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Monday, February 1, 2016

Ocean views and blazing hot pizza in Carlsbad, California

An extended holiday weekend is the best time to plan a trip to San Diego, especially if you live in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. It’s far enough away where you feel like you’re on holiday and the drive has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean for most of the way. The holiday traffic is also much lighter on a Friday night versus the stop and go (but mostly stop) traffic to Las Vegas. From North Orange County, you may catch a little traffic on the “Y” where the 5 and 405 freeways meet. After that, it’s pretty much smooth sailing until you reach your destination in San Diego County.

Carlsbad, California is a great place to stay with its abundance of hotels, timeshares, shopping, and restaurants. It’s a great base camp city with easy on and off access to the 5 freeway and amusement parks within 30 minutes east and south. Carlsbad Seapointe Resort is an excellent choice to stay with its ocean views and is so close to the beach you can hear the waves crashing on the sand. The rooms can be booked like hotel rooms or reserved with timeshare points if you are Grand Pacific Resorts and Hilton Grand Vacation Club members.

One Bedroom Villa can accommodate three to four people with a king or queen bed in the master bedroom and a queen sofa sleeper in the living room. Timeshares are a home away from home with kitchen, dining area, living room, and spacious bathroom. Kitchens come with full size refrigerator, oven and range, dishwasher, coffee maker, and are fully stocked with tableware, silverware, pots, pans, utensils, etc. for homemade meals and in-room dining. Compared to other timeshares, the appliances need a little updating, but a villa with an ocean view from the private patio may help you overlook that. The living room has a gas fireplace for the cool evenings by the ocean. Nothing makes you feel more like you’re at a resort when you see the towel animals. A sea turtle towel animal was patiently waiting on the bed. The master bedroom is a little small. The door from the bathroom to the bedroom could not be opened all of the way due bed. Luckily, the bathroom had two doors so the hallway doorway became the only useful entrance.

After settling in, you might be a little hungry. Fortunately, Carlsbad has a ton of restaurant choices from fast food to fine dining. On the other side of the 5 freeway, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets has a wide variety of food options as well. Blaze Pizza has been in this center since December 2013 and has been making build-your-own-pizzas and developing hard-working young adults from the Carlsbad community. These high school and college students are the friendliest, helpful, and team-playing workers you’ll ever see. Ruth Bentley along with her team at AP Franchise Group, which also own Blaze Pizza locations in Irvine and Cabazon, instill the working values in these young adults which will help them immensely in their future career endeavors.

Here are two pizza combinations you might like to try:

Pizza made with white sauce, all of the cheeses, salami, bacon, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted garlic, and chopped garlic. It has Greek and Italian flavors and meld well together. It’s a great option if you have any issues with tomatoes or tomato sauce due to the acidity. All of the cheeses might make your crust a little softer than usual but it still tastes wonderful. Rating: 5/5

Meat Lovers pizza made with spicy red sauce, ham, salami, olives, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and roasted garlic. The supreme of supreme pizzas with just enough cheese and sauce peeking out. Yes, this is definitely a manly pizza – overly meaty with just enough vegetables to make mamma happy. Rating: 5/5

S’mores are a great way to end your Blaze Pizza experience. Warmed in the pizza oven until the chocolate and marshmallow starts to melt. Ooey, gooey goodness sandwiched between two McVitie’s wheatmeal biscuits. After one bite, you’ll want s’more! Rating: 4.5/5

Back at the timeshare, the night air was just right, not too hot and not too cold. With the patio door open, the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach sang an oceanic lullaby as an adventurous day is just a few hours away.

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

For more information:

5620 Paseo Del Norte

Carlsbad, CA 92008


Hours: Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

This travel article series is dedicated to the author’s step dad who passed away while the author was on this trip.

Blaze Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, January 29, 2016

Krave is the place for Korean Fried Chicken in Irvine, California

William Chen has been in the restaurant industry for years, but wanted to try his hand at his own restaurant. From conception until the day the doors finally open, the dream of a restaurant can seem like a lifetime. But sometimes, patience and hard work pays off and a mind-blowing restaurant, like Krave, is born. Krave is spelled a little different than normal. The “K” stands for Korean Fried Chicken, lovingly called “KFC”, not to be confused with “The Colonel”. Many years ago, Will’s best friend introduced him to “KFC” and became fascinated with it. After years of trying to perfect the technique, it became the main focus of Krave along with a menu of Asian infused dishes, melding the flavors of the Far East with the comforts of American cuisine.

Loaded Kogi Fries are French fries topped with sriracha cheese sauce, marinated ribeye, scallions, and jalapenos. The fries are crispy and make a great base for the toppings. The bulgogi is tender and uniquely flavored just like bulgogi should be. The silky sriracha cheese sauce seals the deal with a slight kick of heat. This is the ultimate Korean fusion comfort food! Rating: 5/5

Korean fried chicken is a different technique of frying chicken using a twice fry method similar to Belgian frites. The skin comes out crispier while the chicken is itself is less greasy. The technique also seals in juices for tender, juicy bites. The soy garlic sauce is the most flavorful of the sauce choices. It has an excellent balance of saltiness from the soy and the sweet, yet bright flavor of the garlic. Chinese chili sauce is similar to a sweet chili sauce found in most Chinese and Filipino cuisines and not overly sweet. Spicy sauce is a medium-hot level of spiciness that yields a slow burn which migrates from the tip of the tongue and down your throat. Black peppercorn sauce is a little bit on the sweeter side with a nice balance of pepper. Try them all and decide for yourself! Rating: 5/5

Bibimbap is a hot stone bowl filled with rice and topped with seasonal vegetables, marinated ribeye, and an egg yolk. This is Korea’s version of beef bowl. The bulgogi is definitely the star of this dish with its tender texture and marinated flavors. The yolk adds a richness similar to tamago meshi in Japanese cuisine. The vegetables add texture and brightness with a balance of acidic pickled flavors. Rating: 4.5/5

If you have a craving for something delicious, head over to Krave to conquer your hunger!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

  • Lunch Specials from 11:30am to 3pm Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) - $8.99 is your choice of: 8 piece wings and fries; 4 piece wings + 2 piece drumstick and fries; Bibimbap; Chicken katsu; Kogi burger with fries; or salmon avocado salad
  • Happy Hour Specials from 3pm to 6pm Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) - $3 Budweiser and Bud Light; $3 soju shots; $4 craft and import beers; $5 wines by the glass; and $6 soju cocktails

For more information:
2819 Main Street
Irvine, CA 92614

Krave Asian Fusion Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Inside look at the Top 10 sandwich competition at the World Food Championships

With luggage packed, it was time to head out to Celebration for the Top 10 Sandwich competition.
After receiving their silver platters and a short cooks’ meeting, the competitors dispersed to their stations to start cooking. The Top 10 Sandwich competition was an infused round where the competitors needed to use Happy Egg Co. eggs in their dishes. Two hours and the clock starts now!

Chef Keoni Simmons, a.k.a. Hungry Chef, starting off roasting red bell peppers and grilling pineapple for his “Almost Famous” sandwich. It is a take on a “toad in a hole” sandwich with grilled crusty white bread, pork belly, avocado butter, grilled pineapple mayo, heirloom tomatoes, arugula, and chipotle Gouda cheese. Chef Keoni scored 85.175, ranking 7th in the overall World Sandwich Championship. Congrats, Keoni! We’ll see you again next year! Check out the video in this article to see how this amazing sandwich was made.

After watching the competitors making all of these delicious sandwiches, it was time for lunch. Market Street Café in Celebration is the corner diner in town. They have counter along with booth seating. They also have patio seating with scenic views of the lake. The service is friendly even when packed with the World Food Championships crowd.

Market Street Cobb Salad ($12.99) is mixed greens topped with cheddar and jack cheese, corn, tomatoes, bacon, croutons, and blackened chicken. The salad is refreshing after being out in the humid heat. The flavors are pleasant with a southwest flavor thanks to the corn and the blackened chicken. The ranch dressing tastes like homemade. The portion size is a little small for the price – more lettuce and a larger piece of chicken would make it perfect. Rating: 4/5

Portobello Swiss Burger ($11.75) is a ½ lb. beef patty with Portobello mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and served on a sesame seed bun. This is a great burger with a hefty ½ lb. beef patty. The Portobello mushrooms add an earthy flavor which pairs well with the nutty Swiss cheese. The crinkle cut fries are also a nice surprise. Just get some of that awesome ranch for dipping! Rating: 5/5

With some extra time before heading to the airport, VIF (Very Important Foodie) Lounge was a great place to grab a nice view of the lake. The VIF Lounge was situated behind the main stage. A variety of small bites and drinks were available to snack on and quench your thirst. Alligator meatballs, savory pork cheesecake, sausage & cheese potato skins, and bacon avocado cheeseburgers were on the menu.

World Food Championships is a wonderful experience. Plan to be there later this year so you can check out the action live!

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

For more information:
Celebration, FL

Market Street Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, January 22, 2016

LA Weekly’s The Essentials food and wine extravaganza in Los Angeles, California

LA Weekly proudly presents The Essentials in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Anchored in the California Market Center, this signature food and wine extravaganza is curated by award-winning food critic Besha Rodell. It will showcase signature bites from restaurants featured in LA Weekly’s 99 Essentials restaurant issue that will hit the stands the week of February 20. Along with tasty bites, you can enjoy wine from top shelf wineries and cocktail samples.

A portion of the proceeds of the event will be donated to Food Forward. Food Forward rescues fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connects this abundance with people in need, and inspires others to do the same. This volunteer-powered, grassroots group of Southern Californians are passionate about reconnecting to our food system, promoting the issue of food justice, and making changes concerning hunger in our community. They convene in private properties, public spaces, and farmers & wholesale markets to recover excess fruits and vegetables, donating 100% to local direct-service agencies who feed our community’s most vulnerable. Along with the distribution partners, they provide food to over 100,000 people a month across Southern California.

Restaurant Line-up:

Wine Village curated by Wine Exchange:

Sponsor lineup:

Artisan Vendor Village lineup:

Tickets (Attendee must be 21+ and have a valid ID for entry):
  • General admission ticket includes: entry into the event at 6pm, unlimited food and drink samples, and access to the artisan vendor village - $65
  • VIP admission ticket includes: all of the general admission perks plus 1 hour early entry into the event and a special VIP gift bag - $100

Purchase tickets today before it sells out! You don’t want to miss your chance eat and drink the best all under one roof!

For more information:
California Market Center
110 E. 9th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90079
Date: Feb. 20, 2016 at 6 p.m. (VIP admission starts at 5 p.m.)
Parking: Underground parking garage - $9 flat rate on weekends