jim Bellino, Marian Keegan, Angie Miller, and Richard Reisman.

The food was outstanding as to be expected – my favorite was the miso-marinated sea bass while Stu’s was the popcorn shrimp tempura – and the drinks stiff and plentiful!

Kudos to sbe and Philippe Starck on the interior design – and to Tom Penna (ITX Construction) and Morris Skendarian on the (re)construction of the building – Katsuya looks nothing like its predecessor Hush.

The folks at sbe tell us they’re officially opening next Friday, July 8 – so begin making your reservations on OpenTable today!

Soft-Shell Crabs and Copper River Salmon

With warmer weather come soft-shell crabs and Copper River salmon, two of June/July’s great delicacies. I had the pleasure of enjoying my first soft-shell crab on Tuesday night at Café Zoolu with Stu – what a delicious treat!

On the matter of Copper River salmon – Lumberyard Restaurant just received its summer shipment on Wednesday. Only available 3-4 weeks a year, the deliciously flavorful Alaskan salmon is a real treat! Lumberyard’s Chef Armando is preparing the salmon with wild rice salad, asparagus, and Asian pear chutney. Café Zoolu is also offering the salmon right now – I overheard a nearby patron raving about it on Tuesday.

My June Dining Out Diary

It’s that time of the month again. Whether you enjoyed reading my dining out play-by-play last month or not, Stu asked me to give it to you again. So, without further ado, here’s where I put my money last month. Please note: I’ve only included meals that I paid for. Tip is included.



6/5 (D) Disneyland (Anaheim) – two churros ($7)

6/9 (D) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – treated my little sister, Stacia, who was visiting from Oregon, to dinner at Sol; shared the Ceviche and Queso Vampiro Tacos ($28.93)

6/10 (L) Nick’s – took my little sister here to show her how Laguna lunches; split the Asparagus Fries, the Veggie Burger with Potato Salad and Bacon, and the Turkey Club Sandwich with Fries; each enjoyed a Pineapple/Cranberry/Sprite drink ($56.76)

6/11 (D) Mozambique – enjoyed a late night snack with my little sis and artist friends after the Starfish and Laguna Art Museum Opening Parties; split the Peri Peri Chicken and Fried Calamari with Cilantro Aioli Sauce; listened to Grammy Award-Winning Macy Gray in the bar after eating ($16.34)

6/12 (L) La Sirena Grill – picked up a Crispy Chicken Burrito and an Extra Large Bag of Chips with Guacamole and Homemade Pico de Gallo before heading to the beach with my little sister ($13.12)

6/13 (D) Z Pizza –  devoured a small Greek pizza ($10.82)

6/16 (D) La Sirena Grill – enjoyed the Blackened Salmon Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Avocado, Papaya Salsa, and House Lime-Cilantro Dressing, along with a Horchata drink and a house-made chocolate chip cookie ($22.51)

6/18 (L) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – split the Ceviche, Queso Vampiro Tacos, Three Kurobuta (Pork) Tacos with Rice and Beans, and drinks with a friend ($57.10)

6/19 (L) Big Fish – split a ½ Dozen Chilled Oysters, Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls, Lobster Tacos, Sweet Potato Fries, the Carrot Cake Cupcake, Brownie Sundae, and drinks with a friend; enjoyed listening to the sounds of reggae duo James Ide and Kevin Leon Smith during our meal ($56.01)

6/20 (D) La Sirena Grill – treated a client to dinner; we both enjoyed Extra Crispy Chicken Burritos, an Extra Large Bag of Chips with Homemade Pico de Gallo Salsa, and Jamaica/Lemonade drinks ($25)

6/22 (D) La Sirena Grill – Extra Crispy Chicken Burrito, Jamaica/Lemonade drink ($13)

6/23 (D) Domino’s – devoured a small pepperoni pizza on a deadline night ($5.45)

6/24 (L) In-N-Out (Laguna Hills) – ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and Kona Coffee to go on my way back to Laguna from a meeting in San Juan Capistrano ($5.22)

6/24 (D) Starfish Laguna – enjoyed the Mauna Kai Ahi Poke, Saigon Spring Rolls, and a Kumquats/Sprite Mocktail at the bar on a Friday night ($28.28)

6/25 (D) Bear Flag Fish Co. (Newport Beach) – drove all the way to the Newport Beach Peninsula to pick up the Ahi Poke and Grilled Ono Burrito for dinner ($20)

6/26 (L) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – Ceviche, Queso Vampiro Taco ($23.57)

6/27 (D) Laguna Thai by the Sea – Chicken Tom Yum Soup, Spring Rolls, Drunken Fried Noodles with Chicken, Pork, Shrimp, Vegetables, and Egg in Spicy Basil Sauce ($31.92)

6/29 (L) Zinc Café – enjoyed a Veggie Burger with Gouda Cheese and a bottomless coffee ($13)

Total spent: $434.03

# of visits to La Sirena: 4

Percentage of $ spent at restaurants within Laguna Beach: 77% (compared to 85% last month)



Kudos to those who managed to read all the way through – you now know more about me than I’m sure you ever wished to know…for a second time.

And to those perplexed and scratching their heads right now (“how/why did I just read that?”) – hopefully you can at least appreciate a girl putting herself out there so unabashedly in this way.

Just sayin’

More photos from Katsuya’s grand opening

Sam Photo 1
Sam Photo 2
Sam Photo 3

Sam Photo 4

Chef and food entertainer Sylvain kicks off Rent·a·Chef

Sylvain PhotoJust in time for the summer party season, Sylvain Touati has developed a new concept in fine cuisine.  Rent·a·Chef is an idea created by Touati that brings fine cuisine right into your kitchen.  An accomplished chef and food entertainer, Sylvain, as he is popularly known in Laguna Beach, has received numerous awards for his culinary talents.

According to Sylvain, “A successful party starts with a well thought out menu.  But what ensures a memorable party is the authenticity of the menu combined with its creativity.”  In addition to working with a client to create a memorable experience, Sylvain will gather the ingredients and prepare them fresh for you in your own home.  Services include budget planning, theme development, shopping, on site preparation and event coordination.

Sylvain is a French import to Laguna Beach who brings experienced European culinary sophistication to town. A native of Vichy, France, trained in the European profession of service, he spent fourteen years in the hotel business in Europe. As with so many with European training, he started from the bottom of the ladder and worked of the top. In the process Sylvain worked in many hotels throughout Europe. His experience all over the continent provided a tremendous background, but it also sparked a desire for greater, more widespread experience.

Curiosity brought him to the United States.

His first stop was in Georgia with Ritz Carlton. Sylvain figured since he had studied English for 12 years, he should have no language problem here. However, he did not realize that Georgia was a state with a very different kind of accent than England. He could not understand a word said to him there. The Georgians he encountered thought his accent was Irish!

He managed to communicate and discovered that he wanted to work in all 50 states. He always found a hotel/resort kitchen eager for his training as a chef. He said he especially enjoyed the Hilton in Michigan, the Doubletree and Lion Square in Denver, and McKinley Village in Denali Park, Alaska.

Why did Sylvain choose Laguna Beach over all the places in North American and Europe he had lived? “The United States offered more personal liberty than any other place I have lived. My personal philosophy grew to encompass the realization that it was not as important to please others, as it is to please oneself.

“Laguna Beach provides the environment to expand on life. The city is so great,” he continued, “that one does not need to do a lot to be happy. The rhythm of life here invigorates.” Laguna Beach, according to Sylvain, is more European than Europe.

Sylvain, a former owner of Laguna Coffee Company, also offers instructional services, lectures on the culinary arts and something he calls the “personalized pantry,” a concept he has developed where he will come to your kitchen, perform an evaluation, and create the perfect pantry that reflects your culinary skills and gives you a chance to embrace new recipes.

He said that his personal philosophy as a chef came from an instructor/mentor in France when he was a rookie chef:

“The most important tastes in a meal are the first and the last.”

For information about his services or to book the Rent·a·Chef, contact Sylvain at 494.0750 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Some material for this article came in part from a March 2004 piece in Laguna Life! and People magazine written by Francie Holder

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

Dennis is off this week

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