Duke's on Sunday

Southern California conjures up thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, palm trees and surfers in search of the perfect wave.  There is also the promise of the good life, lived at your own pace, surrounded by good friends, good food and great stories.  Duke’s may be a Hawaiian based restaurant, but Duke’s Malibu encompasses this California dreaming.
Duke’s is nestled along the PCH and the ocean, with spectacular views from Point Dume down to Palos Verdes.  There is street parking along the PCH but why bother when you can valet.   Once inside, the smells from the kitchen floated on the breeze as we walked past a thatched roof decor on our way to the table.  The place was full but it was easy to accommodate the 15 of us who traveled to Malibu to celebrate Greg, a fellow foodie’s, birthday.
Birthday Boy

Even though we were there for the brunch buffet the service was impeccable, coffee was always being filled and the mimosas and bloody marys continuously flowed to our table by a genuinely happy wait staff, who can blame them considering their office.  Between trips to the buffet we watched dolphins leap out of the water and surfers clad in wetsuits catch waves.  Along with the typical brunch fare of scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes, the buffet offered the freshest fruit along with authentic Hawaiian cuisine.  The Tahitian Ceviche and Hawaiian Poke made for a great first pass.

The second trip required a stop at the omelet station where choices included shrimp and crab among your usual favorites.  The savory omelet contrasted well with the sweet waffle covered in amoretto, coconut cream and blueberries.  Although completely full, a final trip through the line was needed to have some more of the Kalua Pork, a traditional dish of smoked meat and cabbage.  As we shared stories about our first encounter with the birthday boy we were graced with a huge slice of macadamia nut ice cream, on top of a chocolate cookie crust, smothered in chocolate fudge and whipped cream, known as Hula Pie. It's actually better than it sounds, much like the California Life we Live.

Clam Chowder Cook-Off

When it comes to signature dishes, there are no stand alones that are purely Los Angeles; nothing namesake, like Chicago Style Pizza or Memphis Ribs. That gives us the opportunity to perfect the dishes that make their way here. Since there are so many transplants in Los Angeles, there is always discussion as to what city has the best this or the best that. New England Clam Chowder is no exception, and what better way to decide who has the best than with a Chowder Cook-Off?

Sponsored by the King Harbor Association, Redondo Beach Pier Association and Quality Seafood, the 3rd annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off held on Redondo Beach Pier, hosted a dozen local establishments who competed to be crowned Best Clam Chowder. For the $7 entry fee (all proceed going to The Wellness Community) you received everything you needed to judge for yourself the various vendors, including a golden ticket that you awarded your favorite chowder. So Shara, Robyn, Sheena, and I made our way to Redondo Beach Pier to judge the best clam chowder for ourselves.  I felt a little bit like Goldilocks as I tasted my way through the decorative booths: too thin, not enough clams, too many potatoes… All contestants had fantastic chowder, and after a filling afternoon I had it narrowed down to two restaurants, Quality Seafood and Alpine Village. The consistency and flavor of Quality Seafood’s was superb, each creamy bite was as tasty as the last, full of moist potatoes and tender clams, but it lacked the punch needed to receive my Golden Ticket. So alas, the German’s of Alpine Village all the way from Torrance got my ticket. Their chowder, though not as thick as Quality Seafood’s, was outstanding! The rich, creamy broth with chunks of red skin potatoes and tender clams stood out amongst the crowd of award worthy competitors.  Shara's vote went to Quality Seafood's while both Robyn and Sheena voted for Fat Face Fenner's Fishshack.

Shara and I were not alone in our vote either, Quality Seafood and Alpine Village tied for the best Clam Chowder. The debate may rage from the Pacific North West to the East Coast but the people of Los Angeles have spoken and crowned a pair of local champions the Best Clam Chowder in Town.

After we had our fill and cast our votes, we made our way over to Tony's on the Pier, who also competed  in the clam chowder cook-off but didn't take home any of our tickets, for a couple of drinks.  Tony's has a circular crow's nest bar atop a restaurant bar with an entrance from the pier and view of the ocean.  The Mai Thai's are great and for the same price as the clam chowder tasting who could argue with a 2nd round.