Archive for May, 2010

Not Just A Restaurant In Newport Beach: It’s “A Restaurant” In NB.

May 30th, 2010 1 comment

Have you been to A Restaurant in Newport Beach?  It occupies The Arches original location.  We’re sorry to report that we don’t care for the name “A Restaurant” at all, but happily the menu, atmosphere and Happy Hour prices make up for it.  The bar lighting is irresistible too, especially during Happy Hour which starts earlier than most in town (3:00 – 7:00pm).  During that time ALL sophisticated appetizers and drinks are half off.  If trying to save, it’s the best time to treat yourself to A Restaurant food, since it’s a little on the pricey side.

Posted from top to bottom — We tried the Steak Tartar, which is rarely seen on menus these days.  We were excited by its offering, given that it’s been years since we had it.  And we shared the Chicken Liver Terrine.  We liked the creamy Pate, but unfortunately didn’t care for the Tartar, which was chopped too chunky and had too much Worcestershire mixed in.

We loved the Burger with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese, Bacon and Arugula that comes with French Fries, and the Flatbread with 3 Cheeses and Bacon is quite rich, but good tasting too.  It’s best to share these appetizers amongst as many as possible.

A Restaurant has A Market next door, which sells freshly baked goods, Wines, Cheeses, Sandwiches, Salads, pre-packaged gourmet foods and merchandise and more.  We couldn’t stop staring at the amazing Cinnamon Rolls.  Both A+ locations are worth frequenting.  Our recommendation is A Market for breakfast and A Restaurant for Happy Hour.

Direct to A Restaurant — They have one of the cutest websites we’ve seen.

Book Recommendation: Substituting Ingredients.

May 28th, 2010 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits highly recommends Substituting Ingredients, The A to Z Kitchen Reference, by Becky Sue Epstein.  We’ve only had it a few days and already love it.  It’s clear and concise, easy to use, and so far it includes everything we’ve ever wanted to find a substitution for.  Wish we had this book years ago — We had marked several ingredient substitution pages in certain cookbooks, but it’s nice to have all the information (and more) in one crisp book.

We’re HAPPY to have this necessary book as an important part of our cookbook collection.

Marble Rye For A Laugh And As Toast.

May 26th, 2010 No comments

It’s a Marble Rye [whose] purchase was inspired by a Seinfeld episode.  We still love Seinfeld and need a laugh as we continue to work with Network Solutions on a few nagging technical issues.  In searching for the above link, we stumbled across a blog named after the famous episode — Very cool, we might have picked that ourselves.  Each morning this week we’ve enjoyed Marble Rye Toast while thinking about Jerry mugging an old lady for a loaf — Shut up y’old bag. 🙂 Next we want to bring a loaf to a dinner party and then take it back when the hosts aren’t looking.

Note: This site is safe, has always been safe and will continue to be safe as we work through current technical issues.  This post is a break from the madness — There’s a lot of interesting reports coming down the pike.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Is Coming To Costa Mesa.

May 24th, 2010 No comments

It appears that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market will soon be coming to Costa Mesa.  That’s good news, since it’ll be within walking distance from Nibbles of Tidbits.  It looks as if they’ll occupy the former DSW location off Newport/Harbor, across the street from Triangle Square.  We don’t yet have the ETA, but will report more later.

Drinks And Appetizers At The Balboa Bay Club & Resort.

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

I stopped in to visit a friend staying at The Balboa Bay Club & Resort — She decided to treat herself for a couple days while having work done on her house.  And for a couple hours I pretended to be on vacation too, even though it’s pretty much down the street in Newport Beach.  Pictured above is the entrance to The First Cabin.  We haven’t yet dined there, but admire its beautiful entry.

This visit we had appetizers on the outdoor patio at Duke’s Place.  Neither restaurant at The Balboa Bay Club & Resort is inexpensive, but valet parking is free with validation, and the basic items we tried were indeed more tasty than they are at other restaurants — Both in conjunction with the view help to sweeten the deal.

We like all the appetizers listed on Duke’s Place Cocktail Lounge Menu (even the Escargot).  This day we tried the Tempura Fried Crispy Spring Asparagus, which was made with White Asparagus and served with Lemon Garlic Aioli and Ponzu Dipping Sauce.

And we had the Panko Crusted Chicken Fingers — Although the Chicken Fingers look typical, the Chicken was fresh tasting, extra crispy and light, as it should be.

Click HERE for more information about The Balboa Bay Club & Resort.

So This Is The Pizza New Yorkers Love So Much?

May 20th, 2010 No comments

In AAA‘s Westways Magazine, Al’s New York Cafe in Costa Mesa was recently named one of the “Best Cheap Eats”  in Southern California, and most on Yelp rave about it too.  We tried their Pepperoni Pizza and unfortunately thought it was a bit too greasy for us.*  We might be a little too CPK.  We’ll try a couple of Al’s other specialties next visit.

* We’re not grease snobs — Pizza photo was taken after blotting.

OC Fair Culinary Entries Are Due By May 26, 2010: Enter Before Then.

May 18th, 2010 No comments

We’re fine tuning recipes to enter into the Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Competition this year.  Entries are due by May 26, 2010.  You can ENTER HERE.  Other than the photos, we’re not tellin’ more about what we’re working on.  And no, they’re not Lemon Bars above.  It is a competition afterall.

To read about past Culinary Arts Competitions and more, click HERE.

Nibbles Of Tidbits Loves Cost Plus World Market.

May 17th, 2010 No comments

Cost Plus is so worldly.  It’s been one of my favorite stores for over 20 years.  I recently took a trip to England, Australia, Thailand, India, Italy, Japan, Sweden, China and a few other stops along the way at Cost Plus World Market.  Did you know that it’s a food lover’s paradise?  It truly is!  Many travel far and wide for the Wine deals at Cost Plus, which are impressive alone, but you’ve got to check out the large food section.  It offers hundreds of sought after treats from all around the world.  If you’re looking for something in particular and haven’t found it elsewhere, give Cost Plus a call.  If they don’t have it and there’s a demand, they may consider offering it in the future — They strive to satisfy their customer’s needs.

Since there is so much FOOD to try and report about at Cost Plus, Nibbles of Tidbits will be posting a series of articles highlighting many of them.  We’ll be calling it our Cost Plus World Series.  For starters, we are planning a Chip Taste-Off, whereas we’ll be sampling several of the numerous bags of Chips available.  After that, we’ll be going on a Gourmet Picnic bringing only Cost Plus goodies (it can easily be done), and then we’ll be touring several regions for dinner, etc.  The possibilities are literally endless.

Note:  The first honorable mention goes to Nyakers Gingersnap Cookies from Sweden (above).  They’re Sweden’s Best Cookie and Cost Plus built a facility to have them made especially for you.  They are phenomenally crispy, thin and tasty.  We’re hooked.  Be sure to follow our Cost Plus World Series to learn a lot more.

Marie Callender’s Classic Combo: Don’t Expect Too Many Fries.

May 16th, 2010 No comments

Marie Callender’s Classic Combo — 1/2 a Turkey Sandwich, French Fries and a Cup of Soup for $5.99 is a good deal, although you hardly get any Fries.  I jokingly accused the Waiter of eating my Fries on the way over, haha.  It just looks funny.  It’s two ounces they say.  Perhaps one more ounce might look a little better. 

Aside from the lack of French Fries, I left full and satisfied.  The service is always good at the Marie Callender’s 17th Street location in Costa Mesa.  I love their Potato Cheese Soup with Tabasco.

Sandy’s Beach Grill In Huntington Beach (Surf City).

May 14th, 2010 3 comments

Today we attended a Grand Opening Celebration for Sandy’s Beach Grill.  We didn’t want to miss it, since it’s pretty much on the beach and it was a beautiful day.  Sandy’s Beach Grill is the newest restaurant from TS Restaurants of Hawaii and California.  It now occupies the former Chimayo’s location in Huntington Beach (Surf City).  TS Restaurants is also the parent company of Duke’s, the restaurant upstairs.

Above is the view from the large outdoor patio next to the Huntington Beach Pier.  As guests at the celebration, we enjoyed the sights and a sampling of their menu, and our drink proceeds go to benefit the Friends of the Junior Guards.

Sandy’s Beach Grill specializes in Small Plates — All is meant to be shared.  They also offer a few “Bigger Plates” as well as Burgers, Sandwiches, Thin Crust Wood Fired Pizzas, Soups and Salads.  The menu has a nice variety to choose from.

Pictured from top to bottom we tried a good cross section of all — Grilled Shrimp Flatbread, Seafood Ceviche, Free Range Tofu Bites (Free Range Tofu, that’s funny), and Mini Fish Bites (exact name unknown).

From left to right below, we also sampled the Veggie Sandwich, Smoked Chicken Flatbread and Cajun Lamb Chops.  We like everything we tried, especially the Cajun Lamb Chops, Grilled Shrimp Flatbread and Pork Lettuce Wraps (not pictured).  We’re excited about the menu and look forward to going back to try more.

After consuming the above with a few Mischief Strong Ales recommended by the Bartender, the last photo shows our shadows waving from the pier.

South Dakota State Cookie: School Kids In The Kitchen.

May 13th, 2010 No comments

For a school project, Chef Lexi from Kids in the Kitchen made a State Cookie.  How fun is that!  The kids loved shaping the Cookies into their chosen states.  Lexi picked South Dakota, since she traveled there in a motorhome for vacation last year.  It’s a little hard to tell, but Mount Rushmore is made of a mound of Frosting with 4 Marshmallows on top.  She drew on the faces with a marker.  Too funny — I love it.

Note:  Enlarge photo to see the South Dakota Cookie details better.

Banana Split Three Layer Cake Challenge.

May 12th, 2010 No comments

Our Banana Split Cake started out as a fun idea, but unfortunately it didn’t quite cross the finish line.  Good thing we’re testing out recipes before entering ’em into the 2010 Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Competition — This one certainly wouldn’t win a ribbon.  The concept is entertaining and it tasted really good, but one can’t submit a Cake looking like this. 🙂

With ripening Bananas and Strawberries on hand and the recent receipt of Southern Living Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook, we created a Banana Split Cake.  We started with a prepared White Cake Mix evenly divided into 3 round baking pans — Then mashed a Banana, pureed a few Strawberries and got out the Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.  As shown below, we added each respectively to the divided mix. 

We baked the Cakes, then set them aside to cool completely — We did get that part right, although it may not look that way.  We made an amazing Cream Cheese Frosting from the Southern Living Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook.  It’s called Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting (p. 37).  Before adding the Pecans that are called for in the recipe, we reserved and divided a portion of the Frosting to mix pureed Strawberry into one and Chocolate Syrup into the other, and then added Pecans to the remainder and chilled all in the fridge.

To build our Banana Split Cake, start with Chocolate Cake on the bottom, then add a layer of Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, followed by Banana Cake, Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, and ending with Strawberry Cake on top.  We then smothered the assembled Cake with Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting.  It held together at first, but then you see what happened.  We ultimately separated the layers and frosted each separately with the Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting.  Office co-workers usually don’t care what it looks like.

Next time we’ll add less Strawberry puree and Chocolate Syrup to the Frosting and less Frosting in between the layers.  We might also want to chill the Frosting a little longer or make more Cake, so the layers aren’t as thin.  Perhaps we’ll add sliced Strawberries and/or Bananas in between the layers to avoid sliding Cakes.  Again, it tasted pretty good, therefore it’s worth another try.

Note: So far we like what we see in Classic Southern Desserts Cookbook by Southern Living and look forward to making the recipes we’ve tabbed in it.

Is It Possible To Be Too Frugal? Yes, It’s Called Cheap.

May 11th, 2010 No comments

My Brother-in-Law just told me a funny story.  One of his co-workers learned that purchasing a maximum of (5) Green Beans at one time doesn’t weigh anything, thus he’s usually not charged for them at the checkout stand.  After fine tuning his discovery, he went to the supermarket daily for a week, until he had enough Green Beans to make a meal.  Can you believe it?  It’s true.  And he’s not poor either — He owns two houses and has a great job.  I’m still laughing about this.  In some ways it’s moderately inspiring (haha), but I certainly wouldn’t want to go to the supermarket every day.  Hope he doesn’t stumble upon this blog or my Brother-in-Law is in trouble. 🙂

Note: Photo is of Fava Beans, which are generally more expensive than Green Beans.

It’ll Be Called Cafe Nordstrom Or Nordstrom Cafe Bistro.

May 10th, 2010 No comments

Have you noticed that some restaurants inside Nordstrom are called Cafe Nordstrom and others are named Nordstrom Cafe Bistro?  And on Yelp it’s referred to as Nordstrom Marketplace Cafe.  Not all have the same name or exact menu either — Most items are the same, but some are different.  Whichever way, it’s one of our favorite places for lunch.

This lunch is from Cafe Nordstrom at the Brea Mall — It’s the Lime & Cilantro Steak Salad and Roma Tomato Basil Soup.  We’ve almost worked our way through the menu, thus only post newly tried dishes.  The Chili-rubbed Flat Iron Steak served on the Lime & Cilantro Steak Salad is cold, but we prefer it heated/hot on top.  It has a big flavor and tastes better warm.  The Roma Tomato Basil Soup is very good too.  More Nordstrom meals are linked above and here.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! How Come You’re Still Cookin’?

May 9th, 2010 No comments

These flowers are found at the Corona Del Mar Farmers’ Market.  I bought different ones for Mother’s Day, but can’t post ’em due to more technical issues with Network Solutions.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  This site is safe and we’ll soon have refreshed permissions to post new photos.  We’re pushing hard to get ALL resolved, cuz we ain’t happy about it either.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom — Sorry you’re cookin’ again.  Last year I wrote the following poem as an entry into an OC Foodies Mother’s Day Contest.  Although I didn’t win, it still applies.

She cooks for me on her Special Day — My Mom’s dishes are delicious, what can I say? For that reason and immeasurable more, there’s no other Mother I could ever hope for. She’s loving, giving and likes to eat, thus OCFoodies’ Mother’s Day Gift would be the BEST treat.

Note: The prize was (10) $50 Gift Certificates/Cards to (10) amazing restaurants.

Dueling Blueberry SoyJoy Baked Whole Soy & Fruit Bars.

May 7th, 2010 No comments

As a Tastemaker for Foodbuzz, we got to try the newest SoyJoy Baked Whole Soy & Fruit Bar.  It’s Blueberry, one of our favorite flavors — Good start.  And we generally appreciate a tasty and healthy breakfast bar.  It was our first time (4 of us) trying a SoyJoy product.  Unwrapped we all like how they look — Baked, fruity, easy to eat and toasted.  After that we dueled over their taste.  Two liked their flavor and texture and the other two found them a little too dense to finish and more bland than anticipated.  Overall, no one here considers them bad, one might buy them, and Holly the Dog was hoping to catch a bite.  Thanks SoyJoy and Foodbuzz.  It’s always fun to try new high quality products.

* Bars have 0 Grams Trans Fat, No Hydrogenated Oils, 140 Calories, B Vitamins, etc.  Go to SoyJoy for the rest.

Cheese & Wine Party 33 1/3: The Final Verdict.

May 6th, 2010 No comments

The post title is inspired by The Naked Gun, since we love Leslie Nielsen, and by our recent numerous Cheese & Wine parties.  Here we finally summarize our favorites and the consensus is unanimous.  For our slew of parties, we purchased (6) different Cheeses from Trader Joe’s.  They have an excellent selection.  Before the first party, we tested the Cheese to spare guests from potential scary flavors, which is highly recommended and turned out to be necessary, since we quickly ruled out the TJ Morbier (France).  It tasted awful, thus we replaced it with another.  It’s a better party when all tastes good.

And the winners are… (1) Toscano Cheese With Black Pepper (Italy), (2) Blue Catello (France), (3) Italian Truffle Cheese (Italy), (4) Gouda Cheese With Olive Oil (USA), (5) Kiwi Swiss Cheese (New Zealand), and (6) Smoked Cheese (Holland).  All are Cow’s Milk Cheeses.  The first three listed are definitely worth buying again — Everyone particularly loved the Toscano Cheese With Black Pepper (back row right).  And the Italian Truffle Cheese deserves a special mention too, as it includes actual Truffle pieces throughout (front row left).

Our final Cheese & Wine Par-tay included a few Mezzetta products that went well with the Cheese and other accompaniments.  We dipped Olive Bread in the Pesto Sauce and the Roasted Red Peppers and Pepperoncinis were a compliment to all.  Thanks Mezzetta — We’ve enjoyed many of your fine products over the years and the arrival of the (3) above surely came at the right time.  We liked the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio had with all, but have no elaboration on ’em.  They sufficed.

Note: What makes a Party a Par-tay is your own personal Wine opener.  Thanks T.

Happy Drinko De Mayo — It’s What’s Really Going Down.

May 5th, 2010 No comments

Happy Cinco De Mayo!  We’re most likely going to celebrate with a Cadillac Margarita and our favorite Chicken Taco at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Bar.  It’s a hard decision, since there are countless Mexican restaurants to choose from in Orange County.  If you’re looking for somewhere to go, OC has compiled a list of “What’s Happening on Cinco De Mayo” to help observe it.  Honoring this holiday generally entails eating Mexican food and (possibly) drinking heavily.  And hope we don’t need to tell you not to drive afterwards.  Salud!

Maggiano’s Little Italy — Make Reservations If You Don’t Want To Wait.

May 4th, 2010 No comments

One of our longstanding favorite restaurants in Costa Mesa is Maggiano’s Little Italy.  It’s even better now that it has taken over the former Corner Bakery portion of the restaurant and built a much needed Bar and wait area.  It was way too small before and Maggiano’s gets busy.  Without reservations last Friday, we almost waited an hour and a half.  You can make reservations on their website or directly through Open Table — It’s highly recommended.

During this visit, dare I say that I had the best tasting appetizer in my life?!  It’s quite a statement, but Maggiano’s Grilled Steak Bruschetta is amazing.  It’s made with a Gorgonzola Fondue that’s topped with slices of Steak, Red Onions, Spiced Walnuts and Fresh Spinach.  The combination is superb and the Steak is tender.  This appetizer in on their “Eat A Dish for Make-A-Wish” special menu, whereas when you order from it Maggiano’s makes a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in your honor.  It’s truly a win-win situation.

We also enjoyed the Chicken & Spinach Manicotti (above) and the Italian Boneless Short Ribs (below) that’s served with Roasted Butternut Squash, Chard, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic Herb Cheese & Couscous.  Both were terrific at the restaurant and for leftovers.  The portion sizes are always generous, which is another thing we love about Maggiano’s.

And had to have the Dessert Sampler too — All that you see is baked in house.  What a treat!

Note: Click HERE to view more dishes enjoyed at Maggiano’s Little Italy.

We’re Back In The Food Business.

May 3rd, 2010 No comments

After some growing pains this weekend, Nibbles of Tidbits is ready, willing and able to post new stuff.  After several lovely conversations with Network Solutions, we’re now set to roll.  Thanks for your patience — We’ve got a lot to report.

* Photo is from Happy Hour at Bayside Restaurant.

Fresh Rainbow Trout And Budweiser: A Dad’s Dream.

May 2nd, 2010 No comments

My Dad’s favorite things… Rainbow Trout he caught in Bishop during opening weekend and Budweiser — He should be their spokesperson.  We’ve bought him many an 18 Pack over the years for Father’s Day.  Beer and lottery tickets, but no cigarettes, ha.  He likes his “Bud” and we like the BBQ’d Trout. 🙂

California Avocado Commission & Too Hot Tamales Interactive Lunch.

May 1st, 2010 No comments

Nibbles of Tidbits was recently invited by the California Avocado Commission to attend a gourmet, interactive lunch and cooking demonstration with chef partners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of the Too Hot Tamales.  Since I was unable to attend, but didn’t want to miss it, Nibbles of T sent its resident Guest Blogger, Bonnie of Bonnie Joy Designs.  She always provides an interesting angle to a story and was excited to receive a personally signed copy of Cooking With Too Hot Tamales (below). 

Ahhhh – Those Avocados were Awesome!

Avocado advocates Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (a.k.a. The Too Hot Tamales) along with the California Avocado Commission hosted a rousing, festive Food Blogger-only event ahead of Cinco de Mayo at their downtown L.A. restaurant, Ciudad, last Saturday. The afternoon began with a surprise. Actually, it was the “interactive” portion of the show, which turned out to be a “Top Chef” style competition featuring the Food Bloggers themselves as the chefs along with California Avocados, and a very long table full of potential accoutrements.

The Food Bloggers were given only seconds to pair up (I assume none of the Bloggers had ever met one another before, which made what came next even more amazing), then they were given just 3 minutes to flesh out (pardon the pun) their best recipe for guacamole. Then they got a mere 5 minutes (yes, there was a timer!) to execute their dish and 2 more minutes to give it a definitive name. I can report that the Food Bloggers took this competition very seriously, even if it was all in fun.

And I don’t think I need to tell you who the judges were… But what I can tell you is that even they were impressed at how well all 10 recipes turned out. Bravo! (Sorry Susan, that’s actually not a plug for the network you are on as one of the final “Top Chef Masters” on May 5th…or… maybe it is). I think I got to sample all ten dishes, and they really were all tasty and creative, so everyone was a winner.

The next hour featured the Too Hot Tamales doing what they do best – whipping up a four course meal with each one featuring avocados as the core ingredient. If you want to see poetry in motion, then you need to experience Susan and her long-time business partner Mary Sue as they whirled and twirled their way through a menu that included a Crispy Avocado Taco, an incredible salad with fried (yes, fried) capers, Chicken and Avocado Chilaquiles and for dessert, Avocado and Mango Slices with a Creamy Yogurt Dressing. They even managed to blend an Avocado and Orange “Liquado” to drink. Needless to say, each dish was a masterpiece.

Ciudad Executive Chef Jeremy Tummel and Jan DeLyser from the California Avocado Commission also joined in the fun that happened at this invitation only event. If you came away from this afternoon hungry, then you did not attend the same event that I did. The attention to detail was impeccable – from the beginning Margarita to the personalized cookbooks at the end – and was well appreciated by the interior designer in me.

I now have a fresh appreciation for a fruit that is locally grown and nutritionally packed. So be sure to add Avocados to your daily diet, and not just on special occasions or on Cinco de Mayo!

Thanks Bonnie.  I love Avocados too and my parents eat ’em almost daily.  It looks like I missed a pretty cool event, but I’m happy to have the exciting report and photos.

Note:  Bonnie bought a new camera for this event — As I write this, it’s in the process of being returned.  We like what was captured, but weren’t happy with the graininess of the photos.  What’s posted here is the best of the worst.  Click on the Blogger links above to view better photos.