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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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lemonade - Fashion Island, Newport Beach

Fashion Island
Newport Beach

Lemonade, a restaurant known for serving fresh, seasonal, Southern California comfort food, opened earlier this week in Fashion Island. It is located near the Island Cinemas movie theaters. Lemonade offers a unique experience by serving gourmet food in an old-school cafeteria-like environment. You start at the beginning of a long line of tasty delights and point out what you want along the way. Items are priced individually and range from $1-$13. Items are seasonal and change eight times per year. Below are pictures of some of the items they had available during the media preview.

Of the many items I tried, I really enjoyed the snap pea and edamame salad with sesame dressing, the red miso braised shortribs and the white truffle mac and cheese. I then decided that my two favorite items I tried were the Avocado and Cherry tomato salad, and the BBQ braised brisket. The BBQ brisket had a nice spicy kick that I loved.

But then......then....I had the COCONUT CAKE!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THAT COCONUT CAKE WAS SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!! I MUST HAVE MORE NOW!!!!!!! Light fluffy layers of extremely moist coconut cake were layered with frosting that had the perfect amount of sweetness. The cake reminded me a little of a tres leches, because I think the cake was soaked or drizzled with some sweetened condensed milk. It was SO good. Did I mention it was good? I think I'm going to stop writing now so I can go get more of that cake....

Lemonade on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Burrissimo - Costa Mesa

1534 Adams Ave #D 
Costa Mesa, CA 92626 

By Guest Writer: Jeff L.

Their theme is “fresh Italian” and their selection of what you could put on your meal was impressive.  The concept behind Burrissimo is similar to Chipotle.  You basically pick your meat and veggies and they then get wrapped up in an Italian herb tortilla with some angel hair pasta and sauce.  Their selection of toppings is very extensive.

We started with the bread sticks which looked underdone and were. They were served with an interesting honey butter which, when they were consistent were good, but a little too much on the honey side and less on the butter side. The first batch was more of an applesauce consistency with the second batch being what you would expect in regard to creaminess. The bread was very light and fluffy.

We then had the pepperoni rolls which were served with 3 sauces, alfredo, pomodoro and ranch. The alfredo sauce had this orange hue so I had to doubletake, it could use a little on the flavor side but did have a little kick towards the end. Pomodoro was a simple marinara sauce.

The Tuscany sausage potato soup was really good. Seasoned perfectly and it was light yet hearty.

The Burrissimo wrap is an intriguing concept, at first I’m thinking an Italian wrap with angel hair pasta inside would be weird, but it works. I had the meatball inside which was good but by the time you put all the veggies on it the meat to total product ratio seems small. They make their meatballs from scratch which I respect. I had a smidgen of diavolo sauce because it was too hot but combined with the pomodoro sauce made for a zesty combination. 

The Zeppoles were a little on the dry side but combined with the dipping sauces it worked.

Bottom line is that if you want fresh, high quality food for a reasonable price point you should try this place.

Editor's note: Jeff was invited to try Burrissimo as part of a media event.

Burrissimo Fast Fresh Italian - Costa Mesa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fleming's "Small Plates, Big Pours" now through 6/30/2013

Fleming's in Newport Beach is currently running an awesome promotion for wine lovers through the end of June.  You can go and get a small plate of amazing food, paired with an extra-large (1.5 times their normal serving) pour of premium wine for $24.95.  Some of these wines run close to $25 a glass by themselves, so this is a great deal.  There are seven different small-plates to choose from.

shiitake risotto, chili oil, porcini butter drizzle
chimichurri dipping sauce, fennel citrus salad
pistachio-mint pesto, "F17" sauce, polenta fries
boneless, savory arugula and spinach, natural au jus
fresh vegetable salad, spicy mustard sauce
meyer lemon-honey glaze, carrots, green beans, asparagus
soy-ginger dipping sauce, arugula, jicama salad
I was invited in to try a small plate and some wine.  I chose the Lobster Tempura, V chose the Filet Mignon.  
The lobster was fantastic.  The succulent lobster tail was juicy, tender and fried perfectly crisp.  The jicama salad had a nice spicy kick to it as well.  

V really liked the filet mignon.  She loved the sauces that it came with.  She said that the risotto came in smal nuggets that were slightly pan-fried to give them a slightly crispy exterior that gave way to a creamy interior.  
Fleming's in Newport Beach will also be starting Sunday brunch near the end of this month.  I can't wait to try it!

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 14, 2013

Burrissimo Costa Mesa - GIVEAWAY!

Have you guys heard of this new Burrissimo restaurant in Costa Mesa?  They also have a new location coming soon in Brea.  Burrissimo is a fast-casual restaurant that is similar in food-prep style to Chipotle.  The difference though, is that the burritos are made with Italian ingredients!  Burritos come filled with angel hair pasta and a variety of toppings, such as pomodoro sauce, alfredo sauce, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and so much more!  Burrissimo has offered to give out PRIZES TO 11 OF MY LUCKY READERS!

Ten lucky winners will win a $10 gift card to Burrissimo

One GRAND PRIZE winner will win a Burrisimo prize pack.  The prize pack must be picked up at Burrissimo, Costa Mesa by June 27, 2013. Prize pack consists of:

  • A pair of Costa Mesa 60th Anniversary celebration concert tickets for Friday June 28 at 4:00 PM. For more info, visit the Costa Mesa 60th Anniversary Celebration website
  • $25 Burrissimo Gift Card
  • Burrissimo Logo Cap
  • Bottle of BSting Signature Hot Sauce
  • An order of free Zepoles (Italian Donuts)
By the way, if you visit the restaurant between 6/24 and 6/30, you will receive a free order of Zeppoles with a minimum $7 purchase!  To enter the contest, please use the rafflecopter form below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wahoo's Fish Taco - NEW Citrus Slaw Taco

Wahoo's Fish Taco

Wahoo's will be introducing a new menu item on Saturday 5/25 as part of the ongoing celebration of their 25th anniversary. I was lucky enough to be able to try this taco before it is officially released. The taco is basically the same as their current taco, but instead of being topped with plain cabbage, it is topped with a cabbage slaw that is marinated in a light citrus dressing. I have always been a fan of Wahoo's tacos, but this new slaw adds a whole new element of flavor. The light, tangy flavor of the slaw was a perfect complement to the taco. Add a little Mr. Lee's sauce to the taco and you have a perfect fish taco. I can't wait to see what they come up with next!

Wahoo's Fish Tacos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa - Opening Date April 12, 2013

270 E. 17th St., #18
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 887-2910

The little gourmet doughnut shop that I have been hearing so much buzz about for the past few months, is finally opening it's doors on Friday 4/12/13. Luckily for me, I was invited down to the shop a few days early to try some of their amazing doughnuts.

The doughnut shop is tucked away in a small strip mall off of 17th Street in Costa Mesa. It's kind of in the back, in an area that isn't really visible from the street. There isn't really a sign on the building either, but I'm thinking that maybe it just hasn't been installed yet. I actually drove past the place twice because I couldn't see it. Trust me though, it's there!

Sidecar will have a rotating menu of flavors. They plan to have anywhere from six to ten flavors at any given time, however, Maple Bacon, Birthday Cake and Cinnamon Crumb will likely be constant on the menu. Unfortunately, the flavors I was looking forward to trying the most, guava, passion fruit and rosemary, were not on the menu of opening flavors. They plan to keep the public updated on the current roster of flavors on Facebook (, Twitter (@sidecardoughnts not a typo, leave out the "u") and their website. The flavors I got try try were Huckleberry, Birthday Cake, Malasada, Malasada with Haupia, Raspberry & Cream, Cinnamon Crumb, Meyer Lemon Poundcake, Maple Bacon, Callebaut Chocolate and Toasted Coconut.

Of the 10 flavors I tried, the Toasted Coconut had to be my favorite. A light, fluffy doughnut, covered with a thin layer of glaze was topped with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. My second favorite was the Malasada with Haupia filling. A malasada is a Portugese-style doughnut that is often found in Hawaii. Haupia is a coconut milk based custard-like filling.

Sidecar takes great care to make sure that their doughnuts not only have visual appeal, but are made from the finest ingredients. The huckleberries they use for the Huckleberry doughnut are hand-foraged from the wild in the forests of Oregon. This seems a little extreme to me, but it was a mighty tasty doughnut. Because of the high-quality ingredients, prices at Sidecar range from $2-$4 for a single doughnut. This may seem steep when you're used to paying 60 cents to a dollar for a doughnut at your local doughnut shop, but relatively cheap when you consider what some other high-end "gourmet" desserts are going for these days.

I also have to talk about their coffee......oh the coffee..... Sidecar has brought in coffee from Oregon, roasted by Stumptown coffee. I was handed a cup of this coffee when I walked in the door. I casually took a sip, expecting this to be an average cup of Joe. What I experienced though was one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. I believe the roast I had was the Indonesia Sumatra. The coffee was rich and perfectly balanced. Drip coffee is available by the cup for $3. Coffee beans are also available by the bag to take home, but come at a premium....about $18 for a 12 oz. bag.

Overall, I think that Sidecar doughnuts is a great place to go and get yourself a quick, gourmet treat. With the prices though, it's likely I won't be stopping in every time I get a hankering for doughnuts. I do look forward to returning and trying the guava, passion fruit, rosemary and other unique flavors that they come out with. I know I'll be keeping a close eye on their Twitter feed and Facebook page to see what flavors are coming next!

FYI. Doughnuts are available from 7AM Monday-Friday and 8AM on the weekends, until they run out. They drop new doughnuts into the fryer about every 30 minutes and their last fry is currently at 12:31 PM.

Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee on Urbanspoon