This Chocolate Chip Muffin, for President

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If there’s one platform I can truly get behind this election season, it’s that we should support our local businesses.

If we’re talking donut shops in Orange County, my favorites are all over: Cream Pan in Tustin (cake donuts, bagettes, strawberry croissants); Surfin’ Donuts (multiple South County locations; get the Tiger’s tail); Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa (everything); and my favorite family-run shop: Michael’s Coffee House across the street from Saddleback Church in Lake Forest/Foothill Ranch.

I hate to say I don’t know the name of the family that runs the place, but they’re always so slammed when I’m in there, I’ve never had much of a conversation with them. What I can tell you is to order any of their customizable sandwiches on a huge, buttery croissant; the blueberry donut is my wife’s favorite, and THEY MAKE THE GREATEST CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFIN OF ALL TIME.

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It’s all about the ratios. Lets talk about that muffin top—the good kind. In this case, the best kind.

It’s like a flying saucer landed on a wax-paper-wrapped pedestal for all to gawk in awe at. Because it’s so huge and cooks over on the pans, the perimeter of the top tastes more like a muffin version of Chewy Chips Ahoy! The inside of the top and the bottom of the muffin are perfectly soft and fluffy, and not overly sweet. Large chocolate chips stud the top and float around in abundance within, too.

It’s hard to tell someone to go driving for a chocolate chip muffin, but that’s exactly what I’m saying you should do. Take the toll road to save time if you must, (Bake off the 5, cutting across Rancho will do it too), but this is one decision you won’t soon regret.

Michael’s Coffee House
29200 Portola Parkway
Lake Forest, Ca 92630
949-455-1348

Paso Robles expansion in full swing for Pizza e Vino’s owner

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Pizza e Vino owner Steve Dickus’ expansion into Paso Robles is in full swing.

While his crew has been holding down his Neapolitan pizzeria in Rancho Santa Margarita—earning high placements on both the Orange Coast Magazine and Orange County Register “Best Pizza 2016” lists—Steve’s been working on 2 new restaurants in Downtown Paso Robles.  … Read more…

Drink Up! Explore the world through cocktails at YNK in Irvine

What if I told you one of the hottest cocktail bars to ever touch down in Orange County is in … Irvine?!

Ten years ago you would have laughed at me, but O.C.’s different these days. I was at an intersection in Tustin near the Marketplace on Tuesday and had a flashback to a time when all four of the restaurants on the corners were chains. Today, only one of those four.

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan predicted in the 60s that the times, they are a changin’. And almost 60 years later some of the best cocktails in O.C. are being served at the … Irvine Marriott?

The times ARE a changin’.Read more…

3 Tacos to Get Your Hands on This #NationalTacoDay

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Today’s not just any Taco Tuesday, it’s National Taco (Tues)Day and for that we celebrate. The noble taco is always there to provide sustenance, a trusty fallback and often an equally trusty fall-forward if we can call it that. I just love tacos. And I’m pretty sure you do too.

In honor of the day, here’s 3 tacos to get your hands on this #NationalTacoDay:

Chorizo Breakfast Tacos at Alta Baja Market (above)
4th Street Market, 201 E. 4th St., Santa Ana
www.altabajamarket.com

Alta Baja Market’s menu is full of Southwestern inspiration. Especially so on the weekends when the brunch menu features sweet or savory versions of New Mexican blue corn waffles, plus some seriously overstuffed breakfast tacos.

ABM co-owner Delilah Snell’s kitchen features the best local ingredients. She makes her own preserves, pickles and other goodies, and she puts the same care into these amazing tacos by using the world’s most perfect flour tortillas from Burritos La Palma, chorizo (of the gods) by Electric City Butcher, delicious Gonestraw Farm Eggs and house made pico de gallo. Austin, we see you.


 

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Falafel Taco at Falasophy
Menu & Schedule: www.falasophy.com

No taco has been as unique to me this year as Rashad Moumneh’s Falafel Taco at Falasophy. His #FalafelChariot, aka the food truck he runs between OC and LA, doles out delicious twists on falafel and hummus to vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike.

The taco’s components are well thought out: an El Metate flour tortilla cradling pineapple-juice pickled jalapenos for a mild bite, serrano chile crema for spicy-cool interplay and pickled cabbage for acidic crunch, all surrounding three golden, herbaceous falafels. The dish even landed at No. 33 on OC Weekly’s Top 100 Dishes of 2016, picked by “Taco USA” author and Editor-In Chief Gustavo Arellano. Quite the stamp of approval!


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Tahini Chicken Tacos at Zov’s
Locations throughout Orange County
www.zovs.com

2016 Golden Foodie Awards Chef of the Year Zov Karamardian is known for her blend of Mediterranean and French cuisines, but it’s her take on the chicken taco that had me swooning last year when I discovered these tasty bites on her Happy Hour menu in Anaheim.

The chicken is “spiced,” as it’s described on the menu, and I can’t really say what’s going on here except that it’s tasty and succulent. A mix of veggies, herbs and micro greens add a zip of freshness, with red pepper aioli and tahini providing a tasty sauce to tie all of the flavors together.

With the Ducks season about to start, these are a smart bet before the game, plus parking is validated for the entirety of the game so you can park and walk or Uber over. Tacos that basically pay for themselves … I’m in.

Irenia at Lunch: Modern Filipino Food Shines in DTSA

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Filipino food is not something I’m thoroughly familiar with. Back in the day we used to raid my friend Noel’s pantry for Vienna Sausages, Spam and rice—and while that’s sure to make the Filipinos reading this smile—we can all agree: true Filipino food that is not.

I’ve previously dabbled in dishes at Pinoy Pam’s and Magic Wok—finding introduction to lumpia, pancit, sisig and lechon—but it hasn’t been until the recent influx of finer-dining Filipino fare, led mostly by second generation Filipino Americans, that I truly began to take notice of what this new wave of chefs are cooking up.

Filipino food is taking over the Golden State: In Los Angeles Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan’s Amboy helped pave the way for the Jonathan Gold-approved LASA; in Oakland the first Savor Filipino food festival goes down Oct. 15; and here in Orange County we have our own special gem in the heart of Downtown Santa Ana, the humble yet show-stopping Irenia.

Read more…

Zov Karamardian honored as Golden Foodie Awards 2016 Chef of the Year

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Chef Zov Karamardian—an Orange County culinary legend who in her early 40s turned an at-home catering business into a cafe, and nearly 30 years later has a multi-location restaurant group—was honored as “Chef of the Year” at the 2016 Golden Foodie Awards, Sept. 25, 2016, at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach.

The Golden Foodie Awards is the Orange County Restaurant Association’s premiere annual gala, attended by regional and national celebrity chefs, restaurant industry folks and the food media. “Chef of the Year” was the final category announced at the gala; many in the audience were cheering Zov’s name before the winner was announced.

Upon receiving her award, Zov had the following remarks for the crowd:

“Thank you so much for this prestigious award. I would like to thank my entire staff, and I would like to share this award with all the chefs in this room. We know how hard it is day in and day out. It’s been 30 years, in and out of the restaurant, and it’s not easy. But it’s still going strong. So I thank my family and my entire staff for being by my side every single day, and I thank you so much for this award.”

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Chef Zov Karamardian is interviewed after her win by fellow Golden Foodie Award winners Grub Tribe.

Zov recently founded #ZovsFamilyTable, pairing with local nonprofits to provide healthy family meals to Orange County families, and she’s gearing up for the 30th anniversary of Zov’s Restaurants in early 2017. The Karamardian family will also open their first South Orange County Zov’s location in San Clemente in late 2017.

For more information about locations, menus and upcoming events, visit www.zovs.com.

3 Golden Foodie Award nominees you should know

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Sunday marks the fifth annual Golden Foodie Awards at the Fairmont Newport Beach. The Orange County Restaurant Association’s premiere event features regionally and nationally-regarded celebrity chefs, tons of great food and an awards gala honoring the best in Orange County’s culinary world.

It was a big year for Orange County chefs and their restaurants, and this year’s show will be themed to honor both the legendary chefs who paved the way and the trailblazers of today. Three of the restaurants Knife & Spork Public Relations works with are nominated this year. Whether they bring home Golden Foodies or not, here’s why you should know them:

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Zov Karamardian of Zov’s Restaurants
Nominated for Chef of the Year
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There’s a handful of pioneering female chefs in Orange County (thankfully, more so today), and Zov Karamardian is one of them. Her blend of Middle Eastern flavors and French influences have garnered local enthusiasts for 30 years come 2017. What started as one cafe in Tustin has grown to restaurants in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Coast and Tustin, with a first-ever South Orange County location in San Clemente in the works.

While trends come and go, Zov manages to remain on trend year after year, adapting versatile menus that highlight her style of cooking while always showcasing what’s hot now, too. The Stadium Menu at Zov’s Anaheim is exemplary of her ability to reframe familiar classics including pizza, tacos and burgers in unique ways.

In late 2015 she cooked at the James Beard House in New York for the third time in her career and Zov’s was named the 2015 Small Business of the Year by the State of California for the 37th Senate District. In 2016, Zov founded #ZovsFamilyTable, pairing with local nonprofits to provide healthy family meals to Orange County families.

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Falasophy
Falafel & Hummus Bar on Wheels
Nominated for Best Vegetarian
falasophy.com

Few food trucks on the road in Los Angeles and Orange County are as ingenious as Rashad Moumneh’s “Falafel Chariot.” The roaming falafel and hummus bar serves up Middle Eastern classics punched up with bold flavors and even bolder ideas. The former Taco Bell corporate executive started Falasophy with the idea of promoting plant power and, specifically, the nutritional powerhouse that is the noble garbanzo bean.

Rashad’s falafels are crunchy bites of bright green heaven, but it’s not just how good they are, but how he uses them that sets Falasophy apart from the faux-lafel fakers out there.

Try them in critically-acclaimed tacos, with pickled veggies and a spicy-cool crema, or shoved into a pita with Vietnamese-style veggies just like a banh mi. There isn’t much like this on the streets, so a stop at Falasophy is a must. Schedule here: http://falasophy.com/#schedule.

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Grits owners Cody Storts and Darlene and Erik Arevalo.

Grits Fullerton
Nominated for Best Beer Selection
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Grits Fullerton and beer go together like maple syrup and fish sauce, look it up. Boozie puts together a killer beer selection with taps and bottles from craft breweries near and far, complementing the “American-Food-on-Acid” style of cuisine Chef Cody Storts is known for.

Their ability to source great beer is best exemplified in their ambitious, themed beer dinners, which have seen the Grits crew pair with some of the best breweries in the country including Stone Brewing Co., The Bruery/Bruery Terreaux, Noble Ale Works, Golden Road and Sierra Nevada. Cody asks the breweries to truly dig into their archive or create new takes on beers they may be working on already.

The results are never disappointing, and even led to the creation of the best beer I’ve had all year—”Poop Goes the Weasel” by Noble Ale Works during Grits’ “Blood & Guts” dinner. It’s a civet-poop coffee stout that I couldn’t get enough of. There were only 6 gallons made and it went fast. If I had a glass, I’d raise it!

Congratulations to the nominees!!

The Beach Barrel brings back Ochoa’s Chorizo Chili

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What I love most about the crew at The Beach Barrel in Newport Beach is that they’re always trying something new, and it’s usually on the outer stratosphere of American grub. Jared Jones and Co. have brought us Hawaiian Sticky Buns, Jerk Chicken French Fries and, finally, one of their finest recipes has returned to the menu just in time for fall.

Have you had Ochoa’s Chorizo? If you haven’t been to this tiny Santa Ana storefront near Warner and Main you’re missing out on the leanest, tastiest chorizo in town. They sell it all kinds of ways too, spicy, mild—a green jalapeno version and even soyrizo made on site.

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To make their killer chili, Jared’s taking Ochoa’s spicy, adding a little more heat, ground beef and beans (plus some secret spices). You can order it in a bowl, but it’s better with a bunch of cheese on crunchy French fries and juicy burgers. If you haven’t had the Barrel’s signature burger patty you’re definitely missing out … it’s beefy and spiced, touting a unique flavor you won’t find at other burger joints.

The Beach Barrel is open 7 days a week on the Newport Beach Peninsula, and they stay open for dine-in, takeout and delivery until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Locals looking for delivery can use UberEATS: The Beach Barrel to make it happen.

For more on The Beach Barrel, check out this great article written by Valentine Bratoff for Spoon University!

The Beach Barrel
3305 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, Ca
949-531-6222

Grits’ Pancake Balls featured on Foodbeast

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Peter Pham and Reach from the Foodbeast crew recently visited Grits Fullerton to get a taste of Chef Cody’s delicious pancake balls. Cody’s take on the Danish aebleskiver is a more-cake-like take on the European original, only Grits executive chef is doing them up his way.

For example, take one of my favorite dishes of the year, Thai Balls—with pancake balls, fried pork cutlet, raw shallot/jalapeno/cilantro and fish sauce-maple syrup. I lovingly refer to the dish as the Breakfast Banh Mi (that’s Vietnamese, I know) but one taste of this dish and you’ll understand exactly).

Cody’s also been going through the cereals of his childhood to spruce up his balls and the results are insane, and insanely delicious.

Click here to see Foodbeast’s video and article about Grits Fullerton’s Pancake Balls!

Grits’ “California Love” Beer Dinner highlights the Golden State in 6 plates

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So far this year, Grits Fullerton‘s beer dinners have seen Chef Cody Storts explore, among several themes, Blood & Guts with Noble Ale Works and The Dirty South with Golden Road Brewing. But he had yet to properly mine his home state of California for inspiration.

For the “California Love” beer dinner Sept. 9, the Grits crew set out to prove why the West Coast is the Best Coast.

They tapped Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, their Barrel Room and popular Beer Camp series for six beers to pair with courses highlighting the traditional twists and out-of-bounds ideas Chef Cody’s known for.
Read more…