Event - zCafe Blogger Event

I had the honor of being invited to a patio reception at the zCafe at South Coast Plaza for bloggers in the OC area; the founder, Sid Fanarof, was there to talk to us which was quite nice. If the name of the place sounds familiar, you're not crazy. The chain zPizza is by the same person!

So the reception was very casual with us invitees sitting with our guests in the lounge/patio area. Small portions of menu items were brought around for our tasting, and the full-size portions were set on the ledge for our picture-taking use. I thought that was quite considerate of them to do so since we were bloggers; there were so many cameras on Saturday! I felt like my point-and-shoot was a tad amateur amongst the others (not to mention my being probably the youngest of the group).

Right from the get-go we had their hummus plate with Greek olives, roasted peppers, cucumber slices, and "Zbread," which was a crispy sort of flatbread. Funnily enough, I had just left the house after making garlic hummus to go here. It was quite good and the Zbread different from pita or pita chips. Served simultaneously was their margherita pizza with the regular fixings of margherita pizzas (garlic, mozzarella, tomato, basil) but there was something a bit more refreshing about Zcafe's version. I think it was the freshness of the ingredients and the large slices of tomato. I also loved the thin crust. Great stuff.

Next out was the roasted tomato soup in a small tasting bowl; made of roasted tomato, basil, and cream, the soup was fitting for the summer-y day seeing as it wasn't too hearty. However, my friend and I found it to be more sauce-like like than soup-like. What had me drooling was the next plate which was their Tuscan pizza. I could smell the truffle oil before I even saw the platter (and I'm a huge fan of truffle oil!). With a roasted garlic sauce, crimini & shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, and truffle oil amidst mozzarella and feta, it was nearly the perfect pizza for me. I love mushrooms. The crispy crust and savory oil played wonders in my mouth. I think a lot of the other bloggers agreed since they even started picking at the display plate!


A small plate with their most popular sandwich and salad was next on the plate - the grilled asada sandwich paired with the pear & gorgonzola salad. I think that had I had the salad under other conditions, I would've paid more attention to its grilled pears & candied walnuts but next to the grilled asada sandwich, it wasn't the more impressive. The dressing was great (don't get me wrong) but who can deny a tasty steak? The sandwich, I fell in love with. Luckily for me, my friend didn't eat red meats so I got her piece too! The lime chipotle grilled steak shone through, giving a nice zestiness to the meat itself and pairing it well with the kick of chipotle aioli. Sweet corn salsa was a refreshing twist to the sandwich, curbing the normally heavy-feeling of steak in a sandwich; I thought it was a very good way to match the tone of the food and minimize the weight of red meat in a lunch-type entree.

Another soup followed - the chicken corn tortilla soup. A tad basic in our opinions and the creme fraiche was overpowered easily. As for the interesting pizza that came out next, it was a pleasant surprise. It had curry chicken, roasted yams, mango chutney, golden raisins, and fresh cilantro. The chicken wasn't as curried as I had expected but that actually was to the pizza's advantage as the other flavors needed to play their roles. I found the mango pieces to be too large and overwhelming whenever I got a chunk in my mouth but the mango flavor essential to the overall theme. Great mix of flavors but the execution could use work in the portions department. I also think the fresh cilantro was a nice way to steer the flavors away from being too spiced. Again, a pleasant surprise!

The last plate (I know - there were a lot!) was of their quinoa taboulleh with chicken and their roasted veggie sandwich. Unfortunately for this final plate, I don't really like taboulleh and I'm slightly allergic to eggplant. I've had taboulleh lots of times, and I think what it is that gets to me is the abundant amounts of parsley. However, mixing the quinoa with it made the salad more bearable to my palate and the golden raisins added a nice touch. As for the sandwich, I tried my best to eat what I could but the roasted eggplant in it started my mouth a-tingling as it does when I have it; I liked what I had though - the balsamic vinaigrette was delicious.

We left neither empty-bellied nor empty-handed. Freshly made cookies wrapped in a bag & attached to a paper menu came with me as I walked off what I could through South Coast Plaza.  It was a great day to have good eats, and I am quite thankful for the tasting menu that was put together for us. Thank you to zCafe for having us, Lee for the invitation, and you readers for bearing through this long blog post!

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