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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for May 2015

Filed In: Dining

Bistango Hosts Robert Foley Vineyards

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Picture this....

Wine lovers are gathered in an intimate dining room. Vibrant artwork covers the walls with splashes of color. Doting servers fill rows of crystal goblets with various shades of wine and place delicate plates of an amuse bouche on every table.

An award-winning winemaker stands in front of his guests and encourages them to "Call him Bob." He wants them to feel at home while they swirl and sip his best samplings. Everyone raises a glass to toast the evening and the parade of perfectly paired food and wine that is about to appear....

What sounds like an exclusive, Napa Valley dining experience was actually much closer to home, when Irvine's own Bistango restaurant hosted an Evening with Robert Foley.

The six-course menu featured selections from Chef Christopher Meehan's kitchen that were matched with Foley's vinatges; starting with the floral, honey-scented Pinot Blanc and moving through to bold, Napa Valley reds that Robert Foley is famous for.  The 2012 proprietary blend "Griffin" held its own alongside the Wagyu Beef Risotto and the big, beefy Colorado Bison Tenderloin was well-matched with Foley's 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet.

After each course, Foley, or "Bob" as we now called him, informally chatted about what we were tasting. He shared the philosophy of each varietal and explained his vision for each vintage. This is the true beauty of  Bistango's winemaker events, guests have a rare opportunity to not only sample the best of Chef Meehan's menu, but also to have a one-on-one discussion with the man behind the bottle, the winemaker himself.

It's no surprise that Bistango would host such an event. The long-time Irvine restaurant features a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list of more than 400 varietals, including many rare wines that are difficult to find locally. Sommelier Bill Blank is also proud of Bistango's collection from smaller, family-owned wineries that produce consistently excellent wine, even if they are a bit under the radar.

Like Robert Foley Vineyards for example, which Bob Foley humbly refers to as a "Mom and Pop Operation."

Bistango General Manager, Ray Sanii, is looking forward to more winemaker evenings in the future.

"This is the perfect way to highlight what we offer here," said Sanii. "Excellent wine enjoyed with Chef's delicious, and inventive cuisine."

"What could be better?"

19100 Von Karman Avenue,
Irvine CA 92612
Filed In: Family Friendly

OC Fair Offers Contests & Competitions for Youth: It's Gonna Be One Big Party!

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's gonna be one big party this summer at the OC Fair and it's not too early for you and your kids to get ready for all the fun!  And by fun, I'm not just talking about rides and yummy fair food. OC Fair is calling on talented youth ages 18 and younger to compete in one of its many competitions and contests that showcase their interests and abilities. Details for all the 2015 OC Fair competitions for youth and adults are available at

And you better get busy - some competitions require registration by June 1st, so check out all the cool opportunities listed below for kids of all ages:

Explorium: Destination Kids (Ages 3-12)

No entry free for children ages 3-8. Children ages 9-12 pay a $3 entry fee per entry and are eligible for cash awards. Limited to Orange County students and residents. Register by June 1. Some age restrictions apply, visit for details. Competitions include:

  • Castle Crafts
  • Creative Writing
  • Drawing & Painting
  • Fair Foodies Celebrate
  • LEGOTM Castles
  • One Big Party Crafts
  • Photo
  • Poster Art
  • Wild & Wonderful Wings

Blue Ribbon Kids (Ages 5-8):
No entry fee required and no cash awards available. Competitions include:

  • Collections - Register by June 1.
  • Sugar On Top - Register by July 1.
  • Container Plants - Open to ages 6 & older.  Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Cut Flowers - Open to ages 6 & older.  Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Fruit & Vegetables (Garden) - Open to ages 6 & older. Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Happy Bakers - Register by July 15.
  • Something Sweet - Cake or cupcakes only. Register by July 8.

Youth (Ages 9-18):
$3 entry fee per entry and cash awards available. Competitions include:

  • Bake It Better - Register by July 22.
  • Collections - Register by June 1.
  • Container Plants - Free to enter. Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Cut Flowers - Free to enter. Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Fruit & Vegetables (Garden) - Free to enter. Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Fiber Arts - Also open to Special Needs youth all ages. Register by June 1.
  • Fine Arts - Open to Orange County students or residents ages 13-18. Register by June 1.
  • Hand Crafts & Hobbies - Register by June 1.
  • Happy Bakers - Register by July 15.
  • Jewelry Arts -  Also open to Special Needs youth all ages. Register by June 1.
  • Photography & Non-Traditional Prints - Limited to Orange County students or residents ages 13-18. Register by June 1.
  • Preserved Foods - Limited to ages 11-17. Register by June 15.
  • Something Sweet - Cake or cupcakes only. Register by July 8.
  • Student Film Festival - Open to California students or residents in grades 7 through college. Register by June 1.
  • Sugar On Top (Sugar Arts) - Register by July 1.
  • Table Settings - Register by July 1 for the first Show and July 22 for the second show.

Young Adults (13-18)

These competitions are judged with adult entries and feature cash awards for top exhibitors. Entry fees vary, visit for details. Competitions include:

  • Honey - Open to 16 & older. Register by July 15 for the first show and by August 3 for the second show.
  • Floral Arrangements -Open to 16 & older. Weekly competitions and registration deadlines.
  • Floral Design - Open to 16 & older. Register by July 28 for the Amateur division and August 4 for the Open division.
  • 4th Annual Digital Photography Shoot Out - Live competition held at the Fair on July 26. Pre-registration require for free Fair admission.
  • Many Faces of the Fair Photography Contest - Best images from the 2015 OC Fair will be displayed at the 2016 Fair. Submissions due by August 21.

Special Contests

  • Future Magicians' Contest - Open to magicians ages 7-18. Registration is July 22-24 via phone (714) 708-1519.
  • One Big Party Eating Contest - Held daily in the Explorium. Open to ages 5-18.
  • Special Culinary Contests (Free to enter)
    • Salad Daze (July 25) - Pre-register online by Wednesday, July 22 for free admission.
    • Dip Into The Fun (August 1) - Pre-register online by Wednesday, July 29 for free admission.
    • Ultimate Tailgate Dish (August 8) - Pre-register by Wednesday, August 5 for free admission.

In-person Help Days are offered on Thursday, May 28 and Friday, May 29 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the OC Fair & Event Center Administration Building for entrants needing assistance with the online registration. 

Most competitions offer free Fair admission to exhibitors ages 6 and older (5 and younger are free every day) and competitions that require an entry fee also feature cash awards for the top entries.

Filed In: Events

Memorial Day Remembrance at Irvine's Northwood Gratitude Memorial

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Friday, May 22, 2015

It started as a simple remembrance; a collection of wooden monuments displaying the names and faces of fallen troops.  

In 2003, neighbors in the Village of Northwood wanted to find a way to acknowledge members of the military who had been recently lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Northwood Memorial

They took it upon themselves to create a memorial in their community park, decorating it with flags and yellow ribbons and lovingly lighting it with candles.      

 Northwood Memorial

What began as a personal community statement of remembrance became the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, the first place in the nation to honor those who died serving their country during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Today, thanks to volunteer efforts and funding from the City of Irvine, the homemade wooden memorials have been replaced by five granite sentinels that are engraved with over 6,000 names. They stand prominently at the corner of Bryan and Yale Avenues, acting as a silent but constant reminder of service for those who cross this busy intersection every day.

Northwood Memorial 

On Monday, May 25th, there will be a Memorial Day ceremony at 4pm to express gratitude for those who have served their country and to honor those who were unable to return. It will be a time to feel pride for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But it will also be a time to feel pride for the community that chose not to forget them.

The ceremony will honor all of America's Fallen Heroes. The names of those who fell in Afghanistan between September 30, 2014 and December 31, 2014 (the official end of Operation Enduring Freedom) will be read aloud and candles lit in their memory. 

Northwood Memorial 

If you can't make it to the ceremony, stop by sometime over the holiday to remember what Memorial Day is all about. There, behind the memorial, you'll find a smaller remembrance. 

A few feet behind the granite sentinels stands a lone, wooden stake displaying a hand-written letter. It was written by Sgt. Jacob Lee Butler on April 1, 2003; two hours before he was killed in action.

                "Dear Mom and Dad, If you are reading this, I did not make it."

The letter ends with a simple sentiment that could be echoed by all of those whose names are written here.

                "I love you. Don't forget me."

The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial is located within the Northwood Community Park at:

4531 Bryan Avenue
Irvine, CA 92620

This the intersection of Bryan Avenue and Yale Avenue in the Northwood Village area of the city of Irvine. 

Filed In: Events

Explore the Life and Legacy of Henry Segerstrom at South Coast Plaza

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ever spend time shopping at South Coast Plaza? If you live in OC, then of course you have and you have Henry Segerstrom to thank.  Now through May 31, South Coast Plaza welcomes the public to the exhibition Courage of Imagination, honoring the life and legacy of Henry Segerstrom, on view in a specially designed gallery within Jewel Court. 


I was invited to attend the opening reception and rubbed elbows with OC's elite.  Wine flowed, hors d'oeuvres were passed, live music, orchids and roses filled the room as people socialized and were the first to tour the exhibition. I met singers, designers and people who've donated to the Segerstrom Arts Center over the years. We all had something in common: our love of Orange County and an appreciation for Henry Segerstrom's role making our little hometown, once a vast open space of orange trees and lima bean fields, a world class center for the arts.

Between conversations over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, guests waited their turns to enter the exhibition, named for a quote about Segerstrom by Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese American artist who installed the nearby sculpture garden called "California Scenario."


 The exhibition explores the Segerstrom family and Henry Segerstrom's early career; his deep involvement with the visual arts and architecture; his close relationships with artists, colleagues and community members, and his role in creating Segerstrom Center for the Arts; and his development of the enterprise that was the center of his business life and his greatest pride, South Coast Plaza.

Through dozens of vintage photographs, archival videos, informative descriptions and a selection of major sculptures, the exhibition reveals the story of Henry Segerstrom, beginning with his early years as the child of farmers through his rise to one of Southern California's most prominent civic, business and cultural leaders. By telling this story, the exhibition encapsulates the history of Orange County itself, from a largely rural area into a thriving center of art and commerce.

Henry Segerstrom's passion for the arts and his charismatic community leadership were recognized with honors including Carnegie Hall's Medal of Excellence, one of only four such awards bestowed by the institution in its 108-year history; the Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund, presented to him by former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; a knighthood presented by His Majesty Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden; the Leadership Award of the Business Committee for the Arts, an organization that he served for several years as its National Chairman; Honorary Doctorates from Western University and Whittier Law School; and the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, its highest honor. Courage of Imagination brings to light the man behind the awards.

Fashion & Food Truck Meet Up Starting Today!

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, May 15, 2015

It's that time of year again, the Fashion and Food Truck Meet Up at the Irvine Spectrum Center. The event runs today, Friday 5/15- Sunday 5/17 from 11am-10pm at the Giant Wheel Court (in front of the ferris wheel). Bring some sunshine to the gloomy, rainy day with delicious bites and shopping for new pieces!

On Saturday 5/16 from 2pm-4pm, Francesca's Collections, Irene's Story, and KAITLYN will be creating a pop-up fashion experience in which guests can shop curated closets from each store located at the Giant Wheel Court. The fun doesn't stop there, visit the participating stores to shop their full collection and enjoy refreshments and shopping incentives.

If you're going to be stopping by to shop or check out the festivities, take a pic and use the hashtag #FashionFoodTruckMeetUp #irvinespectrum. Five (5) winners will be selected to win $100 gift cards valid at Irvine Spectrum Center, Fashion Island and The Market Place; the winners will be announced on Monday5/18.

Here are the participating fashion and food trucks, read more here


  • Le Fashion Truck, credited as being L.A.'s first fashion truck after opening in 2011, has since been featured in major national and international press, including NBC's Today Show, USA Today and Lucky Magazine. Le Fashion Truck offers clothing and accessories by emerging designers for women on the go who love the boho-chic aesthetic - find everything from handmade jewelry to scarves, handbags and more aboard their pink truck, which also comes outfitted with a dressing room.
  • L.A.'s premier boutique on wheels, J.D. Luxe, offers up all the latest trend-forward looks and accessories with a bohemian-meets-rocker edge. From maxi dresses to statement jewelry and even its own line of ultra-soft tanks, tees and hoodies for both men and women, J.D. Luxe is its own fashion house on wheels.
  • Michael Stars, the popular California womenswear brand, will bring its "Curbside Boutique," a 16-foot beach-themed fashion truck for guests to peruse their 2015 Spring/Summer collection of perfect-fitting tees, shorts, linen pants and tops, dresses, jackets, rompers, jumpsuits and more with prices ranging from $40 to $200.


  • The Lime Truck, from local OC chef Daniel Shemtob, winner of The Food Network's Great Food Truck Challenge and owner of TLT Food at Irvine Spectrum Center. Find all your favorite SoCal-inflected fare such as carnitas fries, ahi poke nachos and pulled-pork nachos
  • Dogzilla, O.C.'s favorite hot dog truck, features Japanese fusion hot dogs for the adventurous palate seeking familiar favorites with a modern, cultural twist. The classic American street food is taken to a whole new level by adding yakisoba noodles, furikake seasoning, homemade teriyaki sauce, avocado and other non-traditional toppings you won't find on other hot dogs.

Images via Orange County Zest Blog

Filed In: Dining

Pizza90 Officially Grand Opened 5/7

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Thursday, May 14, 2015

The newest Neapolitan style pizzeria, Pizza:90 grand opened last Thursday with a ribbon cuttin with members of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce and gave out FREE Margherita pizzas to guests that shared Pizza:90's video on Facebook. Scott Anderson, the head of Marketing & Branding noted that at least 1000 pizzas were going to be made on the grand opening day due to all of the video shares. Did you make it to the grand opening? If not, you can still come in and select from the 10 signature Neapolitan pizzas or build your own 'ZA (pizza). Pizza:90 also offers an array of craft beers and italian sodas, check out my tasting here

Come in an enjoy a piece of Naples and support the Irvine Public School Foundation during a fundraiser May 22 & 23, check out the event page here for more details

Filed In: Events

Mutual of Omaha's Aha Tour Highlights Stories of US.

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom - wisdom you can use to change your life. Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and Mutual of Omaha things they're worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha is taking its popular Aha Moment Tour back on the road this summer, visiting 20 cities to collect on video real aha moments -- life-changing moments of hope, inspiration and possibility -- from real people across America.

I was invited to share my aha moment at the Irvine Spectrum last week while the airstream was in town; however, instead of sharing my aha moment, I lived it.  Instead of going in the airstream and videotaping my story, I ended up doing something even better by helping out fellow mom and blogger buddy, Kara Noel, and the aha producer by watching KN's 4 little kids while she taped her segment.  It was a perfect way to actually live out my aha moment:  "Helping others gives life meaning".  I'd much rather live it than talk about it. Here are some photos of Kara's experience.

Producer Nathan shoots stills of the family.
Kara certainly has her hands full of love and mischief with her little ones.
The kiddos watch from outside the airstream as Mom shares her aha moment.

The tour producers are a trio of talented individuals hand picked to make magic.  Marina is the first person who helps all the people who want to share their stories, gathering paperwork and calming any jittery nerves that may arise.  Jessica directs the videos, asking questions to bring out the best of each story. Nathan videotapes and captures the heart of each individual on film. 

These stories belong to our neighbors, our friends, our nation. 

After talking with producers and OC residents and noticed a common thread - a desire to connect with people, to love and be loved, to understand and to be understood, to share of ourselves to make this world a better place, one person, one moment at a time. 

I thank Mutual of Omaha for continuing this noble and brilliant marketing campaign.

Irvine was honored to be the kickoff city for the 2015 Tour, which will visit 20 cities in 20 states through the beginning of August. The complete schedule is as follows:

May 4-5:

Irvine, California

May 11-12:

Phoenix, Arizona

May 14-15:

San Antonio, Texas

May 18-19:

Jackson, Mississippi

May 21-22:

Birmingham, Alabama

May 26-27:

Chattanooga, Tennessee

June 1-2:

Savannah, Georgia

June 4-5:

Columbia, South Carolina

June 9-10:

Lynchburg, Virginia

June 12-13:

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

June 17-18:

Syracuse, New York

June 23-24:

Louisville, Kentucky

June 29-30:

Madison, Wisconsin

July 6-7:

St. Paul, Minnesota

July 9-10:

Des Moines, Iowa

July 15-16:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

July 21-22:

Denver, Colorado

July 27-28:

Seattle, Washington

July 30-31:

Portland, Oregon

August 6-7:

20th City based on nationwide vote

For the first time ever, the Aha Moment Tour will allow the public to choose the 20th city tour stop. During a two-week vote beginning May 11 on the Aha Moment Tour Facebook page, people will be encouraged to vote for one of the following cities: Las Vegas, Nevada; Dallas, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; or Santa Cruz, California. The winning 20thcity will be announced on May 22. Vote for your favorite today!

Mutual of Omaha's Aha Moment campaign includes national commercials, a website devoted to aha moments and a robust online community via FacebookTwitterInstagram and other social networks. The stories collected over the coming months will also be shared at
Filed In: Dining

Miguel's Jr Opens in Tustin

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Last week, I was one of the lucky few invited to try the first fruits of Miguel's Jr. at their new location at the Tustin Marketplace.

I expected great food from the beloved chain that has fed traditional mexican fare to Inland Empire diners for the past 40 years.

But I didn't expect to meet Mary Vasquez.


I didn't expect to see the woman who, with her husband Mike, founded the Corona restaurant in 1973. The woman who developed the recipes from her own childhood kitchen in Central Mexico. The person who inspires fanatic devotion from customers who crave her simple, yet traditionally-perfect dishes.

I watched as this diminutive lady moved through the room, doting on customers as if she were hosting a party in her home. I soon realized that it was only fitting that the mother of Miguel's Jr. would be on hand to witness the birth of a new location.

"Did you try the hot sauce," Mary asked me as I was about to sample a perfectly-crisp, grilled taco.

When I told her I had missed that step, she didn't wait for me to give her an explanation. She was already headed to the fresh salsa bar to remedy my mistake.

She returned with a small cup of red liquid that she gently drizzled inside my taco.

"It's for the flavor," she explained. "If you haven't had our hot sauce, you haven't had our food."


The food is definitely the star of the show at Miguel's Jr. Don't be fooled by the fast food exterior and expect the same corporate-driven, flavorless mexican food. Your burrito may be served quickly, but the preparation actually began earlier in the morning, in a kitchen where Vasquez secret recipes are prepared under the watchful eye of family members, and then delivered directly to each restaurant.

Think of it as the In N Out Burger model. Miguel's Jr uses only the finest and freshest ingredients, like slow-cooked beans and hand-grated cheese. All are prepared with a local, hands-on consistency that insures a quality product every time.

Mary insists, however,  that the main ingredient in her cooking is love.

"People ask me how we do it," she said. "I tell them it's because we don't change things. Our food and service are the same at every location and have been for 40 years. I make sure of that."

Mary watched as I took a bite full of crunchy taco goodness, now perfectly seasoned with her home-made hot sauce. She smiled when I gave her the thumbs up, although she didn't seem surprised.

"That's what home tastes like."

 2855 El Camino Real
Tustin Marketplace

Filed In: Insider Scoop

RA Sushi Offers New Seasonal Menu

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Monday, May 11, 2015

RA Sushi Bar Restuarant at The District is now offering its new seasonal menu, filled with fresh flavors for spring. 

This local favorite, known for its inventive Japanese fusion cuisine and well-crafted cocktails, now has some new tastes to share.

The new menu features fresh, red seabream topped with spicy yuzu dressing, a "California Style" tuna roll with bell pepper and cilantro, and a light and refreshing Langostino salad tossed with a local Irvine delicacy; fresh strawberries.

RA has also created seasonal coacktails packed with the bold and fresh flavors of spring. Like a Peach Basil Sour or a Pear Lemon Blossom. My favorite is the Hot Tropics Margartia, made with Tanteo Tropical Tequila and Combier Liqueur d"Orange, shaken with mango puree, lime juice and agave nectar and served with a chili-salted rim.  

Make sure you try the RA Sushi Happy Hour, available seven days a week.

RA Sushi Bar
2401 Park Ave
at The District
Tustin, CA
(714) 566-1700

Pizza90 brings Authentic Neapolitan Pizza to Irvine

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Tuesday, May 05, 2015


I got to stop by the new Irvine Italian Pizzeria, Pizza:90 Pizzeria Napolentana & Birreria, and was immediately drawn in my the open and contemporary space. There was much to take in, but the most exciting was to see my pizza being made in front of me then placed in a glorious, gold-tiled wood fire oven to bake for only 90 seconds before being able to enjoy. The 6000 pound oven was brought over from Naples, Italy and traveled across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal to Pizza:90 in Irvine.

Pizza:90's first location is in Riverside and the Irvine location soft opened about two weeks ago and is having a Grand Opening celebration including a ribbon cutting ceremony with members from the Irvine Chamber this upcoming Thursday, May 7 between 2-4pm. You won't want to miss this event; customers can come in and receive a FREE Margherita pizza for sharing a promotional video found on Pizza:90's Facebook wall onto their own Facebook wall on grand opening day between 2-8pm. 


Dough balls for the pizza are made 24 hours in advance with '00', a very fine flour, in a glass enclosed dough laboratory and you can see your pizza created in front of you from the dough being stretched, to the sauce or no sauce added on the pizza, the toppings placement, then the pizza going into the oven. The '00' flour along with San Marsano tomatoes are imported from Italy, and over 8 different Italian cheeses and 12 different Italian meats are available. Customers can choose from 10 signature 12'' Napolentana-style pizzas or create their own. Can you believe the pizza only takes 90 seconds to bake? This is possible due to the flour that the dough is made from, as well as the 900 degree oven. I sat down with Scott Anderson, heading Pizza:90's Marketing & Branding, and enjoyed my 4 Salami Pizza & Grapefruit Italian Soda as he filled me in on everything Pizza:90; I can't wait to come back to try the Happy Hour, and you will just need to come in and try it for yourself! See you at the grand opening!


5365 Alton Pkwy Ste I

Irvine, CA 92604

*In the Alton Square Shopping Center

Phone: (949) 387 5088


Mon: 11:00am - 9:00pm

Tue: 11:00am - 9:00pm

Wed: 11:00am - 9:00pm

Thu: 11:00am - 9:00pm

Fri: 11:00am - 10:00pm

Sat: 11:00am - 10:00pm

Sun: 11:00am - 9:00pm

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36 Executive Park, Suite 100 · Irvine, CA 92614
Phone: 949-660-9112
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