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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for June 2016

Creative Canvas Painting Classes at Embassy Suites Irvine

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Monday, Jun 27, 2016

Embassy Suites Irvine celebrates their 30 year anniversary with an unveiling of a $12 million renovation; a top to bottom transformation with a refreshed atrium and lobby, a new restaurant, Vibrante, as well as upscale, updated suites and meeting/event spaces. Along with the modern and elegant elements enhancing the hotel, Embassy Suites is also offering a range of amenities such as a complimentary John Wayne Airport shuttle service, cooked-to-order breakfast, and evening receptions which include appetizers and non-alcoholic and select alcoholic beverages as a part of an open bar.

A very exciting, new offering for guests as well as anyone that wishes to experience it is the Creative Canvas painting classes taught by local artist and author Airyn aka Skinderella. I myself got to join Airyn and the Embassy Suites Irvine hotel guests and guests from around the Irvine area for a painting class last Wednesday to re-create our own blossomed-tree painting that was originally painted by Airyn.

Every guest sits at their own station equipped with a blank canvas, apron, paint brushes and a plate for paint. Although we were all modeling our painting after the example painting, Airyn mentioned that we were able to choose any color background we wanted to paint, therefore, I decided to paint a navy, turquoise and lavender background for a moodier feel. Some guests wanted to paint different type of flowers and that was 100% encouraged. 

Airyn is an amazing instructor, she's really great at providing clear and helpful visual instructions, as well as assisting for one-on-one guidance. You don't need to have any painting experience to paint a beautiful painting and be able to have fun! As well, the class is great for guests of all ages! While painting, you can enjoy the evening reception (until 7:30pm) if you are a hotel guest, if you are not, the entire Vibrante menu is available for ordering and enjoying. While painting, I enjoyed a glass of wine and Tinga Chicken Flauta (Local Tortillas, Avocado Salsa Fresca, Micro Cilantro), which was absolutely DELICIOUS. I love that there is a handful of gluten-free dishes that do not sacrifice flavor, and ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. Vibrante is a wonderful restaurant to enjoy modernized traditional Mexican dishes; have a formal sit down dining service with business associates or come by for a casual dinner or small plates & drinks with family or friends. 

Back to the painting class, it was interesting and fun to see each guests' paintings come to life and to see different personalities and variations in each painting. I always love an art class, there's something therapeutic about it; now add a beautiful location like the Embassy Suites Irvine and yummy food and drinks from Vibrante and I'm all set for a great and inspiringly, creative evening. If you want to explore your inner artist or pick up painting again, join Airyn for a Creative Canvas class at the Embassy Suites Irvine next Wednesday, July 6th from 6 pm - 9 pm! Sign up for the class here, as well as see what paintings will be painted and class dates! If you are a hotel guest and don't want to have to pack your painting, the Embassy Suites Irvinecan SHIP your painting home to you!
Happy Painting!

Harvest Wildflower Seeds at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Native Seed Farm

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Monday, Jun 20, 2016

If you're looking for a way to connect and give back to the community and nature, join Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers to collect wildflower and plant seeds at the Native Seed Farm in Irvine any Wednesday or Saturday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. (all tools and training provided). There are a variety of plant species in the Irvine Ranch Landmarks, as well as the ways that those native plants disperse their seed. Many of those same native plants are grown at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy Seed Farm, and they need your help to harvest nearly 15,000 native seedlings which were planted in the winter. 

Arroyo lupine's seed pods buckle and twist as they dry out in the sun, eventually popping open and sending seeds flying. Cobweb thistle has pappus with tufts of hair on their seeds that resemble parachutes and help their seed glide along with the wind. Other flowers such as dandelions use this method as well, but cobweb thistle pappus is much larger in size so it can catch enough of a breeze to carry the plant's bulky seeds. 

The seeds grown on the farm will be used to regrow native species habitat restoration sites throughout the Landmarks. This is important because the plants regrown by the seeds you harvested will serve as food and shelter for the area's local animals like the Coastal Cactus Wren and the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly.

Seeds are collected and laid out to dry, and any additional materials collected such as leaves, stems and petals are repurposed as a natural mulch to fertilize soil on the Landmarks. Since nothing goes to waste, everything volunteers collect during harvesting season on the Native Seed Farm has a huge impact on future successful habitat restoration. 

Information on Harvest Volunteering

  • Every Wednesday and Saturday - See Dates here
  • 8:30am-12:00pm
  • No experience needed (tools and training will be provided)
  • No hiking is required and activities are family friendly and free with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event.
  • Children 8 years old and up are welcome to volunteer on the farm, and must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
  • For more details on programs at the Native Seed Farm, click here or visit

Images and info provided by The Ace Agency

5 Free Things to Do in Irvine

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Monday, Jun 13, 2016

Updated 3/6/2017

By Agnes Constante

It's hard to resist adventures, especially when they don't cost a single penny! In Irvine, there's so much to do and see, including these five places worth checking out that are accessible without any cost: 

  1. Viewpoint Hill at Chaparral Park
  2. Woodbridge North Lake
  3. Bill Barber Community Park
  4. San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary
  5. Quail Hill Loop

Viewpoint Hill at Chaparral Park

Irvine's Chaparral Park offers abundant green space and a playground that makes it a perfect spot for families. But perhaps the highlight of the park is the viewpoint at the top of the hill that offers a nice perspective of the city. To get to the top of the hill, look for a set of stairs located toward the right side of the park under some trees. From there, it's about a five-minute walk up before you get to indulge in the view. There's a metal bench at the top that's nice to sit on as well.

It's important to note that there is no dedicated parking for Chaparral Park, but there is residential street parking (free!) just a block away. And if you go on the weekends, people do park at Bonita Canyon Elementary School (also free). 

Chaparral Park is located at:
19032 Turtle Rock Drive
Irvine, CA 92614

Woodbridge North Lake

Right in Irvine's Woodbridge housing development, there's a beautiful blue lake that's kind of irresistible to look at. But that's not all you can do in the area. There's a pathway that goes all around the lake, some benches scattered around to sit on, a cool gazebo to check out (and photograph!) and a bunch of trees that are perfect to sit under and enjoy a good book. In the area, there's also a fun bridge to walk across and a park - North Lake Park - with a playground and swing set.

Woodbridge North Lake can be found by simply typing in "North Lake, Irvine" into your GPS. Free parking is located in the surrounding residential area. 

Bill Barber Community Park

This family-fun 42-acre park offers fun for all with tennis courts, playgrounds, baseball fields, and a formal garden (shown in photos 1 and 3 above) that can make for quite a romantic walk. There's also tons of green space that's perfect for flying kites on windy days. Another cool part of the park a lovers' point that overlooks the rest of the space. Read more about it here and on the Orange County Register. The park is named after Col. Bill Barber, a Korean War hero who received a Medal of Honor. He died in 2002 in his Irvine home.

Bill Barber Community Park is located at:
4 Civic Center Plaza
Irvine, CA 92606

San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

It's really kind of amazing that in the middle of the City of Irvine, there's an accessible nature escape where residents and visitors alike can come to for peace and quiet. The San Joaquin Marsh is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk, and there is no entrance or parking fee required. It's a place where more than 200 bird species stop by and it's nearly two-thirds the size of New York's Central Park! It's a great place to visit for those seeking a quick escape, a place to clear your mind, a place to take a walk/jog in nature, and a place to shoot some nice photos.

You can read more about this Irvine gem here.

San Joaquin Marsh is located at:
5 Riparian View
Irvine, CA 92612

Quail Hill Loop

This 1.8-mile loop is the perfect hike for the family, friends, and even your dog! It's the only trail in Irvine that allows people to hike with their dog(s) on a leash. Quail Hill Loop is an easy trail that's flat almost the entire way through, with the exception of one stretch near the Vista Point. (Be sure to take some time to walk down to Vista Point!) If you start the trail going counterclockwise (walking to your right), the hill will be toward the end of the trail. It's also a good idea to bring a bottle of water and a hat if you choose to hike while the sun is high up because there is no shade along the loop.

You can read more about the trail here.

Quail Hill Loop is located at:
34 Shady Canyon Dr.
Irvine, CA 92603

Find Peace and Balance on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks

Spending time in the great outdoors is an ideal way to slow down and re-center a busy lifestyle, and the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to free programs that can help people find peace and balance while enjoying fresh air and exercise.

Register for a free yoga or Tai Chi program on the Landmarks to connect with nature while enjoying fresh air and exercise.

Photos by Agnes Constante

Get Glowing Irvine: Colorful and Coastal 5Ks

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Thursday, Jun 09, 2016

Katie Dillman, Communications Coordinator at Premier Glow.

Running a 5K used to be a pretty straightforward morning event, geared toward serious runners but that mentality is starting to change. Large production style race events like Foam Glow and Mud Runs are attracting participants to their events by changing the face of the 5K to focus on themes, obstacles, exciting locations, and of course fun for all ages and abilities. These events are the perfect opportunity to plan a trip, try something new, support a cause you care about all while getting outdoors and enjoying being active with friends, family, and neighbors. 

Here are 5 Irvine races to check out this summer and fall.

Irvine Lake Mud Run, Summer of Mud 2016, June 18th


The Irvine Lake Mud Run is a down and dirty all day event that caters to several skills of runners, ages, and abilities.  Participants can choose to enter a timed or untimed race as an individual or team.  It will also offer a "Mud Puddles" wave for children after the adult heats have started.  For those who want to get in on the fun but skip the racing, there will be food vendors (open from 8:00 - 4:00), a beer garden (open from 10:00 - 4:00), and action sports and eco-fair booths (open from 8:00 - 4:00)

The course will bring a brand new set of challenges this year, placing 20 obstacles throughout the course.  Participants are guaranteed to get muddy but showers and changing rooms are provided.  It's recommended to bring a change of clothes for the post race festivities and lockers are provided on site.

mud run.jpg


Lexus LaceUp Running Series, September 3rd


The Lexus LaceUp Series presented by Saucony aims to bring a big race atmosphere to a community-oriented event. Runners can choose between a half marathon, 10K, or 5K across a scenic course. 2016 is bringing its participants even more options by adding two new events, the Kid's 1K and the Irvine Marathon Relay. The relay event allows runners to spread the 26.2-mile race across 2 to 5 team members.

The event uses chip timing and real-time results to time runners across the out and back style course. Runners are rewarded at the finish line with a finishing medal, Sierra Nevada beer, a local food truck brunch, and a music tent. This event provides free race photos to its participants and more activities for children will be added this year. It is being held at Mike Ward Community Park.



Irvine Ecorun, Nov 5th


The Ecorun is a new series of race circuits that takes place across the California coastline and is hosted in some the state's most picturesque state parks. The goal of the race is to promote local sustainability projects by using entry fees to fund environmentally friendly startups. Organizers seek to bring together individuals, students, NGOs, environmentalists and green companies with a passion for promoting and growing sustainable projects within their California communities.

The Ecorun directly sponsors projects themed around alternative energy, conservation, organic farming, and habitat restoration and involves three levels of education to help local governments meet their sustainability goals.



Foam Glow 5K, November 5th

03-15_Forth Worth_BLR-FR-6106.jpg

Foam Glow brings the bright aesthetic of races like The Color Run Tropicana to a nighttime timeslot by setting the colors aglow.  Race participants come armed with bubble guns and navigate a course filled with neon foam shooting cannons.  The aerial view of this race looks like a scene from Ghostbusters, with runners wading through a glowing, foam filled street.

This event has already attracted over 200 team sign ups for the Irvine race at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre but they will be fighting The Ecorun (happening earlier that same day) for participants.  Foam Glow gives back to Children's Cancer Research and is still looking for volunteers for the November 5th event.



The Color Run, November 19th


The Color Run is bringing "The Happiest 5K on Earth" to residents and visitors of Irvine this fall.  The Tropicana themed fun kicks off at Library Park 8:00 am and continues throughout the brightly colored race course, ending with the finish festival at the brand new Rainbow Beach.

Pace yourself and enjoy the course because The Color Run does not post race times.  It's focus is on happiness, health, and individuality.  According to its website, The Color Run is now the single largest event series in the world, offering races in over 35 countries in 2015 and growing in 2016.

The Color Run is testing a night time format in 3 cities this summer with intention of scaling that event nationwide in 2017. 


About Katie

Katie Dillman is a Communications Coordinator with Premier Glow, an online retailer of glow products.  She enjoys working with businesses through copywriting to share ideas that connect with their audience.

Golden Chef Series - Irvine Spectrum

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Tuesday, Jun 07, 2016

The Golden Chef Series is a local culinary showcase that proves without a doubt...

Irvine has great taste.   

During May and June,  The Golden Foodie Awards and The Irvine Spectrum Center are hosting outdoor chef demonstrations from the state-of-the-art, Fisher Paykel and DCS outdoor kitchen near the Great Wheel. The demos are open to the public. VIP tickets provide special tastes and up close views. All proceeds from ticket sales go to the Golden Rule Charity, Orange County's own restaurant industry philanthopy. 


On Saturday, Chef Tony Trujillo of CUCINA enoteca made homemade pasta-making look easy as he whipped up a batch of sweet corn angnolotti topped with delicate slices of prosciutto. Local Fusion Pioneer, Wing Lam of Wahoo's, was the perfect event host as he graciously served samples. 

"It's a beautiful day for a cupcake," said Casey Reinhardt, Founder of Casey's Cupcakes.


Reinhardt, who won the Food Network show "Cupcake Wars,"  wowed the crowd with her White Russian Cupcakes; a decadent creation with a Kahlua and Irish Cream filling, topped with a sprinklng of edible gold dust.

The Golden Chef Series features eight different restaurants, all located within the Irvine Specturn Center. 

Tickets are still available for the next showcase on Saturday, June 18th at 2pm

Chef Robert Wasddell of Brio Tuscan Grille and Chef Alejandro Benes of Wood Fire BBQ and Grill will be in the spotlight. 


Filed In: Dining

Chef Spotlight: Ugo Allesina

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Monday, Jun 06, 2016

Written by Agnes Constante

It was about 16 years ago when Ugo Allesina, Prego Ristorante executive chief and partner, joined the restaurant's team. Hailing from Premosella Chiovenda, a small village in Northeastern Italy near Switzerland, Chef Ugo began his career in culinary arts more than 30 years ago. He started first by doing daily meat preparation and created appetizers at a hotel in Orta San Giulio, Italy.

He then went on to work at a number of other well-known hotels in Germany and Italy, including the four-star Italie & Hotel Suisse and five-star Regina Palace Hotel.

Chef Ugo came to the United States in 1990, at which time he first worked for an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. In July 2000, he came on board at Irvine's Prego Ristorante.

For over 25 years, Chef Ugo has been recognized with fine-dining awards from the Restaurant Writers' Association, and the Wine and Food Society of Southern California.

In addition to his culinary pursuits, he has been part of the Blind Children's Learning Center in Santa Ana, and the Knights of Pythias, a charitable organization for underprivileged children.

In an interview with Destination Irvine, shared more about himself and offerings at Prego Ristorante.

What are must-try menu items for people visiting  Prego Ristorante for the first time?
- Half moon lobster ravioli
- Bauletto di pollo (chicken breast stuffed with fontina cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, topped with a balsamic reduction)
- Grass-fed prime steak
- Spinaci e anatra (grilled duck breast, baby spinach, leeks, goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette)
- Any kind of scallopine (veal scaloppine)

What is your favorite Prego Ristorante dish to cook?
One of my favorite dishes is the salmon bake - it's a very small bake so it's nice and tender - and porchedda. The porchedda is a 20-pound pig and you cook it for nine hours slowly.

What are three words that describe Prego Ristorante?
Accommodating, friendly and fun

What's your favorite guilty pleasure snack?
You know, I eat everything, but for a guilty pleasure...

I'm lucky I go to Italy a couple of times a year - and I always complain because my house always has yellow cornmeal [polenta] four times a week. And when I'm home, after a couple days I have enough. But when I'm here, I miss it. It's yellow cornmeal with polenta with merluzzo.

Merluzzo is a white coat, you know like a baccala [codfish]. They cure it with salt. When you cook it, you have to let it run two days under running water so that the fish is dry seafood. Then after, you cook it with potato, milk, and it's delicious.

If you didn't become a chef, what would you be doing?
The wishes of one of my wealthy aunties was for me to become a priest... But I said no way. When I was little, my dream was to travel. I said when I grow up, I'm going to go visit New Zealand, I'm going to work there. Or Australia.

What's the best part about being executive chef at Prego Ristorante?
I love all aspects of the job - talking with people, creating recipes, talking with vendors, making decisions. I believe especially these days, to be a good chef, knowing to cook and cook well is only 49 percent of the job. The other 51 percent, you need to know how to talk to people, you need to know all the regulations, all the health department codes because they change every other day. I think it's more complex just to be a chef.

I also love to go on vacation every other week. I'm away four or five days - I'm happy. On my sixth day, I already miss the adrenaline of talking with people, the lunch rush, I miss engaging with customers and having conversations.

It seems like you're really cut out for this job.
Oh yeah. I tell everybody, all my employees, I have four words: love + passion equals success. So whatever you do, if you have these ingredients, you're going to be successful in life.

*Photos courtesy of Prego Ristorante

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