Taste: Chef Vic Casanova’s recipe for English pea pesto at Balboa Bay Resort’s A&O Kitchen + Bar

Chef Vic Casanova, the new executive chef at Balboa Bay Resort, is framed and backlit by the early afternoon sun beaming from the harbor into the spacious dining room of A&O Kitchen + Bar. The cascade of adjectives applies to the new menu that Casanova has recently engineered and launched here, as well as the philosophy applied to his purview over the resort’s fine dining venue, Waterline.

“It’s where we are and where we’re trying to go … My goal was to gather up a menu that is ingredient-driven and three-dimensional. The way to do that is to use bright, vivid colors and textures…” And he goes on: “I find great ingredients and let them speak for themselves.”

If they can get a word in, that is. Nothing if not energetic, genuinely enthusiastic, articulate and loquacious, Casanova has embraced his new outpost in Newport Beach with verve.

A Bronx native trained on the line at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne and Danny Meyer‘s storied Gramercy Tavern, Casanova arrived in Southern California ten years ago, after an extended stint at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. From the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, he opened the popular nouvelle trattoria Gusto, which Esquire named as Best New Restaurant in 2012. Initially, he moved his young family to Orange County because he realized that after 10 years in L.A., he had never seen the beach. When the opportunity opened at Balboa Bay, it seemed a natural fit. He joined the resort’s team at the end of February.

His chef de cuisine Josh Shapiro joins us as we begin to assay the ultimate purpose for our visit: to eat.

A small rectangular ceramic plate arrives at the table. Atop sits grilled ciabatta layered with English pea pesto and creamy burrata crowned with furls of delicate pea tendrils and finished with a fresh squeeze of lemon. It’s played like edible art. Soon only stray bits of crumb remain.

Have we noticed an odd preponderance of toasts and toppings on our beat of late? Yes.

Yet are we instantly weakened by anything involving burrata, let alone English peas? Again, the answer is yes! Is the combination irresistibly simple and sophisticated? You be the judge.




4 cups English peas, blanched and shocked

3 cloves garlic, peeled

8 cups pea tendrils

4 tsp lemon juice

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Place peas, garlic, salt, pepper, pea tendrils, and lemon juice into a food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is coarsely chopped.

While the food processor is running, slowly stream in olive oil and blend until everything is incorporated into a smooth pesto. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula and pulse once more to incorporate.


A&O KITCHEN + BAR at Balboa Bay Resort

1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach

:: balboabayresort.com

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Miley Cyrus and cult favorite flick “Tombstone” inspire a killer cocktail at Pacific Hideaway


Pacific Hideaway
<em>Daisy If You Do</em> mezcal cocktail at Pacific Hideaway, Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach.

There’s nothing ordinary about the cocktails at Pacific Hideaway in the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Each playful libation created by lead bartender Casey Lyons doubles as an Instagramable moment. He conjured up the Dazed and Confused, a pineapple rum cocktail splashed with lime and ginger syrup. The whimsical garnish: a smoking sage and oregano joint is sparked up en route to the table.

His prickly pear mezcal margarita flushes with a flamboyant magenta. Lyons shakes the cocktail vigorously before pouring it into a clear skull-shaped glass. He garnishes it with agave cactus tips, arranging each one so the result resembles a ceremonial headdress. Looking like a brain surgeon about to operate, he pulls out a pair of large metal tweezers to pluck out a smattering of delicate edible flower blossoms to decorate the drink’s ornate top.

“It’s a Miley Cyrus nightmare,” he jests. Lyons, who previously cultivated the innovative bar program at Social in Costa Mesa, admits to drawing inspiration from pop culture and cinema for the beverages he serves at Pacific Hideaway. I’ll Be Your Huckleberry, a Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey cocktail sweetened with huckleberry-infused syrup, and the vibrant Daisy If You Do prickly pear margarita are nods to the cult-favorite 1993 “Tombstone” movie. Pacific Hideway’s bar was designed to exude a laid-back, surfers’ watering hole. A needed respite from the woes of our tech-obsessed world. It’s also a cool place for Lyons to play out his liquid daydreams.




2 ounces Del Maguey Vida mezcal

1 ounce John D. Velvet Falernum

1 Tablespoon prickly pear syrup

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Sparkling wine


  1. Combine all ingredients with ice into a metal shaker.
  2. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a glass and top with sparkling wine.


PACIFIC HIDEAWAY 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, 714.965.4448 :: pacifichideawayhb.com


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Albatross Ridge winery soars with pinot noir and chardonnay Former healthcare CEO Brad Bowlus finds his second act with vintner son Garret

Brad Bowlus is a numbers guy. For three decades he climbed the ladder at the health care company PacifiCare to become CEO and transformed it into a billion-dollar organization.

Just as he was set to retire, life gave him an unexpected second act. Bowlus, who lives part time in Orange County with his wife, Jill, discovered he shared a passion for wines with his son, Garrett.

“So we ended up, the two of us, in Burgundy,” recalls Bowlus. “We discussed an approach to coming up with incredible wine. The basics we wanted to have: grand cru capabilities. The land, we wanted it untouched. We wanted to do our own development. So we searched for several years, up and down the West Coast.”

Eventually, the family found the perfect plot. The release of Albatross Ridge’s 2014 estate reserve pinot noir received a 95-point review from Wine Enthusiast, considered “a great achievement” by the magazine’s editors – an indicator the vineyard is a growing success.

But while Bowlus is indeed a numbers guy, even he can’t calculate the odds of this coincidence.

According to Bowlus, his grandfather William Hawley Bowlus trained as an engineer and helped pioneer the piloting of sailplanes. In the Smithsonian hang his gliders that flew off the ridgetops of Carmel’s coast in the 1930s. Eight decades later, Brad and Garrett were searching for a name for the their vineyard and discovered an old book on Monterey history. On its last page, they found a photo of William Hawley Bowlus launching his Albatross sailplane off the same mountain slopes where they planted their vineyard.

Coincidence – or destiny?

“It affirmed everything we had been working so hard to achieve.” Bowlus’ voice rings as he describes it.

Coast caught up with Bowlus before he retreated to Carmel, eager to get back to his vines. “I can’t tell you how pretty the vineyard looks, when all the wildflowers are out in the springtime,” he says. “Looking through the rows of the vines as they are starting to bud and the foliage is growing – that’s a really magical time up there.”

Coast: How did you and Garrett find Albatross Ridge’s location?

Brad Bowlus: We only wanted to grow chardonnay and pinot noir, which are our two favorite wines. So the climate and the heat limited us. We needed a cool climate.  We wanted to find an ideal site that was capable of producing a grand cru-quality wine. We were just lucky to find this land, 244 acres. It was listed as open land; just build your dream home.

Coast: Take us back to that inaugural vintage. Describe tasting that first bottle.

BB: We did a family-and-friends production in 2010. But our first real release was 2011. We’re on our fourth release now. We had an inclination that things were going well. We did some tastings along the way from the barrel. In terms of the balance we were looking for with acidity and fruit, the structure was there. The bones were there, and we were very pleased. It excited us.

Coast: What makes your wines unique?

BB: We do small-batch fermentation. Every plot is fermented individually. We don’t do blended fermentation; there is no manipulation in terms of making the wine. We want you to taste the terroir, the land; you taste our vineyard. It is blessed with rare diatomaceous, limestone and shale soils similar to those found in Burgundy. The quality of our fruit is remarkable.

Sometimes you get chardonnay that’s overexposed to oak or has that tobacco taste, which can be an issue. Certainly some people like it on the palate, but we’re finding that more people are looking for a balanced approach. We make wine that pairs well with food.

Coast: Tell us more about that.

BB: We’ve done events with Cucina Enoteca, both at the Irvine location. We look forward to doing more. We’re currently tripling the size of our tasting room in downtown Carmel. So while that’s growing, we’re receptive about doing wine dinners in Orange County. We hosted Bentley up on the vineyard last year for the North American unveiling of their electric car. We have a great location and we overlook the ocean. So they sought us out!

:: albatrossridge.com

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Learn a Marché Moderne recipe

Elation, relief and amused surprise all accompanied our recent visit to Marché Moderne in its new location at Crystal Cove, like the feeling of running into an old friend you’d lost track of when they moved.

A stalwart institution at South Coast Plaza for 10 years, Marché Moderne closed in January. Florent Marneau and wife Amelia – a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef – accrued a loyal cadre of diners and stellar reviews. When they evolved the restaurant, they retained management staff and made a research trip to Northern California that included a visit to the Michelin three-star Quince.

In September the Marneaus reopened the restaurant in a quiet corner of Crystal Cove Shopping Center. The elegantly appointed space includes an arbored terrace that benefits from sea breezes and golden-hour sunlight. This is where we find the chef bustling over our featured dish, braised veal and lobster blanquette, an apt reflection of Marneau’s sensibility and the restaurant’s transformation.

No ordinary blanquette has been so mindfully fussed over as Chef Marneau’s. Typically a comforting veal stew in white sauce, this dish is elevated into haute terroir by fresh lobster, vin jaune and golden chanterelles from Oregon.

“It’s very much us. It’s the old world with something new,” Marneau says as he executes a final touch prior to the dish’s star turn for the camera.

The dish delivers the soothing savor of a blanquette à l’ancienne and a delightful play between firm, sweet lobster chunks and meltingly tender veal morsels. This could be the most sophisticated surf ’n’ turf plate one could imagine. Indeed, an old friend has returned.

Braised Veal and Lobster Blanquette


Boil two 1 ¼-pound lobsters for 8 minutes.  Cool in ice bath, extract meat from tail and claws, and reserve shells and heads for sauce.


Roughly chop a halved onion, one carrot, one leek and one celery stalk. Add to pot with  1-pound boneless veal shoulder, cleaned and cut into large cubes.  Cover with white wine and water and simmer until tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.


Lobster Sauce

Shells of two lobsters

Cold water

1 teaspoon butter

½ onion, diced

1 shallot, diced

1 teaspoon sliced garlic

1 cup of vin jaune or white wine

1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

3-4 sprigs, fresh tarragon

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup good Armagnac or cognac

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt butter and add lobster shells, onion and shallots.  Sweat mixture for 10 minutes then add garlic and wine. Reduce for 5 minutes, then add tomato paste, tarragon, potatoes and  cold water to the level of the shells.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain and reduce by half.  Add cognac, reduce another 10 minutes then add cream.  Bring to simmer for 10 minutes. Check seasoning.  Consistency should be of a lobster bisque.

Assembly: Sauté a few chanterelles and season to taste. Sauté lobster meat in butter for 3 to 5 minutes and season to taste.

In a serving bowl, pour sauce, place cube of veal in sauce, then lobster and chanterelle, and garnish with tarragon.

Serves four.

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The Blind Pig’s Alexander is great

The Brandy Alexander cocktail sips like a cognac-kissed milk shake. A whisper of crème de cacao blends with freshly grated nutmeg. But, there’s a trick to making this sweet dessert drink. According to The Blind Pig’s bar manager Ryan Autry, the silky, heavy whipped cream that finishes the cocktail must be hand-shaken to order.

At The Blind Pig in Rancho Santa Margarita, Autry and his team enjoy dissecting what you enjoy imbibing. The goal is to mix the perfect cocktail, suited just for your palette. “We like to think of ourselves as anthropologists or social scientists,” says Autry. “What flavors do you like? What liquors do you normally order and what herbs or ingredients do you gravitate to when it comes to cocktails? Are you into ginger? How about bitters? The more we know about you, the better the drink we can concoct.”

The Blind Pig’s Modern Brandy Alexander began as a bartender’s challenge. “A woman came in and requested a classic Brandy Alexander,” Autry says. “It’s a simple drink, but then I put our spin on it. We added crème de cacao-infused cream and hand whipped each one. Now, every time she comes in, I know she’ll order our Brandy Alexander. She told me we sort of ruined this drink for her because we do it so well.”

Modern Brandy Alexander 

1 oz. Hennessy VSOP Cognac Brandy

1½ oz. dark créme de cacao*

1 oz. heavy cream

½ oz. Benedictine

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

*Reserve ½ oz créme de cacao for whipped cream.

Shake liquor with ice. Strain and pour into a chilled coupe glass. Whip cream with Benedictine and
remaining cr¯me de cacao. Float cream on top
and sprinkle with nutmeg.

The Blind Pig, 31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy,
Rancho Santa Margarita, 949.888.0072 :: blindpigoc.com


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Breaking the cycle of poverty one meal at a time


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A vivid red food truck summoned children from the playground at a Santa Ana after-school program with a loud burst of its distinctive horn: Aah-oooh-gah. A burly, bearded guy with a clean-shaven head steered Betsy, his 1986 truck, into a nearby parking lot where portable tables were set for dinner under pop-up tents.

Chef Bill Bracken had come to serve free, hot meals and take-home add-ons that he and a corps of volunteers prepared for the children and their families, all homeless or hungry, or often, both.

Betsy may be the most visible element of Bracken’s Kitchen, an innovative hunger-relief program started in 2013 by the former luxury hotel executive chef. The truck is one of a trio of services that also includes a recovered-food program and, coming soon, chef
training that gives at-risk youth culinary job skills while they provide Bracken’s Kitchen with labor assistance.

Together, they create a virtuous circle that feeds the hungry while giving farmers an incentive to harvest surplus and imperfect crops, reducing the environmental impact of food trash and eliminating prepared food waste. In 2017, Bracken’s Kitchen made more than 40,000 meals for Orange County residents who struggle daily to survive.

The program is notable because it introduced a new concept to hunger relief operations – the food recovery kitchen. “We feel that our trio of services is a unique combination that nobody has done before,” says Bracken. “Add to that the creation of our Recovered Food Production Kitchen, which takes mass quantities of food recovered from hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and suppliers and turns that into tasty and nutritious meals to support other smaller organizations and you have a one-of-a-kind operation.”

Unlike food banks that warehouse canned, dried or processed ingredients for donation, Bracken’s Kitchen uses top-tier, fresh food to create hot, nutritious and tasty meals. “We are a large, professional kitchen, so we have a lot more resources to deal in fresh produce and perishable food,” Bracken says.

Recent menus have included roasted chicken stew with red quinoa and summer vegetables; picadillo made with grass-fed beef, venison, elk and rabbit from the Newport Meat Co.; shepherd’s pie with Angus beef; organic beef lasagna; roast turkey with chestnut stuffing; and banana-and-chocolate bread pudding.

“I’m cooking the same way I always have,” says Bracken, who earned national attention as executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotels and The Peninsula Beverly Hills. The Peninsula’s restaurant earned five-star ratings for 12 consecutive years on the strength of Bracken’s cooking, known for elevated comfort food. Now when top suppliers and restaurants donate gourmet ingredients, Bracken knows how to make the best use of them.

There have been large, luscious shrimp and piles of beef cheeks that bolster jambalaya or stews; filet mignon for beef stroganoff; gourmet bread that he chunks into croutons and bread pudding; and enormous wheels of artisan cheese that are mixed into mashed potatoes or handed out by the brick.

The donations are what chefs call over-prepared food, the often-necessary but excess ingredients required to meet peak demand and expectations. Through programs such as Chefs to End Hunger, restaurants and other food preparers use a standardized system to safely package and deliver the extras to places like Bracken’s Kitchen. That’s where the chef shows his genius in creating meals with broad appeal.

The self-described Kansas farm boy has tapped into virtually every aspect of his 35-year culinary career to attract support for the enterprise. Bruce Hecker, president of Bruce’s Gourmet Catering, retired Betsy from movie set catering and gave the truck to Bracken to launch his mobile dining effort. Andrew Gruel, founder of the Slapfish restaurants, ran a fundraiser for a second food truck. To reach the 49 percent of Orange County children who receive government-subsidized lunch during the school year, Bracken launched an Indiegogo campaign to help keep them fed through the summer. And then there was the “Pizza Showdown” he organized, a friendly competition pitting young chefs against “old” to see who could make the tastiest pie, all for the sake of charity.

At a shared commercial kitchen space in Huntington Beach, Bracken offered the owner access to his top-grade kitchen equipment in exchange for free rent. Nearly daily, friends, fellow chefs and members of his place of worship, Seabreeze Church in Huntington Beach, volunteer there to transform the industrial-size donations. As the crew dices bushels of onions, blends gallons of salad dressing or slices mounds of pork chops under Bracken’s guidance, the kitchen turns out three-course meals for an astonishing 30 cents each.

The virtuous circle continues to attract cash, service and product donations from sources such as the Allergan Foundation, Solutions for Urban Agriculture, Impact Giving, Waste Not OC Coalition and LA & SF Specialty.

The services of Bracken’s Kitchen aren’t just about charity. Food waste is estimated at 30 to 40 percent of the nationwide food supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If crops aren’t perfect or become too costly to harvest, they’re left to rot in fields. Restaurants once feared lawsuits if they donated food that was inaccurately perceived as old or spoiled. Laws have changed, and so have attitudes and awareness about the impact of food waste on the population and the planet.

Hunger-relief organizations have worked for decades to close the gap between excess waste, or “recovered food,” and hungry people, but there’s often been a missing link. That’s where Bracken, like a contestant on the reality show “Chopped,” illustrates how to take random ingredients and cook them into delicious, healthy meals.

“He has a skill set that goes far beyond most people in the world of philanthropy,” said Jordan Perkins, executive director of Solutions for Urban Agriculture, which runs a program to glean produce from area farms for Bracken’s Kitchen. “He clearly left a very lucrative career to do something that he’s very passionate about. We want to support that.”

Those skills also caught the attention of Mike Learakos, executive director of the Waste Not OC Coaltion and president of TJM Inc./Katella Grill. As Waste Not OC was developing a model to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste with wholesome, fresh recovered food, Bracken was thinking along the same lines.

“One critical element of our model is the use of ‘food recovery kitchens’ to repurpose and/or repackage recovered food in a manner that extends the product shelf life, eliminates waste at the food pantry level and ensures food safety,” Learakos wrote in an email. “After meeting Bill three years ago, we immediately hit it off, and it was then I identified Bill as a vital part of the model and Bracken’s Kitchen as our pilot food recovery kitchen.”

The model is extending even further into the community.  With a tasty meal as the draw, Bracken’s Kitchen boosts attendance at other charitable events. He’s partnered with the Beach Coin Laundry’s Laundry Love Project to feed participants while the laundromat’s volunteers wash up to 100 loads of clothing. In the works: Doctors from the Edinger Medical Group of Fountain Valley will ride along with Betsy to perform free medical checkups. “The doctors recognize what we do in terms of nutritious, healthy meals,” said Bracken. “They know all of the issues related to food insecurity.”

Now the chef has expansion plans. He envisions a fleet of trucks, a permanent kitchen, a statewide or national program, and additional staff who can help Bracken move from behind the wheel (or the stove) to share his management and cooking skills.

“I spend a lot of my time guiding and teaching my volunteers. Teaching a young person culinary skills helps break the cycle of poverty,” Bracken said. “We can feed them all day long, but guess what? Tomorrow they wake up hungry. If we can have impact on the long-term cycle of poverty, then we can really make a difference.” Bracken knows that his meals aren’t just about food. “It’s the idea that someone cares, that there is hope,” he said.

At the end of the meal in Santa Ana, Bracken packs Betsy for the drive back to Huntington Beach, where he’ll end a typical 12-hour day. Turning to explain why he works so hard, he repeats a favorite saying, “Feeding people isn’t the same as nourishing them.”

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The hamburger you have to try

When the James Beard Foundation announced its second annual Blended Burger Project in May, chef Greg Daniels of Haven Gastropub in Orange quickly rose to the call. The contest posed the challenge of creating an artisanal burger in which at least 25 percent of the patty is ground mushrooms, promoting the blended burger concept as a more healthful and arguably tastier version of the classic beef burger. Daniels’ creative calibrations resulted in the Haven Breakfast Burger, a menu entrée that proved so popular during the competition period it remains on the menu.

“We process mushrooms and season it as pork chorizo with our same custom grind … you’re not changing what the burger tastes like. The mushroom adds umami, and it still tastes like meat,” Daniels explains. (By the way, that “custom grind” is typically 65 percent chuck, 15 percent short rib and 30 percent pork fatback.)

Each burger is prepared to order and topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese, thick-cut bacon braised in maple syrup and coffee, and a fresh fried egg sourced from GoneStraw Farms in Riverside. All this is neatly sandwiched into a fresh double-egg-washed brioche bun from OC Baking Co. Served with fresh arugula and a distinctively bright housemade ketchup, the burger provides deep mid-morning satisfaction, as it hits every hearty breakfast note yet could be enjoyed easily any time of day.

The lower-fat level of the mushroom blend gave us license to pair it with a “breakfast beer.” In our case the Sumatra Mountain Brown by Founders Brewing Co. It’s the stuff of … dare we say … champions.

Burger Blend: Chorizo-Seasoned
Ground Mushrooms

5 pounds sliced white mushrooms

Dry ingredients

4 tbsp. salt

5 tsp. ancho chili powder

3 tbsp. smoked paprika

4 tsp.  chipotle powder

4 tsp. smoked serrano powder

2 ½ tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. ground black pepper

3 tbsp.  dry oregano

1 ½ tsp. ground cumin

Deglazing liquid

3 tbsp. tequila

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

¼ cup achiote paste



Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Toss mushrooms in the spice blend and sweat in a large pan, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat. Cook until mushrooms release all their liquid and mixture begins to stick to pan. Deglaze with the tequila/achiote/vinegar mixture. Allow to simmer until almost dry. Pour out onto a baking sheet and chill. Once cool, grind through a meat grinder or food processor. Add as 20 percent of whatever blend of meat cuts you choose. Refrigerate remainder for use later.

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A new use for olive oil—cocktails

I drink a fair share of cocktails, and rarely do I taste one that catches me off guard. But bartenders seem to be upping the ante. Unexpected elements are popping up on menus across the country. Some are designed to evoke childhood memories – think freshly spun cotton candy garnishes – while others incorporate “healthy ingredients” such as activated charcoal.

But an olive oil cocktail? Is this a gimmick by Fig & Olive’s beverage managers, or are they on to something unique?

The thought of drinking oil is gag-inducing. Most think it’s akin to consuming spoonfuls of castor or cod liver oil. Yet sipping olive oil stems from ancient Greek mythology, which casts the olive as a divine gift from the gods. Athena, goddess of wisdom and inspiration, planted olive trees to feed, fuel and heal mankind.

At Fig & Olive, the signature drink arrives with a yellowy-gold trickle of blood orange-infused olive oil, which leaves a faint residue on the cocktail’s frothy white top. The drink is layered into gradients – vibrant orange and peach rest below a layer of foam that appears like white clouds and evokes sunset’s golden hour. The citrusy orange and lime notes subtly come through upon first sip. Then cucumber-infused vodka exudes a soothing spa-like freshness. It tastes like a juice cleanse gone wild.

As I give the Fig & Olive cocktail a quick stir, the layers of color wash together and the infused olive oil adds an unexpected silky texture. The gods might be crazy, but this cocktail is crazy good.

The Fig & Olive

2 ounces cucumber-infused vodka

1 ounce blood orange juice

¾ ounce lime juice

½ ounce simple syrup

½ ounce blood orange olive oil

½ celery sprig, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Top with blood orange olive oil. Garnish with celery.

Fig & Olive, 151 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach 949.877.3005 :: figandolive.com

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Chef Art Smith cooks up help for hurricane victims

Celebrity chef Art Smith, who makes an appearance at this year’s Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival, has helmed the kitchen at the Florida Governor’s Mansion, cooked for celebrities such as Oprah and had brief stints on television. His appearances on “Top Chef” and at numerous food festivals around the globe have launched Smith into super stardom. The country boy now rubs elbows with celebrities, musicians, diplomats, politicians and influencers. Disney tapped him to launch its first “Farm to Fork” dining program, and Lady Gaga’s parents hired him to run their NY restaurant. He’s cooked for Obama and world leaders, but never forgot his Southern roots. As a sixth-generation Floridian, Smith rushed to help those in need after Hurricane Irma. Coast caught up with the celebrity chef to see how we all could best lend a hand.

Coast: After the recent devastation from Hurricane Irma, what is the best way for us in Orange County to help?

Art Smith: Florida has lived with hurricanes for centuries, some very catastrophic. Everything grows back fast in Florida with its lush, warm, fertile environment, but people’s lives don’t. Hurricanes like Irma displaced thousands. Helping them to return to what is left of their homes is tough. Many, like in Houston, are still in shelters or living with relatives. I had over 30 relatives in our home. We had lots of Arepas parties.

Californians can help by supporting the American Red Cross and other groups that help feed displaced folks. Our agricultural community has been challenged, but they will rebound. My worries are that the families that work to help bring that freshness to our table need our full support.

Coast: You spent several years cooking at the Florida Governor’s Mansion and for celebrities such as Oprah. However, you still remain true to your north Florida roots. How do you plan to revitalize small town Jasper, Florida?

AS: This beautiful, lush, rural, fragile place has been an agricultural hub for centuries, well known for its fertile soil and spring water. Jasper, like many American rural towns, suffers from lack of the creation of sustainable systems. That’s why we created the nonprofit Reunion to bring sustainable education to rural America. Education will always save us.

Coast: Speaking of education, as a father, how do you teach your children about food and its origins? Your four children with Jesus Salgueiro have access to free-range chickens and roaming livestock at your home farm; and your restaurant at Disney World celebrates “Farm to Fork” dining. Is this your way of introducing the next generation to responsible eating?

AS: The kids always win! They want bright colors, simple flavors with a little heat, and it must be FAST. Our fresh eggs from our pet chickens make great scrambled eggs with our garden veggies tucked into Venezuelan Arepas – their version of a pita. [We’re making] baby steps.

Coast: What brings you to Newport Beach this October?

AS: Every celebrity chef in America goes to food and wine festivals. They have become the #WoodstockOfFoodom! We all love an audience and going to the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival is the equivalent to flying first class! I’m honored to be participating this year … [I’ll prepare] local sustainable dishes using my signature Southern recipes, from fried chicken, shrimp and artisan grits
to biscuits.

My favorite thing about Southern California is the sunshine. When you cook in the beautiful California outdoors, it makes everything taste better.

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Let’s call it a ‘Lush Puppie’

It might have started with a woman. The margarita’s exact origin is widely disputed, but the one constant in most stories is a lady. A showgirl, a socialite, even Hollywood pinup Rita Hayworth have all been linked to the rise of this classic tequila cocktail. Stodgier liquor historians assert that the margarita as we know it today evolved from a popular 1930s drink called the Daisy. It was citrusy and strong. Also, “daisy” translated into Spanish is … ? You guessed it, margarita.

At Social in Costa Mesa, manager Rich Ireland knows precisely when the bar’s popular housemade margarita had its genesis: For a belated holiday party, the restaurant’s sous-chef mixed a batch of killer margaritas – Milagro tequila, ripe honeydew and cucumber juices mixed with fresh-squeezed lemon, and an unexpected whisper of basil. The kitchen crew took big swigs. So did the owners. Then everyone went back for more. That night they all knew this icy concoction was destined for Social’s bar menu.

But owner Andrew Dorsey had even bigger plans. Soon a Slush Puppie machine arrived. “The seasonal ingredient will change because we won’t always have ripe melons,” says Ireland. “But we’ll serve different versions of this drink. It’s Social’s twist on a classic.” The Slush Puppie machine’s paddles rotate hypnotically like propellers to churn perfectly frosty margaritas. On a hot day, there’s no doubt this cocktail is definitely not just for the ladies.


Social Slushy Margarita

1½ ounces tequila blanco

½ ounce pisco

1 ounce fresh honey dew juice

½ ounce fresh cucumber juice

¾ ounce lemon juice

½ ounce simple syrup

1 fresh basil leaf

Combine ingredients.

Pour contents into a blender with 2 cups ice.
Blend and serve.  Garnish with fresh basil.

Social, 512 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, 949.642.2425
:: socialcostamesa.com

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