OC Restaurant Week 2013 - Launch Party!


It has begun. Today marks the first day of the 5th annual Orange County Restaurant Week! I've posted a few reminders on my Facebook already but hey, are you doing anything for it? I know that I'll be hitting up at least one restaurant a day which should be very, very exciting. Anyhow, yesterday Duc and I attended the awesome Launch Party for the week where loads of restaurants and people clamored together at the Newport Beach Lexus to get a taste from restaurants participating in the prix fixe week and mingle with other foodies. Proceeds from the night went to the childhood hunger non-profit, No Kid Hungry.


Despite how large the space was, I can tell you that it got busy! Where do I even start? The food's definitely the main attraction for all of those coming out for the afternoon. Let's try to get at it alphabetically! American Tavern Eatery & Drink offered a well-liked bratwurst in miniature bun topped with an onion-mustard sauce that made others come back for more. Blackmarket Bakery wooed attendees with more than plenty of desserts by featuring their black widow tart, chocolate haystacks, soft cinnamon cookies, peanut butter blondies, and more. Loved it! Bluewater Grill dished out warm bowls of their delectable clam chowder, a creamy and smooth bodywarmer.


Canyon got our hands a little messy as we fit the steak lettuce wraps into our mouths, crunching on the bright butter lettuce, red onions, and (what I think were) julienned young papaya. A real crowd pleasure was the short rib and polenta from Cucina Enoteca who served the melt-in-your-mouth dish from their beautiful decorated table. I'd have to say that the hit of the party was the ruckus every once in a while that came from the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurants table as they broke out into song and dance for special occasions - attendees celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and anything else were publicly put on the spot as witty parodies were sung their way. Let me retract my statement - I'll call them the life of the party and not just the hit. With ice cream and candy, our inner childs were smiling every time we passed by the brightly decorated table. Frostings Cupcakes had their OC Restaurant Week 5th Anniversary cupcake available for those sweets fans. One thing that we had to go back for seconds for was the lobster mac and cheese of House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer which was crunchy on top, creamy throughout, and lightly satisfying in both the cheesy and lobstery bodily needs (yes, those exist). There were also sticks of what chocolate rice crisps that brought on some munching. K'ya Bistro passed out awesome incentive cards (one small plate!) while handing over large meatballs smothered in a BBQ sauce. Landmark had a nice cup of tangy tartare alongside some spicy mango sorbet infused with tequila - alcohol in my dessert? Right on.


Of course beloved Melissa's Fresh Produce was there not only passing out the most beautiful of fruits but giving us all insight into fruits in general and then particularly on the ones they offered. Orange Hill Restaurant brought some interactive interaction in their samples as the seared ahi tuna morsel included a truncated pipette filled with a citrus sauce; it served as the skewer for the food but also a playful way for us to put some effort into our tasting as we squirted the juice in our mouths with the bite. There was also a succulent piece of pork belly to whet our fat-craving appetite. Paul Martin's American Grill added the "class" to the event by treating attendees to full cheese and charcuterie plates (I especially loved the meats) which included something I hadn't seen before - caper berries! There was also a serving of mashed potatoes and beef that really fell apart perfectly under our fork's touch and in our mouths. Pizzelle's Bistro provided some saucy meatballs and flatbread for people to nom on.


Quinn's Grill gave us some fun with our pictures as we tried to snap a shot of them with their sliders and shepherd's pie. RA Sushi pleased those looking for some raw food as tuna tartare was beautifully presented on a crisp alongside roasted peppers. Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen brought their A-game as they passed out samples of their award-winning dessert, an ooey-gooey powdered sugar mess of chocolate and chocolate syrup; they earned Best Dessert at the Golden Foodie Awards 2012 for this decadence. Sadie Rose Baking Company was there passing out lovely small loaves of their bread and slices of deliciousness.


Both of our favorites for the event came from the talented Savannah Chophouse, an open-faced beef wellington made of flaky puff pastry, a to-die-for topper sauce, tiny pieces of beef, and an artistic and perfectly complimentary sauce. Love, love, loved it. Scott's Seafood passed out plates with a generously large shrimp flaked with fresh Parmesan atop a bed of lightly dressed greens - delish! A huge draw for everyone was outside as each person got a 1/4 piece of the infamous Slater's 50/50 burger; who says no to the type of amazingness in a patty that is 50% beef, 50% bacon? Sundried Tomato showed us an alternative way to make lasagna - by not using pasta! Every layer was a delectable layer of roasted vegetables, all covered in a tangy tomato sauce fit for the lasagna lover in all of us. The Melting Pot treated guests to assortments of dessert items smothered in dark liquid chocolate once we picked up our cups (they are a fondue place after all). Villa Roma passed out Italian spins on empanadas and had a lovely dessert display of two various delicacies presented in miniature martini glasses.


Is it a proper OC party without free-flowing alcohol? I'm not too sure it is. There was no shortage of sources at this Launch Party though. Chambord poured their spirits with berries, and Stella Artois could not have gotten any busier as lines formed for their generous pours. For those who preferred a more grapey taste, both La Crema and Freemark Abbey wineries had their wines pouring limitlessly as well.


However, despite all of those places, the one drawing the most attention was Patron Tequila who not only had a live bar that people waited in line for up to 1.5 hours for but also a complimentary engraved juice presser and a "Taste of OC" cocktail dispenser. Drink up!


Other sponsors present that event included the refreshing products from Hawaiian Springs, the informational spread from AAA, and the ever fun and funky people of Yelp who also brought some excitement with a silly photobooth. Overall, a fabulously awesome time with some of my favorite foodies. I'm looking forward to getting my nomming on during OC Restaurant Week! Let me know were you all are going too! If you're looking for more (and bigger pictures), check for them on my Facebook tonight.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos are available on Facebook.

Looking for other bloggers chowing down during OC Restaurant Week 2013? See who's writing at http://www.orangecountyrestaurantweek.com/OC_Food_Blogs_That_Rock.html!