Had lunch at Lucca Cafe
in Irvine, in the Quail Hill center
off the 405 @ Shady Canyon/Sand Canyon.
An ecumenical, though admirably edited, Mediterranean menu + commitment to local, sustainable, organic & c. makes for a very happy matchup, Californian in the best possible way.
I had butternut squash ravioli from the regular lunch menu, the pasta stained a beautiful sunset orange with the same squash that was used in the filling. And a very good filling it was, too... properly concentrated, bursting with squash flavor, buttery vegetal texture. Butternut is not my favorite among the winter squashes, it is so often insipid, even watery, but common enough that it has become something of the go-to, winter-squash staple in this, the post-Wolfgang Puck era of "butternut squash soup" ubiquity.
Of course insipid butternut can be avoided by buying GOOD butternut to begin with as must have been done at Lucca. I have been known to serve farmers' market butternut myself, peeled, cubed, tossed in butter, brown sugar, s & p, roasted. Prepping enough kabocha (my true squash love) to furnish my Thanksgiving table was not a possibility and the butternut, GOOD butternut, was delicious. But for any butternut treatment to work, the veg itself must be excellent quality.
In the middle of the plate was a beeyootiful teensy-gauge haystack of crispy fried leeks as fine as beading wire, hiding a secret stash of really excellent buttery spinach. To have restaurant food taste of butter -- when called for -- is such a treat. And neither overloaded nor overly austere. Just a delicious and beautiful plate of food.
Can't wait to have it again.