Afternoon Delight

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Posted September 28, 2007 in Eats

While the Claremont Village has never been short on eateries—and has a few notable dinner spots—finding a lunch spot that has a mixture of fancy and laid-back hasn’t always been easy.

In the new addition to the Village, a crop of such lunchy spots has opened up—well, three, thus far—and the pristinely classy Three Forks chophouse is probably my favorite to date. Online Claremont bloggers and some out-of-town foodies have clogged up the web with some mediocre reviews of the place—some saying it’s overpriced or nitpicking the waitstaff or chef. All I can say is that we’ve been to Three Forks, well, three times, and must have missed out on all the bad mojo.

Still, I needed to check, and when I asked the day manager Andy about some of the colorful reviews, he smiled and said that like all new places, they’ve had to iron out a few kinks. Works for me.

My initial reaction to the place was the atmosphere—always makes me think I’m on the end of a pier in Newport or San Francisco (and I’ve worked the pier at San Francisco, dearie). A smartly polished, spacious interior with real Birch trees lined up behind the bar, the original packing house floor and faux ostrich covered bar seats also tends to make me what to dress up a notch—though not dip completely into stiletto hell. The food, however, makes me want to put on my “eating pants”—anything with elastic or billows. Does DKNY make moo moos?

The first time I dined at Three Forks, it was their debut lunch, and so I tried not to be voracious as I scanned down the menu—marinated filet mignon with slow cooked sweet onions and Maytag blue cheese, a Montana sirloin salad with pickled red onions and shaved Manchego, Pacific oysters on the half shell with preserved grapefruit and Thai-influenced Dungeness crab cakes with smoked tomato marmalade. Jesus.

I finally settled on one of the olivewood fired flatbread sandwiches—the one with honey crisp apples, spiced pecans, and blue cheese in wild flower honey and aged balsamic. I had no idea what to expect, never having read such a cornucopia of all things I obsess over. When the bread came out, I carved into it and . . . Orgasmic. No, really. I immediately panicked. Did I moan out loud?  I instantly became a selfish whore and devoured it, even though I had, for a moment, toyed with the notion that I might save a sliver to share back at home. Please.

My lunch partner had the Angus burger on brioche—and tried all of the dipping sauces, including a fantastic purple mustard and smoked paprika aioli. His hamburger, though I shudder to use such a pedestrian term, was available for dressing up in a slew of cheese choices—Munster, Humboldt Fog, and more—and an array of vegetables such as wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, romaine hearts, and homemade pickles. He opted for the red and yellow tomatoes.

The next time I went to “Forkies,” as I now affectionately referred it, I had the same honey apple flatbread sandwich. (I said it was orgasmic, okay? What do you want from me?) On my most recent visit, however, I figured it was time to try the pork chop sandwich, although I had a slight queasiness harkening back to my “pork chop on a stick” horror at last year’s LA County Fair. Not to worry. This tender, exceptionally juicy herb crusted loin with wild boar pancetta sent my taste buds on a mini orgasmic trip, which was fine, since I had to teach SAT to high school kids in an hour.

Thus, regardless of what I may have heard in the online rumor mill, I can’t begin to think this snazzy joint could fall shorter during suppertime than at my afternoon delights. In fact, Andy told me that in addition to serving game such as elk and buffalo, chef Eric Osley is planning on offering some rattlesnake in the coming months. Dude. Rattlesnake. I’ll probably end up pregnant.

Three Forks Chop House. 580 W. First St., Claremont; (888) 933-6757. Lunch for two: $35-$45 without alcohol.


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