The Ultimate O.C. Food Lovers Guide

Below is a sample of The Ultimate O.C. Food Lovers Guide

Don’t trek to L.A. for the choicest meats, produce, breads, and ethnic fare. It’s all happening right here. Our cheese shops, cooking classes, kitchen gear, and farmers markets suggest a cooking revolution that’s already at full boil.

The Meat House
These franchised boutiques specialize in customer service and swanky goods, from dry-aged beef to gourmet marinades and opulent cheeses. Boar? Rocky Mountain oysters? Just special order.
415 S. Associated Road, Brea, 714-257-1478;
103 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, 949-548-6328; 23982
Alicia Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949-587-1013,


Gem Meats
A local fave for bespoke steaks of the highest order. Marinated meats have a staunch following, especially tri-tip. Call ahead and they’ll season and rotisserie your chicken, lamb leg, or ribs for an extra $1. Never cheap, but always trustworthy. Patient, old-fashioned service.
3125 Yorba Linda Blvd., Fullerton, 714-996-3363.

Brees’ Meats
Beloved for exceptional sandwiches, expert butchering, and attractive prices, this friendly shop has been a go-to for 48 years. At least 15-plus housemade sausages and several marinated skewer meats make it a griller’s paradise.
11877 Valley View St., Garden Grove, 714-892-1115,

China Poultry
Fresh, flavorful birds, butchered to your liking, create lines out the door at this tidy supplier with thrifty prices. Parts, too—think livers for pâté or bones for stock. Eggs by the flat are a steal. Cash only; ATM on site.
16281 Harbor Blvd., Fountain Valley, 714-839-2328.

35 Degrees
Buy premium aged meats from this Newport Beach supplier to tops chefs. All beef is Prime or CAB (Certified Angus Beef). It’s never frozen, and shipped to your door. Expensive, but worth it.


Brad Wick
Gem Meats & Produce
What’s the history of Gem Meats?
My father and a partner opened 37 years ago, and I took over in 1993. We’re definitely an old-fashioned operation; we break down all of our beef. The independent butcher scene has been disintegrating for years, so we feel lucky to have survived the trend.

How have customers’ needs changed in the last decade?
The popularity of grilling reflects the busy lives they lead. Far less time is spent in the kitchen making complicated meals that need hours of preparation.

Your most popular items?
Rib-eye steaks, teriyaki beef kabobs, and prime rib. During the holidays, we also sell a lot of ham and turkey.

Your preferred cuts? 
I’m just a meat-and-potatoes guy. I like rib-eyes, New Yorks, and roasted prime rib.

Any other O.C. butchers you admire?
Of the few left, I think El Toro Gourmet Meats [Lake Forest] and Beef Palace [Huntington Beach] are good shops.

Your favorite restaurant?
I don’t go to steakhouses, but I do like Lucille’s for barbecue.

What about grass-fed beef?
It’s too expensive for us to carry. All our beef is USDA Choice. We do sell all-natural pork and free-range turkeys.


Classes for Foodies
Roger’s Gardens
My Edible Garden is for cooks who grow their own. Steve Hampson leads monthly discussions on planting, harvesting, and everything in between. Free. 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, 949-640-5800,


Black Market Bakery
Owner Rachel Klemek shares the love and art of baking with focused, fun lessons on specialties, from flatbreads to cake decorating. Classes often sell out. From $58. 17941 Sky Park Circle, Irvine, 949-852-4609,


Prep Kitchen Essentials
Isn’t it time you learned the difference between brunoise and batonnet? A roster of topics includes artisan bread-baking and dim sum. From $75. 12207 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, 562-430-1217,


Sur la Table
A buffet of foodie studies means workshops are held almost daily in this well-equipped classroom. Coming up: “Sushi 101” and “Cooking With Beer.” From $69. 832 Avocado Ave., Newport Beach, 949-640-0200,


This guide includes:

Farmers Markets Guide



Ethnic Markets


This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Orange Coast magazine.

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