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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Category - Meetings

Filed In: Meetings

AC Hotel: Home of OC Entrepreneurs

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Tuesday, Jun 27, 2017

Orange County is an economic powerhouse. What began as a small agricultural region with a population of less than 100,000 has transformed into one of the nation’s leading economies with a still rapidly-growing population of 3.2 million people today. All along the way, entrepreneurial spirit has fueled the engine of Orange County’s success. Irvine’s own Broadcom, Blizzard Entertainment and Allergan are just a few notable examples.

Start Up Grind Orange County understands the importance of the individual in business and is dedicated to help today’s entrepreneurs develop and thrive in the local market. It’s a volunteer organization that hosts events to help educate, inspire and connect local startup founders with  the service providers and entrepreneurs who love them. 

“Many people think that starting a business is easy,” says OC Start Up Grind leader Scott Fox.

“They think that all you need is a great idea and a garage and it all happens magically. The reality is that entrepreneurship is much harder than that.” 

Marriott AC Hotel Irvine understands the unique needs of the local entrepreneur and offers a hotel environment that makes the grind a little easier to take. Designed with creative, well-traveled, entrepreneurial spirits in mind, AC Hotel Irvine offers amenities that speak to the individual business traveler who seeks comfort and convenience. 


Distinctive meeting spaces, complimentary Wi-Fi, Hydration Stations on each guest floor are just a few of the amenities that make working away from home a little easier. Locally-inspired art and modern guest rooms activate creativity and foster collaboration. 

“We’ve created an atmosphere that allows locals and visitors to comingle, share ideas and socialize in an environment that offers a sense of place.” Said Paul Maddison, general manager. 




So it’s only natural that Startup Grind, a global organization with groups in over 200 cities, would partner with AC hotels worldwide by offering members special incentives such as discounted preferential meeting space and complimentary beverages after a long day of networking. 



They also join together together to host local networking events like the recent Fireside Chat with OC’s leading young foodie entrepreneur, Andy Nguyen who co-created Afters Ice Cream, the hottest ice cream chain on social media. Local startup founders packed the room to hear Nguyen share his secrets of success and meet other like-minded business creatives.



His amazing story of growth and innovation is just part of the new wave of entrepreneurial spirit that will continue to propel Orange County forward as the leading launching pad for new business.  






AC Hotel Irvine Grand Debuts as First of Its Kind in Southern California

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2017

Orange County's newest European-inspired hotel, AC Hotel Irvine grand debuted last week with a chic soiree of live music, tapas, signature cocktails and wine, spirits from Blinking Owl, craft berrs, Puesto tacos and sweet treats. Guests had the opportunity to enjoy the hotel's communal spaces as well as receive a tour of the rooms. 


AC Hotel Irvine, a Marriott property opened by the Pacific Hospitality Group, is the first of its kind in Southern California and located within 1 mile of John Wayne Airport, in the heart of Park Place, a thriving community of popular restaurants, shops, residential housing and corporate businesses. The hotel appealing to next-gen travelers has 176 guest rooms; beautiful open spaces to lounge or mingle in; a heated roof-top pool; complimentary WiFi, a state-of-the-art fitness room and hydration stations on every guest-room floor. For those looking for the perfect place to conduct business, AC Hotel Irvine provides three distinct meeting spaces including two intimate, audiovisual-equipped Media Salons (up to 8 people), and a 500-square-foot Meeting Room (up to 40 people). AC Hotel is a mix of innovative touches, modern design through the furnishings and artwork as well as aligning with the hotel's European heritage through their lifestyle offerings.


For seamless service, Kallpods, wireless service buttons, are provided in the public and meeting areas which allow guests to immediately request a staff member's attention. For a specialty cocktail or craft beer and tapas, take a seat at the AC Hotel Lounge bar. For a truly European inspired breakfast, dine at the AC Hotel Kitchen, I was told the croissants are flown in from France! There's also a Berkel slicer to serve up hand cut meats. For the individual needing a quick bite or beverage, the AC Store is open 24 hours and has a variety of drink and snack options. 


This new Orange County gem not only offers an elevated guest room experience to be able to wind down and get a good night sleep, but strives to provide an unparalled lifestyle experience for all guests and also catering to those that are on-the-go. 


"We've created an atmosphere that allows locals and visitors to comingle, share ideas and socialize in an environment that offers a sense of place," said Paul Maddison, general manager at AC Hotel Irvine.  

Visit the AC Hotel Irvine

Address: 3309 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
Phone: (949) 471-8710 
Filed In: Meetings

Heads Up...Top Ten 2017 Meeting Industry Trends

Posted by: Deirdre Michalski
Posted on: Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017

Written By: Deirdre Michalski
Photo: Hotel Irvine's retro-style Treat Trike

The Meetings and Events industry is adaptive to changes---and that's a good thing!  Looking
ahead to the "new year", here is a summary of key global trends and some valuable input from locals here in Irvine, Calif. Meeting planners, industry experts and research findings have all
assisted in answering the question: What are we in store for THIS year? 

1. Mid-Scale Property Openings Are Growing

For six years in a row, meeting planners participating in the AmEx Global Forecast anticipate
the highest demand to be for "mid-tier" properties. New hotel openings in the United States and
Central America are nearly four-to-one in favor of mid-scale hotels over those in the luxury category. In many ways, the mid-scale segment is really the whole package by offering competitive pricing, high-quality service, and convenience. Also, those cities with easy in-and-out air service will remain in high demand.

2. Creativity Is King

Hotels in a "non-resort" setting can still earn huge kudos with meeting planners and
attendees alike.  Being unique and offering special activities garner high marks and send the "meeting success" scores climbing. Finding venues that are unique to the area are often considered home runs. One-of-a-kind experiences such as a "behind-the-scenes" tours, or a "meet-and-greet" with a popular industry leader are popular.  Also sought out are creative "street take-overs" and "pop-up events".  Meetings that offer live streaming and other social media apps are hits as well by expanding the participation beyond just the attendees, but also to those back at the office.

"Hotel Irvine's ‘Backyard' is a popular space for meeting and party planners because it's a blank canvas waiting to be designed and converted into an exciting arena for a daytime BBQ, cocktail party, formal party and everything in-between. The Backyard includes a 6,000-square-foot pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot lush grass lawn, and an adjacent patio space. There are plenty of electrical outlets to create fun lighting such as strung lanterns, oversized floor lamps and audiovisual effects and plenty of space for furniture, staging and team-building outdoor games. Our new retro-style Treat Trike is a hit with planners as it can be pedaled around The Backyard at events - delivering goodies and treats like ice cream, chocolates, and other items."     
Joe Martino, Director of Sales & Marketing, Hotel Irvine

"In today's meeting and event landscape, planners are looking to create experiences that
tell a story and elicit lasting memories. In 2017, 'cookie cutter' events are a thing of the past, as meeting professional are opting for venues that provide a canvas for big ideas to become a reality. As part of a multi-million dollar redesign, the Irvine Marriott introduced "Cannery Row". An outdoor venue built among shipping containers and other structures, Cannery Row is a pop-up space that expands upon the idea of personalization by actually taking attendees outside of the meeting room and placing them anywhere they would like to go. From a backyard barbecue to a wine tasting in Napa Valley, Cannery Row evolves to tell an event's unique story. We predict that ‘pop up' capabilities will increase in popularity as planners are looking to truly make their events stand out.
Stephanie Macias, Destination Sales Executive, Irvine Marriott 

3. Adventure and Experiences Are Important Components for Attendees

Experiences, adventure, and team building are all important components in 2017. Participants
indicate they want to "experience" a destination and not just have a meeting.  This can be accomplished through local partnerships, music, cuisine, hands-on crafts, off-site venues and authentic, shared experiences. Also look for sessions to actually be shortened to create
more time in the agenda for hands-on learning and interactive breakout sessions. Teams want to share information in a new way. According to meeting planners, the expectation is that these "experiences" will elevate the overall impact the meeting on an organization. So the pressure is on... full-throttle.

4. Make Time for Networking

With so many employees working flexible schedules and operating out of remote home-based offices, the desire to network and spend quality time interacting with fellow attendees is very important. These connections lead to new business, finding peer resources, and are becoming increasingly important as a component to the overall success of a meeting.

5. Security is A Serious Concern

Association Insights, a research firm, confirmed that safety and security are a top 2017 budget
consideration at all levels. This was also echoed in the 2017 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast. It is not just terrorism or active shooters, but cyber security, health concerns of contagious diseases, and other emergency situations that were not "top of mind"
in years past.

Year after year, and study after study, Irvine repeatedly rates as one of the safest cities in the United States. This bodes well for meeting planners, attendees and spouses/guests who are often elated to hear their meeting will be held in Irvine, Calif.!

6. Food and Beverage Prices Are On The Rise

According to CWT Meetings & Events Forecast, F&B prices are on the rise due to production prices, changes in imports/exports, transportation costs and so forth. Embracing the "keeping it local" trend is helpful in terms of transport costs, however, the actual items are not seen as
less expensive. Pre-plating and action stations can provide more control over usage and budgets. For California, the extreme rain in early 2017 will provide a welcome relief to concerns over the drought and all that means to the farming communities our hotel chefs partner
with on a daily basis.

7. Technology Broadens The Reach Far Beyond the Meeting Room

Live video-streaming, Instagram and Snapchat are all changing the game. And not only for those in attendance, but those back home in the corporate/regional offices. Virtual and hybrid meetings are on the up-tick. Wider bandwidth needs will be in greater demand, similar to the needs of Wi-Fi which exploded in meeting public spaces as well as guest rooms just a few years ago.  Apps are on the rise, and more, not less, are anticipated in the future. New apps and websites are useful tools for check-in, sharing information, but also for gathering data on attendee behavior and post-meeting analysis.   Some meetings include voting in their programming---with the attendees using their mobile devices to vote on survey questions and thereby providing instant feedback to be shared in the meeting and in the moment!

"Technology concerns are often huge pain points for Event Planners. They are already tasked with creating engaging meeting content and now they have to figure out how to incorporate
offsite participants in their social media platforms as well. That's why your team at Destination Irvine is promoting solution based incentives, like a technical production consultation with AKJohnston or a digital strategist certification through PCMA. When you come to Irvine, we help give planners a leg up in the digital race."
Demea Metcalf, Director of Sales, Destination Irvine

8. Booking Lead Times Remain Tight

Planners are citing tight lead times, with the most planning reserved for product launches and trade shows. However, another factor on the rise is a balancing act of meeting planner's charged with organizing multiple smaller meetings in addition to the "main event".

9. Elbow Room in Negotiations

With many hotel companies offering centralized sales models, this allows meeting planners to consider multiple properties at one time. The venue size, room rate, complimentary meeting space and discounted Wi-Fi are all high on the list in 2017. There continues to be much less willingness on the part of meeting planners to negotiate on service fees and cancellation penalties. 

10. Thinking Outside the Traditional Box

Sharing is caring, and we are observing a continued increase in Uber, Lyft, various ride-sharing sites, as well as Airbnb and other short-term rental programs offering non-traditional accommodations. Globally, these are nibbling away at the more traditional travel standards. 
UberEvents, for example, was launched in 2015. This offers a prepaid option for groups and social events, such as weddings. (Now there is speculation that Uber may go public in 2017.) With social media and apps for attendees to engage prior to arrival, many are coordinating transportation and accommodations on their own.

And the spike in alternative lodging is found right here in Irvine as well. The city is starting to crack down on its use. (As of September 2016, the city had 370 listings on Airbnb, up from about 10 listings two years earlier, according to Beyond Pricing, a company that tracks vacation-rental data. Earlier this month, there were 130 Irvine listings on VRBO and HomeAway, a more than fourfold increase from three years ago, company data show.)  Statistics indicate it's not
a small issue in Irvine and other cities across the country.

Sources Include:  American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast 2017

The complete report is available at  MPI's Meetings Outlook (in partnership with MGM Resorts Int. and IMEX Group), Successful Meetings- Top 9 Meeting Trends in 2017- by Terri Hardin - Jan. 3, 2017 ,

Smart Meetings- 8 Meeting Trends for 2017 by Ofer Yatziv 12/13/16. Ofer Yatziv is an events and marketing manager at Better Venues, also Cindy Fisher VP and Global Head of CWT Meetings & Events, Bill Voegeli- MPI Georgia Chapter and President of Association Insights
(a research firm), and Law Street Media- Crime in US Cities

The Christmas Guide to Orange County 2016

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Thursday, Dec 08, 2016

Orange County has a variety of Christmas festivities to enjoy this holiday season. Although we may not experience below freezing temperatures or snowfall, you will be overcome with merry, holiday spirit through these decked out places and cheerful entertainment.

Knott's Merry Farm

Until January 1, 2017, experience Knott's Berry Farm's transformation into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights and holiday décor. Join in the fun with the ice skating spectacular, Snoopy on Ice, sing-along with the Calico Carolers, meet Santa Claus in his Christmas Village and be dazzled by the all new production, ‘It's The Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown'. At night, Ghost Town comes alive with Snow and Glow, a holiday celebration of music, lights and a blanket of snow that falls from the sky. Click Here for more information. 

OC Chill Ice Rink in Irvine

At the Irvine Spectrum Center, visitors can ice skate until their heart's content at one of Orange County's only outdoor ice rinks. Now through January 16, 2017 the rink will be open daily from 11 a.m. until 9:15 p.m. and guests of all ages can shred the ice for only $20 per person with rentals. On Saturday nights, grab a hot cocoa and enjoy live bands scattered throughout the Center. For this upcoming Saturday, enjoy Snow Day! presented by the Active Ride ShopClick here for more information.  

Christmas Boat Parade

A combination of opulence and beauty, the 108th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade showcases luxury yachts, personal boats, and kayaks covered in Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Running December 14th through the 18th, 2016 the annual tradition is one of Orange County's most popular attractions and was even named "one of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation" by the New York Times. The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is one of the local traditions that I look forward to and if I'm able to make it, enjoy every year! I love getting a toasty cup of hot cocoa or coffee and walking on the boardwalk along the water as the boats sail by. There are many spots along the water in which you can take a seat to watch (bring blankets to get extra snuggly). You'll really have fun seeing the creativity, and ingenuity that is poured into lighting up these small to large boats! Click here for more information and a map of the parade route!

"Pirate's Take Christmas!," at Pirate's Dinner Adventure

Shiver me timbers...scoundrel pirates have captured Santa and Mrs. Claus and are threatening to put an end to the holiday season at Pirate's Dinner Adventure. The two hour, interactive Christmas dinner show runs December 5th through the 25th, 2016 and includes a delicious, four-course holiday feast. View the Pirate's Dinner Adventure's Rise of the Sea Dragon show below to get a taste of what's in store. Get tickets to Pirate's Take Christmas here!

Video and Images via Pirate's Dinner Adventure

Bolsa Chica's Christmas at the Beach

To escape the cold of the North Poll, Santa Claus visits Bolsa Chica ever year on December 11th, 2016. Garnering his favorite Southern California outfit, Santa meets with all the good boys and girls on his Christmas jet ski. After the sun sets, put on your ugly Christmas sweater and cozy up by the fire to roast marshmallows and watch the hit movie, "Despicable Me." Sounds like the perfect evening with a loved one or family!

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

One of my all time favorite places has been sprinkled with pixie dust for a transformation into a winter wonderland for Holidays at the Disneyland Resort which runs now through January 8th, 2017. The iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle glimmers with Christmas lights, Jack Skellington has taken over the Haunted Mansion and boughs of holly line Main Street. Visitors can also enjoy favorites like It's A Small World Christmas with over 100,000 lights, the beloved Fantasy Parade and the night-time firework spectacular. You can even catch Santa Clause and his merry elves at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure Park. While in the Disney California Adventure Park, experience cultural traditions with the Disney Festival of Holidays, and you'll want to stay for the World of Color - Season of Light, your favorite water and lights spectacular with a holiday twist! Santa will also visit the Disneyland Park and he can be seen at a special location in Critter Country. You'll also want to try the variety of holiday-inspired decorated sweet treats available at the Disney Parks! Click here for ticket info!

The Christmas Carol at the South Coast Repertory

Charles Dicken's classic, A Christmas Carol comes to life at the South Coast Repertory. The whole family will enjoy the live play depicting Scrooge as he transform from a cold, greedy man to a generous, kind-hearted business owner set in nineteenth-century London. The limited time production runs November 25th through the 26th, 2016.  Click here for ticket info!

Images via South Coast Repertory 

Festival Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker Ballet

Take part in the grandeur and extravagance of the timeless Nutcracker ballet - the holiday season isn't complete with out dancing mice and snowflakes, the sugarplum fairy & nutcracker and more! The Festival Ballet Theatre is back with a performance of over 100 dancers at  Barclay Theatre! Click here for ticket info!

Images and Video via Festival Ballet Theatre
Happy Holidays!
Some event information provided by Visit Buena Park 

Cavalia Returns to Irvine for Holiday 2016

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Tuesday, Nov 08, 2016

If you didn't get to experience the Odysseo Show by Cavalia the last time they were in Irvine, here is your chance, AND Irvine Company is offering special discount deals for up to $25 off ticket prices for evening shows. 

You may have already seen the large white tent being built within the last couple of months right near the 133 and 405 freeway connectors and thought, is the horse show back already? Due to huge demand, Cavalia returns to Irvine November 16 - January 8! The last time they were in town, the show was extended to accommodate the demand. Now you have no excuse in attending as Irvine Company is providing the below exclusive offers on evening shows in Irvine:

 10$ OFF / GOLD Ticket  Junior/Senior/Children Tickets
 15$ OFF / GOLD Ticket  Adult Tickets
 25$ OFF / ALL RDV VIP Tickets


* This promotion cannot be combined with any other offer and applies only to new purchases on Gold & Rendez-vous VIP sections only. Not valid on matinee shows. Certain conditions apply. Limited quantity.

For more information on the show, performance dates, purchasing tickets and the Irvine Company special promo - CLICK HERE!

Cavalia's new production Odysseo will take you on an immersive journey, experiencing nature's greatest wonders through jaw-dropping acrobatic performers and dancers in harmony with singers and awe striking horses and riders.  

Odysseo - the largest touring production on earth - features 65 magnificent horses and 48 talented riders, acrobats, dancers, and musicians under a White Big Top the size of an NFL football field. 

You definitely will not be disappointed, you will be bewildered and wowed by this entertainment and theatrical feat! Gift this experience to yourself, family or friends this holiday season - It will surely be an unforgettable performance and experience.  

Information, Images and Video Content from Irvine Company or Cavalia.    

Last Days to Experience Mummies at Bowers Museum

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

(ABOVE) This mummy is that of a man named Nes-Hor, which means "the one who belongs to Horus". Horus is the falcon-headed god of hunting and warfare and is a symbol of power. Nes-Hor worked as a priest in the Temple of Min, in the city of Khent-Min (Akhmim). Nes-Hor's sarcophagus was constructed from wood and shows many patches and repairs made during ancient times. A detailed study of the symbols on the sarcophagus identified Nes-Hor's name, parents' names and occupation. On loan fromBuffalo and Erie County Historical Society.


When visiting the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, I was in absolute awe. Of course, mummies exist worldwide and there are numerous mummification processes, but the only exposure I've had to mummies has been of Egyptian origin. What was so exciting about the Mummies of the World exhibit were the vast artifacts and variety of mummies from so many different places like South America and Europe on display. The exhibit is split into various galleries such as Natural Mummification, Artificial Mummification, Experimental Mummification and Science & Medicine. 

You not only get to physically see mummies but you learn more about where the person or animal came from; the preserved state of the mummies gives you a glimpse into their cultures, way of life and how they became mummies whether through a natural or intentional process.

Over 1.4 million visitors have experienced The Mummies of the World exhibit and this is the first time it has been on display in Orange County. Enjoy and learn about the wonders of Mummies of the World at the Bowers Museum for its last few days - the exhibit closes on September 5, 2016. 





Visiting Hours & Ticket Information 


Three Shrunken Heads
Shrunken heads were prepared and worn by the victor of a battle, believing the victim's power would then be transferred to that victor. Popular in the mid-19th century, shrunken heads were a collectible which became so popular that Europeans created replica shrunken heads from unclaimed bodies. On loan from Buffalo Museum of Science and San Diego Museum of Man. (Photo credit: American Exhibitions, Inc.) 
The Orlovits Family
The Orlovits family is part of a group of 18th-century mummies uncovered in two long-forgotten burial crypts dating back to 1674 just north of Budapest in 1994 during reconstruction on parts of a Dominican church where 265 naturally mummified bodies were uncovered, including religious leaders and important local families who had been interred in the crypts between 1731 and 1838. Michael Orlovits (born 1765), Veronica Orlovits (born 1770) and Johannes Orlovits (born 1800) were among those preserved by the cool, dry air of the crypt and the oil from the pine boards used to build their coffins. 

Egyptian Cat Mummy
Dating back to the early Roman period, the Egyptian cat mummy in Mummies of the World shows how Egyptian cats were ritually embalmed in a lengthy process using salt and various resins. On loan from Buffalo and Erie County Historical

Naturally Mummified Lizard Mummy
Spiny-tailed lizard naturally mummified in the Sahara desert is an example of a modern-day mummy, probably less than 100 years old. Part of the Mummies of the World exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center, it was mummified by the hot, dry air of the desert. 
Baron von Holz
The Baron von Holz is a 17th-century nobleman who is believed to have died in or near Sommersdorf, Germany during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48). He was discovered in the family crypt underneath the church of the von Crailsheim family's late 14th-century castle, where the bodies of five people had mummified naturally due to the environmental conditions. The Baron was found still wearing his leather boots, as depicted in an 1833 lithograph of the mummies in the crypt.
Ancient Egyptian Sarcophagus
The hieroglyphs of this beautiful sarcophagus tell us that it was made for a woman of wealth, likely more than 2,000 years old. Made by imported Lebanese cedar planks and joined with wooden dowels, decorated with columns of hieroglyphs, which are flanked on both sides with images of the four sons of Horus - from top to bottom: Hapy the baboon, Qebehsenuef the falcon, Duamutef the jackal, and finally Imsety the human-headed god. On loan from: San Diego Museum of Man. 
Information & Images provided by Blaze PR on behalf of Mummies of the World at Bowers Museum.
Filed In: Meetings

Kicking Around Town with Beth Santos

Posted by: Guest
Posted on: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015

By Demea Metcalf, Director of Sales, Destination Irvine 

Beth Santos & Demea Metcalf

I feel like I won the lottery to spend a weekend with a celebrity - Beth Santos, Founder of Wanderful, a women travel blogger community, came to Irvine to check out the scene before her Women in Travel Summit happens in March next year - WITS 2016. She was so totally adorable, I would make a suggestion on where to go next, and Beth would say, "Sounds good to me, I'm in" and off we would go to explore all that Destination Irvine has to offer.

Irvine is the perfect jumping off spot for all that a Southern California lifestyle can sport, so being at the center of Orange County has its perks. We hung out at the Irvine Spectrum Center and tried the new Cream store - to die for ice cream sandwiches - and a word of caution, take your own spoon because you're not going to be able to get your mouth around one of those bad boys to take a bite! Then we crossed over the freeway and into the OC Great Park for a peak at the Great Park Balloon and the Zine Library and local art gallery. We ran across food trucks galore with the soccer fields in full swing and Beth didn't even blink an eye as I took her hand to hand write a mustache on it to pose in front of Mustache Mike's to mimic a picture at the Hotel Irvine, her posh residence for the trip. What a good sport, and the perfect doll to party pic around town.

Beth's WITS attendees will get to come and enjoy the mountains to the sea just like you and I do every day. So until then, I can't wait to see my new best bud again to share all the great adventure options that Irvine can come up with between now and then!


Filed In: Meetings

Destination Irvine Hosts Members of the IFWTWA

Posted by: Wendy Haase
Posted on: Friday, Jun 29, 2012

 In June, Destination Irvine had the opportunity to host eight members of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) for  a day and a half FAM Tour.

The itinerary began with lunch at the 6ix Park Grill located at the Hyatt Regency. Executive Chef, Ted Hill served a delicious meal paired with Match Book wines. And no lunch would be complete without a mouthwatering, to-heck-with-the-diet dessert. 

 IFWTWA Cream Brulee

Peach cream brulee with a homemade pecan cookie
Photo by Roger Paige

We left the Hyatt and headed to The Wine Artist for a cooking class with owner MJ.

We experienced a "Taste of Thailand" by learning how to make spring rolls, pad Thai, chicken curry and mango sticky rice.

This was my first cooking lesson and I have to say that MJ was very informative; she not only taught us about proper technique, but she explained the Asian ingredients making them less intimidating. The IFWTWA members were extremely complimentary with a few of them saying it was the best cooking class they have ever been a part of!

IFWTWA group at Wine Artist
The IFWTWA group along with the owner of The Wine Artist, MJ, and Me. 
Photo by Linda Kissam

With much regret, we departed from our fun group cooking lesson at The Wine Artist and headed to Pizzeria Ortica for dinner. Yes, for more food - I've often said that gluttony is part of the job description!

The food was over the top! I have been trying to think of my favorite item that was served and I cannot - everything was delicious (seriously) the Milanesa pizza and the papparedelle pasta with lamb were both divine. And I absolutely loved the olives on the antipasti plate. 

After Chef Justin served us salad, antipasti, three different kinds of pasta and a variety of four pizzas, and more dessert, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and headed back to the Hyatt and called it a night.

In the morning we made our way to the Qzina Institute of Chocolate and Pastry where we were greeted with the sweet fragrant scent of chocolate (definitely not a bad thing to smell at 9:30 a.m.)

The charming corporate chef, Francois Mellet, took us through the process of making chocolate from the bean to the bar. We learned how to roast, winnow, grind, refine and conche.

Of course, the presentation concluded with a tasting of six different chocolates from around the world; each offered a distinct flavor.

The final stop on the tour was lunch at SWSH Shabu Shabu located at Diamond Jamboree.

This was a great group experience with all of us sitting along the counter each with our own pot of boiling water and broth to cook the thinly sliced meat and vegetables. I am a big fan of any food that is served with dipping sauces.

IFWTWA SWSH Shabu Shabu 

An individual serving at SWSH Shabu Shabu
Photo by Roger Paige

Before we headed back to the hotel so the journalists depart for their homes, the group was able to explore Diamond Jamboree. A few took my advice and ordered the popular sea salt coffee from 85°C Bakery.

By hosting the group of writers from the IFWTWA,  Destination Irvine wanted to convey that the city has many unique offerings for visitors and groups to enjoy - many of those offerings being discreetly hidden in what looks to be only office buildings! But, if you look beyond the brick and mortar you will discover hidden gems like The Wine Artist and the Qzina Institute of Chocolate and Pastry.

Food and Wine Bloggers Tour Irvine with Dave Ihrig host of the Irvine Scene - watch the video


Fast and Furious Fun @ Irvine K1 Speed for Birthdays and Corporate Meetings

Posted by: Terry Winkler
Posted on: Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'm the kind of parent who's usually two steps behind new & cool party ideas, but this time I finally threw a cool birthday party theme for my son, without getting the idea from another kid's party. Woot! This is also the first party where I was actually planning on having fun, too, instead of just running around organizing party games, passing out cake and goodie bags.

Indoor go kart racing at the Irvine K1 Speed would be the destination for my son's birthday party. I have a bit of a lead foot and have to continually control my need for speed as I drive the family taxi around town, so at K1 Speed I got to let out my wild side and put petal to the metal...all under the guise of being an awesome mom throwing my son a rad party for his closest pals.

K1 Party

 K1 Speed is not your little party theme company whose sole purpose is to crank out as many cookie cutter parties as possible. This is where the big kids play. And by ‘big kid' I mean anyone from third grader to corporate CEO. It's a real indoor racing experience. You get instruction, helmet, a racing head sock and you are on your way to becoming a racer!

K1 CorpAnd here's the big bonus:  I learned the Irvine location has corporate facilities for events and team building experiences. I plan a lot of corporate events and I am so impressed with all that K1 Speed has to offer. There's a great meeting room that features wireless internet connections and 110″ display screens perfect for presentations.  There are also catering options to keep coworkers' satisfied while watching those PowerPoint presentations.  After your rock star presentation you can impress your boss on the track.  The race packages are perfect for racing against co-workers at speeds approaching 40mph in the electric karts It's an exhilarating and unforgettable way to bring fun to your business offsite meetings and team building exercises. So, as you plan your next corporate meeting in Irvine, let K1 Speed give your event the checkered flag treatment.

Filed In: Meetings

Destination Irvine Sponsors Mixology Event

Posted by: Wendy Haase
Posted on: Monday, Apr 02, 2012

Destination Irvine coordinated and sponsored a Mixology Event in conjunction with the CalSAE* ELEVATE 2012 Annual Conference on March 29th.

The result - attendees created innovative signature drinks using popular liquors. Extra points were awarded for incorporating ingredients indigenous to Orange County and names indicative of Irvine!

Local bartenders served up the top three cocktails chosen by Destination Irvine to conference attendees who then sampled all of them and voted for their favorite. The top three drinks selected were The OC Irwine, the OC Mojito Spectacular and the non-alcoholic Pink Dog on the Beach.

Mix Bar

Attendees selected the OC Mojito Spectacular as the winner with nearly triple the votes. The winning cocktail includes orange and lime wedges muddled with mint, Angostura Orange Bitters, Bacardi O, Simple Syrup and white soda. All drink recipes can be found at

Barb Swaiman, Sales Manager for The Queen Mary (below right), submitted the winning recipe; she received an Orange County inspired gift basket valued at $150.

Mix Team

In this photo (left to right) Wendy Haase, Destination Irvine, Michelle Carlen, Destination Irvine, Wendy Schuck, Hilton Irvine/OC Airport and Leslie Conrey, Irvine Marriott.  

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