Nibbling at Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival

When I first started attending tastings I remembered the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival setting the bar of how all food festivals should be – refined and elegant, but casual and relaxed, all while highlighting the dishes as the stars of the show. I remembered each bite bringing together a myriad of bright fresh ingredients with complex flavors.  This festival has since become a household name and this year’s increase in guest attendees reflects it’s popularity. I had the opportunity to attend the event again this year and the culinary lineup for 2017 was equally spectacular.

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Snapshots from the event

During Sunday’s tasting my plus one and I enjoyed the finer things in life and indulged in so many delicious tastes. Many of Southern California’s most esteemed fined dinning establishments were present including Pelican Grill and Bar, Red O-Restaurant, and Alexander’s Steakhouse just to name a few and there was an abundance of seafood and steak options. If you love wine there’s not better place to sample so many different varieties, though I fancied the Kentucky Straight from Duke Bourbon. There was also a cooking demonstration by Top Chef contestants Chef Amar Santana and Katsuji Tanabe and viewers had an opportunity to sample their version of arroz con pollo. It was hilarious to see those two banter back and forth.

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Seafood and Steak noms

If you love seafood and steak, this event harmoniously brings two of my favorite proteins together with class and style. While many vendors offered them prepared in a variety of manners – marinated with secret ingredients, roasted, fried, my favorite dish was the Baja cocktail served in a tin-can from A&O Kitchen and Bar. It was simple, but the large chunks of charred squid and shrimp paired with the creaminess of the avocado on a crunchy tortilla chip just made it a perfect afternoon bite. It reminded me how good squid tastes and how infrequent I eat it.

If you could have a festival featuring your favorite protein exclusively what would you choose?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

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Taking Over the Taste of Lake Forest and Miguels JR Gift Card Winners Selected!

I don’t frequent the South OC Shop often, so when I was invited to attend the 6th annual Taste of Lake Forest this past Sunday I was curious to see their offering. I saw many soccer type moms with children at this event and the palm trees and bright sunny afternoon made it a fun family event for people of all ages to enjoy. One element of this tasting that’s different from other tastings I’ve attended in the past is how guests play an active role in selecting their favorite restaurant at The Taste of Lake Forest. With a map in one hand and a guide of all the participating restaurants, my guest and I went down the rows to sample each restaurants offerings to see which was our favorite.

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Tastes at the Taste of Lake Forest

There were many familiar restaurants and businesses that participated in the event including: Mimi’s Cafe, Pick Up Stix, and Jamba Juice just to name a few. Yet, my favorite was definitely Tito’s carnitas tacos with cabbage. It was juicy and the the tostado was a good solid base to carry this substantial bite. Miguel JRs was also present at the event, which is the perfect segway to introduce my Gift Card Winners. Drum roll please…. Congratulations Jean L and Lisa! Please email me at yurockstar4life@gmail.com by Friday September 29th to claim your prize!

Didn’t win this time? Don’t worry! I will throw another Miguel’s JR Giftcard giveaway on my Instagram account for another opportunity to win! Pst… there’s a good chance that it may be on Friday *wink wink*

Whats your criteria when judging a food competition?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Celebrating Miguels JR Grand Opening in Huntington Beach Plus GIVEAWAYS!!!

Huntington Beach is one of my favorite cities in Orange County. With the beach just footsteps away the ocean breeze blowing through your hair and people walking around in their favorite sunglasses and rainbow sandals the city evokes the quintessential Southern California lifestyle. Recently, Huntington Beach welcomed a new quick bite diner to Surf City, Miguel’s JR, a casual Mexican restaurant and celebrated Southern California staple. I attended their Grand Opening alongside prominent members of the community to welcome this new business.

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Grand Opening Ceremony and Celebration
The ceremony was an intimate one; however, several city council representatives came to present awards of recognition and to congratulate Miguel’s Jr owner. With 21 locations across Southern California Miguel’s JR roots lie in delivering fresh California Mexican cuisine in an inviting environment. The accessible price-point and counter-to-pickup model makes it an experience for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy. They have burritos, tacos, various combination plates and breakfast items too! I ordered the Carne Asada Taco Salad and that entree alone could feed several individuals.

I had a great time and want to share the wealth – so I’m throwing a GIVEAWAY!!! through all my social media accounts throughout the month! This week I will give two $10 Giftcards for my blog fans!

To enter (Southern California Residents Only):

  1. Follow http://www.yurockstar.com – top right side of the website on desktop and all the way to the bottom on your mobile device (it’s free!)
  2. Write a comment below on what you’re most excited to try – Taco? Burrito? Quesadilla?

Giveaway will end on 11:59pm Saturday September 23. Winner will be announced on Monday, September 25th.

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

Disclosure: Post is sponsored. Opinions and content are my own.

Testing out Timeout Cafe and Bar in Gardena, CA

As a food and travel writer I’m often looking for different locations to enjoy a good meal while working on blog posts – kill two birds with one stone. Haha…. I’m efficient that way 🙂 So when my foodie friend (@foodiejudge on Instagram) invited me to a private media tasting I was curious to see if this cafe could be another remote LA work station for me. The Korean fusion restaurant serves traditional cafe fair, but recently launched a new concept for a day and night crowd.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Like any good cafe, quality coffee is key to a good start. The owner informed me that they had serve Intelligentsia, which is a celebrated coffee brand with distinct robust flavors. They had to purchase special equipment to brew the beans to bring out the flavors, so you know that they’re serious about their product. Be sure to order your coffee black so that you can really taste every note. Mmm… and of course all good cafe had wifi, which worked well for me.

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Food and Beverages at Time Out Cafe

Once everyone arrived, we were treated to their most popular items family-style. If you’re a vegetarian or looking to eat something light their Berry Garden Salad was amazing! Their raspberry vinaigrette dressing topped with avocado feta cheese, strawberries, and blueberries over a bed a mixed greens was not only a beautiful display but tasty as well. On the flip side, if you’re looking anti-veggies their chicken wings brought some heat. And if you’re like Switzerland and fine with both meat and veggies, their sandwiches are solid. I tried the Korean Cheese Steak, Apple Tuna, Pastrami and the later two were my favorite. Apple Tuna is a solid cold sub and the hot pastrami was so mouthwatering. I loved it!

While the restaurant is known for their home-made recipes and secret sauces, they recently got their alcohol license and based on the atmosphere I can definitely see it as a prime spot to cheer on afternoon sporting events.

 

What do you usually get when you go to a cafe?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

The Poke Shack Grand Opening at Beverly Hills 

One of my goals this summer was to eat healthier by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet, and limiting my carb intake. I often found it difficult to do both without sacrificing taste, but with an increase of poke shop poppin’ up, I’m able to accomplish both goals – so when my foodie friend (@Foodiejudge on instagram) invited me to the Poke Shack’s red carpet event to celebrate their Grand Opening I couldn’t say no.

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Look at all the toppings!

The VIP event certainly was a show stopping one complete with a red carpet, live DJ spinning pop tunes, and photographers capturing every moment. I waited in a very short line to order my bowl, and since they’re customizable so you’re bound to have a great meal since you’re picking all the ingredients. I love salmon so I ordered two scoops of that and a scoop of ahi tuna. Both fish choices were really fresh and tasty, and they have an enormous selection of mix-ins and toppings so I definitely loaded up! However, next time I will omit the diced mangos since they tasted a bit unripe.

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Yummy Poke Bowl!

I think one thing that makes this poke spot special is their bamboo rice! I’m cutting traditional white rice out of my diet (as I mentioned above), so this was a nice substitute. My poke server also made a pretty flower design with a radish before handing me my bowl, which I felt like was a nice touch. Overall it’s a solid place to enjoy a healthy meal especially in a posh and sophisticated neighborhood like Beverly Hills.

 

 

What kind of mix-ins do you like in your poke bowl?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar 

Yelp Review of the Day: REPOST Gourmet Sandwich at Deli-Licious @Huntington Beach, CA

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Hi YuBargainRockstar Fans!

I’m excited to announce that my Yelp review on this Deli-Licious was selected as today’s  ROTD (short for Review of the Day) for the Orange County spotlight. Woohoo! It’s a great honor and as my first ROTD, I thought I’d also repost my original entry for your enjoyment. This restaurant truly deserves all the credit in serving excellent food and outstanding customer service. Check it out if you haven’t done so already! – Irene

 

Sandwiches are the quintessential lunch food and while mom’s sandwiches are made with love, there’s something special about eating a gourmet sandwich from Deli licious (Yelp Review) in Huntington Beach.  With over 300 reviews and a staggering 4.5/5 average on Yelp, I had to investigate the validity of these positive endorsements.  And yes this definitely lived up to the hype.

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I was looking for a cute shop, but after only seeing rows and rows of boring gray buildings I stared down at my GPS and realized that I missed the shop. Hmm… that’s peculiar. However, unlike many restaurants, this small mom n’ pop shop was located among the rows of gray buildings. This is definitely not the type of shop that you’d casually drive by and stop to check it out, because it was not visible from the street!  Nevertheless the restaurant was pretty busy for a weekday afternoon. So I thought that it must be good if next-door-neighbors are frequenting this shop.

Upon looking at the chalk menu I decided to order their top seller “Sue’s Chicken-Avocado Caprese” while my girlfriend tried the same sandwich with a ½ southwest salad. ImageMmm… The ingredients used for the salad were fresh and crisp it was a solid choice for a mid-day meal. And the sandwich, wow… tender roasted chicken with sliced avocados, fresh mozzerlla, plump roma tomatoes, and a light lemon caper mayo all between a ciabatta roll. Mmm.. makes me hungry just thinking about it.  I wonder if my mom could replicate this masterpiece. Hehe…

Additionally, I loved that it was also a nice sunny day and we had a lovely conversation out on the patio. Good food, great company, you really can’t ask for much more.

What’s inside your favorite sandwich?

XOXO

Rockstar

Gourmet Sandwich at Deli-Licious @Huntington Beach, CA

Sandwiches are the quintessential lunch food and while mom’s sandwiches are made with love, there’s something special about eating a gourmet sandwich from Deli licious (Yelp Review) in Huntington Beach.  With over 300 reviews and a staggering 4.5/5 average on Yelp, I had to investigate the validity of these positive endorsements.  And yes this definitely lived up to the hype.

IMG_0765

I was looking for a cute shop, but after only seeing rows and rows of boring gray buildings I stared down at my GPS and realized that I missed the shop. Hmm… that’s peculiar. However, unlike many restaurants, this small mom n’ pop shop was located among the rows of gray buildings. This is definitely not the type of shop that you’d casually drive by and stop to check it out, because it was not visible from the street!  Nevertheless the restaurant was pretty busy for a weekday afternoon. So I thought that it must be good if next-door-neighbors are frequenting this shop.

Upon looking at the chalk menu I decided to order their top seller “Sue’s Chicken-Avocado Caprese” while my girlfriend tried the same sandwich with a ½ southwest salad. ImageMmm… The ingredients used for the salad were fresh and crisp it was a solid choice for a mid-day meal. And the sandwich, wow… tender roasted chicken with sliced avocados, fresh mozzerlla, plump roma tomatoes, and a light lemon caper mayo all between a ciabatta roll. Mmm.. makes me hungry just thinking about it.  I wonder if my mom could replicate this masterpiece. Hehe…

Additionally, I loved that it was also a nice sunny day and we had a lovely conversation out on the patio. Good food, great company, you really can’t ask for much more.

What’s inside your favorite sandwich?

XOXO

Rockstar

 

BBQ Tri Tip Chopped Salad Lunch Special @Stonefire Grill in Fountain Valley, CA

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It’s no secret that I love Stonefire Grill (Yelp Review) because of their fresh ingredients and expansive menu selection. But it’s also a destination that bargain hunters swarm to as they prepare large portions of food for a very reasonably price. I love taking large groups because the food is served family style and we’re able to sample many dishes with a low per person average cost.  They also have a large seating area that makes it a popular spot after a team victory meal or office outing.

However, there are times when I just don’t feel like sharing and just want to indulge in a dish all to myself. My all time favorite dish there is the BBQ tri-tip chopped salad and it is amazing! The salad is topped with freshly chopped tomatos, roasted corn, carrots, black beans, red cabbage, cilantro and jack cheese then tossed with tortilla strips and Buttermilk Ranch. Mmm… makes me hungry just thinking about it!

And going during lunch for their lunch special is just twice as nice since this petite entree also includes a delicious garlic bread stick. For about $7, this healthy entree does double duty as a tasty value-worthy meal that’s good for you pocket-book and belly. There are several branches in the southern California region and if you haven’t paid them a visit, you’re definitely missing out!

Locations

What’s your favorite lunch spot?

XOXO,

Rockstar