The Champion's Table
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

¡Latin Food Fest! is coming to Santa Monica March 24-25, 2017

Festivities from last year's event

¡Latin Food Fest! is America’s largest annual Hispanic culinary celebration. This year it will be celebrated three times with the first in Santa Monica, adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier, March 24-25, 2017. This first event will be an action-packed line-up including a kick-off “Chefs Night Out,” ultimate tasting experience “Gran Tasting,” energetic street food party “Mercado,” and chef’s dinner, “Latin Supperclub.”

Lamb barbacoa
The festival draws a diverse crowd while helping bring awareness and raise funds for the Campanile Foundation in the fight against hunger.

Here is a look at the schedule of events along with ticket prices:

  • Havana Nights Supperclub – Friday, March 24 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $150 and go on sale on February 15, 2017.
  • Chefs Night Out – Friday, March 24 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $55 and go on sale on February 15, 2017.
  • Gran Tasting is an all-inclusive tasting journey to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain. Saturday, March 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $150 and are on sale now.
  • Mercado is a street food meets night market experience. Saturday, March 25 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets range from $65 to $95 and go on sale on February 15, 2017.
Carnitas tacos from Northgate Markets

Purchase tickets today for the Gran Tasting before it sells out and check back on Wednesday, February 15 to purchase tickets for Havana Nights Supperclub, Chefs Night Out, and Mercado. Viva la comida Latina!

For more information:
Save the date for San Diego: August 18-19, 2017
Save the date for Irvine: November 10-11, 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2016 World Food Championships Blogger Summit Day 2: Field trip

I awoke to dark, cloudy skies on the second day of our Blogger Summit so I brewed a strong pot of coffee to begin my day. We all met up in the main tower and I was glad to see that more people had finally arrived after flight delays and cancellations. David, Jodi Taffel’s man a.k.a. Mr. Bacon Babe, and I started talking about coffee and found out we have many things in common when it comes to the mighty bean – we experiment with different brew techniques, we grind our beans the same way, etc. The caffeinated conversation sparked my energy as we boarded the bus to make our way to Bayou La Batre.

Our first stop was to pick up our friends from Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Tourism at Sugar Rush Donut Co. and indulge in some tasty, fluffy, sugar glazed donut holes. These were definitely better than Krispy Kreme and I just wanted more along with a cup of coffee!!!

Bayou La Batre, a.k.a. “Seafood Capital of Alabama”, is in Mobile County. It is a fishing village and harbor for fishing and shrimp boats along with seafood processors. Bayou La Batre has also graced the Silver Screen in movies like Forrest Gump (You remember that montage when Bubba says, “Shrimp is the food of the sea. You can barbeque it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it…”) and even the Black Pearl ship from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was secretly built here. Bayou La Batre has overcome great adversity and been rebuilt since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 submerged this village under 16 feet of water.

Our first stop was Sandy Bay Oyster Company, producers of Murder Point Oysters, “Oysters worth killing for”. They are a 5th generation, family-owned business which started out catching shrimp and fish and now raises oysters. Their love and passion for the natural bounty of the Gulf of Mexico crafts a beautiful end product for the consumer. Murder Point Oysters are hand-crafted, raised with love, have a rich, creamy, and buttery flavor, and are 2.75” to 3” when harvested. Their name comes from an actual killing that happened in 1930, when on oysterman killed another over an oyster lease dispute. Sounds like a plot for a murder mystery novel! But, nothing is better than a fresh oyster on the half shell harvested straight from the water in front of you, even at 9am in the morning!

Our second stop was Olympic Shellfish Products. A 2nd generation, family-owned business that started out in the shrimp business but now focuses on blue crab with products like jumbo lump, regular lump, claw meat, and clawfingers. The processing is done by families of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian descent. The large influx of immigrants and refugees arrived following the Vietnam War. We watched the gals (from grandmas to their young adult grandchildren) processing crabs, making it look so easy by taking all the meat out of these little blue crabs. I was a lucky one who got to have a fresh clawfinger right after shelling. The meat is so sweet and just tastes of the sea.

Our third stop was Graham Shrimp Company. A 3rd generation, family-owned business that started out selling crab meat and is now running full steam ahead to become one of the largest processors for IQF, head-on, wild-caught Gulf shrimp. We saw one of their eight boats docked outside of the processing facility and then ventured into the sorting room where the shrimp are sorted by size, flash frozen, and packed for shipment all across the United States. There is nothing quite like the aroma of fresh seafood, like a sweet sea breeze, so you know it is ultra-fresh.

The Organized Seafood Association of Alabama (OSAA) treated us to an old-fashioned Bayou boil so we could “Eat Alabama Wild Seafood”. We saw our friends from Sandy Bay Oyster Company, Olympic Shellfish Products, and Graham Shrimp Company showcasing how they prepare their seafood.

The fixin’s included, peel & eat shrimp, marinated clawfingers, oysters on the half shell, popcorn shrimp, potato salad, coleslaw, fresh green salad, corn on the cobb, sausage, potatoes, and banana pudding. This had to be the BEST meal I’ve had in Alabama! Bayou La Batre really knows how to eat!!!

Just when we thought we were full, we got back on the bus and we headed back to Gulf Shores to visit Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s at Homeport Marina. A foodie’s life is always about the food. While eating more seafood, we were treated to a presentation on Fish Trax Marketplace, where you can scan a QR Code that comes with your entrée to find out where that fish was caught, who caught it, and where it was processed. We could also tour the Alleluia, part of the Ariel Seafood Fleet. This boat can fish for four days and haul 8,000 pounds of fish.

We started with an amuse bouche of fried green tomato topped with crab salad.

The rest of the meal was served family-style starting with some sautéed seasonal vegetables…

And some fried potatoes, reminiscent of country potatoes without the bell peppers and onions.

A sampler of fresh Gulf Red Snapper – grilled, blackened, and fried. I have never had red snapper like this before. The ones we have in the grocery store on the West Coast are thin fillets with a crumbly texture. The Gulf Red Snapper is thicker and succulent. The texture is fluffy like crab meat. Alabama, you have me hooked on your seafood!

I think I am still in a seafood coma from all of that deliciously succulent seafood we had in Bayou La Batre and Gulf Shores. It is surely haunting my dreams, even now. With Day 2 coming to an end, it is time to wash some laundry (while I have access to a washer and dryer as my stay in Orange Beach will be 10 days total), pack up for the move to my new accommodations in Gulf Shores, and get some shut eye. We still have one more day of the Blogger Summit!

If you enjoyed this blog post, read more:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

OC Food Diva’s “Best Of” Newport Beach Restaurant Week 2017

Newport Beach Restaurant Week is back for its 11th consecutive year, presented by Dine Newport Beach and the Newport Beach Restaurant Association. It officially started Monday, January 16 and runs through Sunday, January 29, 2017. Participating restaurants will offer special, two- or three-course prix fixe menus priced between $10 to $25 for lunch and $20 to $50 for dinner.

Here’s a look at the Newport Beach Restaurant Week preview event at Marina Park. It is a great location for residents of Newport Beach to reserve for events. The floor-to-ceiling windows are actually sliding doors which can be opened for spectacular views of Newport Bay.

Tackle Box presented up Buffalo Cauliflower.

The Ritz presented Spanish Octopus with romesco, fingerlings, and shaved asparagus.

Cucina Enoteca presented Braised Pork Cheek with creamy polenta, pickled trumpet mushrooms, grilled onion, and pig ear crackling.

Star Bar + Kitchen presented Caprese Sliders with mozzarella, habanero-pesto, basil, and tomato…

And Chicken “Gourmet” Balls with white herb sauce…

And Beef Blend “Gourmet” Balls with marinara topped with mozzarella.

Lighthouse Café presented Salmon Burger Sliders with lemon caper mayo, tomato, and mixed greens…

And Banana Bread Pudding with bruléed bananas, whipped cream, and salted caramel…

And Chocolate Ganache Tart with orange and hazelnut.

Sessions West Coast Deli presented Mushroom Chorizo Torta with roasted corn, goat cheese guacamole, and guajillo slaw.

For a complete listing of participating restaurant, please click here.

Here are my must-dine restaurants during Newport Beach Restaurant Week(s):

FIG & OLIVE - $25 Prix Fixe Lunch (My choices: Quinoa Salad, Paella Del Mar, and Chocolate Pot de Crème) and $40 Prix Fixe Dinner (My choices: Salmon Crudo, Fig & Olive Tajine, and Chocolate Pot de Crème)

Five Crowns Restaurant - $50 Prix Fixe Dinner (My choices: Lobster Bisque, Prime Ribs of Beef, and C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge Sundae)

Hopdoddy Burger Bar - $10 Burger and Beer (My choices: PrimeTime and Left Coast Brewing Co. Trestles IPA) and $20 Burger, Beer, Fries, and Shake (My choices: PrimeTime, Left Coast Brewing Co. Trestles IPA, Parmesan Truffle Fries, and Red Velvet Cake Shake)

Stag Bar + Kitchen - $10-$15 Prix Fixe Lunch (My choices: Meatball Sub with Stag Balls or Abe Forman “The Sausage King of Chicago” Pizza) and $20 Prix Fixe Dinner (My choices: Abe Froman Pizza and Juice Cleanse cocktail)

Take advantage of these great deals in Newport Beach and Corona del Mar while they last! Make your reservations today!