I don’t seem to get south to many dining spots these days, but needing to run some errands at the Park Meadows Mall in Lonetree, my husband and I decided to make a dinner out of the small plate options at California Cafe. This place has been around awhile, and with consistently good food (my priority) and Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass (my husband’s priority), it’s a keeper. We started with the Ahi Tuna Salsa, which is shaped into a disk together with mashed avocado, onion, and seasonings. It’s tasty, but my only complaint was that it seemed like more avocado than tuna. I also forgot to photograph it – do you notice I often forget to snap the first thing I eat? When my stomach is calling for food, look out! Next up, Lamb Lollipops, served on a bed of arugula, couscous (the big kind), feta, and cucumber, with some dollops of curry aioli to dip the lamb chops in.
Third course: grilled shrimp on a bed of papaya, daikon radish, and red peppers with a lemongrass coconut sauce.
And finally, Crispy Chicken Ginger Spring Rolls, with a dipping sauce of orange, cilantro and chili. So, why do I present these dishes? Not to make you jealous that you weren’t eating with me, but to point out a couple of things. One, often several small plates are more fun than a single entree. You get to try lots of things and if one isn’t your favorite, you can always hold out for the next course. And two, other than the spring rolls which would be a bit of work, none of the other dishes are that hard to duplicate. For example, if you wanted to serve those lamb lollipops, just have your butcher cut the rack of lamb into lollipops for you (or do it yourself). Season them well with salt and pepper and sear them in a skillet with some extra virgin olive oil. You want them good and brown on both sides, but medium rare in the middle. Then toss together some arugula with some cooked couscous (large Israeli type), diced cucumbers, and some feta cheese and add a simple vinaigrette. Stir some curry powder and a minced garlic clove into a small amount of mayo. There you go – same dish, probably half the price, and ready to impress guests if you are entertaining anytime soon!