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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Taquiero Taco Patio - Irvine

4517 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

What is going on here?  Am I actually writing an article for this first time in 5 years?  What could possess me to do such a thing?  I'll tell you what......TACOS!  But not just any tacos....AMAZING TACOS!

Taquiero Taco Patio is a brand new restaurant in Irvine across the street from UCI.  They specialize in authentic Tijuana-style tacos.  They also offer burritos, mulitas, quesadillas, nachos and fries.  I know you must be thinking that there is no way that Irvine can have an authentic taqueria that is better than joints in Santa Ana, but it's true.

The restaurant was co-founded by a gentleman named Sean that moved from OC to Mexico and spent the last 10 years there.  He loved the tacos down there and knew that there wasn't anything like it in Orange County. He decided to come back and share the experience with us. All ingredients are fresh, high-quality and the corn they use for the tortillas is non-GMO.

Meat selections include carne asada, pollo pastor, pollo asado, cochinita pibil, veggies and the much sought after al pastor fresh off a spinning rotisserie spit.

They also hand make all of their corn tortillas in house.  No premade masa here.  They soak corn in the back and mash it up with just a little salt.  The tortillas are then hand-pressed and griddled fresh when you order your taco.  Tacos automatically come with your choice of meat, salsa, cilantro, onion and guacamole.

(Two tacos with "cheese tortillas")

Tacos will run you $3.50 and burritos are $9.75.  These things are packed full of meat and deliciousness.  Two tacos will be a feast.  Carne asada/al pastor nachos or fries are $10 and mulitas (Tijuana-style quesadilla) are $6.75 with your choice of meat. 

The tacos here are delicious by themselves, but get even better when you visit their salsa bar.  Here you will find 7 or 8 different salsas, fresh limes, perfectly pickled onions, jalapenos and more.  My favorite is this green, kinda creamy salsa with a little kick.  

When you have stuffed yourself full of taco deliciousness, make sure to stop at the complimentary Mexican candy case on the way out.  Here you can grab yourself a few Mexican delights to top off your meal.  Let's hope that people don't abuse this and cause the owners to stop offering this totally awesome amenity.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

STAX cookie Bar soft opens today - Monday 10/13/2014 Official Grand Opening Event on Saturday 10/18

4187 Campus Drive
Suite M174
University Town Cener
Irvine, CA

(949) 861-2055
Hours: 10:00 AM - Midnight - 7 Days a Week

A new ice cream sandwich shop is set to have their soft opening today at 10:00 AM at University Town Center in Irvine.  Stax Cookie Bar offers a wide variety of freshly baked cookies and ice cream.  You can either choose to purchase the cookies and ice cream separately, or you can order a "Sweet Stax" which is an ice cream sandwich made out of two cookies of your choice and a scoop of ice cream in between.  Stax brags that you can make over 4,000 different combinations for your ice cream sandwich.  

All of the cookies are baked fresh on site.  In addition to regular cookies, Stax also offers a variety of vegan and gluten-free cookies.  Some of the flavors, such as chocolate-chip, will be constant but they will rotate cookie flavors as well.  I was invited down to sample some of the cookies and ice cream.  I believe my favorite cookie was the Sesame Green Tea, followed closely by the classic Chocolate Chip.  Other cookie flavors include Chai Tea, Root Beer Float, Maple Bacon, Red Velvet and more. 

While I really enjoyed the cookies and ice cream, the thing that impressed me the most was the reasonable prices.  Cookies are $1.25 each ($1.50 for gluten-free) and a dozen cookies will only set you back $10.95.  The Sweet Stax ice cream sandwich is $3.75. 

There will be a Grand Opening event on Saturday October 18th with 20% of the proceeds going to support the Irvine Public School Foundation.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Red O Restaurant - Newport Beach

Red O Restaurant - Fashion Island, Newport Beach
143 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Tel: (949) 718-0300

Rick Bayless, the celebrity chef and host of the emmy-nominated show "Mexico: One Plate At A Time", has opened his newest restaurant at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. This is Red O's second location, the first being in Los Angeles. More locations will hopefully be opening soon. Red O restaurant features a dramatic interior paired with high-end Mexican food. I was recently invited down to try some of their culinary delights.

We started our meal off with an Amuse-Bouche of Dungeness Crab Tostaditas. A deep-fried plantain chip was topped with sweet dungeness crab meat, grilled pineapple and tomatillo-avocado salsa. It was absolutely amazing, and probably my favorite part of the meal.

Next, up we tried the Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales and a Tasting of Guacamole that came with four different kinds of guacamole and fried plantain chips. The tamales were light, fluffy and slightly sweet. The goat cheese added a nice creamy, rich flavor that complemented the masa perfectly. I'm thinking of asking my mother-in-law to make some goat cheese tamales for Christmas this year... The guacamole sampler came with Classic, Pomegranate-Walnut, Macha and Yuzu guacamoles. Of the four, I believe that Yuzu was my favorite. The guacamole was spiked with Japanese yuzu and shishito peppers.

Next up was Tortilla Soup. The broth was poured tableside over a bowl of chicken, avocado and fried tortilla strips. The broth was filled with sauteed onions and reminded me a lot of French Onion soup. I wish this soup had more spice to it.

For my entree, I selected the Lamb Mole Negro. Four lamb chops arrived on the plate in a pool of black mole sauce. There seemed to be some consistency issues with the sizing of the lamb chops as some of the plates seemed to be twice as big as others. Each plate came with four lamb chops, but some chops were huge compared to some of the others. The lamb itself was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The mole sauce added a smoky flavor with the slightest hint of sweetness. A fantastic dish.

To finish off the meal, we were served Tres Leches cake. Tres Leches is usually made by soaking a sponge cake in three different milks, evaporated, condensed and regular milk or cream. Red O uses pound cake instead of sponge cake and opts to use non-fat milk instead of cream. The result is a cake that is a little denser than most, and not quite as rich. The cake was topped with toasted meringue and spicy pears.

Overall, Red O is a very good option if you are looking for upscale Mexican food. The prices here will likely make it a "special occasion" restaurant for most. Dinner entrees range from $15-$56. If you're looking to dine there on a budget, try going for lunch when their prices are a little lower.

Red O - Newport Beach on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kolache Factory Bakery and Cafe - Tustin

Kolache Factory Tustin
14091 Newport Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780
Phone: 714-730-2253

Kolache Factory Bakery and Cafe opened today in Tustin, near the 5 freeway and Newport Ave.  The bakery started in Texas and the Tustin location is the first, of what they hope will be many, in California.  The bakery specializes in kolaches, which are a Czech pastry.  Most of the kolaches resemble a spherical roll, reminiscent of a dinner roll.  They are stuffed with a variety of fillings.  Varieties include sausage, eggs, BBQ beef, fruit, pepperoni, jalapenos and more.   The fruit filled kolaches more resemble a danish with a ring of dough surrounding a fruit filling.

I tried one of the apricot kolaches.  It reminded me of a Danish, but was less flaky and more bread like.  The pillowy, yeasty dough was similar to a cinnamon roll dough, but slightly less sweet. I feel like this is a healthier alternative to Danish, but I'm not sure.  Prices range from around $1.09-$2.69.  They also serve a variety of other pastries like stuffed croissants and cinnamon rolls.  I'm eager to go back and try some other varieties, especially the sausage and gravy.

Kolache Factory Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 9, 2013

Patchwork Edible coming to SOCO

by Jeff L.

I recently attended a media preview for the Patchwork Edible show that is coming to SOCO in Costa Mesa on October 5th and 6th. Here is the official statement about the show.

Orange County's Culinary Capital is hosting for the first-time ever the Patchwork Edible Edition for two days, Saturday, October 5 from 11 a.m.-8:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 6 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The two-day event will showcase the flourishing artisan food movement in SoCal through an interactive weekend filled with baking programs, food trucks, restaurant pop-ups, book signings, beer and wine gardens, samples and more! Come experience the latest offerings from some of the leading voices in the Southern California food movement including Evan Kleiman, Aida Mollenkamp, Russ Parsons, Gustavo Arellano, Bill Esparza, Christoper (CJ) Jacobsen, Dean Kim, Ernest Miller, and Laura Avery, and dozens of chefs, ranchers, farmers, bloggers and authors from across the region.

The Kombuchadog was very intriguing. It is a fermented tea loaded with anti-oxidants, detoxifying acids and probiotics which is really good for digestion. At first it was just bitter, but then it grew on you. They had raspberry and ginger. Definitely raspberry was my favorite. The ginger was made from fresh pressed Peruvian ginger. The alcohol content was slight at 0.7% so as their literature says ”the government does not allow us to say it is good for you”. The labels have pictures of dogs which actually depict real dogs that are in need to rescue. Very refreshing drink with a great story behind it.

For the OC Mixes Cheese Shop there was only a sampling of their very extensive cheese and bread selection. All the food was good but the bread (see center in pic- 4 bread)stood out the most – very light and fluffy yet substantive. Also, the red pepper jam paired nicely with the bread, cheese and meats. The Japanese Ginger had a wonderful spicy kick to it.

Almond Milk definitely has gained popularity and this was the right combination of milk with a slight almond taste, not to overpowering like many. It’s handmade from organic, raw and non-GMO ingredients. It’s also soy and gluten free. It was very smooth, rich and overall tasty. At the event there were samples of the Honey, Cacao and the pure milk. My favorite was just the pure one that was made of organic almonds and pink Himalayan sea salt.

I almost walked by and didn’t stop at the Preservation Society because there was just an array of jars. I started talking with Ernest Miller, the master chef, and was duly impressed. He was very knowledgable about food preservation and their seasonal approach to making jars just makes sense - there is such a variety of differences depending on the time of year. Products we discussed were relishes, preserves, pickles and marmalades. Plus, he was working on a sauerkraut made of red cabbage that turned out excellent.

There was an wide array of bread sample by Bread Artisan Bread and they all were consistently fresh, crunchy outside and chewy inside. Very much like good quality bread you would find in Europe. Onotria was a hidden gem that I will definitely need to seek out to dine in the future. The owner was there making two kinds of mozzarella cheese from scratch, burrata and regular. We had a fascinating conversation about cheese and how different it is in Italy vs America. Both cheeses you had to work and play with in your mouth, chewing slowly to really appreciate the work that went into making them as he demonstrated. The burrata was served on passion fruit and more subtle to the palette where the regular mozzarella was just there waiting to be chewed, savored and appreciated.

The YES Bar caught my attention because Abigail was so passionate about what she did and I had to try these. So, these tasty little morsels are free of dairy, gluten, and soy. I tried the coffee cayenne and macadamia chocolate chip. Both were chewy and crunchy at once with bursting flavors. Definitely worth a try for anyone with food allergies.

Taco Maria served up some seriously good corn and the home made chips were enough to get me to come back and try the restaurant. The chips were fried to perfection and heavy, I had no fear of them breaking when scooping up large gobs of guacamole that they served. They just opened a full sit down restaurant there at the Soco mart area.

Greenleaf Gourmet chopshop served up delightful morsels of flavor and the peaches with cream hit the spot.

Front Porch Pops showcased some new items venturing into pies and pretzel bites. The pretzel came with several kinds of dipping sauces, all worth trying. My favorite from their table though was the cutely packaged up pie cubes – yummy and easy to eat.

For more info, go to:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Z'Tejas - South Coast Plaza - Hatch Chile-Fest 2013

South Coast Plaza
Costa Mesa
(714) 979-7469

To celebrate the annual Hatch Chile-Fest in New Mexico, Z'Tejas in South Coast Plaza is having their own version of Chile-Fest with a special, very limited-time menu that features all sorts of dishes with Hatch chiles. The special Chile-Fest menu runs from September 3rd to September 16th, 2013. $1 from each entree sold off of the special menu will benefit the Blind Children's Learning Center. The menu selection includes items from every category from cocktails, to appetizers, to entrees and desserts. I was luck enough to be invited down to sample some of the special chile items.

I started my night off with the Smokin' Margarita ($8.50) cocktail. I am a huge fan of margaritas, and I really love spicy stuff, so I thought this drink would be perfect. The drink is made with Herradura Anejo tequila, DeKuyper Peach, GRand Marnier, fresh lemon juice and what they call a "special kick." Well this "special kick" really was a "KICK!" The drink has a very potent, spicy sting that leaves your lips a little numb.

Next us was the appetizer of Fried Hatch Chiles and Onions ($6.95). Thin strips of Hatch chiles and onions were battered and fried to a crispy, golden-brown. The strings were served with a side of ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. I really enjoyed this dish, but really wished that there were more Hatch chiles. The dish consisted of about 80%-90% onions, and only a few strips of chile here and there.

Next up were the entrees. V ordered the Adobo Steak Relleno ($13.95) and I went for the Herb Chile Glazed Mahi Mahi ($16.95). V's Steak Relleno consisted of roasted Hatch chiles stuffed with seared beef tenderloin, jack cheese and caramelized onions. They were topped with a chipotle corn relish and server with Hatch chile rice and spicy red beans. V and I both agreed that this dish was very good, but we both wished it had more steak, as there were only around four tiny cubes of steak in the entire dish.

The Herb Chile Glazed Mahi Mahi was served with roasted vegetables, spicy red beans, Hatch chile rice and some small corn tortillas, so you could make your own fish tacos. This was also good, but I felt that it could have used more Hatch chiles. The plate was also served with a cool, creamy slaw that V enjoyed very much.

To finish off the night, we had a Hatch Chile Coconut Flan ($5.95). This cool and creamy dessert was absolutely perfect and my favorite dish of the night. The sweet custard flan was spiked with a nice punch of chile pepper that you could feel in the back of your throat. The more I ate of it, the more I liked it. It may sound a little weird to have chile peppers in your dessert, but trust me, it works.

This special menu only lasts for less than two weeks, so get it while you can. This does seem to be an annual even t for Z'Tejas though, so if you miss it this year, make sure to mark your calendar for next time!

Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alegria Fresh - Organic Produce Delivery in Orange County

A new organic produce delivery service launched recently in Orange County. Currently, delivery is only available to Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar and Dana Point. Irvine will be available soon and more cities will follow as they grow. An organic produce box that weighs over 12 lbs. can be delivered to your front door for $35. Alegria Fresh's new veggie box is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. These vegetables are harvested within 24 hours of delivery from Orange County's best local certified organic farms, operated by Orange County Produce and Alegria Fresh. Orders can be customized and are available either as a subscription or a one-time order.

For more info, or to order, visit