OC Helicopters is taking fine dining above and beyond by bringing it to the skies.
There are some moments in life that raise the bar on what qualifies as a memorable experience to a whole new level. This is the goal behind Heli-Dining, a service offered by Santa Ana-based OC Helicopters. Veteran owned and operated, the company provides six exclusive tours showcasing the coastlines of Newport Beach, Dana Point, Laguna Beach among other Southern California beach towns. Recently, the company expanded its operations to include helicopter flights to dining destinations of your choosing in locations stretching from San Diego to Santa Barbara. OC Helicopters seeks to transport guests from their everyday lives, even if only for a day or night. The team transports small groups and couples to dream locations more than a hundred miles away in a matter of minutes. And there are options within the Heli-Dining experience that cater to a variety of interests. Here’s a sampling.
Getting Your Feet Wet
If you’re a first timer when it comes to helicopter travel and just want to get a taste of the skies, OC Helicopters offers this premium ride. The ride consists of a shorter flight designed to whet your appetite, departing and returning from where you started, while still obtaining an exclusive view of the Orange County coastline. After landing back at the terminal, you then can dine in any of your choice of Orange County’s luxurious ocean-side restaurants that you just flew over. The 10-minute airtime adventure is perfect for those wanting to try out the experience of flying in a helicopter without committing to an entire evening in the sky.
Dinner and A View
If you’re looking for a night out, with dining at a restaurant in a dream location, OC Helicopters’ Heli-Dining experience picks you up at the terminal and drops you off in locations such as Palm Springs, Los Angeles, San Diego or Santa Barbara. All of these places typically take hours to reach by car, but a helicopter can get you there in just a matter of minutes. And in this case, the transportation becomes a main attraction of event. Just a few of the frequented destinations OC Helicopters has flown its VIPS to nearby helipads to then dine include Dana Point’s Monarch Beach Resort, the famed Nobu in Malibu, The Montage in Beverley Hills and the Hollywood Roosevelt boutique hotel.
A Day in Paradise
If you’re in the mood for a day-trip excursion, OC Helicopters offers flights to destinations that can afford clients five to eight hours at their destination. You can take a day trip to Santa Barbara, eat along State Street, lounge by the beach and be back in time for a comfortable dinner at home. For more of an extravagant occasion, OC Helicopters offers a lovely trip to Temecula for a day to sip wine on the countryside. The helicopters can land at the neighboring helipad or land directly at the base of beautiful remote champagne caves. Guests then have the option to sample wines, stroll through the vineyards or eat their way through Temecula’s renowned culinary delights and top restaurants.
OC Helicopters staff are known for their friendliness, and the team works to connect with their customers before and during the flight in order to create OC Helicopters staff are known for their friendliness, and the team works to connect with their guests before and during the flight in order to create a sense of trust and comfort. So, the moment you walk through the office doors to the second you land back onto the tarmac, you are only thinking about the experience, leaving all worries and stress on land. The fleet of helicopters have been a site for numerous wedding proposals, fun surprises and memorable moments. The team runs the operation out of passion, and the concept of Heli-Dining stemmed from a love for unique foodie experiences shared by the staff. So, keep reaching for the sky!
The shishito — a mild, distinctly delicious pepper originally from Japan — has made its appearance in all sorts of cuisines over the years, most notably in East Asian cooking. But one of its most recent debuts was in the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s Laguna Beach kitchen.
One dish in particular, the wood-grilled hanger steak with okra, charred tomatoes and watermelon radish, mixes tropical tastes with the unexpected mild heat of this ingredient. It’s the creation of renowned Chef Martin Molteni, who ranks among Argentina’s top chefs. He joined his brother and fellow chef, Mariano “Maro” Molteni, who formerly owned Argentina-inspired steakhouse Maro Wood Grill, in the rebirth of the Royal Hawaiian. The brothers took over ownership and operations in January, and since then, the restaurant has undergone a face-lift, an overhaul of the food and drink menu, and a rebranding. The restaurant reopened as Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill in April, and together Martin and Maro are continuing the landmark restaurant’s aloha spirit with an homage to Polynesian-inspired dishes, drinks and flavors.
“[The hanger steak] not only reflects the beautiful California summer season, but it also spotlights our real love for open wood-grill cooking, which is a cultural highlight in both Argentina, where my brother Maro and I were raised, and Polynesian culinary heritages,” says Martin. “I chose hanger steak as the protein, as it has a great deal of character and presence. When you choose hanger steak, however, every subsequent product you choose for the plate must have a strong edge in flavor, too. The shishito pepper is a perfect choice because it gives acidity, fruitiness and a soft piquant that helps to express the meat’s lovely flavor.”
Bright, slightly sweet and a little bit smoky, the shishito makes an excellent addition to dishes that require a pepper without adding too much heat. Frieda’s Specialty Produce’s Alex Berkley describes the taste of the shishito pepper as a cross between a jalapeño and a bell pepper. “They have the great taste of peppers without being overly hot,” she notes. “So I can actually taste the pepper and incorporate them with other ingredients, without them overwhelming the recipe.”
Although shishito peppers were originally from Japan, Berkley says they’re now most often sourced from Mexico. Bright green and bumpy, they’re usually about finger-length and, like many peppers, they’re naturally high in vitamin C. The seeds of the shishito are edible, and those who are more sensitive to spice need not worry much — only one in 10 shishitos reach a medium level of heat.
Often found in East Asian cuisine, the shishito offers an interesting array of flavors depending on how it’s prepared. When left raw, the crisp, thin walls of the shishito are reminiscent of a bell pepper, although it becomes much more complex when cooked. Since the shishito is quite thin-skinned, it chars and blisters easily. When paired with simple ingredients such as soy sauce or sesame oil, the distinct smokiness of the pepper shines through.“Grilled or roasted is the most common way to prepare them,” Berkley says.
And when it came to preparing their wood-grilled hanger steak, Maro and Martin wanted to go with an ingredient that would lend a light and fresh profile, while still offering a depth of flavor and strong character. “It’s a perfect summery plate that expresses all the bright and fresh produce of the season,” notes Martin.
“You might not be as Hungarian as you think you are.” These are the words that started the journey of exploring not only my cultural identity, but also the effects that genetic testing has on my ability to make more informed decisions about my health. One 23andMe test and a bespoke pop-up dinner later, I might have discovered I have a gluten intolerance. I say might because, simply put, the thought of removing gluten from my diet saddens me tremendously. I don’t picture Oprah professing her love for bread, outstretching her arms as far as they can go, for one of the Udi’s varieties. I’d like to think Oprah is talking about rustic loaves of sourdough, the kind that has a starter story dating back several generations of artisan bread makers. I digress.
So I’m at home, spitting into a 23andMe home-based saliva collection kit, and I’m thinking this test will answer so many unanswered questions regarding my health and ancestry. What is my cultural identity? What health concerns do I have that can be addressed behaviorally? Am I related to Attila the Hun? If so, do I have an undiscovered talent for horseback riding and archery? And, more importantly, what does the food taste like from the regions I’ll soon claim? I knew I wasn’t 100 percent Hungarian, but considering my mom immigrated to the United States from Hungary I thought at least 50, right?! In about six weeks, all these questions would be pondered over a 10-course pop-up dinner, curated by Adia, a revolving pop-up dining experience by the insanely talented Karlo Evaristo, Jared Ventura, Brad Fry and Ian Whitney.
I thought: How cool would it be if after receiving my 23andMe results, I gave them to Adia to curate a bespoke pop-up dining experience? Each course would highlight or be inspired by the native cuisine of the regions that my DNA represented. Additionally, if anything popped up on the health component of the testing, we’d incorporate any newly discovered dietary restrictions.
The results were in, and the jig was up. Spoiler alert, not that Hungarian — about 17.7 percent to be exact. Turns out the largest representation from the gene pool is German, showing up at 41.7 percent. Another surprise was that I’m 22.5 percent Irish, even though I was told by family members that we were Scottish — I mean, we also have a family kilt that was supposed to be from Scotland! I felt I had even less of a grasp of my cultural identity after this test. On top of it all, I have one of the two genetic variants that were tested in the HLA-DQB1 gene, meaning, I have a slightly increased risk of developing celiac disease. What?! No bread?! My genetics also make me unlikely to detect specific bitter tastes and to have a preference for salty versus sweet. I’m also not really supposed to like cilantro, but considering the number of tacos I eat living in Southern California, my lifestyle was able to offset that result. Hopefully the same can be said for gluten? A scheduled follow-up with my doctor will confirm.
Not defeated, but excited to take a deep dive, I gave my results to Adia, and I couldn’t wait to see what the menu would look like — talk about putting myself out there, on a plate to be exact. Not only was I excited to explore these regions through cuisine, but the opportunity to explore self-identity in such a culinarily creative way meant that this would be one of the most It didn’t take long for me to connect with what was happening on the plate, and at that moment, I had never felt more proud of my identity, not as Hungarian, Scottish or German, but as an American. It’s more transparent now than it had been in other times of self-discovery that everything I was looking for was right in front of me. My identity and connection to my culture is as unique as my 23 pairs of chromosomes. All of this made me, me — even without bread on the menu.
The first course, sundried tomato goulash with crudité and rosemary soil, was the most interesting rendition of goulash that I had ever tasted — the familiar flavors would have made grandma proud. It was easy to spot the geographic origin of some courses, like the scallop with eggplant schnitzel and citrus soy beurre blanc. Other courses felt ambiguous, like the corn cremeux, featuring foie gras gel, masa tuile and blackberry jam, while others quietly left me speechless, like the squid ink chip with burrata tomato gel and maple sherry.
It didn’t take long for me to connect with what was happening on the plate, and at that moment, I had never felt more proud of my identity, not as Hungarian, Scottish or German, but as an American. It’s more transparent now than it had been in other times of self-discovery that everything I was looking for was right in front of me. My identity and connection to my culture is as unique as my 23 pairs of chromosomes. All of this made me, me — even without bread on the menu.
Menu by Adia
sundried tomato goulash, crudité, rosemary soil
oyster with passion fruit beurre blanc, cucumber mignonette + soubise, ipa vinaigrette, asian pear
If you love cooking & crafting as much as we do, then you are going to dish over this list of DIY food kits. It is a beautiful feeling to put the newly remodeled kitchen to work and serve up special home-made products that were crafted by your own two hands. You thought you had an obsession with cheese until you made it from scratch and really TRULY enjoyed a cheese board. DIY food kits exist to help you be the best self-proclaimed chef in your sanctuary, bragging rights included. So if you’ve ever thought about growing your own mushrooms or making your own beer, then we get you … the passion for the culinary lifestyle is real!
If you love the umami flavor of mushrooms so much that you eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then this kit has your name on it. Imagine yourself growing your very own organic oyster mushroom farm, where you just add water and you end up creating really delicious organic gourmet mushrooms from home — in just 10 days! It’s environmentally conscious to buy local and organic produce, but even better to grow your own.
The hottest way to spice up Taco Tuesday in your kitchen right now is to make your very own hot sauce. Bring the ice cold glass of milk with your specialty prepared hot sauce … because things are about to get spicy tonight! This kit brings the flavor game to taco night, celebrating the complex flavors of guajillo peppers, chipotle peppers, and arbol peppers.
4. Bitters from High Desert Botanicals on Etsy—$50
Craft cocktails are all about the bitters, and you know you love it when a bartender divulges that it’s made in-house … that you love it that much more. Learn how to make your own and stock up your bar cart entirely your way. High Desert Botanicals was inspired to create bitters from home due to her love of cocktails but stumbled upon the struggle of finding the best seeds and roots in local markets or the reasonable amount of quantities online. She put together these kits to help people experiment with herbs and have fun with it. Happy mixing!
Forget romantic getaways to your local vineyard, and impress your significant other from home. Take a cheese and wine night to the next level with a charcuterie board prepared from these impressive Uncommon Goods kits.
What’s better than the smell of sizzling bacon in the morning? Bacon that you prepared yourself! Urban Accent’s bacon kit has everything set up for you to be an expert meat curer to top off the most important meal of the day.
If you’re a fan of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, then you understand the pride that goes into preparing global dishes. Carley from Global Grub had the same vision to bring family and friends together with her food kits to prepare dishes she loved while traveling. Make a party out of it and roll in the sushi prepping!
The Homemade Gin kit is perfect for any amateur mixologist looking to craft their own gin. Here’s how it works: Obtain a generic bottle of vodka, infuse it with a balanced blend of botanicals and aromatics provided by Homemade Gin, and wait 36 hours. Voila! You have the perfect cocktail base to wow guests at your next dinner party.
As milestones go, it’s been a good year for O.C.’s dining scene, especially when you consider that two Costa Mesa restaurants – Taco Maria and Hana re – earned one-star ratings from the esteemed Michelin Guide, which covered the entire state of California for the first time in its history.
Originally started in 1900 by brothers Édouard and André Michelin, the guide first began as a mode of reference and review for French motorists when looking to buy a new vehicle. The guide became well trusted and widely known throughout France, and its popularity increased after World War I, upon the addition of a restaurant section in which anonymous reviewers rated the food of different dining establishments. Today, the guide ranks among the most respected culinary review resources in the world.
The guide usually gives stars out to extremely high-end restaurants with months-long waiting lists and meals costing hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of dollars. However, aside from the main category, the guide also includes a subsection called the Bib Gourmand highlighting restaurants where diners can enjoy a two-course meal and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. Originally started in 1997, this category was established as a way to showcase hidden gems that serve food to a wider audience. On May 28, the Michelin guide announced California’s list of Bib Gourmands, spanning the state from Napa to San Diego. And five of them were located right here in O.C.: Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, Garlic & Chives, Hiro Nori Ramen, LSXO and Mix Mix Kitchen Bar. These Michelin-reviewed establishments offer some truly unique dining experiences and are definitely worth a try.
Here’s what you need to know about each.
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen is located in Old Towne Orange in a quaint and unassuming colonial-style building that dates back to the early 1900s. The food is inspired by Owner/Chef Gabbi Patrick’s Mexican heritage and the flavors she’s discovered throughout her travels, and she’s careful to incorporate seasonal ingredients into her culinary creations. gabbismexicankitchen.com
Garlic & Chives
You’ll find Garlic & Chives nestled in the heart of Little Saigon. It opened in December of 2014, and in the past five years, it has become one of the most popular spots in the area and is considered among the best Vietnamese restaurants in the region. It’s common to see a line out the door during the week, but it moves quickly. With dishes like deep fried salmon belly, garlic toothpick lamb and the consistently sticky, crunchy and messy chicken wings, it’s not hard to imagine the draw to this place. The chef behind the magic is a woman named Kristin Nguyen, who came from a family of Vietnamese refugees who settled in Garden Grove when she was just 7 years old. Her dishes embody both the roots she has in Saigon, as well as places she has traveled to such as Hong Kong and Bangkok. She took cooking classes in every place they went, and the dishes she learned inspired many of the popular menu items at Garlic & Chives. Needless to say, her booming passion project has been a success and a gift to Orange County’s food scene. Garlic and Chives
Hiro Nori Ramen
Hiro Nori Ramen has seven locations up and down Southern California, but the one located at Trade Food Hall in Irvine caught Michelin’s attention. The place is tiny, with only 35 seats that are often jam-packed for lunch. The attraction comes from their simple yet memorable menu, with carefully curated options that cater to vegetarians and vegans. They start with three distinctly different broths, the tonkatsu or pork bone, the soy-based shoyu, and the miso-based vegan. The tonkatsu is made by soaking pork bones for at least 24 hours, creating an incredibly rich, almost milky broth. The soy and vegan broths find their zest out of spices and soaked vegetables instead of the noticeable saltiness that overwhelms many veggie broths. Each ramen comes with your choice of thin or thick house-made ramen noodles, sautéed spinach, meaty cuts of charred chatsu pork, bean sprouts and an array of seasonal vegetables, if you order the vegan ramen. Co-owners Hiromichi Igarashi and Tadanori Akasaka came together to create this craft ramen shop with the simple shared intention to spread the experience of enjoying good ramen. With prices that range from $10 to $12 for a bowl of flavorful, individually crafted ramen, they have truly set a diversified tone to the attainability of that experience in Orange County. hironoricraftramen.com
LSXO stands as the most discreetly intriguing locations in this year’s Bib Gourmand list for Orange County. Behind an unmarked wooden door within the moderately upscale ocean-view restaurant Bluegold hides Tin Vuong’s 25-seat Vietnamese speakeasy. A twist of intensely nostalgic Vietnamese cuisine is served up to the lull of new age rap singles and EDM, while mismatched two-by-fours and wooden screens encompass the room. Dishes feature a multitude of items such as the popular curry-spiced lamb satay on a bed of soft egg noodles, foie gras and pho-spiced oxtail torchon, and bo ne, which is like a Vietnamese take on traditional steak and eggs made with gamey paté butter and served on a crunchy bahn mi baguette. The cuisine combines the traditional homemade with the experimental and is unapologetic in the use of spices, distinctly fishy sauces and greasy pan fries. dinebluegold.com
Mix Mix Kitchen Bar
Patrons will find the trek to downtown Santa Ana well worth the journey to experience the exotic creations at Ross Pangilinan’s Mix Mix Kitchen Bar. Gentle, unassuming prices list some of the strongest artisanal gastronomic creations offered in O.C. Mix Mix showcases a fusion of high-end French, countryside Italian and tropical Filipino accents in rotating dinner specials that start at $39 for a starter or small bite, the main course and a wine pairing. Found under the Starters list, the beets and burrata stands out as a sweet and rustic twist on many restaurants’ savory, tomato-inspired caprese salad, serving it instead with the beets, fennel, fresh strawberries, sticky candied pistachios and a balsamic gastrique. Diners will be delighted with the options of small plates like the Filipino-inspired citrusy shrimp lumpia, heavy with notes of grilled pineapple; the soft egg ravioli, made from black pepper pasta and soaked in browned butter; and the short rib bao buns stuffed with moist, braised short rib and pickled onions. Pangilinan then marries traditional rich and meaty French cuisine with that of the flour-heavy Italian in one of his most popular main courses, the duck leg agnolotti. The agnolotti is filled with roasted artichokes, ricotta and charred corn folded into a duck jus. Mix Mix Kitchen Bar is a culinary experience that will challenge your ability to flip between delightful cuisines and teach you to develop an appetite that craves the combination in globally inspired dishes served up at a reasonable price. mixmixkitchenbar.com
Put thirty people in a room, ask them what is on their bucket list and you will likely get thirty different answers, each response backed by personal reason and a reasonable purpose.I continue to experience a life well lived, and peace and tranquility suit my needs more than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but oddly enough my bucket list involves just that, a bucket. Seafood has been a significant part of my diet, probably a result of having lived near the ocean all my life. As much as I love sushi, ceviche and most raw fish, the first time I tried oysters, I was not a fan. As time went by, and after a few visits to New Orleans, I began eating the mollusks by the dozens. Along with a new found favorite food, my constant search for new dishes to make and any excuse to buy new kitchen gadgets, I decided to master shucking at home. The goal; I could have my fill of baked, chargrilled or just raw, chilled oysters with a simple mignonette any day or night of the week. I’m pretty handy around the kitchen and have a beautiful collection of knives, but watching raw bar chefs shuck by the bucketful was something I never attempted, therefore, a great thing to add to my bucket list.
“The goal is for the fish to be no more than one day out of harvest to be optimal for ocean-to-table dining.”
Sonny Nhoung, the manager at Shuck Oyster Bar in Costa Mesa was kind enough to educate me on the do’s, don’ts and whys of oyster shucking. Before my hands-on lesson, I learned about the multitude of different types of oysters Shuck brings to their customers.There are an impressive thirty variations of oysters per day coming from upwards of 300 locations per year, with an average of four deliveries per day.The goal is for the fish to be no more than one day out of harvest to be optimal for ocean-to-table dining.
Sonny educated me on the basics including the meat to shell ratio, that oyster meat should be visually plump and opaque, and that the shell should not be dense and never should it crumble in one’s hand.We chatted and then got down to business.
The team at Shuck Oyster Bar doesn’t use chain metal gloves; they wear latex kitchen gloves to protect their hands from the salt water and use a simple oyster shucker and a small terry cloth towel to prop the oyster to prevent it from moving about and risking cutting the fish or oneself.Keeping one’s fingers intact is a huge, and much-appreciated priority.He shucked, and then I shucked.The first few were challenging and frustrating, but in the end, I was successful and, no fish or fingers were damaged during the time I spent behind the counter.
There is a reason shucking doesn’t look easy; it isn’t easy.There is a definite learning curve and a delicate process of entering the shell and removing the meat without cutting the oyster, or your hand. Breaking into the shell to get to the meat requires a firm, steady hand as well as the right supplies, which are readily available online or at most kitchen or restaurant supply stores.Gloves of some sort are a must, and although I didn’t wear anything heavy-duty this week, I think until I truly master the technique, I will opt for a thicker glove.After breaking into the oyster, the finesse continues as you have to slice along both the top and bottom of the shell to loosen the meat, and check for and dispose of any debris that may have been floating in water in the shell.Once this is done, the oyster on the half shell is placed on ice to stay cold and the process is repeated until the entire order is filled, which seems to take much longer than it does to consume the fruits of your labor.
The options on how to eat and order oysters are endless, from raw with a squeeze of lemon,spicy cocktail sauce or a pickled mignonette, to breaded and deep-fried, to chargrilled with butter and parmesan. And, of course, the classic century-old Oysters Rockefeller dish, baked with spinach,onions, parsley, garlic, spices, butter and breadcrumbs.
If purchasing oysters to shuck at home, make sure to get them as fresh as possible from a reputable fish market or seafood restaurant.Or keep it easy and pull up a seat at your favorite raw bar and let the experienced chefs serve you.Will I be running out and shucking oysters anytime soon?Maybe.Am I glad I learned how?Definitely.My bucket list has another check mark in front of it, and that is something that continues to make this fantastic life worth living.
Shuckin’ Oysters in 3 Easy Steps
Grip the oyster firmly in a clean terry cloth towel and insert a knife into the hinged edge. Twist to open the shell.
Run the knife along the inside of the top shell, cutting the muscle that attaches the oyster to the shell.
Lift off the top shell, then slide the knife under the oyster to cut the second muscle.
Andrew Gruel, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and a recognized expert on sustainable seafood, is the CEO and Founder of Slapfish Restaurant Group, the award-winning food truck turned international brick and mortar, based out of Huntington Beach and founder of Butterleaf Restaurant and Two Birds Chicken (two fast-casual concepts in Irvine) and Raw Bar by Slapfish in Huntington Beach.
Andrew Harris, the show runner, executive producer and co-host for “The SoCal Restaurant Show” heard on Saturday mornings in Southern California since 2012 on the 50,000 Watt AM 830 KLAA – The Home of Angels Baseball, is a veteran specialty radio show producer.Harris also is an accredited food, wine and travel journalist. Harris’ earlier background was as a respected, hands-on food and beverage professional.
As co-hosts of the “SoCal Restaurant Show,” the question we are asked every day is, “Where should I go for (insert cuisine type here)?” We eat out a lot and cover a huge listening area of dining opportunities, from Santa Barbara on the north to the Mexican border on the south and Inland to Palm Springs and points farther east. Our O.C. suggestions are far from a comprehensive directory. For the meritorious O.C. chefs and restaurateurs whose fine establishments we also frequent that were inadvertently not included, our profuse apologies.
You do typically wait in line here but it moves fast, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Inspirational immigrant success story and lovely family. Highlights for breakfast are the guava & cheese pastry and the bacon omelette panini.
Chef Ross Pangilinan (ex-Leatherby’s Café Rouge) has made a bit of an unlikely spot into a deserved destination. Our dish of choice for Sunday Brunch is the Duck French Toast. It’s a spot-on balance of sweet and savory flavors.
It’s an unusual, seven days-a-week Alsatian-inspired Brunch here (extra Specials on The Weekend) at this proudly veteran-owned and veteran-staffed establishment that truly impresses. Their Monte Cristo Sandwich (sautéed in butter until golden brown) stands tall along with their serious beverage program.
Chef Henry Tran is from the TAPS Fish House & Brewery, so he understands that for a casual pub with a lot of seats the food needs to be just as good as the wide variety of incredible craft beers available on tap. Also vegan options. We especially enjoy the miso-marinated sesame crusted salmon with Thai chili oil matched with Right Said Red (an Irish red). Family and dog-friendly, too.
This was Orange County’s first gastropub and the creation of Lawry’s Restaurants Inc.’s Corporate Executive Chef and Vice President, Ryan O’Melveny Wilson, who represents the 4th generation of Frank/Van de Kamp family ownership. SideDoor pioneered charcuterie and cheese plates which were a rarity in Orange County when it launched in 2008. They even have a super-knowledgeable, in-house cheesemonger. One of their secrets is a revolving offering of unusual, premium wines by the glass. Of course, the iconic prime rib sandwich au jus with house-prepared potato chips is a standout.
It’s all about the crave-worthy banh mi here served on a French baguette. The sandwich features cucumbers, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots, jalapenos, aioli and soy vinaigrette with your choice of protein. Think braised pork belly with fish sauce and anise.
Chicagoland has a love affair with Portillo’s. They arrived here in Buena Park in 2005. The sandwich of choice is the signature Italian beef dipped in their famous recipe gravy. Go the distance and get it with hot peppers and Mozzarella. The French bread used is brought in from the Chicago bakery (Turano Baking Co.) Portillo’s has been using since 1963.
Proprietor Sal Maniaci is obsessive about the authenticity of his Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven imported from Naples. The master pizzaiolo is, of course, from Italy. The crust is soft yet crispy and thin but slightly chewy.
Although not from Chicago, Founder & Executive Chef Rance Ruiz has a passion for Chicago stuffed pizza. Through extensive trial-and-error, he perfected his recipes for stuffed, pan and thin crust pizzas. The dough, sauce and salad dressings are made from scratch. Be patient – it’s worth the wait.
Here you have an accomplished fine-dining chef (ex-Bastide) creating the better burger with Nebraska Angus beef. Everything is from-scratch including the ketchup and mustard. The ice cream for the shakes is house-made. As proprietor, Joseph Mahon says he prefers to under-promise and over-deliver.
With apologies to Gustavo Arellano, there is nothing wrong with the Americanized Mexican fare (think combo plates) we grew up with in Southern California. What we really crave is the authentic regional Mexican fare that is now available to us. An appealing example is, Urbana, hidden in plain sight on the lower level of the Anaheim Packing House. It’s full service. Everything from the salsas to the fresh corn tortillas is house-made. Incredible what they do in 1,800 square feet. We return for the street tacos (think smoked Marlin) and the lime-cured red snapper ceviche with pico de gallo, guacamole and spicy aioli. The extensive cocktail menu is sure to grab your attention, too.
Back in 2001, Zov’s Executive Pastry Chef Michelle Bracken created the spectacular Milk Chocolate Bomb dessert for a wildly successful James Beard Foundation benefit at Zov’s Bistro honoring the late Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse. It’s milk chocolate mousse with a crème brulée center and sugar cookie crust. A mini-version is available at the Tustin location.
Churros are a sweet treat of wonder when they are made with premium ingredients and served fresh and hot. At The Loop, you can get them dipped, glazed or served on a base of soft serve ice cream along with decadent toppings.
This is the area’s standout izakaya. In Japan, guests frequent an izakaya as a place to enjoy food and drink in a casual setting. It’s a big dinner-only menu with items including sashimi, grilled fish, sautéed dishes, rice dishes, deep fried selections and noodles.
The Winery started in Tustin and has a new branch in La Jolla, but for a special occasion the bay view from the dining room here is the pick. Service is king at this restaurant group along with a top-notch wine list, but what also separates it from the other elevated steakhouses is the cuisine of Chef/Partner Yvon Goetz. Just one example of his menu creativity is the seafood hot pot with scallops, clams, mussels, catch-of-the-day fish and veggies in a lemon verbena-lemongrass broth. It’s a “secret menu” item so you need to quietly ask for it.
Proprietor/Chef Rich Mead has been passionately cooking field-to-fork way before that was a cliché. He makes the long trek to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market every Wednesday morning to talk with the farmers and source the freshest, seasonable fruits and veggies for both the restaurant and bar. The outdoor setting in a lushly manicured and spacious garden is unrivaled. A true fine-dining gem.
Food Network’s Chef Jet Tila (“Iron Chef America”, “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Guy’s Grocery Games”) was the co-host for the first two years of the “SoCal Restaurant Show.” One of his most recommended picks for East Hollywood’s Thai Town is Sapp Coffee Shop. This is where Chef Jet took the late Anthony Bourdain for the Thai Town episode of “No Reservations.” A standout dish is the Thai Jade Noodles (dry) that get their distinctive green color from Mustard Greens. With the wheat noodles are barbecued pork, roasted duck and snow crab meat. It’s bliss in a bowl.
Note from Chef Andrew and Andrew: Some of the establishments included are sponsor partners of the “SoCal Restaurant Show.” We wholeheartedly recommend them all, unequivocally, with great enthusiasm.
As an avid photographer, my uncle is the type of person to run head-first after a bear in the deep woods of Yosemite just for a picture. We all have that one friend, right? Two years ago my uncle received a present that changed his life: a drone. Although drone use is not allowed in national parks, my uncle’s first drone altered the way he thought about capturing moments and exploring the world from a different viewpoint, and that brings me to DroneDeploy.
DroneDeoply’s mission is, “…to make the skies open and accessible for everyone.” And with their revolutionary live mapping technology, DroneDeploy is changing the way business owners see and understand the world like never before. Commercial use of drones is on the rise, and DroneDeploy’s user-friendly platform allows businesses to improve their workflow on the ground and in office. Specializing in the industries of agriculture, construction, inspection, mining, roofing and drone services, DroneDeploy provides data storage, customizable tools and unlimited resources for business owners. We’re taking a closer look at DroneDeploy’s impact on the agricultural industry and how it plays a vital role in field intelligence.
Heirloom tomatoes, Pixie tangerines and Microgreens – they all come from the Earth, and quality produce starts with the growers and farmers that nurture the soil and tend to their crops. With DroneDeploy’s mapping technology, farmers can more efficiently problem solve and deliver bountiful harvests so that you can have the very best at your dinner table. That said, we’re turning it over to the experts at DroneDeploy to learn more about their revolutionary technology.
Q&A With DroneDeploy
Agriculture is one of the fastest growing markets in the commercial drone industry. How does your Precision Ag Package assist farmers with their day-to-day responsibilities?
DroneDeploy: The Precision Ag Package was designed with growers in mind. Its curated features provide everything ag pros need to generate aerial insights and boost efficiency in the field. DroneDeploy also integrates with the common ag software that growers use and gives them access to 70-plus apps. DroneDeploy has the first ever drone App Market that integrates with major industry leaders like John Deere, so they can fit drones into their existing workflows and reap the benefits of drone data.
Instead of doing spot testing — testing one area of your farm and extrapolating the results — our user-friendly software allows growers to examine their whole fields quickly. Real-time insights like Live Map deliver actionable information, meaning that growers can make the decisions that boost yield and minimize crop loss without ever having to leave the field. It also helps identify variations and problem areas with NDVI, VARI and more.
How do crop field scanning and GPS map creation bring innovation to the field?
DD: Scanning a field on foot for problems is much like looking for a needle in a haystack. With DroneDeploy you can cover hundreds of acres in a single flight and pinpoint exact locations of stress using a drone map — such as disease or irrigation issues. Then you can use this map to walk to the precise location, ground truth the data, and determine what’s wrong. You can even attach notes, photos and annotations in the field with your mobile device to share with your agronomist or foreman. All in all, it’s improving efficiency in an industry where every second counts. By catching an issue quickly, you can save an entire crop and preserve your harvest.
What kind of information does the ag-specific technology provide for farmers regarding plant health and growth?
DD: Growers can fly their crops to quickly measure plant health using built-in vegetation analyses using just an iPhone or iPad — all in real time. Once they spot troubled areas with these analyses, they can then use DroneDeploy to generate prescription application zones in their field, enabling them to target specific areas with pesticides or fertilizer to ensure a prosperous harvest.
By integrating with other apps, growers can count crops and determine the economic impact of lost plants using artificial intelligence (Agremo), identify damaged crops caused by severe events to support insurance claims (Skymatics) with cutting-edge computer vision, and more.
How does ag-specific drone technology cater to pre and post-harvest challenges and practices?
DD: You can use drone data to help prepare for a growing season by assessing barren soil, reviewing historically challenging spots in the field, and mapping your irrigation setup. And using plant health indices you can precisely determine the right time to harvest your crop to maximize your yield.
What’s the benefit of using drone data and stitch crop imagery versus manned aircraft imagery?
DD: In short, drone maps real-time data and higher resolution images. Farmers no longer have to wait days for aerial images as they used to in the past. Drones are also much cheaper to deploy and can integrate with more tools to streamline the whole process. While manned aircraft imagery is useful for analyzing vast amounts of terrain (think around 2,000 miles), the average farm in the U.S. is under 450 acres, and considering drones can fly 160 acres in less than 15 minutes, they are more than capable of mapping out farms across the country.
What are some of the ways farmers can utilize your DroneDeploy App Market to collaborate and grow their business?
DD: All the industry leaders — farming and otherwise — have tools on the App Market. From small business to enterprises, tens of thousands of drone users from more than 180 countries trust DroneDeploy to power their operations.
What each app does ranges in complexity. On the simpler end, there’s a Box integration that helps everyone in an organization collaborate and upload data to a Box account. On the more involved end, the John Deere app helps sync drone data to their MyJohnDeere account to produce variable rate prescriptions, analyze soil makeup, and review historical field data to make predictions for the coming year.
How does your partnership with Agremo and access to their crop reports, including Stand Count and Plant Population data, provide farmers with the best data for their needs?
DD: Agremo is an industry-leading agricultural sensing and analysis platform. We’ve partnered with Agremo to bring drone crop reports to DroneDeploy, so our agriculture customers can create actionable reports that drive down costs and improve crop performance. These reports improve efficiency and eliminate error by leveraging the latest in machine learning and AI to provide easy-to-digest information, and actionable insights they can put to work to improve their harvest.
How do you see this technology revolutionizing the industry regarding finance and plant/crop prosperity?
DD: It’s a much more efficient method of surveying a field. Not only do you eliminate the substantial finances needed for manned flight surveys, but the cost to purchase and operate a drone is relatively inexpensive — even under $1,000 — with hardware prices plummeting in 2017.
Live Map will continue to allow growers to derive more detailed insights on crop health, helping them spot diseased crops before it can spread further and whether it makes sense to replant a dead section of crops, for example. These quicker and smarter decisions will continuously improve growers’ plant and financial prosperity.