The Olive Tree Restaurant is a hidden oasis of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine in Anaheim, CA

Joe Abdo loves to cook. In 2005, during his retirement, he saw a restaurant for sale. Now, the Olive Tree Restaurant is bringing people from across the county for home-cooked Middle Eastern food. Most of the clientele are students and the main contributors to the daily specials menu. Knowing that they are a little homesick, Papa Joe will make the dishes that remind them of home. He treats his kitchen as an extension of their homes, even wiping down their table and cleaning their dishes. And you really do feel at home. Joe likes to talk to everyone, asking you how you are and how you like the food. Plus, he makes everything fresh. No canned goods in his kitchen! So don’t be surprised if they run out of items. The prevailing wisdom suggests you come early or it will be sold out. Also, the Olive Tree Restaurant has both al fresco dining and an interior dining room.

Your meal begins with homemade pickles and pita bread. Yes, I said homemade. They are so scrumptious! 

I’m not a big fan of pickles, but the radishes, peppers, olives, and cucumbers were so good and crisp.

Hummus is pureed garbanzo beans with tahini, lime juice, and garlic. This is the best hummus I have ever had. Most hummus that you find in Greek restaurants is very lemony and can give it a sour flavor. Joe’s Middle Eastern version tastes fresh and not overly citrusy. You can actually taste all the garbanzo bean flavor as well as the accents of the tahini, lime juice, and garlic. I love the presentation with the whole garbanzo beans resting in the middle, like a nest. Use the pita bread to scoop this up and enjoy! Thumbs up, way up!

The Daily Special on this occasion was Lamb Shanks with Basmati Rice. The lamb shanks were marinated in 17 spices and were fall-off-the-bone tender. These spices actually cut through the gamey flavor, converting anyone into a lamb fan! Just ask my mom! The basmati rice was flavorful and not like the version you would get at an Indian restaurant. The rice can easily stand on its own, rich in flavor and spices. The flavor was so enticing that you feel compelled to eat more – very addictive. Thumbs up, way up!

Saturday’s Daily Special is Saya Deia (marinated, fried whole tilapia). The whole fish presentation is beautiful. The fish is marinated for 12 hours in Joe’s special blend of spices. I can see why people come here on Saturdays just for this dish. The tilapia was fried to perfection and very tender. The fry process locked in the juices making the fish moist as well. The rice underneath was almost like a Louisiana-style Dirty Rice with pieces of fried fish. The rice has so many flavors and spices, it could be a meal in itself. Tahini and special fish sauce (almost like a salsa) were served on the side. Each sauce added its own unique flavor to the fish and the rice. Experiment and see which flavor you prefer. Thumbs up, way up! Go early as they sell out of this item each and every Saturday. I’m serious! During this interview, Joe received 10 calls either asking if he still had fish left for the day.

I am so happy I found this hidden gem and can’t wait to come back again. My eyes are on the Kufta! Save an order for me, Joe!

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

For more information:
Olive Tree Restaurant
512 S Brookhurst St Ste 3
Anaheim, CA 92804-2448
Hours: Sunday-Saturday, 12pm-9pm

Olive Tree Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blvd 16 Restaurant and Lounge serves up American California Cuisine in Los Angeles, CA

Hotel Palomar, part of the boutique hotel chain of Kimpton Hotels, is located in the heart of Westwood. After renovations on their restaurant area were completed, Blvd 16 opened in March 2012 with new Executive Chef Richard Hodge at the helm. Blvd 16 is now a comfortable neighborhood gathering spot. American California Cuisine includes fresh seasonal ingredients from the local farmer’s market. Sustainability, including following guidelines from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, is at the core of their menu. This goes not just for the restaurant, but for the ingredients that go into its libations as well. For example, instead of using simple syrups for mixing, they use organic agave syrup. They even have a rooftop garden that supplies fresh herbs and more to their kitchen. The lounge & bar area is quite inviting, yet chic, featuring contemporary décor with large, comfy sofas to enjoy your favorite drink and taste some of Chef Richard’s dynamite appetizers. They also have options for your vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friends and family members.

The Lyder Side consists of Bols Genever, hibiscus liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of orange juice and agave nectar. It was refreshing, fruity, tropical, and floral. The agave syrup made it sweet and gave it a caramel like flavor. This is definitely a drink that you would have while sitting on a lounge chair on the beach or swinging in the warm night air on the porch. Wonderfully executed! Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and Happy Memorial Day!

OC Food Diva

BLVD 16 on Urbanspoon

The Cellar has American Gastropub fare with a little bit of pixie dust history

After the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride was built in New Orleans Square in Disneyland, some of the Walt Disney Imagineers were called to help build and decorate The Cellar. In 1970, The Cellar opened its doors bringing themed fine-dining inside the historic Villa Del Sol in downtown Fullerton, CA. Over the course of the last four decades, ownership has changed hands a few times. In 2004, Ryan Dudley took over the helm and has brought back dining of yesteryear. His career working for Lawry’s Restaurants, Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar in particular, gave him the experience of managing a themed fine dining restaurant. As you descend the staircase to The Cellar, you’ll notice that the atmosphere will change. You forget that you are in Downtown Fullerton when you reach the door. The door looks as if you’ve been transported to a seaport in the 1600’s, where you would need to know the secret knock to enter. The door is heavy and as you open it, you start to see very familiar décor, similar to the caves in the Pirates of the Caribbean. The dining room is well-lit and has white linen adorned tables and is very elegant. The Spirit Room has a speak-easy feel with red booth seating. Almost like a secret hideaway where the likes of Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard would be sitting in a dark corner drinking rum. The food is prepared with traditional French techniques using locally grown produce, grass-fed meats, and sustainable fish from the Seafood Watch Program.

Buffalo Tartar is mixed with a shallot and caper relish, topped with fried quail egg, and crispy capers. The presentation was nice and different, being square in shape. The minced buffalo was absolutely scrumptious with a rich flavor. The quail egg yolk added an amazing creamy flavor. The brioche crust added structure and matched perfectly with the buffalo. This dish will definitely give you an OMG moment or two. Thumbs up, way up!


OC Food Diva

The Cellar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Salted Caramel has treats that deliver “Sweet Meets Savory”

Bridget Doherty and Ginna Haravon idea started years back as a result of a Superbowl challenge. Ginna, who has been in the culinary world for years, was nominated by her food-industry friends to make a dessert – caramel corn with bacon in it. In the fall of 2009, Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn began the story and company of what Salted Caramel is today.

Salted Caramel offers “Sweet Meets Savory” candies and cookies. Each is a twist on a classic. Their packaging has a vintage circus vibe which echoes their fun and young company. All of their products are made in small batches with all-natural ingredients and using local small business ingredient producers like honey from Heritage Prairie Farm and stout beer from Piece Pizza & Brewery. Buying local is essential for sustainability, lowers your carbon-footprint, and boosting the local economy.

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

The 29th Annual California Strawberry Festival was jam packed with food and crafts

On Saturday, May 19, 2012, the 29th Annual California Strawberry Festival opened to a crowd of thousands. Visitors lined up an hour before the gates opened to get to their prime location faster – from their favorite food vendor to specialty crafter. As a first timer to this event, we were awed by the vast amount of people that visit this event. It was amazing to see the excitement in everyone’s eye just waiting for the gates to open.

Follow us as we take you along our adventure at the 2012 California Strawberry Festival:

Walking in from the Red Gate, the first thing you sense is the food! Oxnard strawberry farmers all had booths and were giving away samples of their sweet, chilled berries. Their food court is HUGE! And there are tons of strawberry infused foods like beer, wine, champagne, smoothies, popcorn, and lemonade or used in everyday dishes like pizza, nachos, crepes, shortcakes, funnel cakes, and, of course, chocolate-dipped.

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


OC Food Diva

MexiKosher is an adventure in Mexican Kosher food in Los Angeles, CA

Katsuji Tanabe grew up in Mexico with a mix of cultures - his father from Japan and his mother from Mexico. You would never know to look at him that he is “hapa” (half). His 15 years of culinary experience (graduate of Le Cordon Bleu) and cultural background are a winning combination when it comes to food. For the last 8 years, he has been working restaurants where he has been in charge of the kosher menu. Being limited to certain types of food, you learn to be creative while still thinking “inside” the box of Kosher. With this arsenal under his belt, he started to ponder how he could make Kosher Mexican food. It was quite a challenge but in July 2011, MexiKosher was born, introducing a totally new food experience to both the Kosher and non-Kosher eating communities. In Southern California, we take it for granted since Mexican food is so prevalent in our lives. Eating a taco or burrito is second nature to us. When MexiKosher opened, Katsuji had to show people how to eat these foods as the concept was totally foreign to them. For example, most parts of beef that are used in our everyday tacos and burritos are not considered to be a Kosher part of the cows – pretty much any parts from the stomach down are not allowed. All pork is off limits as well as dairy products. There are many other items and ritual practices that need to be followed to be considered Kosher. See Wikipedia for more information:

Kobe Ground Beef Taco tastes like a more robust ground taco meat than you’ll ever get at a restaurant. The beef flavor is accentuated by the chili and herbs. It is so juicy too! Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

MexiKosher on Urbanspoon

Andrei’s serving conscious, sustainable cuisine in Irvine, CA

Natalia and Andrei Olenicoff (sister and brother) had a dream that one day they would own and operate a restaurant. Andrei was always interested in organic and sustainability farming and practices back in the 1990’s long before it was trendy. In a car accident, Andrei’s life was tragically cut short. As a tribute to Andrei’s dream, Natalie and their father, Igor Olenicoff, opened up Andrei’s. Andrei was also afflicted with an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentos, along with other similar degenerative diseases affect 1 in 28 people in the US. 100% of the restaurants profits benefit the Andrei Foundation, started in 2005, whose goals are to find a cure for these diseases and also help the people who are currently affected. Andrei’s opened its doors in 2009 and has been opening people eyes to gourmet, organic, sustainable cuisine.

Pommes Frites are hand-cut Kennebec potato fries with a truffle aioli. They were cooked the Belgian way, twice fry – blanching to lock in the flavor and then frying at a higher temperature for a crispy golden brown exterior. The exterior was crispy and had a blister like texture, like kettle chips. The interior was fluffy and tasted like a freshly baked potato. The truffle aioli was fabulous! Rough chopped truffle in a perfectly creamy aioli. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:


OC Food Diva

Andrei's Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails on Urbanspoon

2012 Strawberry Festival gets underway this weekend

Save the date because the 29th Annual California Strawberry Festival will be held on May 19-20, 2012 at Strawberry Meadows of College Park in Oxnard, California. Among the top festivals on the country, this celebration shows off strawberries in every way you can think of, and a few you can’t think of as well. 

But this event is much more than that. Take a leisurely stroll among the 250+ artisan and craft booths.  Enjoy some of the 18 live concert performances. Watch and learn from celebrity cooking demonstrations and presentations. Enter baking and eating contests. Take the kids through Strawberry land for rides and attractions. You will even be giving back to the community as a large portion of the proceeds from the festival goes to help support various Southland charities. So far the event has raised over $3.5 million.

Mahalo and if you go, come back and let me know what you thought of it.

OC Food Diva

The Catch serves up upscale, casual dining in Anaheim, CA

In 1979, The Catch opened as a local fish house restaurant right across the street from Anaheim Stadium (now Angels’ Stadium) on State College Boulevard. We had tried it in the early-1990s and it was just mediocre at best. In 2001, Joe Manzella (owner of TAPS in Brea) took over the reins at The Catch, making the menu more upscale yet still casual. Still avid Entertainment Book subscribers, we decided to try it again. We were surprised by how much Joe had revived the menu and how good the food had become. In 2010, The Catch moved to its new location on Katella Avenue in the new AvalonBay Luxury Residential Building, which is retail on the bottom floor and residential units above. The Catch has a wonderful location on the corner with a very short walk to The Grove or a short walk to Angels Stadium or the Honda Center – right at the epicenter of sports and entertainment for Anaheim.
The meal starts with wonderful artisan sourdough bread and butter. The bread had a crispy, glazed exterior and spongy inside, tasting much like sourdough bread. It’s really good.

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and if you go to The Catch, let me know what you think!

OC Food Diva

The Catch on Urbanspoon

Deep Fried Whole Chicken

We love our Butterball Turkey Fryer. First time using it for a whole chicken. It cooks in 20 minutes versus 2 hours roasting in the oven. And come out juicy and succulent. We tried one with seasoning and one without. Both came out tasty!


OC Food Diva

Celebrate the first annual National Moscato Day

May is National Wine Month. In celebration of this year's fastest growing wine varietal, Gallo Family Vineyards has established May 9, 2012 as the first annual National Moscato Day. It all started in 1933, when Brothers Ernest & Julio Gallo started their winemaking business. And four generations later, they are still producing wines to celebrate the spirit of hardworking American families.

Gallo Family Vineyards will be starting the festivities on Twitter. Follow them, @GalloFamily, for a National #MoscatoDay Twitter Party and virtual live toast from 9-10 PM EST.

To read more, please visit:

Mahalo and if you celebrate with a glass of Moscato, come back and tell me about it!

OC Food Diva

Edible Gifts Plus has delectable, fun, and festive treats for every occasion

Margo Rappel started as a party planner back in the 1990s. She loves to help people celebrate life’s special moments and occasions. She dreamed of expanding to a national level and, in 2007, opened Edible Gifts Plus. She also caters some of Hollywood’s celeb parties such as Trista Sutter's and Tori Spelling's daughters birthday parties. Much of what she offers can be customized with personal artwork, photos, messages, and names as well. offers delectable, fun, and festive treats like cookies, chocolates, dipped fruits, pretzels, and popcorn that are perfect for holidays and special celebrations.

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and if you try them, let me know what you think!

OC Food Diva

The Flame Steakhouse is a swanky steakhouse in Downtown Las Vegas, NV

Even Downtown Las Vegas has some fine dining restaurants to choose from. The Flame Steakhouse is one of them. Situated near the gateway of the Fremont Street Experience, the El Cortez Hotel & Casino starts to sparkle at dusk. It’s an adults only restaurant so having a nice, quiet dinner is expected. The décor is a typical Las Vegas steakhouse – cozy booths, white linen, and prompt service.

Let’s talk meat! The Colorado Lamb Chops are four bones topped with demi glace and accompanied by mint jelly. All entrees are served ala carte. The presentation wasn’t too impressive, but the lamb was cooked to a perfect rare. The demi glace was rich and flavorful. The mint jelly added a perfect sweetness to the meat and balanced all of the elements. Thumbs up, way up!

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and if you go there, let me know what you think!

OC Food Diva

The Flame Steakhouse (El Cortez) on Urbanspoon

Restaurant and artisan food gathering at OC Tastefest in Costa Mesa, CA

On May 4 and 5, 2012, the inaugural OC Tastefest celebrated food and music at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa. They sold tickets in sheets of 10 for $5. In the long run, you’ll probably spend about $25-30 per person if you plan on making a meal out of it. The good thing is that you get to sample a number of restaurants – get to know their food and hopefully, go to their restaurants to try the full-size entrees. The event was a little small, but expected as it is the inaugural event. Hopefully, it will catch on and more restaurants and artisan food vendors will join next year. I must say, Pretzel Logic, A Steely Dan Revue, was great musical entertainment. I was rocking out in my seat while munching on my food.

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

MARO Wood Grill (Laguna Beach, CA) offered a 12-ticket platter of Mesquite Skirt Steak Skewers (Grass-fed Paso prime steak topped with housemade chimichurri), MARO Edamame (Mesquite-fired soy beans sprinkled with Sonoma sea salt), and Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies (Royal organic vanilla bean, Valrhona chocolate chips, organic flour, organic eggs, and cane sugar). The skirt steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The mesquite smoke permeated and complemented the beef. You’ll definitely have an OMG moment or two. This was my first time having edamame grilled and it was pretty good. But the Sonoma sea salt was a little too chunky for this causing it to be too salty at times. I would use a kosher salt or a finer sea salt sparingly instead. The Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies were okay. Their flavor was very subtle. But I’m definitely going to visit this restaurant for the full order of skirt steak! For more information, please visit their website:

To read more and see photo slideshow, please visit:

Mahalo and if you went to OC Tastefest, let me know what you thought of it!

OC Food Diva

Hatch Chile Season is Here! Spicy Cheesy Hatch Chile Polenta Fries Recipe

Some of the ingredients and products in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own. One ...