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San Clemente Journal

J’Adore Café Offering French Cuisine in a Spanish Village

Dec 07, 2021 09:28AM ● By Nina Welch

Dan Zanicoski, Tai Carballo and her daughter Julia, in the ‘Secret Garden’ behind J’Adore.

by Nina Welch

J’Adore Café opened on April 26, 2020. At the same time, owners Tai Carballo and Dan Zanicoski closed their two restaurants in Biarritz, France due to the pandemic. Its name, J’Adore, translates “I Adore,” according to Tai, and is a word promoting a positive atmosphere.

Tai is a French-Brazilian chef nutritionist, who feels a sense of responsibility to include healthy ingredients in her food. At her cafe, the best ingredients are used. Almost everything is baked in the oven, and the flour is imported from Europe.

“We have customers who come in every day for their coffee, breakfast, and lunch or for a vegan, gluten-free dessert,” says Tai. 

Their popular menu items include freshly baked baguettes, traditional French pastries, omelets, salads, soups, juices, vegan and gluten-free options and especially coffees.  Dan is an Italian-Brazilian master sommelier, and for him, the coffee needs to be well-balanced. They use organic coffee beans by Intelligentsia Roasters, and for the lattes, organic milk, and serve plant-based drinks alternative to milk.

The best kept secret of J’Adore is the Secret Garden. The two ways to enter the magical backyard are from the side-alley and through the main entrance. When entering through the hallway, one gets a sense of a Parisian art gallery with streams of butterflies painted on the walls and fluttering up the ceiling. The wall on the right is reserved for the art exhibitions of local artists, with one photography exhibit being framed by pieces of the original San Clemente pier. 
Upon visiting the cafe, whether through the art gallery hallway or the alleyway, patrons encounter a large seating area under a magnolia tree. French music plays through speakers on Spotify, and Tai says, “The world needs feminine energy full of flowers, plants, nature and beauty.” And during my visit, a satisfied customer looked up from her coffee happily stating, “I’m back.”

When living in the Basque Country, Tai and Dan might have enjoyed two months of summer weather and a very cold and rainy winter. “We are happy in San Clemente. We love the weather and the waves. The universe tells us to be here,” says Tai. And as if on cue, a regular customer, surfer Mick Fanning, his wife and son exit from the Secret Garden through the alley.

The café’s office is conveniently located upstairs where its owners can be called on if needed, and where Dan can check out the surf. His hobbies are surfing, yoga, and playing the saxophone/drums. Tai’s hobbies are Pilates, drawing, painting, and poetry. Tai’s daughter, Julia, who also works at the café, is an artist, who attends Saddleback College.

“And the Secret Garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”
      –Frances Hodgson Burnett

J’Adore Café, 165 Ave. Del Mar; Hours: 7:30am-3pm Tuesday through Sunday;