I was invited to visit TusCA in Orange County a restaurant that combines the flavors of Tuscany and California recently. I was unable to go to any media dinners that they were holding and I was invited by a PR firm to come up on a night of my choosing for dinner and an overnight stay in the hotel. Last Friday we were finally able to head up to Orange County to check out TusCA for a night of wonderful Italian-Tuscan-Californian food!
Driving up from San Diego made us come in for a late arrival, but after checking into the beautiful hotel and bumming about the lobby, we settled down and took our seats for dinner.
These are some daytime photos of the lobby:
The whole lobby was enclosed in glass, so it looked and felt like you were outside. Crazy!
I will say off the bat that our waitress for the evening was stellar. She made some excellent suggestions, let us try and sample a lot of items before deciding on a “full size” and was so accommodating and nice! We loved her.
We started off with drinks – a variety of Italian sodas all around. At first I got the Pomegranate Soda, but I didn’t really care of it after a couple of sips. Our waitress had brought a Mint Soda for us to try and after it was passed around, we agreed that we loved it and she brought us a few of those to start. Then we ordered some cheeses and meats for a lovely Antipasti Platter.
We ended up getting 4 different cheeses (one is hiding behind the bread in my photo) and 3 types of meats. Jake and I got the olives for the kids (we are in the anti-olive camp). The cheeses we got were Parmigiano-Reggiano, Taleggio, Burrata alla panna and a Gorgonzola. For our meats, we got Prosciutto di Parma, Sopressata and Cacciatorino.
We’ve got some local organic honey, some kind of cherry jam (I forgot what it was exactly), dried fruits and nuts, fig jam, Italian mostarda, and little pickles.
Here’s my plate filled with goodness. I really enjoyed everything, but I must say that my favorite was the burrata alla panna. It was almost like mozzarella cheese, but not quite. It wasn’t really stringy the way mozzarella is, it was almost kind of like pizza dough, but in cheese form. I simply adored it. Jake’s favorite was the taleggio, a soft, creamy cheese. My favorite of the meats was the cacciatorino – so flavorful and rich and a really good meat to pair with stuff. I also really loved that honey – so sweet and fresh, it was perfect on the bread with some of the cheeses.
I told our waitress how much I adored the burrata alla panna and she happily told me that they serve that particular cheese on their Caprese Salad. My face lit up with happiness at this notion and she asked if I would like to have it – and I happily answered yes!
I’m not usually a big fan of tomatoes, but if I always had tomatoes like these, I could be totally converted. The caprese salad arrived with fresh tomatoes, my new favorite cheese, and some basil leaves sprinkled on top. I added some freshly crackled pepper and sea salt and enjoyed the really fresh flavors. The tomatoes were super ripe and almost sweet – and crisp! I hate soggy tomatoes. The burrata alla panna was perfectly draped over the tomato and the basil gave the salad a light, crisp, refreshing taste to the whole dish. The kids made fun of me though because my “salad” didn’t have any “salad” in it. Oh well. It was so tasty!
I was already planning on ordering this, but our waitress asked if we would like to try the Fried Calamari before I could ask for it. Only Jake’s daughter and I ate this since the boys do not like fishy foods. Fine by me, that just means more for my tummy!
The calamari had a light batter on it so you could still taste the calamari – it didn’t just taste like fried batter. Super crisp and tender, I really gobbled these suckers down. The Pomodoro sauce was a nice addition – it was flavorful tomato sauce for dipping the calamari in – much better than cocktail sauce. I’m hungry looking at this calamari again!
We got Classica Pizzas (aka Pepperoni if you couldn’t tell) for the boys. I snagged a slice for a taste. This was probably the only thing I didn’t like food-wise. It tasted like it could have used a little more sauce and some herbs for my tastes. The kids enjoyed it though.
Jake got the Pappardelle Pasta and Short Rib Bolognese for his dinner. Pappardelle are long, thick strips of pasta. Jake let me have a bite and I do agree with him on this that it tasted very rich and meaty, almost like a pot roast but with noodles. It’s a bit more refined than that though, but the sauce did have traditional looking pot-roast veggies in it (spot those carrots above).
As for me, I got the Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi for my meal. My photo was taken after I had eaten a few. It’s in a brown butter, sage and cheese vellutata sauce. The sauce wasn’t too rich or overpowering, but really complimentary with the gnocchi. The gnocchi were were soft, tender and melt-in-your-mouth good, which is what I look for in a good gnocchi. These are different than traditional pasta as they are little dumplings full of love and goodness.
Onto the last course: desserts!
Our waitress started us out with what she called the “Stoplight Gelato Sampler”. We all tasted and tried the strawberry gelato, vanilla gelato and pistachio gelato. Jake was totally in love with the pistachio gelato – and I will admit that was really good. Their gelatos were really smooth and creamy. I liked the fruit pieces in the strawberry, the simply flavor of the vanilla, and the nuts in the pistachio.
While I did enjoy the gelatos though, there was an item on the menu I couldn’t resist.
The Chocolate Caramel Tart sounded to divine that I had to try it. What’s that little bit of grainy stuff on top? Oh, that’s just sea salt. Don’t be weirded out. It’s totally freakin’ delicious. The first few bites of this I really savored. It was creamy. It was rich. It was chocolately, but not over the top. The caramel oozed out. The sea salt heightened the flavors to another level. I had to eat all of this. And I did. And I loved every bite.
Jake got the Blueberry Tart but he asked for it with the Pistachio Gelato instead of the vanilla since it was his favorite of the night. He did grace me with a bite of his tart and it was really good – the tart had a really lovely almond flavoring to it and the berries were so fresh and juicy inside of the tart. Magical!
I would come back here just to eat cheese and chocolate caramel tarts. Oh yes I would (and you should, too). I don’t usually eat in restaurants inside of hotels, it’s like they got this weird vibe that they don’t really deserve. I may just be inspired to try more restaurants inside of hotels down in San Diego-land to see what I have been missing out on! I suggest you do the same.
Thanks to the Barry Group for arranging this blissful evening for us!
11999 Harbor Boulevard
Garden Grove, CA 92840