Event - The Hood Kitchen Space Vendor Tasting

I had heard buzz about The Hood Kitchen Space for so long but didn't finally visit until Valenza Chocolatier's launch a month and a half ago. It's a fantastic space that rents out commercial kitchens in their 5400 sq. ft property. 24/7, chefs can use any of the six fully equipped kitchens (two of which are specially geared towards bakers) and even host private events. What a fantastic way for smaller businesses to still be able to produce their small-scale products in professional kitchens! We were invited to come out to their vendor tasting/open house a little bit ago and were so happy to meet several of their regular vendors. My goodness they make GOOD food!

In addition to hosting for other vendors, there are plans in the work for The Hood Kitchen Space to open a "market" of sorts in the front. We got to taste some of their creations in mind for this market too! The first was our cocktail for the evening made with tequila and Campari with tangerine. I'm not sure if that will be available regularly but it was definitely a refreshing start to the evening. Water and wine were also available for the non-hard liquor folks as well as local OC vendor Diesel Cold Brewed Coffee. This ready to drink cold brewed coffee comes in a deceptively beer-like bottle that adds some personality to your morning routine. It was cleanly smooth and tasty. I'm looking forward to more from them! Our hostesses that evening were co-owners Shelby Coffman and Christie Frazier who introduced to us the vendors and the story behind The Hood Kitchen Space.

Duc and I arrived before most of the guests did so we snuck around the back to where all of the chefs were still prepping their food. Hope we didn't bother anyone too much! We met Kyle Powers of Fork in the Road Catering with whom I bantered about the new Much Ado About Nothing film by Joss Whedon. Of course I'd find myself gushing Shakespeare with someone! It's okay - he had the excuse of having studied theater in school. He was busy putting together beetroot crepes (look at that beautiful color) and juicy lamb chops. Yum. We also sneaked a peek at the shrimp bisque bubbling by A La Carte and salivated when looking at the rolls Chef Steve Gregory had out for his miniature lobster rolls.

Another group we "bothered" in the prepping process were Executive Chef Donna Cali and Sous Chef Adam Bombly of Little Italy West. My look at the tasting menu for the evening showed that they had four plates coming out - how exciting. You would not have been able to stop my staring at the freshly made pasta resting on the sheet pans on their side of the kitchen. Originally with restaurants in Florida, Little Italy West has made its way into southern California and are looking for space in Orange County to set up delicious shop. I'm looking forward to when they do settle down because freshly made pasta? Count me in!

So what was on the menu? Vendor Massey Honey Company (family-owned and cultivating sustainable honey in Yorba Linda itself) was featuring Cheese Stuffed Figs Drizzled (marscapone stuffed figs with balsamic, drizzled with peppery Honey Port). Oh how I love figs. The marscapone was light enough in this dish to really allow the fresh fig flavor to shine through. We also had The Hood Kitchen's own "Gangsta" Sandwich (roasted pork sandwich with cowboy candy, grilled peaches, arugula, and smoky BBQ aioli on mini brioche) which also featured some more summery tastes with the grilled peaches. Sweet and smoky, it was a good starter. Chef Kyle of Allspice Eats, a gourmet Paleo meal delivery service, impressed with his Sweet Potato Mash Bacon Cups with Pineapple and Green Onion (sweet and savory spices, green onion, pecans, and bacon and pineapple bits in a crispy bacon cup) that combined sweet and smooth sweet potato with salty and crunchy bacon. I wish they didn't go so quickly because I definitely wanted more.

Then we had the dishes from the chefs we peeped at in the back. Chef Steve from A La Carte Menu brought out his Lobster Roll & Shrimp Bisque (warm New England lobster roll on a buttered mini brioche served with classic shrimp bisque shooter). Aside from being downright adorable, it was the perfect seafood bite to chase with a shooter of warm, creamy bisque. Then came the dishes from Chef Kyle of Fork in the Road - Lamb Chop & Beetroot Crepe (green salt crusted lamb chop with chimchurri and beetroot crepe filled with goat cheese, arugula, and pistachios). My my my, the lamb chop was my favorite for the night with just the right amount of salt and a very memorable crust. The beetroot crepes were also bright with color and taste, showing off the beautiful softness of a crepe surrounding the crisp and crunch of arugula with pistachios. I longed for a platter of my own. As for those lamb chops, I admit I went back for seconds...and maybe even thirds. Shh!

Then the slew of Little Italy West's plates came through - Pepper Crusted Colorado Lamb Loin (with balsamic reduction and parsley pesto) which was a peppery, tender morsel of goodness; Mandarin Parfumed Half Moon Duck Ragu Pasta (garnished with bask pear in red wine, arugula, and goat cheese) which was a hearty bite balanced by the sweet and bitter in its garnishes); Fresh Made Infused Papardelle Pasta with Porcini Sauce which I nearly inhaled before letting Duc have a try because it was just that good and full of mushroom goodness; and Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce which was an interesting take on gnocchi and very pillowy. The sauce was divine with it and quite fragrant by the sage.

Our last entree vendor for the evening was the amazing Chef Colt Munchoff of the Munchoff Foundation who had Albonigas (Spanish style meeting meatballs in tomato sauce). If you've never heard of him, click the link connected to his name to watch a video on what he does. The Munchoff Foundation is a nonprofit which focuses on adaptive cooking techniques and teaching for the disabled community. Chef Colt himself is disabled and without use of his left arm but manages to adapt his cooking style to what he makes. As he explained his dish which was made by his own students, he teared up several times and managed to make my own eyes glisten a little with the threat of emphatic waterworks. To read more about his story, you can also click here. And the meatballs? Fa-bu-lous.

But wait! We weren't done! The unfortunate tempting that we had that evening was seeing all of the desserts already laid out in our gathering room prior to being served. Foodies don't abide by the rule of not having sweets before dinner it seems. Rita Pham of M Cakes made everyone roll their eyes back with her Sea Salt Caramel Shots (made from scratch with pure cane sugar, cream, and butter with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt) that were so smooth and creamy, I wondered how she was so small herself. I'd be "testing" my batches nonstop if I made them! We also got to meet Rula Abirafeh of District Cookie, the self-proclaimed "Cookie Connoisseur" (I have the business card to prove it!) She caught my attention with her soft cookies stacked slideways on the counter - Brown Butter Chocolate Sea Salt and Double Ginger Dark Chocolate. I'd write out her descriptions of these cookies but they go on and on in cravings-inducing lines that might make you claw at the screen for the pictures. Rich and oozy in chocolate, these were so distinctly their own flavors yet the ginger cookie left the greater impression on me for its spiciness from freshly zested ginger. You need some. You need some now. She tipped me towards Seventh Tea Bar though who do carry her products. Score!

Of course, we can't leave this post without talking about our favorite chocolate lady, as I so call her. The effervescent Amy Jo Valenza of Valenza Chocolatier was there too, not even lifting a finger to convince everyone there to have some chocolate. Are you kidding me? No one needs any persuasion to pick up a piece or two or three or...yeah. You just gravitate towards these well-presented bits, and I finally got to taste her Fennel Bonbon. It has a unique anise flavor of its own and paired well with its dark chocolate match. A single elegant fennel seed sat on a corner of each piece and finished off the bite with the slightest crunch. Then there were the PB+C Bars, a decadence of its own with creamy peanut butter and the smidgen of sea salt needed to elevate the taste from childhood nostalgia to adult indulgence. Her Turtles were obviously there as well, representing the 40-year-old recipe that put Valenza on anyone's radar - gooey caramel with crunchy pecans and the richest of chocolate can't stay away from anyone's mouths for too long!

Curious about exploring The Hood Kitchen Space yourself? They are located at 350 Clinton Suite A, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 and can be contacted at info@thehoodkitchen.com. Maybe you can cook something up for us, hint hint.

Photography by Duc Duong. More event photos to be available on Facebook.




  1. So sorry I missed this delicious event :( I hope they have another one! Thanks for introducing these amazing vendors. The Hood Kitchen is a much-needed addition to the OC culinary scene. Gorgeous pics, Duc - my mouth is watering!

    1. Hope they have another one too so we can meet all the rest of the vendors! They have so many. Love the concept and what they're doing for the food scene =]