Restaurants

Simmzy’s Pub- Huntington Beach Review

The Pacific City complex by the water in downtown Huntington Beach has brought a whole host of shops and restaurants to the seaside area of our great city; one of them being Simmzy’s Pub. A very small California concept – they only have five locations – Simmzy’s specializes in boldly crafted American fare, craft brews, cocktails, wine, with a big splash of SoCal surfer laid back vibes. With another location just up the road in Long Beach, I’d heard from others that Simmzy’s was a delicious and fun place to eat. Finally, this weekend I got the chance to dine at there latest and greatest location in Pacific City.

Simmzys Frontal

Situated on the first floor closest to the ocean, Simmzy’s offers stunning views of the beach on the south side of the pier. The seating at this restaurant is half inside, half outside on the patio; and they are known for having a great patio with those stunning views. However, no matter where you are sitting, you get to enjoy the views of the sea and the light ocean breezes sweeps into the restaurant and weave around the guests. On a sunny day, it just feels like a great place to be!

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Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

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Kitchen Republic Review

To the naked foodie’s eye, the Bella Terra Shopping Mall in Huntington Beach, CA is a sea of casual dining chain restaurants that offer decent to good standard meals but not much in the way of originality. If you sail through this island of entertainment a little more carefully, however, you will happen across a new gem of a restaurant that satisfies the craving for a unique dining and tasting experience amongst the flavors of the chain establishments: Kitchen Republic. Located across from the ever popular Cheesecake Factory and next to the polarizing Buffalo Wild Wings, the fairly new Kitchen Republic offers a space that is hip, cool, authentic, and welcoming with drinks and dishes from a tapas style menu to match.

Kitchen Republic 1

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Plums Cafe + Catering Review

I don’t often have the opportunity to go out to brunch despite how much I adore breakfast fare. So when I am given the chance to enjoy this most glorious incarnation of weekend morning meals, I want a real BRUNCH; not some flat pancake and chewy bacon impostor of a brunch, real brunch. I want unique and memorable dishes that have been created by people who understand how delicious weekend breakfasts can be. Plums Café and Catering in Costa Mesa, CA understand that brunch is a sacred art.

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Mitasie 3 Review

I have recently been having a lot of foodie fun trying more vegetarian and vegan foods. I am experimenting with more vegetarian/vegan recipes, like my Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili, and am enjoying visiting more veg-friendly restaurants (Native Foods and Veggie Grill are long standing favorites of mine).

 

you don't eat meat

While I am not a vegetarian, I do think we need some animal protein in our diets and know that I certainly need some in mine, I am also a firm believer that we can and should cut way back on our meat consumption, utilize better practices when it comes to meat, and make better sustainable choices overall. An easy way to help our own health and the health of the planet is to enjoy some more veggie centric meals. This has led me to seek out more vegetarian establishments recently.

Enter Mitasie 3! I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this little gem of a restaurant; located literally around the corner from me in Huntington Beach, its right next to the PetSmart I take my dog to all the time. Mitasie 3 is a self-proclaimed “Healthy Vegetarian Vietnamese” restaurant serving up completely vegan versions of Vietnamese classics. My colleagues and I stopped in for lunch this past Friday for our “Cultural” lunch and were not disappointed!

A small restaurant, the space is bright with Asian décor and a definite feeling of light and freshness. Also cool, they display artworks from local artists that are up for sale! It wasn’t busy when we went and were quickly seated and attended to. The service from there continued to be superb with two very friendly servers making sure that we were happy throughout our experience.

look food

Now to the food! On this particular outing, we decided to order a bunch of different dishes and share.

We started with two different types of Mitasie’s Spring Rolls.

Mitasie Jimaca Rol

Jicama Spring Roll

The Jimaca Spring Roll is comprised of steamed jicama, shredded carrots, basil, and soy ham all rolled up into rice paper and served with a spicy peanut sauce. The rolls were tasty light and refreshing, perfect on a warm day!

Mitasie BBQ Spring Roll

BBQ Pork Spring Roll

The clear winner of the Spring Rolls, however, was the Soy BBQ Pork Roll. BBQ soy ham, avocado, mint, lettuce, sprouts, and cucumber, again rolled up into the strangely clear rice papers and served with the same peanut sauce. These rolls were slightly hearty and packed the great flavor of tangy BBQ while being contrasted and complimented by the fresh veggies. I would make a meal just out of these and a salad!

Mitasie Thai Salad

Thai Salad

I actually ordered another dish just for me because, food. I ordered the Thai Salad which was moderately spicy and fully fresh. Mixed greens, carrots, bell peppers, basil, a special Thai sauce, and soy chicken. This salad was a surprising amount of food. The Thai sauce really gave the dish a nice kick and the soy chicken really did look, feel, and taste like chicken! I’d order it again.

Mitasie Shaking Beef

Shaking Beef

Next we had the other clear winner of the day, the Shaking Beef. Marinated and roasted soy beef, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a sweet vinegar sauce over a bed of greens. I’ve had vegan chicken that tasted like chicken before, like in my salad above, but never have I ever had a vegan version of beef that tasted legit. Holy Hera! This dish beautifully danced between sweet and savory and was entirely delectable. This is another one I would order just for me next time!

Mitasie Cryspy Shrimp

Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp

We also shared the Salted Pepper Cryspy Soy Shrimp. This baby is spicy! Soy shrimps that have been fried to a perfect and satisfying crunchiness, onions, peppers, and jalapenos. This one just had a great depth of spicy and savory flavor. Plus, it was fried! Get this one too!

Mitasie Garlic Noodle

Garlic Noodle

Lastly, we had sides of the Mitasie Garlic Noodles; spaghetti noodles, garlic, tofu, mushrooms and olive oil, as well as the Garlic Fried Rice. As you might have guessed it, both were very garlicy; and garlicy is good! The noodles can be ordered as a main whereas the rice is a perfect and cheap side order. If you like garlic and need some carbs with your meal, either of these should do nicely!

The prices at Mitasie 3 are incredibly fair. You can easily enjoy a nice, healthy meal for $10 or under. I am so used to having to pay a premium to eat healthfully that I went into the restaurant expecting to spend more than was actually necessary. How refreshing, no pun intended, to find a place where I can eat well for less!

so good

We left full of plant-based deliciousness and with happy hearts. Mitasie 3 is a little hidden treasure in my eyes. The atmosphere is bright and inviting, the service is friendly and quick, and the food is fantastic and equally healthy. I especially love that I have another vegan option nearby when as I begin to order more vegetarian. I hope you make a trip over to Mitasie 3 and enjoy what they have to offer!

True Food Kitchen Newport Beach

Last month, I revisited one of my favorite restaurants in Orange County: True Food Kitchen. Located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, CA, True Food Kitchen is one of twenty restaurants spread out across the country. As the name suggests, True Food Kitchen emphasizes quality food that is healthful and nutritious as well as seasonal, sustainable, innovative, and delicious.

True Food Kitchen is one of those restaurants that at once makes you feel healthier just for being present in the building while also getting you excited for a truly fantastic meal. The space is open, warm and inviting. A color scheme of bright green, soft yellow and honey woods help to convey the focus on fresh and healthy. The open dining room with high ceilings is set up to feel all at once collaborative and communal while also spacious enough for diners to enjoy conversations privately with their friends and family. Large wood islands stacked with vibrant produce and ingredients divide the diners from the visible kitchen, allowing guests a chance to see the ingredients they will be eating, the preparation of said ingredients and the chefs that make all of the magic happen. I can’t speak for the other True Food Kitchen locations, but the Newport Beach location also offers two different private dining rooms which can be rented out for private parties and events as well as a very nice, semi-private outdoor space complete with heating lamps and fire pits. The restaurant also boasts a beautiful full bar in one half of the dining room, making it easy to grab a drink while waiting for your table or to simply stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer. It’s all very casual and comfortable, but also classy and fun, and it possesses a very clean, organic feel. At any rate, I feel right at home here!

PLEASE EXCUSE THE PICTURE QUALITY – FORGOT CAMERA THAT NIGHT AND USED IPHONE!

Now, let’s get to the part you’re all waiting for: the food! One of the best parts of True Food Kitchen and its concept is that it offers a seasonal menu. So the menu options change several times throughout the year and highlight the foods that are in season and at their very peak for freshness and flavor. Remember my article on seasonal eating, its importance and why we should practice more of it? Well, True Food Kitchen has the same beliefs as I do and they help to make it easier for diners too.

I took my mom with me to True Food Kitchen for dinner before our annual Fashion Island Christmas Shopping date. We were there in mid-December so the menu being offered was the “Volume One: Winter” menu. Fall and Winter foods are my favorite: the root vegetables and hearty greens, the earthy herbs, and the warming braises and stews; so this menu was right up my alley!

True Food Kitchen Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board

For our first course, along with our wine of course, we split the Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board. A literal board of roasted winter vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, beets, mushrooms, and Brussels Sprouts, served with two different dipping sauces: an avocado green goddess dip and a pimento cashew cheese spread. To be completely honest, I could’ve eaten this entire board by myself and called it my dinner. These winter vegetables, which again are my favorite, appeared to be dressed with little more than olive oil, salt, and pepper, but were roasted to absolute tender perfection which intensifies the natural flavors of the vegetables. The dips were fantastic compliments to punch up the produce just a bit more. The pimento cashew cheese spread added a nice heat, but the avocado green goddess dip was just phenomenal as it added a nice sweet richness because, avocado. Vegan and Gluten-Free, this is a dish anyone could eat with a very happy heart.

True Food Kitchen Braised Bison Short Rib

Braised Bison Short Rib – Split Plate

Next, we decided to split the Braised Bison Short Rib. When it’s Winter and cold outside, I love a good, hearty, braised dish that fills me and warms me from the inside out. This was the dish for exactly that on a rainy and unusually cold Newport Beach night at Christmas time. A large bison short rib braised slowly with lots of flavorful cooking liquids (I think there was red wine in there) to the point where the meat was so tender it shredded at the slightest touch of your fork and dissolved in your mouth, served with a creamy and savory cauliflower mash and earthy sautéed Swiss chard that acted as the perfect light sides to the meat. This entrée was masterfully done. Honestly, I like bison, but it does sometimes taste a bit gamey and plainer than say a beef short rib; but you could not tell at all with this bison. The dish packed tons of rich and developed flavors that hit all the marks of a good braised meat dish. A generous portion, mom and I were glad we split; and the best part – they split the dish for us ahead of time so we didn’t have to fuss with it at the table! That is a great point about True Food Kitchen, they cater to all needs; these guys are more than happy to split your dish, omit an ingredient, substitute, add, whatever you want! Even the pickiest and neediest of eaters can find or create something here.

True Food Kitchen Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

You cannot go to such a restaurant and not have dessert, right? Right. A Gluten-Free Flourless Chocolate Cake was our choice this night – we are chocoholics. This decadent and moist cake is made of nothing more than cocoa, eggs, and almond butter, baked till warm and gooey and topped with a touch caramel and sweet vanilla bean ice cream. Dear Lord, Dear God. This dessert was simply perfection; it had all the things I love in a dessert and with very little guilt. Couldn’t have been happier! You simply must get dessert when you come here, they are all great and innovative, ideal with a cup of fair-trade coffee or tea that True Food Kitchen also offers.

All in all, our experience was yet again wonderful. A warm and healthy atmosphere with delicious seasonal foods that are both nutritious while also pleasing to the tongue and stomach. I adore True Food Kitchen and am a regular guest there; it really has something for everyone. Omnivores and carnivores, vegetarians and vegans, gluten-frees and special needs, the folks at True Food have something for you, and if they don’t, they will make something for you. It’s affordable for a nice-ish dinner out; great for a catch up meal with friends, a casual date, a quick cocktail and appetizer, or even a celebration. I would recommend True Food Kitchen to anyone! Here’s to hoping there is one by you!

You can learn more about True Food Kitchen here.

Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market Costa Mesa

On Wednesday December 2nd (aka Britney Spears’ Birthday, praise!) my colleagues and I went for our weekly “Lunch Bunch” outing to Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market in Costa Mesa, CA. When this restaurant was proposed as our lunch spot for the day, I really had no idea what it was. It was then pitched to me as a fast casual concept with an emphasis on local, seasonal, quality ingredient sandwiches and salads that are equally as healthy as they are tasty; “Sounds like my kind of place!” I said and with that we were off.

Mendocino Farms does two things – sandwiches and salads, that’s it! Sure, it’s only two categories, but what they do, they do WELL. Mendocino Farms sources the ingredients for their sandwiches and salads from local farmers, ranchers, and bakers who exercise best practices; the produce is fresh and often organic, the meat is free-range and vegetarian/grass-fed, and the bread is made with the best grains and baked fresh daily. And let’s not forget that the sandwiches and salads that are offered boast fantastic flavors and combinations.

The restaurant itself is both airy and earthy – very bright and welcoming. The kitchen is open for guests to see the culinary team in action. The décor has a definite artisan-feel with a big splash of health-emphasis. When you enter, you are greeted by the very friendly and helpful staff. They check to see if you have visited before, and if you haven’t, they give you an overview of the menu and their offerings. I really enjoy restaurants that have team members that speak with you about their offerings as it somehow makes you feel more connected to the food. In addition to explaining the menu, they also emphasize that they are very flexible when it comes to dietary preferences; gluten-free breads are available to substitute for other breads, they are more than happy to hold the cheese if you avoid dairy, and in general help you to order a meal that suites your tastes and needs.

A fast-casual restaurant, you order at the counter and then pick out your own table and wait for the food to be brought to you. What is really awesome, is that before you order, they are happy to offer you samples of the side salads and soups that they have available to add onto your meal so that way you can get a better feel for what you are ordering! Once you are seated, the food is brought to you on a small baking sheet and you are ready to enjoy lunch! Now, let’s get to what my colleagues and I had.

Mendocino Farms 6

The Blue Plate Special with Half Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever

I ordered the Blue Plate Special -a ½ a sandwich with a side salad or cup of soup – with the Farm Club and the Healthiest Salad Ever. The Farm Club is masterfully comprised of local farm, free-range turkey breast, smashed avocado (always a yes), prime Applewood bacon, herb aioli, tomatoes, greens, pickled red onions and “Mom’s seeded whole wheat bread”. The bread was incredibly hearty and comforting while also remaining light, the vegetables fresh and full of their natural flavors, the avocado perfectly green, the bacon superbly crispy, and the turkey fantastically fresh and clean tasting. There was just the right amount of everything on this sandwich. The Healthiest Salad Ever included thinly sliced raw beets, ginger, carrots, and kale, black rice, golden raises, toasted hazelnuts, and chopped orange segments. It was sweet and refreshing, a perfect pairing with my sandwich. I was rather satisfied!

Mendocino 8

Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

Some of my colleagues were a bit more adventures than I was on this trip. A few of them tried the Korubuta Pork Belly Banh Mi; a play on a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, caramelized Korubuta Pork belly, a housemade pickled daikon (no idea what that is) and carrots, cilantro, cucumbers,  jalapenos, and chili on a panini ciabatta. Apparently, this sandwich was spicy and hearty all at once. A definitely good choice for meat lovers and Asian food lovers alike!

Mendocino Farms 5

Peruvian Steak Sandwich

The Peruvian Steak sandwich was another big hit! Spicy aji Amarillo marinated steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, and shredded romaine on a panini-pressed torta bun. Though I didn’t try, I was told that the steak was decadent and the premium ingredients all worked together to create a sandwich that was rich, perfectly spicy, and superbly satisfying!

Mendocino Farms Falafel

Enlightened Falafel Wrap

The Vegan Enlightened Falafel Wrap was one of the biggest winners of the day. This would probably be the one I would order the next time I return, and trust me; there will be a next time. This veggie friendly wrap is constructed from Mendocino’s housemade falafel-spiced V7 patty, Mendo’s classic hummus, a vegan tzatziki, grape tomatoes, shredded romaine, julienned cucumbers, pickled red onions wrapped in a panini pressed whole wheat tortilla. This was so fresh and zesty as well as fulfilling. It’s encouraging to see a restaurant have such great options for our vegan friends!

We also sampled sides of the various side salads. In addition my Healthiest Salad Ever, we tried the Curried Couscous and the Sriracha Potato Salad; both were surprisingly delicious! Could’ve eaten giant tubs of both! Keep in mind, some of Mendocino’s menu is seasonal and so some items may vary from time to time, but that’s part of the foodie fun!

In summary, our visit to Mendocino Farms was beyond satisfactory. It was so wonderful to find a fast-casual restaurant with a healthy vibe, foodie flare, and ethical practices. I will definitely be returning in the future for more tasty sandwiches!

For more information, visit Mendocino Farms’ website here: http://mendocinofarms.com/