McDonald’s tries to reheat the chicken sandwich wars with spicy barbecue sauce

Two new combatants, McDonald’s and Jack In The Box, have entered the “chicken war” launched by Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on Aug. 12.

That’s the date when Popeyes debuted a chicken sandwich that became a runaway success. After two weeks of long lines at drive-thrus and social media frenzy, the Miami-based fast food chain announced it had run out of supplies to make the sandwiches and pulled them from its menus.

The battle lines were initially drawn by fans of Popeyes and fans of Chick-fil-A, which has been selling a very similar sandwich for decades. Wendy’s entered the fray because it had a new spicy nuggets promotion.

And now after two weeks of quiet, McDonald’s has come out with a Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich.

It has the same essentials as Popeyes’ and Chick-fil-A’s sandwich, a crispy chicken fillet served on a bun with a couple of pickle slices.

McDonald’s sandwich adds some raw onion and a new barbecue glaze. It costs $5.29, more than the $3.99 that Popeyes’ was charging.

Jack In The Box’s Really Big Chicken Sandwich has tomato, mayonnaise and lettuce, making it more like Wendy’s chicken sandwiches. What’s different is that it starts with two chicken patties, and customers can add one or two more if they like. It also includes bacon.

Combos cost $3.99-$5.99.

Popeyes has yet to say when it the sandwich will return. The banner on its website shows an empty sandwich wrapper with the words, “Be right back.”

But on Thursday, Popeyes launched a promotion called BYOB, “Bring Your Own Buns,” encouraging customers to buy three-piece chicken tenders and supply their own bread.

A news release announcing the promotion was accompanied by a short video featuring skeptical-looking actors.

“Seriously,” one of the actors says, “when are you bringing the sandwich back?”

 

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The Taco Bell pop-up hotel in Palm Springs will serve avocado toast, because of course it will

Taco Bell is previewing menu items for its pop-up hotel in Palm Springs, and so far it doesn’t include any exotic taco shells.

Instead, there’s avocado toast, chilaquiles and club sandwiches.

Only a few people will get to experience these exclusives during the four-night run of the pop-up, called The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel & Resort, in August. Its 70-plus rooms sold out in two minutes when Taco Bell started taking reservations in late June.

The pop-up will be at the V Palm Springs, near the city’s downtown tourist area.

The Irvine-based fast food chain calls the hotel menu “resort inspired.” while it doesn’t sound like typical Taco Bell, it is the work of Executive Chef Rene Pisciotti, the “taco whisperer” behind Nacho Fries.

Although it’s called Avocado Toast-ada, the avocado toast will be on multigrain bread.

Fire! Chip Chilaquiles will feature tomatillo salsa, Mexican crema, queso fresco, pico de gallo and a fried egg.

The Toasted Cheddar Club will feature hand-breaded crispy chicken, jalapeño bacon, avocado and sharp cheddar cheese.

Beverages will include a Baja Blast Birthday Freeze, celebrating the Mountain Dew soft drink launched 15 years ago, and a Horchata-Date Smoothie, which is a take on date milkshakes, a local favorite. Dates are a big crop in the Coachella Valley.

In addition to food, The Bell will have themed decorations throughout, live entertainment, and branded merchandise in the gift shop, which is only for guests with reservations.

While it’s too late to book a room, fans will be able to shop for exclusives and keep track of the pop-up at tacobell.com/the-bell-hotel

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Want to book a room at the Taco Bell hotel in Palm Springs? Here’s how to get reservations

A boutique hotel on the south end of Palm Springs will turn itself over to Taco Bell for four nights in August.

The V Palm Springs, at 333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, will be the site of the fast food chain’s highly publicized pop-up hotel, the fast food chain announced Thursday.

The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort will take place Aug. 8-12, with reservations opening online at 10 a.m. June 27, according to a news release.

Reservations are apt to go fast, because although the V has 140 rooms, Taco Bell’s room count will be “over 70,” and the news release predicted they will be “snapped up in moments.”

Rates start at $169 per night for rooms with one king or two queen beds, and the experience is intended for guests 18 and older.

The experience will include Taco Bell decor in guest rooms, entertainment by artists from Feed the Beat, Taco Bell’s music program, and the “Freeze Lounge,” inspired by Mountain Dew Baja Blast.

Guests will get to try new Taco Bell menu items making their debut at the event. The menu will be announced in July.

The V Palm Springs is situated at the end where South Palm Canyon Drive, the city’s main drag, turns into East Palm Canyon Drive. It is on a stretch of Mid-Century Modern motels that have been gentrified. Once a Travelodge, the V opened in 2015 with what it calls a “fresh, chic vibe” that invites revelry and relaxation.

It is close to the heart of town but now within walking distance for most people.

Bookings for The Bell will be done through a page on Taco Bell’s website: www.tacobell.com/the-bell-hotel

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Nacho Fries are back at Taco Bell, and Darren Criss is singing their praises

Nacho Fries are back at Taco Bell.

The seasoned french fries with cheese dip return to the menu today, June 6, accompanied by a new ad campaign that features Darren Criss in a trailer for a phony movie musical called “Chasing Gold.”

Criss, best known for the TV series “Glee,” is a singer and songwriter in addition to being an Emmy-winning actor.

In the ad, he plays a parking attendant who becomes a pop star by singing about what he loves. That would be Nacho Fries.

The other actor in the commercial is Chris Diamantopoulos of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”

Nacho Fries are Taco Bell’s most successful limited time offer ever and have been off and on the menu three prior times since their debut in January. Earlier ad campaigns have featured Josh Duhamel in an “X Files”-type mysteries.

According to a news release, Nacho Fries are available à la carte for $1.29; as Nacho Fries Supreme with ground beef, tomatoes and reduced fat sour cream for $2.49; Nacho Fries Bell Grande, $3.49; and in a $5 box with a 5-Layer Burrito, a Doritos Locos Taco and a medium soft drink.

Information: www.tacobell.com

 

 

 

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Taco Bell gets into beds as well as breakfast with a pop-up Palm Springs hotel

Taco Bell is planning to open a pop-up hotel in Palm Springs this summer.

The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort will open Aug. 9, according to a news release from the Irvine-based fast food giant.

Where is it?

What are the room rates?

Will there be a Taco Bellhop?

We don’t know, but Taco Bell promises to tell us more when it starts taking reservations in June.

Wherever The Bell is, it will be serving Taco Bell food and cocktails or guests 18 and older, according to a news release.

And the property will be “infused with a Taco Bell twist” from its guest rooms to its gift shop and salon offering “Taco Bell-inspired nail art, fades and a braid bar.”

And there will be a pool. That’s fortunate for a couple of reasons.

The first is Taco Bell’s summer collection, recently added to its its online merchandise “Taco Shop.” It includes bikinis emblazoned with hot sauce packets, swim trunks and velour beach towels.

More importantly, Palm Springs visitors need a pool in August. Last year the average high temperature for the month was 109.3 degrees according the National Weather Service. There were zero cloudy days.

Taco Bell’s news release says that The Bell will be in Palm Springs, but some people use the city’s name to describe the entire Coachella Valley. The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau includes nine cities, from Desert Hot Springs in the north to Coachella in the East. Hotel booking websites list more than 250 lodgings in the valley, from motels to high-end golf resorts.

The City of Palm Springs has the most rooms, with an inventory of more than 1,000. The most high profile hotels are along Highway 111 in neighborhoods with names like Midtown, Twin Palms and Araby Commons.

If The Bell is within city limits, it will double Taco Bell’s presence in Palm Springs. There is only one restaurant, northwest of Palm Springs International Airport.

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Recipes: Spice up your matzo ball dishes this Passover

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” goes the famous question in the Haggadah, the prayer book of the ceremonial Seder dinner of Passover, the eight-day Jewish festival that begins on Friday evening, April 19th.

If there had been a question, “How is your Passover menu different from your past ones?”, our reply this year would be, “It’s our matzo balls that are different!” We decided to break with tradition and to season our matzo balls with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors.

When Passover comes, we think of the family holiday dinners of our childhoods. My mother, who was born in Poland and cooked Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) cuisine, made light, fluffy matzo balls, which we called by their Yiddish name, kneidelach. Actually, she made them during the rest of the year too, but on Passover somehow they seemed special, perhaps because they were so satisfying during this period when the only “bread” allowed was matzo.

I still make matzo balls the way my mother taught me, but I also like to prepare matzo balls that taste different from hers, incorporating the flavors used by my in-laws in Israel. My spinach matzo balls are speckled with green and are studded with pine nuts; my fresh turmeric root matzo balls have an orange hue; and my matzo balls flavored with chermoula (Moroccan marinade) are dotted with cilantro.

Lovers of bold flavors will enjoy our Moroccan-inspired chicken soup with fennel seeds, saffron and fresh green fava beans. The matzo balls we add to this soup are flavored with cumin, garlic, paprika and cayenne. You might also like to try our Yemenite chicken soup seasoned with turmeric and cumin, based on the spicy soups made by Yakir’s Yemen-born mother.

I wish I could have served our new matzo balls to my mom.


Spinach matzo balls are speckled with green and are studded with pine nuts. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Springtime chicken soup with spinach matzo balls

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 to 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, preferably legs and thighs

1 large carrot, cut in 5 or 6 chunks

1/2 pound medium asparagus (about 8 spears), bases reserved, spears cut in three

1 large onion, quartered

3 celery ribs with leafy tops, cut in three

6 parsley stems (leafy tops reserved)

11 cups water

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Spinach and pine nut matzo balls (see variation of turmeric root matzo balls recipe)

1 or 2 large or 6 baby carrots; or 2 baby orange, baby yellow and baby purple carrots, peeled if needed, diagonally sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1/4 pound sugar snap peas, ends pulled off together with any strings

1 or 2 tablespoons chopped dill leaves and fine stems

2 or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves

PROCEDURE

1. Put chicken in a soup pot, large saucepan or stew pan.   Add carrot chunks, asparagus bases, onion, celery, parsley stems and 10 cups water.

2. Bring to a boil, skimming foam a few times. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Skim thoroughly.

3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Adjust heat so that soup simmers very gently.  Cover and cook until chicken is very tender and soup is well flavored, about 2 hours, skimming occasionally.

4. Discard pieces of vegetables and herbs (or reserve for other uses).  Remove chicken pieces. If desired, set aside 2 or 3 chicken pieces for another meal. Cool remaining pieces slightly and discard their skins and bones. Cut or pull meat in strips and reserve.

5. Strain soup. If possible, refrigerate it overnight.  Skim fat thoroughly.

6. Prepare matzo balls.

7. Bring soup to simmer, add 1 cup water and skim fat again. Return to a simmer, add reserved chicken strips and heat through.  Reheat matzo balls in their cooking liquid if necessary.

8. Shortly before serving, bring 2 cups of soup to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Add orange and yellow carrot slices (but not purple ones, if using) and asparagus stem pieces and return to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Add asparagus tips and sugar snap peas and cook until vegetables are done to your preference, about 2 or 3 more minutes.  Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon, cover them loosely to keep them warm, and return their cooking broth to rest of soup.

9. If using purple carrots, keep them separate until serving time so they won’t discolor the soup. Put them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup water; bring to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes or until just tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve them in a small bowl.

10. Add chopped dill and parsley to hot soup. Taste and adjust seasoning.

11. To serve, put 2 or 3 heated matzo balls in each soup bowl using a slotted spoon, and ladle hot soup over them. Add a few chicken strips and vegetable pieces to each bowl, adding purple carrot slices last.


Yemenite style chicken soup with turmeric root matzo balls is served with a mild version of red schug, a Yemenite pepper and garlic relish. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Yemenite style chicken soup with turmeric root matzo balls

This soup is served with a mild version of red schug, a Yemenite pepper and garlic relish.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 to 2 1/2 lb chicken pieces, preferably legs or thighs

1 large onion, quartered

Thick stems of 6 cilantro sprigs (leaves reserved)

11 cups water

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 turmeric root about 2 inches long, minced (about 2 tablespoons) (wear gloves when handling)

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste

Salt to taste

Turmeric root matzo balls (see recipe)

Mild red schug (optional, see recipe)

2 or 3 zucchini, cut in 2-inch sticks

2 plum tomatoes, diced

2 or 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

PROCEDURE

1. Put chicken in a soup pot, large saucepan or stew pan. Add onion, cilantro stems and 10 cups water.

2. Bring to a boil, skimming foam a few times. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Skim thoroughly.

3.  Add cumin, turmeric root, garlic, ground pepper and a pinch of salt.  Adjust heat so that soup simmers very gently.  Cover and cook until chicken is very tender and soup is well flavored, about 2 hours, skimming occasionally.

4. Discard onion and cilantro stems.  Remove chicken pieces, cool slightly and discard skin and bones.  Refrigerate 2 or 3 chicken pieces for another meal. Cut meat from remaining chicken pieces in strips. Put them in a container, cover and refrigerate.

5. Strain soup. If possible, refrigerate soup overnight.  Skim fat thoroughly.

6. Prepare matzo balls and schug.

7. Bring soup to simmer, add 1 cup water and skim the fat again. Return to a simmer, add reserved chicken strips and heat through.  Reheat matzo balls in their cooking liquid if necessary.

8. Shortly before serving, bring 3 cups of soup to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Add zucchini, return to a simmer and cook uncovered 2 or 3 minutes or until done to your taste. Add diced tomato and heat through.  Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon, cover them loosely to keep them warm, and return their cooking broth to rest of the soup.

9. Add chopped cilantro to the soup.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

10. To serve, put 2 or 3 heated matzo balls in each soup bowl using a slotted spoon, and ladle hot soup over them. Add a few vegetable pieces and chicken strips to each bowl. Serve schug separately.


Schug (also spelled zehug), a Yemenite relish, is made with mild Red Fresno chiles. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Mild red schug (pepper garlic relish)

This schug (also spelled zehug), a Yemenite relish, is made with mild Red Fresno chiles. If you would like hot red schug, use red jalapenos; or make hot green zehug with green jalapenos or serrano chiles.

Yield: about 1/2 cup, about 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS

5 Red Fresno chiles or other mild chiles

1/4 cup garlic cloves (about 1 ounce), peeled and quartered

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 teaspoons water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

PROCEDURE

1. Remove stems from chiles. Remove seeds if desired so the schug will be milder. Cut chiles in chunks. Put garlic, chiles and salt in mini food processor and puree until finely chopped and well blended. If necessary, add 2 or 3 teaspoons water, just enough to enable food processor to chop mixture until smooth. Add olive oil and puree.

2. Transfer to a small bowl for serving or to a jar for refrigerating. Schug can be kept, covered, up to 1 week in the refrigerator.


Tumeric root matzo balls are made with the root, eggs and matzo meal. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Turmeric root matzo balls

For spinach and chermoula matzo balls, see variations. To make traditional matzo balls, omit turmeric.

Yield: 20 to 24 matzo balls

INGREDIENTS

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, or vegetable oil such as grapeseed oil or safflower oil

About 3 to 5 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons finely grated peeled turmeric root (about 1.5 oz or 2 three-inch turmeric roots)

3/4 teaspoon fine salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2/3 cup matzo meal (sometimes labeled matsah meal) (about 2 1/2 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon Passover baking powder (optional)

About 7 to 8 cups water (for simmering)

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

About 3 cups strained chicken soup or vegetable broth (for storing and reheating)

PROCEDURE

1. Using a fork, beat eggs with oil, grated turmeric root, fine salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl until blended. Mix matzo meal and baking powder in a bowl. Add to turmeric mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to a smooth batter.  Stir in 1 tablespoons water to make a soft batter.

2. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3. Stir batter. Add about 2 tablespoons more water by tablespoons, adding enough so that mixture is just firm enough to be formed in rough-shaped balls; it should be soft.

4. Bring 7 or 8 cups water to a boil in a saucepan and add coarse salt. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low so that water bubbles gently. Prepare a small bowl of cool water. Moisten your hands, measure a mounded teaspoonful of batter and remove it from spoon. Transfer batter from one palm to the other, gently rolling it to a roughly round ball. Drop matzo ball into simmering water. Continue shaping matzo balls and adding them to pan, moistening your hands after every two or three.

5. When all of matzo balls are in the pan, raise heat and return liquid to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until matzo balls are tender, about 30 minutes.

6. With a slotted spoon, gently transfer matzo balls to another saucepan for reheating or to a container to refrigerate them. Ladle enough chicken soup over matzo balls to cover them.

7. Cover matzo balls and keep them warm until ready to serve; or refrigerate them.  Reheat them in their chicken soup in a covered saucepan over low heat, without stirring.  Serve hot.

Spinach and pine nut matzo balls

Omit turmeric. Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped pine nuts to matzo meal mixture. Rinse 6 ounces spinach leaves (about 3 cups firmly packed) and remove any stems. Add spinach to 4 cups boiling water, return to a full boil, stirring, and remove from heat. Remove spinach with slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Drain and rinse. Put spinach in a strainer with a bowl underneath. Squeeze spinach by handfuls in strainer, reserving the squeezed spinach liquid in the bowl. Puree spinach with 2 tablespoons of reserved spinach liquid to a fine puree. Add to egg mixture. When making batter, use reserved spinach liquid instead of water.


Chermoula matzo balls are made with garlic and chopped cilantro. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Chermoula matzo balls

Omit turmeric. Finely chop 2 large garlic cloves in mini food processor.  Add 1/2 cup (lightly packed) cilantro leaves without any stems and pulse until chopped.  Transfer to a small bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Mix well.  Add to egg mixture.


Moroccan-inspired chicken soup with chermoula matzo balls can also include fava beans as well as saffron and fennel seeds. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Moroccan-inspired chicken soup with chermoula matzo balls

Fresh fava beans are Passover favorites among Moroccan and other North African Jews. If your family doesn’t eat beans on Passover, you can omit them. Saffron and fennel seeds give this soup a lovely aroma.

INGREDIENTS

1 small fennel bulb

2 to 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, preferably legs and thighs

1 carrot, cut in 5 or 6 chunks

1 large onion, quartered

6 thick cilantro stems (leaves reserved)

11 cups water

Chermoula matzo balls ((see variation of turmeric root matzo balls recipe)

2 pinches saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 1/4 pounds fava beans in pods or 3/4 to 1 cup peeled fava beans (packaged steamed or frozen)

1 turnip, tops and bottoms removed, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 carrot, sliced diagonally about 1/4 inch thick

2 small celery ribs, peeled if stringy, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large zucchini, halved and sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 or 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

PROCEDURE

1. Pull off outer layer of fennel. Quarter the fennel bulb.  Cut off and discard core at bottom of each piece.  Reserve outer layer and core and a few 2-inch pieces of fennel stems for flavoring the soup and put them in a soup pot, a large saucepan or a stew pan. Cut rest of fennel in thin slices crosswise.

2. Add chicken pieces, carrot chunks, onion, fennel trimmings and cilantro stems to soup pot. Add 10 cups water.

3. Bring to a boil, skimming foam a few times. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Skim thoroughly.

4.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Adjust heat so that soup simmers very gently.  Cover and cook for 2 hours.

5. Discard pieces of vegetables and herbs (or reserve for other uses).  Remove chicken pieces. If desired, set aside 2 or 3 chicken pieces for another meal. Cool remaining pieces slightly and discard their skins and bones. Cut or pull the meat in strips and reserve.

6. Strain soup. If possible, refrigerate it overnight.  Skim fat thoroughly.

7. Prepare matzo balls.

8. Bring soup to simmer, add 1 cup water and skim fat again. Add saffron and fennel seeds to the soup and cook for 20 minutes.

9. Shell fava beans. Add beans to a saucepan of 4 cups boiling water. Return to a boil. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse, and peel: peel smooth end slightly, squeeze other end and bean will come out of its thick skin.

10. Before serving, bring soup to a simmer.  Reheat matzo balls in their cooking liquid if necessary.

11. In a medium saucepan bring 3 cups of soup to a simmer.  Add turnip slices and return to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes.  Add carrot slices, celery, fennel strips and garlic and return to a simmer. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add zucchini, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered over medium-low heat until vegetables are done to your preference, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon, cover them loosely to keep them warm, and return their cooking broth to rest of soup.

12. Add cooked fava beans and chicken strips to hot soup and heat through. Add chopped cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

13. To serve, put 2 or 3 heated matzo balls in each soup bowl using a slotted spoon, and ladle hot soup over them. Add a few chicken strips and vegetable pieces to each bowl.

Note: Some people of Mediterranean or African origin have an inherited allergy to fava beans. If your family or a guest has this allergy, omit them or substitute lima beans or edamame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about Recipes: Spice up your matzo ball dishes this Passover This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. OC Shredding Business

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Southern California has two of the top 5 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list

  • A view of the main entrance at The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim. The Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy in Anaheim, placed No. 4 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. (File photo by Ed Crisotomo, SCNG)

  • Leonard Chan, co-owner shows a hidden entrance at The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim.The Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy in Anaheim, placed No. 4 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. (File photo by Ed Crisotomo, SCNG)

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  • A view of the interior of The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim. The Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy in Anaheim, placed No. 4 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. (File photo by Ed Crisotomo, SCNG)

  • Ying Chang, from left, co-owner/ managing partner, her husband Robert Adamson, co-owner/ managing partner, and Leonard Chan, co-owner stand together at The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim. The Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy in Anaheim, placed No. 4 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. (File photo by Ed Crisotomo, SCNG)

  • Cucina Urbana in San Diego, which has sister locations called Cucina Enoteca in Irvine, Newport Beach and Del Mar, slipped in at No. 98 on Yelp’€s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. Seen here, Cucina Enoteca at Fashion Island. (File photo by Nick Koon, Orange County Register SCNG)

  • Cucina Enoteca at Fashion Island in Newport Beach is Cucina Urbana’s sister restaurant. Cucina Urbana in San Diego was voted No. 98 on Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list. (File photo by Nick Koon, Orange County Register SCNG)

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Yelp’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2019, a nationally ranked list, rates two Southern California spots known for wine and cocktails higher than some legendary fine dining rooms.

The Blind Rabbit in Anaheim, a speakeasy, appeared at No. 4 and Barrique, a wine bar in Venice, took the No. 5 spot. Here’s the shocker, both ranked higher than San Franciso’s Gary Danko with its dozen Five Diamond ratings from AAA, Relais & Châteaux designation, Michelin ratings and multiple James Beard Awards, including Best New Restaurant, Best Service and Best Chef — California. Danko came in at No. 11. The two So Cal spots also muscled out Per Se, Thomas Keller’s gourmet ivory tower in Manhattan, which was listed at No. 22.

Here’s how Yelp tallied the ratings. “We identified restaurants on Yelp with a large number of reviews mentioning the words ‘romantic,’ ‘Valentine’s Day’ and ‘date night’ and ranked those spots using a number of factors including the total volume and ratings of reviews mentioning the relevant keywords.”

To make sure the lineup was geographically diverse, they limited the list to two restaurants per metro area.

A third Southern California restaurant, Cucina Urbana in San Diego, slipped in at No. 98. It’s actually a boutique chain with sister restaurants called Cucina Enoteca in Irvine, Del Mar and Newport Beach.

Yelp reviewers have spoken and it seems they don’t love white linen and formal service on date night or maybe it’s fear of the pricey check. Let’s face it, there’s nothing romantic about morning-after arguments over credit card debt. Maybe that’s what makes sneaking into a speakeasy with shareable plates, stiff cocktails and cozy seating a lot sexier.

For the complete list visit  www.yelpblog.com/ 2019/02/yelps-top-100-most- romantic-restaurants-2019.

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Taco Bell is bringing back Nacho Fries for a three-peat

Taco Bell is bringing back its Nacho Fries  on Thursday, Jan. 24, for a limited time. But a lucky few customers could get them earlier.

The news comes a year after Nacho Fries made their debut on the Dollar Cravings menu, quickly becoming the Irvine-base fast food chain’s most popular launch ever. It sold more than 53 million orders of the spicy spuds in five weeks.

Taco Bell took Nacho Fries off the menu, but brought it back for a few weeks in July. Next week’s return will be a three-peat.

Nacho Fries will cost $1.29, up 29 cents from a year ago. The Dollar Cravings Menu has since mutated into the Value Cravings menu, opening the door for slightly higher prices.

Taco Bell originally promoted Nacho Fries with movie-like commercials featuring actor Josh Duhamel uncovering a conspiracy by the “burger people” to keep french fries out of the chain.

This time, Taco Bell is sending out a team of “fryologists” on “Fryday,” Jan. 18 to give out free Nacho Fries to “unsuspecting customers” nationwide. But customers probably won’t be that unsuspecting, because Taco Bell has released a list of restaurants they will visit.

Three are in Southern California:

–303 West Imperial Highway, Brea

–2222 Barranca Parkway, Irvine

–4101 Campus Drive, Irvine

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Southern California has 20 of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2019

  • Strada Eateria & Coffee in Los Angles is know for The Impaler; two skewers of paprika pork belly, Catalonia sausage, roasted bell pepper, green onion, tomato, mango, and charred cauliflower. (Courtesy of Strada Eateria & Coffee)

  • Michelle Godinoh, left, and Tiffany Valdez eat at Mariscos Jalisco. The restaurant was named No. 100 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2019. (Photo by David Allen, SCNG)

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  • Strada Eateria & Coffee in Los Angeles serves the Strada 5 Caprese, made with buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil, avocado, balsamic glaze, virgin olive oil, and walnuts. (Courtesy of Strada Eateria & Coffee)

  • You can get the Poke Classic at Strada Eateria & Coffee in Los Angeles. The non-rice dish features ahi tuna, sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, onion, chili, macadamia nuts, avocado, lemon, seaweed and greens. restaurant has been rated in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2019. (Courtesy of Strada Eateria & Coffee)

  • Gyromania in Santa Clarita serves a Grilled Chicken Souvlaki with perfectly seasoned french fries, tzatziki, and side fresh salad. (Courtesy of Gyromania)

  • The Impossible Bacon Avocado Burger from Angel City Grill in Redondo Beach. (Courtesy of Angel City Grill)

  • The shrimp tacos at Mariscos Jalisco. The restaurant was named No. 100 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2019. (Photo by David Allen, SCNG)

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Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2019 was released this morning, Jan. 8, and Southern Californians have 20 honorees in their own backyard.

That’s eight fewer than last year but 90 percent of the entire list are 5-star restaurants and nearly all are priced under $30 per person (or $$ on Yelp). The extra bang for the buck comes just in time for diners who are increasingly seeking quality casual experiences.

To make the grade, businesses had to be listed in the restaurant or food categories on Yelp. Both the rating and the volume of the reviews were considered, “while accounting for the overall volume of reviews in each business’s area so as not to disadvantage businesses in areas with relatively low review volume,” a media release announcing the list stated.

If a business had multiple locations, Yelp kept the highest ranked one.

Two Southern California restaurants returned, Bunz in Huntington Beach and TKB Bakery and Deli in Indio, which topped the list last year. TKB has fallen to 37th place but another So Cal eatery, Gyromania in Santa Clarita, took the No. 4 spot.  Restaurants that made the list offer food and drink for all tastes with tacos, shabu, Middle Eastern, Cajun and even tea rooms were lauded.

Yelp, a universal clearing house for cheap eats, continues to be a much-relied on source for budget-minded foodies despite its detractors, including those voicing opinions in a November, 2018 story in Eater:  “Faced with increased competition, pay-for-play accusations, and ‘Yelper’ being used as an insult, it seems businesses are taking their advertising dollars elsewhere,” read the article topped with a headline of “Yelp’s Heyday is Over.”

Still, restaurateurs couldn’t care less. They are always stoked to be recognized in this people’s choice style venue says Ryan Cox, Yelp’s regional marketing director, who is based in Orange County.

“Earning a spot on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat list is great exposure for so many of these spots as they are sometimes in unassuming locations like gas stations or even a laundromat,” Cox said.

Quality has been a factor like never before he says. “I think the idea of fast casual has really been shaken up. Before you’d go for burgers, pizza or other types of fast food because you knew it was quick and cheap. Now you’re looking for a meal on-the-go, but you want to make sure it’s healthy, has locally sourced ingredients and even uses sustainable packaging that’s good for the environment,” he said. “Something you’d usually always have to go to a traditional sit-down type restaurant to experience.”

And of course, there’s no better time to be a So Cal resident, he says. “We’re lucky in Southern California because not only do we have every type of food you can imagine, chefs and restaurateurs are always looking for creative ways to switch things up, put modern twists on old favorites and try a variety of fusions for something unique and different. We’re usually the trailblazers for new concepts or at least early adopters, so we get to taste and see things before they really jump in popularity across the country.”

So if you’re hungry, have at it. Here’s the list of Southern California’s honorees. Restaurants marked with a heart symbol were on the list last year. Those indicated with a diamond offer delivery or pickup.

For the complete Top 100 visit yelpblog.com.

4. Gyromania – Santa Clarita5. Broken Mouth  | Lee’s Homestyle – Los Angeles15. Local – Big Bear Lake17. Crafted Greens – El Cajon29. Chuy’s Taco Shop – San Diego30. Miss Shabu Restaurant & Sake Bar – Buena Park35. Pampa-Rara – Apple Valley36. Angel City Grill – Redondo Beach ⧫37. TKB Bakery & Deli – Indio ♥38. Bunz – Huntington Beach ♥49. Strada Eateria & Coffee – Los Angeles ⧫56. Uncle Af’s – Agoura Hills ⧫69. Tahini – San Diego70. The Modern Tea Room – Lancaster72. Bud & Rob’s New Orleans Bistro – San Diego ⧫75. Pho Guys – Vista ⧫85. Mi Ranchito Veracruz – North Hollywood ⧫94. Empanada Kitchen – San Diego95. Tribute Coffee – Garden Grove ⧫100. Mariscos Jalisco – Pomona

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Taco Bell puts its Las Vegas wedding merchandise online

  • Taco Bell weddings include a hot sauce bow tie. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

    Taco Bell weddings include a hot sauce bow tie. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

  • Taco Bell is now selling its hot sauce garters online.

    Taco Bell is now selling its hot sauce garters online.

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  • Taco Bell’s champagne flutes are dishwasher safe.

    Taco Bell’s champagne flutes are dishwasher safe.

  • Taco Bell weddings include a hot sauce bouquet.

    Taco Bell weddings include a hot sauce bouquet.

  • More than 60 couples have tied the knot at the Taco Bell Cantina Chapel.

    More than 60 couples have tied the knot at the Taco Bell Cantina Chapel.

  • Taco Bell has renovated its Las Vegas Cantina used for weddings. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

    Taco Bell has renovated its Las Vegas Cantina used for weddings. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

  • Taco Bell has renovated its Las Vegas Cantina used for weddings. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

    Taco Bell has renovated its Las Vegas Cantina used for weddings. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

  • The Taco Bell Cantina Chapel provides backdrops for wedding photos. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

    The Taco Bell Cantina Chapel provides backdrops for wedding photos. (Courtesy of Taco Bell)

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What Taco Bell started in Vegas isn’t staying in Vegas.

The Irvine-based fast food chain has added a weddings page to the Taco Shop, its online merchandise site, to mark the one-year anniversary of its quickie weddings in a quick service restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip.

People can buy items there that the company says were previously only available in person at the Taco Bell Cantina Chapel, near Planet Hollywood at 3717 South Las Vegas Blvd.

For him: Gray T-shirts that say “Mr.” or “Just Married” and a hot sauce bow tie, all $20.

For her: White tanks that say “Mrs.” or Just Married and a hot sauce garter, also $20.

For the couple: A set of two, 6-ounce champagne flutes with a Las Vegas Cantina Chapel graphic, made of reusable and dishwasher-safe styrene plastic for $10.

Wedding packages are $600 at the chapel and include the above, plus the use of a hot sauce bouquet, a reception for 15 guests, tacos and a Cinnabon Delights wedding cake.

The first ceremony took place June 25, 2017, although Taco Bell didn’t launch the service until August. More than 60 couples have tied the knot since, with 25 more signed up, according to a news release.

The restaurant has renovated the restaurant and expanded its party room to hold more guests.

Taco Bell Cantinas have mostly the same menu as Taco Bell drive-throughs, but serve alcohol and special appetizers. The only Southern California Cantina, in Newport Beach, serves, beer, wine and frosé. The Las Vegas Cantina also serves liquor.

 

 

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