Golden Foodie Awards & a giveaway

In this final week of voting for the Golden Foodie Awards is the Best OC Food Writer Category. Last year, diary of a Mad Hungry Woman was nominated for  Best OC Food Blog, and I hope this year, I will get your support in this new category.

golden foodie awards

In order to make this fun, I have a $50 giftcard from Amazon.com for one reader to WIN. Leave me a comment with your FULL name and tell me what has been your favorite post so far this year. Which story do you think is 2013’s best? You might have one, or even two. Let me know!

Here’s how to vote:

1) Click on the Golden Foodie Awards’ website

2) Scroll down to the Best OC Food Writer category and click VOTE on the left

3) Enter “Anita Lau” and then you have the option to enter a comment.

Thanks for your support. Voting ends Saturday, August 31st.

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SeaLegs Wine Bar & a giveaway

My experiences at SeaLegs Wine Bar in the last few months have been very positive. They won a Golden Foodie Award last year and are nominated again this year. When I first came here, I was surprised to see that it was located in this complex because I’d been here before but never noticed SeaLegs there.

The restaurant has that east coast seaport feel about it. Decor is cute and very inviting. The pseudo outside patio is quaint and cozy and I can see why people are flocking here to take in the ambiance.

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On our first visit, we started with Heirloom Caprese ($11) some beautiful heirloom tomatoes topped with a nice salty grilled ricotta Solata, spinach, pickled onions and radish salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The menu says ricotta solata, but it is in fact, ricotta salata, an Italian cheese similar to feta.  

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Lump Crab Cake ($16) were delightful. Light and texturally pleasing, they didn’t have many fillers so the nuances of the crab came through well. The lemon tarragon aioli added a welcoming hint of citrus.

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OC Baking bread is utilized for the Bruchetta ($10) but was sliced too thickly for the dish. The inch-thick char-grilled slice was hard to bite into, but the toppings of prosciutto, melted mozzarella, marinated tomato, basil oil and paprika oil came together well. Flavors synched to create a harmonious mouthful and it would’ve been perfect had the baguette been half an inch thick.

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Charred Filet Medallions ($15) were charbroiled to medium rare but slightly underseasoned. While the pickled onions added a touch of tartness which I loved, I wanted more of the accompanying red wine demi glace.

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One of my favorites of the evening was the Broccoli Rabe side dish. The soft poached egg on top made a stunning sauce when cut open to reveal the oozing egg yolk.

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My son loved the Stinky Fries ($9). Fresh cut fries with parmesan and garlic served alongside a three cheese fondue with truffle oil is a kid’s dream.

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My least favorite dish of the night was the Monte Cristo ($12). While I enjoyed the salty sweet flavors of the North country ham, melted brie and mustard aioli combo, I wasn’t keen on the mealy, doughy housemade brioche. The berry coulis was absolutely amazing and I would have liked this drizzled over vanilla ice cream if I could!

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We sampled several desserts but my favorite was surprisingly, SeaLegs Tiramisu ($12). I am ordinarily not a fan of tiramisu, but the one here was so light it was like eating air. Whipped mascarpone layered in a wine glass with rum soaked lady finger and topped with a chocolate anchor medallion might just change my mind about tiramisu altogether! It was THAT good!

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I came back again when the restaurant featured the Villa Nova Wine Dinner, a menu consisting of old favorites from the Villa Nova restaurant once owned by SeaLegs’ Chef Alex Dale’s grandfather.

The array of dishes we tried ranged from the incredible Osso Bucco, a braised veal shank served with mushroom risotto, or the decadent Lobster Parmaigiana baked with white wine and cheese supreme sauce on a bed of spaghetti.

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The Medaglione Romano offers tender medallions with tagliatelle Villa Nova sauteed in a red wine mushroom sauce with tomatoes. Scallopini Salto In Bocca are veal medallions wrapped in prosciutto with spaghetti and house made marinara sauce.

Although the dinner was only available for one night only, Chef Alex is thinking of bringing the dishes back as specials to the restaurant in the future. Keep your eyes open for these by following the restaurant’s Facebook page.

This week I have a $50 giftcard to SeaLegs for one lucky winner to win. Just leave me a comment and tell me why you should be the one to win this. Make sure you use your FULL name or your entry will not be eligible. Entries close on Sunday, August 25th. Winner will be announced on Monday.

SeaLegs Wine Bar
21022 Beach Blvd
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Tel: 714-536-5700

Sea Legs Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

satisfying Japanese at Gohan

I’ve been to Gohan several times through the years and usually for lunch. The selection is good and when I don’t feel like waiting in line at Fukada, this suffices. The restaurant is really nice, minimal decor, clean and uncluttered. Service is pretty good as well even when it gets busy.

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A bowl of house-made potato chips and lotus root chips are set down for you to enjoy while you peruse the menu.

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We started with Chicken Karaage ($7), usually my favorite, but this was just okay. The portion size is a little on the small side and the coating to moistness ration is average. I would’ve like more crispy exterior, but it was just passable.

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My son loves Agedashi Tofu ($6) and this one was just as good as any you’d find anywhere else. The accompanying sauce was nicely seasoned and neither overpowering nor teetering on the bland.

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Our favorite appetizer was Portabello Tempura ($7.50), meaty pieces of portabello mushrooms with a light crispy batter. The dipping sauce was decent and I would totally order this again.

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I wanted to try the Chicken Katsu Curry because I make this often at home but am too lazy to make it from scratch. I use the packaged Japanese curry which really isn’t all that great but is fast and easy. Unfortunately, the curry tasted not much different from the package kind. If you want curry, go to Curry House.

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If you are hungry, I highly suggest the combination meals such as Zaru Soba Combo ($12.25). It comes with your choice of an accompanying item. The soba tasted like the Korean version rather than the Japanese ones. The former has a chewier texture than the latter.

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Pair it with Spicy Tuna Don, a generous portion which I usually can’t even get to if I ordered the combo. The don is good but not as spicy and also doesn’t have as much mayo as the one at Fukada — which is a good thing for me.

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If you’re looking for something soupy, Sansai Udon ($11.75 as part of combo) is a great choice. The broth is hearty and flavor-filled with a good amount of sansai (mountain vegetables) to boot.

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Combine the udon with Beef Yakiniku over rice for a really filling meal. The beef is tender and a tad sweet for my liking, but my friend really liked it.

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Katsu Donburi wasn’t bad either if you like donburi. I’m not a fan of katsu on donburi because it makes the katsu soggy. Perhaps I could ask for it on the side? The donburi itself was good.

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Gohan is a great little place when you want some home-style Japanese food. Although it is Korean owned (I found out recently), the food is very authentic and stays true in both flavor and presentation.

Gohan Japanese Bistro
13842 Newport Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780
Tel: 714-204-0401

Gohan Japanese Bistro on Urbanspoon

Buddha’s Belly is nostalgia in my mouth

We visited Buddha’s Belly a few weekends ago, a restaurant I remember seeing time after time again when my BFF used to lived in Santa Monica. The restaurant is only a block away from the water and I remember always seeing it packed with people whenever we drove by.

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As we drove by it on this particular afternoon, there was again a crowd in there. After finding parking, we strolled in to find a restaurant decorated in my favorite colors — orange and green — and a table by the floor-to-ceiling window, a perfect spot for people watching.

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We began with some beverages, including Thai Iced Tea something my son has gotten quite addicted to of late.

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Black Orchid Sour ($11) is a bourbon-based cocktail with violet liqueur, blackberries, lemon juice and egg whites. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because I’m generally not a fan of bourbon, but it was DELICIOUS! The bourbon wasn’t overpowering and the flavors were fruity and pleasing.

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We wanted the Tuna Volcano but then found out we could get a Curry Chicken Volcano/Tuna Volcano ($10) combo. Sushi rice is formed and then fried to create a crispy bottom for either a curry chicken or an ahi tuna topping. Both were very tasty with a great textural contrast in every bite.

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I absolutely adored Duck Tacos ($11.75) which reminded me of the Peking duck pancakes I used to eat in Hong Kong. Topped with green onion, hoisin sauce and served on corn tortillas instead of the traditional flour pancakes, they were equally delicious and I craved more hoisin sauce on mine. If you’re longing for Peking duck, come and get some of these instead.

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Korean Tofu Crunch ($7) is a light appetizer sitting over gochujang, a Korean chili paste with garlic, soy, sesame oil, scallion and seaweed. My son devoured it! This dish consisted of everything he loves: tofu and anything Korean!

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I’ve never been a huge fan of pad Thai because I’ve never had it anywhere outside of Thailand worthy of the real thing. The Pad Thai ($11) here is outstanding. The consistency is spot on and not the least bit greasy. Shrimp, chicken breast, tofu, onion, egg, bean sprouts, nira chive, cilantro and peanut are tossed with rice noodles and coated with that incredible char all Asian street food is known for known as “wok hei”.

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We love Thai food and Tom Yom Koon Ramen ($11) sounded interesting. The red chili broth infused with lemongrass and kaffir lime was swimming with shrimp, tomato, straw mushrooms and cilantro. A side dish of coconut milk was served alongside for you to add to your liking. We all agreed the broth was wonderfully aromatic and even took the remainder home.

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I was intrigued by Ginger Fried Rice ($11) and thought it was going to be like the one my mom makes, but it was nothing like it. Sweet red ginger is the main ingredient and they weren’t skimpy with the sirloin steak or shrimp tossed in. Egg, shiitake, mushroom, red onion, red bell pepper and sesame seeds complete this dish perfect as an entree or a shared item for the table.

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Living in Hawaii, miso black cod was a weekly staple so I wanted to try the Baked Alaskan Black Cod ($19). A beautifully presented bento box with jasmine rice, broccoli and a cucumber salad, the fish was deliciously addicting and I was trying to savor every morsel slowly.

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Every dish I had invoked some sort of ratatouille moment for me. It brought back childhood memories and fuzzy feelings I was happy to surround myself with. To take it one step further, we ended the meal with Coconut Tapioca Pudding ($7), one of my favorite Asian desserts. The dollop of red bean just made it even better!

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If you’re ever in Santa Monica and wanting some southeast Asian food, stop by this place! They even have a happy hour menu in the afternoon for snacks and delicious cocktails!

Buddha’s Belly
205 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: 310-458-2500

Buddha's Belly on Urbanspoon

a taste of home at Pie Not

Living in Australia, getting a sausage roll or a meat pie was always something uni (college) kids got after a night of drinking. My parents, who are immigrants, never got a taste for them, so I would grab them with my friends whenever we were in the city.

It’s been years since I’ve had a sausage roll or meat pie, but when I heard Pie-Not was opening, I was excited. Since its opening, I’ve been back over and over again, trying different things each time. Now, after tasting a good variety of the offerings, I feel I am finally equipped to write something about it.

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I’m partial to the authentic meat pies we got in Brisbane, so my initial selection was of course, Dog’s Eye ($5.50), a standard Aussie meat pie filled with premium ground beef with finely diced onions in a shortcrust pastry shell with a puff pastry lid. My first bite was heavenly and honestly, it was the best pie I’d ever eaten, so much better than the ones I remember eating back home.

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In Australia, we top our pies with “tomato sauce” our variation of ketchup, which is a little different to American ketchup.

My other favorite is Shroomin ($6.50) which is the Dog’s Eye filling with crimini and field mushrooms. The umami of the mushrooms brings the traditional meat pie to a whole new dimension.

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For an even meatier option, try the Bloomin Hot ($6.50) filled with coarse-ground tri-colored peppercorn braised chunky beef. The consistency is like a thick beef stew and it is one hearty mouthful after another.

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Aussies love lamb and Mary’s ($6.50) pays homage to that adoration. Ground lamb is seasoned with rosemary, roasted garlic, diced onions and back bacon. Savory meat coated in a rich sauce with a hint of rosemary makes me so happy!

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For those of you wanting to stay away from red meat, Sprung a Leek ($5.50) is a tasty option! Chunky chicken breast prepared in a white wine cream sauce with tender leeks is encased in their signature shortcrust pastry shell covered with a puff pastry lid. Reminds me of a chicken pot pie, but SO much better.

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Vegetarians will definitely go for Ghandi ($4.50), a pasty-like parcel filled with sweet Indian spiced chickpeas, potato, cauliflower, carrots and butternut squash pieces.

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On a recent visit, I tried the Daisy & Babe Sag Roll ($4), an American version of a sausage roll if you will, with premium ground beef and pork, finely grated onions and carrots, extra sharp cheese and back bacon rolled in puff pastry. It was good, but I’m a traditionalist, and when I eat a sausage roll, I want the real thing.

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The real thing, a standard Aussie sausage roll, or, Sag Roll ($3.50) is essentially the Daisy & Babe without the bacon and cheese.

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This has to be my absolute favorite Aussie delight here. Even though I don’t like ketchup, I like it on my sausage roll. On my next trip home, I’m definitely bringing some tomato sauce back to enjoy with my meat pie and rolls!!

Pie Not
270 E 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel: 949-650-7437

Pie-Not on Urbanspoon

sammies and more at Big Belly Deli

Austin and I have driven past Big Belly Deli off PCH so many times and keep reminding ourselves that we need to visit. So when our friend Selene suggested we have lunch there, we were all for it! I didn’t know there was another location in Costa Mesa, but that was the one we went to.

The restaurant is small and parking is a bit tough. There are a few spots in the back and a handful out front on the street. We went after the lunch rush so there wasn’t any issue with finding parking or a seat.

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We ordered the 6310 ($6.99) which seemed to be a hugely popular item according to Yelpers. A turkey, bacon, avocado, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion sandwich with mustard mayo on focaccia bread. I really liked this sandwich, I mean who doesn’t like bacon right?

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The Rajun Cajun ($6.99) consists of spicy chicken and sausage sauteed with red onion and bell peppers topped with melted jalapeno jack cheese and aTabasco ranch dressing. I love the kick and the chicken and sausage worked really well together.

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If you’re looking for a hot sandwich, the Pastrami Reuben ($6.49) is a good choice. Hot pastrami is sandwiched between rye bread with Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing and cole slaw, then grilled to crispy perfection.

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We also ordered Pizza ($17.99 large) — half with Pesto Pie — pesto sauce covered with ripe tomatoes, red onions, basil, artichoke hearts drizzled with a garlic herb dressing. It was good but needed more seasoning. I preferred Marcy’s White Out a little more. Seasoned chicken, red onion, mozzarella, tomato and cilantro pizza without tomato sauce. I love white pizzas and this wasn’t bad at all.

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Big Belly Deli is great value for money. The portions are generous and the large pizza feeds four average appetites or 3 to 4 larger ones. You won’t walk away hungry!!

This week I have a $25 gift certificate for one lucky winner to check them out. Leave me a comment with your full name and tell me what your favorite sandwich is, or what your favorite pizza toppings are for a chance to win. Entries close on Sunday 11th. Good Luck.

Big Belly Deli
814 W 19th
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel: 949-226-8333

Big Belly Deli on Urbanspoon