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Monday, June 27, 2016

OC Brewhouse showcases brews from Southern California in Garden Grove, California

OC Brewhouse is located inside the Hyatt Regency Orange County a few blocks south of Disneyland at the base of its 17-story atrium lobby. It is a place to meet friends and colleagues after work or after convention sessions end for a sip of some of Southern California’s finest craft beers and creative pub grub. Their bar features the Blizzard Beer Systems so all draft beers are served at a chilly 29°F. For those of you who are non-beer drinkers, they also have a selection of creative signature drinks including house made margaritas and sangria.


Charcuterie Platter ($15) is from TusCA and includes salami, coppa, prosciutto, burrata, fontina, brie, whole grain mustard, pickles, fig jam, and honey comb. Brie and burrata pair nicely with the honey comb and fig jam. The cured meats have an earthy aroma with a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth texture. The platter pairs well with the OC Brew House Blonde. Rating: 5/5

OC Brew House Blonde by Golden Road Brewery ($6.75) is a clean and crisp blonde ale brewed especially for OC Bew House (4.8% ABV, 25 IBU). Tasting notes: Easy drinking; light, clean, and crisp; subtle hoppy flavor. It doesn’t lose any of its flavor when paired with the Charcuterie platter nor does it interfere with the hearty flavors of the meats and cheeses. Rating: 4.5/5

Blackened Skuna Bay Salmon Sandwich ($18) is topped with chipotle aioli and cole slaw atop a brioche bun and served with sweet potato fries. The salmon is succulent and tender. The blackened Cajun flavor works well with the salmon for a spicy kick without being overpowering. The brioche bun is buttery with a soft interior but is still sturdy enough to stand up to all the juices cascading from the sandwich elements. Try pairing with the Karl Straus Amber. Rating: 4.5/5

Karl Strauss Amber ($7) is made with Munich Malts and Cascade Hops with Karl Strauss’ proprietary yeast to create an exceptionally smooth Session Amber Ale (4.5 ABV, 18 IBU). Tasting notes: Heavier than most reds; Pairs well with the Blackened Skuna Bay Salmon Sandwich. It plays off of the Cajun flavor of the salmon and the sweet potato fries balances out the slight bitterness of the beer. Rating: 4.5/5

Stout Braised Brisket Sandwich ($16) is made with Belching Beaver Stout braised brisket, peppers, onions, horseradish cream, and provolone served atop a French baguette with green bean fries. If the West Coast had an official version of a cheesesteak sandwich, this would be it. The brisket is tender and has all the rich beefy flavor of braised short rib. The stout adds a rich, toasted coffee flavor to the mix. Ask for lots of napkins as this sandwich is a hot mess of deliciousness. It could probably use more bell peppers and onions to enhance the flavor contrasts. The baguette holds up well to the juicy meat and sauce. The green bean fries are amazing – crispy on the outside and sweet on the inside. Definitely pair this with the Belching Beaver Brewery’s Beaver’s Milk. Rating: 4.7/5

Belching Beaver Brewery Beaver’s Milk ($7) is a frothy and silky milk stout with strong notes of coffee (5.3% ABV, 30 IBU). Tasting notes: Herbaceous; big bites on the front and back of the palate; roasted coffee notes on the back end; pairs well with the Stout Braised Brisket Sandwich as it smooths out the flavor in the beer. Rating: 4/5

Fish & Chips ($14.50) is Hangar 24 Orange Wheat beer batter cod served with house made tartar sauce. The batter is almost hush puppy-like. It could be a tad lighter for a crispier texture. The beer infusion adds a slight sweetness to the succulent fish inside. The fries are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This pairs well with Hangar 24 Orange Wheat. Rating: 3.8/5

Hangar 24 Orange Wheat ($7) is crisp and tangy, and refreshing and uses local oranges in this wheat ale to give each drinker a fresh-off-the-grove experience (4.6% ABV, 17 IBU). Tasting notes: Fruity, citrus notes pair well with the fish. Citrus flavor permeates through the palate. This would also pair nicely with a summer salad littered with berries or other fruit. Rating: 3.8/5

OC Brewhouse is like a tap room for Southern California’s craft breweries. You’ll love this one-of-kind tasting room experience!

  • YELP Check-in Special: 10% off food. Does not apply to alcohol.

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

For more information:
OC Brewhouse
inside the Hyatt Regency Orange County
11999 Harbor Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Hours: Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Parking: Free 3-hour parking with validation

OC Brewhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, June 24, 2016

Inside look: Blaze’s BBQ at the 5th Annual Queen Mary West Coast BBQ Classic

At 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, a cool marine layer blanketed the Queen Mary in Long Beach as 44 BBQ teams, who had been working through the night, started to prepare their delicious entries for the 5th Annual Queen Mary West Coast BBQ Classic.

Blaze’s BBQ is a father/daughter team that started in 2015. Blaze Criqui and his daughter, Hailey, started like most teams – they love BBQ. Blaze has always loved to cook and BBQ for family and friends. His BBQ was so good that they told him he should enter some competitions. Hailey started showing her interest in learning how cook, BBQ, and loved a certain TV show, BBQ Pitmasters. So Blaze felt this would be a great opportunity to spend more time with Hailey and watch her grow into a full-fledged pitmaster.

Smoker: Blaze’s BBQ uses a custom-designed, custom-built smoker that Blaze and his friend (Marty’s Welding in Lancaster) created back in 2014. Blaze and Hailey have yet to name her.

Competition circuit: Last year, they have placed in the top ten in all categories in numerous competitions. They came in 11th place overall and 6th place in Pork Ribs at Santa Anita this year.

Challenges: Blaze’s BBQ faces the challenge of understanding what the judges are looking for. When the comment cards are few and far between, it is difficult to make necessary adjustments. For example, “Was it too salty?” “Was it not seasoned enough?” “Was there too much sauce?” “Was the meat not tender?” “What was wrong with the appearance?” Once pitmasters have the answers as to why they scored as they did, they can adjust for the next competition accordingly.

Blaze’s BBQ is all about having a good time with family, friends, and enjoying great BBQ. Blaze said, “If it wasn’t for some of my friends and family, Blaze’s BBQ would not exist. I have to give special thanks to my very awesome and understanding wife, Sherri Criqui, my awesome daughter and assistant, Hailey, my awesome son, Parker, my partner in crime, Ronnie (who is always taking off work to help out with Blaze’s BBQ), and Ronnie’s wife, Alexis, for putting up with him being gone all of the time.”  

Now, let’s see how Blaze’s BBQ did in each category:

Chicken: Chicken thighs were turned in. The presentation was beautiful and a little different than most boxes. The chicken was tender, juicy, and had bite-through skin. The good seasoning on the outside penetrated through the meat right to the bone with a good spice level and was just sweet enough. The sauce was a little too heavily laid. A lighter glaze and maybe some time on the pit to caramelize it a bit would be better. OC Food Diva Score: 4.5/5 (If judging, Tenderness – 8, Taste – 8, Appearance – 8) KCBS Rank and Score: #37 with a score of 163.3828

Pork Ribs: The ribs were perfectly sauced and had a nice looking presentation. It had a great balance of sweet and savory with just the right amount of smoky flavor. The pork was meaty and juicy. This was a near perfect rib. OC Food Diva Score: 4.8/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 8, Taste – 9, Appearance – 9); KCBS: #14 with a score of 169.1200

Pork: Sliced pork was turned in. It had a good smoked flavor along with a good spice level and just the right amount of sauce. It also had a nice bark and great color. The texture, however, was a little tight. It probably needed a little more time on the smoker. OC Food Diva Score: 4/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 7, Taste – 8, Appearance – 8); KCBS: #28 with a score of 164.5484

Brisket: Sliced brisket and burnt ends were turned in. Both cuts had a good smoke and beefy flavor along with good spice level. The sliced brisket was a little on the salty side. It needed a lighter coat of au jus before turn-in or none at all. Its bite was a little tight and had a fibrous texture similar to corned beef brisket. The burnt ends were much better with a tender texture. OC Food Diva Score: 4/5 (If judging: Tenderness – 7, Taste – 7, Appearance – 8) KCBS Rank and Score: #40 with a score of 156.5144

Overall, Blaze’s BBQ came in #32 out of 44 teams with a score of 653.5656. With another event under Blaze’s BBQ’s belt, it’s on to the next competition!

There was also a People’s Choice category, where the public could vote for their favorite BBQ team. Keep in mind, the items that they served are probably not what they turned in for the competition. They were either cooked separately or parts that may not have been up to par for turn-in. But it’s still some of the best BBQ you’ll ever have.

Blue Eyed BBQ served up pulled pork. It was very dry and needed more flavor along with sauce. Rating: 2/5

Smokin’ Harts served up brisket. It had a tender texture. Balanced flavors from beefy to smoky. Rating: 4.5/5

Smoky Doky Barbecue served up burnt ends. It had a very dry and chewy texture. It was also bland. It needs more seasoning and maybe some sauce. Rating: 2/5

Rude Not To BBQ served up brisket. It was overcooked and had a mushy texture. But it had a really good flavor. Rating: 3/5

Mad Dawgz served up brisket. It was tender but overcooked. It had a really good beefy flavor. Rating: 2.5/5

Burnin and Lootin BBQ served up sliced brisket and burnt ends. It had a tender texture. The flavors were well-balanced with a slight sweetness. Rating: 4.5/5

A great way to end a day of savory meats is with ice cold, hand dipped ice cream bars and frozen bananas. Check The Queen Mary’s events calendar and save the date for next year’s West Coast BBQ Classic! It’s an event not to be missed!

For more information:
1126 Queens Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90802

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Newly remodeled The Pines Steakhouse brings farm to fork cuisine to Highland, California

On May 27, 2016, The Pines Steakhouse located inside the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA reopened after renovation of the interior and also debuted a new “farm to fork” inspired menu. Leading the charge on this reimagined menu is newly appointed Chef De Cuisine, Chef Eulalia “Lali” Sanchez who shows her love of fresh, honest food and Old World Spanish traditions through in her cooking. Her first task was to find the freshest produce in the Inland Empire. Unity Farms in Riverside fit the bill and grows a wide variety of certified organic fruits and vegetables like brilliant rainbow chard, striking red and white Chioggia beets, and satin-white carrots.

Your dinner starts with a bread service of cheesy herb pull-apart rolls served in a cast-iron skillet. Get your hands on one before they disappear! Your dining mate may fight you for them. They are so good! Rating: 4.9/5

Hurricane ($12) features their own blend of fresh fruits and Zaya Rum and is served in a frosted tiki glass. If you have ever been to Pat O’Briens in New Orleans, you will absolutely love The Pines version. It is tropical in flavor yet packs a punch with the Zaya Rum. Rating: 5/5

Crab Cakes ($18) are made with jumbo lump crab and roasted red pepper, and served with a creole remoulade and mango foam. The crab cakes are amazing! Lots of crab meat and not a lot of filler. The only thing that doesn’t really match is the mango foam. The flavor is too sweet and seemed to overpower the delicate, succulent flavor of the crab. Sample a little first before utilizing it on the crab cakes. Rating: 4.7/5

Veal Meatballs ($12) are served with organic Pomodoro, parmigiana reggiano, and basil. The sauce has an excellent balance of sweet and savory. But the veal may be a little too delicate of a flavor for the bold sauce. Maybe a mix of veal and beef or pork and beef might be better to lend its flavor to the mix. Rating: 4.3/5

Farmer’s Market Salad made with certified 100% organic kales, California oranges, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and sherry. This is a refreshing salad for summer, but instead of grapefruit, blood orange might be a better citrus fruit to use. It will provide contrast with the deep green kale in both presentation and flavor. The bitterness in the grapefruit enhanced too much of the bitterness of the kale. Rating: 4/5

Steaks are signature Double R Ranch Top Choice and Prime USDA beef. Premium seafood is delivered fresh daily. Here are two cuts of beef you might like to try along with some seafood add-ons for some surf and turf action:

Longbone Ribeye ($80) is a 32 oz. bone-in steak that will inspire “oohs” and “ahhs” not only from the table, but from the entire restaurant as it carried through the dining room from the kitchen. An extra length of frenched bone is served with this ribeye. The steak is tender, juicy, flavorful, and perfectly grilled to your liking. It could use a tad more salt on the grill. Rating: 4.7/5

Prime Rib ($32 for 12 oz. or $38 for 16 oz.) is traditionally served with au jus and creamed horseradish. It is tender, juicy, and seasoned to perfection. The perfect temperature cut is selected just for you. The au jus is full of rich beef flavor. The horseradish is well-balanced with a creamy and spicy kick. Rating: 4.8/5

Cold Water Lobster Tail (market price) can be served either steamed or broiled. If you choose broiled option, a garlic butter is added to the lobster. It is broiled to perfection with succulent buttery flavor. The garlic works really well with the sweet lobster. Rating: 5/5

Red King Crab Legs (market price) can be served steamed or garlic roasted. If you choose the steamed option, the crab meat is perfectly steamed and served in sections for easy removal. The meat comes out cleanly indicating the crab is very fresh. Rating: 4.7/5

Roasted Asparagus ($8) is served family style. The stalk is peeled to reveal the tender interior and remove some of the bitter flavor. Rating: 3.5/5

Signature Mashed Potatoes ($10) are like a twice-baked potato without the skin and mixed with bacon, cheese, and chives. The cheesy bacon flavor pairs well with the mash. The potatoes are very dense. It might be better whipped to provide a lighter consistency. Rating: 4.3/5

Sautéed Mushrooms ($8) are a good option if you are ordering a steak. The flavor just needs to be pumped up a bit. Sautéed in garlic butter or incorporated into a red win reduction sauce might do the trick. Rating: 3.8/5

After a big meal, dessert might not be an option. But if you plan right and take some of your entrée home, there’s always room for dessert!

Cannoli ($8) is artfully filled and the ends are dipped in chocolate. Pistachio and mocha almond fillings were served. The ends are dotted with almonds and pistachios and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  The cannoli shells are perfectly crisp. The fillings are creamy and rich with flavors of pistachio, chocolate, and coffee. Mama mia! Rating: 5/5

Pines Chocolate “Peak” ($8) is an amazing dessert to share, especially if you are celebrating birthday or anniversary. The inside is a wedge of chocolate layered cake flipped up to make a “mountain peak”. It is encased in a chocolate shell and the “peak” is sprinkled with powdered sugar to emulate snow. It will pull at the heartstrings of any chocoholic! Rating: 5/5

Make plans to visit The Pines Steakhouse this summer for a fantastic dining experience.

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

For more information:
The Pines Steakhouse
inside San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino
777 San Manuel Blvd.
Highland, CA 92346
Hours: Daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Parking: Free garage parking

The Pines Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato