No Body Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen…

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What happens when a guy born in the Bronx, raised in northern New Jersey and cooks for seven Presidents, ends up in Del Mar, California? He unpacks his knives and apron and opens up Pamplemousse Grille that becomes the talk of the town. Or so I heard – Hungry, hopeful and hopelessly obsessed, I grabbed my shades and bolted out the door to meet this legendary Chef I had only heard about from friends. (Hey guys, it’s about time you handed over the goods).

A quick hour ride south, and I was hugging Chef Jeffrey who has worked in many professional kitchens around the world, let alone side by side with some of the greats, but certainly looked at home at Pamplemousse Grille. The prime Solana Beach location of the restaurant—just moments from the Pacific Ocean, across the street from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, is just down the road from acclaimed produce farms, nature preserves and polo grounds. Surrounded by whimsical artwork, it’s clear “Where Good Food and Good Racing Collide” is right where Strauss wants to be.

Inspirations for Pamplemousse Grille are drawn from the New Jersey farm of his grandparents, which he visited frequently as a child. “Pample what” you may be asking yourself. What does it mean? As the story goes, while working a European head chef told him to get a ‘pamplemousse’ from the refrigerator. Strauss thought it was a joke of some kind. The head chef started screaming “A pamplemousse! A pamplemouse!”. One of the other guys in the kitchen whispered, “Get him a grapefruit man!” Since that day it became his favorite word and he named his award-winning restaurant after a member of the citrus family. Who knew?

Chef Strauss’s cuisine is original, creative and strikingly personal, leaving you feeling satisfied at the end of the meal. He immerses himself in the food creating a cuisine that is all his own. Oh, did I tell you he loves truffles? I mean, really loves em’? Some say he’s the guy that invented truffle fries! Those truffle fries got him  a Mercedes-Benz SL 55 AMG, the first year they made them. The license plate on the car said “Truf fry.” Now that’s a true truffle loving man if I ever saw one…

Now for the dirty details. I have no idea how to say “wow” in French, but that’s what it was, starting with the Smoked Seafood Medley with smoked Lobster, Shrimp, Scallop, Salmon, Potato, Celeriac Galette with Caviar Pepper Buerre Blanc.The textures were completely harmonious, the silvery smoothness of the fish underscored by the texture of the Galette. What really pulled the dish together was the sauce. Celeriac Galette frolicked through the dish, adding lovely little bits of crunch. This dish was like a poem that haunts. * Le Sigh * (Can you please overnight some asap, pretty please?) Grilled Cheese with roasted Lobster, Truffle cheese & Shaved Black Truffles anyone? Japanese Wagyu Beef? Seafood Paella with truffles? Stakes on the grill? (sorry, I had to do it) Be still my foodie-beating heart! I could not keep up with this roller coaster of indulgence but when desert arrived, I found a tad more room to satisfy my sweet tooth. Our soiree of ten worldly peeps (some from as far as The Netherlands) took over the dining room. The vino was flowing (along with the pineapple martini’s) and the story telling…well, it got louder and louder.

Look, you won’t find Strauss hiding behind a pot in the kitchen. Hell no! He’s out in the dining room engaging, hugging and kissing his guests. He’s a chefs chef – a true lover of food. Many of his guests become long time friends. You’re not just dining out when you come here – you are dining in Strauss’s home. In the end, it worked out the way the saying goes, “Arrive as strangers, leave as friends.”

One burning question though, how do celebs control their bittersweet itch without having to reach for control top panty hose the next morning? So many courses, so little time!

Let’s just say, the guy knows how to turn even a pesky stalker like me into a stalking fan, and every course, well, if I could have hauled it all back to Laguna, I would have, including Strauss, so I could walk in the door from a long day of stalking to his cooking.

I’m sure Strauss is a pretty darn good horse man, but I would urge him not to give up his day job – he’s a terrific chef.

Sometimes good guys finish first.

* Don’t forget your pig shaped sugar cookie for the ride home. You may have to undo that top button on your pants…just say’in.



  1. sallycoles2013

    October 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Wow sounds like a delicious evening in every way…my mouth is watering after hearing about that wonderful selection of dishes and tastes….by the way, what was the dessert?! You had me at appetizer but am still curious? Would love to take a trip there with you one day!

    • thefoodstalker

      October 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Sally, Glad you enjoyed the post. There were so many deserts sent to the table, one of which was for the Birthday boy! Decadent chocolates, cakes, cheesecakes etc… All delish!

With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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