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