I am going to take a wild guess and say you have not travelled as much as you wanted to this last year. Maybe, if you’re like me, it’s been even longer than that. This sentiment is exactly what inspired Christy Caldwell, after missing out on his beloved yearly trip to New Orleans, LA he chose to embark on a culinary journey right here in Long Beach. Caldwell is, as his business card proudly displays, the proprietor of The Ordinarie, a classic American style tavern located on the promenade that has always served up classic dishes and well-balanced cocktails. In an attempt to ease the restlessness caused by the stay at home orders Caldwell, with the help of talented head chef Chelsea Arrizon, decided to embark on a culinary journey across the United States. Starting with the much beloved New Orleans.
When I stopped by The Ordinarie they had in previous weeks served up dishes from New Orleans and Miami. The menus been popular, striking a nerve within the community not only because of the escapism, but because of the incredible quality of the food. I sat down to see where we would be traveling this week and was thrilled to see San Francisco was the destination. San Francisco has a long history of diverse and innovative cuisine, which is clear when you’re taking a look at the Culinary & Cocktail Tour of America menu. At first glance you might not see how well these dishes tie together, but that’s why Chef Arrizon is such a master. The meal begins with a shared appetizer; Sichuan spicy wontons. These flavor packed little dumplings are stuffed with seasoned pork and come resting in a shallow pool of chili oil, black vinegar, ginger, Chinese chives. Upon first bite, there is a bit of a bite to the sauce which pairs incredibly with the mild wonton wrapping and savory pork stuffing. Salty, spicy, and a touch sour you can almost imagine yourself in a hole in the wall Dim Sum restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, earning the snack after a hike up one of those iconic hills.
Oh, and how could I forget, if you are so inclined, you can also add themed cocktails to your meal (for dine in on the patio or to go)! Bar manager David Castillo has a resume that would impress any cocktail fan. For the San Francisco menu you can add on a classic Martinez: barrel aged gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, orange bitters, orange zest or my personal favorite the Pisco Punch: pisco, house pineapple shrub, lemon, sparkling wine, and clove. Castillo let me know that the inventor of the Pisco Punch back in the 1800’s, was so secretive about the ingredients he would make it in the backroom instead of at the bar so no one could replicate it. Meaning this version, just like every other version of the classic, is an educated guess and a delicious one at that. The Martinez is quality as well, but something about the balance of tartness, sweet, and earthy flavors in the Pisco Punch is refreshing and the perfect pairing to the salty, spicy dishes on the menu.
Now, comes the main event. The Cioppino is chock full of seafood, boasting mussels, calamari, shrimp, crab meat all swimming in a savory tomato broth seasoned with fennel and the perfect amount of chili. The spice pairs incredibly well with the seafood and of course it’s all served with a crispy piece of grilled sourdough toast to sock up all of that delicious broth. I cannot overstate how well balanced these dishes are. The levels of flavor are incredible and feel well thought out, which sometimes can be missed on temporary menus. There’s nothing about this dish that tastes fleeting and while the starter is a completely different fare it somehow fits perfectly with the seafood plate. All of this savory spice is brought back down with the decadent brownie dessert. This Irish coffee brownie sundae is made with subtle coffee ice cream, whisky hot fudge, caramel, Chantilly cream, almond brittle, coffee meringue. As someone who typically doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, I could not put down this fudgy brownie. Much like the cocktails, the dessert isn’t overly rich. Salted caramel and coffee meringue compliment the chocolate in a classic sort of way.
This menu is really a treat and I cannot recommend it enough. Each part fits perfectly together while managing to stay surprising. Whether you’re enjoying this food out on their patio or in the comfort of your home, this culinary experience may give you some small relief to pandemic restlessness. The San Francisco menu will be available until February 21st, but don’t worry! If you can’t make it this weekend, you can keep an eye out for their next tour stop, Boston. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the rest of The Ordinarie’s menu or stop in for a fabulous cocktail. One of the things I love the most about this restaurant is more often than not, you’ll see Christy Caldwell out tending to tables and moving chairs. A lot of care goes into running a restaurant and at The Ordinarie you can taste the hard work in every bite.
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