Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fundraising at America's 1st theme park (12/4)

I was about to take a day off from updating. However, I received a tip from my fellow food blogger elmomonster. Normally I am the one to share news morsels, so this was a welcome treat. Thanks E, and get better soon!

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
Tornado Potato
The Greasy Wiener *just added*
The Place LA

BTW - Pre-sale ticket holders will get in at 9:30.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Italian favorite expands to Laguna Beach

Dodging raindrops as we dashed back to our car Saturday night, something caught my eye. Did 230 Forest expand recently? Actually, it was a new restaurant. Or perhaps I should say, a new location for an existing trattoria. I am referring to Alessandro Pirozzi's Alessa.

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

Updated Happy Hour at House of Big Fish

I was up at 3am on Black Friday. My cousin Adrienne, her cousin Jenn and I braved the Bay Area chill and put a fender bender sized dent on our holiday lists. During the 8+ hours on our feet, I had a recurring thought....Don't forget to share what I just learned! Even the busiest shopping day of the year is trumped by my love of culinary news.

My apparent love of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer can be found in two previous posts. In fact, we're taking another couple there tonight. It's hard to beat the balance of hearty food, beach front property and frugal price. Yet they managed to improve it. I thought their merger of bananas foster and bread pudding was epic. THIS could very well surpass the merger.

What was once a literal Happy Hour from just 4:30-5:30 has super sized itself. Now, hungry souls can find solace as early as 2:30pm (until 5:30) to the tune of 25 cents. Yes, a quarter.

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!

  1. Buffalo style
  2. Teriyaki
  3. Garlic braised
  4. BBQ
  5. Thai glazed
  6. 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

Happy Turkey & Gluttony Day

The Thanksgiving parade is airing behind me. Mom and Dad are munching their version of amuse bouches (persimmon and pancit, respectfully). I've got two different heaters blowing around me. We are early to the festivities, and I get dibs on the Mac to cut down on my phone's 3G usage.

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

Something for the kidlets this holiday weekend

Ladies have Black Friday. Teenagers have a long weekend on Facebook. Guys have televised sports. What about little ones? Nothing immediately comes to mind. Dave & Buster's at Irvine Spectrum has a solution this Sunday.

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

New brekkie menu at Jerry's!

I was at The Market Place over the weekend for a special promotion: Spend $200 and receive a $20 gift card back *plus* management would donate $10 to either Irvine or Tustin Unified schools. With Christmas around the corner, early holiday shopping was a breeze.

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

Introducing Niyaz (aka Fat Dude On A Diet)

So in my earlier post today I mentioned my new friend Niyaz. We met recently at a group outing during Happy Hour Week. Over sliders at Marmalade and beer at JT Schmid's, I learned about his love for breakfast, the Giants, and his family. He also brought up a new project he'd been working on.

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.

Chipotle + BOGO = No cooking today!

I love my Facebook family. Some friends notify me of cool deals. Others post it on their wall. My favorites might have to be the ones I just stumble upon, like this one. It was on the wall of my friend Niyaz (he'll get a proper introduction in another post). So thank you, Niyaz's friend.

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

Think pink this Saturday

Supporters of breast cancer awareness, fashionistas who look stunning in pink, and foodies can find a common ground this Saturday at the Eat. Drink. Pink! party in Fountain Valley.

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

How about something for free?

They say sharing is caring, so here I am bringing good tidings. 2 entries, 2 free items, 2morrow. (Tuesday, November 16).**

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.

If you're already going to be at Starbucks or McDonald's...

...and you've got the Facebook application on your device, check-in on Places to make a donation.

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

1:02 am on a Sunday, on the rocks.

Not the time to be inspired to write, right? Unless you've found some Jason Bourne, mainstream programming has gone to bed. I didn't think there was anything worth watching after SNL (Scarlet Johansson has some range!). And then I left the TV on....

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

Giving thanks for mashed potatoes

November is typically the month where I begin to get excited about everything pumpkin, stuffing and turkey. Yet one of my all-time favorite side dishes is the mashed potato (and yes, I can do the twist). Maybe it's the aggression released when I smush down on the butter, milk, seasonings and potatoes with my utensil? It can be a forgiving vegetable to prepare, since minutia such as keeping the skin on or having lumps comes down to personal preference -- not technique.

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

Affordable fondue: Oxymoron? Maybe not....

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.

Present day
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 now expanded!

I like knowing the surface streets in my area. When there's traffic, I just exit and my internal GPS takes over. I was coasting down El Toro this afternoon when something caught my eye. Like when you see those puzzles where two pictures look identical, but if you look closer you'll see subtle differences.

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

Take The Toll Roads, feed a family

A time-saving alternative to surface streets and carpooling, The Toll Roads is teaming up with Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County to provide much needed items this holiday season.

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
  • Cereal
  • Instant rice
  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Bottled water

*The last day to drop off items before Thanksgiving is Monday, November 22.