Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Taste of Tuscany in OC at BRIO Tuscan Grille

[Giveaway details at the bottom of the post] The signs that appeared at Irvine Spectrum months ago created some curiosity - what exactly is Tuscan cuisine? I and many others had seen the series of directional posters in the walkways of the center excitedly advertising the new opening of BRIO Tuscan Grille in the summer. It was the middle word that had people interested since there weren't other establishments in the area touting such style of food. It would be Italian but different somehow. After some delving, I realized that it was not a new restaurant by any means but rather, just new to the area being only the second Californian location of the chain. Meant to be a more upscale but casual restaurant, BRIO Tuscan Grille services to a wide range of clientele and aims to be a neighborhood restaurant. With their wide, wrapping patio, I can believe that! I came in on invitation to check them out a few weeks after opening. There were already several tables full that day for lunch!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Recipe - Tomato Bisque

We had a lot of tomatoes and a lot of milk. This is how ideas for dishes usually begin - there is a surplus of ingredients and I brainstorm a place for them all. Tomato bisque jumped to mind almost instantaneously though. A common but always welcomed soup, this creamy starter is actually not too difficult to make. It's actually a great go-to for when you want a comforting dish that isn't complicated. My recipe incorporates two ways to tackle tomatoes whether you use canned or fresh; go for the fresh if you've got enough time to!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Meet Bite Me Kitchen: Adam and Rose Zalewski

What do you get when you throw together a little bit of attitude, a good-sized chunk of amazing food, and a whole ton of passion for helping people get healthy and feel great about themselves? I'd say, you get Bite Me Kitchen. The husband-wife soon-to-take-over-the-world duo of Adam and Rose Zalewski have been building an empire of plant-based, nutritionally balanced, and great tasting food right here in Orange County, affecting lives all the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara (meals delivered via courier service in eco-friendly containers). Currently based out of one of our favorite places, The Hood Kitchen in Costa Mesa, Bite Me Kitchen (BMK) is a food service with fully-cooked meals available for delivery or for pick-up without any subscription services or set minimums. They focus their a la carte items on being robust in taste and responsible in sourcing, making everything from scratch from the sauces/dressings to breads to even faux meats. As they say,
"We believe in delicious, calorie-conscious, wholesome cuisine that's affordable, accessible, and above all - SATISFYING."
We admire that their from-scratch, plant-based meals are made from organic non-GMO ingredients without compromising taste or price. I have been on their mailing list for a while now and see the drool-inducing menu items available every single week; it is amazing just how diverse the menus are. We just had to get to know more about them so we pulled up a few chairs and had a chat to learn what exactly BMK was all about. Be warned - long post ahead. We just loved our interview and time with them a little bit too much.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Test Kitchen - Mediterranean Chicken with Pesto Couscous

I don't like making anything complicated because I want to be able to replicate it later. One late night, I decided I ought to work on our Test Kitchen ingredient of Israeli couscous. The typical routes of making a salad or throwing together a childish dish were not appealing. What about putting some basil pesto vinaigrette on it though? We had a bottle of it in the refrigerator. What to pair it with though? It seemed like a Mediterranean flavor, the pesto in couscous, so I came up with this Mediterranean chicken. It's a dry rub that infuses its flavors into the thin chicken breast to keep it moist and still flavorful. Check out the easy recipe below!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Event - Riveria Magazine's "To Live & Dine" Orange County 2014

As the food-loving crowd of Orange County gallivanted about the South Coast Plaza Village on the evening of August 7th, some of the best chefs the county has to offer were wiping their brows with the upper sleeves of their chef's coats and putting signature touches on bite-sized food. It was the 2014 "To Live & Dine" event hosted by Riviera Magazine, a much anticipated food foray that pits chefs against one another in a friendly battle for votes. Each attendee clasped their one vote in the form of a gold coin and tried tastings from restaurants they both knew and maybe have never heard of; whatever was the "best taste" for the guest would get the vote. How does one pick when sixteen chefs have put their best food forward? There was a tasty assortment but we did have our favorites...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recipe - Coffee Tofu Pudding Pie

I've enjoyed tofu desserts over the years but have always wondered how easy or hard they were to make. I got my hands on some tasty, workable soft tofu the other day and decided I would give it a shot. Now, this recipe involves using crust that is already made but you can easily form and bake your own too for a better flavor. I took advantage of how well tofu absorbs other flavors when pureed and mixed it with coffee for a coffee pudding pie. This is a no-bake pie and is extremely easy to make.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sommelier Saturdays at Del Frisco's Grille Santa Monica Educate with Interaction

The world of wine can be an extremely intimidating to enter whether you are new to the whole spectrum of wine or only to a region. With that trepidation comes a shyness to reach out for help sometimes but there are classes and events out there that can help with education. We heard of Del Frisco's Grille in Santa Monica hosting monthly Sommelier Saturdays with Sommelier Adem Sash and finally were able to attend one (on invite) to see what the program was like. The restaurant itself sits directly across from Santa Monica Pier so offers a fantastic beach view and the southern Californian experience, a fitting setting for a wine education class. Every class has a different theme, and our attendance was at the Loire Valley focused event which happens to be Duc's favorite region. The other guests were lively, eager to learn, and varying in regards to wine knowledge. We were pleased to see how well Adem was able to navigate a balance between the familiarity levels in his session, and we certainly had a fine selection of wines to go with the knowledge!