Event - Feasting at FLOE Lounge in Irvine Marriott (and Giveaway!)
[Giveaway details at the bottom of this post] Orange County knows no end to the number of visitors that flock to the area whether in search of the whims of family-friendly Disneyland or to bask in the sunny rays. As a result, the county is also home to various hotels and accommodations of hospitality from the high-rise big chains to the small boutiques. It seems that as we near the middle of the 2010s, trends must be paid attention to, and several of these hotels have reacted by renovating. Even if you reside in Orange County and have no immediate need for a staycation in a hotel, the public spaces and attached restaurants are open at any time. One of these newly renovated possibly-soon-to-be hot spots is within the confines of the Irvine Marriott - FLOE Lounge. The hotel has also been renovated but whose attention isn't drawn to the most populated area in a building? I took a peek at FLOE Lounge with other members of the food media and found this spot a prime example of the hospitality business.
The first trait that caught my eye about FLOE Lounge was firm adherence to theme. The coastal cuisine was matched by the coastal vibe of the decor from the metal cabling on the outer walls (ship-like perhaps?) to the blues, teals, and whites to the framed macro shots of marine gems. Their few acoustic booths, designed for meeting reservations to drown out bar noise, were framed by artwork resembling the tops of coral but served as sound dampeners. Inside, the lounge felt underwater from the bubble motifs to the colors. Outside was a different story but still coastal.
We began the tasting with a small bar gathering to sample their Parmesan & Chile Kale Chips (fresh kale harvested daily from outdoor herb wall served with Romano & Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes), Margarita Shrimp Flatbread (grilled flatbread with grilled shrimp, Poblano Crema, and mozzarella finished with roasted corn relish of Tanaka Farms corn, red and green peppers, and Serrano chiles), Summer Rolls (rice paper filled with local Chino Farms vegetables from North San Diego including carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, mint, cilantro, and mixed greens served with crushed peanut vinaigrette made of lime, sweet chili sauce, peanut butter, and peanuts), Infused Mango Martini (Ultimate vodka, mango schnapps, and fresh mango), and Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka Martini (Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, fresh cucumber).
The chips were well-crisped and slightly spicy, giving the typical kale chip a better twist and wakening the senses. The flatbread could be a hit or miss for different taste profiles as it was both creamy and spicy while the summer rolls were refreshing but scanty internally. Between the cocktails, I particularly enjoyed the mango martini for its brightness and the sweetness that a slice of fresh mango was able to impart upon the drink while being included. If you are a person who enjoys cucumber slices in your water, you would enjoy the cucumber martini which was light enough to be refreshing for a summer's day but still carried the weight of a cocktail.
The outdoor setting is more alike what many think southern California to be - sunny, open, and relaxing. Lounge furniture, firepits, patio-like wooden chairs, and large umbrellas formed the majority of the outer level. There were even shelves of color-coordinating blankets to be used for those enjoying the area at night. A paneled wall covered the majority of the outside-facing wall of the building and has the innovative perk of being turned into a large projection screen. The technologically-savvy could even project several images on different squares if using the panels properly. In addition, I found the herb wall fascinating. FLOE Lounge is able to supply their kitchen with the items grown on the herb wall, and though it was nearly overrun by the weed also known as mint, the wall had several varieties that looked tasty to me.
Our salads that night were the Hydro-Boston Salad (hydro-Boston lettuce, fresh Fuji, and white balsamic vinaigrette topped with apple cider pickle onions) paired with Cuvaison Chardonnay 2011 Estates Grown Carners, Napa Valley and the Heirloom Caprese (blend of fresh basil from outdoor herb wall, Tanaka Farms heirloom tomatoes, Burrata Alla Panna from Di Stefano Farms in Pomona, olive oil from San Diego, and micro basil) with the same pairing. It is impressive to see that such a small herb wall could contribute to several dishes but it has. The former salad came with its dressing separated which allowed us to put on as much as we preferred; be warned - it is quite tangy and sour. The freshness of the Hydro-Boston Salad really shone from the crunch of the Fuji and the health of the lettuce leaves. The caprese had excellent sourcing of ingredients and was therefore lovely in itself. I only wish a little sprinkle of sea salt had been added for a final touch.
The coastal cuisine with influences from the Mediterreanean, Pacific, and Gulf is separated on FLOE Lounge's menu into sections as follow: Quick Bites ($4-7), Social & Shareables ($6-15), Salads Soups & Classics ($6-13), Casual Dining ($14-25), Burger Bar ($13-16), and Sweets ($7 or 8). There are also libations options of wine, beer, and cocktails with the ingredients for the cocktails from Tanaka Farm and the herb wall.
Our next venture was from the Casual Dining section - Wildflower Honey Glazed Salmon (grilled & glazed with Wild Sage Honey from Santa Barbara, key lime juice, marmalade, and melted butter with corn relish made from Tanaka Farms corn, arugula, olive oil, and lemon juice) paired with Stag's Leap Wine Callars Karia Chardonnay 2013 Napa Valley, Colorado Rack of Lamb (double cut lamb rack chop, French cut, grilled with roasted beets & house chimichurri) paired with Antica 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Antinori Family Estate, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake (finished with fresh papaya & Maui onions) served with Stag's Leap. It was difficult to detect the honey on the salmon but the fish was nicely juicy. I enjoyed the corn relish it sat on top of and typical salmon flavor. The rack of lamb had an appropriate amount of char to it and was tenderly moist. Each piece was meatier than the last. As for the crab cake, its accompaniments were spot-on and the crab itself bountiful. Since these were just tastings, I'm not sure how a large version would affect texture but this one was on the border of being just too soft. Hopefully the larger dish won't show this potential shortfall.
The meal was finished off with an interactive treat: S'mores with Godiva Chocolate Sauce (roasted marshmallow sandwiched between housemade cookies and served with smoky Godiva chocolate sauce) paired with Sandeman 10 year old tawny port. These unique desserts were formed with smoke trapped in the jar of chocolate to give the scent and memories of being by a campfire but we also happened to sit by a fire, enhancing the effect. The sugar cookies were shaped like flip-flops, adding another nice touch to the coastal vibe. These flew by quickly with everyone, and I loved the idea of trapping smoke in a container to impart the flavor profile onto the food.
The sourcing comes from local farms such as Moh-Fry Ranchers and Kentner. FLOE Lounge is located at 18000 Von Karman Ave. Irvine, CA and is ready to serve. My thank you goes out to the team at FLOE Lounge for being so accommodating and Chef Adrian Hernandez.
FLOE Lounge has generously donated a $50 gift card to their restaurant to one of my readers. Take a chance and win an experience in this newly renovated and re-designed space. Look at the details below.
Photography by Minerva Thai. More photos available on Facebook here.
The giveaway will run until 6/30/14 at 11:59pm PST. Winner will be contacted upon winning and has 48 hours to respond before another winner is drawn.