Having a champagne palate and a budweiser budget can put a crimp in my dining experiences, so I love when restaurant weeks are in play. I get to dine like a queen and experience some of OC's finest restaurant cuisine for a fraction of the cost. Did I say I love Restaurant Week? Yes I did!
More than 30 Irvine restaurants are celebrating Irvine Restaurant Week, which is going on right now, so I'm hitting as many as possible to sample the best cuisine in Orange County. Here are two of my favorites so far.
Seasons 52 - South Coast Plaza (714) 437-5252
Seasonally inspired with fresh appeal of the farmer's market, Seasons 52's menu excites and surprises the palate. Everything is delicious AND healthy, all under 475 calories. S52 uses natural cooking techniques such as wood-fire grilling, brick-oven cooking and caramelizing vegetables to let the natural flavors shine through (no butter anywhere in the restaurant!). Did I mention it's delicious?
My dining partner and I teamed up, ordering different items so we could experience as much as possible on the Restaurant Week menu. We ordered the famous Ripe Plum Tomato Flatbread, the Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers, Organic Baby Spinach Salads, Cedar Plank Roasted Atlantic Salmon, Wood Fired Pork Tenderloin, and the Mini Indulgence Desserts - all for just $30 a person. This was such a great deal and we loved every bite.
I eat a lot of salmon. It's plentiful, healthy and delicous if prepared correctly. Seasons 52 goes beyond good cooking and transcends their Cedar Plank Roasted Atlantic Salmon to a level of culinary greatness. I may obsess about this salmon entree, trying to figure out how to cook it like the masters in the S52 kitchen.
Behold: Seasons 52's Cedar Plank Roasted Atlantic Salmon: juicy, flavorful, a culinary delite.
The dinner was finished with one of Seasons 52's famous Mini Indulgences - just a little sweetness to top off the evening. Perfection. This is how a meal is done, folks. Go there, quick!
Next up: Paul Martin's American Grill
Paul Martin's American Grill - Irvine Spectrum Center (949)453-1144
The menu at Paul Martin's takes diners back to the American farm with meat raised in a wholesome way, local organic produce and custom-made bread from expert bakers. The California-centric wine features the Golden State's fruitful vineyards, and behind Paul Martin's elegantly rustic bar is an array of local craft beer and spirited cocktails with fresh garnishes. Good times and thoughtful food are a way of life.
The crowded restaurant was filled with families and groups all celebrating the evening in their own way. We were celebrating the weekend with kids in tow. Good thing Paul Martin's has the best Angus Cheeseburger my daughter says she's ever eaten.
While the kids were content with burgers and delicious fries (yes, I stole some off their plates) the adults enjoyed Paul Martin's Irvine RestaurantWeek meal selections of the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (garnished with sonoma sage oil) and main course of "Brick" Chicken (pitman family farms chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh herb jus) and the Braised Short Ribs (mashed potatoes, horseradish cream and beef au jus)
For dessert...we were so full, but forced ourselves to share the Banana Cream Pie and Homemade Raspberry Ice Cream with shortbread cookies - all absolutely scrumptious for just $30 a person. Deal? Total deal!
Paul Martin's reminds me of the most delicious comfort foods I dream about preparing...if I had all those culinary skills and secrets. Maybe the chef will give me lessons...
Go out and enjoy some great food this week!
For more information on participating restaurants, check out www.destinationirvine.com/restaurantweek.
Terry Winkler is the founder of Enter Stage Write, an Orange County theater, entertainment and lifestyle website.