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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Elbows Mac n’ Cheese in Brea, CA

Macaroni and Cheese is a long standing comfort food for all ages. Although most of us were brought up on the bright orange-yellow macaroni and cheese from a box, it continues to instill times of families coming together at the table to recap a day of school and work. It was cheap, yet warmed the tummies. Some moms served it on the side for dinner and others used it to stretch meats to make a one-pot meal. 

Elbows Mac n’ Cheese takes those memories and makes them gourmet with their own twist on an American comfort food. With the first location opened in Cerritos, CA back in January 2011, Elbows Mac n’ Cheese opened a second location in Brea, CA in September 2014 in the Birch Street Promenade. It’s a great location in between the Edwards East and West theatres providing another meal option before or after a movie.

Here are some menu items that you might like to try:

Truffle Fries are French fries tossed in white truffle oil, parmesan, parsley, and garlic. The fries are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The truffle oil adds a nice fragrance but the taste is not evident. The parmesan and garlic powerfully flavor the fries. Rating: 5/5

Cajun Mac consists of cheddar cheese Andouille sausage, green and red peppers, onions, celery, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. The Cajun flavor is very light and could be much spicier. The “holy trinity” (celery, onions, and bell peppers) should be cooked down and added to the roux. An accent of the sautéed vegetables on top would add to the presentation. The Andouille sausage is good but the mac n’ cheese base needs to be seasoned more. Adding Tabasco actually gives it more of that “Big Easy” flavor. Rating: 3.7/5

Fajita Mac is Southwestern flavors combined with sharp cheddar and pepper jack macaroni, topped with fire-roasted red and green peppers, grilled onions, and tortilla chips. The Southwestern spices are apparent with creamy texture. The cheese flavor is very subtle and needs to be pumped up. The steak is a little tough and overdone. Jalapeno and tomato infusion into the sauce base might help boost flavor. Rating: 2.6/5

Lobster Mac uses real lobster and fresh asparagus in a rich asiago and parmesan cheese sauce. The cheese flavor are very light. It does not deter from the lobster flavor, but would like the cheese to be flavor forward a bit more. It resembles a creamy casserole dish. Rating: 3.5/5

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

For more information:
215 W Birch St
Brea, CA 92821

Elbows Mac n' Cheese on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bacchus Bar & Bistro in Irvine, CA

Bacchus Secret Cellar opened back in 2009. Five years later, a top-to-bottom renovation took place as a renewed Bacchus Bar & Bistro was born. They currently have over 350 labels and over 30 craft beer options including 6 rotating on draft. The Secret Cellar still exists in the back of the restaurant offering over 75 top shelf wine selections ranging from $100 to $300 per bottle. Chef Charity Smith, formerly of Patina Group, has taken over the kitchen with a selection of small plates, cheese boards, sandwiches, and desserts.

 Taco Tuesdays are a great way to get some variety of land and sea while enjoying beer or wine.

  • Shredded Beef Tacos work well with the pickled red onion and spicy jalapeno flavor. The beef needs to be seasoned a bit more to bring out the natural beef flavor. Rating: 2.8/5
  • Carnitas Tacos have a great flavor with porky goodness shining through. The cojita cheese matches well with a salty cheese flavor. Rating: 4.3/5
  • Fish Tacos has a generous portion of fish. Spicy and sweet flavors are balanced and match with the fish. Rating: 3.8/5

Beer Samplers are a great way to try different beers. You can try four different beers from the draft options for $13. Here are some that might be on rotation:

Here are some menu items you might want to try:

  • Warm Roasted Brussels Sprouts served with Chinese sausage (lap xiong), shishito peppers, fried garlic, and sesame ponzu. The brussels sprouts are roasted to sweet perfection. The lap xiong adds a sweet porky flavor. Along with the ponzu and shishito peppers, the flavor profile is very Asian. For presentation, it would be nice to have the shishito peppers raw for a contrasting bright green color as the brussels sprouts lose their color due to the roasting process. Rating: 4.3/5
  • Glazed Pork Belly Tacos are glazed with a sweet soy reduction and topped with kimchi salsa and cabbage. Unfortunately, the glaze and kimchi salsa overpowers the pork flavor. The tortilla, on the other hand, has a hearty roasted corn flavor. Braising the pork belly with non-sweet soy marinade would push the flavor forward plus make for more tender pieces of pork. It would balance out with the spicy and somewhat sweet kimchi. Rating: 2.1/5
  • Lamb Burger topped with goat cheese, roasted tomato, pickled red onions, cucumber, and lemon tahini yogurt atop an egg bun. The presentation is very interesting. It looks like a giant lamb meatball inside a huge brioche bun. It would be better with a smaller bun for a tall burger or making the burger patty flatter to fit the brioche bun. Also, lamb needs to be seasoned a bit to bring out the true natural lamb flavor. Rating: 3/5
  • Chocolate Bread Pudding topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The bread pudding has a firm texture and chocolate aroma. You can see the chocolate chips/chunks inside but the chocolate flavor seems to be muted. The chocolate drizzle is nice but a chocolate ganache would be better. Also, vanilla bean ice cream would be better than whipped cream as it would create a natural crème anglais sauce as it melts on the warm bread pudding. Rating: 3/5


  • Happy Hour: Monday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm: $2 and $3 off all wines by the glass, $2 and $3 off all brews
  • Taco Tuesdays

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 3 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
6735 Quail Hill Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92603

Bacchus Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Product Review: Land O’ Lakes’ Sauté Express® Seasoned Meal Starter + recipe

Land O’ Lakes now makes Sauté Express® Seasoned Meal Starter. The cube is a variety of herbs and spices combined with butter and olive oil. You can cook and flavor your favorite meat, vegetables, and more. It’s a ready-made compound butter conveniently packaged for you to create mouth-watering dishes.

Garlic & Herb Sauté Express Seasoned Meal Starter contains garlic, herbs, olive oil, and butter. The box contains six – 1 oz. cubes that can be easily unwrapped and dropped in a sauté pan. A great recipe to use with this is Latin Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. Preparation and cooking is quite easy. This is a great recipe to start before you go to work. When you get home, you will be greeted by the aroma of this succulent dish. The pork is tender and moist. A slight citrus flavor comes through. Addition of salt on the pork, liquid smoke, and more orange (maybe bump up to a whole orange) would make it better. The best ways to serve the pork are as a slider in a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll or served in a corn tortilla as a taco. Recipe Rating: 4.3/5

  • Cooking Tip: It is best to use the low setting for 6-8 hours. The high setting will cook it faster but will also start to burn the edges of the meat and sauce due to sugar content.

Italian Herb Sauté Express Seasoned Meal Starter contains fresh herbs, aromatic spices, butter, and olive oil for an Italian flair. The box contains six – 1 oz. cubes that can be easily unwrapped and dropped in a sauté pan. A good recipe to use with this is the Caramelized Onion Dip. Preparation and cooking is very easy. The aroma of the onions caramelizing in the Italian Herb Sauté Express is fantastic! The dip is slightly sweet, smooth, and creamy. Reduction of mayonnaise to ½ cup and addition of garlic salt and finely chopped green onion or chives would make it perfect. The best way to serve the dip are with tortilla chips, potato chips, or wheat crackers. Recipe Rating: 3.6/5

Another great way to use these meal starters is to make Cheesy Garlic Bread. Enjoy the recipe below by the OC Food Diva.

Cheesy Garlic Bread by OC Food Diva
  • 2 cubes of Land O Lakes Italian Herb or Garlic & Herb Sauté Express squares
  • ½ cup of shredded cheddar & Monterey jack blend
  • 2 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese
  • One 12-inch loaf of French or Italian bread

  1. Cut loaf of bread in half as if you are making a large submarine sandwich.
  2. Spread each half of bread with one Sauté Express square.
  3. Sprinkle parmesan on top of each half.
  4. Evenly top the bread with shredded cheese.
  5. Broil in oven for 5 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and bubbling.
  6. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  7. Cut into sections and serve with your favorite Italian dish.

Let your creativity run wild and use Land O’ Lakes’ Sauté Express in your next family meal.

For more information:

Land O’ Lakes Sauté Express products provided by House Party