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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Featuring US Foods and Food Fanatics LIVE Anaheim at the Disneyland Hotel 

As a foodie I’ve gone to my fair share of food festivals, but when I was informed about an upcoming industry event I didn’t know quite what to expect. Hosted by US Foods and Food Fanatics LIVE at the Disneyland Hotel, this annual food convention helps individuals from all areas of the food industry to network and get the latest scoop on the hottest trends. Guest were given ample samples of a variety of entrees, desserts, and garnishes, and I was lucky enough to cover the event with a wide grin and stuffed belly – all in the name of journalism of course. 🙂 img_2398When I first entered the venue I was overwhelmed by the layout. At the center there was a culinary demonstrations with industry-leading chefs on the Food Fanatics Stage as well as belly bars for guests to enjoy samples while listening to the lectures. I decided to venture toward the left side of the event and boy did I feel like I hit the jackpot – it was the protein station! 😀 img_2395-1There were refrigerators filled with beautiful meat cuts including: lamb, beef, and pork. I waited in line and saw the chefs cook and slice the meat right in front of me. Stockyards definitely produces premium cuts and on the other side was the seafood section. Salmon, bay scallops, crawfish, you name it and prepared in a variety of ways, fried, steamed… or in the case of oysters raw.

After I stuffed my face with pretty much every type of protein known to man, I explored the right side of the arena and made friends with some of the US Foods staff. I fell in love with Hope’s Cookies – you might have seen then in Boudin Bakery, or Bristol Farms if you’re in California. The cookies were absolutely devine! There was also vegetable dishes, pizza, and the list goes on and on. It’s really quite incredible to have a place where restaurateurs and chefs can collaborate and partner together on creating something new.

What would you be most excited to see on a menu?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar
P.S. I’m giving away two $10 gift cards for Miguel JRs on my Instagram account. Come enter here

Soaking up the Sun at the LA Times – The Taste Sunday Block Party 

I still can’t believe that it’s already fall and that summer is behind us. Thankfully, I was able to capture the end of summer in a fabulous foodie fashion and made delicious memories. Over the Labor Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend The LA Times – The Taste Sunday Block Party, where I got the chance to sip refreshing spirits and munch on tasty treats at Paramount Studios, CA.

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Photos from the Sunday Block Party  

The afternoon affair was complete with all the Labor Day BBQ favorites, but with a gourmet twist. Sliders with chunks of lobsters was Slapfish’s contribution and Dog Haus served their dogs on buttered brioche bread with all the fixin’s – Yum!  Salt and Straw, a Portland based Ice Cream Shop that recently opened a branch in LA, was a favorite among attendees as the temperatures that day reached the 90s.  I also got a chance to participate in an educational champagne tasting class where my wine glasses were never empty – cheers!

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More photos from the Sunday Block Party 

Chef Jet Tila of 101 Asian Dishes you Need to Cook Before you Die and Judge on Cut Throat Kitchen was also among several celebrity chefs at the event and he entertained attendees with a live cooking demonstration. I was luckily enough to snap a photo with this awesome Asian American as I allowed my belly to digest all the scrumptious samples from event.

I absolutely miss summer, but am excited about all the upcoming holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! Which holiday are you looking forward to most?

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

 

 

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.

Letting loose at LIVE on Grand hosted by Tyler Florence (LA Food and Wine Festival) 

I’ve been to a number of tastings, but never have I gone to them back-to-back let alone for multiple days! So when @foodiejudge (of Instagram) and I were invited to cover the LA Food and Wine festival I was beyond excited.  This epic FOUR-DAY tasting featured culinary legends and new dishes at each venue (yes there are multiple), and I had the opportunity to check out Thursday’s Ultimate Bites of LA event and Saturday afternoon’s Lexus Grand Tasting. Both events were fabulous in their own rights; however, Saturday evening’s LIVE on Grand had a live hip hop performance by Wyclef Jean- you probably know him from Shakira’s hit song “Hips Don’t Lie.” Ah yeah…

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Tantalizing treats and satisfying sips 😀

While the entertainment headline was certainly a star-studded one, the restaurant line-up was certainly no joke. Celebrated chefs from across the nation including chefs from  Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hill (Los Angeles), Hudson Valley Foie Gras (New York), Joe’s Stone Crab (Miami Beach), and Sydney Street Cafe ( St. Louis) plated the evening affair and I loved all the vibrant and tasty dishes.  One of my favorite dishes was Tyler Florence’s “Bacon and Egg” concept where the breakfast duo was artistically presented inside the egg-shell – brilliant!

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Live on Grand Venue

Yet excellent food paired with a bomb venue heightens the experience 10 folds. With the downtown cityscape and Walt Disney Concert Hall serving as the backdrop it doesn’t’ get more glamorous that this!

Some shots from the event including a selfie with Chef Tyler Florence

I thought the night couldn’t get any better until I saw and took a selfie with Celebrity Chef and Food Network Star Tyler Florence, as seen on Tyler’s Ultimate and The Great Food Truck Race. *Gush* but in all seriousness if you’re a foodie/wineo this is definitely an event you should add on your bucket list! I mean who wouldn’t want to wine and dine with the country’s best culinary personalities?

 

If you could have a meal with any celebrity chef who would it be?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

Savoring flavors at the Los Angeles Times – The Taste 

When I think of Labor Day Weekend I think of families and friends coming together to enjoy food and friendship, so when it came time again to attend the LA Times Annual Tasting event I was thrilled for another evening of scrumptious noms and sips. Saturday evening’s event entitled “Dinner with a twist hosted by Jonathan Gold” was almost too hot to handle, but a treat when enjoyed with people with great taste!

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Food samples and Jonathan Gold, Phil Rosenthal and me!

During the tasting my friends and sampled some unique flavor combinations in the Paramount Studios Lot. Some of my favorites were the black ink squid soup dumplings from Little Fatty as well as the lamb bacon and fig from Wolf. Yum! But the highlight of the night definitely was watching Phil Rosenthal (I’ll Have What Phil’s Having), and LA Time’s Food Critic Jonathan Gold speak about their culinary adventures on stage.

News coverage for Tour Taiwan 

The evening also supported tourism for various countries and naturally I gravitated towards the motherland. The Tour Taiwan booth allowed “The Taste” attendees to sample Tea Station’s latte with artwork and boba and play games to win prizes. I was briefly interviewed as a past Miss Taiwanese World titleholder and got to mix and mingle with some other media personalities.

Which country has the best food?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

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 

The Exchange Restaurant – New Fushion Mediterranean Concept in DTLA 

When my friend said that he wanted to eat Mediterranean food at a new restaurant in DTLA called “The Exchange Restaurant“(416 W. 8TH ST, Los Angeles, CA) I was skeptical about driving from the OC for falafels and hummus. Boy was I in for a big surprise. This restaurant is an upscale fusion Israeli cuisine that uses bright and fresh ingredients for their healthy dishes. I’m on a diet, so finding anything that’s both appetizing to look at and to eat ranks top of my list (at least for now – I can be fat for winter 🙂 ).

Restaurant Interior

Upon entering you’ll notice the high ceiling and wood decor. It’s very rustic in nature and the natural lighting made it perfect to snap photos of all the Instagram worthy food and let me tell you the food not only looks but tastes uh-maz-ing.

My favorite dishes were as followed:
1) Pate – oh my gawd, so creamy and light. It just melted in my mouth. It was so luxurious without being overly indulgent. It’s really out of this world and you would be a fool not to order this.
2) Exchange Chraime – Presented in a pan filled with seafood galore swimming in a sea of tomato sauce. The presentation was on pointe, and tasted flavorful as well.

(Left to Right – 1st Row to 2nd): Pate, Exchange Chraime, Sweet Potatoe, and Olive Oil Cake 

3) Sweet Potato – I would hardly think that a vegetable could be a star dish, but this one definitely held it’s own. It’s roasted so it really heightened the root vegetables flavor and made a unique statement in taste. Super delicious!
4) Olive Oil Cake – OMG! I rarely order dessert at a restaurant, but I would definitely order this again and again. The flavor profile of this treat is moist and sweet, but not overly so. The  dollop of cream or whatever was on top paired with the cake perfectly. I’m a believer in desserts now!

img_5288-1Overall, this is a fantastic addition to DTLA. The atmosphere is beautiful, food is delicious and the service was on friendly and accommodating. Whether you’re planning to impress a hot date, discussing business, or going with a group of friends this is an excellent destination to enjoy a great meal with good company.

Which of the dishes would you be most excited to try?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar