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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

My Favorite Things at the Newport Wine and Food Festival

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Best of OC, Events | 0 comments

 We visited as a guest of the venue One of the events I most look forward to each Fall as a food blogger, is the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival. And although I was not able to go both days this year, I was fortunate to be able to make it for several hours on the last day, a Sunday. This is the third year of this event and the third year I’ve attended. And it seems to get better and better each year. This outdoor festival, held on the grounds of Newport’s Civic Center, makes the most of the beautiful weather October brings and offers an elegant setting to taste wines, spirits, and beers while sampling creative dishes prepared by some of the area’s best chefs, all the while listening to live jazz. One of my favorite...

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Temecula’s So-Cal Chef Open: Chefs Compete, You Eat, Kids Win

Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 in Events, Featured | 0 comments

  An invitation to the media preview of the 9th Annual So-Cal Chef Open set the stage for a gorgeous summer afternoon recently at Avensole Vineyard in Temecula where my favorite foodie in crime sister, Shan, and I sipped wine and enjoyed a variety of beautifully prepared bites. Sprinkled in were appearances by Celebrity Chef, Penny Davidi, as well as an award winning crew of Southern California chefs, all to benefit at risk youth and raise funds for Oak Grove Center For Education & The Arts. Oak Grove Center for Education & The Arts is a nonprofit residential, educational, and treatment center that serves at risk youth and their families struggling with a variety of challenges with facilities in Murietta, Perris and Bermuda Dunes. Speaking at the event was CEO, Tammy Wilson, who shared an overview of the center and...

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Saturday Brunching at Spear Steak and Seafood House

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Breakfast, Dining News, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue Brunch and me. We have a love-hate relationship. Every brunch starts out the same for me. I start by drooling over the Eggs Benedict smothered in hollandaise sauce. Oh my. And bagels. Give me a great Everything Bagel smothered in cream cheese and lox, with a sliced tomato and capers and I am in heaven. The thing is, I rarely order these. And I pine for the days I could eat the carbs and heavy creams and sauces with abandon. Now I look at that portion of the menu, half of me wishing there were no better option so I would have an excuse to just order something decadent already and half of me praying for an option that will make me feel I’m not completely sacrificing deliciousness for being able...

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GNO at Holiday in Costa Mesa

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in Dining News, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue As a so-called “foodie”, for me, a girls’ night out usually means dinner and cocktails in a nice restaurant with friends. I am pretty clueless when it comes to lounges and clubs in OC, so when I was invited to the soft opening for Holiday in Costa Mesa this past week, I really didn’t know quite what to expect. I grabbed my sister, which I guess makes it more of a “sisters’ night out” and off we went to 19th street, where we found Holiday in an unassuming little strip mall. Walking into Holiday, we stepped back in time to old Hollywood in the early to mid-1900s. The color scheme is black and white… black walls, white moldings and railings, a gorgeous white marble bar, black seating with white accents, black...

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Huntington Beach’s Asian FlavorFest – Wokcano

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Asian | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue I always enjoy the prospect of a dinner out, especially when it’s sushi, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese. Basically any Asian cuisine and you can count me in. And as much as I love to cook, I never feel as if the effort I put in to making a great Asian dish compares to the flavors I can get out. So I was happy to receive an invite to try the recently opened Wokcano in Huntington Beach. This small Southern California specializes in sushi, creative rolls, dumplings, and other Asian inspired dishes. I grabbed my partner in crime, Janice and to Huntington Beach we went. Based on the address, I was expecting Wokcano to be located at Bella Terra, the shopping area just off of the 405 at Edinger. It’s actually just a...

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A Patio With a View At Bluewater Grill Redondo Beach

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Reviews, Seafood | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue There are few things I appreciate more than enjoying seafood and sipping a cocktail while overlooking a fantastic view. On a recent beautiful evening, we were invited to check out Bluewater Grill’s newly renovated patio and restaurant in Redondo Beach. Living in San Clemente, it’s been a while since I’ve been to Bluewater Grill in Redondo and I was really curious as to what they would have in store with their recent updates. We started in their new outdoor lounge and patio area, overlooking King Harbor Marina, where we enjoyed some wine and cheese. The patio features a relaxing vacation like ambiance, with strings of outdoor lighting, tables for dining, and a lounge area with a fire pit. It’s even Fido friendly, offering up treats on the patio for our furry...

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Fig & Olive Welcomes Spring With New Menu

Posted by on Apr 19, 2016 in Dining News, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue Spring. It’s finally here. Though Orange County leaves very little to complain about weather wise even in winter, there’s an uplifted feeling of relief I get when the days become longer. Everything feels freer and happier. Even the food goes from earthy and heavy to lighter and brighter. Bring on the citrus flavors and fresh spring vegetables… Fig & Olive sure has! And a few of us were fortunate enough to sample Chef Wilfrid Hocquet’s new Spring Menu last week. Chef Wilfrid joined Fig & Oilve as Executive Chef several months ago after working in Paris, New York and the South of France under such renowned chefs as Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud. I’ve dined at Fig & Olives numerous times and this menu to date was my favorite. Here’s a...

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Franco On Melrose: Southern Italian in a Gardenlike Setting

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Italian, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue Considering I live in San Clemente, it’s surprising just how often I find myself making the one and a half plus hour trek up to L.A. for one reason or another. I always look forward to these trips. And I especially enjoy when I discover a new restaurant to add to my roster of favorites, which is exactly what happened recently when I was invited to a media tasting hosted by Chef Franco De Dominicis at his charming Italian Trattoria, Franco on Melrose. Chef Franco opened Franco on Melrose in 2012 after working in such notables as The San Lorenzo Knightsbridge in London, Il Buco in Beverly Hills, Jonathan Club in Downtown Los Angeles, The Wilshire Grand Hotel and The Biltmore Hotel. He also served as Executive Chef of Conference and...

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Stonefire Grill Offers Seven For Seven Lunch Specials

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 in American, Dining News, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue Looking for a great lunch deal? Stonefire Grill’s new “seven for $7 Lunch Specials menu gives you a great reason to add their fast casual restaurants to your weekly rotation. If you’re not familiar with Stonefire Grill, this small chain with eight locations, two of which are in Orange County, is known for its simple, fresh quality ingredients with a focus on grilled meats. Its restaurants are budget friendly, family friendly and gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and low-carb friendly. In other words, there is a decided focus on what their customers are looking for. Last week I was invited to lunch at Stonefire Grill’s Irvine location at Jamboree and Culver. I brought my mom along and I’m glad I did. She had a lot to say about a few of their dishes....

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TAPS Fish House & Brewery Ups Its Cocktail Game

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Reviews, Seafood | 0 comments

 We attended as a guest of the venue Since its opening last June, I have had TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Irvine on my list of restaurants to try. I am a seafood lover and the pictures I see posted of their oysters on the half shell beckon me. Several of my foodie friends who are fans of TAPS have said, “You must go!”. It’s taken me awhile, but finally I found myself with an invitation to a tasting, tough it wasn’t for the oysters. It was for a preview of several new thoughtfully crafted cocktails created by TAPS Wine & Spirits Manager, Andrew Aoun and his crack team. As one of Orange County’s oldest craft breweries, TAPS is well-known for their award-winning beers as well as great seafood and steaks, not to mention their solid selection of...

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Roy’s in Newport Beach Opens for Lunch

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Asian, Dining News, Reviews | 0 comments

  I have to confess to having never dined at a Roy’s before, even when vacationing in Hawaii, where acclaimed Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim restaurant got its start. Although there is a Roy’s in Fashion Island where I shop frequently enough, I never found my way there. Perhaps because if I’m at Fashion Island, it’s normally during the day and my perception has been this restaurant is on the pricey side and therefore more of a dinner sort of a place. This changed recently when I was invited to try Roy’s for lunch with a few fellow food bloggers and writers. So off I went and I soon discovered that Roy’s had only very recently started serving lunch, which is great because this high-end chain now gives folks a chance to try their menu at perhaps more budget...

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Costa Mesa’s Social Wows With Stunning New Desserts

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in American, Dessert, Dining News, Reviews | 2 comments

  I keep saying desserts aren’t my thing. And for the most part, they aren’t. I rarely make them and I typically don’t order them. My tastes tend to favor the savory side of the menu. But after being invited to try several of Social’s pastry chef, Ashley Guzman’s creations one recent evening, I am going to have to reconsider this bias. Seriously, Ashley is gifted and has a talent for combining familiar and sometimes less familiar ingredients with delightful and memorable results. Her desserts unlike those on so many menus are ones you most likely would never attempt trying to recreate at home and more than likely won’t find on menus elsewhere. So what was on the dessert menu on this particular evening? We started with Cheat Day, a devils food chocolate cake, with chocolate two ways, hazelnuts...

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Dinner With a Spectacular View at BLK Earth Sea Spirits

Posted by on Jan 2, 2016 in American, Seafood | 0 comments

  Huntington Beach. Downtown Huntington Beach to be specific. As a lover of live music and local bands, I always look forward to heading to the downtown area for Surf City Nights on Main Street, but to be honest I’ve always been at a loss for where to go for dinner. When you drive from San Clemente, you’re hoping for something at least a little memorable and while there are some fine enough local joints and restaurants, not much has jumped out at me that I can look forward to. So, I was excited to receive an invite to the recently opened BLK Earth Sea Spirits. I’d heard good things and was hoping for a Downtown Huntington Beach find. Set just off the ocean, this sister to BLK Burgrz features a restaurant that wows with incredible sweeping views of...

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Corona Del Mar’s Five Crowns Celebrates 50th With Winter Menu

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in American, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue It has been about 15 years since I’ve dined at Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar. That is until recently, when I was invited to a five-course tasting featuring a winter menu brought to life by Executive Chef Steve Kling in celebration of the restaurant’s 50th year catering to locals and vacationers alike. While I remember little of the actual meal I had there so long ago, I do remember the warm pub like atmosphere and mostly just having a good time with sidesplitting laughter with the family and friends I was with while on a visit from New York City. With so much time gone by and very vague memories of my first dinner there, I was unsure of what to expect The Five Crowns has been a family owned...

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Eats Kitchen Celebrates the Twelve Days of Christmas

Posted by on Dec 4, 2015 in American, Holidays, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a Partridge in a Pear Tree.” This classic carol is the inspiration for twelve whimsical creations Chef Jason Montelibano will be serving to guests at Eats Kitchen & Bar located in Hotel Irvine. And a December 1st invitation to their media tasting celebrating The Twelve Days of Christmas, was the perfect way to kick-off this month’s festivities. Our evening began on the restaurant patio around the fire pit with a new seasonal cocktail, The Snowflake. Served in a sugar rimmed old fashioned champagne glass, this light, refreshing and not too sweet, drink blends Blueberry Stoli, sparkling wine, a little simple syrup, a bit of lemon juice to balance it out and is garnished with three fresh blueberries. I think...

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Bad to the Bone BBQ So Good to the Bone

Posted by on Nov 5, 2015 in American, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue I have to confess to being somewhat cynical when anyone tells me about a good BBQ place in these parts. Every time I get suckered into going, which admittedly isn’t very often, it seems like I walk away disappointed. Sorry but oversauced, falling off the bone ribs just aren’t my thing. Especially when they’re fatty and lack that deep smoky flavor I crave. This for the most part sums up my experience, so I was a little skeptical when I and several fellow food bloggers and writers were invited to an early lunch at Bad to the Bone BBQ on a recent Saturday. My first order of business was finding the place. It’s a bit hidden away in a strip mall in San Juan Capistrano. Though I’m pretty familiar with the...

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Celebrating Fall At Fig & Olive

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in American, Reviews | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of Fig & Olive After a long hot summer in Southern California, it’s finally Fall. At last, the evenings are getting cooler… even if the days are still warm. Such a welcome change! And with that, menus are changing to celebrate the season’s ingredients… chestnuts, squash, beets, mushrooms, pears. I am a huge fan of Fall foods, so when I was invited to a dinner to taste some of Fig & Olive’s latest seasonal dishes, I was more than happy to oblige! If you’ve never dined at Fashion Island’s Fig & Olive in Newport Beach, the atmosphere is calm, open, airy, and elegant with a lounge area, an outdoor patio, and an all white indoor dining room. We were seated in the softly lit dining room inside. So calm, so relaxing, and the perfect...

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OPM Serves Up Bold Flavors

Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in American, Asian, Date Night, Italian, Reviews, Seafood | 0 comments

 We dined as a guest of the venue One of the aspects I enjoy most about food blogging is having the opportunity to try restaurants I might not have heard of or thought of because they’re not in my neck of the woods. Such was the case when I was invited to try the recently opened OPM in Huntington Beach. With Chef’s Tastings and special events, including an 80’s New Wave Music night, a masquerade party, a fashion show, speed dating, live DJs and more, OPM is part restaurant and part club attracting a young couples and girls’ night out crowd. Having taken over and completely redefined the space for what was once The Tap House, there is plenty of room for large parties and dancing. There is even a speakeasy downstairs with it’s own bar for private parties...

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The Culinary Lab Combining Technology and a Hands-On Curriculum

Posted by on Oct 22, 2015 in Dining News, Events | 0 comments

 We visited as a guest of the venue In the lower level of Anaheim’s Packing District, tucked in the back through a camouflaged door is a space known as Cooks Chapel. The roomy open white space is the perfect canvas for showers, parties, and events. Offering… An elegant marble bar… Modern fixtures and design… And a large professional kitchen. It is also home to Chef Ryan Wagner’s new concept, The Culinary Lab. The Culinary Lab will offer students interested in pursuing a career in the culinary arts and sciences a “hands-on” 28-week program beginning January 2016, incorporating apprenticeship rotations through some of Orange County’s top local restaurants with video demonstrations and an on-line curriculum. The 9 to 1 student to instructor ratio will give students greater access to their instructors and more time actually practicing. Beyond being home to...

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Old Vine Café and The Splendors of Italy

Posted by on Oct 21, 2015 in Cooking Classes, Italian, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

 We attended as a guest of the venue Cooking classes in Italy. This is near the top of my bucket list. If you share my love for incredible food, cooking, and travel, Old Vine Café and The Culinary Institute will be hosting a 10-day epicurean adventure to Calabria and Sicily this April where travelers will enjoy hands on cooking lessons, fabulous meals, wine tasting, sight seeing and more. While sadly it does not look like I will be going this spring at least, I did have the consolation of attending a private food and wine pairing dinner at Old Vine Café celebrating authentic dishes from Italy prepared and presented by Chef/Owner Mark McDonald and Sommelier Kate Perry where Chef Mark’s passion for authenticity, using seasonal local ingredients, and sharing his knowledge of Italy’s regional cuisine made my first dining...

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