You Know Summer Has Started: Irvine Greek Festival

I may not always remember the exact date of the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of sunlight and official first day of Summer, but I know I can rely on when the Irvine Greek Festival weekend starts, Summer is here.

The Irvine Greek Festival ‘A Taste Of Greece’ celebrates its 36th year at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church. I found it to be a wonderful neighborhood event that takes place on the church grounds. It’s the perfect place to bring the family and enjoy great authentic Greek foods, boutique booth shops, plenty of activities for the kids, Greek dancing for the adults and a full carnival of rides for everyone.

SAMSUNG

 

I think all of our mothers told us (or forced us) to eat our spinach. It’s an easy thing to do when it comes in the delicious Spanakopita (spinach, feta, philo dough) here at the festival. It’s definitely one of my favorite Greek foods.

SAMSUNG

 

Another favorite is what is commonly called “Greek Lasagna” and Pastichio by the Greek’s. With layers of noodles, ground beef, veal or lamb, bechamel and then cheese, what’s not to love. I particularly liked the extra spoon of dripping bechamel on top, icing on the cake.

SAMSUNG

Who needs the French dish ‘Steak Frites’ when you can get freshly grilled lamb chops and Greek Fries. The chops were perfectly juicy and seared off beautifully.

SAMSUNG

Now here is a Greek dish I hadn’t heard of before, Saganaki. It is cheese prepared in a small frying pan and here presented on top of pita bread. The Irvine Greek Festival takes it one delicious step further by frying it in Brandy and setting it afire.  It comes out gooey and rich and finger licking good, as you smear a bit on a torn off piece of pita. If there is more than one of you, it will disappear rather quickly.

SAMSUNG

Of course it can’t be a Greek Festival without Baklava, which is there but I’ve discovered that I much prefer the Sarangli which I consider a first cousin to Baklava but much easier to eat. Sarangli is also less sweet but more complex in flavor from the roasted chopped nuts, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, glazed with honey syrup then spinkled with chopped pistachios.

The Philoptochos, St. Paul’s philanthropic group, will be baking around the clock to provide all the Greek pastries and goodies that can be eaten at the festival. They even have a baked goods counter where you can buy and take your favorites home. I’ve heard they bake an average of 14,000 individual pastries for the festival weekend.

Yes, Yes, and your other favorite Greek foods will be there: Loucanico (Greek sausage), Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), Loukoumathes (Greek doughnut holes), Calamari and Greek Salad to name a few. As an added bonus, you might run into a very nice man with a big generous smile, who offers you a free shot of Ouzo. If you do, be sure to reply with a hearty “OPAH!”

SAMSUNG

 

P1060612

 

One of my most favorite things to do after I happily stuffed myself on all the great Greek food is to go into the church and gaze up at the stunning mosaic dome,  ringed with Saints captured in stained glass. It a breathtaking sight. I’ll find an empty pew, slide down a bit, lean back and look upward. It’s a serene way to end a meal and I’m sure it aids in my digestion.

If you’d like free admission, print up the flyer below then kick of your summer with fun and good eats at Irvine Greek Festival.

Greek Fest 2014

http://irvinegreekfest.com/

 

 

Advertisements

Quick Apple Pie and Cider run to Julian, CA

It was a beautiful first day of fall morning and my buddy Jason of http://saturdaynightfoodies.com asked if I’d accompany him on a run out to Julian, CA to grab some cider and apple pie before the weekend crowds descend to congest this tiny yet quaint village for the seasonal pies they are known for. Julian is located just south of the Volcan Wilderness Preserve, in San Diego County, it’s a quick and scenic two hour drive from home in Orange County.

After an hour on the freeways and an hour on a single lane, scenic mountain road, into Julian we arrived. Sure enough, since we left at 8am, the village seemed almost deserted. Church hadn’t let out yet and the tourists hadn’t quite arrived from sleeping in on a Sunday morning. We hit the Julian Cider Mill General Store to sample cider and apple butters before purchasing gallons and jars of both, and with that we are done with Julian, out of town we go.

The most beloved of the apple pies available in Julian are the ones made by Mom’s Pies http://momspiesjulian.com on Main Street but what many seem to miss (by the crazy long lines snaking out and down the sidewalk) is that they have an outpost just outside of town that most pass on the way into town, same deliciousness, no wait.

image

image

image

image

image

It’s a cute & cozy place with friendly helpful staff. The crumb topped apple pies we ordered still needed 15 more minutes in the oven (can’t get any fresher than that) so Jason and I opted to kill the time with slices of pie and cups of fresh apple cider. They have a peaceful herb, flower & fruit tree garden with picnic tables to enjoy your sweet finds in, with bees-a-buzzing and birds-a-flitting, it’s a truly enjoyable eating location.

image

Since I was buying two whole pies of my first love , apple, I opted for a slice of my second love, strawberry rhubarb. It wasn’t too sweet and was well balanced between the rhubarb and strawberries. With our pies hot & bubbly from the oven, we get back on the road for home.

Jason was also looking for raw honey for him and his wife’s many craft cocktail experiments and recipes. We found it at the tiny Hwy 78 roadside Trumper’s Honey & Fruit Shack in the township of Santa Ysabel.

image

image

Walking into this tiny wood structure (it truly is a shack) we are a bit overwhelmed by the bottles upon bottles of the different honeys. There are about 8 to 10 honey bottles to sample of their many flavors (avocado, chipotle, habanero, citrus, lavender and others). I purchased one of raw orange, it was bright and beautifully light on the tongue.

They also sell quite a few different and unique meat jerky with boar, ostrich and kangaroo catching my attention. I’m not normally a jerky fan, but any chance to try an “exotic” meat in a unique form, I’m totally game. They have samples of the beef flavors to try but since the kangaroo was a new item, the owner had opened a package to try himself and was happy to share it with Jason and I. It was different than any meat jerky I’ve had.

image

It was tender and the flavor was specifically marsupial (or so I’ll assume). I liked it and loved the lingering black pepper warmth throughout my mouth. I had to buy a package, now let’s see who will try it with me.

What a fun day to kick off the Fall season and with it still early in the apple season, a return trip may be just around the corner.

FREE TIX to Rock in the New Year at The OC Fair’s NYE Block Party!

Yes, it’s that time again and I am one guy who is really looking forward to it PLUS I’ve a pair of tickets to give away!

Last year’s OC Fair New Year’s Eve Block Party at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa was a total blast. It was one of the best NYE events I’ve ever attended. It was the perfect size, plenty to see and do, with lots of festive revelers all having a great time in a safe environment.

NYE Block Party!

This year has an even better selection of Food Trucks than last, Dogzilla and The Burnt Truck being two of my favorite. The tribute bands sound like the real deal and they will get your ass-a-shakin.

I’m getting more excited with every key stroke!

For further info on the event and tickets: NYE BLOCK PARTY

Now, for a chance to WIN a pair of general admission tickets valued at $85 for the party to end 2012 with: Comment below with what you’ll miss about this past year and what you are looking forward to in 2013.

See, not too difficult and I’m looking forward to your comments.

I’ll select the winner on Christmas Day!

A Blood Orange Fizz & Easter Brunch

Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is serving up an exceptionally delectable Easter Brunch for the April 8th holiday. Fleming’s will also be serving the below special brunch menu on Mothers Day and for Fathers Day as well.

This Blood Orange Fizz alone has my tongue a tingling for a taste. It will only be available for this special Easter Brunch menu. New cocktails are going to be created for each Mothers Day and Fathers Day.

Brunch hours on April 8th,  Easter Sunday, are 11:30 AM to 3 PM. The prix fixe menu, offering mouth-watering choices in each course, is $34.95 per person with a children’s version for $16.95. Blood Orange Fizz, the new brunch cocktail bright with citrus flavors, is offered at a special price of $6.95. Fleming’s traditional a la carte menu will also be available.

“Sunday Brunch always brings back memories of great family get-togethers and traditional dishes,” said Russell Skall, Fleming’s Excutive Chef who created the menu. “There are four excellent entrees, but my favorites are the Filet Mignon Benedict and the New Orleans-Style French Toast—both modern classics that don’t get any better.”

FLEMING’S EASTER BRUNCH MENU

Celebration Cocktail
BLOOD ORANGE FIZZ $6.95
A refreshing brunch concoction: exotic Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur,
Stoli Vodka, fresh lemon juice and a splash of club soda

Choice of Appetizer
THE WEDGE
iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes, red onions and crumbled blue cheese

FRESH FRUIT MEDLEY
berries, melon, pineapple, sour cream and honey sauce

Choice of Entrée
FILET MIGNON BENEDICT
sliced filet mignon and egg on an English muffin with herb béarnaise
sauce and tomato concassé

NEW ORLEANS-STYLE FRENCH TOAST
Grand Marnier battered brioche, maple syrup and country sausage

FLEMING’S FRITTATA –  choice of Shrimp or Filet Mignon
egg, mushroom, asparagus, onion, red pepper and gruyère cheese

STEAKHOUSE FILET MIGNON COBB
fresh greens with blue cheese, cucumber, egg, bacon, avocado, tomato
and red onion balsamic vinaigrette

Entrées served with:
POTATOES O’BRIEN peppers and onions
SAUTEED GREEN BEANS mushrooms and toasted almonds

Choice of Dessert
WHITE CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
bourbon crème anglaise

CREME BRULEE
creamy Tahitian vanilla bean custard served with fresh seasonal berries

WALNUT TURTLE PIE
homemade caramel, walnuts and chocolate in a chocolate pie crust

For Locations, children’s brunch menu and Online Reservations, click HERE

Hope to see you there, in your Easter Sunday best!

Win Tickets To The OCfair’s New Year’s Eve Block Party 2011!

Got plans for New Year’s Eve???  WELL YOU DO NOW!

The talented people who bring you the OC Fair every summer, return with their 2nd annual NEW YEAR’S EVE BLOCK PARTY, Saturday night the 31st of December 7:30pm-1:30am. This is gonna rock, and unlike other NYE celebrations, OC Fair’s NYE Block Party has so many fun things to watch, do AND eat (my particular favorite)!

New this year is the Casino, where high rollers will be able to ‘gamble’ for some fantastic prizes.

All attendees will also be enjoying rides, the bands and at midnight, a pyrotechnic show to ring in 2012!

 

So many awesome GFTs to choose from. I’m personally salivating for The Greasy Wiener, Grilled Cheese Truck, Taco Maria, Chunk N Chip, Baconmania and The Burnt Truck. I may just have to bring to a cooler to take home good eats for New Year’s Day.

You probably will see (hopefully not hear) me singing my heart out to the RIO – the Duran Duran tribute band.

So in order to win these TWO tickets, to a sure bet fun time, leave a comment below with what you are looking forward to  in the new year. I know I can’t wait for more great eats and a culinary adventure to Portland’s food cart courts and a Tillamook Cheese Factory tour just over the New Year hump.

Video fun from last year’s NYE Block Party can be previewed here.

I will announce the WINNER on Christmas Day? or Christmas Eve? Tag in your comments below what you’d like better, winning tickets as a stocking stuffer OR as an awesome Christmas Gift?

Looking forward to seeing you there and sharing an OC Fair NYE Block Party drink with you!

OC Fair & Event                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       88 Fair Drive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Costa Mesa, CA  92626                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ocfair.com/blockparty

I’m Judging at the OC Fair 2011

I’ll have the honour of being one of three judges for the OC Fair’s “Let’s Eat!” Chowdown this Thursday August 11th at 4:30pm. The OC Fair has been having the fun competition of Fair Food vs. Food Truck Fare every thursday afternoon for the duration of the fair’s engagement. I’ve been witness to two of the ‘Chowdowns’ so far and they are a lot of fun.

I’ll be judging alongside seasoned veteran judge Suki Beasla of the EatSukiEat food blog and a yet known to me, third judge…very exciting this all is. The entertaining emcee for both Chowdown events will be the returning Dan Iehl of the GourmetFoodtrk blog.

The event I’ll be judging is the second round of Deep-Fried Desserts competition. It’ll be between the OC Fair’s very own Chicken Charlie, renown for their deep-fried Twinkies, and well…just about anything and everything deep-fried and the popular and local The OC Food Truck.

Click the pic for a bigger and clearer view.

I hope to see some of you there, cheering on both competitors. Make sure you let me know you are there, say hi and introduce yourself.

Til then, Great Eats!