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2011 Food Highlights

As 2011 wraps to a close I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the dining adventures that I had over the past year.  There were some highs, there were some lows (cough Ecco) but overall it was a great year for food.  I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings!  I already have some places on my must try list…

Here is the best of the best for 2011:

Best Organic Restaurant:  True Food Kitchen

My love affair with True Food Kitchen began early this year and hasn’t let up since.  I love the breakfasts, the freshly made hummus, the light flatbreads and of course the mojitos.  There will definitely be more True Food Kitchen in 2012.

Best Italian:  Cucina Alessa

Cucina Alessa is by far the best Italian restaurant I’ve been to in the O.C.  All the pasta is freshly made and the butternut squash ravioli is something else.  If you are looking for the real deal when it comes to Italian food, this is your place.

Best Mexican:  Mi Casa in Cabo San Lucas, MX

Mariachis, margaritas the size of your head and authentic Mexican cuisine.  Does it get any better?  I think not.  The chicken enchiladas were the best ones I’ve had in a long time.

Best Bar:  SideDoor

SideDoor was an early discovery in 2011 and I’m sad to say I haven’t been back since.  I loved the pub feel, loved the food, and loved the wine.  More return trips are in my future.

Best Burger:  Paul Martin’s American Grill

Paul Martin’s breathed fresh life into Irvine’s dining scene and I hope to see more places like this in 2012.  The burger I had was cooked to perfection and was incredibly juicy and flavorful.  The dirty martini that went with the burger didn’t hurt either.

Best Dessert: Sugar Blossom Bake Shop

Sugar Blossom Bake Shop was a refreshing change from your standard cupcake-chain fare. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Sprinkles, but I also loved the delicious cupcakes and unique flavors that Sugar Blossom had to offer.  In addition to cupcakes Sugar Blossom has cookies and other treats, namely a chocolate covered macaroon that I basically had a love affair with.  The carrot cake cupcake comes in a close second.

Best Bakery/Breakfast:  C’est Si Bon

C’est Si Bon isn’t new to Orange County, but it was a new discovery to me this year.  The scones are amazing, the croissants are nice and flaky and there is always a line out the door.  That should tell you something right there.

Best Cheap Eats:  Bruxie

Waffle sandwiches that are freshly made at a cheap price?  Sign me up.  Bruxie makes delicious waffle sandwiches with delectable fillings such as eggs and bacon, fried chicken and pastrami.  If you are skeptical about the idea of a waffle sandwich fear not – these sandwiches are a must try.

And that’s a wrap for 2011!  Bring on the good eats 2012!

Current Foodie Favorites: July Edition

Welcome to another edition of current foodie favorites!  To see last month’s foodie favorites check it out here.

This month it’s all about delicious summery foods and new discoveries.  And iced tea.  Lots and lots of iced tea.

So here we go….

1. Homemade Hummus

Why I haven’t jumped on the homemade hummus train sooner I’ll never know.  And it’s so easy peasy to make.

Step 1: Buy garbanzos from bulk bins at Whole Foods (or Henry’s, or Sprouts, etc.).

Step 2: Soak Garbanzos overnight and then boil the next day.

Step 3: Blend garbanzos, tahnini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper (and any other mix ins) in your food processor.

Looks kind of weird, tastes amazing. Promise.

Step 4:  Devour and repeat.

2. Iced Tea and Starbucks Tumblers

Ever since I got myself one of these bad boys:

Starbucks Cold Cup for the Win. Bottle of wine not included.

I’ve been on the iced tea train.  Naturally I’m a big fan of Starbucks’ black iced tea or their iced tea/lemonade combo but I also just like making my own tea at home with the Newman’s Own Royal Tea Blend with a slice of lemon.  So good.

3. Pasta Salads

Since it’s hot out, it’s fun to experiment with different types of cold salads.  This latest pasta creation was a hit but still needs some tweaking.  Recipe to come soon.

who doesn't love a good pasta salad?

4. Sugar Blossom Bake Shop

Move over Sprinkles, there’s a new kid in town. I’m already plotting my next visit for these delicious cupcakes.

Carrot Cake Cupcake, you are so delicious

5. Pain du Monde

Lovely little Euro-style bakery in Fashion Island.  Everything is made fresh and in-house (as evidenced by watching bakers knead bread while I placed my order).  The scones are pretty rockin’ too.

Bakery Bliss. Credit: OCweekly.com

6. The hot fudge Sundaes at Houston’s

Cause hey, we all need a little (or a lot) of ice cream in our lives during the summer.

Ice Cream overload in a bowl.

And who am I kidding?  I’m pretty obsessed with these at Houston’s as well.

Vodka Martini with Blue Cheese Olives. Oh Yeah.

Stay tuned for August’s foodie favorites next month!

Getting Sweet at Sugar Blossom Bake Shop

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Sugar Blossom Bake Shop in downtown San Clemente and meeting with the bakery’s owner, Lei Shishak.  Tucked off the corner of Del Mar Ave, this cute as a button bakery offers cupcakes, cookies and customizable birthday cakes made fresh daily with all natural and organic ingredients.  Sugar Blossom Bake Shop also has a variety of allergy-friendly items as well including gluten-free treats and nut-free cupcakes.

What sets Sugar Blossom apart from other bakeries is that nothing is “off-limits.”  Lei is constantly coming up with new dessert ideas, and is always looking to find the next treat her customers are sure to love! The bake shop offers a standard menu but also includes seasonal specials such as pumpkin cupcakes in the fall and a guiness-infused cupcake around St. Patrick’s Day.  Customizable cakes can be ordered for birthdays and other special occasions, and a real treat is the Macadamia Nut Cinnamon Rolls that Sugar Blossom offers every Sunday.

Since I was planning on doing some serious cupcake taste testing it only made sense that the Englishman came along for the ride.  We decided to try some cupcakes and cookies including some of Lei’s favorites.

Carrot Cake Cupcake: This cupcake was light and moist and had a nice cream cheese frosting.  I personally LOVED the fact that there were no nuts in the cupcake since most carrot cake cupcakes usually have walnuts (and I’m allergic).  It had a nice spice as well.  The Englishman would like to note that this was his favorite of the bunch.

Triple Chocolate Cupcake (with patriotic sprinkles!):  Lei mentioned it was a favorite and I can see why.  It had the right amount of decadent chocolate flavor without being too overly sweet.  It tasted like a perfect mini chocolate cake.

S’mores Cupcake:  This cupcake was fun!  It had gooey marshmallows with graham cracker dust on the outside and more marshmallow goodness on the inside.  Definitely the most decadent of the cupcakes but delicious.  Also a hit among English people.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroon (gluten-free):  This was by far my favorite and I practically devoured it in one bite!  I loved the toasted coconut and then the melted chocolate on the bottom.  A great combination.  Plus it’s a great gluten-free option as well.

Caramel Pecan Thumbster:  So much caramel!  It literally oozed out with each bite.  Another customer favorite.  Loved it with the chocolate and pecan as well.

After entering into a sugar coma, the Englishman and I chatted with Lei some more (she’s super sweet) and then decided to take some goodies for the road: another coconut macaroon, a lemon meringue cupcake and the oatmeal toffee cherry cookie (both unfortunately went unpictured).

Well, the oatmeal toffee cherry cookie was promptly devoured later that evening (so good!) and we delivered the other two goods to my parents’ house while stealing a sample or two for ourselves 😉  The lemon meringue cupcake had great lemon flavor and the meringue was so light and fluffy!  My only regret is that I didn’t get one from the bakery for myself!

Suffice it to say I’ll definitely be making a return trip to Sugar Blossom Bake Shop.  I loved the vibe of the bakery – from the local artwork and pictures of kids enjoying cupcakes on the wall to the freshly made cookies and cupcakes on display just waiting to be eaten.  I also love how the bakery will make custom cakes and cupcakes to order and there are plenty of allergy free options available as well!   Thanks Lei for letting us try your treats – we’ll definitely be back.  Gotta make sure I get my chocolate coconut macaroon/lemon meringue cupcake/oatmeal toffee cherry cookie fix!

Sugar Blossom Bake Shop

204 Avenida Del Mar, Suite F

San Clemente, California 92672