Thursday, December 30, 2010
Growing up, I would attend weddings where they liked serving me Martinelli's sparkling cider. It tasted way better than the pale liquid all the adults had. To this day, I still equate it to special occasions. It disappears faster than any soda at grandma's house on Thanksgiving.
My first experience with champagne was a wine tasting trip with students from USF's Hospitality School. I was the only one under 21, but we worked around that. For our final destination, our group paid their respects at Domaine Chandon. This is where I learned that champagne not made in the Champagne appellation of France was labeled sparkling wine in California. There may be better wineries, but DC holds a special place in my oenophile heart. It was where I fell in love with bubbles.
Turning 21 was enjoyed by doing four things. At midnight, we went to TGI Friday's to see if I would get carded (I didn't). The weekend was spent at The Getty in Malibu and Cheesecake Factory. Lastly, I met the age prerequisite and registered for Cal Poly Pomona's Wine and Spirits class. It was the only Hospitality Management elective where you could find students from ALL majors in attendance. Go figure.
Before this class, I only drank Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante and knew that red wine paired well with beef. Professor Small led thirsty students through the nuances of determining a wine's varietal by bottle shape. Using a spit bucket was the unspoken way of saying you couldn't handle your alcohol. We spent precisely one day on beer. My greatest take away was how to properly uncork a bottle of wine. Fancy gadgets aside, classic corkscrews are both timeless and effective (and the reason I used them as wedding favors).
Living in Southern California, the closest vinification could be found in Temecula. One summer, we met up with our friend Jude at the Balloon & Wine Festival. He introduced us to almond champagne from Wilson Creek Winery. It was different. A rebel bearing the "c" word with a bit of nuttiness. He planned on purchasing a case during the holidays and giving them as presents. It's that popular down here.
For my close friend's wedding, she wanted to conduct a tasting at Mumm Napa to choose her toasting wine. We spent a giddy afternoon sipping in their relaxed tasting room. I was surprised at how many options were offered. While the concept of rose colored sparkling wine confused me, it was tasty. Good thing we took notes. I believe we ended up going with the Blanc de Noirs after all.
A few years back I was watching a television show that discussed affordable (non-Dom/Cristal) champagne options. In it, the host offered an alternative to French and California styles. It was Prosecco. The sparkler was the perfect non-traditional wine I'd been searching for. It's what I prefer today.
If there's one piece of advice I like to tell my friends, it's that whatever you consider good is good. My palate isn't the same as yours. It also changes over time. I used to only drink white wine, now it's primarily red. Experiment, choose what works, and learn how to wield a corkscrew. (Note: You don't need a corkscrew to uncork a champagne bottle. Those directions can be found here.)
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I'm throwing this up on the brekkie fan blog because the video you are about to view features a vegetable. A leek, to be exact. Related to the onion and garlic, it is mild in taste (like a scallion). If you plan to cook with them, be sure to read up on proper prep procedure, as they can trap dirt in their leaves.
Lemme set up this clip. Per J, the song played is, "a trance remix of an Eastern European polka song by a totally artificial Japanese performer. How did I not know about it and how did I live without it".
The YouTube description states that Hatsune Miku is not human. This voice is from software "VOCALOID".
I was just commenting to a friend how I once had a Japanese anime soundtrack phase back in college. Robotech and Gunbuster were my favorites.
So get your clubbing outfit on and enjoy.
Monday, December 27, 2010
There's this one fact that fascinates me more than the rest. Williams-Sonoma embraces this symbol of hospitality on their store windows. Shawn and Gus from Psych sneak one into every episode. The Chomp Chomp Nation food truck integrates them into their Kaya Cocount Stuffed French toast. It involves the elusive pineapple.
Supposedly, the fruit from this tropical plant contains an enzyme called bromelain. It breaks down protein. This is useful when tenderizing meat. Sensei, however, points out that bromelain is also added to beer to clarify it (a.k.a. prevent it from appearing cloudy).
The next time I'm staring into my pint of Blue Moon I'll feel empowered with knowledge.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I did not fully appreciate the concept of dining out until beyond my college years. Therefore, trying to sound like an expert on San Francisco (or any city up here) dining would probably be met with disagreement. What I will share are the places I ended up at and what I've enjoyed.
One summer I found myself working in Burlingame. It was for a bed & breakfast reservations group. My manager had a file folder specifically for take-out menus. The surrounding neighborhood was quaint. Storefronts were an eclectic mix of big names and local finds. A walkable place with no high rises. I was enamored. Nowadays, I have a cousin and a favorite dining companion who reside here, and this is how I found myself coming back. Also, there really is only one part of the city to explore.
Crepevine was a place I used to frequent with old classmates. It was also my first experience with crepes. Still going strong and with a bounty of locations, it doesn't surprise me that they've prospered over the years. I remember the days when they didn't take credit cards. I loved their savory and sweet entrees, never straying from the namesake dishes. Secretly, I've always been curious of their "Benedictions". .
A short walk away, you can pop in the Pez Museum. I found this either on Bay Area Backroads or Food Network. This is a teeny place, but worth a visit if you're close by. It has a charm that fits right in with its surroundings. Not to be outdone by sweet nostalgia, the Powell's Sweet Shoppe chain set up a branch around the corner. Your dentist will never forgive you.
Finding somewhere open late in this town (that isn't strictly a bar) is no problem when Straits is around. Part lounge, part restaurant, it hovers with a club atmosphere. My main reason for coming here was to hang with my cousin. Secondly, it was to grab a late meal. We shared some butter chicken and samosas while 'B' threw back a martini. It's more of a social gathering place with Asian-influenced dining options than a dinner destination.
The space currently occupied by Kabul has an unfortunate track record. Fortunately, this isn't their only location. Afghan cuisine was unexplored territory for me until last night. Recommended by a friend (who knows me better than I thought), my taste buds salivated as soon as I read all the lamb entrees. The food is hearty and comforting. If you're going to indulge in carb cravings, skip the bread and appreciate the pallaw or challaw (basmati) rice that accompanies most dishes.
My dining companion had a Groupon for $50 worth of food at Medallion, formerly the location of Kuleto's. It was oddly quiet for a Saturday night. They have an early bird 3-course prix fixe for $25 featuring prime rib. However, I was there for steak. 'A' previously tried their grass fed meats and was not pleased with the taste. 14 ounces of Premium New York Gold (corn fed) with blue cheese crumbles and toy box tomatoes found its way to my table. It was cooked and seasoned just so. The creme brulee we ended with, not so much (how do you mess that up?). While this is a formal space, guests were casually dressed. Also, service was much slower than necessary. A date or celebratory place, visit when you've got time on your hands.
While not walking distance to the aforementioned establishments, by far the BEST brekkie in the area is nestled within the residential neighborhood containing Idaho Street.....Nini's Coffee Shop. Two words: salmon hash. Ok, it's listed as San Mateo, but it's practically Burlingame. The Yelpers say it best. Lots of seating options. Huge selection with portion sizes to match. A long wait, but with hot coffee to pass the time.
It's the city with a little bit of this, and a lot of that. It's easier than parking in SF, and there's ample shopping for walking off the meal. I have multiple reasons for stopping by, and now you have (at least) one, too.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Recently I met someone for lunch. At some point, I decided a gift card would be perfect for Mr. brekkie fan's co-worker. A friend also loved their t-shirts, so it became an impromptu shopping trip. I inquired with a manager about purchasing the style worn by employees, and we were able to cut a deal.
During our conversation, it came out that I was a fan of their lamb entrees. However, they were no longer offered. Yes and no, according to my new contact. Turns out the items are seasonal and would be available NEXT WEEK. I almost teared up out of sheer joy, but I maintained my cool and thanked him for the intel.
Lamb stroganoff - Braised and tossed with exotic mushrooms, fettuccine and traditional sour cream sauce. It is savory and comforting to one's tummy.
Lamb shanks - Braised with burgundy wine gravy, served with mashed potatoes and confetti vegetables. I was on an osso buco kick for years, and this used to be my favorite.
Both items are priced in the mid-teens. Oh, and you'll likely need a doggy bag. When it's cold outside and I crave more than steak, this is Plan B for the next few months.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Cruising down Bristol to meet my brother-in-law, I spotted a sign out of the corner of my eye. The Kickin' Crab. Not recalling that fellow foodie Edwin Goei previously wrote about their grand opening, I took the bait. Yelp reviews gave above average ratings and encouraged me enough to inquire if Mr. brekkie fan was interested. He was game to the idea based on the reasons I told him.
- We don't have to drive to Garden Grove for comparable cuisine.
- We don't have to wait 2 hours in Garden Grove for a table.
- I (probably) wouldn't need to sneak in rice from next door.
- It's a bigger space.
So on a whim we had a double date there tonight. Service was much better than what I've read. Our server gave a very honest recommendation about how filling certain combos would be. We ended up with combo #1, sweet potato fries, fish & chips, chowder and gumbo. I also began an addiction to their peach iced tea.
The same server happened to mention a new location fast in the works. It's slated to open in less than a month. Up the 405 in Fountain Valley, part two is situated by the intersection of McFadden and Ward. He stressed that it will be smaller in size (max headroom of about 40), but feature take-out service.
If you're debating checking this place out, make note of "Happy Hours". Monday through Friday, from 3-6pm. Chowing on the cheap is a good motivator.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
It isn't available at all locations, which explains why I don't recall seeing it before. In addition, you can only purchase it until the end of the month. The marketing sounds very McRib, if you ask me.
Conceptually the same design as their apple pies, the outer crust is coated with a sugar cookie texture. Multi-color sprinkles add a festive touch. The filling is an eggy custard flavor.
Upon initial inspection, it reminds me of two things. A) Mother's Circus Animal Cookies or B) An intermediate recipe for the Easy-Bake Oven. Either way, it has an appealing selling point, 2 for $1.
While I am not advocating it, it certainly falls under those things that I'm compelled to try once. I liked the crust.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Yeonju Sung is not a fashion designer. A photographer with a vision, she blurs the lines between cuisine, clothing and creativity. While Sung resides in South Korea, her artwork is traveling to the US next month for an exhibition in Los Angeles. My favorite is the almost ethereal white gown.....made completely of eggplant.
The "Wearable Food" collection also brings to mind the recent series Top Chef: Just Desserts. In the October 13th episode, cheftestants were given a unique elimination challenge: Create an edible ensemble. While some faltered with their ability to incorporate their pastry chef talents, a few managed to excel with intricate interpretations of runway style. Host Gail Simmons' blog provides reference and insight into the minds of the judges.
While the pieces don't appear to be wearable, that did not stop Yeonju from crafting with thoughtful attention to detail. I would rather toss with my favorite roasted red pepper with Parmesan dressing than try them on.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
While I am not a parent, most of my friends are. Finding an age appropriate activity that doesn't involve sitting in front of a screen is not always easy, or affordable for that matter. This is where Auntie Anne (The Pretzel Lady, as my niece and nephew dub me) puts on her thinking cap. I logged in a few hours this year volunteering at this museum. I love DSC because it reminds me of my favorite place in the Bay Area, The Exploratorium. Even though I never enjoyed nor excelled at science, DSC reminds me that it can be fun. If you're looking for some street cred, know this - They are Orange County's only Smithsonian Affiliate.
Featured exhibits rotate every couple of months, and they are mindful of celebrating the seasons. This month showcases The Science of Gingerbread. Visitors are encouraged to explore the wonders of recipe science in the mock kitchen. Supervisors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are scheduled to answer questions and debunk myths about bacteria. There's even a gingerbread competition going on. Entries are currently on display through January 2. DSC's Facebook page includes snapshots of a few of the creations.
General admission tickets are $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children ages 3 to 17. If that's a little steep for your wallet, I've got some options for you.
Are you attending a holiday potluck? Perhaps you want to bring some sweets into work? Divine Desserts in Laguna Niguel has a promotion lasting through the end of the month. Buy a dozen cupcakes and receive a free child's admission. If you're already going to be spending the money, might as well get something out of it. A s'mores or apple cinnamon cupcake sounds pretty yummy right about now.
Tanaka Farms, known for their tractor-pulled wagon tours of strawberry and watermelon patches, has their Christmas tree shipment in. They have a similar offer: Purchase your tree there and receive a child's admission. Pricing is not cheap, but they do guarantee trees lasting until Christmas, or they will replace it (or give you credit towards a tree next year). The sale runs until December 20.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Sip a quick pick-me-up as you cross over Bear Street. Every weekend this month, a hot cocoa and cider station will be standing by to satisfy your thirst. Find it along the Garden Terrace, directly across from the Juniors entrance to Macy*s.
In addition, Seasons 52 will cue their piano bar earlier in the day. Normally starting nightly at 6pm, on Fridays it will begin at 1pm. The piano man will play his song beginning at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the year. Occupying the former Clubhouse space, Seasons 52 is located on the second level, around the corner from Sephora.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Open since 1920, Knott's Berry Farm has welcomed visitors to explore ghost towns, village fiestas and even their water park. Teens look forward to seasonal Knott's Scary Farm. Families are drawn to Camp Snoopy. I know them best for Mrs. Knott's fried chicken dinner and the boysenberry jam. Pink's Hot Dogs also opened an outpost late last year. They also have the best deals on annual passes ($60 for a full year).
Shopping, movies, or dining out. Those are my typical choices on a Saturday. This weekend has a more eventful option. CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange County) is raising awareness with the aptly titled CHOC Fest. From 10am-3pm, kids of all ages can snap a photo with Snoopy and/or Cowboy Silver Bullet (Who?). Of course, I wouldn't even mention this unless there was a connection to food.
This is a collaboration of The Torch Relay for Children's Miracle Network (CMN), Knott's Merry Farm, and Mobile Food Properties. That means food trucks galore are at the heart of this fundraiser. Upscale eats from both LA and OC will be present. I'll have a comprehensive list at the end for your reference. In calculating your budget, bear in mind the $12 parking fee PLUS the $8 admission. Children under the age of 10 are free. The physical location is across the street from Knott's, on the lawn area of Park Pavilion. Be sure to dress comfortably, since the forecast is for cloudy skies with highs in the mid 60s.
$20 to dine from food trucks may seem a bit steep, but consider this: $5 will go straight to CHOC *and* you will receive an Unlimited Fountain Drink wristband. A Beer Pavilion will also be present, but don't think they'll be offering free-flowing alcohol. Thinking of it as dining alfresco and you'll be fine. Bringing a pack of handiwipes also helps.
If you plan on spending the rest of the day at Knott's, they have a promotion going on. $15 toys will be available for purchase at CHOC Fest. Each gift is the equivalent of one theme park admission at the main gate. Toys will be donated to OC Toy Collaborative (formerly the Marine Corps Reserve TOYS for TOTS). It's a win-win for everyone involved. Food trucks feed the masses, diners support charities, and the theme park provides a festive venue to spend the day.
Here's the list:
Blue Marine Catering - Rolling Sushi
Chomp Chomp (E mentioned this is a new Singaporian themed truck)
Dan Dan Express
Louk's To Go
Ragin Cajun on Wheels - as seen on The Great Food Truck Race
The Surfer Taco
The Greasy Wiener *just added*
The Place LA
BTW - Pre-sale ticket holders will get in at 9:30.
Monday, November 29, 2010
First based in Newport Beach, Yelpers have shown their love by giving it a 4.5 star rating. This merited a second location last summer in nearby Huntington Beach. While many eateries have come and gone in recent months, this South County opening remained under the radar for the most part. Open for only three weeks, it has yet to be listed on their website. They have also dropped the familiar "Cucina" from business cards. However, I hear the award-winning Rolls Royce Margarita is still present.
Brent Omeste, previously the youngest sous chef at Charlie Palmer's in South Coast Plaza, is now executive chef of this establishment. A graduate of Orange Coast College, he began working for Pirozzi at Pomodoro Cucina Italiana at the tender age of 19. Coincidentally, he has also worked for Marc Cohen at Opah.
I wish Chef Omeste and Mr. Pirozzi the best in their new venture. Early reviews are already singing praises.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Then: HH featured a selection of chilled seafood and hot appetizers for only $3.
Now: A nosh fest of crustaceans, shellfish and poultry bites for $1 or less.
The "25 cent Shrimp Extravaganza" includes your choice of preparation. If you can picture Bubba Blue from Forrest Gump, it would make the best commercial!
- Buffalo style
- Garlic braised
- Thai glazed
- or plain peel and eat with cocktail sauce
"25 Cent Wing Extravaganza" includes the same five marinade options, no plain.
Their $1 oyster is served one way. Raw, on the half shell.
I've saved the best part for last. The Monday Night Football Special: Happy Hour ALL DAY LONG! Per the website, they open at 11:30 for lunch (10am on Sundays for brunch service).
Just remember to pack a sweater and bring quarters for the parking meter. It is Laguna Beach, after all.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Just wanted to wish everyone a good holiday. Except maybe those in the food service and retail industries who are stuck working today. Been there, done that, and enjoyed the leftovers once I got home. Hang in there!
This is also a friendly reminder that we are less than a week away from Top Chef: All-Stars! I found a brief video clip from the cheftestants serving up their favorite cooking tips for the season. I am partial to Dale Talde's White Castle stuffing....
Cue the DVR for next Wednesday, December 1st for the best food fight on cable.
Ok, I'm hungry.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Breakfast with Santa will be hosted by D&B from 9am-12 noon on November 28. Pre-tweens and their parentals will enjoy a buffet spread featuring pancakes, sausage, oatmeal, fruit and muffins, among other options. Children 10 and under are $10.50, while the rest fork over (get it? fork!? Sorry, it's cold in here.) and additional $3.
Brave youngsters also have a photo op with the jolly guy himself. For shy ones, there's always the complimentary $5 power card for each guest, equivalent to 24 credits. Con your mom/dad, and that means double the fun! Not a bad deal.
Bring a new toy to the event, and Dave & Buster's will donate it to Toys for Tots. In return, you receive a special gift. I did try asking what it was, but the woman I spoke to didn't know.
Reservations are required. If you would like more information, their number is 949-727-0555.
Monday, November 22, 2010
In addition to these incentives, they were handing out vouchers for free brekkie at Jerry's Wood-Fired Dogs. When did they start serving brekkie? Very recently, according to property management. They are now open at 8am at 3 out of 4 locations (Irvine, Ladera Ranch and Santa Ana. La Habra is not currently participating). The morning menu is served until 11am.
Ranging in price from $2.95 for a simple English muffin sandwich to $6.50 for a combo, there's an option for every mood. Their Breakfast Dog doesn't have its bacon wrapped around, but the crisp strips are always welcome. I'm looking forward to checking out their Smokey Joe Croissant ~ Kielbasa made with lean pork & cracked black pepper; scrambled egg and American cheese. Premium fixings such as avocado, grilled mushrooms, extra cheese or fresh salsa are an additional charge. Note: Salsa isn't on their regular menu. I predict it will migrate over soon enough.
They even include a few Kid's (12 and under) options for $1.99, but none contain a dog. Choose between a muffin & egg plate or egg & cheese burrito. A combo that includes home potatoes or fresh fruit cup & milk or juice is only fifty cents more.
When you're looking for that morning sustenance and Chick Fil-A isn't cutting it, support a local chain. Visit Jerry's.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Fat Dude On A Diet is about Niyaz's (the self-proclaimed Fat Dude) journey to lose weight by cooking healthy. As someone who enjoys food about as much as he does, I understand where he's coming from. All the working out in the world isn't enough if I don't at least TRY to make healthy choices with my food. It's tough enough to find recipes that sound tasty enough. For them to be good for me is a bonus.
With the help of his friend, CIA NY graduate Brian Miller, Niyaz channels his inner chef and creates 3 new meals a week. His blog is inspiring, funny, and easy to follow if you are cooking along at home. Coincidentally, Niyaz's story occurs the same time as Christina's Story: 70 Pounds by Prom. A segment on the Rachael Ray Show, Christina is a high school senior looking to improve her lifestyle after receiving disturbing health news from her physician.
Week 2 of Fat Dude On A Diet just wrapped up. When I read Julie & Julia a couple of years ago, I thought how it would've been nice to follow Julie Powell's blog from its inception back in 2002. I suppose Niyaz can be my version of Julie, minus Meryl Streep.
Check in at Chipotle using Facebook Places Moblie on your smart phone on November 20-21, show your phone with the check-in offer on your screen, and get a BOGO (Buy One, Get One) burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos!
How to do it:
In order to qualify for the BOGO, you must be physically at the restaurant. Then, you'll need to check in at that restaurant either through the Facebook Places mobile app, or, if that is not possible for you, through touch.facebook.com on your smart phone's mobile browser, to qualify for the deal. This offer will pop up as a deal at the restaurant at which you check in. Show that deal to the cashier from your phone.
How NOT to do it:
Posting "checking in" on the wall of this particular event. Posting "checking in" on your or Chipotle's Facebook page wall, changing the status of your own Facebook profile to say "checking in at Chipotle," and other non-geo-locational check-ins. Unfortunately, these are not acceptable check-ins. Sorry.
They even included a helpful link if you have further questions.
I would've posted this yesterday, but I was enjoying my Saturday. Wouldn't you?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It will be held at the event space known as Access Group Media. Start with a stiff drink. Linger in the Burnt or Chomp Chomp Truck lines. Sample some of the competition. Vote for your favorites. Dance until they kick you out.
This free event is for adults 18 and over. Parking is also free. If you RSVP, they'll even throw in a PINK food ticket good for a single sample. You can also purchase a full pass for $10.
Go catch Harry Potter Friday or Sunday. Spend Saturday at a yelp approved event.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Jack in the Box - Offering 2 free beef tacos after 2pm. One offer per person. No coupon necessary. No purchase necessary. I used to date someone who just loved these. Are they still deep fried? I remember the crunchy shell and American cheese. The shredded lettuce and taco sauce were more like an afterthought.
Cold Stone Creamery - From 5-8pm, try a free sample of their new 8 layer cakes. Free = a 3oz portion. Either the Quilted Coffee Caramel or the Cake Batter Layers.
Quilted Coffee Caramel has coffee ice cream, devil's food cake, caramel & Heath toffee bar, coffee frosting, and caramel topping.
Cake Batter Layers contains cake batter ice cream, yellow cake, cookie dough, and chocolate shavings, wrapped in cake batter frosting and topped with fudge.
Find time for a mid-afternoon snack *or* dessert. Or both?
**Both offers are valid only at participating locations. While supplies last.
Facebook has teamed up with both giants to make our community and environment a little better. For every check-in at Starbucks, they'll donate $1 to help protect forest land. A brand that continues to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing waste, recycling, and building greener stores, this provides an opportunity for the fans to be a part of a conservation effort.
Busy parents, college students and fast food diners can also make a difference the next time they grab a meal from the familiar golden arches. A dollar (with a maximum of $50,000) will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities for each check-in made on Facebook. I only found out about it this morning, but it started earlier this month.
Just another way to give back by doing something you would normally do anyway - go out to eat.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Life/Style Television (LX/TV) airs around this time. It's reminiscent of those 'city guide' channels that come on when you power up the TV in a hotel room. Viewers get the scoop on where to go for entertainment, shopping and dining. Out-of-towners (and curious locals) may get some useful information. I use it to zone out and fall asleep on the couch. These last few weeks, however, have been some amusing reality television.
They are currently airing Season 3 of ON THE ROCKS: The Search for America's Top Bartender. Think Top Chef + (insert singing/dancing competition here) - quality lighting. Hundreds auditioned, but they feature the final 8. For the winner (using my best Padma voice), $100,000 - sponsored by Absolut Vodka, and the title of America's Top Bartender!
Shot on location in trendy/iconic bars around Los Angeles, contestants are put through challenges that test their ability to think creatively and act professionally while under a time constraint. On their most recent episode, bartenders had 10 minutes to create a cocktail using only the ingredients and tools in front of them. The catch. No glassware or stirring utensils to be found. Inventive use of pineapples and ice picks helped an otherwise daunting task.
For me, what stood out about this competition was the fact that judging occurs throughout every challenge. Each contestant works alone and in front of the three experts. Their stage presence is factored into determining the winner. Most competitions only focus on the end product. That is, unless you don't follow the rules and get penalized on The Amazing Race! A good example of this is the feedback judges provided on this "Deserted Island" challenge. Milos was commended on being the only one that used the provided hand sanitizer before starting the task. Kind of a big deal, if you're a foodservice employee.
My money is on Jason from Los Angeles. You can view this season, last season, and profiles of everyone participating by clicking on the show title above.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I stumbled across a useful article for cooking up an ideal batch. I don't expect readers to follow instructions to a tee. (Keeping the skins on and substituting milk for cream is my take on it.) Hopefully you'll find a tip to make your dish even better. If you want to take it to another level, be sure to read variation #2 "umami version". Can't go wrong with garlic & white truffle oil!
If you're still not sure about clicking the link, here's an anecdote for you.
The very first dish I learned how to cook was scrambled eggs. I thought I was an expert. Those eggs would be cooked all the way through, and I would either eat them as is or incorporate into fried rice (the second thing I learned) for brekkie. I took home ec in junior high, and my teacher's mantra for scrambling has always stuck in my head, "Firm, yet moist". One minor detail led to a future of tastier yolks. That is why I read articles about foods I already know how to prepare.
If you're ready for one cook's humbling tale, click here.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I had a fondue birthday party many years ago. The cost came out to $50 per person. I vowed to never have guests spend so much on dinner (unless they wanted to) ever again. I still frequented this place for happy hour, but that was about it.
Received an invitation from my friend to a special (i.e. affordable) event at our local Melting Pot. Club Fondue members are having Appreciation Nights in November. From 6-8pm, guests will have the pleasure of tasting 8 fondue recipes from their cookbook. If the promise of cheese and chocolate aren't enough for me to say "Yes!", then the included wine pairings certainly are. Here's the kicker: It will cost me $10. I can hardly get a glass of wine for that much anymore.
Now if you want in on this event, join Club Fondue. If the notion of more email in your Inbox is unappealing, then keep reading for more deals this holiday season.
Fondue and a Flick Sunday
I used to love watching Dinner & A Movie, so this is right up my alley. For $27.50 a person (minimum 2 orders), enjoy the following:
- Savory cheese fondue course
- A signature salad
- Decadent chocolate fondue course
- Choice of AMC or Regal Premiere movie certificate ($11 value)
Shop 'Til You Drop Weekend
Black Friday is just under three weeks away, and they've got the perfect GDO for the ladies (that's Girls Day Out for those wondering). Typically closed for lunch, November 26-28 will have special afternoon hours from 11:30-2:30. For $26 per person, indulge in this:
- Savory cheese fondue course
- A signature salad
- An entree fondue
- Bottomless mimosas or Bloody Marys (!)
Open for Lunch
In need of that extra long lunch? This is by far the best deal. Available throughout the month of December, diners will have the option of stopping by between 11:30 and 2pm during the week OR on weekends for a prix fixe as frugal as my favorite Marche Moderne at South Coast Plaza.
- Savory cheese fondue course
- A signature salad
- An entree fondue
Orange County Melting Pot locations are Brea, Irvine and San Clemente. Do plan ahead whenever possible and make a reservation by either calling ahead or using OpenTable. Specials like these only come around this time of the year, and fondue fanatics can only be kept waiting for so long.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Nina's Indian Grocery (a place my best friend turned me on to), normally hidden from the main road, was now bigger and more prominently situated in the plaza. Initially I thought I was seeing a mirage....considering my dashboard told me the current temp was 92 degrees. However, I confirmed the sighting on the way home. Now that I think about it, I believe they took over the space that was formerly Nickel Nickel.
I selfishly admit that part of the charm of their previous location was the compact layout. Shelves packed with spices and treats. An entire aisle devoted to rice. The register/dvd rental /fast food counter. A mom and pop vibe. Then again, it's nice to see a local business doing so well.
The next time you find yourself in Lake Forest, check out the new digs.
Nina's Indian Grocery
23532 El Toro Road (cross street Raymond Way)
Monday, November 1, 2010
The "Drive-Up Food Drive" begins today on the following Toll Roads: 241,261,133 and 73 (91 Express Lanes are not a part of this program). Non-perishable donations will be accepted in all cash-payment lanes, plus at the following toll plazas: Windy Ridge, Irvine Ranch, Orange Grove, Tomato Springs, and Catalina View.*
Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County is a member of Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. This year, more than half a million people will go hungry in Orange County alone. Just like voting, every person makes a difference. Do your part to help those less fortunate.
For your reference, below is a recommended list of items to donate.
- Peanut butter & jelly
- Canned fruit
- Canned vegetables or beans
- Canned pasta meals
- Canned or instant soup
- Instant rice
- Macaroni & cheese
- Bottled water
*The last day to drop off items before Thanksgiving is Monday, November 22.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
What's black and orange and awesome all over? (Besides the Giants) The holiday that reminds us we are less than one month from Thanksgiving and two from Christmas.
We don't get any trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood, but there is no shortage of candy floating through our household. My sweet tooth isn't what it used to be, but recently I found two delightful items that do tap into my salt craving.
Clodhoppers were courtesy of my best friend's mom. She likes making sure people are fed, like all moms do. Manufactured in Canada, these bonbons are simply fudge covered graham wafer clusters. Packaging cautions us that they are "highly addictive", and they are indeed! At first they resembled yogurt covered granola pieces. Kind of a Nestle Crunch/100 Grand savory texture coated with a neutralizing vanilla outer layer. Just enough of this dual flavor to keep me reaching for more.
Pretzel m&m's came from my local pharmacy as a thank you for using their services. Who gives candy to a sick person? If you're seeking a perfect customer satisfaction score, they apparently do. Clocking in at a moderate 150 calories for the pack, these are the more accessible of the two. The familiar monogrammed shell merged with a nutritional morsel. They are the American cousin to my Clodhoppers. A surprising change from my usual peanut flavor. If you're a purist, you may be conflicted after tasting.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The main drag of Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach is an idyllic example of Southern California living. You've got surf, sand, and relaxed dining as far as the eye can see. There really is something for everyone, but I've got my favorites.
One of a handful of restaurants in the county where I go below street level to dine, Brussels Bistro is a gem. Beer drinkers will appreciate the selections of brew bottled and on tap. I am fond of the regional cuisine. How many can resist the aroma of Belgian frites with homemade sauces? Others will crave a pot of mussels with their choice of flavor. There's also live music during the week and a DJ on the weekends. 222 Forest Avenue.
Nostalgic treats of all sorts can be found across the street at Candy Baron. Some may say it's overpriced, but when it's not easy to locate elsewhere it is worth every penny. I enjoy inching my way through the aisles to debate between classics (Razzles, Glee Gum) and old fashioned (Bit-O-Honey, Zagnuts). The perfect alternative when craving dessert to-go. Smuggle some into Pageant of the Masters. 231 Forest Avenue.
Down the street and around the corner is the third concept by local chef Marc Cohen, the playfully named Watermarc. He is praised by Zagat, LA Times, and OC Register for his distinctive flavor palate. With a sophisticated selection of grazing plates, it is only rivaled by the equally vast list of wines by the glass. One of the few spots where I order the same item over and over again: The burger. Not your typical patty, we're talking 1/2 pound of blended Angus chuck, sirloin and short rib. If that's not enough of a flavor profile, try my favorite add-on - duck confit, red onion marmalade, brie and aioli. 448 South Coast Highway.
For that seafood craving on a beach bum budget, hike upstairs to House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer. No question about what's offered here! Raw, chilled, grilled, or fried, diners have a conundrum....What to get? With prices starting at $5 for their hobo fish plate (DELICIOUS, by the way), your group will be asking why you've been keeping this a secret. Carnivores can indulge in steak and chicken options without feeling left out. Bread & water are upon request, so be sure to ask when seated. Oh, and you must save room for the dessert featuring bananas foster + bread pudding. 540 South Coast Highway, #200.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Kidding. Actually the discount comes when you are decked out in your 70s finest. I'm talking bell bottoms, peace symbols and platforms. In fact, you could be in your cowboy boots, Hammer pants, or poodle skirt and STILL get the 15%. How sweet is that? Gianduia sweet!
If that's not enough to shake shake shake to Gelato Paradiso, there's more.
This weekend starting at 6pm on October 30th until closing time on Halloween, trick or treat down to your local GP for a free yellow cup of whatever flavor you want. Gelato or sorbetto. Free. You're welcome.
You know what else is going on there? Seasonal flavors PUMPKIN & GREEN APPLE. While the apple is on its way out, pumpkin is going strong through Thanksgiving. Before you know it, it's December and the return of both EGGNOG & PEPPERMINT!
Is that enough for you yet? No? Okay....
Students get 15% off Monday thru Friday at the Corona del Mar location. Did you know that topping your gelato with a shot of espresso is called an Affogato? Knowledge is power, kids. Save some money, use a fancy word, and feel empowered.
What are you still doing on the computer? Go get us some dessert!
Monday, September 27, 2010
Last week I found myself craving something healthy(?!). After checking their Facebook status, I saw that the Seabirds food truck was close by. As I stood under the small patch of shade provided by their overhang, a shiny orange flyer caught my eye.
5th Annual Compassionate Cuisine: A Celebration of World Vegetarian Day
The event will benefit Animal Acres, a farmed animal sanctuary and compassionate living center. Featured guests include guest chef Tanya Petrivna of Native Foods Cafe, musicians Makena and pianist Scott Sorrentino, and author Sarah Taylor "Vegan in 30 Days". I counted approximately 20 vendors listed on the back who will be offering up their wares (after paid admission).
While the thought of driving into LA proper makes me tired, toeing the county line and frolicking around the Japanese Garden at CSU Long Beach on a Friday eve does not. So show some love. Expand your horizons. Eat well.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I was fortunate enough to be a +1 to the first OC Foodie Fest. 50 food trucks congregating at Anaheim's Honda Center, 80% of them based out of Los Angeles. Sold out at approximately 8,500 attendees, I knew to expect long lines. When you're surrounded by fellow foodies, you get to talking. My queue-mates began to compare and contrast the details of the event with others they attended. The general consensus was that it could've been more accommodating.
For starters, general parking was $15. This might not be a big deal, except that admission was $12. Taking into consideration sporting events typically charge under $10 here (and at the ballpark down the street), it felt like we were being cheated out of spending money. To pay that kind of money before you even enter the venue would be acceptable if you provided the promised....
....goodie bags to ticketholders. There were none. Not even a bottled water, which could have made up for some frustration. Dry throats were forced to pony up $3 for sodas/water. (Unless you were perceptive and spotted those vendors who snuck in more affordable options.) Those who paid more than double for alcohol couldn't even consume it while waiting in line. That, combined with an utter lack of....
....shade really tested one's patience. Combine the open air venue with temperatures creeping into the 80s plus lines in disarray and folks start to feel miserable. Also, let's not forget the number of trucks that began running out of food before 3:30 like Nom Nom, Ludo's and Cart for a Cause. The event was scheduled to end at 7pm, and supposedly extra inventory was allowed to be stored close by.
Maybe we blame poor planning on the trucks, for not calculating the right amount of food to prepare. Or do we point a finger at the organizers for not delivering a better overall experience? Perhaps it's the attendee for having too high an expectation for a new event. Either way, things could've been better. For me, I was relatively happy with how it all went down. I did, however, use a "divide & conquer" method when hitting the lines. This allowed us to maximize our time and eat a little more than most.
Then I go to the LA Times Food & Wine Festival at Paramount Studios in Beverly Hills, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The venue alone provided a couple of things normally overlooked: an option for free street parking *AND* built-in shade (thanks to the movie sets casting shadows). You really don't appreciate things until they are gone, and we were grateful for these two details.
While the $40ish (thanks Facebook fan page for the discount code!) to get in may be steep, I counted no less than 5 free beverages. Fiji bottled water, lemonade, Izze limon, a vodka drink, and lots and lots of wine. There were drink tickets handed to everybody, and everybody was getting their drink on! I was able to focus my spending on a few choice locations.
No doubt the publication was able to pull in a ton of sponsorship, or else how could we get so many free food samples as well? Champagne grapes from Melissa's. Lavender honey ice cream from The Cooking Channel truck. Cake balls from a local caterer (sooooo dense and moist). Bummed I didn't get to enjoy some Thai food, I was still happy with all I did.
Celebrity chefs and notable foodies were in attendance, providing some great down time to listen in on culinary discussions throughout the day. My favorite part had to be a concert provided by She & Him at the very end of the event. A close second would be the opportunity to try one of the trucks from Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race", Nana Queens. While they were all present at OC Foodie Fest, the lines here were much more manageable. The environment overall was more controlled, yet relaxed.
If there is a next year, I am willing to give OC Foodie Fest another chance. If I don't have to chase down trucks in LA county (much less just drive into LA), that's always a plus. While the 2 hour trek to Paramount was torture, LA Times Food & Wine was worth the wait.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I've always known about fragrances that utilize aromas we find in food such as citrus or vanilla. One trip to Bath & Body Works is enough of an example. With the evolution of cuisine (New American this, Asian fusion that), other industries ultimately followed suit. Hence the creation of Sniffapalooza: a community for fragrance enthusiasts.
Per founders Karen Dubin and Karen Adams, gourmand notes are characterized as being edible, sweet or dessert-like. Think candy, fruits and basically anything tasty. (I wonder if bacon counts?) Personally, I've never been too keen on moisturizing my legs with something that evokes hunger. Somehow I connect that to an ep of Seinfeld where Kramer sunbathes in cooking oil.
Where was I? Oh yes. This season, vanilla and tonka bean are making quite the comeback, per the ladies. They are being blended with French macaroon, lemon, fig and blood orange. As the holiday season approaches, richer notes are added to the mix. This includes caramel, buttercream, milk, almond, amber and of course, chocolate. They provided some delicious examples to prove their point.
Ralph Lauren's new Big Pony Seduction - (Ok, I'm sorry. This sounds kinda dirty.) Dark chocolate and musk mingle for a spicy blend.
Philosophy's Eternal Grace - Floral and citrus notes energize and make for a welcome addition to their ethereal line of fragrances.
Guerlain's Shalimar - Originally created in 1921 as a classic soft amber parfum, this 4.0 update intoxicates the senses with tonka bean, vanilla, iris and rose.
I suppose this is one way to have your cake and eat it too.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Neither a beauty contest nor a senior golf tour, locals look forward to this unique experience where life really does imitate art. Conducted outdoors at Irvine Bowl, it's a relaxing way to revisit classic art and celebrate local artisans. The venue's waiting area doubles as an exhibition space where ticketmasters can sip wine, listen to live music and view works in various mediums.
This year's theme is especially exciting for me, as it revolves around the notion "Eat, Drink and be Merry". Coincidentally, the final scene depicted at the finale of each and every show is the infamous work, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. If you are interested in learning about the program, look no further.
Prime seating sells out early on, but those in the know go early on the day of their preferred show and camp outside the box office for returned tickets (and open spots the cast isn't already reserving for family or friends). Remember, your admission ticket is also good all summer at the Sawdust Art Festival, Art-A-Fair, and Festival of Arts.
If you haven't gone, this can make for a special date nite, group outing, or just another way to expand your cultural horizons. I assure you, within the first 30 minutes they will show the magic behind the scenes -- and it will render you speechless.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
This Wednesday’s Dinner Impossible is probably one of the toughest Robert Irvine has ever done. He was more than happy to share some of the fishy details during the Food and Wine Festival at Disney’s California Adventure. While his storytelling is much more compelling, I will cut to the chase and give some highlights.
- 45 hungry clients at Blackberry Farm, a Relais & Chateau property
- Cooking ‘
’ style Rocky Mountain
- Running out of gas
- Purifying their own water
- Catching all the food (to cook), via fly fishing
- 1 fish caught in an hour, after falling in a lake
- Finishing at 11:30pm
Besides some fabulous tidbits into this week's mission, Chef Irvine also served up some advice on kitchen techniques.
Grape seed oil - Burns at such high temperatures, he considers it the best to cook with.
Mounting butter - Whisking cold butter into any water-based sauce at the end of cooking, giving the sauce a thicker body and a glossy shine. Highly recommended when sauces are not to your liking.
Paprika + 1/4 cup water + simmering for 3 hours = something special
And a final spoiler: Look out for Restaurant: Impossible in the not-so-distant future!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Crepes Bonaparte: Currently collaborating with Working Wardrobes and their retail outlet, The Hanger. Gaston and his cordial crew will be showing their wares during the store's "Wild Wednesdays" beginning June 30. Each Wednesday will be dedicated to a different location, with Brea receiving them first. For those not familiar with WW, they are an independent nonprofit organization providing career development and wardrobe services to men and women in need.
Louks: Spotted participating in Glow Fest at Disney's California Adventure. The Magic Kingdom has gone trending and invited Aki Vourakis and his gourmet Greek menu to DCA for five weeks this summer. When Mickey and Friends start knocking, you know you've arrived. Also slated to appear next month, my friends at Barcelona On The Go.
Taco Dawg, Piaggio On Wheels, Oh For Sweets Sake, Calbi, etc.: All attending Social Media Day on June 30 at the Orange County Register offices in Santa Ana. Not quite a holiday, but one where we acknowledge how sites like Twitter and Facebook have affected the way we communicate today. A groundbreaking event, these trucks are perfect examples of how social networking has allowed them to thrive. Speakers, networking and food. Sounds ideal to me.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Piece of advice (poa) #1 - Don't wear white.
When you're receiving that teeth cleaning (or deep cleaning, depending on who you are), stuff is flying. Water, cleaner, bits of food painfully scraped out. You name it. If you value that t-shirt or have to be somewhere afterwards, do yourself a favor and wear earth tones, darker clothes, or articles you don't mind getting stained. It reminds me of my first NYC trip. My friend was booking front row tickets to Stomp. The agent informed her to "wear clothing that you wouldn't mind getting wet". Um, yeah.
poa #2 - Bring your iPod.
(or similar mp3 player) My doctor's office is pretty sweet in that they have both radio music wafting throughout *and* movies playing in each patient room. None of that elevator/Muzak noise. I find myself wanting to watch the ending of a film all the time. However, when they get started on my chompers, nothing is more effective at drowning them out than some reliable tunes. And shutting your eyes.
poa #3 - Scheduling right after lunch.
You're only as efficient as the people around you. Often times, morning appointments are either running late or emergency drop-ins. Either way they are impeding on your face time with the dentist. Most offices are best to visit right after their lunch hour. Staff is refreshed. Nobody is ahead of you. It's go time. If nothing else, do this one.
poa #4 - Have a place to eat right after.
Now be honest. Do you hold off on eating that next meal until after the appointment? It's normal (unless you're one of those who packs a toothbrush). You may have the urge to visit the nearest drive-thru. If that's the case, go ahead. Make it a reward. As my husband would say, "If you're gonna eat bad, it better taste good". My closest options are a mall food court, Mexican fast food, and a cafe across the street. Gives me something to look forward to after all is said and done.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
So getting back to the title, my eyes rested upon a sign towards the entrance. A food challenge? I've only seen those on TV. Needless to say, I was intrigued. While I scrawled everything down on my take-out menu, I can't read one of my words (good job, brekkie fan). In the interest of stating accurate facts, I did find an accurate depiction of its details for the San Clemente location. Quite the gut buster, let me tell you. Did I mention there are two?
The Porker Challenge:
In 30 minutes, an individual must consume an XL Porker - (topped with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, meatballs, sausage and bacon pieces). Winners are reimbursed, given a $50 gift certificate and placed on their Wall of Fame.
The Side Kick challenge:
For those with a BFF, they have an even BETTER challenge. In addition to the aforementioned pizza, they must finish one pound of super hot wings, a cinna-za pizza, and a Tower (quite literally, they have a special beverage holder just for this size) of beer or soda. This prize includes everything previously mentioned plus a ride home, if needed.
Kudos to FCP for being in the spirit of all things gluttonous.
Note: As I was about to link this topic to their main website, alas, they do not have one. Also, the location I went to is shutting down. Taking all that in consideration, I'm going to list the next closest one to me plus the location that described their challenges.
13175 Jamboree Road, Tustin
821 Via Suerte, San Clemente
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Well, for the gang at Blackmarket Bakery, it means progress. Cabernet brownies and penne, to be exact. Marche Noir (their alter ego) specializes in these innovative flavors. They love them so much they're throwing an open house to celebrate.
If you're as Costco as the next person, then free samples are right up your alley. Pay a visit to their Irvine bakery for a look-see and embrace the summery tastes. Jot down Saturday, May 15 (3-6pm).
17941 Skypark Circle
P/S - The gang from Barcelona on the Go will also be there providing additional sustenance! I strongly recommend lentil soup for chilly weather or the empanadas for other climates.
Monday, May 10, 2010
At 4pm on a Sunday, there is a line almost to the door. A good sign, as far as signs go. A clean, well-lit place. Another star in my book. Pricing is reasonable too. For $6.95 I can get a burger, fries and unlimited soda fountain. That's within a dollar of many comparable fast food meals. You've also got alternatives such as salads or sandwiches to select from.
I wrapped mine in lettuce, which was not a wise idea. Instead of being a healthy substitution, I was busy having the fillings drip and spill all over me. While the burger was good, the truth is I found other details to love. That's what I'll share.
Onion rings! Seldom found in chains. When I bite into one, most of the time the inside ring pulls out before I can finish crunching on it. Frustrating, I tell ya. That is not the case here. Something tasted more fresh than frozen, and the rings were a nice example of that.
Soft serve! Of of the best bangs for your buck, er 95 cents. Your small cup is loaded with true vanilla, and then topped with a teeny cone for a little texture (or maybe just to be funny). Either way this is a filling finish to a hearty meal.
The Habit is more than a competitor, it's got some personality too. Instead of drive-thru, why don't you sit for a spell and enjoy the soft serve? Oh, and their newest location will be at 23632 El Toro in Lake Forest (inside The Orchard).