Category Archives: Gastropub

Fireside Tavern in Costa Mesa

I’m very lucky to live in a part of Orange County where delicious new food establishments seem to be popping up all over the place.  I had heard a lot of great things about the Fireside Tavern in Costa Mesa for quite some time now and the Englishman and I finally decided to give it a shot.

What makes Fireside Tavern unique is that it is located inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  I’ll admit, I was first turned off by the idea of dining at a hotel restaurant, but after reading that Chef Scott Brandon (who also opened The Crow Bar and Kitchen and Linx) was behind the helm, I decided to go check out Fireside Tavern with an open mind.

The restaurant has a nice, cozy pub feel to it and a great outdoor patio space so it almost feels like you aren’t in a hotel at all.  The bar offers a variety of different beers on tap, a selection of various wines and some signature cocktails.  The Englishman and I decided to dine at the bar and started our evening off with a glass of wine and a beer.

Fireside Tavern in Costa Mesa DrinksFor our starter course, we went with the Charcuterie and Cheese Board which came with a variety of different cheeses, meats and a grilled seedy bread.

Fireside Tavern in Costa Mesa meat and cheeseThis board had a great selection of meats and cheeses and was the perfect start to our meal.  I would’ve liked to have seen what cheeses were included on the board (I think it was goat, blue, gouda and cheddar) but it was still tasty regardless.

For dinner, the Englishman went with the Tavern Mac n’ Cheese which was cooked in a small cast iron skillet and came with homemade noodles and sausage and a variety of different cheeses.

fireside tavern in costa mesa mac n cheeseI don’t usually order mac n’ cheese at restaurants and only had a couple bites of his, but it was good.  The sausage and cheese complemented each other perfectly and I loved the peppery watercress that was placed on top for garnish. They served it with kaiser rolls on the side.

I went with the Tavern Cobb which came with egg, avocado, bacon, turkey, lettuce, tomato and cheese.

fireside tavern in costa mesa cobbCobb salads aren’t necessarily the most exciting thing to order, but when they are good, they are good.  This one was good.  The turkey and bacon both had a nice smoky flavor to it which really enhanced the salad.

We also split an order of the Hand-Cut Fries which came with a spicy ketchup and lemon aioli.

fireside tavern in costa mesa friesI loved the little spicy kick that came with the ketchup and thought the fries were cooked to perfection and perfectly seasoned.  I don’t know if it was just because we had gone for a 7 mile run earlier in the day and I was craving salt, but the fries were some of the best I’ve had in a long time.

When it came to dessert, I wasn’t feeling inspired by any of the options, but when our waiter told us that the Adult Milk and Cookies came with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies made in-house I was sold.

fireside tavern in costa mesa cookiesI’m convinced nothing beats a delicious chocolate chip cookie and these cookies delivered.  They were warm and had the right balance of chewiness and crispiness to them.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of the adult milk made with baileys and vodka, but it was a fun spin on a classic childhood dessert.

I was really impressed by the Fireside Tavern.  I love that they do happy hour 7 days a week (from 3-7!) and have a seasonal menu.  I can definitely see myself returning here and trying some of their other offerings like the roast chicken, burger and grilled cheese.  And of course the fries.

Wine and Beer Flights at SideDoor

One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon is wine tasting, so when I heard there were new wine and beer flights at SideDoor, the Englishman and I had to check it out.

Since SideDoor is one of our favorite places to grab a drink, I knew the wine flights would be delicious.  Southern California still hasn’t gotten the menu that it is fall yet (and I still went and bought new boots on Saturday), so I decided to go with a white wine flight.

sidedoor new wine flightMy three tastes were brought out on a little wooden door and included the Nacina Riesling, the Adriatico Friulano, and the Le Pich Sauvignon Blanc.

Out of the three that I tasted, the Riesling was my favorite followed by the Friulano and then the Sauvignon Blanc.  The Friulano was definitely an interesting blend of wine that I’d like to try again in the future, and the Sav Blanc was good, but nothing groundbreaking.   Since the riesling was my favorite, I decided to order a glass of that as well.

The Englishman went the beer tasting route and ordered 4 tasters including the Anchor Bigleaf Maple Autumn Red, New Belgium Plout, Alesmith X Extra Pale Ale and the Moylans Dragoons Dry Irish Stout.

SideDoor beer flightI tasted all of the beers and personally preferred the pale ale, but the Englishman thought the Autumn Red and Irish Stout were the clear standouts.  Obviously you can tell what our beer preferences are.

In between all the drinking we found ourselves craving something salty, so we ordered some Stilton Cheese Potato Chips topped with crispy prosciutto.

Sidedoor Stilton ChipsThese chips are made in-house at SideDoor, and are dangerously good.  The prosciutto cheese and salty chip combo is just fantastic, and tastes even better with some wine.

SideDoor Chips and Wine FlightIf you are looking to try some unique beers or some delicious wine, then definitely check out the beer and wine flights at SideDoor.  And get some Stilton chips on the side.  Just trust me.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

For awhile now, I’ve been on the hunt to find a local watering hole “Where everybody knows your name.”  I love the idea of just having a cozy pub to go down to for a drink that isn’t pretentious, has a good vibe and a nice crowd.

I’ve sampled a few places over the past few months, but none of them felt like “my pub.”  Then I went to Wild Goose Tavern.  Wild Goose is a new pub in the area, and after reading numerous reviews on Yelp, the Englishman and I felt it was high time we check it out.  And apparently my excitement also equals blurry photography.

We decided to go in the late afternoon on the weekend, and when we arrived the place was already full with people playing pool and watching football on tv.  We grabbed a couple of glasses of wine and found a seat not too long after while admiring the woodsy decor (this place definitely has a man cave vibe).

Wild Goose specializes in signature cocktails (especially of the whiskey variety), but also has a variety of beers on tap and a few wine selections.  The tavern also serves more “gourmet” food such as a Kobe beef or wild boar sausage, sweet potato tots, and a caprese burger.  I saw a couple people enjoying the caprese burger and it made my mouth water.

I have to say that I was quite impressed with the Goose on my first visit.  It just had a nice, neighborhood feel to it, and I can definitely seeing this being my “Cheers” bar.  Of course, I have to stop by a few more times to see if it will become the bar where everybody knows my name,  but as of right now, Wild Goose Tavern has taken the lead.







A Day at Stone Brewing Company

The Englishman loves beer (you know being from London and all) and loves trying new brews.  So for his birthday it only made sense that we took a little day trip to one of Southern California’s most well-known breweries: Stone Brewing Company.

For those of you who are not familiar with Stone, they are the brewmakers behind such beers as Arrogant Bastard, Stone Ruination IPA and Stone Imperial Russian Stout to name a few.  Their beers are bold, strong, and have character.  I figured this would be the perfect place to take the Englishman so we hopped on the train and headed south to Escondido.

Stone is located in a very industrial part of Escondido with nothing but buildings and factories surrounding it.  But step inside the brewery and you’ll find a bistro, beer garden and outdoor patio that will make you feel like you are anywhere but in an industrial park.  After discovering the brewery tours were sold out, we decided to do our own little beer tasting and relax in the beer garden.

Lovely Summer Day for a Beer

Despite the fact that it was quite hot out, I LOVED the garden.  There are lots of benches and tables so you can just sit outside and enjoy the scenery while drinking your beer.  There’s plenty of room back there so you don’t feel like you are crowded in at all.

To begin, the Englishman went with the Arrogant Bastard Ale:

Three Cheers for Beer!

The verdict?  He liked it, even though it was quite strong (definitely too strong for my liking).  It had a lot of “character” as promised and was definitely strong.  I rolled with the Stone Pale Ale but thought it was a bit too bitter.

*Disclaimer: I can be a bit of weenie when it comes to beers – I usually stick with the pale ale or wheat types, so take my reviews with a grain of salt.

We had made reservations to dine at their bistro, and with tummies rumbling we sat down to lunch inside with a nice view of the gardens. Given that there is not much else around near Stone, the bistro was PACKED.  I did like how they stated on the menu that there was no High Fructose Corn Sryup used in any of their dishes.  Score for me.

For his next beer the Englishman went with the Stone Imperial Russian Stout which was his favorite of the day.  Even me, the beer weenie, really enjoyed this beer also.  It’s quite heavy and would be the perfect drink during the winter.

Blurry Stout Picture

I went with a Hefewizen for my 2nd beer and also had a strawberry-infused iced tea that was absolutely delicious.

Now this is more my style

On the food front, we started with the Spud Buds – mashed potatoes deep-fried in an Arrogant Bastard Ale batter.  Clearly light is not the name of the game at Stone.

Little Fried Balls of Happiness

The spuds were good – they had nice flavor and the mashed potatoes inside were nice and creamy.  Another favorite of the day.

On the entrée front I decided to roll with the Bruschetta BLT Sandwich with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Blue Cheese on a Ciabatta Roll.

This doesn't look like ciabatta...

Honestly it was just alright.  They must not have had Ciabatta in-house because the sandwich came on a Hawaiian Sweet Roll which kind of threw off all of the flavors.  I was a fan of the additional mashed potatoes on the side though.  I had high expectations for this sandwich and it just fell kind of flat.

The same could be said for the Englishman’s entrée of Artisanal Sausages and Cabbage.

Artisanal Sausage aka Spice magnets

He loved the cabbage but found the sausages to be a bit overseasoned and way too spicy.  The spicy polish sausage was the high point of the dish.

We finished lunch and headed back into the beer garden to let our food digest and enjoy more beer of course.  By this point the gardens were packed.  After hanging out in the sun for a while we decided to purchase a souvenir for the ride home: Stone’s Ruination IPA (we wanted to try the double dry hopped version but they were out) and hopped on the train home.

Overall, we both enjoyed Stone Brewing and both agree that you definitely want to go there for the beer, not the food as it was expensive and not memorable.  Pack snacks or a lunch to enjoy with your beer instead.  The train was also a great way to get to the brewery – highly recommended.

Thanks for the memories Stone!  We will definitely be back, especially to get more of that Russian Imperial Stout.

Stone Brewing Company

1999 Citracado Parkway

Escondido, CA 92029