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!

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Mahalo and Happy Memorial Day!

OC Food Diva

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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.

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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.

Fresh Roasted Corn on the Cob with Real Butter began our food journey. Bright yellow and brushed with melted butter hit the spot. The corn was sweet with a juicy burst of flavor in every bite. It was so good that it didn’t need all of the toppings/seasonings offered like seasoned salt, grated parmesan cheese, pepper, etc.

Dessert for breakfast? The Works Funnel Cake is funnel cake sprinkled with powdered and cinnamon sugar, and topped with sliced strawberries, strawberry syrup, and whipped cream. The funnel cake itself was fluffy yet had a crispy shell on the outside. The strawberries always worked well with funnel cake - today was no exception. It had just the right amount of whipped cream for a sweet, creamy, decadent treat.

The Festival Stage area had lots of shaded seating. Kelly’s Lot (Ventura County’s own Roadhouse Rock & Blues) has a toe-tapping, bluesy sound that matched perfectly with the festival. Kelly Zirbes’ voice is cross between Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Ethridge. We enjoyed savoring the funnel cake while comfortably seated in the shade of the eating area in front of the festival stage.

Stone Fire Authentic Flatbreads was on hand giving out samples of their naan – original and garlic flavors. Their naan is a little thicker than you would get in an Indian restaurant, more like the pita bread they serve at Greek restaurants. It had a soft and chewy texture. With a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, it transformed the original flatbread into an instant dessert. But, the star was the garlic naan. It has a really good garlic flavor, not just a scent or essence. We have already looked up where we can buy this in our area. Can’t wait to buy some!

Strawberry glazed popcorn got our interest while walking through Strawberryland (kid’s area with rides and games). The red glaze reminded me of rainbow popcorn which they sell in Hawaii. It had a slightly sweet strawberry flavor, but some of the corn didn’t get the coating on it. They might want to rent some of those candy coaters (sort of looks like a small cement mixer) next time. As it turns, you can coat the popcorn evenly. Otherwise, this was a great idea for infusing the strawberry theme into popcorn.

While munching on the popcorn, we perused the Arts & Crafts promenade. It was HUGE – with products ranging from homemade salsas and balsamic vinegars to hand-crafted gifts, clothes, jewelry, and artwork for sale. It was a great way to walk off the calories and plan for your next food attack.

Napa Valley Noodles served up California wok seared yakisoba noodles with fresh vegetables in a ginger garlic sauce. For an extra $3, you can have it topped with chicken. It’s a huge portion served in an Asian-style take-out box. Everything was perfectly cooked and the sauce tasted really good, but there was far too much of it on the noodles. A little lighter on the sauce would have made this perfect.

Totally Nuts dished out samples of Cinnamon Glaze Almonds with cone-poly bags for sale from snack size to one-pounders. Just like their tag line, they are “so good, they’ll drive you crazy”! The glaze completely covers the almonds like a candy coating reminding me of P-Nuttles but with almonds instead of peanuts. The cinnamon makes it a little different with a smoky flavor.

To cool down and end our day, we stopped for strawberry smoothies. Wonderfully fresh, ice cold, and sweet, the smoothies really hit the spot. Expertly blended to a smooth consistency, we walked slowly back to our car and reminisced about our fabulous strawberry adventure. We can’t wait to come back next year and sample the food we didn’t get to try.

For more information:

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.