Category Archives: Farmer’s Market

Farm to Table Dining at Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine

Since I moved to Orange County 2+ years ago I feel like I have driven by Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine at least 50 times.  It’s located smack dab in the middle of a business park in Irvine close to the 405 freeway so it’s hard to miss.  After hearing many good things about the restaurant, I figured it was about time I check it out.

Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine focuses on incorporating locally grown produce and sustainably  raised meats and seafood in all of their dishes, and 100% of the restaurant’s profits go to the Andrei Foundation, which was created when the owner’s son passed away from an eye degenerative disease.  Pretty awesome huh?  If only more restaurants donated to charity…

Andrei’s offers a happy hour every Mon-Sat from 5-7 pm, so the Englishman and I decided to hit up the tail end of happy hour on Saturday to check out the menu.  The happy hour deal includes 6 of their “small bites” that are offered at $6 each.  The small bites range from fried risotto balls to brioche grilled cheese, so there is a wide variety which is nice.  As we perused the menu I ordered one of my favorite martinis, complete with blue cheese olives.

For our happy hour plates, we decided to go with the Pommes Frites and the Barbecue Chicken Flatbread.  First up was the Pommes Frites.

The potatoes had just the right amount of crisp and didn’t taste fried or super oily.  I also enjoyed the fact that they were cut into bigger wedges, instead of the shoestring potatoes that you normally see at restaurants.  The pesto and ketchup dipping sauces were a nice touch as well.

The Englishman inhaled the Barbecue Chicken Flatbread and declared it his favorite dish of the night.  This was the one dish I didn’t taste, but it looked and smelled delicious.

For our entrees, we decided to continue the small bites/tapas theme and ordered the Mediterranean Tasting, the Monterrey Bay Calamari, and the Tuscan Caesar Salad with Chicken.  All three dishes were delicious and each had their shining points, but the real standout was the calamari.

Most of the time when you order calamari in restaurants it is usually battered, fried, and comes with some sort of aioli.  This calamari dish came grilled with squash, peppers and capers.  I usually shy away from grilled calamari because it can taste quite rubbery if not prepared correctly, but this was grilled to perfection.  The Englishman felt it could’ve used a bit more salt and pepper, but other than that it was a great dish.

The Caesar Salad came with grilled chicken, tomatoes, a Parmesan cheese crisp and Caesar dressing.  The salad was nice and refreshing but nothing to write home about.  I’ve had Caesar Salads at many restaurants before and this was on par with the rest of them.

Last but not least was the Mediterranean Tasting which came with Cucumber-Mint Tzatziki, Basil Hummus, Olive Hummus, and Baba-Ghannouj.  Oh, and pita and flat breads as well.

I enjoyed the hummus (especially the basil) and the Baba-Ghannouj, but loved the Tzatziki dip.  It had the perfect amount of tang and you could really taste the cucumber.  Next time I think I’ll have to ask for seconds of that dip!  The pita and flat breads were good but nothing super memorable.

Overall I was impressed with Andrei’s.  The food is nice and fresh, the portions aren’t huge so you don’t feel like you need to be rolled out of the restaurant, and the staff is incredibly nice.  I was surprised how quiet the restaurant was for a weekend night, so I’m thinking this may be more of an after work hotspot, especially based on it’s location.  Regardless, it’s a must try if you are in the Irvine area.

Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine

2607 Main Street

Irvine, CA 92614

The Upcoming Weekend in Food

March is finally here which means daylight savings, spring and warm (well warmer than usual) weather is just around the corner.  And what better way to celebrate the impending return of spring than with some delicious food and drink?  Check out some of these fun food related events happening this weekend.

OC Restaurant Week – now until Saturday, March 3

Have you checked out OC Restaurant Week yet?  You have until Saturday, March 3rd to check out some of the best food OC has to offer.  This only comes around once a year and the deals are too good to pass up so be sure to participate now!  I have a few restaurants I’ll definitely be paying a visit to.

FOODSCAPE:  Food + Art – Saturday, March 3

Head down to Long Beach to check out this unique exhibition where over 15 artists will be showcasing food-themed art in a variety of mediums from photography to painting and ceramics.  Food trucks will be on hand to provide delicious food.  To learn more visit http://www.foodbeast.com/foodscape/.

Beer Fest at Whole Foods Huntington Beach – Sunday, March 4

Whole Foods HB is holding their first annual beer fest.  For only $10, enjoy tastes from 18(!) beers from 1-4pm.  For another cool $5, you can have some pork sliders while you sip your beer.

Farmer’s Markets – Saturday March 3 and Sunday March 4

Get out in the sunshine and check out a local farmer’s market this weekend for some fresh produce and tasty nibbles.  For a complete list of Orange County certified farmer’s markets, click here.

Flavors of Laguna Food Tasting Tour – Saturday, March 3

Go on a 3.5-4 hour walking tour through picturesque Laguna Beach and taste food from some of Laguna’s finest restaurants for $55 a person (an additional $5 gets you beer/wine pairings as well).  To learn more visit www.flavorsoflaguna.com

So many options, so little time!  Good thing those days are starting to get a bit longer…

Apple Picking at Oak Glen with No Apples

What’s that you say?  Apple picking with no apples?  Yep, that’s right.  Of course, it wasn’t my intention to go apple picking and come home apple-less, but unfortunately that was the case when the Englishman and my parents decided to head up to Oak Glen for a day of good ol’ fashioned apple picking.

Oak Glen is located at the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, and is about an hour and a half drive from where we live.  Our first stop was Riley’s Apple Farm, which is known as being one of the more popular fruit farms in Oak Glen.

The farm itself was quite cute – old Colonial-looking buildings, a bakery and a tavern were all on the property.  The place was packed, so we figured this is where all the good apples were.  Alas, we were wrong.

Riley’s Apple Farm had PLENTY of pumpkins, lots of raspberries, and even a few strawberries here and there.  But not an apple in sight (unless you count the apple cider donuts).  Apparently apple season was not so hot this year, and they were out of apples completely.  Sigh.

No apples to see here folks

We hopped back in the car and headed up the road in pursuit of finding an apple farm that actually had apples to pick.  By this time we were also getting hungry and my dad suggested we have lunch at Apple Annie’s, which is supposed to be a crowd favorite in Oak Glen.

After a few missed turns we found ourselves at the Oak Tree Village, which reminded me of a mini street fair with craft booths and food vendors.  There were lots of vendors selling yummy goodies such as cinnamon sugar almonds and spicy peanuts, but there was not an apple in sight.  We finally found one stand selling different varieties of apples in baskets.

Deceiving Looking Apples

The cost for the apples was astronomically high ($1 per apple!!) and the apples themselves were mushy!  You would pick up an apple from the basket and you could just feel how mushy it was.  Not good, Oak Glen, not good.

By this point we had resigned ourselves to the fact that a. we would not be picking fresh apples, and b. we would not be purchasing fresh apples either.  But it didn’t matter because a meal at Apple Annie’s was sure to turn the day around.

Welcome to Apple Annie's

Everything about Apple Annie’s reminded me of Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner (the restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm) – from the line outside, to the casual country decor, and Apple Anne’s even had Knott’s Berry Farm jam!  Unfortunately, Apple Annie’s doesn’t live up to the same hype as Mrs. Knott’s.

The menu was pretty simple – sandwiches, salads, hot entrees and burgers.  Since I’m a bundle of fun with my food allergies, I decided to go with a grilled cheese sandwich and a salad.  The salad came out first.

Would you like some salad with your dressing?

Unfortunately, this was a bit disappointing.  The lettuce was brown on the edges and the vegetables were kind of flimsy.  I ended up pushing a lot of the salad around and not really eating it.

Then came the grilled cheese.  In theory this sandwich would be awesome, but alas it was not.

Say no to American Cheese

The sourdough bread was tasty, but the plastic-tasting American cheese that was on the inside was NOT.  I was disappointed because grilled cheese sounded good, but at least I had Apple Annie’s apple bread to look forward to (more on that later).

My dad and the Englishman had the french dip sandwich with fries and they both seemed to enjoy their sandwiches.

Sandwich Success!

My mom had a chicken salad but apparently I felt the salad was not worthy to be photographed.  Sorry, mom.

After lunch we wandered into a couple more shops and ended up buying some homemade apple butter that looked good.

Apple Butter for the Win. Best purchase all day.

Finally, it was time to wave the white flag and head on home.  It was evident that we were going to leave Oak Glen without any apples to our name.  But we did have apple bread to look forward to.

Once we got home the Englishman and I decided to try some of the famous Apple Annie’s apple bread.  After one bite we realized this was not apple bread but actually a sugary sweet apple cake.  Apple BREAD this was not.

Apple Cake masquerading as Apple Bread

While it may seem like the trip to Oak Glen was a total bust, we actually ended up having a bit of fun.  It was nice to get out of the city for a while, and the Oak Tree Village was a bit of a hoot, even if the food wasn’t that good.

If you have a hankering for serious apple picking, Oak Glen is not your best bet.  But if you have a hankering for a giant apple pie, petting zoos, cinnamon sugar almonds and an old-time gun show, then Oak Glen’s your place.

An Ode to Mid-Wilshire Dining in LA

I may be an O.C. girl, but I called LA my home for 8 years when I went there for college and then lived/worked there in the few years that followed.

While I have a love/hate relationship with LA at times, some of my fondest memories are from that city as well – from late night eats and drinks with friends, to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, and weekend brunches.  Before I moved to Orange County last year, I spent 2.5 years living in the Mid-Wilshire area of LA and was a hop, skip, and a jump from LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits.

Living next to LACMA was great, but what I really miss about Mid-Wilshire is the delicious food.  The area is just crawling with good restaurants (and they seem to keep adding more!) and I had many a good meal during my 2.5 year stint in the area.

So if you ever happen to fancy yourself in this area of Los Angeles, here’s a guide to some of the best that Mid-Wilshire has to offer.

Best Breakfast/Brunch:  Cafe Verona on La Brea

Cafe Verona is literally located behind a Pep Boys auto parts store on La Brea, but don’t let that fool you.  The cafe has a delightful garden patio that is perfect for weekend brunching.  The cafe is known for their delicious frittatas, french toast, and freshly pressed paninis.  Cafe Verona is only open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch and closes at 5pm everyday.

Honorable Mention:  Toast on 3rd Street

Another delicious option but always a massive crowd.  Plan ahead and get there early.

Best Lunch:  Joan’s on Third on 3rd Street

Joan’s on Third is a food mecca – half the restaurant is a gourmet market/bakery and the other half has prepared salads, sandwiches, and other dishes that are made fresh to order.  The place is always bustling and their food is GOOD.  I still dream of their delicious grilled vegetable and goat cheese sandwich.  And don’t forget to get a cupcake.  A vanilla cupcake to be exact.  It’s life changing.

Honorable Mention: The Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya on 3rd

Yummy, yummy sushi.  Get the spicy tuna on crispy rice.  This is a good celeb spotting spot as well.

Best Casual Dinner:  Little Next Door on 3rd

If you are looking for a casual dinner with a friend or a place to take family – Little Next Door is your spot.  It’s a cute French cafe where most of the waiters are actually french.  I almost always get the French Onion Soup when I dine there, although the Butternut Squash is quite amazing as well.  For a more upscale French dining experience, head next door to The Little Door.

Honorable Mention: The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax

The Original Farmer’s Market has a wide array of dining options – Brazilian, French, American, Japanese, you name it, they have it.  It’s a great place to take a lot of people who have very different food tastes.

Best Date Spot: Pizzeria Mozza on Highland

The food gods must have been looking down on me because Pizzeria Mozza just opened in Newport Beach, which means I get to enjoy their squash blossoms without having to make the hour drive to LA.  Mario Batalli and Nancy Silverton brought Pizzeria Mozza to life so you know it must be good.  And it is.  Try the Goat Cheese, Leek, and Bacon pizza.

Honorable Mention:  Luna Park on La Brea.

I mean, at what other restaurant can you share Goat Cheese fondue and homemade smores with your significant other?  Didn’t think so.

Best Drinks:  El Carmen on 3rd.

I love, love, love El Carmen.  The inside of the bar has pictures of famous luchadores, and the ceiling has bamboo shaped fans.  El Carmen is best known for their blood orange margarita, but their strawberry margarita is also a favorite.

Honorable Mention: Lola’s on Fairfax.

Lola’s is technically slipping into West Hollywood territory, but their martinis are so good that they deserve a mention.  Lola’s has a great happy hour as well.

Best Bakery:  Susina on Beverly

My love affair with Susina began towards the end of my time in LA, but I’m glad I discovered them when I did.  They have delicious pastries, custom made cakes, and a wide variety of coffee and teas.  Plus the decor is oh so cute!

Honorable Mention:  Doughboys on 3rd (where else?)

Doughboys doesn’t have the name Doughboys for nothing.  And their Red Velvet cake is famous.  And quite tasty.

Red Velvet Cake get in mah Belly

These are just a few of my favorite LA eats – so next time you are in the Mid-Wilshire area, check them out and let me know what you think!

Where’s your favorite place in LA to get some good eats?