Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine Lab (Costa Mesa)


Wine Lab anyone?  I had the opportunity to finally go to Wine Lab located at The Camp in Costa Mesa with an old colleague of my.  She too took the plunge and decided to find a new job so we went there to celebrate.  I have passed by here so many times, it was beginning to be a joke that I had never gone.

One of the first things you will notice is their amazing happy hour deal.  Red or white wine flights for only $8.  Each pour is 2 ounces which is perfect for sampling so I decided to go with the red wine flight before I even had a chance to look over the rest of the menu.  We also ordered a few appetizers to pair with our wine.  We sat down at the bar and behind us they were projecting the movie Spaceballs.  Classic.  I grew up appreciating Mel Books films and I can say that Spaceballs is my favorite.  I took this as a good sign.

Now you will have to pardon me as I do not have all the detail of the wine tasted, but I did take a few notes.  When you order the flight our server informed us that it was preset for each day and the flights vary depending on the day and what is available.  They are served to you in test tubes vials so you can pour at your own leisure.  Being a math and science nerd, I loved the presentation!  I also loved the forethought that went into this idea as people drink at different paces and why not let them chose when they wanted the next pour.

The wines tasted were as described:
1 – 2012 Napa Organic Pinot Noir
2 – 2011 Argentinia Malbec
3 – 2009 Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Now I have to say, I was expecting to really only like the Malbec as 2012 grapes have been inconsistent, in my opinion, as have organic wines.  Also, the Chilean wines I have had are usually chalked with sediment and has an off-putting flavor to me.  Those may have been the cases in the past, not so at the Wine Lab.  I enjoyed all of them.  Okay, I really enjoyed the Chilean wine.  In fact, I liked it so much I am going back to buy a bottle that they sell for only $15!  The wine was pretty good, but when I nibbled on the gouda from Holland I was sold.  Those two were a match made in Heaven.  Seriously, I am not sure I have ever had such a perfect pairing before in my life.  And believe me, I do the research. 

We laughed, talked, ate, and drank.  A really relaxed atmosphere with a bit of fun character.  Nothing pretentious about this place and yet they have ever reason to act so.  Again, a successful restaurant/bar tried.  In fact, by the time you read this post I will have gone again. 
Wine and cheese anyone?  Come on over!

Previous Restaurants:
* East-Borough (Costa Mesa)
* Side Care Doughnuts & Café (Costa Mesa)
* House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer (Laguna Beach)

Friday, July 26, 2013

House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer (Laguna Beach)

House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

So despite my lack of blogging, I have been busy.  I started a new job two weeks ago and am really enjoying the change.  I also found out that I got into graduate school and have been scrambling to get all of my documents together before the new semester starts.  Not to mention, I have been hitting up restaurants on my list.

As you remember, Pinterest had a lovely suggestion of making a list of restaurants in your area you have never gone to.  So when you are all sitting around trying to decide where to go for dinner your decision is seamless.

I have a good friend who lives down in San Clemente where I used to work.  We would get together at least once a week and have a picnic lunch or just hang out and discuss life, politics, and religion (my favorite topics).  Since I no longer work down there we are making an effort to meet half way for dinner and I suggested a restaurant off of my list, House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer.  I have actually wanted to go here for years and am so glad that I finally made it happen.

Warning: summer time in Laguna Beach means an influx of tourists not to mention Pageant of the Masters traffic so parking came be quite a....well you know.

House of Big Fish is located south of Broadway Street on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.  The exterior seating offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and is absolutely gorgeous at sunset.  The hostess was actually great and let us sit in the reserve section overlooking the water as a spot had just opened up so we lucked out.  Next, them menu.  My friend and I were so enamored with the menu choices that we decided to order a few things and sample each. 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops House of Big Fish Laguna Beach
I opted for the Bacon Wrapped Scallops that came on a bed of sweet corn & wild mushroom risotto.  She ordered the Lobster Risotto with mushroom, asparagus, and Parmesan.  Sides are sold separately so considering were had a lot of starch we ordered roasted brussel sprouts (sans gorgonzola) and a kale salad.  I immediately fell in love with the perfectly succulent scallops and the golden brown crisped bacon which was also perfectly cooked.  Then the risotto...I am not sure if it was because I had not had rice in quite a while or what, but I could have licked the pan to gather every morsel left.  She felt the same about the lobster risotto.  Our sides where just okay, but I have a feeling they would have been over shadowed by the entrées anyway.  brussel sprouts needed to be a bit more cooked and the salad needed a bit more texture.
Lobster Risotto at House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

No dessert here, we were quite full.  And yes, I know you are going to ask about the beer.  I did not have any.  I don't like beer.  I ordered a glass of the La Crema and called it a night.  By all means, if you head here, please do try their beers.
Kale Salad & Roasted Brussel Sprouts at House of Big Fish Laguna Beach

In conclusion, I am so glad I went.  Loved the atmosphere, the food, and the company.  I will be hitting this place up again soon.

Previous Restaurants:
* East-Borough (Costa Mesa)
* Side Care Doughnuts & Café (Costa Mesa)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee (Costa Mesa, CA)


I was shopping at Whole Foods this week getting the essentials.  You know, coffee and wine.  While checking out the cashier commented on my coffee and asked if I had ever tried Stumptown Coffee that Sidecar Doughnuts sold.  Excuse me!?  It was like this guy knew that doughnuts were my absolute kryptonite and what the heck was Sidecar Doughnuts?!?  He explained it was a new "doughnutery" that opened up in Costa Mesa and if I liked Intelligentsia Coffee I would like Stumptown Coffee.  Needless to say that Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee made my list of restaurants to try immediately.

I went home, told the family, and we made a Saturday morning breakfast date.

Sidecar Donuts is a new doughnut and coffee house located on 17th Street in East Side Costa Mesa.  Hours  of operation are 6:30a - 4:00p daily.  Unique flavors of doughnuts made fresh daily from only the best ingredients.

You walk in and to the little shop and are immediately confronted with amazing smells from their kitchen calling you to sample not just one, but maybe another doughnut as well.

And that people, is why you travel in packs (Insert wolf pack joke here).  We ordered a bunch of doughnuts and cut them up to share.  My top two I wanted to try turned out to be my favorite.
Maple Bacon Doughnut straight out the oven anyone?!?!  I have to say, I thought the maple bacon doughnut I had at the Orange County Fair last year was the best, but this rivaled that donut and it is much more convenient all year round and at a greatly reduced quantity than Fair-size food.  Yum.....yum.

My second favorite was the Monte Cristo Doughnut.

Sorry about the lack of pictures of the other ones sampled, but we were kind of eating Zombie Apocalypse style meaning everyman for himself as fast as you can!  Or, I was just in rapture from the heavenly tastes that I may have forgotten to take pictures.  You decide.  And yeah, you see that bacon?  It was cooked to perfection!


And of course after all of that I did order the Stumptown Coffee and have to agree, it is pretty darn good.  Thank you Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, you rock!  I will be coming back.

Another restaurant checked off the list.  I cannot wait to see where I end up next!

Previous Restaurant(s):

Thursday, July 4, 2013

East-Borough (Costa Mesa, CA)


It all started with Pinterest, as do a lot of things now.  I was scrolling through random images when I came across this pin which gave me a totally great idea.


It is basically a restaurant passport.  You make a list of 50 restaurants you have never gone to in your area but have always wanted to try.  Then you have a list going when you are headed out for the night and can check them off one at a time.  Let me tell you I hate the "where should we go tonight" back and forth discussion.  Conversation avoided with this handy list!

For me, the first 20 restaurants I wanted to try came to me in a flash.  The other 30 are going to be added when they cross my mind. Any suggestions?


On the top of my list was the restaurant East-Borough located at The Camp in Costa Mesa.  The restaurant is a combination of Vietnamese and French style cooking.  The seating is an open outdoor area with a great water feature in the center that cascades from a steel sheet boasting the restaurant's name.  When I first walked up to order I was greeted with the smell of Thai Basil and knew this was going to be good. The girl at the counter made a suggestion, including telling my the correct pronunciation on a few menu items, and I took a seat next to the calming water feature.


I ordered the Grilled Pork & Green Papaya salad and a side order of baguette.  The salad was a good size and very refreshing, especially with the warm weather we are having.  In my salad was also the basil I had smelled and what tasted like a hint of tarragon leaves.  Great flavor combinations and the texture of the meat and soft and crunching greens made the meal complete.  I also liked that the dressing was on the side and you could decide how much you wanted to add the your own salad.

Did I mention the prices were also pretty good?  Well they were.  Check out the menu HERE.  My sister ordered the Vermicelli Noodles which were served with a large salad made up of mixed lettuce and herbs accompanied with an egg roll.  She seemed pretty happy with her choice.

I am already planning on coming back and ordering a Bánh Mì (Vietnamese sandwiches on baguettes).

I am glad this was the first restaurant to kick off my 50 restaurants to try.  If you are in the LA / OC / SD area in Southern California I would love some suggestions!