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All About Food: In a paradise for gastronomes

January 29, 2013|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Larry Simon, center, gives Lowell Petrie, right, of Newport Beach, a slice of cheese to sample at Surfas Culinary District on Monday in Costa Mesa.
Larry Simon, center, gives Lowell Petrie, right, of Newport… (KEVIN CHANG )

Surfas has come to Orange County, and it is a paradise for gastronomes and cooks of every stripe. It's also a great place to pick up a gift for your foodie friends. Located at the OC Mart Mix, its official title is Surfas Culinary District. It is a restaurant supply dealer but is open to the public, and what a plethora of fabulous gourmet treasures are to be found there!

You can get an entire iberico ham or a few slices of pancetta. You can buy a 50-quart stockpot or a larding needle, plus everything in between. There are more than 18,000 items to choose from.

Surfas has been family-owned and -operated since 1937. It started out in an abandoned Los Angeles garage and eventually opened its huge location in Culver City in 1989. In the mid-1990s, in response to overwhelming customer demand, it opened its doors to the public and in 2006, added a café.

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In addition, there is a test kitchen with the latest equipment. It provides a venue for chefs to test new menu ideas and hold classes and cooking demonstrations. It can be rented for meetings and private parties. The new Orange County location has all of these facilities as well.

On your very first visit, allow yourself about an hour to meander through the aisles and check out the goodies, many of which you won't find elsewhere. The first thing that catches your eye when you enter is the bountiful display of cheese and charcuterie, along with beautiful, freshly baked, crusty breads. Caviars, bottarga, mullet roe and bacalao have a case all of their own.

Across the aisle is a self-service salad bar filled with olives, pickled peppers, kim chee, artichokes, marinated eggplant, beets, sauerkraut, etc., etc.

If you find yourself salivating and simply can't wait another minute, step around to the marble counter, pull up a tall stool and order a sampler plate of cheese and/or salumi, served on house-made bread, and accompany it with a glass of wine.

Thus fortified, it's time to venture forth into the aisles of this culinary wonderland. In addition to what you might find in your grocery store, the selection of jams and jellies includes unusual items such as black raspberries in cassis, plum and onion marmalade and pomegranate pepper jelly. There are a multitude of mustards, a plethora of pickles and olives and a stunning array of sauces spanning the globe. We counted almost 40 different hot sauces. There are also many different sauce bases to intensify flavors in homemade sauces.

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