new summer menu items at PF Chang’s

I went to PF Chang’s not long ago with some out of town friends. The menu is always good for a big group since there is always something which is agreeable to everyone.

On this last visit, we went to try the new summer menu items launched recently to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

We started with one of the new cocktails: Long Island Tequila Tea ($9) a blend of 1800 Silver, Reposado and Anejo Tequila shaken with fresh sour mix and topped with Coca Cola. Since I’m a huge fan of tequila, this was naturally the choice. It was delicious and so easy to drink. There is also a rum version of the same thing.

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Our first dish was Peking Duck Summer Rolls ($8.95), pieces of duck and salad with julienne green papaya, snow peas and carrots wrapped in rice paper served with a mango jalapeno vinaigrette hoisin sauce. Although I liked the freshness of the rolls, the duck was not coherently dispersed throughout the roll so some bites were devoid of any duck. The sauce on the plate was also a little too strong — good though — but overwhelmed the subtle flavors of the rolls.

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The Grilled Prawns with Red Curry Peanut Noodles ($15.95) was a dish we all agreed upon. The grilled southeast Asian prawns were outstanding. Great flavors and perfectly grilled with a nice char. The accompanying chilled noodles were what I had an issue with. The shaved snow peas, bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro and lime tossed into the noodles were crunchy and the  red curry-peanut sauce was very flavorful so it was very unfortunate that the noodles were very mealy and doughy.

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I wasn’t too keen on ordering the Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Chutney ($19.95), but our delightful server assured us it was worth the risk. I’m always skeptical with swordfish because most of the time it arrives overcooked. However, I’m glad he insisted because the Asian spiced line-caught sushi grade swordfish was prepared perfectly and not the least bit dry! I also do not like fruit with my proteins, but the pineapple pear chutney turned out to complement rather than overwhelm.

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My biggest shocker of all was the Summer Vegetable Quinoa “Fried Rice” ($11.95) wok toasted quinoa with summer sunburst squash, mango, tomatoes, and snow peas topped with a sunny side egg, asparagus and daikon sprouts.

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Honestly I wasn’t sure this was going to work, but our server broke up the egg and mixed everything together. It was delicious! The runny egg on top made it even tastier but the textures of the fresh vegetables and the nutty quinoa was a great combo!

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Although I’m not into sweets, I let our server twist our arm and order a flight of Sweet Treats ($2.95 each or $7.95 for a flight of 3).

Our flight comprised of a Coconut Upside Down Cake (a seasonal favorite I’m told), Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, and Blueberry Cheesecake, a white chocolate cheesecake, with fresh blueberry swirls, on a graham cracker crust served with vanilla creme sauce. The latter was my favorite.

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Our server was so sweet when I told him the chocolate cake didn’t excite me — he bought us the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch on his dime. What a sweetheart! This peanut butter crunch with milk chocolate and caramel layered on chocolate brownie cake topped with honey roasted peanuts topped with chocolate syrup and caramel sauce looked immensely decadent and sweet, but turned out really tasty. The textures were great too.

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At the end of the day, we had a really great time. Service is always great here and even though there were little misses, on the whole, it was still a positive experience. The new menu items are available at the Irvine Spectrum location now, but will roll out nation-wide on June 19th.

This week, I have a $50 giftcard for one of my readers to win for an experience at PF Chang’s. Leave me a comment with your FULL name (not eligible otherwise) and tell me what you’re most excited about trying from the summer menu. Entries close Sunday June 2nd. Good Luck!

PF Chang’s
61 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Tel: 949-453-1211

P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

Genji Sushi at Whole Foods Market

If you’re looking for a quick but delicious and healthy lunch, stop by one of the many Genji Sushi is located inside selected Whole Foods Market stores and pick up an array of ready packed sushi or fresh rolls,including vegetarian ones. Or, if you have a few minutes to spare, order one of the specialty items and the staff will make it to order for you to enjoy.

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If you want to pick up some udon noodles which you can take with you and nuke later in the microwave, they have them in the display case.

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Sesame balls desserts are also good for those wanting something sweet.

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I stopped by on several occasions to picked up a snack for my son who loves the brown rice and quinoa sushi in various flavors — salmon, tuna, in both regular of spicy, or California roll style.

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The other day, I ordered the tonkatsu ramen — doesn’t have tonkatsu in it, but the broth is pork-based and you get some white meat chicken and lots of veggies in the bowl. There was way too much noodles for me! The broth was quite flavorful and was pretty good priced at around $8.

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If you are at Whole Foods Market and looking for clean, fresh, Asian fare, check out the Genji Sushi stations inside selected stores. Check out Genji Sushi’s website for more information and locations.

Win a pair of tickets to Big Bite Bacon Fest

The Big Bite Bacon Fest will bring together all the best bacon foods in one location by chefs and competitive cooks in San Diego and beyond. An unlimited array of bacon dishes will be on hand for you to sample from appetizers to desserts.

There will be an array of craft beers to pair with all the delicious bacon fare you will be eating. Bacon-inspired cocktails are also available at an additional cost.

For $55 (children 2 and under free) you will receive admission into the event, unlimited tastings of all the bacon items available and samples of craft beers from top San Diego breweries.

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The VIP ticket at $80 allows for entry an hour earlier, plus all the food and drink samples also an hour earlier. Also included is entry into the San Diego County Fair, plus more. For more information please go to their website.

If you wish to purchase tickets, please click on this link to purchase on line.

My readers will have the opportunity to enter to win a pair of General Admission tickets to this event on Sunday June 16 (Father’s Day).

Sponsored by Yelp, Slater 50/50 and Farmer John’s, this event is tipped to be of epic “porkportions”.

To enter to win two General Admission tickets, leave me a comment with your FULL name and tell me why you love bacon. Entries will close on Thursday, May 30th, a winner will be announced on Friday, May 31st. Good Luck!

very satisfying omakase at Hamamori

My friend Brenda loves food just like me, and whenever we lunch, sushi is generally the food of choice. Although it’s been only about a week since Brenda’s last visit, it’s been a while since mine and I was happy to see Chef James Hamamori in good spirits and jokingly cheerful as I take photos of everything I’m eating.

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We decided on omakase (please note prices reflect the price of a two piece portion) and started with Uni Toro ($19.50), Brenda’s choice — the fatty tuna together with the already decadent uni (sea urchin) was heavenly when combined. I looked at Chef James and damned him for presenting that to us first because it would be a hard act to follow. He deflected blame to Brenda — funny guy!

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Salmon with daikon and Ikura ($6) was a melt-in-your-mouth piece of salmon topped with a thin slice of pickled daikon (Asian radish) and topped with salty ikura (roe) and a little citrus zest.

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I was remembering the fermented beancurd soaked in a sweet sake during one visit and Chef James decided to create a special piece of sushi using Halibut ($6.50). I absolutely love the taste, although it could be an acquired one for some.

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I asked for toro next and Chu Toro ($12.50), my favorite of all the different toro (bluefin tuna) cuts. It is less fatty than the top of the charts otoro which can be so fatty it leaves a film in my mouth I prefer to eat it as the last piece in my meal. This chu toro is really flavorful and doesn’t overpower your palate.

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Next came Spot Prawn Caviar ($11), a sweet spot prawn topped with caviar.

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After eating the sushi, you have the option of having the head fried or served in soup. We chose the fried.

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I love yuzu kosho, a paste made from yuzu and other aromatics. Scallop Yuzu Kosho ($6) was melty good. Loved it!

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Brenda remembers the lobster from a previous visit so we had an order of Lobster ($12) topped with this incredible sauce. I asked Chef James if it was miso and ponzu and he shook his head. He wasn’t about to divulge his secrets to me!

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We ended with Albacore Onion ($6.50) a beautiful piece of albacore tuna topped with fried onion bits. I highly recommend eating this last so the onion doesn’t overwhelm your palate. You need to keep your tastebuds clean when eating sushi.

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Brenda and I shared Pumpkin Flan ($8) for dessert. The kabocha squash flan was subtle and lightly sweetened, my perfect kind of dessert. A very enjoyable meal with a good friend!

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Go and have some sushi and enjoy some laughs with Chef James!

Hamamori
3333 Bear Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 714-850-0880

Hamamori on Urbanspoon

Lindt chocolate opens store in Orange

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be posting about a store opening, but this is different. When I found out that Lindt chocolate was opening a storefront, I was very excited. I grew up eating Lindt chocolates! Back then, Lindt was the epitome of gourmet chocolates and it was one of the special treats we got as children.

Since moving to the US, I’ve seen Lindt at Target, Sur La Table and a handful of other stores, but only a handful of the truffles and definitely nothing like the wall to wall display I was faced with when I entered the store (situated next to Neiman Marcus). WOW! This is a chocolate lover’s haven!

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It was kind of early, but I couldn’t resist eating a truffle ball. So creamy and so decadent. I love them. Best part is, at the store, you can mix and match all the flavors including a white chocolate with key lime, the orange truffle, or just the regular dark — my fave!

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From the European selection there is a chocolate filled with marzipan for those who love things like this. There is another with crunchy nougat.

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I highly suggest getting any of the specialty chocolate bars like the dark chocolate with chili or wasabi.

The next time I’m going to a party, I’m bringing a box of the Creation Dessert — a selection of seven different chocolates including creme brulee, Caramel Eclair and Meringue.

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There are a bunch of new collections never seen before such as the milkshake line… which presumably tastes very much like, well, drinking a milkshake!

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Or how about the caramel line which comes in a bar or also, a small stick you can carry in your purse for when that craving hits!

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Next time you see the Lindt Bunny Mobile driving around, wave! You might get a bunch of samples from whoever is handing them out that day!

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Check out Lindt today! If you’re not able to get down there immediately, I have a selection of dark chocolate gift basket for one lucky winner to win. Tell me why you should win this incredibly delicious giveaway by leaving me a comment with your FULL name by Sunday, May 19th. Winner announced Monday! Good Luck!

Lindt Chocolate Shop
The Outlets at Orange
20 City Blvd W
Orange, CA 92868
Tel: 714-940-9811

new dishes at Anepalco’s Cafe are a huge hit

One of my favorite restaurants in Orange County is Anepalco’s Cafe, and if you haven’t been there yet, then you’re missing out on one of the culinary experiences of your life. Chef Daniel Godinez is a creative genius, combining his French training with his Mexican roots for some of the most innovative and delicious items you’ll ever taste.

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I love the dinners at the Chapman location and Chef Daniel launched a new menu recently with some mind-blowingly crazy palate popping dishes. Some old favorites remain and I’m sure if he tried to remove those would create a furor among his fiercely loyal customers.

One of my favorite new items is Pambazo Ahi Crudo ($10) a piece of ciabatta bread soaked in a Guajillo chile infused sauce before it is topped with avocado puree, sushi grade ahi tuna, serrano chile, fresh lime juice, red radish and micro cilantro. The flavors make my head spin and I literally have to close my eyes to savor every moment of this before my son devours what I’m not quick enough to put in my mouth.

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Pork Belly Tacos ($9) is a version of a style of tacos Chef Daniel remembers eating after late nights of partying in Mexico. These tortillas hechas a mano — hand made tortillas — are square and served with a house made salsa, red onions topped with micro cilantro. The pork belly is crispy and unctuous at the same time and is absolutely a delight to eat.

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Meat lovers can try the Aladobo ($18.50) an 8oz all natural sirloin culotte steak topped with chimichurri sauce with a mini portion of their famous chilaquiles alongside.

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Chile Negro ($16) is a pumped up version of a chile relleno (well, at least to me). An Ancho chile is filled with all natural Arrachera steak and sits on top of arroz verde topped with red radish and micro cilantro. Soooooo good!!!

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My favorite things to eat at Anepalco’s is seafood and Huachinago ($18.75) is to-die-for. Perfectly cooked red snapper, oh so tender and melt-in-your-mouth is served with purple cauliflower, sauteed corn with an Aztec jus. I’m salivating just remembering it.

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For a taste of both meat and seafood, Surf & Turf ($19) will offer you pork belly, scallops with green potato puree, quail eggs and salsa de Almendras. I don’t know what everything is, but it all comes together so beautifully!

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To be honest, Chef Daniel can put unspeakable roadkill in front of me and I’ll probably eat it without question. I trust him implicitly when he presents me with something to eat — he has never steered me wrong. His cuisine does indeed reign supreme and I’m an avid fan! The dinners are incredible and if you’ve only experienced breakfast/brunch at Anepalco’s, I think it’s time to go back and try the dinners!!

Anepalco’s Cafe
3737 W Chapman Avenue
Orange, CA 92868
Tel: 714-456-9642

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