Cafe Del Rey: Marina del Ray, California

Marina del Ray, California

The hackneyed expression "it doesn't get any better than this" is hackneyed because it's sputtered during such occasions as when cracking open a cold one to other equally underwhelming situations. "Freshly laundered socks!" Sniffing socks. "Ahhh, it doesn't get any better than this!"

I know I'm being hypercritical, but, as some people pick up on the verbal tics "um" and "like" or "whatever" and "dude" and react like a garden snail dipped into a margarita salt rimmer, I bristle whenever I hear "it doesn't get any better than this" because, usually, it does get better, much better, and without a lot of effort.

Eventually I mellowed out on my extreme irritation to this pithy phrase since I can understand those freshly laundered socks likely won't smell any better from that moment on. I do get that it's all about context.

Therefore, as I sat in bliss, meditating on the view of the picturesque Marina Del Rey harbor, taking in a sky so blue it cleared the mind and watching the fleet of leisure boats bob placidly on the sheltered sea with the glorious California riviera resting in the background adorned by the dream abodes of Playa Del Rey, I made the quiet observation that it doesn't get any better than this. But, of course... it did.

A handsome, deep purple, blackberry cocktail appeared and smoothly enhanced the pure joy I was already experiencing.

The Executive Chef at Café Del Rey in Marina Del Rey is Daniel Roberts. At first glance, he looks like the kind of guy who whistles on his way to work and loves what he does. At second and subsequent glances, he still looks that way. And, when you taste his simple, fresh and refined creations that are not only candy to the mouth but also to the eyes, you too will be happy that he's happy to be at work cooking for you.

Put bacon on a shoe and it may possibly be tasty. Put bacon on swollen, juicy diver scallops and you'll want to spit that bacon shoe out of your mouth. The gently seared scallops are topped with crispy, smoky squares of sweet bacon, contrasting textures and complementing rich flavors. To die for.

Confession: I am an unapologetic ostreaphile or oyster lover. And I am an apologetic fan of foie gras. (Yes, I feel guilt and shame about the gavage feeding of ducks and geese in the name of luxurious fatty liver.) Each item on its own is revered to the point of culinary canonization. Put these two gods of land and sea together and you have achieved a mouth orgasm like never before, even more so than the previous bacon-scallop ecstasy on a plate.

This is the epitome of the land and sea luxury crassly known as "surf n' turf" by lessers. Golden, grilled, creamy ingots of premium Hudson Valley foie gras, as if acting as understudy for a pearl, sat atop fresh, wet, pelagic oysters. Personally, I'd take a perfectly seared piece of foie gras over a sphere of calcified pebble any day.

A simple example of absolute luxury and indulgence, the Raw Bar Oysters with Foie Gras supplement is another experience in ideal contrasts of textures, flavors, colors and, this time, temperature. The foie gras, still hot from the grill, is slightly cooled by the freshly shucked bivalve which has been sitting on ice till its moment for the plate. Eating in this yin and yang fashion on multiple levels brings the ultimate in unbridled satisfaction.

Although a simple plate (you can probably replicate it at home if you're skilled enough), it's not an item you can find just anywhere. More so, even if you could find this plate of heaven somewhere else, you won't be tasting it with a side of paradise that is the harbor at Marina Del Rey.

Because, as they say, you taste with your eyes first.

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