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Live Music is Back On in Irvine!

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017

Irvine City Council OK's Plan for Outdoor Music Venue 

Before an overflow crowd, the Irvine City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a 12,000-seat outdoor amphitheater next to the Orange County Great Park. The temporary venue will keep the music playing in Irvine after the closing of the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, which closed last fall after 35 years. The council vote will ensure that local live music won't skip a beat after all. 


If all goes well, the new interim venue with all the conveniences, amenities and high-quality experience concert fans have come to expect, could open by early August for the second half of the 2017 summer concert season.

To learn more about the proposed new stadium, read the Destination Irvine article here. 

Thanks to the local grassroots organization, Save Live Music Irvine, the impossible was made a reality.  Live Nation and FivePoint now have the green light to build and operate a new outdoor concert venue to keep the rich summer tradition started with Irvine Meadows alive in Irvine.

It's Wildflower Season in Orange County

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Monday, Mar 20, 2017

After years of crippling drought, the 2017 rainy season has brought much-needed relief to California. Reservoirs are full, snow pack is high, and our rolling hills are vibrantly green once again. One of the most pleasant side effects of an ample rainy season is the explosion of wildflowers that is currently taking place in and around Orange County. Now is the time to hit the trails and appreciate Orange County area parks wilderness areas at their absolute finest. 

One of the best place places to see a diverse array of wildflowers is Irvine's Bommer Canyon.  Here hikers will discover lupine, goldfields, fiddlenecks, chia, thistle, storksbill, blue dicks, prickly pear, poppies, and more.

Beyond Bommer Canyon, expect to spot wildflowers in Hidden Canyon, Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Caspers Wilderness Park, and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Special guided wildflower-focused hikes will take place in various locations at the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Advanced signup is necessary.  


East of Irvine, a massive wildflower explosion in occurring in Chino Hills State Park. Carpets of poppies, lupine, and various other wildflowers are blanketing the vibrantly green hillsides, making it one of the prime wildflower viewing locations in the entire state.  The drive from Irvine to the State Park along the 241 Toll Road is incredibly scenic with all sorts of wildflowers to gaze at along the way. 

One other location not to be missed is Walker Canyon, located about an hour from Irvine off I15 near Lake Elsinore. This location has caused traffic jams because gawkers gazing at the fields of poppies that can be spotted from the freeway. A short walk uphill from the parking area off of the Lake Blvd exit will allow you to be up close and personal with California's official state flower.


Want more wildflower fun? Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is hosting 24 Hours of Wildflowers on all their social media platforms in celebration of wildflower season! Every hour for 24 hours on March 21, 2017, they will be featuring a different native wildflower and sharing where you can find it out on the park land. The fun will start at 9 a.m. Follow the hashtags #24HoursofWildflowers and #OCMountaintoSea.

 All photos by Sharlene Earnshaw 

Filed In: Dining

Twenty Eight Restaurant Raises the Bar with a Whole New Menu

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Monday, Mar 13, 2017

Chef Jay Lacuesta must have been channeling his inner Henry David Thoreau when he created a unique starter plate to share. If you want to "live deep and suck all the marrow out of life" you better get over to Twenty Eight Restaurant in Irvine and order the Uni & Bone Marrow Toast.

 It's a whole new take of surf and turf when you spoon out the marrow and blend it on top of the Santa Barbara Uni and toasted country loaf, garnished with micro greens.

Chef Lacuesta's goal is to make the menu approachable and fun by presenting familiar tasets in unique ways. Chef has a solid win with his new menu.

Lacuesta has debuted other standout dishes, including a 24-ounce Kurobuta pork shoulder and a 40-ounce, dry-aged, bone-in rib-eye. Some of the larger plates are served family-style for sharing, so gather your co-workers, family and friends for a taste experience you'll truly enjoy.


Filed In: Dining, Events

OC Restaurant Week- - Fine Dining Specials at Orange County's Premier Shopping Destinations

Posted by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Posted on: Tuesday, Mar 07, 2017

Orange County Restaurant Week is a great  time of year to get out and taste some of what the OC food scene has to offer. 100 restaurants participate in this week-long event, offering specially-priced  menus that highlight what makes each dining destination so special.

Orange County has long been known as a shopping destination for tourists, especially those with an eye for sophistication. Thankfully, premier shopping destinations such as the Irvine Spectrum Center and South Coast Plaza are also great places for a sophisticated meal. Over a dozen restaurants in these expansive shopping and entertainment centers are participating in OC Restaurant Week. Here is a look at three of our favorites.


Del Frisco's Grill

Irvine Spectrum Center

$20 2-Course Brunch Menu

$20 2-Course Lunch Menu

$40 3-Course Dinner Menu

Whether you start your day with brunch or end it with dinner and dessert, you are sure to find something tasty on Del Frisco's Grill's OC Restaurant Week menus. Brunch temptations include Red Velvet Belgian Waffles, Chicken Avocado Salad Wrap, and Deviled Eggs with a Truffle Chive Vinaigrette. Brick Chicken, Shaved Prime Steak Sandwich, and Seared Salmon Fillet are amongst the lunch options. For dinner, is Prime Beef Short Rib Stroganoff calling your name? Or perhaps it is the Mesquite Smoked Pork Chop with Bourbon Apple Glaze that is calling your name. Both sound like they would go perfectly with Nutella Bread Pudding or Turtle Cheesecake. 


The Capital Grille

South Coast Plaza

$20 3-Course Lunch Menu

$50 3-Course Dinner Menu

$80  Luxe Menu

The Capital Grille's Restaurant Week menus are quite diverse. Their $20 three-course lunch menu is a tremendous value with entrees such as New York Strip Steak and Citrus-Glazed King Salmon accompanied with soup or salad and the indulgent dessert options of Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake or Classic Creme Brulee. For a truly indulgent and luxurious evening, opt for their Luxe Menu which includes two wine pairings and a glass of tawny port. This menu begins with a choice of salads or Lobster Bisque followed by entree options such as Kona Crusted Filet Mignon and Porcini Rubbed Bone-In Ribeye and include two accompaniments-choose from Mashed Potatoes, Au Gratin Potatoes, Soy-Glazed Brussel Sprouts, or Grilled Asparagus. Enjoy your port with either Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake or Cheesecake with Seasonal Berries.


Paul Martin's American Grill

Irvine Spectrum Center

$20 3-Course Lunch Menu

$40 3-Course Dinner Menu

Paul Martin's does American classics well. Highlights of their OC Restaurant Week menu include Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes, Columbia River Steelhead Salmon, and their signature Bistro Cheeseburger which features grass-fed Angus beef, Tillamook cheese, house-made pickles, and a  black pepper aioli.  All featured entrees come with your choice of soup or salad and homemade ice cream. 

Filed In: Dining

OC Restaurant Week : Food and Wine

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Monday, Mar 06, 2017

Orange County Restaurant Week is the prime time to enjoy the best of local dining, to visit old favorite places and to discover brand new ones. For 7 delicious days, 100 restaurants will be offering specially-priced tasting menus that celebrate the county's best cuisine made better with the perfect bottle of wine.

Orange County may not be known as a wine region, but the availability of a wide selection of wines gives Orange County diners a multitude of pairing choices. Local wine lists offer not only the best of California producers but international selections as well. Orange County diners are the beneficiaries of this wine bounty as wine-themed restaurants have grown in popularity. 

Orange County Restaurant Week is the best time to not only sample new foods but to try new wines as well.  


CUCINA Enoteca

Irvine Spectrum Center

$20 Lunch Menu

$30 Dinner Menu

"Enoteca" means "Wine Shop" in Italian, which makes CUCINA Enoteca the perfect place to find your new favorite bottle at an affordable price. The restaurant's mission is to provide exceptional wines at the best possible value, and the extensive wine list of domestic and global wines accomplishes that goal. CUCINA Enoteca avoids traditional restaurant markups by charging only a nominal $9 corkage fee for wines on its list. Selected Wines of The Month have no corkage fee at all.

The wine is the star here, but the food shares the stage quite well. The menu features handmade pasta and pizza finished with locally-sourced ingredients. Comfortable, delicious food paired with easy-on-the-budget wines. Did I mention the sweet and sunny patio? 


Sea Legs Wine Bar 

21022 Beach Blvd. - Huntington Beach 

$40 Dinner Menu


A sign above the door reads, "If you're lucky enough to drink wine by the sea, you are lucky enough."  

Sea Legs Wine Bar is only a few blocks from the sand in Huntington Beach. The nautical decor is a natural for this California Wine bar with a casual beach vibe. The award-winning menu is paired with an international wine list. Wine Wednesdays are celebrated each week with 50% discounts on selected bottles. Tourists and sunseekers are happy customers, but the place is often filled with locals who come to visit their own bottles in private wine lockers. 

Some of the tasty treats on this week's  $40 Dinner Menu...Baked Ricotta Dip seasoned with thyme and rosemary and topped with a melted parmesan crust...lightly breaded and pan seared Chicken Picatta served with fresh pasta....and don't forget to try the Bailey's Oreo Cookie Mousse for dessert. Perfect with a glass of Cabernet! 


The Winery Restuarant and Wine Bar

3131 W Pacific Coast Highway  - Newport Beach
2647 Park Ave. Tustin @ The District

$50 Dinner Menu - Newport Beach

$40 Dinner Menu - Tustin 

The name says it all: The Winery Restuarant and Wine Bar is an Orange County classic that features a traditional, fine dining, food-meets-wine experience.  

The interior is as rich as a hearty cabernet, and its cellar holds over 6,500 bottles of wine. There are also 34 different wines by the glass available for those who want to do a little wine tasting. Chef Yvon Goetz has created a menu of California contemporary entrees that are inspired by the wines that accompany them.

Dinner at The Winery Restuarant and Wine Bar is an elegant splurge featuring specialties such as Jumbo Maine Scallops & Wild Rice Shrimp, with Saffron, Roasted Red Pepper & Edamame Beans Risotto, crispy prosciutto in a Red Wine Reduction. Or you could try the Zinfandel Braised Angus Beef Shortrib with Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, Carrot Infused Pearl Couscous in a Zinfandel Reduction.

Hungry yet?

OC Restaurant Week 2017 Kicks off at the Irvine Marriott

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Sunday, Mar 05, 2017

Foodies and culinary enthusiasts gathered at the Irvine Marriott on Saturday, March 4th to kick off OC Restaurant Week. Restaurants, eateries, and cafes that are participating in OCRW gave guests a sneak peek look and taste at what their OCRW pre-fixe menus have to offer this year. This is OC Restaurant Week's 9th year bringing together the top 100 OC restaurants for you to discover and indulge in. 

OCRW starts today March 5th and ends on Saturday, March 11th, check out the complete list of restaurants here. You can also view restaurants by various price points for lunch or dinner service as well as by city. For the list of Irvine restaurants, click here

If you haven't done OC Restaurant Week before, you can see our previous coverage here. If you've gotten to experience OCRW, there's always a diverse and exciting selection of restaurants to choose from this year - take this opportunity to try a new restaurant or different type of food. Restaurant menus will showcase and reflect each chef's unique culinary style. Enjoy lunch priced at $10, $15 and $20 per person pre-fixe menus, or dinner priced at $20, $30, $40 and $50 per person pre-fixe menus (some restaurants require reservations for the dinner service). 

Have fun experiencing OC Restaurant Week whether you're with family, friends, or on a special date! 

Filed In: Dining

Q & A with EATS Kitchen & Bar Welcomes New Executive Chef Jeff Moore

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, Mar 03, 2017

EATS Kitchen & Bar and the Red Bar and Lounge at Hotel Irvine has welcomed a new executive chef, Jeff Moore who brings a multitude of culinary, customer service and management skills and knowledge from his many years working in the food and hospitality industry. Moore is currently creating seasonal menus that highlight the highest quality ingredients and promote local sustainability. He looks forward to hosting wine and beer dinners and other fun culinary promotions. In this new position, Moore wants to extend the restaurant's outreach to support more local vendors and producers. 

"Jeff is known for his exemplary work ethic, team leadership and creative kitchen style," said Hotel Irvine's General Manager Jeroen Quint. "We know with all his chef strengths and talents, along with his reputation for mentoring and being fun to work with, EATS Kitchen & Bar will continue to flourish as one of the places to dine in Orange County." 

I'm excited to share a quick Q+A with Jeff Moore so you can get to a know a little more about him before diving into the culinary offerings at Hotel Irvine's EATS Kitchen & Bar and Red Bar and Lounge.

1. What has been the most memorable moment or achievement in your chef career?

During my pastry days, I made a panna cotta that blew me away. I was so high on what I had made that I wasn't sure anything could ever possibly be better. I'll never forget how amazing it felt to create something so glorious.

2. What's your favorite dish to create at home?

Guilty pleasure: Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken. I eat the whole bag.

3. As executive chef, what are you most excited to contribute or bring to EATS Kitchen &
Bar and Red Bar and Lounge?

Seasonal and locally inspired dishes that are delicious, approachable and exciting to our guests.

4. Favorite meal of the day (breakfast, lunch dinner) to cook/serve in a hotel restaurant?

I personally like cooking for the "food industry people" who come in often late at night, after their own regular dinner services.

5. Favorite ingredients to work with?

Shallots for their sharpness and crunch, butter and cream for richness, and salt because it highlights and brightens other ingredients if used in moderation.

6. Any hints on what we can expect on the upcoming menu?

Look forward to trying tuna tartare with orange blossom, carrots, and pistachio, strozzapreti, highland kale, Castroville artichokes. And, our burger will be fantastic.

Previously, Moore distinguished himself as executive/regional chef for the Lounge Group in Newport Beach, Calif. He was responsible for supervising eight properties throughout Orange County that received industry honors and Orange County media kudos during his tenure. Earlier in his career, he worked as chef de cuisine at Hopscotch Tavern, a former Lounge Group property in Fullerton, Calif., at Montage Laguna Beach's award-winning The Loft and for several years did stints at restaurants in Utah, including Desert Bistro in Moab.

Moore has two children, ages two and four, and when he's not cooking and enjoying his family, he likes to hit the ski slopes and mountain bike. 


Information and images provided by  Marguarite Clark Public Relations

Filed In: Dining

Irvine Marriott Unveils Multi-Million M Club and Hotel Redesign

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Monday, Feb 27, 2017

The Irvine Marriott recently unveiled a multi-million redesign to their M Club Lounge and hotel space, which I had the opportunity to experience through a culinary adventure utilizing my five senses. The M Club Lounge renovation completes the hotel's final phase of the $35 million remodel.

Along with the M Club Lounge renovation, other additions include:

• New Front Entrance - Lined with soaring palm trees, the entry welcomes guests with a freshly designed aesthetic that reveals an invigorating escape in Orange County. With a majestic waterfall as the centerpiece, a calming water cascade provides a relaxing soundtrack for guests as customizable LED lighting offers seasonal color and flare.

• Great Room - The grand gathering space showcases a seaside-meets-city-vibe accented by works from local artists, and stunning white limestone that provides a place for  time, not simply passing by. Additionally, a custom built ‘Fusion Table' moonlights as a pool table, but is easily lowered six inches and covered with a lid to be transformed into a dining table.

• Culinary and Beverage Concepts - Keeping glasses raised and conversation buzzing, FLOE Lounge dishes coastal-inspired menus and features relaxed seating with acoustic alcoves, large communal tables, and a private dining room. Inspired by wanderlust, Y.N.K (You Never Know) offers an evolving cocktail and culinary experience that ‘pops-up' as new destinations every few weeks with fresh globally inspired food and beverage offerings.

• Outdoor and Pool Areas - Travelers recharge poolside in the California sun at the Irvine Marriott's new pool area, which features fire pits, open area for events, and modern furniture. A nearby living herb garden adds flavor to libations and culinary programming.

• Fitness Spaces - The Irvine Marriott's new fitness center offers a selection of workout choices to help guests align the body and mind. Precision training equipment and exterior spaces provide alternative training experiences to meet the fitness needs of guests.

• Meetings Imagined - Designed to encourage a group's ingenuity, meetings at the Irvine Marriott provide a blank canvas to create an event with purpose and glass-encased meeting spaces can be customized with lighting, video projection, digital mapping and more.

• Cannery Row - Offering 3,016 square feet of event space, the Cannery Row shipping container spaces maintain an element of surprise, allowing planners to bring their most ambitious event ideas to life in the unique outdoor space.

• Networking: Alone or Together - For a moment of solitude amidst the buzz of a meeting, Cocoon Seating provides privacy and personal space by shielding against outside noise. With smartphone connection capabilities, meeting goers can play music through built-in Bluetooth speakers, or join a conference call without noise and distractions. For groups, Team Foosball allows for up to 12 players to join in on a high-energy teambuilding game for shoulder-to-shoulder networking outside of the meeting room.

Visit Irvine Marriott for more information or to book rooms! Join the Marriott Rewards program for great perks! 

The M Cub Lounge, available to Elite and Club members, has the first ever (in the brand's portfolio) exterior entrance and includes "a range of complimentary food and beverage options such as hot breakfast, evening drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and premium beverages including espresso and hand-crafted libations. Accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the M Club Lounge also offers free Wi-Fi, printing and power supplies to ensure uninterrupted productivity for business travelers".

This lounge is the perfect place to get into work mode or wind down, recharge and enjoy the amenities. I really loved the coastal decor and vibes - there are a variety of tables, booth like seating and comfy couches to enjoy. This is the area that kicked off our progressive dinner, it was explained to us that we would visit different sections of the hotel and in each section we would experience a different dish or libation focused through our senses. 


Our first stop was the Floe Lounge dining area in which we had a carrot-themed dish focused around the sense of touch, but we weren't actually touching the food. We witnessed the chef put together various layers of carrot ingredients of different textures - from pureed to carrot shavings then topped with a grainy like texture. Although we didn't touch it ourselves I could imagine what each ingredient would have felt like in my hand.

Our second stop was YNK (You Never Know), a hidden bar area behind the Irvine Marriott's main bar which offers a great place to get away from the grind and enjoy seasonal bespoke cocktails inspired by different places around the world. We experienced the making of an old fashioned through the sense of sight by wearing ear buds so we could focus on the visual of the making of the cocktail (it looked really cool with the smoke). 

After YNK, we headed over the patio area that overlooks the Irvine Marriott pool. While enjoying a steak meal that had been encased in a dome we were serenaded by UCI's acapella group. This meal focused on the sense of smell through the release of a smoky, herb fragrance when we opened up the dome from our dish. 


Our last stop brought us back to Floe Lounge to experience seafood bites through the sense of sound by listening to ambient ocean sounds. Overall, this was a very emmersive experience, and an innovative way to experience culinary and cocktail creations; as well as get to see the Irvine Marriott's beautiful remodel. 

Irvine Marriott information provided by Fast Forward Events 

Great Park Ice and Sports Complex - Irvine

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

Orange County is known for its miles of sandy beaches, its warm, balmy breezes, and a year-round supply of sunshine.


Ice? Not so much.


Until now, that is.




In 2018, Irvine will have ice - four sheets of it to be exact - enclosed in the Great Park Ice and Sports Complex. This 270,000 square foot ice facility will be one of the largest in the nation and will put Irvine on the map as an important hockey and figure skating destination.




The complex will serve as the practice center for the Anaheim Ducks, but it’s purpose goes way beyond Orange County’s professional hockey team. The Great Park Ice and Sports Complex will open its doors to the community as well, providing precious ice time for local youth leagues.


“Ice time is the number one thing because the high school and Jr. Ducks are buying ice from rinks all over Orange County,” said Craig Johnson, Director of Coaches for the Jr. Ducks high school league.


The popularity of ice hockey has grown over the past 25 years in Orange County. The Anaheim Ducks organization has created more than a desire to watch the sport. Now their fans want to get out on the ice themselves. Unfortunately, the local infrastructure and availability of ice facilities haven't kept pace with OC hockey fever.


Director and coach Kathy McGarrigle has seen the Lady Ducks program grow from three teams and 55 girls to 11 teams and more than 180 in just the past decade.


“Every time there’s a learn-to-skate program, we have dozens of kids who want to join,” she said. “There’s such a shortage of ice in Southern California because hockey is growing faster than rinks can support it.”




The Irvine Ice Foundation - a non-profit organization comprised of civic leaders - will own the complex. The Samueli Foundation, started by Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli, will serve as the major contributor. It will be a partnership program with the City of Irvine who will lease the land. Part of the agreement allows the city to take over the facility in the future. The project will be self-funded, self-sustaining and will require no taxpayer funds for construction.


The 13.5-acre property is located at the western portion of the Great Park, near existing sports fields and the Great Park Balloon Ride.


Tom Betti, the architect for the project, said the Great Park Ice and Sports Complex will take advantage of the warm and sunny climate by using more glass for natural light. There will also be large outdoor spaces, where players can warm-up and spectators can enjoy picnics.




It looks like Ice and Sunshine are a good combination after all.

Free Yogurtland on February 6 for the 1st International Frozen Yogurt Day!

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, Feb 03, 2017

Irvine's very own Yogurtland is kicking off the first ever International Frozen Yogurt Day on Monday, February 6th, with free frozen yogurt at participating Yogurtland locations around the world between 4-7pm (local time). 

Join in on this global celebration with the self-serve frozen yogurt pioneer by enjoying a free frozen yogurt and toppings in a limited-time only cup as well as receiving a limited edition Hersey's® collectible spoon. Yogurtland will also feature a new Peanut Butter Cup frozen yogurt flavor made with Reese's® and Hershey's® ingredients, and the popular Chocolate Milkshake made with Hershey's® flavor and real, creamy California Milk. These two delicious flavors will continue to be served at Yogurtland locations throughout the month of February.


International Frozen Yogurt Day is sponsored by Yogurtland and The Hershey Company, locations throughout the United States, Australia, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand, and Venezuela will be participating in this momentous and delectable occasion.

Find out more on the festivities here and on facebook. Hashtag your photos #YogurtlandIFYD to be featured on our social channels and the Yogurtland website!  


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