Categories
Culture Restaurants

There’s A Hidden Speakeasy Inside The First Permanent US Hello Kitty Cafe

The cultural phenomenon that is Hello Kitty has opened a few popups in the United States over the last few years. These mini “cafe stands” served treats and beverages inspired by the animated feline and were beacons for fans to venture forth, visit, and get to know one another through a shared love of the iconic cat. Now, Hello Kitty is finally opening her own brick and mortar location complete with a secret immersive experience for enthusiasts to enjoy: a hidden Hello Kitty tea room and speakeasy.

Located in Irvine, CA, the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe front of house features fresh baked cakes, cookies, donuts, beverages, merchandise, and apparel — all inspired by the beloved Sanrio character.

In the back of the cafe, tucked away against the far wall, is an inconspicuous white door where a single golden bow hangs. When you knock on it, the door opens, transporting you to the wonderland known as the Hello Kitty Bow Room.

It turns out that magic comes in all shapes and sizes, including the form of a tiny white Japanese cat. Who knew?

By day, the secret space operates as a tea room that serves Hello Kitty bites and teas. Afternoon tea assortments include paprika-smoked egg salad in a cone, cucumber bread with dill cream cheese, smoked salmon served with cream cheese on a pretzel croissant, strawberries and cream, and Hello Kitty mini cakes.

At night, however, the Bow Room transforms into what’s essentially a speakeasy — complete with a wide array of cocktails inspired by Hello Kitty and her animated animal friends.

Along with the cocktails, guests can also choose from a selection of wines which are available during both the afternoon tea service and the cocktail service.

Once you’re inside the Bow Room, really take it all in and let yourself become one with the become one with the euphoric pink atmosphere. Dress to the nines, take tons of pictures, make Hello Kitty puns, and immerse yourself in the experience. How often can you really say you’ve been inside a secret Hello Kitty speakeasy?

The Hello Kitty Grand Cafe (and Bow Room) will remain inside the Irvine Spectrum Center as a permanent location. To experience the Bow Room, reservations will need to be made ahead of time by calling the store or visiting the cafe’s website.

Categories
#foodbeast Adventures FOODBEAST Restaurants SPONSORED

This Orange County Restaurant Serves Nashville Hot Frog Legs

What’s not to love about vacationing? There is no better feeling than waking up in a new place and being able to explore the world around you through sights, sounds, and – of course – food.

If you’re planning a trip in the next few months, you should take advantage of the savings that participating Hilton hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County are offering. They will help you save big on those meals away from your hotel – after you’ve exhausted the expansive breakfast buffet, of course.

If you’re looking for a recommendation, check out the Nashville Hot Frog Legs at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations when you stay at the Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport. With an Instagram-worthy menu and full-bar, Bosscat has something for everyone in your party.

With the Hilton Los Angeles/Orange County Dine in/Dine Out package, you will receive up to 20 percent off your tab at participating local restaurants and unique foodie experiences.

As winter comes to a close, the welcoming shores of Los Angeles and Orange County will soon be ready for outdoor activities and there’s no shortage of amazing restaurants to try after you’ve worked up a sweat or just spent the day relaxing soaking in the sun.  

Los Angeles and Orange County have some of the most vibrant food communities in Southern California, ranging from high-end five course meals to quick to savory bites, like those found at the Anaheim Packing District. With Hilton’s Dine In/Dine Out package you’ll be able to experience it all.

Photos by Evan Lancaster


Created in partnership with Hilton Hotels

Categories
Cravings Restaurants

This Restaurant Reimagines ‘French Onion Soup’ As A Mouthwatering Burger

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French onion is hands-down one of our favorite soups of all time. The dish is made typically from a beef stock and an onion base. The soup is topped with a giant crouton or a slice of bread and finished with a topping of gruyere cheese.

Imagine a world where the intense flavors of the onion-based broth were incorporated into another savory dish: the hamburger.

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The Stand, a newly opened fast casual restaurant in Irvine, CA, does a pretty unique take on the classic French dish. Patrons can order the French Onion Soup Burger which features a hefty beef patty, a double parmesan crusted bun, gruyere cheese, red wine braised onions, and crispy onion strings.

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After a traditional French Onion soup is made, the onions are removed, strained, and placed on the assembled burger with crispy onions as a contrast. The soup itself is served on the side as an au jus-like dip to enjoy your burger with.

Kind of a brilliant way to have you soup and eat it, too.

You can find the burger at the Stand located on 5633 Alton Pkwy, Irvine, CA.

Categories
Adventures

Grilled Cheese Indulgence at ‘The Melt’ [8 Photos]

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Now those of you following our adventures know that I have a pretty bad weakness for cheese. My body can’t take it, but my heart longs for it. Fortunately, I gave in to the latter on our recent excursion to The Melt’s location in Irvine.

At the moment, this grilled cheese joint is found only in California and known for their all-natural, indulgent menu. Check out the grilled cheese grub:

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The Mac Daddy

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A fan favorite, the Mac Daddy features aged cheddar macaroni on white and packs a super hearty taste. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to smash mac and cheese between two grilled buns and just chow down?

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The Shorty

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Look at this gooey mess of a sandwich. The Shorty sticks to the basics (meat and cheese) and pretty much nails it. It consists of  pepper jack  engulfing a generous serving of braised short ribs.

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Ordering

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The Melt’s ordering system deserves a notable mention. Customers can order whatever they want online, drive out to the store, skip the line and scan their QR code. Everything is made to order as soon as the code is scanned so you get the freshest meal possible.

Lactose intolerance aside, I’m looking forward to the next time I stop by for another helping of the Shorty.

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The Melt

 73 Fortune Drive

Space 105

Irvine, CA

Categories
Adventures

Gaufree Contends with Orange County Veteran Bruxie for Best Waffle House Title

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Specializing in creating artisan waffle sandwiches, Gaufree could very well give Bruxie, Orange County’s OG waffle sandwich house, a run for their money. So what makes Gaufree distinct from Bruxie? While both sell exceptionally crafted sandwiches made from waffles, personally (and I know there are Bruxie die-hards who will disagree) the nostalgia Gaufree’s spot offers in both its food and vibe does it for me.

Gaufree reminds me of a place you can just show up and relax while hanging out with your friends. Something along the lines of Saved By The Bells “The Max” or California Dreams‘ “Sharkey’s.” You can walk in, order your food, sit down and kick it. They even have a Do You Know Me? game at every table and an ice cream parlor in the back.

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Now, I’m not looking to start a flame war or anything, because I do enjoy Bruxie, but my money’s on the new kid on the block.

The family-owned establishment is just starting to set their roots in the area and, frankly, they’re off to a phenomenal start. Between their sandwiches and desserts, they pretty much hit the ground running. But you probably don’t want to read about how much I like it when you can see for yourself.

I’ll let my camera tell you the rest.

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Louisiana Tasso Ham with Swiss Emmental Cheese

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Hands down my overall favorite. We started off with the Louisiana Tasso-Style Ham and Swiss, which was topped with a house-made garlic aioli. Mind you, this was the first time I tried tasso ham, but I can say with honesty that I haven’t felt that special flutter in my heart since I was introduced to a little thing called pastrami.

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House Famous Pulled Pork

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A close second in Peter’s Gaufree adventure: the Pulled Pork. Soaked in their special BBQ sauce and horseradish yogurt, every bite was a medley of flavor. The best part is that the sauce soaks into the waffle bun, creating a sponge of pulled pork juiciness.

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Organic Buttermilk Fried Chicken

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Who doesn’t love chicken and waffles? Between the crispy chicken breast and the special chipotle molasses sauce, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken was a great way close out my waffle sandwich feast. Not too heavy or greasy, it left plenty of room for dessert.

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House-Made Sauces

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Ketchup. Ranch. BBQ. Garlic Aioli. All their sauces are house-made from scratch and their flavors prove it. The ranch is thick and rich, the BBQ is sweet and a little spicy and the ketchup has just the right kick to it. None of that processed crap. I  would go just for these sauces and a stack of fries alone.

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Brussels Street Waffles with Chocolate

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Now that the savory part of the tasting is over, it’s time to move onto the sweets. Gaufree’s Street Waffles are dusted with powdered sugar and served with several kinds of dessert dipping sauces. The combo made me feel like a kid again, dunking waffles in my favorite sweets.

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Peanut Butter Pie Waffle

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Peanut butter is where it’s at. The Peanut Butter Pie Waffle was, for lack of a better word, bananas! (Disclaimer: there were no bananas.) Spread with peanut butter whipped cream, more whipped cream and garnished with salted caramel and peanuts, the pie was a masterpiece George Washington Carver would be proud of.

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The waffle pie is layered with a house-made peanut butter whipped cream. Chef handed me a spoonful of this beauty and told me to put it in my mouth. Pause. Mmmm… peanut-buttery goodness.

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Raspberry Coulis

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Finally, my adventure at Gaufree ended with a taste of their Sauce & Raspberry Coulis. Ugh, just look at how sexy that looks. Now, imagine how it tasted. Exactly.

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Gaufree

3851 Alton Parkway

Irvine, CA 92606

Categories
Food Trucks

The Lime Truck Owner on Using Corporate Irvine to His Advantage [VIDEO]

The Lime Truck, season 2 winner of Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” has taken their Southern California fusion food from just one truck back in June 2010 to four roaming trucks today.

Truck owner, Daniel Shemtob, recently spoke with CNN Money in regards to his tactics in leading the bustling trend in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles.

Irvine, CA is a very interesting city to build up a food truck scene in, quite different from Los Angeles and other cities, because of the city’s suburban incorporated vibe littered with corporate and chain influences.

Shemtob mentions that he utilizes the chain restaurant atmosphere permeating throughout the city, and the lack of chef-driven restaurants in the area, to his advantage. Our guess is that the stereotypically stale environment ends up making the food trucks more glamorous and sought after. Plus, all the corporate parking lots make great food truck meetups — giving blue-collar and white-collar citizens mobile, chef-driven food courts just outside their work places.

Categories
Adventures

Delicious Chinese Food at Capital Seafood [ADVENTURE]

With locations dotting California, Nevada, and China, Capital Seafood is a family-run restaurant chain with some well-respected dim sum, fresh seafood and traditional Chinese dishes. I’ve heard great things about their food for quite some time, but it wasn’t until we were invited out to their most recent location opening in Irvine, CA that I got to taste what everyone else was talking about.

Along with some of our core FOODBEAST team, and a round table of some of OC’s eclectic food blogging illuminati, we joined Capital Seafood’s James Tea, the managing partner of the brand, for a voiced-over 11-course meal that showed off the best of restaurant’s awesome menu.

Here’s a look at what we tried, in order of how it came out:

  1. Whole Winter Melon soup with assorted seafood (Fresh Whole winter melon, shrimp, scallops, squid, crabmeat, mushroom)
  2. Filet Mignon Satay Skewers (Filet Mignon Cubes, Lemongrass)
  3. Assorted Dim Sum Platter (Sui Mai, Vegetable Eggrolls, Shrimp w/sugar cane, crab wontons, chicken potstickers) butterfly shrimp
  4. Roasted Peking Duck (Fresh Duck, scallions, starch bun, hoisin sauce)
  5. House Special Lobster w/ E-mein noodles (Lobster, scallions, spices, jalepenos, garlic, fresh noodles)
  6. Capital’s Filet Mignon Cubes (Filet Mignon, butter, garlic, spices)
  7. Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimps (Shrimp, Honey glazed walnuts, honey dew, cantaloupe)
  8. House String Beans (String Beans, garlic, spices)
  9. Pan Seared SeaBass (Seabass steak, sweet soysauce dressing)
  10. Chef’s Fried Rice (Shrimp, scallops, squid, crabmeat, eggwhites, dried scallops, Japanese Seaweed)
  11. Almond Cream Souffle (Almond, Ginko Nuts, Water chestnut Diced)

James (above) was kind enough to spend the evening at our table, explaining what each dish was at it came out, making sure we knew the effort that went into the prep and quality of each ingredient and making sure we were…let’s face it, liquored up.

To the drinks’ credit, the reasonably priced signature cocktails were exquisite. Everything from the Asian Peartini (my personal favorite) to the C-Bar Martini, everything tasted great, and went down a bit too easily.

Seafood + Watermelon in a soup? I knew I was in for some interesting stuff for the evening, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get behind this particular dish. Sure enough, it was complex and delicious. The seafood melody with the sweetness of the melon really brought multiple levels to every sip of the soup. Game changer:

Roasted Peking Duck (pictured above, and in the two photos beneath this paragraph) is a definite winner. Imagine fresh duck, scallions, starch buns and hoisin sauce in every bite. There’s a bit of a sweet aftertaste, and the duck falls apart in your mouth. Everything works fabulously together, and there’s plenty of texture in the bun and the duck to help you enjoy this dish.

Let me jump in here. The picture above is the House Special Lobster, a fabulous dish made with lobster, scallions, spices, jalapenos, garlic and fresh noodles. Arguably one of the best dishes of the night, as well as my personal favorite, The Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimps, featuring shrimp, honey glazed walnuts, honey dew and cantaloupe (get all of them in one bite and you’re in for the treat of your life).

Did someone say Whiskey? Someone did. James was kind enough to bring out the Chivas for the table, and everyone proceeded to get extra toasty. For some reason the whiskey made the Almond Cream Souffle we had for dessert even tastier. The souffle was top-notch, a concoction of almonds, ginko nuts and diced water chestnuts. Winner:

Pictured below with James is Capital‘s executive chef Erik Soukaphay, the architect behind all the dishes we’ve shown here. He came out and had a drink with us before going back to his…architectural duties. Kudos on an awesome dinner:

Capital Seafood

85 Fortune Dr Suite #329, Irvine, CA 92618
Tel: (949) 788-9218

Photos by Marc Kharrat

Categories
Adventures

Adventure: The Lime Truck

Ever since they won Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race and hearing all the buzz surrounding The Lime Truck, I knew it was time to have a proper food adventure into the heart of Orange County to grab some delicious “California fusion” food.

After a cursory glance at the menu, me and my fellow FOODBEASTS decide to get the most out of our experience and order up a number of choice dishes.

We even got to sit down and have lunch with one of the food truck’s founders Daniel Shemtob and talk a little about the Food Truck Race and the finer points of running one of OC’s premiere food truck. But back to the food…

We started off with some succulent Crab Ceviche. The citrus tangy flavor coupled the natural sweetness of the shrimp and crab definitely made this dish a great way to start off our FOODBEAST meal.

We also had some roasted corn topped with spicy remoulade sauce and cotija cheese. Because FOODBEASTs need veggies too!

The Lime Truck’s Ahi Poke Tuna Nachos really was a sight to behold. The edemame hummus really brought a splash of color and flavor to some delicious raw Ahi Tuna chunks. It was almost a shame to eat such a beautiful thing… almost. A nice way to head into some heartier dishes.

Now this had to be one of my favorites of the entire meal. The Carnitas Fries. Sour cream, guacamole and chipotle cole slaw nestled on a bed of pulled pork–What more can anyone ask for? Some fries to eat them all with, that’s what. This proved to be the messiest and therefore delicious things eaten on this venture.

Daniel concedes it’s definitely one of his favorites they serve on the menu.

Nothing finishes a meal quite like a Slammin Lambin Sangwich. I say that because after all that food and this mountain of marinated lamb, veggies and tzatziki sauce and sriracha atop a flat bread bun, your meal is definitely finished. Good thing I had my fellow FOODBEASTs to help chow down on all this delectable grub.