The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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Page 76 of 148

72  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2016 WHERE WE'RE EATING B acon—sizzling hot, deeply aromatic, powerful in its nostalgic associations—is something that almost nobody can resist. Even longtime vegetarians will admit they miss it. The allure of that guilty pleasure is the essence of Saint Marc's appeal. The eclectic restaurant, which opened late last year in Pacific City, Southern California's newest high-concept mall, is revolutionary in its model: to cre- ate a culinary experience that stimulates the senses, taps into strong collective memories, offers something for every palate and eliminates traditional barriers between server and customer. (Its full name hints at its ambition: Saint Marc Pub-Café, Bakery & Cheese Affinage.) Saint Marc is making its debut in one of California's most iconic locations: on the coast near the pier in downtown Huntington Beach—Surf City USA. At Saint Marc's round, indoor-outdoor bar, you'll find 32 quality wines on draught, a wide range of canned craft beer and upscale cocktails served in red solo cups that will stir frat party memories. In the surrounding restau- rant, you can choose from 11 kinds of gourmet bacon (one crowd-pleaser is rubbed in coffee), French pastries baked in-house, more than 100 gourmet cheeses, cured meat and comfort food such as a bacon cheeseburger made with dry-aged beef, shrimp and grits and homemade biscuits and gravy. Military veterans may be pleased to find "S.O.S" on the menu. If you don't know what that staple is, get an old ex-soldier to explain it for you. All menu items are available throughout the day, from opening until late at night, and can be ordered to go. With large hotels and a soon-to-open 516-unit apartment complex nearby, Saint Marc is designed to appeal to people with a sudden urge, as well as those settling in for a longer meal. "There's nothing like this place anywhere in the world," said Thomas "Mac" Gregory III, CEO of Saint Marc USA, as we enjoyed a cheeseboard overflowing with some of France's finest exports. "It's a completely new approach to the culinary experience." Gregory was approached in late 2013 by a group of Japanese investors who wanted to rethink American dining. At the time, he was Corporate Director of Food and Beverage for Starwood, overseeing 1,200 bars and restaurants in 465 hotels and resorts around the world. After they explained their dream, Gregory was given carte blanche. "They wanted a steak on the menu, and a burger, and they wanted the first Saint Marc to be located in Orange County. Those were the only three directives." SAINT MARC PUB-CAFÉ, BAKERY & CHEESE AFFINAGE OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERY PALATE Bring on the Bacon by Paul Hodgins / photos by Margaret Soss You can browse the menu, order and pay via the iPad eTouch Menu that sits at each table.

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