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Monday, July 21, 2014

FIG & OLIVE highlights Southern California’s seasons in Newport Beach, CA

Laurent Halasz grew up in Mougins, in the South of France. Mougins is also known for the annual event called “Les Étoiles de Mougins”, an international gastronomical gathering of the world’s leading chefs. Together with his mother, Francine, the “Cuisine of the Sun” inspired them to create the foundation of FIG & OLIVE. Executive Chef Pascal Lorange continues the philosophy to create inspirational dishes combining Southern California’s freshest seasonal foods and the cuisine from the Riviera and Coastal regions of the South of France, Italy, and Spain. Olive oils are integral part of the dishes at FIG & OLIVE, using in place of butter. The cuisine also inspired the elegant coastal décor of limestone stucco walls, terra-cotta ceiling, green rosemary, olive trees, and a wall of illuminated bottles of olive oil next to the open kitchen.

Burrata, Tomato, Herbs, Balsamic Crostini has beautiful, sweet, juicy tomato paired well with creamy burrata. The herby balsamic on the toast adds a refreshing flavor to the combination. Thumbs up, way up!

Fig & Olive on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rance’s Chicago Pizza feeds your craving in Costa Mesa, CA

The idea started years ago when Rance Ruiz visited his older sister in Chicago, IL and fell in love with the Chicago stuffed pizza. Stuffed pizza is a thin layer of house-made dough pressed into a 2-inch deep-dish pan. The pie is filled with cheeses and ingredients and topped with a thin layer of dough. It is covered with sauce and baked until golden brown and the fillings are bubbling hot. At the age of 18, Rance made his first pie in his parents’ kitchen. In September 2013, Chef Rance began sharing his beautifully crafted Chicago-style pizzas with Orange County with the opening of Rance’s Chicago Pizza. This is a scratch kitchen, meaning that all items from the sauces to dressings to dough are all made from scratch.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip is jalapenos, bacon, and spices blended together with savory cheeses. The jalapeno adds a refreshing zing, not too spicy, to the creamy, gooey cheese. The artichoke flavor is really great but, sadly, the spinach flavor disappeared. The green spinach adds a nice color contrast. I love the bacon, adding a salty, smoky flavor to the mix. Thumbs up!

Rance's Chicago Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eureka! opens 12th location in Huntington Beach, CA

In March 2014, Orange County foodies discovered American Craft food and drinks when Eureka! opened its doors at the Bella Terra in sunny Huntington Beach, CA. Eureka! opened its first location in Redlands, CA in 2009 and has expanded to a dozen restaurants in 5 years. Their motto is EATertainment with focus on elevated, all-American comfort food. The one special thing about the Huntington Beach location is the selection of craft beer on tap and small-batch whiskey, the largest selection among the 12 locations. The interior reminds me of a wharf or cannery row restaurant, lots of wood from the walls to the tables. With Huntington Beach being so close to the ocean, you almost feel as if a seagull or two will be walking around to beg for food. Since Eureka! is built into the residence buildings inside the Bella Terra, residents can also pick up food to-go along with provisions from wine to beer to whiskey. I also found that one of my favorite whiskeys, Breaker Bourbon from Ascendant Spirits, is also featured at the bar.  

Eureka! Truffle Fries are a “generous portion of signature hand-cut fries, tossed in creamy havarti truffle sauce and garnished with fresh green onions.” There is a nice truffle flavor, not too light and not too strong. The skin-on fries are crispy. The harvarti is creamy and melty. It actually reminds me of poutine. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see slideshow, please visit: http://www.examiner.com/review/eureka-opens-12th-location-huntington-beach-ca

Eureka! on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Road Trip: High Desert Music Festival & BBQ Showdown in Victorville, CA

On Saturday, June 28, 2014, we took a leisurely drive from Orange County along the familiar route we take when heading out to Las Vegas. Victorville is located north of the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. It is High Desert Country, situated in the Southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert with high temperatures to boast.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the High Desert EventCenter (formerly known as Victorville Fairgrounds), temperatures soared close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We decided to wait in the air conditioned car until the gates opened for the High Desert Music Festival & BBQ Showdown and until the line of music and BBQ fans died down in the high noon sunshine. Once we opened the car doors, the aroma of smoked barbeque meat permeated the air. As we entered the BBQ Village, you could see all of the Teams working their magic as the Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned competition was well underway. Teams had timetables to turn in their chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. Unfortunately, nothing would be served to the public until after 2pm so that the teams could concentrate completely on their entries. There were a few outside vendors that were selling food which was a good thing.

Heavenly Delights with their tagline “What all cobblers want to be when they grow up” gave out samples of their pipin’ hot cobblers. We sampled the Peach Delight with Pecans. It was definitely pipin’ hot and right out of the oven. The peaches were baked perfectly so they were not too mushy and held a familiar peach texture so you knew what kind of fruit was being used. It had just the right amount of sweetness. The pecans added a crunchy texture to the mix. I can imagine that it tasted really good with a scoop vanilla ice cream on top. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

31st Annual California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard, CA was “berry” sweet

On May 17, 2014, the California Strawberry Festival opened the gates to strawberry fans from across the land. As you enter, you are welcomed by the sweet aroma of strawberries freshly picked from the local farms in Oxnard. The beautiful red berries glistened as the sun rose high above Strawberry Meadows of College Park.

In the opening hours of the festival is the best time to stroll around and plan what to eat, what to buy, and what to see. Rose Avenue was lined with vendors offering everything from clothing to décor to artwork to food products. Local community groups and food vendors were advertising their strawberry spirit with concoctions like strawberry wine, strawberry beer, strawberry pizza, strawberry nachos, strawberry shortcake, and our favorite, strawberry smoothies. Not too sweet, not too tart, and ice cold to challenge the beginning of a very hot day.