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Monday, September 15, 2014

Road Trip: Oxnard Salsa Festival in Oxnard, CA

On Sunday, July 27, 2014, we took a leisurely drive up the 101 freeway from swelteringly hot Los Angeles County to what started out to be cooler and overcast Oxnard, CA. Oxnard is approximately 35 miles west of Los Angeles. The city loves festivals, the Oxnard Salsa Festival (in July), California Strawberry Festival (in May) and the California Beer Festival (which starts next weekend). Oxnard is the agricultural center for strawberries and lima beans and a major transportation hub with many rail and bus lines stopping here. Due to the diversified landscape in Oxnard, there is a hometown, on the farm, and beach city feel all coupled into one.

Our commute was quicker than expected so we decided to park and eat breakfast near Plaza Park. Free parking in downtown Oxnard was definitely a plus. We walked to BG’s Café for breakfast. It’s a family-owned, hole in the wall restaurant. What caught my eye was the shoyu on the table. Historically, there were a lot of Japanese immigrants who settled here decades ago and began the strawberry agriculture that exists today. One of my friend’s families is one of them. BG’s Cafe had me at Bacon Pancakes. They were so good! This carb-laden breakfast helped coat my stomach for the salsa judging to be had shortly. If I’m in the area again, I will definitely stop by for breakfast or lunch. Rating: 5/5 stars

It was 10:45am and time to check in for the salsa judging at the Oxnard Salsa Festival. There were 22 entries ranging from mild to hot in different styles like all tomato, tomatillo, and add-ins like mango and nopales (cactus). The process took two hours as we judged each salsa in regards to appearance, flavor, and the submission heat category (mild, medium, and hot). As the submissions were weeded down, some had to be tasted multiple times to choose a winner for each category. And the winners were: 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Passion XO Sun is perfect for SoCal’s over-extended summer days + “Fun in the Sun” Spritzer recipe

Birkedal Hartmann Group has been known for their cognac since 1887 in France. Since 1980, Kim Birkedal Hartmann, who is a descendant of the Norwegian side of the family, has been the CEO with a driving passion for the perfect cognac. In 2011, the BH Group started to push the boundaries of innovative spirits with Passion XO, The Fat Trout Whisky, Lotus Vodka, and Notorious Pink Rosé.

Passion XO Sun is a refreshing, natural passion fruit-infused liqueur blended with Birkedal Hartmann’s XO Cognac. It is versatile – served chilled on the rocks or mixed with vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whisky, bourbon, and champagne. Tasting notes: Tropical (mango, citrus) aromatics; Passion fruit and mango flavor; Tart. Rating: 4/5 stars 

Winder Farms is hand-delivered, farm to table freshness

It’s been over a year since Winder Farms started offering service to Orange County residents and they are still going strong. With so many local farms and food artisans around, it’s not difficult for them to source the best food for you and your family.

Here’s a sample of what you can order from Winder Farms:

  • Fresh, local fruits and vegetables: peppers, carrots, chicory, avocados, oranges, stone fruit, peaches, celery,  juices, pre-packaged salads, and pre-cut fruit combinations
  • Vegetarian based items like coconut milk
  • All-natural drinks like iced tea
  • Local dairy products like yogurt
  • Locally farmed meats: steaks, bacon
  • Grocery favorites: frozen entrees, pastas
  • Bakery items: fresh bread, cookies and more!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beach City Brewery is “where brew meets the beach” in Huntington Beach, CA

Surf City USA now has its first handcrafted brewery thanks to Glenn Closson. Glenn loves craft beer and has been a home-brewer for many years. He made it not only for himself but to share with family and friends. But only being able to brew 5 gallons at a time pretty much capped his production. He found out very quickly that going from a 5-gallon brew to a production size vat isn’t that easy and hired Derek Testerman from Lancaster, PA (with 2 and  a half years at Iron Hill Brewery under his belt). We had the pleasure of meeting Glenn and Derek one week before their brewery opened to the public back in April 2014. Derek was just finishing up the mash process and was transferring to the kettle. The aroma in the building was heavenly. It smelled like breakfast – oatmeal, coffee, and a little chocolaty. It was especially noticeable when the vat was open and the steam escaped. We got to try a little bit of this “Sweet Crude” as it was transferred. It tasted sweet like molasses with hints of oatmeal, coffee, and chocolate. As it goes further along in the fermentation process, the flavors will change, but it was neat to taste it at this stage.

We paid a visit recently to check out the new tasting room and try Taco Brewsday. Here’s a peek at the flight samples (choice of 4 per flight):

Beach Cruiser is their first seasonal release and a take on a traditional Berliner Weisse. This is referred to as “German Lemonade” as it is a go-to for first time beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers. It is composed of pilsner malt, pale wheat, aridulated malt, and Williamette hops. In the tasting room, raspberry, peach, and traditional woodruff syrups can be added as well. Tasting notes: Tastes like cider; light, crisp, clean, tart; definitely a snacking beer. Food pairings: fruit, sandwiches, salad, fish. Rating: 4/5 stars

Friday, September 12, 2014

Simply Quince is love of the “Golden Apple” + Brandied-Quince Buckle Recipe

Quince is an Armenian fruit that is thought by some to be the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. From the outside, it looks like a combination of an apple and a lemon. The fruit feels as solid as a baseball. When peeled, the interior is a cross between an apple, pear, and jicama. The scent is reminiscent of apples and slightly floral. Barbara Ghazarian’s love of quince started when she was a little girl. Her grandmother had quince trees in the yard and when the fruit turned golden yellow in color, a rose-like fragrance filled the air. Observing her grandmother preparing ruby-red quince preserves started Barbara on the path of "quincing" and taking over the family tradition.

Note: it requires poaching of the quince before incorporating it into each dish. Barbara includes an easy basic poaching recipe. It is best to poach the day before, allowing for cooling time and sparing you the poaching time on the day of actual preparation.

In the Sensational Sides chapter, Creamy Cauliflower-Quince Gratin caught my eye. This would be a great side dish at Thanksgiving.

  • What we liked: Breadcrumb-parmesan topping; Savory and slightly sweetness play of the quince and the cauliflower, garlic flavor; Consistency of the cream sauce base
  • Creative additions and changes: Crispy bacon adding into the topping or tossed with the cauliflower-quince mixture for crunchy texture and saltiness; Experimenting with broccoli instead of cauliflower; Adding more Asiago cheese
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

To read more and see slideshow, please visit: http://www.examiner.com/review/simply-quince-is-love-of-the-golden-apple-brandied-quince-buckle-recipe