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Monday, December 31, 2012

Mondo Taco serves up huge international flavors in Los Angeles, CA

The taco, not only a Mexican food culture staple, has now become a vehicle to serve foods and flavors not necessarily associated with Mexican cuisine. Sam Spector saw this possibility to showcase international cuisine that would tempt the taste buds of hungry foodies. No matter what you might be craving, Mondo Taco has you covered which tapas-style dining around the world. Since LA is a melting pot of cultures, food ingredients are accessible to create all of these flavors in one kitchen. With his 30 years of restaurant experience, his baby, Mondo Taco was born on July 23, 2012.

Beefeater is braised short rib topped with horseradish slaw. Wow! This is fantastic. The short rib was tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The horseradish slaw was subtle yet refreshingly creamy and added a crunchy texture. The tortillas were awesome with a rich corn flavor and just the right thickness. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Brazen BBQ smoking up the best Texas-style BBQ in San Diego, CA

John Bracamonte and Brad Thomas have been on the BBQ competition circuit since 2009, perfecting their Texas BBQ technique while winning some pretty prestigious awards along the way. During their quest for the perfect BBQ, they decided to open a restaurant to share their BBQ with everyone. With over 20 years of restaurant experience between the two of them, starting up and running a restaurant is in their blood. They even had the honor of serving Julia Childs. On August 17, 2011, Brazen BBQ was born with dry rub, hardwood smoked, Texas-style BBQ. I also learned that it is bad luck not to name your smoker. Ms. Regina Ann is the name of the smoker at Brazen BBQ. Brazen isn’t just a name, it means BOLD. At the Santa Anita Win, Place, & BBQ Showdown in October 2012, Brazen BBQ came in 2nd for Pork out of 30 competitors!

The restaurant itself is modeled after a Texas roadside BBQ stop – display cabinets with chicken wire showcase their numerous competition awards, chilled troughs with old style sodas like Big Red greet you upon entry, and a hand-washing sink in the middle of dining room. The ambiance is warm and welcoming. The service is friendly and attentive. Tables are cleared immediately to make ready for the next guests.

Crawfish Corn Fritters are housemade corn fritters stuffed with crawfish and drizzled with a spiced maple glaze. These were down-home Southern-style fritters that are crispy on the outside with a deep dark brown color yet fluffy on the inside with tender, succulent crawfish. The corn kernels were crisp and juicily burst with each bite. Thumbs up, way up!

Atomic Buffalo Poppers are sweet corn and a blend of cheeses stuffed into a bacon-wrapped jalapeno and tenderly smoked. If you can get pass the heat (These pack a huge kick, I’m not kidding!), you can taste the smoky flavor throughout and the cheese inside provided some comfort from the scorch. I guarantee you’ll be sweating after this. Thumbs up!

Brazen’s Smoked Wings are slowly smoked to tender perfection. Choose from dry rubbed, buffalo, B.R.A.G. (which is one of their signature BBQ sauces), or sweet Creole mustard. Wow! This blows any wing out of the water. The smoky flavor goes down to the bone and the rub flavor was perfect. No sauce needed with these babies. They were juicy, smoky and fall-off-the-bone tender. I can’t believe that these are not fried! Thumbs up, way up!

Onions Rings are thick sweet onions dipped in homemade batter, cooked to a golden brown, and served with sweet Creole mustard sauce. We have been on a search for the perfect onion ring since Andrew’s in Anaheim closed up shop. I think we’ve found it. The batter was puffy like tempura but flavorful, evident by the spice flecks in the batter. The outside was crispy and fluffy on the inside. Thumbs up, way up!

Bolt’s Platter for Two is your choice of three meats and three regular sides. We had the Brisket, Pulled Pork, and Baby Back Ribs. The brisket was fantastic with a great smoke ring (burnt ends are always the best), tender, and full of flavor. Thumbs up, way up! The pulled pork tasted exactly like kalua pig (Hawaiian roasted pig), juicy and contained the essence and flavor of pork. Thumbs up, way up! The baby back ribs were dry rubbed. Their rub was not overbearing and accentuated the meat. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. Thumbs up, way up! The sauce is served on the side so you can drown it if you like or just eat it au natural. I urge you to taste the meat first without the sauce.

The sides we tried were Ancho Spiced Baked Beans, Smoked Kernel Corn Medley, Crusty Macaroni & Cheese, Corn Bread, and Collard Greens. The Ancho Baked Beans were sweet like baked beans but much more flavorful from the ancho pepper and spices. Thumbs up, way up! The Smoked Kernel Corn Medley had a great smoky flavor with sweet corn kernels. The vegetables were vibrant and added a refreshing flavor to the corn. Thumbs up, way up! Mac & Cheese seems to be the trend now and you see it on most restaurant menus now days, but Brazen’s version is really good. The cheese sauce is made in-house and encrusted with melted cheese on top like a French onion soup. The macaroni was perfectly cooked and slathered in their cheese sauce. Prepare to be tempted! Thumbs up, way up! The corn bread was moist and almost cake like. It had a nice sweetness to it and could be a dessert. Thumbs up, way up! The Collard Greens are a Southern favorite, just like mama used to make but without the vinegar taste. You can taste the green flavor with garlic to boast. Thumbs up, way up!

On Friday and Saturday nights, they smoke up Beef Ribs. They were super-meaty, juicy, and had a great smoky flavor. The bone gave the ribs even more flavor. The meat was tender and just fell off the bone. Thumbs up, way up!

Competition BBQ is not just for the judges anymore. Come down to the Hillcrest district in San Diego for the best BBQ in SoCal!


  • Happy Hour: Monday through Saturday from 3:30pm to 6:30pm, $2 off draft beer, well drinks, house wines, and starters
  • All Day Happy Hour on Sundays with $3 Mimosas, $5 Brazen Mary’s, and $5 House Margs

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:
Brazen BBQ
441 Washington St
San Diego, CA 92103-2111

  • Hours: Sunday from 9:30am to 10pm, Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm, Friday through Saturday from 11am to 11pm
  • Delivery available – check their website for delivery areas in San Diego
  • Brazen BBQ is perfect for a corporate luncheon or game day party. Check their website for more details.

Brazen BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Apollonia’s Pizzeria serving up exquisite artisan pizzas in Los Angeles, CA

Justin De Leon, acclaimed photographer, wanted to try something different. In addition to his photographic skills, he has 25 years of pizza making experience. Why not combine visual imagery and pizza? On July 28, 2012, the ingredients of experience paid off with the opening of Apollonia’s Pizzeria. The interior is a visual experience along with a show of pizza dough tossing for the perfect pizza crust. This is pizza where you take your time to savor the scents of the yeasty dough and let your taste buds experience flavors of truly artisan pizza. Justin’s wife, Linda, is the perfect hostess and is always talking to the guests and making sure they are enjoying every minute of their pizzeria experience. They use locally grown ingredients from community farmer’s markets, neighborhood bakeries, and resident meat distributors.

Burning Sycamores are hot wings topped with roasted garlic, jalapeno, and pineapple. The wings were tender and just hot enough so you can taste the flavor of the chicken. The mix of jalapenos, pineapple, and roasted garlic was similar to a tropical salsa – sweet heat. It complemented the chicken perfectly. These have to be the best hot wings I have ever had! Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Apollonia's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with Don Julio 1942

Tequila Don Julio 1942 is aged for a minimum of 2.5 years in American white-oak barrels. This Añejo is produced in small batches and reflects a sweet and complex aroma and hints of warm oak, pepper, and cinnamon flavors while being ultra smooth. It has a brilliant golden hue, rich, sweet aromas of caramel and toffee, and silky smooth character with a roasted agave, vanilla flavor with tropical fruit and spiced undertones.

Tequila Don Julio 1942 is an ultra-premium sipping tequila that is meant for celebrating the special occasions in life and New Year’s Eve makes the perfect holiday to celebrate the memories of 2012 and toast to good fortune in 2013. 1942 is best appreciated neat or on the rocks as well as mixed up in the ultimate drink to start the New Year, the 1942 Legendario. 

To view the recipe, please visit:

Mahalo and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

OC Food Diva

Taco Asylum is where you mind goes wild over non-traditional gourmet tacos in Costa Mesa, CA

Taco Asylum is the spin-off from Haven Gastro Pub’s Chef Greg Daniels. Due to the huge popularity of his Short Rib Taco, it gave him the idea for a taco restaurant. In January 2011, this idea became what is known today as Taco Asylum (coming up on their 2 year anniversary next month). Think of the taco as a vehicle not the cuisine. The shape and form is Mexican, but the food inside is world cuisine. The flavors are authentic using fresh, humanely raised, sustainable meats and seafood, and products from local farmers and vendors wherever possible. The cuisine fits perfectly in The Camp. Also, Taco Asylum’s hot sauces are all made in house as well. With heat comes flavor as well so see which level you can take. Choose from the Red Savina, Honey Habanero, Roasted Jalapeno, Ghost Chili, and Trinidad Scorpion. Mix and match them to get the ultimate flavor rush. Just beware, some of these hot sauces will kick your ass and make you sweat so try a small drop first before drizzling over your tacos. My personal favorites are the Red Savina and Honey Habanero.

Grilled Octopus Taco is served on a flour tortilla with kalamata olives, oregano, feta, and tomatoes. The taco brings out the flavors of the Mediterranean. The octopus was tender, not chewy, and grilled to perfection. The components brought the flavor palate together from the salty, pickley kalamata olives, creamy, salty feta, sweet, tangy tomatoes, and just a touch of oregano. The Red Savina hot sauce paired well with this. Thumbs up, way up!
OC Food Diva

Taco Asylum on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chile Fresco is serving up a fresh, healthy twist on Mexican food in Lake Forest, CA

Francisco Izawa is very creative when it comes to cuisine. With a Japanese/Spanish upbringing and travelling around the world with his family, he was exposed to worldly cuisine as a child. His upbringing trained him for what he is today, a conception restaurateur. On February 28, 2012, Chile Fresco was born serving up authentic, yet healthy Mexican food. The location was formerly a Jalapenos Mexican Food location. Francisco kept some of the menu items, but added a healthy option by using vegetable oil instead of lard - even homemade flour tortillas fresh every day. Your order even comes with fresh tortilla chips to nibble on while you’re waiting for your food.

Combination Plates are always popular and Chile Fresco has 5 to choose from. I ordered #1 Chicken Taco and Beef Enchilada Combination Plate. It is served with rice and beans. The taco shell was a homemade fried corn tortilla. The chicken was juicy and tender with rotisserie flavor. The beef enchilada was perfect. The shredded meat was tender and seasoned to perfection. I’m not a big fan of Mexican rice but Chile Fresco’s is one of the most flavorful that I’ve ever had, seasoned like a great Spanish rice. The enchilada sauce was also very good and I love the added melted cheese on top. Thumbs up!


OC Food Diva

Chile Fresco Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Skosh Monahan’s Steakhouse & Irish Pub where political minds feed their hunger in Costa Mesa, CA

Gary Monahan, current Costa Mesa Councilman, wanted to carry out his dad’s dream of owning a restaurant. In 2000, the dream became a reality with Skosh Monahan’s. A gathering place of many Orange County political minds, like Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, after travelling back from their respective offices in Washington, DC or Sacramento, CA, they come for the food! Housed on Newport Boulevard with a view of the 55 freeway, Skosh Monahan’s exterior has the look of an office building, but once you get inside, it’s a very welcoming Irish pub, where everyone knows your name (like Cheers). With 15 plasma HDTVs adorning the bar area, there is plenty of room to spend with friends to root on your favorite team. Did I mention that they have 22 beers on tap! The dining room is modest and comfortable. The surprise is the food! It’s way more than just bar food and appetizers. You’ll see what I mean as you read on.

Irish Nachos are steak fries topped with melted cheese, bacon, and jalapenos. They were perfectly fried, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It was a different flavor with pickled jalapenos, carrots, and onion. They added a little Mexican flavor which is perfect for SoCal. The jalapenos had a kick to them, but added a nice flavor as well. Thumbs up!

To read more and see slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and Mele Kalikimaka!

OC Food Diva

Skosh Monahan's on Urbanspoon

Secret Squirrel Cold Brew Coffee on the loose in Los Angeles, CA

Trevor and Rebecca Smith are coffee connoisseurs. A few years ago, they tried cold brewing coffee at home using a Toddy ( Home Brewing System and never went back to conventional American coffee brewing ways. The cold-water brewing process extracts the natural flavors of coffee and leaves the bitter acids and oils behind, resulting in a bold, super-smooth taste. After years of experimentation with different coffee beans, timing, and filtration, October 2011 marked the birth of Secret Squirrel Cold Brew Coffee, 60% less acid than hot brewed coffee. The dark brown bottle gives it an old-fashioned and apothecary-like look to it, but also aids in keep any unwanted light out, like a good dark beer. The label is marked by their logo and includes a recipe to get you started.

To read more and see recipes, please visit:

Mahalo and Mele Kalikimaka!

OC Food Diva

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Soleto Trattoria and Pizza Bar offers Southern Italian food to Los Angeles, CA

Innovative Dining Group (IDG) wanted to add another restaurant to their growing portfolio – Sushi Roku and BOA Steakhouse to name a few. During a visit to Southern Italian, IDG fell in love with the food and wanted to share this cuisine. Named after a town in Southern Italy, Soleto Trattoria and Pizza Bar opened to the public in July 2012. The interior was chic-industrial with exposed beams, reclaimed wood floors, white wash brick walls - very warm and welcoming. You already know you in for a relaxing, no fuss good time. The service is very attentive and friendly.

Ricotta Bruschetta mixed with honey and topped with pink peppercorns. These morsels on the happy hour menu are scrumptious! They are almost like mini pre-desserts. The ricotta was super fine and creamy like goat cheese. Yet, the texture was a lot lighter than goat cheese. The peppercorn and honey played very well together. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photos, please visit:

Mahalo and Mele Kalikimaka!

OC Food Diva

Soleto on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Entertaining with Baileys & Ketel One

‘Tis the season to be jolly! This season, get your holiday celebration in the spirit with easy entertaining cocktails from Baileys® Original Irish Cream and Ketel One® Vodka.  Whether entertaining a large yuletide party or an intimate gathering of friends, spread the holiday cheer with the “Baileys Peppermint Cream” and the Ketel One “Old Fashioned.”

Baileys Irish Cream is a combination of premium quality Irish dairy cream, fine spirits, Irish whiskey, and a proprietary recipe of chocolate flavors. The cream comes from 38,000 top-bred Irish pasture-fed cows in Ireland producing the more than 220 million liters (58 million gallons) of fresh milk required to manufacture Baileys. The whiskey is supplied by a number of distilleries including The Old Bushmills Distillery and County Antrim. Their proprietary cocoa extract recipe lends the chocolate character and essence.

To see the recipes and see more photos, please visit:

OC Food Diva

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Apple Pie

My friend, Chris, made the best apple pie ever! It was perfect - flaky crust, texture of apples were just right - not too crunchy and not too mushy, and not overly sweet so you can relish in the fresh flavor of the apples.

Happy holidays!

Oc Food Diva

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Entertaining with Johnnie Walker

Need some help with your holiday entertaining? Johnnie Walker Whisky Truffles will awe your guests with a luxurious bite of chocolate heaven. With origins from the 1870’s, Johnnie Walker Black Label is regarded by experts as the ultimate Scotch deluxe whisky. Black Label draws upon powerful west coast malts and subtle east coast flavors to create a unique blend with a smooth, deep, and complex character.

Try the recipe below at your next holiday party and awe your guests with these luxurious truffles.

To view the recipe and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Sunday, December 9, 2012

BevMo! Holiday Beer Fest Los Angeles

If you’ve ever been in a BevMo!, the selections are endless from wines, liqueurs, spirits, mixers, and, of course, beer. How could you possible try them all and know which one you love? The BevMo! Holiday Beer Fest was the beer tasting event of the year showcasing 100+ of the best breweries in the world. Just like a wine tasting, they give you tastes of each of their holiday, seasonal, specialty beers, hard ciders, and craft sodas. If you find one you like, you could go back for more. If you didn’t like it, you could empty it in strategically placed buckets around the tasting areas. Golden Road Brewing was the host this year, located on “the other side of the tracks” in Glendale. Parking was a little sparse but when you found a space, you were on your way. Even with some scattered showers, most fest goers where there for one thing only, the taste of beer! A little rain was not going to dampen their spirits.

Let’s take a look at some of the breweries and their special brews:

Ass Kisser Hand Crafted Ales from San Jose, CA served their Smoked Porter with a smoky, caramel malt backbone with a medium hop bitterness. Tasting notes: dark ale; very smooth, robust flavor; bitter bite; hoppy flavor.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company from San Diego, CA served up their Big Barrel Double IPA made with imported New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops which provides a vibrant tropical aroma, Warrior and Ahtanum hops which produce an assertive bitterness that stands out against a firm malt backbone. Tasting notes: wheat brew flavor; strong fruity nose; light bodied so you almost forget it is beer.

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Warm up your winter wonderland with Zacapa Rum 23

With the change of season and Christmas songs playing where ever you go, winter is officially in full swing. After a long day in the cold weather, even if you are bundled up, sometimes you need something to warm you up from the inside.

Zacapa Rum is different from most rums. Like extra virgin olive oil, they use the concentrated first press of sugar cane, also known as virgin sugar cane honey. The rum slowly develops its flavor 7,544 feet above sea level in the highlands of Quetzaltenango, Guatamala at a place called The House Above the Clouds. The aging process is slowed due to the cool temperature and the flavor infusion is intensified by the lower atmospheric pressure. The rum is aged in Sistema Solera (a Spanish technique developed over 500 years ago to age sherry) where it blends rums of various ages in casks that once held American whiskey, sherry, and Pedro Ximenez wines. This blend of aromas and flavors from the casks are transferred to the maturing rum for a remarkable end result. Each bottle is adorned with a hand-woven petate band which is a royal Mayan symbol for the unity of time and space, earth, and sky.

To read more and see recipe, please visit:


OC Food Diva