Orange Coast Magazine

Little Sparrow Braves Bravo TV's 'Best New Restaurants'

Orange County knows all about Little Sparrow in downtown Santa Ana—after all, this spring it was chosen as Restaurant of the Year 2014 by Orange Coast dining critic Gretchen Kurz. Now though, it’s poised for nationwide exposure after being chosen as one of 16 restaurants featured on Bravo TV’s “Best New Restaurant” with Tom Colicchio, to premiere in January. If only the Bravo website could correctly place Little Sparrow in Santa Ana instead of lumping it under “L.A.” The Pasadena entry is noted. Why not Santa Ana? Read more...

Chef Geeta Bansal Cooks 'A Night of Spice' at the Beard House

Globetrotting chef Geeta Bansal of Irvine’s Clay Oven has just returned from last month’s MAD Conference, the annual food-world gathering organized by superstar chef Rene Redzepi in Copenhagen, but she won’t be home long. Bansal will be cooking at the James Beard House on Sept. 27, bringing her modern, highly personal Indian cuisine to New York City for “A Night of Spice.” Read more...

Fig (and Goat Cheese) Season at Nirvana Grille

Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales of Nirvana Grille in Laguna Beach comes by her emphasis on fresh, sustainable, and organic quite naturally. She was raised in the bohemian beach town by an Ayurvedic doctor mother. Add in culinary school at Orange Coast College, a stint at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, and a whiff of her husband and co-owner Luis’ Mexican culture, and you begin to see how her eclectic menu came together. Read more...

The Blind Pig's Building a New Trough

It’s only been a year or so, but the young owner of Rancho Santa Margarita’s the Blind Pig has already secured his second location, which undoubtedly puts him on the path to a full-on empire. Tony Monaco was just 25 when he opened the lakeside gastropub last August, and at the time he imagined a “3 by 30” business plan—three restaurants before he turned 30. Read more...

Lots of New at Zov's Bistro

Having to be in two places at once is nothing new for Zov Karamardian. Her restaurant business has expanded into a not-so-mini empire that will be six restaurants when the new Anaheim stadium-adjacent shop opens in October. While it’s under construction, the Tustin flagship is wrapping up a $750,000 remodel. There’s just a lot to do. Read more...

Swine & Sculpture at PigOut 3.0 in Costa Mesa

Fancy a bit of bacon? How about a whole lot of porky treats, prepared by some of O.C.’s best chefs? Sunday afternoon, the third annual PigOut, our local porkapalooza, is coming to California Scenario, the Isamu Noguchi park and sculpture garden near South Coast Plaza. Tix start at $75 for the 3-to-7-p.m. event, which includes tastes of all dishes plus drinks coordinated by O.C. craft-cocktail czarina Gabrielle Dion, owner of The Mixing Glass. Some proceeds go to Inspire Artistic Minds, the nonprofit founded by Bobby Navarro of to support culinary endeavors. Read more...

Hatch a Plan for New Mexico Green Chile Sauce

Have you Hatched yet? If not, there are O.C. opportunities to score the long, green New Mexico chile through the end of this month, and likely into September since the harvest got off to a slow start this year. Check the list of roasting events I ran earlier in Taste of Orange County, here. Once you have your Hatch chiles in hand, you can make the deeply authentic sauce shared by O.C. public relations pro and Hatch chile maven Lee Healy, whose recipe I promised in that earlier post. Read more...

The Hatch Chile O.C. Connection

Harvest time is here for Hatch chiles, so called because they’re grown in Hatch, New Mexico. But you don’t have to be from that state to love the bright-green chiles that come in gradations of heat from mild to seriously extra-hot. Tim Gonzales of TJ’s Woodfire Pizza is from New Mexico, and often has secret-menu green chiles that can be added to his otherwise quite classic pies. I love them on a TJ’s quattro formaggio. Read more...

Umami Burger at the Irvine Improv―Food Plus Funny

Orange County’s fourth Umami Burger opened at the Irvine Spectrum recently, the first location in the rapidly-expanding chain to be integrated with an Improv comedy theater. (The other O.C. Umamis are in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, and Laguna Beach.) There may be additional cuisine-comedy mashups in the future, but for now there’s just one and O.C. got it. Read more...

Locavores, the OC Fair Has You Covered

I’m only slightly joking when I say Tasti Chips, the fresh-fried potato chips available at the OC Fair, are the health food option among deep-fried cookie dough and foot-long corn dogs. They’re kind of otherworldly delicious, too. I like ‘em with an extra shake of salt and a generous spritz of the malt vinegar thoughtfully provided, but available toppings include Parmesan-garlic, and nacho cheese sauce. A super-generous, suitable-for-sharing serving is $7.50—the $10.50 size surely would feed an entourage. Read more...

O.C.'s Best: Dining Guides

  • O.C.’s Best: Tiki Drinks

    These quintessential warm-weather tonics transport you to the tropics with a potent blend of rums, sugar, and lime

    Though some regard them as overly cloying concoctions, tiki cocktails such as mai tais and zombies are enjoying a resurgence in Orange County. Craft bartenders layer the rum-based drinks with multiple spirits and spices to create beguiling and complex potions. Here are five great places to get your tiki on. Read More
  • O.C.’s Best: Vegan Breakfasts

    These five Orange County kitchens prove it’s easy being green, even at the most important meal of the day

    Veg-heads don’t just mow down bowls of granola and slam wheatgrass shots at the break of dawn. Most want to enjoy brunching on Sunday-Funday with everyone else. And because it can be hard to find tofu scrambles and dairy-free waffles, we’ve rounded up five local eateries that provide tasty vegan options to start the morning right. Read More
  • O.C.’s Best: Shaved Ice

    These aren’t the crunchy snow cones you grew up with, but frozen treats shaved with exacting precision from ice blocks

    These light and downright lush desserts get tricked out with enticing toppings and mix-ins, many taking their cues from Asian favorites such as red beans, mochi balls, and lychee. But they also can be as traditional as orangesicle and strawberry shortcake. Here are six places in Orange County to get your brain-freeze on. Read More

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