$20 3-Course Lunch at Lido Bottle Works


Newport Beach Restaurant Week runs now through Sunday, Jan. 27, featuring an array of Newport’s best restaurants offering delicious multi-course meals at special prices.

Lido Bottle Works on Newport Harbor is offering a $20 3-Course Lunch as part of this special event!

It includes:

Soup du Jour or Charred Eggplant Hummus

Crispy Jidori Chicken Sandwich or Gem Lettuce Salad

Chocolate Mousse or House Spun Ice Cream

A few things you should know before you go … the soup changes daily (hence the name, and it’s always delicious)! I’m also partial to Chef Amy Lebrun’s Crispy Jidori Chicken Sandwich because it’s marinated in Thai flavors and dressed with spicy peppers and cilantro! The Gem Lettuce Salad features amazing polenta croutons and a smokey ancho/honey chili paste.

It’s probably worth making reservations for 2 so you can try a little bit of everything.

Reservations & Restaurant Info: LidoBottleWorks.com

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


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.
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Celebrating 10 Years of Break of Dawn


When Chef Dee Nguyen opened Break of Dawn 10 years ago in Laguna Hills, the city was a culinary nowhere, sprinkled with chain restaurants and casual cafes, but few spaces that would constitute upscale dining. Even Break of Dawn itself opened with a menu as far from it’s current iteration as could possibly be.

Dee hawked pho and banh mi in his early days before abandoning that approach for the globally-inspired menu of today that brings us tempura fried eggs with pork belly and kimchi, lamb ragu with spaetlze and feta cheese, French toast with Mexican chocolate creme brulee, and more.



Break of Dawn exists because of Berlin, son of Dee and his wife Linh. Berlin requires daily medical care due to complications with a surgery he had when he was a baby, so Dee left his job at the Ritz to open a brunch restaurant, ensuring he would be home every night for dinner.

It’s incredible what Dee’s accomplished in a decade, especially considering that the restaurant has never been his first priority. Every day he plays a role far greater than restaurant owner, and a large percentage of the frequent diners who adore his cooking may never know how this drives him.

Not only does Break of Dawn turn 10 this year but Berlin begins high school, an even greater milestone moment for the Nguyen family. … Read more…

Modern Filipino pops up at LASA in Los Angeles


My father-in-law, a beloved Cal State L.A. professor, book collector and academic, sends us a lot of e-mails: inspirational quotes, history lessons, nature scenes and the occasional link to a blog or website that he thinks we should check out. Recently he forwarded L.A. Times food writer Jonathan Gold’s write up of Filipino pop-up LASA, and lucky me, my wife booked us seats.
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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Break of Dawn gets RAW, again; looks ahead to Filipino pop-up


This Saturday, July 16, Chef Dee Nguyen of Laguna Hills’ Break of Dawn will unveil his latest pop-up themed “Pinoy Summer,” a journey through Filipino cuisine. While I’m sad I’ll miss Saturday’s event, I did have the pleasure of dining in late May at his “RAW 2” dinner, a second stab at a concept he masterminded last year with Daniel Doki Kim, now of Sushi Roku.

No menu or descriptions of the dishes were provided. For the many prix-fixe meals I’ve been to, I definitely enjoy this element of surprise. It’s something Grits Fullerton Chef Cody Storts pulled off well with his recent “Blood & Guts” dinner with Noble Ale Works, and I hope the trend of mystery dinners continues to grow. (Speaking of which, did anyone else grab a ticket to Foodbeast Chef Linh Nguyen’s “Wu-Tang” pop-up at Mesa in August? Talk about ‘Raaaaawwwww.’)


Dee’s dinner felt like a summation of everything he’s done since the first RAW, from a trip through South America to foraging the hills and beaches of Orange County. As cliche as it sounds to say he gets better every time, he really does—creating a style of Asian-influenced global cuisine like nobody else in O.C.

He did post the dishes on Facebook after the event, so everything is accurate to what we ate, though some of the ingredients were things I couldn’t have imagined because I’d never heard of or eaten them before. Keep reading for pictures of each course (and a few surprise guests!) …

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Grits Fullerton celebrates 1st anniversary with Golden Road at “Dirty South” Beer Dinner


Grits Fullerton—Orange County chef Cody Storts first solo venture, with partners Darlene and Erik Arevalo—celebrated its 1-year anniversary June 24. The Downtown Fullerton restaurant serves as a modern diner, dishing out Storts’ insane takes on brunch, lunch and dinner classics.

For their first birthday, Storts teamed with Victor Novak, brewmaster of Los Angeles’ Golden Road Brewing—which just opened its first Orange County in Anaheim’s Platinum Trianglefor a 6-course beer dinner dubbed “The Dirty South,” paying homage to Storts childhood years spent in the South.  … Read more…

Grits Fullerton & Noble Ale Works Blood & Guts Bonanza + June Beer Dinner Announcement!


Working with multiple chefs and business owners in Orange County allows me to draw from multiple influences and perspectives. My various clients inspire me in different ways. In the case of Grits Fullerton, the creativity of Chef Cody Storts and Co. has always been what’s drawn me to the place.

I won’t ever forget my first bite of Fried Chicken Skins with Fresno pepper jam, or one of my new favorites of his, Thai Balls, with pancake balls, fried pork cutlet, raw shallot, jalapeno and cilantro, with a drizzle of fish sauce maple syrup. Like a banh mi for breakfast as made by Hunter S. Thompson.

Grits is a celebration of food and family, and accordingly, the restaurant has scheduled monthly beer dinners in partnership with breweries. The goal is to create a memorable experience for diners and beer drinkers alike. Past breweries included Stone and The Bruery, but for the restaurant’s May dinner, Cody and Grits Beverage Manager Boozie the Beer Guy turned up the mayhem and paired with Noble Ale Works for a Blood & Guts Beer Dinner on Friday the 13th of May.

The dinner came a week after Noble won big for their beers at the 2016 World Beer Cup, and were also awarded the honor of best small brewery in the world. ALL OF PLANET EARTH. Insanity! Noble’s Brewmaster Evan Price brought the heat too, producing unique beers including one with cochineal (essentially bright red beetle juice) and another (absolutely delicious brew) made with some interesting coffee beans.

Even though it’s my job, I was slightly afraid of this one, not because I don’t trust Cody, but because I’m not too keen on pig heads, brains, blood and the like. I know offal doesn’t mean awful, but it’s not like I’m eat intestines and snout for dinner every night.

Trust fall in progress …   … Read more…

Break of Dawn’s Love Bites: Aphro-DEE-siacs


They say Break of Dawn‘s Dee Nguyen is one of the godfathers of Orange County cuisine.

True, he’s one of O.C.’s culinary gems, but come November he may actually be a godfather to one of the many babies likely to result from his latest dinner, a 10-course Valentine’s affair featuring 19 aphrodisiac ingredients.

Nguyen said he was still editing the menu up to the day of the event. But the resulting courses—though lighter than his typical fare—showcased the techniques and flavor profiles he’s known for while still managing a few surprises. Along with his two sous chefs, the trio knocked out 610 plates in 2-and-a-half hours, wrapping up around 8:30 p.m. so diners could get home promptly for dessert.

On to the meal …

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B.O.D. After Dark: Breakfast man’s dinner dash


Three amigos. 3 hours. 54 guests. 12 courses. 648 plates.

That’s the final tally for last Saturday’s “Cow-n-Buddies” prix-fixe, the latest in Break of Dawn Chef Dee Nguyen’s ongoing series of fine-dining dinners. It’s a concept he’s flirted with sporadically over the years, only realizing it consistently with this year’s successful meals including “Un Tour de Vietnam,” “Pig-N-Buddies” and multiple B.O.D. RAW sushi dinners, in tandem with Sushi Roku’s Daniel Doki Kim.

It takes months of planning, up until the day of, utilizing techniques new and old (garum, anyone?). This meal included 45-day aged prime rib, monkfish liver, veal with blue crab … the dude isn’t holding back, and he’s only getting quicker, better, more efficient and even more experimental. He does it as sport, on his own, for the high.

For those in the kitchen, it’s pure and unrelenting chaos. For those in the dining room, pure and unrelenting bliss, with course after course highlighting Chef Dee’s unique flavor profiles and plating. I’m writing a book with him and many of these pictures will find their way into those pages. Until you can get your hands on the final product, enjoy this look at Break of Dawn After Dark.

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Eclectic electric: Dinner at Taco Maria


For as often as I visited Chef Carlos Salgado’s Taco Maria food truck, it’s a surprise to most everyone that I’d yet to dine at his proper brick and mortar in The OC Mix. In the time since he parked the truck and opened the joint, Salgado’s gone back to the farm for tortillas (read this next!) and become a hero for modern Mexican cooking, praised by Edwin Goei of OC Weekly, Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times, named a Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef” and more.

Wifey Nadia and I came to celebrate my 33rd birthday and had the option of sitting at the chef’s counter, which, duh. Though Chef Salgado wasn’t in the house, his kitchen crew, helmed on this night by Roland Rubalcava (formerly of his own incredible Placentia mercado), was more than ready to shine with their precise techniques and explosive flavors.

I think Mexican food in America is wrongly pegged for having a low value. One-dollar tacos, combination plates with rice and beans, burritos at the drive-thru. But plates from chefs including Salgado, Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe and Javier Plascencia of Mision 19 in Tijuana redefine Mexican food for this generation of gastronomes.

Four courses runs $65 with an optional $29 wine pairing. I went with a glass of red from the Valle and let the kitchen take it from there. Photos are a bit grainy because it’s a dim space, but I started shooting with a Canon 50mm and it works well enough in low light settings and amazingly otherwise. Loosen your belt … … Read more…