Search This Blog

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Panera Bread in Irvine, CA has good selection of breakfast and lunch options

Located near the corner of Irvine Boulevard and Sand Canyon Road is Panera Bread. Once you enter the doors, the scent of fresh baked bread fills the air. As you peruse the menu, make sure to sample some of their breads so you can make the right choice. All of their bakery items are on display whether you are in the mood for a pastry and coffee for breakfast or picking a dessert for after lunch. The service is friendly and attentive most days.

Jalapeño & Cheddar Bagel Breakfast Sandwich is an all-natural egg, a thick slice of Vermont white cheddar and smoked, lean ham all grilled on a Jalapeño & Cheddar bagel. The flavors were awesome! Gooey, melted cheddar with smoky ham and a spicy kick from the jalapenos in the bagel made this sandwich a winner. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see food slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Panera Bread on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taco Maria is crafting upscale Chicano cuisine in Southern California

Chef Carlos Salgado started cooking at a young age helping out in his family’s restaurant, La Siesta in Orange, CA. After finishing culinary school, he stayed up in the Bay Area working in some of the finest kitchens in the area – Vernon Morales’ Winterland, Daniel Patterson’s Coi, and James Syhabout’s Commis. Classically trained as a pastry chef, Chef Carlos brings his culinary talents and his culture to bear in all his offerings to SoCal foodies. Chef Carlos is definitely a farm to plate chef – always using local, seasonal ingredients. If you visit him in a farmers’ market environment, during downtimes, you’ll see him talking with the farmers. Frida, the Taco Maria truck, is setup like an exposition kitchen - big pane glass windows, sparkling stainless steel kitchen appliances, and all of the staff dressed in perfectly pressed white chef coats. You can watch them prepare items before your very eyes, whether it’s prepping ingredients or assembling your order.

Chilaquiles from Taco Maria is the breakfast of champions! Tortilla chips in chile cascabel sauce with queso fresco and a fried farm-fresh egg. The dark chile on the chips is a little spicy but has a sweet, rich, smoky flavor. The farm-fresh egg takes the cake! Breaking the yolk and letting it run down to coat the tortilla chips was just mind-blowing! It’s sensual and seductive. You’ll definitely fall in love with this dish! Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see slideshow of photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Taco Maria Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pasta Prima Spinach and Mozzarella Ravioli

Pata Prima makes a Spinach and Mozzarella Ravioli (frozen and sold at Costco stores) that is awesome! I tried it during a sampling while we were shopping and fell in love with them.

Since of boiling them, I've been sauteeing them in a skillet with olive oil. The raviolis turn golden brown like a wonton. Last winter, our friend bought a electronic turkey fryer and use it as a deep-fryer in the kitchen when we don't have a turkey to deep-fry. I thought to myself, what if we deep-fried the raviolis like they serve as appetizers in restaurants? They turn out perfect, just like wontons filled with spinach and mozzarella. Sprinkle on the parmesan oregano packet on top and you're good to go.


OC Food Diva

St. Patrick's Day Dinner

Corned Beef and Cabbage (used Better Homes and Gardens recipe as base then expanded)

Added red potatoes (halved), made a bouquet garni with seasoning packet from inside corned beef package with coffee filter and butcher twine), added 2 pint glasess of water,  and cooked in crock pot for 7 hours on high.

For dessert, I made The Naughty Leprechaun from BetterRecipes.  

Better than McDonald's Shamrock Shake with an alcohol kick. Made 3 at one time in blender and split into 3 wine glasses.

Hope you're St. Paddy's Day was great!


OC Food Diva

Garlicscapes is serving up redefined comfort food with garlic in Southern California

Mike Dimmit, who used to work on the BaconMANia truck, now runs the sister truck, Garlicscapes. He takes his training from BaconMANia to a new and surprisingly ungimmicky high. Don’t get me wrong, I love the folks at BaconMANia, but there is no way you can eat their food on a daily or weekly basis--maybe monthly. On the other hand, Garlicscapes actually has items that you can eat at lunch or dinner. The portions are normal and not very greasy. Being a newbie on the food truck scene, making its debut in October 2011, Garlicscapes strive to make the garlic lover happy. Mike has over 10 years experience cooking and entering numerous chili cook-off competitions.

Fried Artichokes with Feta are fantastic. Crispy artichoke leaves and a tender artichoke heart with that wonderful artichoke flavor that you know and love. The “scape” sauce was drizzled on top and delivered a refreshing flavor that just knocks your socks off. Just imagine an onion blossom but not as greasy. Thumbs up, way up!

To read  more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Summit House is serving up hearty fare with English flare in Fullerton, CA

With beautiful views of North Orange County, The Summit House sits above it all. The exterior looks like an old English Inn with beautifully landscaped trees and shrubbery on the grounds. The interior is dark with a tavern off to the side and a huge main dining room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows so all guests can partake in the view. The tables are perfectly manicured with white linen table cloths and decorative folded napkins. The servers are dressed in period attire making the experience more memorable. All they need is the English accent and you would be transported to Ole England. My husband and I spend a Valentine’s Day dinner here back in the 1990s so we were interested to see if it had changed. Your evening starts with basket of bread (sourdough and walnut bread). I just love the scent of fresh aromatic breads!

Escargots Bourguignonne are served in a Brandy Pernod Garlic Butter. OMG, this is just like I remembered it. The Summit House was my first experience with escargot. Being from Hawaii, we eat lots of sea snails (called tsubu in Japanese). Escargot is so much better as it absorbs the flavor of anything that you serve with it. The Brandy Pernod Garlic Butter sauce is amazing! The escargot explodes with flavor. Tip: when you scoop the escargot from the holder or shell, make sure you dig deep to pick up the garlic chunks on the bottom. If you have eaten all of the escargot, take your bread and soak up the leftover buttery garlic flavor. Your bread is now a beautifully garlic flavored delicacy. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Summit House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pampas Brazilian Grille is Brazilian dining with a seafood flare in Las Vegas, NV

Nestled within the Miracle Mile Shops inside the Planet Hollywood Casino Resort, Pampas Brazilian Grille lures you in with the scent of freshly grilled meats. The exterior looks like any other restaurant in the mall so let your nose guide you through the glass doors to the interior with the dining room directly ahead of you, the enormous salad and hot food bar beyond it and the cocktail bar with al fresco dining to your right. I love to people-watch so the al fresco dining is always my choice!

If you haven’t been to a Churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) before, you’re in for a treat. Passadores (the servers) dash around the dining room with huge skewers of sizzling meat and carving knives. Think of it as a Brazilian Dim Sum, but instead of carts, you have grilled meats carved fresh right at your table. This is my favorite cuisine! The Surf and Turf Rodizio is unlimited servings of fresh seafood of the day, grilled meats like Picanha (beef tenderloin with the fat cap), BBQ Pork, Grilled Chicken, Smoked Ham, Grilled Pineapple, Brazilian Sausage, and Turkey Wrapped in Bacon carved at your table. This also includes unlimited helpings from their side bar featuring over 50 hot and cold sides and salads. Tip: With my 10 years eating experience at churrascarias, here’s a simple way to enjoy your experience. You’ll be tempted to fill your plate with tons of sides and salads. Hold back and pick small bites like hearts of palm, mushrooms, shrimp, etc. Make yourself a crudité plate of sorts to share with the table. That way, you’re ready when the grilled meats come around. You’ll definitely want to try every type to establish your favorites. The Picanha is my favorite meat here and usually is the house specialty at churrascarias. The fat cap helps to keep the meat juicy during the spit-fire grilling process and has a crispy crust like chicharrones. The Grilled Pineapple is also a family favorite. The sugars in the pineapple caramelize and envelope the pineapple in sweet deliciousness. The seafood of the day for our dining experience was Bacon-wrapped Scallops, Grilled Salmon, Garlic Shrimp, and Fried Fish. The scallops were perfectly cooked with sweet flavor and tender flesh. The bacon took the scallops to a new level adding a salty, smoky flavor. Absolutely amazing! The first helping of grilled salmon was cooked perfectly with a soft texture and melted like butter. The second helping was a little bit dried out, but still had a good flavor. The Garlic Shrimp was sweet, crispy, and dipping it in the drawn butter made it even better. The Fried Fish, on the other hand, almost didn’t belong on the plate. It was dry and flavorless. I would definitely get the platter again minus the Fried Fish or just stick with the Meat Rodizio menu option. Thumbs up!

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Pampas Brazilian Grille (Planet Hollywood) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Snack, Sip & Surf Event benefitting Mauli Ola at the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach, CA

On Sunday, March 11, 2012, an afternoon of friendly competition ensued at the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach, CA. Proceeds from this event went to Mauli Ola, benefitting children with Cystic Fibrosis. Since 2007, the Mauli Ola Foundation (MOF) introduced surfing as a natural treatment to people with genetic disorders with a focus on Cystic Fibrosis. MOF promotes education, awareness of genetic diseases, and research for genetic disorders. The funds support programs for keiki (children) and adults with life-threatening illnesses and disabilities through events such as the Snack, Sip & Surf Event. Visit their website for more information: Mahalo!

At 2pm, the aromatic scent of warm tortillas signaled the start of the first competition: Tacos. Three restaurants in Laguna Beach - La Sirena Grill, Olamendi’s, and The Basement Table - set their sights on the championship. La Sirena Grill was serving Braised Short Rib Tacos. Jeff Elias, their General Manager, had me when he said, “Braised Short Rib”. The short ribs were tender, juicy, and robust with the juices from the braising process. Topped off with a lettuce-cabbage slaw and pico de gallo sauce, it was perfectly executed! Everything worked great together – rich beef flavor, tanginess from the slaw, and sweet and spicy from the pico de gallo. 

Olamendi’s Pork Taco was the little squirt of the bunch. With only two slivers of pork, caramelized onions, and sauce, it was just okay. Adding a little bit more pork and maybe some fresh vegetables would have boosted them up a little bit more. 

The Basement Table had a Vegetarian Taco. It sounded good, but unfortunately, upon careful inspection, it contained my arch nemesis, the beta carotene root vegetable (carrots or sweet potatoes). I regretfully had to pass on this tasting, although I heard guests raving about it.

The second competition coinciding with the tacos was the Cocktail Competition. There was plenty of food to go around so you could drink a cocktail, eat, try the next cocktail, and so forth. Mixologists and bartenders from around SoCal came to duke it out: Erik Trickett representing Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Gabrielle Dion representing Zaya Rum, Giovanni Labile representing St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Danielle Tarango representing Chase Vodka, and Steve Garcia representing Peligroso Tequila. 

Erik’s drink, the Triple Creek, was STRONG due to its copious amount of bourbon, yet refreshing thanks to the cucumber! I think I saw fumes on my exhales. This is a cocktail that a person staying at the hotel should sip while reclining in the bar. 

Gabrielle is definitely a “show girl”. She had the crowd chanting her name while she was shaking and twisting away on her entry, the Seaside Swizzle. The cardamom added a smoky flavor to a slightly sweet drink and complemented the rum rather well. The tall glass presentation was a beautiful reminder of the beach. 

Giovanni’s, Fragolicious, made with strawberries or ‘fragola’, in Italian, was my favorite drink. The flavor was calm, refreshing, and fruity from the elderberry liqueur and strawberries. The rose petal made it more luxurious, almost spa-like. 

Danielle’s, Vacation in a Cup, was made with passion fruit and vodka – imagine a screwdriver with passion fruit juice instead of orange juice. The sugar/chile rim was a delightful surprise. 

Steve loves to talk about ingredients. His Medicine Rattle drink contains lots of ingredients: tequila, pineapple juice, shiso (muddled Japanese Beefsteak leaves), green tea & jalapeno simple syrup, grapefruit juice, and saké. It’s refreshing yet strong with a beautiful presentation showcasing the shiso and pineapple leaves.

At 3pm, local surf/paddle board experts, teamed up for a relay race on the beach. Teams were Hobie Sports, Infinity Surfboards, SUP Company, and Costa Azul. The relay started steps away from the Cabana Deck where the food and drinks were being served. The team members had to race to the surf, jump on a paddle board, paddle out to a buoy marker, paddle back to the shore, and race back to the starting line to tag in their next team member. They make paddle boarding look so easy, but it is very hard – it requires a lot of balance and upper-body strength, especially when racing or catching the perfect wave.

Ambiance music was provided by Kevin Miso. Hailing from Long Beach, CA with Hawaiian family roots, Kevin’s music brings out the sounds of the island with a contemporary pop feel. With his shorts, t-shirt and rubba slippers, he definitely looks like “Ohana!”  Check out his website for more information:

At 4:30pm, votes were tallied and the winners were announced. DRUM ROLL!!! SUP Company won the paddle-board race, La Sirena Grill won the Taco Competition, and Gabrielle Zion won the cocktail competition with her entry, Seaside Swizzle. Her drink will become the signature cocktail at The Deck (beachside bar in the Pacific Edge Hotel) this summer.

It was the perfect day for this event – sunny day, cool ocean breeze, great food, drinks, music, and entertainment for all. Come down to the Pacific Edge Hotel this summer to try the Seaside Swizzle at The Deck. Put your feet up, relax, and enjoy the view!

The Pacific Edge Hotel
647 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651-2415

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Prix Fixe Brunch at SoCo Farmers’ Market was a culinary masterpiece

On Saturday, March 10, 2012, the first Orange County gourmet food truck brunch took place the SoCo Farmers’ Market in Costa Mesa, CA. Two of the finest chefs on the OC gourmet food truck scene, Chef Joe Youkhan and Chef Carlos Salgado, put on their chef coats to engineer a culinary masterpiece before our very eyes. The day was perfect – sun was shining with absolutely clear skies as far as you could see, just a few mild gusts of wind. The brunch patrons had their own reserved seating under canopies. Even though the plateware and flatware were disposable in nature, the event was treated as if it were taking place at a white linen restaurant. The plates were shaped just like you would have in a 5-star restaurant, white with beveled edges. The flatware even had a metallic appearance. Bottled water and a variety of “Rob’s Really Good” drinks were served – Cucumber Drink, Half & Half (tea and lemonade), Mango Mon (my personal favorite), and Blueberry Iced Tea.

We watched as the Taco Maria truck shut down its ordering window and eagerly awaited the first course. Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon tempted fate and remained opened during the brunch. Our party of four was salivating with anticipation.

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Burgerland is serving Korean-infused American fast food in Anaheim, CA

Sitting in a strip mall on the bustling intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue is Burgerland. Kyung Kim wanted to open a restaurant that was a little different so tourists and residents alike would have something to eat besides your run-of-the-mill hamburger or hot dog. Kyung’s family has been running restaurants in Korea and in the US for over 25 years so they must be doing something right. In 2010, Kyung’s idea became a reality when a restaurant spot opened up right up across from Disneyland. She has the location and the audience. Now let’s see what she’s got cooking.

Bulkogiburger is a cheeseburger topped with bulgogi (thinly sliced prime beef, marinated in shoyu, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and pepper) with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Bulgogi is Korea’s version of teriyaki beef, but with subtle differences. The beef is thin like you would get on a beef bowl. But it’s not as sweet as teriyaki, which I like. The cheeseburger itself fades into the background. If you didn’t know there was a cheeseburger under the bulgogi, you wouldn’t even know it was there. The bulgogi really took command of the burger, but in a good way. The produce was fresh and crisp. Personally, I would convert this to just a Bulgogi Sandwich making it like a Korean Sloppy Joe of sorts. Thumbs up!

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inka Mama’s brings Peruvian cuisine to Foothill Ranch, CA

Tucked away in a shopping center on the corner of Portola Parkway and Market Place is Inka Mama’s. Sitting in the shadow of the Staples store, Inka Mama’s is a culinary treasure trove of the vivid, exciting flavors of Peru. You’ll experience a sensory jolt as you walk through their door –grilled vegetables, meats and spices all working to fire up your taste buds. It’s not easy to decide on a menu selection while the other diners’ selections are being served around you. You’ll probably find yourself saying, “Ooh, now that looks good,” or “Wonder what that is?” The intimate dining room has a rustic ambiance with outdoor seating available. To avoid long waits for seating, I would suggest going an hour before or after peak dining hours. Even if there is already a waiting list, it is still well worth the wait.

Feeling a little adventurous? Try a glass of Maracuya, a beverage made from a Peruvian passion fruit. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, having a slightly tangy citrus flavor. Maracuya is a good source of vitamin C, an added plus. What a refreshing way to complement your meal, whatever the choice may be.

To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Inka Mamas Peruvian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Beard Papa’s serving up “eatertainment” cream puffs in Irvine, CA

In 1999, Yuji Hirota launched Beard Papa’s and was an instant success with its proprietary multi-layered pie crust and French choux dough (for making cream puffs). In 2012, Beard Papa’s is now 300 stores strong in 13 countries worldwide. The cream puffs are filled fresh to order, providing an “eatertainment” atmosphere. It’s a treat to your five senses from the moment you choose your cream puff shells and then watch as they’re prepared with the fillings of your choice.

Our first encounter with Papa Beard’s happened in May 2010 in the lovely city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We spent a weekend there before embarking on a 2-week Alaskan cruise. We took the Vancouver Trolley around for a weekend of sightseeing and exploring the area around our hotel. We discovered a block of Japanese stores and restaurants nearby and were drawn to the whimsical Beard Papa’s logo on one of the shops. Having an affinity for all things cute, happy and Japanese we had to investigate further.  The sweet aroma of custardy goodness drew us into a fantasy land of cream puffs. There were puff shells ready for filling with your choice of flavors.  Decisions, decisions! We were confident that we couldn’t go wrong with any selection. Happily, the special filling of the day was green tea, a definite favorite. From the firm puff shell to the creamy custard filling, Beard Papa’s cream puffs are simply delectable. Sadly, we had time for that one visit and have been dreaming of a repeat visit.
To read more and see photos, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Mochilato on Urbanspoon