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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Save the Date: 6th Annual Queen Mary West Coast BBQ Classic in Long Beach on May 13, 2017

The Queen Mary West Coast BBQ Classic is back in Long Beach for its 6th straight year. More than 50 top pitmasters from across the country will gather to compete in this California-State-Certified, Kansas City Barbeque Society  (KCBS)-Sanctioned BBQ Championship for an $11,500 prize purse and the title of West Coast BBQ Pitmaster Grand Champion! Let see if last year’s grand champion, Big Poppa Smokers, can shoot for three years in a row! In addition to the Chicken, Pork, Pork Ribs, and Brisket categories, Bacon and Dessert are two new categories that the pitmasters can compete in.

Blaze pulling meats from the smoker at the 2016 West Coast BBQ Classic
This year is packed with entertainment with music by Dean Kalogris, DJ Rod Epic, and others, backyard-lawn games, bars, contests, BBQ merchant market, and Kids Country where children can enjoy games, a bounce house, face painters, potato sack races, and more. The award ceremony for the victors will wrap up the day.

Tasting samples provided with smiles at the 2016 West Coast BBQ Classic
You have several options to taste this wonderful BBQ:

  • VIP Value Pack includes early admission at 10 a.m., 5 Tasting Tickets, and same-day access to the Queen Mary ship. Price is $35 through May 1, 2017 and $39 after May 1.
  • General Value Pack includes general admission to the event, 5 Tasting Tickets, and same-day access to the Queen Mary ship. Price is $18 through May 1, 2017 and $24 after May 1.
  • Kids 3 and under have FREE admission.
  • Extra Tasting Tickets can be purchased for $2 each.
  • Event parking is $20.

Blaze's BBQ pork rib turn-in box at the 2016 West Coast BBQ Classic
Follow the smoke signals to the Queen Mary for some of the best BBQ you’ll ever have. Plus, watch the pitmasters in action as each turn-in time approaches. Also, included with your admission is access aboard the Queen Mary. It is a great excuse to walk off all that delicious BBQ!

For more information:
1126 Queens Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90802
Date: Saturday, May 13, 2017
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (early admission for VIPs at 10 a.m.)
Parking: $20

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Save the date: 5th Annual Taste of Marina on May 12, 2017

The 5th Annual Taste of Marina, presented by Marina High School’s Viking Foundation, is a community building fundraising event for the Viking Foundation. It is a 501(C)3 organization which supports Marina’s academic programs, activities, and facility improvements. The Taste of Marina attendees can taste menu items from neighboring restaurants while supporting the local school. Over 500 people attended last year’s event. Over two dozen restaurants and food vendors, photo booth, and entertainment are provided by Marina’s talented students. This year’s event will commence with a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the new Viking Strong Fitness Center which will be by District personnel, members of the Board of Trustees, and city council members.

Here is the latest list of participants and sponsors (as of 4/14/2017):

  • Adult Ticket - $20
  • Student Ticket - $10
  • Kids 12 and under – Free with paid adult admission

Purchase your tickets today for a day of food and support Marina High School!

For more information:
Marina High School
15871 Springdale St.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Date: May 12, 2017 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

World class food 24 hours a day at The Gardens Restaurant in Hawaiian Gardens, California

Earlier this year, The Gardens Casino re-launched following a $90 million renovation. After entering the front doors, you will see firsthand how many changes have been made. The interior has a Northern California coastal feel with wood paneled vaulted ceilings along with Asian architectural curves and décor.

Gaming is a huge draw to the casino with over 300 gaming tables, but foodies will have a sure thing with The Gardens Restaurant. The restaurant acts like the centerpiece of the casino with its dining room and upscale bar and lounge. Like Vegas, this restaurant is open 24 hours a day and features a variety of cuisines (American, Mediterranean, Mexican, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino) and well as integrating California’s seasonal, fresh, and sustainable ingredients. The upscale bar features handcrafted cocktails, locally sourced wine, and over 24 California craft beers on tap.

Let’s take a look at some of the menu:

Bao Trio ($9) is your choice of one of each or all of the same served in a soft creamy bao bun – tinga chipotle chicken garnished with cilantro, Korean short rib galbi garnished with spring mix and topped with Korean chili sauce, and/or Vietnamese marinated pork chop garnished with carrots and daikon radish in a vinaigrette mix topped with a Thai tangy sauce.

The galbi short rib meat was a little tough but had a nice sweet, savory flavor – sort of like a Korean teriyaki sauce. The veggies and chili sauce added a nice texture and spicy flavor. Rating 4/5

The tinga chipotle chicken had a pulled pork texture with peppery and spicy flavor. The cilantro added a refreshing touch. All the flavors paired perfectly with the sweet bao. Rating: 4.5/5

Vietnamese marinated pork chop was rather difficult to eat. The pieces were cut too small and were constantly falling out while trying to eat. The flavors were okay, but this might be better with a different cut of pork, like a thick slice of braised pork belly, with a Chinese flavor profile. Rating: 3/5

Beautiful breadsticks are served with a chimichurri-like dipping sauce.

Molcajete ($16) is tender ranchera steak, chicken breast, linguica sausage, and jumbo shrimp simmered in a mild roasted tomato, jalapeno, onion, and garlic broth. The broth had an exceptional flavor and was on the spicier side. However, due to the manner which it is served, in a giant molcajete, it was very hard to eat. You might need to ask for an extra plate so you can cut up the meat. It was a hearty meal so be prepared to take home a doggie bag. Rating: 4.3/5

Filet Mignon ($32) is certified angus beef tenderloin cooked to your liking, topped with a red wine reduction sauce, served with Yukon Gold smashed potatoes and broccolini. My steak of choice is usually ribeye, but since they didn’t have that cut, I went for filet mignon. Back in the 1990s, this was the only steak I knew before venturing out. I was pleasantly surprised by how flavorful, juicy, and tender this steak was, even at rare. This type of steak would normally cost you double in at a steakhouse. The red wine reduction sauce paired perfectly by adding an earthy and sweetness to the meat. The smashed potatoes were splendid with buttery flavor and smooth texture. The broccolini was cooked just right with a crisp snap yet tender at the same time. Rating: 5/5

Halo Halo ($7) is a Filipino dessert with purple yam ice cream, flan, sweet red beans (azuki), young coconut, sweet corn, and diced bananas topped with shaved ice, sweet rice crispies, and passion fruit. This is very authentic in both build and flavor. I love the rice crispies offering a different textural bite and contrasting the crunchy shaved ice. Rating: 4.5/5

Vietnamese Ice Coffee ($2.50) is an authentic drink to end the night. You can also order it hot. When the strong drip coffee is mixed with sweetened condensed milk, the drink has a beautiful caramel color. This coffee will perk you up and settle your stomach after a hearty meal. Rating: 5/5

Whether you have the gaming fever and need a break or if you’re looking for an upscale yet casual place for dinner, The Gardens Restaurant has what you are craving and more!

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

For more information:
11871 Carson St
Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716
Hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Seating: Interior