Tag Archives: Food

Upcoming Event: Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival!

16 Mar

I wanted to make my readers aware of a fabulous event coming up next weekend the Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival! Taking place March 23rd-25th, this Gastromic Festival will feature  dynamic Chefs, Wineries and Artisan Food Vendors all gathering together in a meeting of tribes. During this event you will be able to walk through the event and sample gourmet samples from over 45 award-winning restaurants. The Chefs will be showcased at this event, providing demonstrations and carefully preparing the dishes to be sampled. Come prepared to be stuffed!

Do you like Wine with your food ?  🙂 …of course you do! This event will also feature over 60+ wine brands  being poured to event guests. The one thing I really like about this event is how they coordinated the Chef’s Menu with the offerings provided by the wineries so the full flavor profile of the dishes are complimented by the wine!

This event is guaranteed to satisfy my “Foodie and “Wino” followers. I will be personally attending this event to provide coverage to anyone who could not attend. I highly encourage anyone who has the time and resources.  to attend this event. I have spoken with the event organizer and this sounds like a great opportunity to eat and drink like a PRO.

The Chefs in Attendance: There are many acclaimed Chef’s in attendance, although I have included this image from the web site to highlight some of the more decorate and famous chefs. http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/galleries/2012/2012-chefs.html

The Details

Tickets are being sold per day for this event. Buy Tickets

Friday: March 23rd, 2012 – Gourmet Luncheon 11:30 am to 2:30pm- $100 per ticket – This luncheon looks like a pre-celebration for folks who want to come early and get a full weekend out of the event.

Saturday, March 24, 2012 – Main Event -11:00am to 4:00pm – $65 per ticket (Saturday only).  Be prepared to be educated, stuffed while sipping on some of the finer wines from California and the West Coast.

Sunday, March 25th, 2012- Main Event -Day 2 -12pm to 5:00pm – $65 per ticket (Sunday only). More of the same gourmet eating and fine wine sampling.

Event Schedule:

 Aside from the available food and wine available at the tent- there will also be a schedule of Cooking demonstrations and educational opportunities: Event Schedule on Website

11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Enjoy a sit down four course gourmet luncheon coupled with the perfect wines and hosted with celebrity chefs.

“Because alcohol will be served, you must be at least 21 years of age to attend Food & Wine Festival Palm Desert events and to enter the tent.”  I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME 🙂

Saturday, March 24, 2012

11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Grand Tasting, Chef Demonstrations, Wine Seminars, Book Signings, Culinary Institute of America Marketplace and Jensen’s Finest Foods Marketplace.

*Subject to change without notice


• 12:15 — Chris Mitchum
Executive Chef, Lantana & Agave Sunset @ Grand Hyatt Champions Resort Villas & Spa
• 1:15 — Debra Scott
Executive Chef/Partner, Cohn Restaurant Group
• 2:15 — Sara Moulton
Food Editor, Good Morning America


• 12:45 — Andre Carthen
Design & Entertainment Ambassador, kathy ireland worldwide
1:45 — Diana Von Welanetz Wentworth
Author and Spe

aker, Les Dames d’Escoffier
• 2:45 — Chris Crary
Executive Chef, Whist @ Viceroy Hotel Santa Monica


• 1:15 — Daniel Joly
Certified Master Chef, Executive Chef/Owner Mirabelle Restaurant
• 2:15 — Alejandra Schrader
Co-owner, Cucina Cocina, Finalist Fox’s Master Chef
• 3:15 — Amylu Kurzawski
Executive Chef/Owner, Amylu Sausages


• 12:45 — Joan Salyer
Gerard Bertrand Sud du France
• 1:45 — Jesse Katz
Winemaker, Lancaster Estate & Roth Es

• 2:45 — Brad Martin
Southwest Regional Manager, King Estate

12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Grand Tasting, Chef Demonstrations, Wine Seminars, Book Signings, Culinary Institute of America Marketplace and Jensen’s Finest Foods Marketplace.

*Subject to change without notice


• 12:15— Sean Kanan
Soap Star on Young and the Restless, Author
• 1:15 — Roy Yamaguchi
Owner, Roy’s Restaurant
• 2:15 — William Bradley
Executive Chef, Addison @ The Grand Del Mar


• 12:45 — Dave Cohn
Executive Chef, Tinto @ The Saguaro Palm Springs
• 1:45 — Oscar Ayala
Executive Chef, Escena Lounge & Grill
• 2:45 — Jill Davie
Spokesperson, Sunkist Growers
• 3:45 — Aaron Burns
Executive Chef, Circa59 @ Riviera Resort & Spa


• 1:15 — Andrew Copley
Executive Chef/Owner Copley’s on Palm Canyon
• 2:15 — Adam Gertler
The Next Food Network Star
and Will Work For Food
• 3:15 — Mark Peel
Executive Chef/Owner Campanile & Tar Pit
• 4:15 — Sharone Hakman
Finalist, Master Chef


• 1:45 — Tracy Cervellone
Certified Wine Educator, Wilson Daniels, LTD.
• 2:45 — Geoff Labitzke
Master of Wine, Corporate Vice President of Wine, Young’s Market Company
• 3:45 — Jesse Rodriguez
Wine Director, Addison @ The Grand Del Mar

Event Website: http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/

Purchase Tickets: https://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/Circulation-Department/Store-Mockup/Food-and-Wine-Festival-Palm-Desert/index.php

Accommodations: http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/stay-dine.html

Participating Restaurants: http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/restaurants.html

Wineries in Attendance: http://www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/wineries.html


Tom’s Foodie Blog 2012 “Must Try” Restaurant Bucket List

6 Jan

2011 was a great year for http://www.tomsfoodieblog.com, I logged in a couple new pounds from the great tasting food and made a couple new friends along the way. This year I tried over 40 different restaurants and about 25 different food trucks.

That is me, Tom, on New Years vowing to try more new restaurants in 2012

Believe it or not my fellow foodies, I am really behind in trying new foodie friendly restaurants. My Wife’s group buying obsession has led us to discover some really nice restaurants, some featured in this blog;  but at the same time, we have experienced some really big disappointments.  The true downside of this group buying experience is that I yet to experience some foodie centric restaurants that have been open for several months.  

My New Year’s resolution is to make up for lost time by dining at all the new foodie centric restaurants in the O.C. and providing you my loyal readers detailed reviews. See I am a giver, I am doing the hard work, so you dont have to gain the extra pounds from bad food.

 This is my 2012  restaurant bucket list, if you think I am missing anything good,  please leave me a suggestion! Also if you think one of these restaurants is a waste of my time, please let me know.  Please take the poll on the bottom of the page and let me know which of these restaurants look the best to you:

Former Food Trucks Going Brick and Mortar

  • The Playground – Former part owner of the Lime Truck, Jason Quinn, struck it out The Playgroundon his own using his winnings from the Great Food Truck Race to start-up this brick and mortar. The restaurant has been open for a couple of months and has already created a loyal following by offering chef centric and foodie friendly dishes. The menu tends to change daily as well, so all dishes are very seasonal. The Playground’s website 


  • SeaBirds Brick and Mortar Shop – One of my top 10 food trucks of 2011 is going at it in a brick and mortar style, sometime in the first half of the year.  I have nothing but good expectations for this restaurant, as owner Stephanie Morgan makes Vegan food extremely enjoyable to eat, even for non-vegans.  I will be posting details when an opening date is announced. Rumor has it that a location has been picked in Santa Ana. OCWeekly article on the new restaurant 
  • Short Stop BBQ Brick and Mortar Shop – This Southern BBQ truck, opened their Brick and Mortar restaurant  last week. I read the menu and they were offering duck on the menu…my ears perked up. It is located at 711 N. Placentia Ave. in Fullerton, just east of the 57. Their website doesn’t give the address or hours, so I suggest you call or check their Facebook page if you plan on visiting. www.shortstopbbq.com
  • Slap Fish Truck’s Brick and Mortar – Chef Andrew Gruel’s sustainable seafood truck is opening a brick and mortar establishment somewhere in Huntington Beach. If the restaurant is anything like his truck, expect extremely fresh and seasonal seafood that you can feel good about. I think a brick and mortar restaurant will give him a little more room to show his flair for the dramatic. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will pull off. No word yet on the restaurants format. OC Weekly Article on anticipated restaurant opening.


Pizza and Italian

  • Pizzeria Mozza – –This is Los Angeles eatery that is the brainchild of Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton and Joseph Bastianich. This restaurant features authentic rustic and sophisticated Italian Cuisine. this restaurant has already attracted large crowds in it’s first couple months. It is located at 800 Coast Highway Newport Beach.Pizzeria Mozza Website
  • Cucina Enoteca – A new Italian restaurant in the Irvine Spectrum which opened in December 2011, with positive reviews from my foodie circle.  This restaurant represents an expansion from it’s San Diego sister restaurant Cucina Urbana. I have heard they serve upscale Italian with dishes in the mid $20’s price range for foodie friendly choices. Cucina Enoteca Website 

Chef Centric & Farm to Table

  • Paul Martin’s American Grill – This “Farm to Table” and “Chef Centric” restaurant  that recently opened in the Irvine Spectrum in late 2011, under the Guidance of Chef Paul Martin. This restaurant has turned into a favorite among Orange County foodies. This restaurant features sustainable seafood, all-natural meats and organic produce. Paul Martin’s American Grill Website
  • Tamarind of London – This is a London-based restaurant that opened an O.C. version in the Crystal Cove Promenade in Newport Beach.  I do not know much about this restaurant except reports that the London restaurant earned several Michelin Stars and features “Indian Cuisine and cross-over dishes.”  I checked out their online menu and sides range from $7-13 and mains range between $16- 22 for most items. The menu looked yummy! Tamarind of London Website  Link to Yelp Reviews
  • Charlie Palmers – One of the restaurants that helped put Orange County on the Foodie Radar. I am very embarrassed to say that I have never dinned at Charlie Palmers, even though it has been open for a couple of years. This restaurant had amazing reviews, although they have recently started taking a hit on yelp (perhaps due to Chef Santana’s departure?).  I will let you know the results of my investigative eating.   It is located at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza.  Charlie Palmers Website Yelp Review for Charlie Palmers Yelp Review for Charlie Palmer
  • The Ranch – This Anaheim restaurant is the creation of Disneyland’s two culinary geniuses and also highly respected members of the foodie community, Michael Jordan and Michael Rossi of Napa Rose fame. I have no doubt that the food will be amazing with these two at the helm.  The restaurant is part Country Western Saloon and Part Fine Dining. Does this concept remind anyone of an upscale Crazy Horse Saloon? Website for The Ranch Restaurant and Saloon   Yelp Review for the Ranch
  • The Eatery – This upcoming restaurant featuring “upscale and nutritious comfort food” according to the “Kick Start Funding Website”. The restaurant will be operated by three award-winning chef’s including Anahita Naderi. This restaurant will open in Anaheim in 2012. Not much is known about this restaurant , but I will be reporting when I get more details. News from the Eaterys KickStarter Investor’s Page
  • Three Seventy  Common – This Laguna Beach restaurant occupies the former Sorrento Grill locationand is another Chef Centric restaurant that features bold menu choices that are chef centric and wine friendly. The menu appears to have everything from steak to Foie Gras, something for foodies and the timid eater.  Three Seventy Common Website  Yelp Reviews 
  • Broadway by Amar Santana – Amar Santana is the former Chef at the Arnold Palmer Restaurant and his new restaurant Broadway offers a Chef centric menu,  featuring “Classic Modern Cuisine of the Americas.”  This restaurant looks very promising and a has been doing a brisk business every weekend.  Broadway by Amar Santana Website  Yelp Reviews for Broadway by Amar Santana

Something Eclectic

  • Bruxie – A Quick Service Restaurant that specializes in savory and sweet sandwiches stuffed in WAFFLES! Yes you read that right. Some of their offerings include a Chicken and Waffle sandwich to a banana and Nutella dessert offering.  This restaurant has gained a cult following on Yelp / Urbanspoon and is another restaurant that I am embarrassed that I have yet to try. There are two locations one in Brea and the more popular one in the Old Town Orange. Bruxi Website   Yelp Review for Bruxie
  • Anaheim Food Hall   – This is an upscale food center based inside a Spanish Revival Architecture building that was originally used as a citrus packing center, dating back to 1915. This venue will house 25 food concept vendors. Early committed restaurants include Pitfire Pizza. This concept is an experiment for Orange County, but similar ventures have been successful in places like New York’s “Eataly”, by Mario Batali.  OC Register Article on the planned venue:

Chains that have put on a big flashy bet on Orange County

  • Saddle Ranch Chop House – This chain restaurant is known for being

    a flashy “rock-western” chop house that prides

    itself on the rock and roll attitude of its staff. I tried one of the restaurants at the Universal City walk and it had good food and a fun vibe. Rumor has it that they will even have a mechanical bull.  This will their 5th restaurant, but their first in Orange County located at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa. Saddle Ranch Chop http://www.srrestaurants.com/

  • Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill – This upscale western themed chophouse that has a very strong presence in Southern California, including Rancho Santa Margarita. The new restaurant is located in the Irvine Spectrum is reported to have good food and ambiance.  Wood Ranch BBQ Website      Yelp Review for Wood Ranch BBQ at the Irvine Spectrum
  • P.F. Chang – Already reviewed this place but putting this on here as a reminder that you should try it as well. Great open floor design and awesome revamped menu. My blog Post on the revamp:  Tom’s Foodie Blog Review of P.F. Chang’s:/
  • Pitfire Pizza– For anyone who has lived on the border of Newport and Costa or even hung out at Peirce Street Annex, this new restaurant occupies the old Marie Calendars location. This restaurant features rustic pizzas that are cooked in a pit wood-fired pizza oven. This venue will have a large patio and fire pit, perfect for getting some food before hitting up my favorite dive bar across the street. I wonder if they will deliver to Pierce Street. Pitfire Pizza’s Website  Grub Street Los Angeles Blog Post about expansion to the O.C.

Gourmet Burgers

  • 25 Degrees – A upscale Burger and Wine Bar, that also serves alcoholic shakes, in a swanky French bordello ambiance. This Huntington Beach restaurant has an ideal location, just on Main Street to attract their target audience. Initial reports indicate this place has, “Giant and Juicy Burgers that will make you Tap Out half-way though.” Yelp reviews are mostly high with a couple bitter reviewers in the mix.  25 degrees website Yelp review of 25 Degrees.
  • Unami Burger -This upscale version of Fuddruckers is opening two locations in Orange County, Anaheim and Laguna Beach,   and is generating a good deal of buzz. According to their website the ground their own beef, process their own cheese and pickle their own vegetables. I admit I am curious about this restaurant, despite the gimmicky name. Unami Burger Website Nancy Luna’s Article about Unami in the OC Register
  • DG Burger – The sluttier side of Charlie Palmers Bloomingdales restaurant that features gourmet burgers that will make you salivate. Yelp and Urban Spoon reviewers are giving it either very high or very low reviews. The DG in its name stands for “Dam Good”, I will have to bring back a report. DG Burger Website  Yelp Review for DG Burger


Gastro Pubs

  • The Side Door – A gastropub attached to the Five Crowns restaurant in Corona Del Mar. Each time I visit the Five Crowns for dinner, I secretly want to go The Side Door instead.  This is a British themed Gastropub and there is a heavy emphasis on chartuerie, cheese, sandwiches.   The Side Door Website   Yelp Review of The Side Door
  • Lola Gaspar – A Gastropub in the Santora building of Santa Ana Artist’s District. This Gastropub that has generated a solid buzz among the foodies in my circle of friends. Rumor has it that this venue has great food and a nice craft beer selection. I am told this place might remind you of visiting a tapas bar in the alleys of Barcelona  Lola Gaspar Website Yelp Review for Lola Gaspar
  • Haven Gastropub – I am been here but never written a review, I will be back to take pictures and get a feel for the quality, service and seasonal menu on my return visit. Their food is spot on and always has a great craft beer selection. I have never been disappointed by a meal here, although recent Yelp reviews have seen complaints about the price to quantity ratio. I will do my due diligence and eat here to write a blog; again I will make the sacrifice for my readers 😉  Haven Gastropub Website Yelp review for Haven Gastropub
    • Bru – New establishment in Lake Forest attempting to blend chef centric and craft beer in a Gastropub setting. Bru has an interesting  wholesale wine purchase / Corkage  system as well. Does the concept work in the bedroom community of Lake Forest? Let’s find out.  Bru Website Yelp Review

“The Winery” Restuarant – Best Restaurant in The O.C?

14 Nov

This blog post is about “The Winery” restaurant in Tustin, quite possibly the best restaurants in Orange County. I know this is a big claim, so I will tell my story and you be the judge. I normally provide the total score of the restaurant at the end of the review, but this time I will provide it up front. Total Score: 4.75 out of 5. Let me attempt to explain and justify to you, my readers, why they deserve this score. I have been to The Winery on two separate occasions; this post will cover both experiences. The first time we visited, our friend Peggy treated us for a Birthday dinner and the second time we visited using a GroupOn. Both experiences were fantastic.

<<Personal attestation: I do not have any affiliation with this restaurant nor was the restaurant aware that I was a food blogger>>

Exterior and the Lobby

The Winery is located in Tustin, in “The District” shopping center, just off Jamboree. The exterior of the restaurant looks really cool at night, with splashes lighting casting shadows over the flagstone accented walls. Overall, the restaurant looks very elegant and inviting from the outside. When you drive up to the restaurant, you have your choice of using the Valet for $5 or literally parking it yourself in the same parking lot. My recommendation to the Gentlemen, if you Lady is wearing high-heels don’t be a cheap-ass and use the valet. With that said, my wife tends to wear sensible shoes and I have always found a parking spot less than 100 feet away. To each his own.

When you walk into the restaurant you are first struck by the richness of the interior design with dark woods, dim lighting and leather. Although the design is sophisticated, the ambiance is very inviting and even cozy. One of the first things you notice in the lobby are the personal wine lockers. These wine lockers are available for customers who pre-purchase two cases of wine a year from the restaurant. The lockers even bear the owner’s name, with an engraved plaque. On the other side of the lobby is one of the two private dining rooms.

Dining Room Options


View of the Kitchen from the Chef's Table

When you walk past the lobby, the restaurant is split into three distinct sections, each with their own ambiance, the main dining room, the Chef’s Tables and the bar. The first time we dined at the Winery we decided to sit in the Chef’s Tables, which is a small section of tables in front of the kitchen. Since The Winery uses an open kitchen design, you can watch the Chefs cook and see the dishes come out of the pass while you dine on your own meal. This area is more relaxed upbeat vibe than the dining room, as you are sitting in the heart of the restaurant. Sitting at the Chef’s tables is like listening to the hum of the beehive, you can get a sense for the mood of the restaurant based on activity of the kitchen. As a guest of the Chef’s table, you have the unique experience of having the Chef personally keeping an eye on your table and personally timing your dishes. The only thing I would add at the Chef’s table is either angled mirrors or video camera/monitors so that you can watch the Chef’s knife skills in action.

The main dinning room

The second time we dined at “The Winery Restaurant”, we sat in the main dining room, which is a very elegant and relaxing environment. This dining room has plenty of seating with large over-stuffed booths and 4-6 person tables. The booth was comfortable and afforded a view of the overall dining room, yet provided a sufficient level of privacy for an intimate date.


Soon after we were settled into our seats, our waiter appeared and welcomed us to the restaurant. We told him that this was our first time at The Winery Restaurant, so he took his time to explain the restaurant, the menu and even shared some interesting facts about the restaurant. Our waiter, Chris Burns, had the right blend of professionalism and personable demeanor that made us feel welcome like we were visiting his personal home and wanted to ensure that his guests were being well provided for. What Chris did right is allow his personality to shine through the professional waiter veneer, this delicate blend of professional and personable attitude goes a long way to a great dining experience. By the time Chris left the table, he was able to gather what type of food we liked, wine preferences and that we were celebrating birthdays. What was unique about his approach is that he learned these facts not by asking direct questions, but rather by engaging us with normal communication and a warm smile. This art of conversation is a learned talent that only the best waiters have mastered.

Spike and Chris, thanks for the great service and picture

When we came to The Winery for the second time, we requested the same waiter when we made the reservation. Although since we were running late and Chris’s shift was ending,  we were assigned another waitress. Despite this situation,  Chris stayed past his shift to ensure he introduced us to our waitress and explained our food and wine preferences to her based on our last visit (impressive). This is an example of professionalism and excellence in service.Aside from the service provided by the waiter, the restaurant’s Managing Partner, JC Clow, visited our table to check if we needed anything, checking on the quality of our meals and even chat about wine and cooking techniques.  During out second visit, service Captain, “Spike”, recognized us from a previous visit and greeted us into the Winery like we were returning home from a long trip. During our visit, he came to visit several times including once to tidy up our table between courses and answer all my questions about the preparation of the dishes. His knowledge of the product was impressive, as if Chef Goetz personally gave him midnight cooking lessons.


Wine Selection

The wine selection at The Winery restaurant was impressive, as it should since it bears that name. The wine menu was essentially the size of a Tolstoy novel and read like a lesson on the Geography of wine. The restaurant literally has its own wine cellars with capacity for 5,000 bottles of wine! When I chatted with the Master Sommelier, Will Lewis, he indicated that the cellar is temperature controlled and spans 800 square feet. I peeked inside the cellar and it was really impressive with its high ceilings, red mahogany racks, marble countertops, stone flooring and hanging chandeliers. The whole look made me feel like I was in the wine cellar of a French Château. The wine list was organized by region and type and featured both new and old world wines. A couple of personal observations on the wine list is that the Sommelier included great wines from regions that do not typically receive a lot of play. The list also featured wines at every price level from very high-end wines to some exceptional value selections for casual drinking.

 The first time we dined there, we selected one of the cheaper bottles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Wine List, although the Sommelier came out to apologize that our selection had run out. Instead of telling us to make another selection, he offered us a higher priced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, with the same flavor profile and PRICE as our original selection. This is a great example of phenomenal service and a  restaurant taking ownership of their mistakes and actively working to ensure that the customer’s needs were satisfied.  Will Lewis explained the tasting notes to us as he poured and explained that South African Sauvignon Blanc tends to have the same mineral and apple/peach notes as New Zealand’s Marlborough region. If you visit The Winery, I highly encourage you to chat with their Master Sommelier and Wine Director, Will Lewis ; I guarantee he will find you a wine that matches your meal, preference and budget. Then again, if you sit there long-enough, Will will great you at the table with his big-smile.

Food Reviews

Yes I have spent significant time talking about the ambiance and service, as they are the basic pillars of a great dining experience; although enough of the foreplay, let’s talk about the food! Like I previously stated, I have included dishes from both of our experiences, so be ready for quite a few mouth-watering descriptions.


The Cheese Plate came with three cheeses Tomme D’Savoie, Laura Chanel, and a Double Cream Brie. The cheese plate came paired with candied walnuts, grapes, currants, honey and a decorative drizzles of balsamic. The first cheese Tome de Savoie is a variety of Tomme cheese from the town of Savoie in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. It is a cow’s milk cheese that is mild and semi firm. The Cheese has beige interior and a brown-grew rind. This type of cheese typically has a lower fat content as a result of it being made from making butter and rich cheeses. It was pleasant and creamy and paired perfect with the almonds and honey. The second cheese was a Laura Chanel, which is a French style cheese produced locally from California sheep. This cheese has a milder flavor due to the low stress lifestyle of the goats, compliments of the pleasant Southern California weather. The last cheese was a double-cream brie (I didn’t get the name of the producer), but it was soft creamy and lovely and paired especially well with the currants and walnuts. All three cheeses were pleasant and paired well with our Shannon Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa. This dish received 4.25 out of 5, although amazing selections, a higher score could have been earned if additional sides were provided to accompany the cheese.

Calamari Appetizer consisted of strips of the calamari’s body section, which are dusted in an almond accented powder and deep-fried light golden brown. The almond powder added richness and nuttiness to the flavor of this classic dish. The flavor of the calamari flesh was pleasantly mild, while still retaining the classic fried squid flavor. The calamari was accompanied by a marinated (almost pickled) cucumber salad. The cucumber salad had a light and bright vinegar brine, which refreshed the palate between bites of the lush calamari. For dipping, there was a “Spicy Tomato and Saffron Aioli Sauce”. The flavor of the sauce was rich; yet, the sauce was bright on the palate from the acidity of the tomato and zing from the chilies. The sauce by itself was a great execution of flavors. This dish received a 4 of 5. This dish would have received a higher score, but the crust was just a tad on the soft side for my preference, although I maintain that the flavor was delicious.

Santa Barbara Heirloom Tomatoes consisted of layers of fresh cut red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, with alternating slices of Burrata cheese. The dish was topped with micro arugula, lemon olive oil and aged balsamic. These tomatoes were locally grown in Santa Barbara, less than a 3 hour drive from the farm. As a result of using local produce, the natural flavors of the heirloom tomatoes were dominate on my palate. The salt and cream from the Burrata accentuated and balanced the acidity of the tomatoes. The arugula added a savory nutty flavor, which tied the individual ingredients into a well-constructed dish. Our server, Chris, even brought out a flavored salt selection to add to the tomato dish. I selected the wine infused salt, which added a wine/oak subtlety to the flavor profile. This was a simple, yet  fresh an exciting dish that utilized locally grown and organic ingredients that was ripe full of flavors. This dish received a 4.5 out of 5.

The Winery House Salad consisted of baby greens, endive, candied walnuts, Roquefort cheese, red grapes, tomatoes, apples, and Dijon mustard vinaigrette. The salad had a balance of buttery, nutty and bitter flavors. The grapes and candied walnuts provided a sweet balance to the lettuce varieties and the Roquefort Cheese created a layer of salty creaminess to the dish. The Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette bound all the flavors together by adding a sweet tangy mustard vinegar flavor to the party. Although just a salad, this dish became the talk of the table. This dish received 4 out of 5.

Seared Ahi Tower consists of seared Ahi slices stacked atop thin wedges of fresh avocado, mango and julienned and pickled cucumber. This dish was then drizzled with a cilantro orange vinaigrette and crowned with micro-greens. Presentation wise, this dish was sexy and qualifies as food porn, as I just wanted to stare at it. I spread out the tuna over the plate and let it sit in its own juices. I was sure to add a little of the cucumber and avocado to the mix as well, ensuring that I got the full treatment. The Tuna was seared a perfect 1/8 inch on all sides of the loin. The smoky and peppery flavor paired nicely with the smooth and delicate pink Ahi flesh.. The mango and pickled cucumber added a refreshing contrast with its sweet vinegary cilantro orange sauce. This dish received 4.5 out of 5 for great balance of flavors, while allowing the natural flavors of the Ahi to be enjoyed.

Main Dishes

Chili Lime rubbed Mahi-Mahi consisted of Hawaiian Mahi-Mahi, atop jasmine rice with roasted pistachio, accompanied by a lemon grass Gewürztraminer butter sauce and garnished with tropical fruit chutney. This was one of the most remarkable dishes to come out of Chef Goetz’s kitchen, as it masterfully combined the right blend of ingredients, textures and flavors in  each bite.

 Let me start by describing with the main ingredient, the Hawaiian Mahi-Mahi. This fish has dense white meat with a mild and slightly sweet flavor. The Mahi-Mahi was marinated with a chili powder, lime juice and possibly olive oil; my guess is that the fish was marinated for several hours, as the flavors soaked into the flesh. The Mahi-Mahi was then grilled on what appears to be high-heat, as evidenced by the nice char lines. This technique helps to lock in the natural juices in the meat, thus retaining its natural flavor. The Jasmine rice was soft and supple and had beautiful aromatics from ginger root, cilantro and sweet onion. Around the plate and soaked into the perimeter of the rice was the Gewürztraminer sauce, which literally gave me the “O Face” when I tried it for the first time. This sauce uses a classic French saucing technique that utilized reduced wine and butter. Since Chef Goetz is from the Alace region of France (near the German Border), it is obvious that his roots influence him to use a sweeter wine native to that region called Gewürztraminer. The Wine appears to have been reduced down with the lemon grass stalk and the adding the butter to create a sweet and savory sauce that truly is like a sexy hug in the mouth. On top of the fish is a tropical fruit chutney containing pan caramelized pineapple, papaya, mango, onion and bell peppers with an agave syrup. The flavor is a balanced sweetness that gives you full mouth sweetness, without overpowering the palate with sugar. The individual components of this dish were delicious as I picked them off the plate to taste them on their own merit, although together, the flavors were simply amazing. The sweet and smoky chili flavor of the fish created a nice contrast with the sweet, savory sauce. The sweet cream sauce mellowed the chili spiciness and the chili added a very subtle smoky zing to the sweet butter sauce that cut its richness. The sweetness of the chutney also served to balance this dish by adding cool tropical flavors to both the sauce and the Mahi-Mahi. The aromatic rice acted as a stabilizer between the flavors, adding a common thread of consistency to each bite. This dish also had a perfect balance of textures, from the slightly crispy exterior of the fish contracted with the smoothness of the sauce, together creating a pleasant tongue feel of smooth and crisp. The fruit chutney also provided a slight crunch and the roasted pistachio around the plate provided a playful diversion of textures to the overall texture of each fork full. This dish was amazing and I would order it often as I can afford. I am giving it a rare 5 out of 5 for freshness, flavor, originality, use of fresh ingredients and overall presentation. I was also very impressed with his fusion of Hawaiian based recipe with classical French technique.

USDA Prime All Natural Grain Fed Flat Iron Steak – Aged 21-28 days –First of all for those who are unfamiliar as to what is a Flat Iron Steak, the name reflects its shape, as it looks like an old fashion flat iron. This cut of meat comes from the shoulder of the cow and is flavorful and relatively tender.When the dish came to my table, I saw a nice flat iron steak with asparagus and fluffy mashed potatoes. The plating was elegant with the mashed potatoes propping up the steak, asparagus flaring out and drizzled with steak drippings and a decorative splash of the cilantro sauce.

The steak was very tender and juicy and I could taste the natural beef flavors of the steak in each bite.  The flat iron Steak somewhat reminds me of a new York Strip Steak, with a slightly firmer texture, although equally tender. When I bit into the steak it was juicy and full of flavor, similar to a steak that was cooked on the bone. This steak was a pleasure to eat. The mashed potatoes were obviously made with love; and as my foodie fans know, love comes in the form of butter. These mashed potatoes were light and fluffy and had hints of black truffle. The asparagus was fresh bright green hue  and a slight crush when I ate them.  This dish received a 4.0 out of 5.

Zinfandel Braised Beef Short Ribs Risotto was a very rich and flavorful risotto, which gains its character from the Zinfandel based sauce, shaved black truffles and slices parmesan. The base of this dish is a creamy risotto which is integrated with chunks short rib. The short rib was braised (slow cooked….think crock pot style) with Zinfandel wine, so it brings a sweet, rich and luxurious element to the flavor party. The rice in the risotto was cooked nicely, such that the texture was soft and slightly gooey, yet retained an ever so slight firmness. This texture difference makes the risotto have a pleasant mouth feel.

The risotto did not survive. I will miss it

I picked the short rib out of the cast iron pan and discovered that very nice portion of short rib in the dish. The chunks of braised short rib were juicy and had a sweet and rich flavor of zinfandel. The meat was braised long enough so the meat fell apart along the muscle line. If I managed my spoonfuls properly, there was just enough meat to get chunk of short rib in every bite, . I personally prefer a risotto with just enough meat mix ins to leave me desiring a little bit more. To all the single guys or gals reading my blog, let me put this meat to risotto ratio balance conundrum in your language. When eating your short rib risotto, you want the short rib to appear on your fork, when you are feeling randy for some sweet meat (i.e. short rib Booty Call). Next lets consider the alternative; although you might enjoy getting some short rib when you are in the mood, you don’t want it showing up on your fork uninvited (“short rib stalker”).

Now that we understand the merits of the individual components, let analyze the overall flavor qualities of this dish. When I placed a spoonful in my mouth, the creamy richness of the sauce made from the parmesan and beef stock was comforting like a mother’s soft touch. The flavors from the Zinfandel reduction made my mouth water from the sweet and luscious flavors. Although when I bit down into the luscious black truffles, the flavor were no longer a Mother’s soft touch, but rather something a little naughty. I blushed a little as I swallowed the risotto….what would my Mother think? I am giving this dish a 4.75 for near perfect blending of ingredients into a composite dish. Extra points were given for flawless inclusion of wine into the dish.

Prime Beef Tenderloin and Wild Shrimp Napoleon with Tarragon reduction sauce with Cabernet Essence –I have one word for this dish, Amazing! This dish consists of a jumbo wild shrimp perched atop a delicate medallion of Tenderloin and supported by what appears to be a vegetable risotto. Poured over the surf and turf tower was a creamy “tarragon reduction sauce”. The dish was plated with a spoonful of “Essence of Cabernet Sauvignon sauce”.

Let me first describe the individual components that make up this “Napoleon”. Starting from the top of this dish is a wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. The shrimp was beautifully cooked, such that it was just barely pink and slightly translucent. The texture of the shrimp was juicy and slightly firm with a slight snap on the first bite. The flavor was primarily the naturally sweet protein shrimp flavor, along with hints of butter, pepper, and white wine. The next layer of the Napoleon was the Tenderloin, which is the Hugh Jackman of steak cuts; all the ladies want a piece. This steak was tender and extremely easy to cut with a butter knife. It was so tender in fact, that I was able to cut it atop a pile of risotto without disturbing the risotto’s mound. Per my request, the tenderloin was perfectly cooked, pink throughout the center and dripping with natural juices. The flavor of the steak was heaven, with the natural beef flavors taking center stage. The next element is the vegetable risotto, which was creamy and had a pleasant alternating texture of firm softness from the rice and crunchiness of sweated vegetables. The tarragon reduction sauce had a pleasant aromatic quality and flavors similar to anise, fresh cream and pan renderings. This was a dish that was well executed on the individual ingredient basis and well composed as a dish. I am giving this dish a 4.5 out of 5.

Seared Alaskan Hallibut was a lovely dish that consisted of a pan seered filet of Alaskan Halibut sitting atop “Housemade Cabernet linguine”, sautéed wild mushrooms and a red wine reduction sauce.  This dish was also garnished with endamame, kalamata olives and micro-greens. The Halibut was seared on a high heat (obviously with a little butter), to create a perfect crusty golden brown seer. The flavor of the halibut was pleasantly mild with a slight hint of butter and had a firm and flakey texture. The mouth feel was a combination of juicy moistness and a crisp tongue feel.  Since the Cabernet linguine was house made so it was extremely fresh tasting, tender and had a subtle hint of red wine. When I broke apart of portion of the halibut with my fork, it gently flaked apart and exposed its juicy white flesh. I took a fork full of all the ingredients and bit down into it, the flavors delicately combined to give a very comforting  flavor of sweetness, fruit, oak.,  butter, nutty mushrooms and delicate fish proteins . The sweet buttery flavor of the halibut served as the a canvas for the flavors of the wine in the reduction, mushrooms and linguine to paint a playful mosaic and sweet and savory flavors. This was a remarkable dish with a perfect balance of flavors and textures, not to mention it was beautifully plated. This dish received a 4.5 out of 5.

Desserts –  I am not a big dessert person, so I am not going to give you a big description of each. With that said, I manage to eat my own dessert and had a wandering spoon that made its way to everyone else’s dessert. I single handedly ate most of the deserts on the table.

White Peach, Blueberry and Almond Cobbler– This dessert cooked White Peaches and blueberries in a cast iron pan  and covered it with an almond infused flaky cobbler crust and adorned with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. This dessert had an awesome blend of cream and acidity.  Creamy textures and crunch.  Score: 4.5 out of 5




Mango-Chocolate Chip Crème Brule This timeless custard dish was infused with puree of Mango and a some chocolate chips, giving this dish a fresh taste. At first the table was like, ” ehhh another creme brule…”, although when it came out everyone was like “ohhhhhhh… I should have gotten that!” Needless to say, this dish got around and everyone had their turn spooning it. The dessert was topped with fresh fruit and a delicious Chocolate cookie. This dish received a 4.25 out of 5.

Valhrona Chocolate Duo- This dish is a duo of chocolate bites that features Valhorona chocolate, which is a luxury chocolate manufacturer in the wine growing region of Lyon in France.  This dessert pays homage to this chocolate in the form of two different deserts. The first was a rich and creamy pudding mouse  and the other was a sweet brioche bun stuffed with a chocolate mouse. As a bonus, the dessert included a chocolate covered strawberry. Score 4.5 out of 5.

My Final Thoughts

As I previously mentioned, this review is based on two separate visits so I feel comfortable saying that this just might be the best restaurant in Orange County and among the elite in Southern California. The food is remarkable and some of the more creative and delicious dishes I have experienced. What separates The Winery’s Dishes from other restaurants is Chef Goetz flawless integration of Classical Cooking Techniques with modern cuisine and subtle use of fusion flavors. In addition, the ingredients used by the Chef’s staff were extremely fresh, vibrant and obviously of a higher quality. This restaurant pulls together the right elements of unexpected excellence in service with high-end dishes to create a memorable dining experience. When I give a restaurant a very high score (anything over 4.5), it means that I am actively talking about the restaurant with friends a couple of days ahead of time and contemplating what I am going to order in the car on the way to the restaurant. If the experience lived up to my expectations I am talking about the restaurant on the way home and Blogging about it later that week. Simple moments of personal joy and food rapture is all it takes to help take us out of our daily routine and make each of us feel like everything is right in the world. My personal congratulations to the Staff at the Winery for a well-deserved overall score of 4.75 out of 5, I am already planning my next visit.

The Winery’s Website: www.thewineryrestaurant.net

The Winery on Urbanspoon

Review on Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-winery-restaurant-and-wine-bar-tustin-2

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Pictures from Cadillac Culinary Challenge October 15th Featuring Chef Milliken and Chef Goetz (Tom was a VIP Food Judge)

14 Oct

Your Foodie Blogger, Tom Holmberg, was a VIP Guest Judge for the Cadillac Culinary Challenge and Test Drive at the Irvine Spectrum on October 15th.

The food throw-down will pitted Chef Mary Sue Milliken (Food Network and The Border Grill) versus local foodie hero Chef Yvon Goetz from The Winery Restaurant in Tustin.

Chef Yvon Goetz created a Chili Lime Rubbed Hawaiian Mahi Mahi with Ginger Jasmin Rice and Roasted Tropical Fruit Chutney.  Chef Mary Sue Milliken made grilled fish tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa and a Peruvian Ceviche on fried plantains. Chef Goetz won a the Judges Panel Decision on a 4-0 vote, but Chef Milliken won the general audience poll.

Tom’s Cameo in Man Versus Food with Adam Richman -> look for Tom in the Pig costume!

5 Oct

Tom\'s cameo in Man versus food!

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