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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Labor Day Weekend Events!

Labor Day weekend is just a few days away, and if you don't have any plans there's quite a few foodie events to keep you busy in and around OC...

Nood on the Beach!
So if you've been to the Noods Noods Noods Festival in downtown Santa Ana then you may have an idea of what's in store for you at Nood Beach! Basically, the infamous FoodBeast has partnered with the Sealegs at the Beach in Huntington Beach to put on a huge noodle festival on Sunday, September 1st featuring many of OC's best restaurants, and then to top it off they've brought in a pretty great line-up of DJs, musicians and food contests to entertain you while you get your noodles on at the beach! 

Current Food Vendors Include:
LSXO: Lemongrass Beef & Curried Prawn Vermicelli
Slapfish: Brown Butter Lobster Bucatini
Mess Hall Canteen: Kalbi Brisket Garlic Noodles + Hamachi Crudo Soba Noodles
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine: Candied Pork Belly Ramen Bucket
Ellie's long beach: Cavatelli Carbonara
Sgt. Pepperoni's Pizza Store: Sheet Pan Ramen Pizza
SeaLegs at the Beach: Coconut Curry Noodles w/ Giant Prawn
Miss Mini Donuts: Ice Cream Noodle Topped Mini Donuts
Shomi Noods: Ramen Bar: Boba Cup Style 'Jiggling Ramen' + 16 lb Ramen Challenge.
Nitrolado: Savory Noodle Donuts - Balinese, Gangnam, Tokyo & Hawaiian Style.
Lia’s Lumpia Popup: Pork Belly Ramen Lumpia
THE GOLDEN MARROW®: Truffle, Garlic & Dessert Marrows w/ Noodles.
The Coconut Truck: Black Garlic Noodles, w/ braised oxtail, crispy shallots, and black garlic confit.
The Sandwich Society - Santa Ana: Ramen Grilled Cheese
Laomazing Eats: Bird Nest Noodles w/ Lao Gravy
Mussels and Pearls: Grilled Oysters, toped with garlic, shoyu and crispy noodles
Lettuce Feast: Vegan Fried Chikn Mac n Cheese Po Boy
Ten Asian Bistro
Stay tuned for more vendor updates!

Headlining live music performances include DJ Snoopadelic (AKA Snoop Dogg), Jeffrey Sutorius AKA Dash Berlin, E-40, SEGA Genecide, Yachty by Nature, Coast Club and also favorite personalities from TV, YouTube and Instagram will headline whle professional eaters from around the country will compete in the FOODBEAST Challenger League Noodle Invitational!

Early Bird GA: $40 includes stage and vendor access, with food available for purchase at each vendor.
Get your tickets here:

Orange International Street Fair                 
Unless you're a new resident of OC, you've inevitably been to (or at least heard of!) the Orange Street Fair.  Each arm of the circle is basically transformed into a few different countries with local non-profits selling corresponding food and beverages. There's also beer sales and this is pretty much the only time you can walk around the streets of Orange with an open container of alcohol!  To some of us natives, it's basically an annual Labor Day tradition to walk around the transformed circle in old town orange for a few hours with an abelskiver or a teriyaki skewer in one hand and a cold beer in another, all while listening to great local bands. The best part? FREE admission - just be sure to bring cash for the food, beer and parking! 

  • Friday, August 30th, 2019
    5pm to 10pm
    Alcohol Sales: 5pm-9pm
  • Saturday, August 31st 2019
    10am to 10pm
    Alcohol Sales: 10am-9pm
  • Sunday, September 1st 2019
    10am to 10pm
    Alcohol Sales: 10am-9pm
 For more info or to peruse the band schedule, check the website:

LA Times The Taste   
The LA Times has been putting on The Taste over Labor Day weekend for years, and let's just say they have it down pat! If you don't mind a drive into LA you'll be rewarded by a great festival featuring the best of LA not only handing out samples of their best food, but also doing cooking demos, etc. You'll also see many a celebrity Chef walking around if you're into that sort of thing - I am! ;) 

It's a great festival that I've been to many years and can highly recommend. Well worth the drive to LA.  However, if you're not in the mood for the drive this weekend, The Taste is actually coming to Costa Mesa in October!  

Read more and get your tix to either the LA or OC version here:

LA Fleet Week - featuring Chef Robert Irvine
It's Fleet Week! Yes, LA has a Fleet Week and it's filled with all kinds of fun events and one of the biggest is Galley Wars on Sunday, September 1st, which is being judged this year by Chef Robert Irvine of Food Network fame. Galley Wars consists of members on competing teams  who will vie for top-chef bragging rights at the competitive, yet friendly gastronomic event. Each team will be tasked with making their best version of a “surf & turf” meat and seafood entrée, two sides and a dessert. No tickets needed but get there early as it's sure to be quite popular! 

LA Fleet Week is located on the LA Waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles in the community of San Pedro, CA. The main event footprint is located next to the Battleship IOWA Museum with all public activities at this location. For specific directions, use 100 Swinford Street, San Pedro, CA or 250 S. Harbor Blvd, San Pedro, CA.

For more info see the Fleet Week website:

Little Saigon Night Market - Friday, Saturday and Sunday
This is the LAST weekend of the Little Saigon Night Market so if you haven't had a chance to visit this summer this is your LAST chance!

Friday through Sunday night starting at 7pm, the parking lot in front of Westminster’s Asian Garden Mall transforms into a busy street market, with authentic street food, shopping and Vietnamese music. This popular weekend event draws crowds of people looking to enjoy Vietnamese street food, live music and shopping. The market gives an authentic taste of what it would be like at a real asian market. Unlike some of the trendier night markets, it's also FREE and there's even free parking in the back of the mall, and valet parking in front. Go figure. 
Little Saigon Night Market 2019
9200 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Fri, Sat. & Sun 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Last day is Sept 1, 2019

Holiday Brunch
Additionally a lot of restaurants in OC expand brunch service into Monday on holiday weekends. Tortilla Republic in Laguna Beach, Solita in HB, Old Vine Cafe in CM - just to name a few! 

Have a fabulous food-filled Labor Day weekend and enjoy your extra day off! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New Restaurant Review: Benchmark in DTSA

Benchmark opened up about a month ago in downtown Santa Ana, in the location previously occupied by Dear Lacy. 

The unique thing about this new restaurants is that's is strictly outdoor dining. I was a tad bit worried the first time I ate here considering how warm it's been this month BUT I'm happy to report that both times eating dinner there at around 6:30 it was perfectly pleasant. This is most likely helped by the full trees and sail shades that cover the majority of the  patio.

It's actually a lovely space which is lit up nicely after dark with edison bulbs which  makes for the perfect summer evening dining. Not sure how they'll handle the colder months, or the little bit of rainy season we get in the OC but for now they seem to be doing quite well. 

I'm not really sure how they came up with the menu as it is a bit of an eclectic mix of a few ethnic dishes with more traditional dishes. It's also not a large menu but there is definitely something for everyone.  I've been a few times now and have tried the majority of the share dishes and quite a few of the entrees. I have to say I've been pretty impressed with everything so far. Here are some of my favorites: 

Braised Pork al Pastor 
The savory braised pork is served on crispy chips with just the right amount of Mexican crema and a slightly kicked-up salsa verde and garnished with thinly chopped cilantro and chiles. 

Artichoke Fondue
This cheesy creation is one of my hands-down favorites at Benchmark. The fondue is creamy and you can absolutely taste the artichoke.  It comes served w the most delicious homemade soft Bavarian pretzels that come to the table warm. They're the perfect accompaniment to the fondue. 

Cheese Board
Burrata, manchego, point reyes blue, house nuts, truffle honey and seasonal fruit compote - how can you go wrong with that combination? ;) 

Another one of my favorites was the Heirloom Tomato Salad with buratta, capers, herb oil and baguette. Fresh and flavorful is the best way to describe this dish! 

Ahi Tuna - This dish surprised me as poke is on just about every menu these days so my expectations were a little low. I was pleasantly surprised by the brightness and freshness this dish exuded. It was also a nice change in texture to bite into the firm edamame and the sriracha aioli. I also loved the unique rice crackers that come with this dish - really tasty and unlike anything I've had before with poke! 

The Gochujang Fried Chicken was also one of my top choices - the flavor was spot on and the chicken itself was cooked perfectly crispy.  I also appreciated that it was served in small pieces so it was easy to share. The cool and creamy napa cabbage & red onion slaw was also the perfect compliment to the spicy chicken! 

So one of my all time favorite desserts is a Butterscotch Pot de Creme and the one at Benchmark definitely hit the mark. The touch of cocoa nibs and sea salt on top really made the butterscotch flavor shine, 

I highly recommend you try this newcomer - you won't be disappointed! 

Benchmark is located at 601 E. Santa Ana Blvd in Santa Ana. 714/480-0228
**Helpful tip: Parking is available behind the restaurant and also at the huge lot one block over on Santa Ana Blvd. over by the Ebell Club that is owned by the restaurant.
More on the website:

Be sure to tell them OCFoodieGirl sent you! ;) 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

August Food Happenings!

It's definitely SUMMER and there's lots of fun foodie stuff happening in August! 

The FIRST location of the infamous Marugame Udon from Japan is officially open at South Coast Plaza! If you've never heard of Marugame they're famous for their cafeteria style udon! Served up using fresh in-house made noodles with so many varieties of broth and proteins to try that there's something to please everyone! They also have an impressive row of tempura and misubis - also freshly made as you're going down the line.  The best part? Most of the udon are around $10 and the sides are between $1-$2 so you won't be breaking the bank here!  Marugame is located in the lower level of the former Sears wing in South Coast Plaza, near Casa Barilla. For more info or to peruse the menu check out their website:

Sunday, August 10th & 11th the LA Tea Festival is happening in downtown at The Reef. A tea lovers' dream come true, the festival unites tea enthusiasts and experts for two days of tea talk and culture, plus the chance to try unique tea pairings, craft tea infused cocktials and purchase local and national teas to your heart's content! 

Get your tickets and sign up for seminars at their website:

The 3rd Annual Pacific Wine & Food Classic is right around the corner on August 17th & 18th!  Voted one of the 10 best food festivals in the nation by USA Today, this world class event celebrates summer and the best food and beverages providers in Orange County. This year's line-up includes 60+ restaurants and over 100 tastes experiences all set on the sand at The Newport Dunes in back by. Tickets WILL sell out as they have in past years so if you're thinking about going, be sure to get your tickets SOONER rather than later! Get you tickets here:

Duck Donuts is celebrating their 12th anniversary with a $12 for a dozen of their made-to-order delicious donuts on August 12th! If you haven't tried this North Carolina transplant, there's no better time! They have two locations in OC - one in Irvine (2222 Michelson Drive) and one in Huntington Beach (18591 Main St.). 

There's a NEW craft brewery on the peninsula in Newport Beach, AND it's the ONLY brewery on the peninsula! Helmsman Ale House just opened up and is serving up their new batches featuring IPA and Blondes, along with artfully crafted delicious pub food. Brought to you by local OC Rockstar restaurateur, Mario Marovic, who also owns Country Club, Playa Mesa and many other local eateries it's sure to be a great new addition to the local craft brew scene! 

Located on the peninsula, at 2920 Newport Blvd in NB. Be sure to check it out soon! 😋 
More info on their website:

AND don't forget the OC Fair is still going on til August 11th so you still have time to fulfill your fair foodie dreams! Open Wednesday through Sunday! See the OC Fair website for more info on events and specific hours: