A Gluten Free Haven at Linn’s Restaurant.

During my time living up on the Central Coast of California in the Santa Ynez Valley, I always loved any chance I got to head to Cambria. Cambria is 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 230 miles south from San Francisco. A humble, small town, Cambria is known for their stunning Moonstone Beach, as well as their annual Scarecrow Festival and a great Main Street drag of restaurants.

One of their dining staples is the absolute gem of a cafe, Linn’s. Linn’s Restaurant is known for their “Olallieberry”; a Youngberry crossed with a Loganberry. The primary fruit grown on their beautiful farm nearby, a Olallieberry tastes similar to the Knotts’ famous Boysenberry, or blackberry. While very tart, it did not provoke any crazy  “lip smacking” and was a great sweet treat…on the MANY dishes I recently got to experience on a visit to Linn’s!

Heading in on a rainy Sunday, we were quickly greeted by our Hostess, Kim and while the place was bustling, she assured us it would be less than a 20 minute wait. We were so engrossed with their bakery and gift shoppe that it felt more like a 5 minute wait. All decked out and ready for the holidays, Linn’s shoppe may not be ample, yet, they manage to have enough variety and beautiful adornments that you feel inside a proper department store.

Just a glimpse of their gift shoppe.

 

Gluten Free Olallieberry Muffin

We were soon escorted to our cozy corner table with a great window view of the rain coming down and the locals enjoying a stroll under their umbrellas. Mr. Linn himself, Aaron, soon came over to greet us and was an absolute delight to chat with. A Cambria native, The Linn’s have been operating their restaurant and farm since the 1980’s. If you want to know anything about Cambria and their townspeople, go have a chat with Aaron and he can fill you in on the what/where/when of the town. Great guy!

They’re also not shy to encourage you to try the entire menu. I was very excited to head to Linn’s as nearly everything is gluten-free (or they will gladly assist you if an item is not). Aaron’s Mom has Celiac, so they know first hand the excitement  you feel when you hear “Olallieberry Chocolate Brownie Cake….Gluten Free” or, my personal favorite: warm bread baskets that are gluten-free brought to your table.

We began our food journey with one of their most famous appetizers, their Ocean Rose Farm Abalone. Having not recalled experiencing Albalone, I was anxious to see why this is such a special dish. One bite, and I knew. Locally sourced Albalone from nearby Cayucos is served with two hazelnut encrusted medallions, lemon-thyme beurre blanc and a decadent jicama-jalapeño slaw. While not a gluten-free dish, simply mention if you need it to be, and they adjust the encrusted medallions for you. Perfection!

Albalone.

Moon Stone Beach Omelette.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Hearst Ranch Hamburger.
Photo: Michael Farah.

With so much already having gone down (chats with the locals, gluten-free galore, great coffee, great atmosphere), it was time for Mike and I to make our big decision: Whats for lunch?! I decided to take advantage of a late breakfast (Weekends they serve it until 2pm, other days, 12p) and try one of their favorite omelettes, The Moon Stone Beach with an abundance of Shrimp, Dungeness crab, tomato, green onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. While Mike decided on an old reliable: their Hearst Ranch Beef Cheese Burger with fries.

The Moon Stone omelette was to die for. The seafood so fresh, I would imagine it could have been caught that morning, while the flavor combinations of the cheese and veggies enhanced it perfectly. Mike enjoyed his burger, and the presentation was gorgeous and made it hard to want to dig in (Just a little….).

We were very stuffed by the time we had many options for dessert coming our way….check out what Aaron and staff insisted we try….

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

See all this, folks? Mike and I were able to get it all down…and, as some of you know, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I am pleased to say with the proper amount of insulin injections that day, I was able to keep my sugars in a  good range! I truly thought this could be my last supper. Death of a sugar rush. And, what a great last supper it would have been! 😉

First up, was that irresistible chocolate brownie concoction, followed by their famous Pecan Chew Cookie Delight with Linn’s Pecan Chew Cookie, Brazilian Coffee ice cream, house made caramel sauce, candied walnuts and just a little real whipped cream. Bravo!

 While I could continue to share my love for Linn’s, I will end here, and trust that you will do yourself a favor and head to Linn’s next time you are in Cambria. Learn more about them HERE and make sure to tell them Along Comes Mary sent you! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Linn’s Restaurant in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own and it was a phenomenal experience!)

 

Summertime at Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill!

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Summer is here, and LA has wasted no time with cranking up the heat. It is 103 outside as I write this. That being said, Mike and I found ourselves out and about on Memorial Day very hot, and hungry. Lucky for us, Sharky’s Woodfired Grill had invited us to stop in to have some more of their grub that we all know I am a huge fan of. Drinks and tacos, anyone??

Hitting up our Northridge location, this shop  is a bit unassuming as it’s on Nordhoff across the street from Cal State Northridge University. There are so many diners and casual restaurants all around, but, my go-to is usually Sharky’s 😉

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I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and try a new dish. While Mike had their chicken tacos combo plate, I decided on their quinoa and avocado salad. Since my most favorite at Sharky’s is their grilled shrimp, I decided to add that on to my dish. Just be warned, the cashier did not alert me that adds $5 onto the order.

Something that only select Sharky’s offers is an awesome full bar. How pleasant is it to be able to grab a beer or drink on a warm day in such a great, family oriented setting?! I had not yet tried their White wine sangria and went for it. It was my favorite part of this visit. Cool and refreshing, the white wine with tropical flavors complimented one another just perfectly. New favorite!

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While my salad was good, it’s not a favorite that I have tried at Sharky’s. Luckily, the shrimp portion was generous but it had much more veggies than quinoa, and, I love their quinoa, so, I was a bit surprised at the amount of quinoa.

Mike enjoyed his chicken tacos….and I may have grabbed some of the rice and beans 😉

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Sharky’s is always offering amazing deals and steals, especially if you’re a rewards member. For every 100 points (earned from each dollar spent), you get $7 worth of Sharky’s bucks. They also cater and now is one of their most busiest times as we’re in graduation season.

Have you been to Sharky’s? Pay them a visit at one of their locations listed here then tag them (@SharkysSocial) and me on Twitter (@Maryfarquhar) or Instagram (@AlongComesMary26)! I want to see what your favorite plate is! 😉 xo

Touring Lancaster! (Guest Post)

(Editor’s Note: She’s back! In her 2nd part of a 3 story series, Lisa, Along Comes Mary’s guest contributor, tells us more about touring The Boulevard in Lancaster, California, and how she fared being adventurous with mushrooms and squid ink! 😉 Visit Lisa at Lisa’s Hodge Podge. xo, Mary)

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Touring Lancaster
By Lisa Altschuler

I have worked in Lancaster for going on 4 years, and this is the first time I actually got to experience what Lancaster has to offer. We got a tour of The Boulevard, the up and coming shopping and dining area in downtown Lancaster. I have heard of The Boulevard but never took the time to go and explore it. I am sorry I never did. There are so many little shops, amazing restaurants and great salons and spas.

The Boulevard itself looks as if it were taken from a small beach community and put right on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert. There are many Mom and Pop restaurants and small boutiques that sell everything from wedding dresses to comic books. We got to sample two of the restaurants along The Boulevard: Giannini Bistro and Grill and The Lemon Leaf.

Giannini Bistro and Grill is a small Italian restaurant. It has been on The Blvd for 7 years and the owners Nick and Sharon Giannini were very nice and informative. They treated us to a feast of their best dishes. Our first dish was a Portobello ravioli with red pepper in a creamy sauce. I am not a fan of mushrooms and tend to avoid them if I can. But, I wanted to be courteous and so I ate a bite. It was actually very good. I needed to mentally prepare myself, but once I did, I really enjoyed the dish. Next, was a cup of their Zuppa Toscana. This is a sausage soup with spinach. I finished the whole cup. It was too good to just have a taste. Then, we had a bacon wrapped tri-tip. It was so flavorful and juicy. I am getting hungry just writing about it. After that, we had more tri-tip and baby bake ribs in their homemade BBQ sauce. The sauce was smoky and not too sweet. It was a perfect paring to the tri-tip. And (No, I’m not done), we finished the savory foods with shrimp skewers with their homemade cocktail sauce. I was stuffed at this point, and then they bring out dessert. We had a plate of deep-fried cheesecake bites. I can never turn down dessert, so of course I had a couple of them. They were delicious, not too oily and not too rich.

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Apart from the food, the atmosphere was very nice. They decorate their restaurant three times a year. In the spring, it is decked out in Alice in Wonderland! In October, they have it Pirates of the Caribbean themed and during Christmas, they go all out! I want to come back not only for the food, but to see this place get transformed!

After that wonderful meal, we wandered down the street to the restaurant and bar called Bex. This place is for the younger crowd. At night, it turns into a nightclub, and they have an underground bowling alley. I want to explore this place on my next trip up here!

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For dinner, we wondered into the Lemon Leaf Café. We met the owner, Maria Elena Grado who told us this place has been here for 10 years. I can’t believe I’ve missed this place! She prepared our menu for us. We started with a Turkey Cranberry Cobb Salad. This was just what we needed after a day of bacon! It was very refreshing and I was planning on eating more, when she brought out her Salmon with Squid Ink Pasta. I was afraid, but felt adventurous and took a bite. The squid ink added a bit of salt but no extra flavor. The salmon was prepared perfectly. I thought this dish was amazing! She then came out with Gorgonzola Bread and some read sauce for dipping. It was really good! I could have eaten the whole thing if I wasn’t so full. We also sampled Spicy pasta with chicken. It was not terribly spicy and very flavorful. We ended the day with dessert, a lemon tart and their signature Orange cake with Coffee icing. These desserts were amazing!! I already have plans to come back to this place. I can’t wait to try more.

Lancaster is more than just that place in the desert. They are growing into a tourist destination! Visit www.destinationlancasterca.org for more details.

(Disclosure: Along Comes Mary was invited on a weekend tour of Lancaster. All opinions are author’s own.)

What Not to Miss at Claremont Restaurant Week!

Have you ever been to Claremont, California? Nestled in the foothills of The San Gabriel Mountains, just east of Downtown LA & whistling distance from Pasadena, Claremont has become a best kept secret to Southern California with world-class cuisine, entertainment & FUN to be had. To introduce you to all the food to check out within in this college town (Claremont alone has 5 world renowned campuses), they are offering their famous Restaurant Week, which kicks off TODAY & will continue to keep you wine & dined no matter what your budget, for its 3rd year in a row, through July 19th.

I had the pleasure of attending a media preview of some of these wonderful restaurants with fellow members of The International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) & am honored to introduce you to my favorites that I highly recommend you check out this week!

Shrimp with edible sand.

Shrimp with edible sand.

THE JUNCTION

Combining European/Chinese/Mexican fare, The Junction is all about bringing together the Chefs diverse backgrounds to bring you some of the most fabulous, unique food you will find in Claremont. My recommendations? Begin your dining adventure with their Stuffed Dates & Figs, loaded with French Roquefort cheese and walnut & move onto the Ginger Butter Escargot. I know Escargot is not everyone’s cup of tea, but trust me, if you are ever going to try it, have it be here. The ginger butter is decadent, rich & full of flavor. For your second dish, consider either the prawns or wild cod, while I did not have either of those dishes this trip, I am positive it will be my go-to next time!

The Junction also has the great “Off The Truck” option which brings many food truck favorites right to your table like a soft shell crab taco & Super Nachos.

THE ORCHARD RESTAURANT

The Orchard is one of Claremont’s most loved fine dining experiences. Located in The DoubleTree by Hilton on Foothill Boulevard, it is ideal whether or not you’re lodging at the beautiful hotel. I was thrilled to hear that I would be trying their scallops; from presentation to taste, theirs could easily be the most outstanding I have ever had. Topped with a tarragon hollandaise sauce, these scallops melt in your mouth & will leave you ordering more. If this appetizer is that excellent, imagine what their entrees are like!

Beautiful tray & shells for The Orchard's scallops.

Beautiful tray & shells for The Orchard’s scallops.

BARDOT

Known for their “California Contemporary Cuisine”, you also cannot deny the French influence with Bardot’s name & their background. Serving such intriguing dishes as The Portobello Sandwich, Quinoa Pasta and…wait for it…Goat Cheese Lollipops! I had the opportunity to try their salmon & red quinoa salad, which were perfect, light dishes for a warm Claremont evening.

SACA’S MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE

Saca’s is dangerous! I admit, I visited their sampling table more than once. But how could one not when they have Vegetarian Dolmas, Kalamata Hummus & Baba Ghanouj. Wanna know a secret? I do not even like Hummus!  With fresh Kalamata olives in the famous dip, it became the best of both worlds in their Kalamata Hummus. Would pair great with a nice white wine.

PACKING HO– — USE WINES

If you are a Wino, you are in for a real treat at Packing House. I had the chance to do a flight courtesy of owner, Sal Medina & learn more about Sal & his incredible background. Sal easily tries thousands of wines a year to ensure the best of the best are coming into his wine shop then to your home. With the recent expansion of the restaurant, they have so many great options in store for Restaurant Week all created by the restaurant’s Chef Noah. Do yourself a favor & don’t leave before having a glass of their ’13 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel. Plump, full-bodied & notes of black currant & raspberry made it my favorite.

These are just a few of the restaurants participating in Claremont Restaurant Week. Visit their web-site HERE & you will be able to see what dishes each eatery has created for this exciting week for you to try! xo

(*Disclosure: A huge thank you to Claremont & IFWTWA for making this post possible. All opinions are my own.)