On Sunday night Orange County’s finest restaurants, chefs and food lovers gathered together for the first annual
Golden Foodie Awards.
This red carpet event, held at the Fairmont Newport Beach Hotel was full of glitz, glamour and gorgeous gourmets.
Finally a “peoples choice” award ceremony to honor the incredible food scene that Orange County has to offer!
August began a four week “Golden Dine Out” giving locals a chance to scope out the nominees and place their votes.
The evening kicked off with unique cocktails provided by Patron, wines by Kendall Jackson and La Crema and beer by Ritual Brewery.
Along with cocktails came my favorite type of eating… tapas. I love when the only decision I have to make is whether or not to go back for seconds after I’ve tasted everything once.
Small plates were gorgeously displayed everywhere you turned and the food was incredible.
Well, of course the food was incredible, I mean, it’s the foodie awards. If you serve bad food here you may as well hang your head in shame and close your doors.
Hosted by comedian Frances Dilorinzo, who kept things moving and encouraged and made fun of all the right people at all the right times, the show was entertaining and inspiring.
The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar stands out as the big winner of the night. Chef Yvon Goetz was voted the highest honor of Golden Chef and the restaurant also won for Best Wine List.
French 75 won for Best Mixology and Best French.
Best Happy Hour is found at Brasserie Pascal
The Ranch Restaurant and Saloon were voted as Best Steak
Best Burger (in the age of burger joints) goes to Crow Burger
Best Mediterranean went to Lucca Cafe, who was also up for Best Italian
Herbivores and carnivores alike are running to 118 Degrees for the Best Vegetarian Restaurant.
Best Indian winner is Tamarind of London, whose original London location were just awarded another Michelin star
The Best Seafood in OC can be found at Bluewater Grill.
The Double Chocolate Bread Pudding at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen is OC’s most delicious dessert.
The Best Food Truck went to the flabbergasted Lime Truck.
Best OC Food Blog goes to the lovely Nancy Luna for Fast Food Maven.
The Next Golden Chef, Francis Laureano made me laugh and nearly cry as he joked about the urge to update his facebook status and then gave a heartfelt thank you to his mom.
The Golden Pastry Chef Award went to Chef Rachel Klemek of Blackmarket Bakery who won me over with the mentioning of both butter and sugar (our two mutual loves) in her acceptance speech.
All in all it was a fantastic and impressive award show and I look forward to attending next year’s Golden Foodie Awards.
In the meantime, I’ll be slowly working my way through the list of winners and nominees until I can be sure I haven’t missed a single one.
I can get behind a tagline like Dessert Your Guilt any day.
A tagline like that coming from a soft serve place? Now you’ve really got my attention.
Tasti D-Lite takes pride in it’s health factor.
No, it’s not frozen yogurt as it lacks the yogurt cultures (although they do offer a tart yogurt blend)
and there isn’t enough milk fat to actually call it ice cream.
That leaves us with the title of frozen dessert, which I must say is a bit vague.
Think ice cream made with skim milk… only creamy and delicious.
Tasti D-Lite is made with natural ingredients.
There are no artificial sweeteners.
They range from 70-100 calories for a 4 ounce serving,
and there are over 100 flavors (most of which are gluten free) to choose from.
You see, these stats are all wonderful but what it comes down to is the flavor.
Yeah, yeah, it’s the healthiest dessert, blah blah…. but does it taste good?
Yes it does!
I was originally going to photograph a chocolate one… but I forgot to take pictures before I ate the whole thing.
They offer 6 different flavors on tap daily (and yes, you can sample them) and the rest of the combinations are mixed to order.
Tasti D-Lite has been around since the late 80′s,
is huge on the East Coast and has made several debuts on shows like Sex and the City.
This is their first California store and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them soon.
Even the pickiest palate is sure to like it.
After all, there are over 100 flavors and tons of toppings so you can create just about anything.
It’s sure to be a family favorite.
I loved the marshmallow which is really their equivalent to sweet cream.
If you’re looking for something more, you can order a custom blended quart to take home or you can try their other desserts from the freezer section.
I’m sold… head over there and let me know what you think.
I hope you’re hungry when you head to Prime Cut for their Prix Fixe dinner.
Don’t let the $20 price tag fool you… this is a lot of food.
It’s an absolute steal, really. Some of the entree options are $19 on the dinner menu and they don’t skimp on the servings in the least.
Prime Cut is a gem in a slightly odd center that seems to be pulling out of a struggling economy. Located next to a movie theatre this would be a great way to finish off a nice date night.
Make this a destination and enjoy good food for an even better price in an atmosphere that far surpasses it’s price tag.
Everything but the buns are made in house, from scratch and that in itself exceeded my expectations. They grind their hamburger meat and cook up fresh high grade tuna for their tuna salad.
I loved the Shortrib Pasta which is as rich and delicious as it sounds.
Prime Cut is also a Wine Bar and they carry an impressive menu with something for every dish and every taste.
The chicken was moist and flavorful and I was impressed that they note it will take 25 minutes after ordering to produce this dish. We loved that we found fresh herbs tucked deep inside the meat.
B really liked the Green Flash West Coast IPA and found out its brewed in San Diego. In fact, when we asked about the beer the server asked her manager to stop by and talk to us about it. When he did, he brought a print out about the company for us to take with us. I really appreciate that kind of effort and we were excited to know more about the company.
Although there were a number of delicious looking desserts I was craving something simple and comforting. I’m actually a bit picky about my chocolate chip cookies.
These are really fantastic. Warm and gooey, chocolatey and chewy in the middle, served with nice cold milk. Whats not to love, right?
These were incredible and I couldn’t even finish them, I was so full from dinner.
Don’t miss out on this deal. I’m amazed they can offer all this food, that they obviously worked so hard to create, for a mere $20!
In gorgeous Orange County we’re lucky enough to have fantastic weather virtually year round. As a result, when it comes to the changing of the seasons I’ve found that the most exciting aspect is the changing of fresh food available to us. Farmers markets, our CSA box and select restaurants start presenting new produce at the peak of their flavor.
Seasons 52 takes advantage of this and rolls out a new menu on the first day of every new season. These new dishes are added to an existing menu that gets slightly tweaked to suit spring.
You really can’t go wrong with artichoke and goat cheese flatbread or the ripe plum tomato flatbread.
Perhaps my favorite appetizer was the Artichoke Stuffed Artichoke.
On each artichoke leaf you’ll find a mixture of artichoke hearts all placed around a pile of organic arugula, parmesan and a balsamic glaze. They’re easy to eat and absolutely delicious.
Each dish we tried was paired with wine perfect selected by their master sommelier…. and believe me, it was a lot of food and a lot of wine. Of course, that’s not a complaint, just a statement.
This salad of arugula, tomato and haas avocado was so simple and so incredible.
Haas avocados are used because they have more fat than other varieties and the result is a creamier avocado. I could eat one by itself but mixed in this salad is even better.
Seasons 52 prides themselves on healthier food for healthier living.
The result is an incredible amount of organic products and an entire menu of items that are all 475 calories or less.
Oh and we can’t forget about the wine list of over 100 wines. I’m pretty sure that wine must be included in healthy living.
Pictured above is not salmon but Columbia River Steelhead Trout with spring vegetables, basmati rice with a lemongrass sauce. If you’ve never had steelhead trout I suggest you try it immediately.
Although I’m not usually one to order lamb over other dishes I have to say it would be hard for me to go back to Seasons 52 and not order this dish. Lamb T-bone Chops with asparagus, truffled mashed potatoes and a red wine glaze were the smallest t-bones I’ve ever seen. I almost gnawed on the bone but you know, I was trying to be all respectable in front of the other people at the event.
I won’t make that mistake again.
At the end we tried their Mini Indulgence Desserts which is such a fantastic idea I wish everyone would have them.
I can never decide what dessert to pick and this means that I don’t have to.
Key lime, Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse, Carrot Cake, German Chocolate with Raspberry, New York Cheesecake, Seasonal Fruit, Mocha Macchiato, Pecan Pie and Meyer Lemon and I tasted nearly all of them.
I can’t say that I have a favorite but I’m willing to go back and try them repeatedly until I decide.
At 25 years old, Jason Quinn has quite a name for himself.
What started as a fantastic food truck (The Lime Truck) grew to this even more incredible restaurant. The Playground is definitely fun but it’s also very food-focused and chef-based.
You can tell from the servers to the chefs that this restaurant, with it’s high quality ingredients and craft beers, is all a labor of love.
I love that a 3% gratuity is automatically included for the kitchen, they deserve it.
Anyway, a friend of ours who is a big follower of The Lime Truck and subsequently The Playground decided to have her birthday here for their Sunday Supper.
14 of us gathered round as Jason gave Courtney the run-down of our menu for the night.
I cannot emphasize enough how awesome I think Sunday Supper is.
There is no set menu, or any menu for that matter. Instead you create your own menu with the chef as you discuss the fresh ingredients they have for the night. I found that they had nearly all the dishes from the Saturday night menu for a fraction of the price.
Sunday Supper is only $30 per person!
Reservations are mandatory, only one taken each 12 minutes so be sure to call ahead.
The dishes were served family style, (3 of each for our table of 14) and we had one of my favorite dishes of the night, Crispy Broccolini with Calabrian Chile Vinaigrette.
I loved the Braised Red Cabbage and am totally sold on those chunks of goat cheese on top, they melted into the cabbage and added the perfect tartness to the sweet cabbage.
The Honey Roasted Scarlet Turnips disappeared like candy and the Hand Picked County Line Salad with Beautiful Beets was the perfect classic salad.
The mashed potatoes and olive bread are perfect comfort food.
The Roasted Corn is served with Fresh Bay Leaf Butter and for the first time ever, I was able to understand what bay leaf really tastes like as a highlighted flavor instead of something just added to already flavorful dishes.
We finished off the sides with Hand Picked County Line Rainbow Chard and seriously, when did vegetable side dishes become such a highlight. The way they were getting devoured you would have thought they were the focus of the dinner.
If you had to ask what the favorite main dish was I am positive that an argument would have broken out.
Dish after amazing dish came out and just when you thought things couldn’t get any better… well they did.
This is positively the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It’s New Orleans-style which I was unfamiliar with. Dredged in Wondra and black pepper with hints of cayenne and cinnamon, fried and then tossed in a mixture of honey, red wine vinegar and Louisiana hot sauce, I’m salivating as I think about it.
Oh and the pork chop. It’s huge, juicy and perfectly cooked. Maple-glazed and did I mention perfectly cooked? You won’t find a well done pork chop here. In fact, you won’t find a well done anything here… it says so on the wall.
This was B’s favorite of the night and he admitted that he’d order this over steak which is quite shocking really.
Did someone say steak?
How about a 32 oz Prime Grade Ribeye with Bluefoot Mushrooms? How about 3 for the table?
Yes Please! These beauties were selling for, well for a lot of money the night before, and we were lucky they had some leftover. Perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. So.much.meat.
Their desserts are simple and sweet.
We had the Sumo Tangerine with Olive Oil and Maldon Salt (which I’ve been eating versions of ever since) as well as the super egg-y Salted Bread Pudding.
After dinner, we took a peak into the kitchen and someone in our party, who happens to be a regular, ended up walking out with a bag of their Compressed Yellow Watermelon. I really liked it but I’ll admit that I’ve never had yellow watermelon so I don’t have any basis of comparison.
The Playground was everything I had hoped it would be, the staff exceeded expectations and I suggest you head there just as soon as you can. Try the Sunday Supper if you can, it’s such a fantastic deal it’s hard to pass up.
The mother of all restaurant weeks, and there do seem to be quite a few these days, is just days away.
Sunday kicks off your chance to sample fantastic and cheap menus from 100 of Orange County’s restaurants.
From fancy fine-dining to casual cafe’s, you’ll find multi-course lunches for $10, $15 or $20 and multi-course dinners for $20, $30 or $40.
The chef’s have been working hard at creating menu’s that reflect their style and show what their restaurant has to offer. It’s a great opportunity to make your rounds and try out some of those restaurants you keep hearing about. The prices make all restaurants so accessible you just can’t miss this opportunity to try them!
Check out the Restaurant Week website for participating restaurants with links to the menus they will be hosting.
If you’re not sure where to go you can also find participating restaurants in your area with this incredibly awesome interactive map.
It’s cheap, there are restaurants all over the county and plenty of menus to suit every taste. There just isn’t any reason not to partake in the joy that is restaurant week.
Just remember that it only runs from Sunday, February 26th to Saturday, March 3rd so start planning your culinary adventures now!
Lucca redefines bar food with their new Bar Snacks menu.
Running from 4 pm to 6 pm you’ll have the opportunity to taste a variety of fantastic dishes. The size (and price) is right and the menu has something for everyone.
They have an impressive wine and beer list and the restaurant itself is worth walking through just to take it all in.
We devoured the fresh burata cheese with basil pesto and oven-roasted tomatoes. Soft, flavorful, heavenly.
The grilled artichoke has a great balsamic aioli and I loved the clams.
Pan-fried with sherry, pancetta, garlic and scallions, be sure to get some bread to soak up all that lovely juice.
Bresaola (salt-cured beef) hand rolls with poached pears, baby arugula, parmesan, balsamic and a lemon creme fraiche. So incredibly delicious.
Don’t forget the roasted butternut squash bites with the bacon nutmeg aioli. Mmmm hmmm I said bacon aioli and you’ll be shocked at how much bacon flavor comes through.
If you’re feeling like some more traditional bar food you can always order the Angus beef try tip sliders and the shoe string sweet potato fries. Beware that the brava dipping sauce for the fries has some serious kick!
Hopefully while you’re in Lucca you’ll get the chance to meet Chef Cathy. Talk about some serious kick, she’s full of energy and passion and presence.
Sand dab bites with tartar sauce and fennel slaw for fish lovers and pork belly for…. well anyone in their right mind. You cannot go into Lucca without ordering this dish.
They cure their pork belly in house, braise it and top it with dried apricot chutney. It sits on a bed of corn kernel- marscarpone polenta. The pork belly is melt in your mouth delicious and the polenta creamy and perfect.
I’m actually salivating thinking about it.
I had to pause at the first bite of the seared ahi. Green apples, scallions, fennel, kalamata olives and what really threw me off, the vanilla bean aioli. I wasn’t sure how I felt at first. It was good, definitely unique and I just kept taking more and more bites so I could figure out the flavors. I’d order it again, I mean, how often do you get a dish that makes you really think about the layers of flavors?
Wild Salmon Crudo with a horseradish cream is definitely another winner with perfectly made potato chips.
Last, but definitely not least, is the Blue Cheese Tartlett with cippoline onions in agrodolce and a port wine reduction. I had this with a sparkling moscato and it was perfection.
Plates range from $2.50 to $7.50 and allow you to try just about everything, which is really my favorite way to eat.
Lucca will also be participating in the upcoming OC Restaurant Week, so be sure to check out their menu.
Two unique Bruxie gourmet waffle sandwhiches face off this weekend but only one will win. Which one will you chose?
Craft beers, boutique wines and good food make their way to Lake Forest.
Not quite fine dining but definitely steps above casual dining, Bru is an interesting concept with a unique feel.
I’ll be honest, I typically don’t go to restaurants in at least the first 3 months. I like to give them time to iron out the kinks which can take months for even the most experienced staff.
Although Bru has only been open 7 weeks we decided to try it with a friend who was in town for the weekend. I’d already dragged my baby to LA and back that day, so I wanted to go somewhere close to home.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how busy it would be. Lake Forest has few restaurants that surpass the casual-dining chains style, service and menu and I wondered how the residents would react.
The place was packed! You enter into the market part, where they sell, beer, rootbeer, wine, cookbooks and some questionable looking tea.
To the right is the bar area with both small tables and big, long bar tables for community seating. Their appears to be both outside seating and a sizeable dining room.
Our only major complaint was that the beer menu is actually written on a chalkboard wall in the dining room. B & his friend actually had to get up and walk over to find out what kind of beers were available. We found out later that they plan on starting daily printed beer menus the following week to alleviate that problem.
We started off with the housemade charcuterie plate called Something Cured.
Honestly, it was all really good. When dropped no one explained what everything was we didn’t know until we asked him after most of it had been eaten. We were able to figure some out by ourselves. The proscuitto, the different types of salami (duck, truffle and venison), a type of ham, all with olives, candied pecans and marmalade.
When we did get the chance to ask, the server was very knowledgeable. I think that as they gain experience the servers and foodrunners will adjust and things like this won’t get overlooked.
We also had The Veg (I think that is what they were called) which had zucchini, pickles and green beans. The spicy Ajisimo Agavanaga (a type of hot sauce) sauce was delicious, the spice was perfect with the fried veggies.
It was a cold and rainy day and we were craving comfort so I decided to go with the short ribs.
The boneless short ribs were fantastic, melt in your mouth with wilted greens and savory bread pudding. The bread pudding was a nice change from potatoes or other puree.
I did notice that there was a little girl eating a dish that was obviously made for children although we were never offered a child’s menu. At 14 months Peanut is at that weird in-between stage where he could or could not be ready for a children’s menu. Normally I don’t order off of it as Peanut tends to eat off our plates and I always bring food for him, just in case. I will say that since we were eating such rich dishes I may have ordered something simple for him to eat had I been given the chance.
I won’t fault them for it because he is so young. I suppose most kids his age aren’t ready for the kid’s menu. They should, however, get used to offering it to anyone with a child in a highchair.
B had the lamb shank and at first glance he felt that the portion was too small for the price.
He did think the dish had great flavor and he would order it again. It came with sautéed greens (I have no idea what kind) and a white bean cassoulet.
Peanut had a bite as well and I know he would’ve eaten much more but I didn’t want to give him too much rich food. While we waited for dessert Peanut started to get restless so I turned him around to watch the kitchen in action. Pure entertainment.
Chef Joseph came over to say a hello and Peanut was an instant fan. I thought it was awfully nice of the chef to periodically turn around and entertain our baby while he was in the middle of expediting.
We had the Tahitian Vanilla ice cream, creamy with lots of vanilla bean flavor.
Matt, who we later found out was the owner, also stopped by the table to say hello and ask how our experience at Bru was going.
Our friend gave him some input and I have to say that he was fantastic about the feedback. It was nice to see him making the rounds and talking to patrons.
We couldn’t possible skip dessert, it’s just not in me.
I had the donut pops. I’m going to say me because really I ate the whole thing myself. Pops in general are funny to me because really people love anything on a stick. Now we just put a stick in everything, even if it doesn’t come out standing up.
Vanilla, chocolate and something with a cinnamon sugar coating… all of which were moist and delicious and I’m craving them right now. There were three dipping sauces, chocolate, creme anglais and the wild card, grape.
I obviously liked all of it because I finished everything on the plate, including the cotton candy it came on.
Although there were a few minor glitches I admire how well they are doing in just 7 weeks.
We enjoyed the food, the service was good and you definitely got the feeling that everyone genuinely cared about the restaurant, the food and most importantly, you. We’ll be back.
Bru Grill & Market
23730 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, CA 949-305-5757
During the day you’ll find Rooster Cafe providing a simple breakfast and lunch menu.
By night, Tuesday-Sunday you find something completely different.
These nights Rooster PM sweeps in, transforming the place into something completely different.
A separate restaurant rents out the space and offers a fantastic menu that changes weekly.
I came in and was greeted by Rob the owner along with partners, Frank and Maria who were incredibly warm and obviously passionate about Rooster PM and it’s food.
Rooster PM runs a tapas-style menu, all of which is $12 or under, along with a unique beer and wine list.
The place is small, like really small, with maybe 6 or 7 tables.
The small space combined with the warm service really gives you an experience you don’t find often in OC.