Merle Exit

The idea of staying at a hotel directly across from an airport doesn't sound like a great idea, unless the airlines' fight path misses the hotel. There I was in Irvine, California with Esther and Eunice staying at the Atrium Hotel and booked in one of their executive suites overlooking the pool and cabanas.

Whether I was standing outside on my terrace or sitting in one of the hotel´s gorgeous cabanas, the loud buzzing sounds of the John Wayne Orange County Airport jets were either absent or barely heard.

A specious lobby leads to a waterfalls streaming on glass as one side made way to the Waterfalls restaurant. What could I say, I was hungry. I met with Chris Reischl, the Executive Chef for a menu tasting. California cooking. A combo of cuisines with some emphasis on Asian beginning with the Asian beef salad made with their our own mix of fresh greens, arugula, Napa cabbage, mint etc...tossed with fresh mango, avocado,

chow main noodles, and dressed with their house made sweet chili vinaigrette.

Garnished with toasted coconut and peanuts.

On to a spinach salad of fresh julienned Granny Smith apples tossed with baby spinach, toasted almonds, and feta cheese. Finished with a house made white

balsamic honey lavender vinaigrette

Next came a few entrees such as the chicken under a brick: A poussin or (coquelet) is a butchers term for a young chicken, marinated with Spanish smoked paprika, garlic, and EVOO. The brick pressing is to ensure even cooking through out the poussin, it will also decrease cooking time by half. Served with herb whipped mashed potatoes, Brocolini. Garnished with a harissa pan sauce. Esther and Eunice were not pleased to either view or hear the description of this one and as it turns out, this item will soon leave the menu.

A second entrée was a mini lamb shank: slow braised mini lamb shanks red wine demi glaze carrots celery onion fresh thyme with herbed mashed potatoes.

Pasta time! Fettuccine with wild mushrooms: Wild mushrooms sauteed with garlic, shallots, white wine, and herbs. Tossed with a creamy goat cheese sauce

It's difficult to choose a dessert at it was at this point that the pastry chef/sous chef Tyler Kotta came over to the table with a sample platter describing each of the desserts. "Carrot cake. A classical carrot cake made from fresh carrots lightly seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg, covered with a rich cream cheese frosting and garnished with caramel sauce; flourless chocolate cake topped with a light fluffy chocolate moose and garnished with whipped cream and a mint leaf; key lime cheese cake tart - this Key lime Tart is made of a short bread crust, filled with a lime curd. We caramelize the top of the tart with sugar. It is then topped with a brown sugar Chantilly cream, and lime infused sugar and garnished with mango puree and a fresh strawberry."

The hotel has a shuttle, which will take you to places within a five-mile radius, such as the Barclay Theatre on the campus of the university and the Southcoast Shopping Plaza, which happens to abut the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Up early the next day and having their Japanese breakfast instead of the buffet. I ate salted salmon, miso soup with tofu and seaweed, fishcake, pickled diakon, Japanese pickles, nori, and Japanese omelet.

Breakfast over I'm calling a different shuttle to the airport, but not to John Wayne as I began the California trip in Long Beach via Jet Blue.