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Cedar Creek Inn

February 19, 2015

Living in a mostly residential city that has very few strip malls or shopping centers to speak of, so many of the nearby places to dine at are fast food locations or big chain restaurants, most of which are found in neighboring cities.  Every weekend, my husband and I have the same debate.  Where should we eat?  Fast food restaurant #1, or chain restaurant #2?  It’s always the same old, same old. So, my husband and I tend to get excited when we come across new restaurants that are remotely in our area, and by remotely, I mean within a 30 minute drive of where we live.  A few months back, I came across a restaurant in the neighboring city of Brea that I’d never heard of before that looked interesting, or at least different.  My husband and I decided to keep this restaurant in mind to try out the next time we were in the neighborhood to see if we could add it to our rotation of neighborhood restaurants.

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Cedar Creek Inn is a family run restaurant business that began in 1976 in Lake Arrowhead.  Based on the concept of creating a comfortable, cozy dining space reminiscent of the inns you find on the East Coast, the business quickly outgrew its original location and expanded into the desert communities of Palm Springs and Palm Desert.  Eventually, the family decided to return to its roots in Orange County and now runs two family-owned and operated Cedar Creek Inn restaurants in Brea and San Juan Capistrano.  Serving up what they call American classics and standard California cuisine, you do get the feel of stepping into an old time East Coast country inn when you step indoors.  High ceilings with exposed wood beams and wood paneled walls make you feel like you’re walking into a large log cabin, almost as if you’re being invited into someone’s home, cozy and comfortable.

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California cuisine, with its melting pot of flavors and ethnic origins is definitely represented on Cedar Creek Inn’s diverse and varied menu selection.  This wasn’t the type of restaurant where I expected to see ahi sashimi on the menu, but there it was, and something about it kind of called to me.  It sounded so good and fresh and different that I decided to give it a try.  Served with the traditional garnishes of shredded daikon, soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, this #1 yellow fin tuna dish was so fresh and delicious and definitely California cuisine.  The tuna meat was so tender and clean and tasted like it was fresh out of the sea that I couldn’t stop eating it.  While an unexpected appetizer item on the menu, I’m glad I took the chance and decided to give it a try because it was excellent.

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My husband, who loves shrimp, coconut and anything with tropical flavors decided to order the coconut shrimp.  Served with a cabbage slaw and a zesty cranberry orange dipping sauce, this dish turned out much better than I expected as well.  The coconut shrimp were much bigger than I expected and perfectly cooked.  Crunchy, and crispy on the outside and steaming hot and tender on the inside.  The coconut coating was perfect, just the right about to give the shrimp crunch and texture and impart sweetness, but not so overpowering to detract from the shrimp itself.  The zesty cranberry orange dipping sauce caught my attention as it was both tart and tangy with a bit of citrus sweetness to it.  The sauce really paired well with the slightly sweet coconut to create a very tropical and fruity vibe.  Spot on appetizer and maybe one of the best coconut shrimp dishes I’ve ever had.

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For his entree, my husband chose the brie and pecan chicken.  Made of boneless chicken breast stuffed with brie and pecans and finished with a pear sage sauce, my husband was excited because he’s a lover of brie.  In his book, you can never go wrong with cheese, any kind of cheese.  In a way, this dish reminded my husband of a chicken cordon bleu, or at least the idea of it was the same using chicken breast stuffed with cheese, rolled up and deep fried.  My husband thought that the dish was tasty with the addition of pecans inside the chicken breast adding a nice texture component to the chicken and working well with the melted brie cheese and the perfectly fried chicken breast.  The accompaniments of sautéed green beans and mashed potatoes completed the dish.

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I chose a dish called land and sea.  The dish was composed of a porcini crusted medallion of beef tenderloin topped with an herb butter sauce for the land portion.  The sea portion is wild shrimp or jumbo prawns sautéed in lemon-garlic butter along with capers, roma tomatoes, parmesan and bread crumbs.  This dish is finished with mashed potatoes, my favorite starch, and the same sautéed green beans that my husband had on his dish.  The sea portion of the dish was my favorite.  The grilled shrimp was tender, sweet and tasty.  The lemon-garlic butter sauce was perfect with the seafood and the prawns were quite filling.  The beef tenderloin seemed more an addition to the plate rather than being a star to the plate, but that’s ok because shrimp more than made up for the lackluster tenderloin.

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This time, for dessert, my husband and I decided to split a dessert.  We ordered the almond-praline ice cream pie.  Essentially, a mud pie.  Served in an oreo crust and topped with chocolate-espresso sauce, yeah, this was pretty much Cedar Creek Inn’s version of a mud pie.  My husband loved the chocolate-espresso sauce, which he just scooped up by the handful.  The espresso in the sauce helped to mellow the sweetness of the chocolate and take off some of the bitterness that chocolate can have when there’s too much of it.  The almond-praline ice cream had just a touch of sweetness to it from the pralines and worked well in this large dessert.  And for me, I loved the oreo crust, that’s always been my favorite part of any mud pie.  So, this dessert, had a little bit of something for both my husband and I – oreo crust for me, chocolate-espresso sauce for my husband, and ice cream for both of us. We were glad that we split a dessert as this almond-praline ice cream pie was much large than either of us expected it to be.

Cedar Creek Inn was a nice surprise for my husband and I to stumble upon here in our own backyard.  We agreed that the restaurant was nice with a great family atmosphere and would probably be exactly the type of restaurant that my husband would love to bring his parents to the next time they came to visit.  Serving American classics and local California cuisine in an East Coast county inn feel, Cedar Creek Inn has a little something to offer everyone so that no one walks away hungry.  While this restaurant didn’t blow us away, we were pleased enough with it that I’m sure we’ll be back again in the future.

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