RVOC July 2013 : Page 88
The 50 Finest! By Tina BorgaTTa and KrisTen schoTT | PhoTograPhy By andrea Bricco, cameron gardner, aKin girov and chrisTie hemm If there’s truly no sincerer love than the love of food, then we’re crushing like crazy over the exciting new restaurants and hot chefs driving Orange County’s dining scene right now. They’ve won our hearts with concepts that fan our flame, dishes that make us swoon and inventive twists on popular trends. And here’s the proof. grill master arC restaurant’s Noah Blom is firing up our foodie flame.
The 50 Finest!
Tina Borgatta And Kristen Schott
If there's truly no sincerer love than the love of food, then we're crushing like crazy over the exciting new restaurants and hot chefs driving Orange County's dining scene right now. They've won our hearts with concepts that fan our flame, dishes that make us swoon and inventive twists on popular trends. And here's the proof.<br /> <br /> AdAm Navidi <br /> <br /> Talk about a guy with fresh ideas... He owns the greenest “restaurant” in O.C.—a 25-acre farm in Brea. Navidi earned his cooking cred at dining spots near and far. But at Future Foods Farms, he practices aquaponics, an organic self-sustaining growing method that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Fish provide nutrients for the produce, and everything is repurposed—from Styrofoam boxes to salad bars. Book a visit, and you’ll be treated to a tour and a tasting of his fresh crop of exotic greens, edible flowers, and organically raised tilapia and chicken. Futurefoodsfarms.com <br /> <br /> BruNo SerAto <br /> <br /> This toque was just appointed a knight of the Italian Republic. His opulent Anaheim White House serves the world’s dining elite his gourmet Northern Italian cuisine, and top-quality cuts of hormone-free beef and game daily, then dishes out 300 free dinners to kids living in motels every night through his nonprofit Caterina’s Club, named after his mother. (Be still our hearts.) Anaheimwhitehouse.com <br /> <br /> HeleNe AN <br /> <br /> She’s the matriarch of a dining empire that includes AnQi at South Coast Plaza and its sister restaurants (Crustacean and Tiato) in San Francisco, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. If you’ve been to AnQi, and we’re guessing you have, you know it’s the amalgamation of fine dining and fashion. But the empire grew from humble beginnings. She arrived in Cali’s Bay Area in 1975, after fleeing her homeland as a refugee (her father was senior royal court advisor to the emperor of Vietnam) and joined her mother-in-law in a restaurant venture that became the House of An. Anqibistro.com <br /> <br /> SeAkyeoNg kim <br /> <br /> We love this chef’s creativity and daring, and we adore how those character traits are carried out in the menu at Charlie Palmer’s South Coast Plaza resto. Sure, you’ll find mainstays like the spicy lamb meatballs. But then there are some nice surprises, like the escargot. It’s prepared as a dumpling, and it’s seasoned with Asian spices as well as garlic and butter—a pillow of heaven. Charliepalmer.com <br /> <br /> JuStiN miller <br /> <br /> He worked everywhere from the Balboa Bay Club to a cruise ship before landing as a line chef at David Myers’ Pizzeria Ortica in 2009. Within a year, the O.C. native moved up to chef de cuisine. Now he’s the executive chef and works with Myers crafting authentic dishes with flair and flavor. The pizza dough is made from an ancient Neapolitan recipe, the pasta is perfecto, and the Mediterranean octopus with potatoes, celery hearts and Sicilian capers is simply sublime. Pizzeriaortica.com<br /> <br /> dAvid SlAy <br /> <br /> For Slay, a garage is a space to create an enchanting destination where you’ll dine under the stars and next to—of all things—a tractor. Yes, Il Garage sits just behind his retro-inspired Park Ave eatery in Stanton. Slay seasoned his skills in his father’s kitchen, then moved to Vegas to apprentice with European chefs before opening his first resto at 20. Whether you’re dining on housemade strozzapreti at Il Garage or pan-seared scallops with edamame and summer corn succotash at Park Ave, it’s darn good. Parkavedining.com <br /> <br /> louie JocSoN<br /> <br /> He’s friendly with a flair for elevated cuisine—that’s Jocson, an adored local chef who gains more fans by the minute at his eclectic, yet sophisticated Red Table restaurant in Surf City. He founded the eatery in 2011 with a group of friends, and they consistently deliver on service and atmosphere, and the bold, fun and comforting fare. (Try the slow lamb poutine—a customer fave.) Even better, in the past year, he and his resto have given more than $10,000 to local orgs through Red Table’s weekly Community Mondays program. Redtablerestaurants.com<br /> <br /> AlAN greeley <br /> <br /> Every day’s a delicious surprise at Greeley’s Golden Truffle. The menu changes daily, depending on the fresh ingredients he picks up that morning. And he does it all—French, Italian, Mexican (you should taste what he makes for SOS’ Wild & Crazy Taco Night), as well as down-home American. Then there’s his Soul Food Wednesday menu. And he’s perhaps the most downto- earth, unpretentious chef we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Goldentruffle.com <br /> <br /> gABBi Patrick <br /> <br /> This sweetheart of south-ofthe- border cuisine has elevated Mexican food to a gourmet level. Her Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen dishes out traditional favorites (you might find ingredients like cactus worked into the mix) in a fresh, artful way. It’s what we’d expect from a gal who grew up working in her family’s restaurants before studying culinary arts at UCLA and Greystone Culinary Institute in Napa. Gabbipatrick.com <br /> <br /> AlfoNSo rAmirez <br /> <br /> It’s a thrill to watch the upward trajectory of a favorite chef, so it was a joy to see Ramirez leading the kitchen at Patina Restaurant Group’s Pinot Provence. He first spent time in the kitchen at Joachim Splichal’s beloved flagship. Now we can’t wait to see what he creates at this fine dining destination. Patinagroup.com<br /> <br /> 5 mosT eXciTing neW resTaUranTs<br /> <br /> Arc It’s hard to know where to begin when listing what we like best about this place, so let’s start with the can openers—or, rather, the fact that you won’t find any here. Nor will you find plastic bags of prepared ingredients. The meat is cut on the premises. The produce is farm-totable fresh. Everything is prepared in an open kitchen, which is the focal point of chef Noah Blom’s chic but rustic resto. Then there’s the artistry that emerges— wholesome American fare plated with finesse. Arcrestaurant.com <br /> <br /> Juliette kitcHeN + Bar Transform a former French resto into a modern dining room with a wine merchant next door, and you’ve got Newport’s Juliette Kitchen + Bar. Husband-andwife owners John Hughes and Juliette Chung have injected the place with soulful sophistication, and Executive Chef Daniel Hyatt’s fare is unforgettable. You simply must try the mussels in a just-spicy-enough broth of chorizo, sweet onion and harissa butter, and pastry chef Erica Choi’s limited-quantity sea salt chocolate chip cookies. You’ll beg for more! Juliettenb.com<br /> <br /> cArtHAy circle Classic. That’s the only way to describe chef Andrew Sutton’s Carthay Circle in Disney’s California Adventure. You need a ticket to the park to visit—but don’t let its address fool you. This is white-tablecloth dining, paying homage to its once-famed namesake theater with elegant decor reminiscent of the Hollywood Golden Age. The menu is flavorful and innovative, with dishes like the lamb (moist and boasting the right amount of char) and signature fried biscuits, with Fiscalini cheddar, bacon and jalapeño, all wrapped in dough and fried. Disneyland.disney.go.com<br /> <br /> PlAygrouNd 2.0 This is a place for true foodies, by a true foodie. Specifically, Jason Quinn, whose obsessive attention to quality helped him hit it out of the park with his first brickand- mortar eatery, Playground. Now the curtain’s come up on 2. 0, his 17-seat culinary theater located next door. And we’re crazy about its invitation-only (IO) dinner. It’s uberexclusive, and if you’re lucky enough to join the feast (you’ll first have to dine at Playground, love the food, engage your server—and don’t ask to be invited), Quinn and his team will cook you a mind-blowing meal of up to 33 courses and 10 alcohol pairings. Bravo! Playgrounddtsa.com<br /> <br /> SotA If you’re like us, the words “fish stick” don’t exactly call to mind visions of culinary artistry. Then we stopped by chef Sota Akiyama’s namesake sushi joint in CdM and snacked on his sweet mirin-glazed hamachi rib. His take on that once-frowned-upon dish blew us out of the water. Akiyama—who’s worked in sushi bars spanning the SoCal coast—concocts sharp, vibrant and artistic Japanese cuisine, including sushi lollipops, ahi tataki and oyster shooters. We’ll eat whatever Sota rolls out next. Sotasushi.com<br /> <br /> 3 desserT dePoTs<br /> <br /> Sweet Sensations <br /> <br /> Talk about desserts for adult tastes, Bubba Sweets in Huntington Beach (bubbasweets.com) has got them. There's not a cupcake in this shop that isn't sinfully addicting, and they tote names like Son of a Biscuit and Mojito. But, if we must pick just one, it's got to be the treat they call the PMS Cure—a sea salt caramel-filled chocolate cake topped with caramel buttercream frosting and a sea salt caramel star. No wonder this place won Food Network's Cupcake Wars... It's nice to find a dessert that you don't have to feel too guilty about eating, which is why we love the chocolate ganache made with coconut butter at 118 Degrees (118degrees.com). Yes, that's Jenny Ross' raw-foods resto. The ganache is rich and wonderful, and it's topped with strawberries (of course) and a few squiggles of chocolate sauce. It tastes terribly decadent... But we throw all caution to the wind when we stop by Blackmarket Bakery's (blackmarketbakery.com) new spot at The Camp, where diva Rachel Klemek and her team concoct from-scratch sweets with care, quality and a bit of retro, funky flair. We're crazy for the seasonal cobblers (it's all about the berries this summer) and the gluten-free coconut haystacks. And don't even get us started on the tarts...<br /> <br /> 1 For The LocaLs<br /> <br /> TALK OF THE TOWN <br /> <br /> Here's the scoop on Prego, a foodie fave.<br /> <br /> Drive down Irvine's Von Karman Avenue, and you'll catch a glimpse of a salmon-hued, Mediterranean-style facade set back from the street. Those familiar with this ever-buzzing business district will know it as Prego Ristorante. The beloved Italian mainstay recently reopened after a temporary closure due to a fire, and it's once again frequented day and night by local execs, Irvine denizens, and those who can't get enough of the luxuriously cozy atmosphere and Executive Chef Ugo Allesina's well-balanced interpretations of Italian cuisine. Take a seat on the alfresco patio and savor the burrata (you must!) And a glass of vino from the extensive wine list. Cop a squat at the bar during the ever-popular happy hour. Or make reservations for a corner booth. Then dig into that basket of delicate, garlicky focaccia and soak up the accompanying serving of arriabbiata sauce. (Skip the seconds and move right on to thirds!) And no visit would be complete without a dish of the chef's fresh-made pasta or gnocchi. But whatever you choose, be sure to order a housemade dessert. (The tirimisu is a taste of Italy, but the cheesecake is out of this world.) Pregoristoranti.com<br /> <br /> 5 dishes To devoUr<br /> <br /> 1. FACCI Rl VECCIA AT IL BARONE Let's just call this the mother of all flatbreads. It's constructed with layers of a thin, crispy focaccia crust that are filled with divine imported Crescenza cheese, then topped with slices of prosciutto and Parmesan, and drizzled with white truffle oil. It's a must-have on every visit, and we confess, the last time we stopped in we ordered two. Some of us even dream about it. Yes, it's that good. Ilbaroneristorante.Com<br /> <br /> 2. SALMON RILLETTE SCOTCH EGG AT CHARLIE PALMER It's an epicureal mystery, with three savory, textural layers leading to a soft-boiled egg. So let's begin there. At the core is the yoke, which manages to remain in a tantalizingly warm, liquid state. Wrapped around that is a layer of seasoned minced salmon rolled in breadcrumbs. It's all flash fried, then drizzled with a Meyer lemon caper sauce. And it's only served at brunch on Sunday. Charliepalmer.com<br /> <br /> 3. THE LAMB CHOPS FROM StuDio AT MONTAGE LAGUNA Dining at Montage is epic, especially if you're indulging in anything from Studio's menu of artful, modern French and California cuisine prepared under the direction of Executive Chef Craig Strong. Our favorite: the lamb chops. They're grilled with garlic, Dijon and breadcrumbs, served with fresh chickpeas and hummus, then garnished with mint leaves. Studiolagunabeach.Com<br /> <br /> 4. SAUTEED BARRAMUNDI AT SAPPHIRE LAGuNA This dish has been a menu mainstay since 2007—with good reason. The preparation changes twice a year to make the most of seasonal ingredients. Right now, expect an exotic combo of North African spices (cinnamon, cumin, ginger) with each bite of the fish, which is dressed in a lemon sauce, then served atop Moroccan couscous—you'll want an extra helping of that, indeed. Sapphirellc.Com<br /> <br /> 5. TAKuWAN MAKI SuSHI AT ANQI It's a rarity for us to dine at AnQi without ordering the Takuwan maki sushi—or what we call the beet roll. It's light, with clean-tasting flavors from the mix of roasted beet, eggplant, asparagus, gobo root and pickled daikon. A delicate, golden curry sauce brings a bright pop of color to the dish and ties all of the ingredients together in a sweet yet savory package. It's an absolute must for summer. Anqibistro.Com<br /> <br /> 1 For BesT service<br /> <br /> THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAGUNA NIGUEL One of the things we love most about spending time at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is the attention we receive. Of course, it doesn't hurt that its positioning above one of the Cali Riviera's most gorgeous stretches of coastline provides for breathtaking ocean views. But when you throw top-notch service into the mix, well, you feel like royalty. That kind of treatment is practiced throughout the resort, but it's perhaps appreciated most when it comes to dining. It doesn't matter whether you're grabbing a quick bite at 180BLU (the ceviche and smoked swordfish tacos are awesome), indulging in an intimate dinner at enoSTEAK (we'll take the grilled porterhouse's 22 ounces of tender, juicy perfection), or enjoying the day's fresh catch at the Pan-latin inspired Raya (the seared Alaskan halibut with truffled boniato—that's Mexican sweet potato—roasted corn salsa and tempura pickled chiles is divine). The staff will greet you with a smile, cater to your every need and be present but not overbearing. And those are the makings of a fine dining experience. Ritzcarlton.com/lagunaniguel<br /> <br /> Food For ThoUghT<br /> <br /> EXPERT OPINION "Orange County's culinary diversity is something to be celebrated. We have more than 6,000 restaurants representing global cuisines, all at different styles and price points. The emergence of chef-driven concepts in recent years really brings to the forefront the many talented chefs in our own backyard, and so many of our restaurants are increasing the appeal of their experience with truly innovative menus, live music, patio dining and elevated beverage programs. Great service, attention to guests' needs and a commitment to responsibly sourcing premium ingredients so that guests are presented with the best possible dishes—really, that's what fine dining is all about." -PAMELA WAITT, PRESIDENT OF THE O.C. RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION<br /> <br /> ToP eXPerience<br /> <br /> The Hobbit <br /> <br /> We could spend all night in the wine cellar. (It’s huge, with bottles shelved from floor to ceiling and wall to wall). But then we’d miss the real dining adventure. Owners Mike and Debra Philippe equate the experience to a three-act play, and it’s truly a theater of dining (inside a 1930s-era home). The food and preparations are top-notch. The presentations? Flawless. (We’re still thinking about the lobster and scallop starter that was served on our visit.) Don’t be fooled by the prix-fixe menu—it features seven courses, and it all begins with a glass of bubbly and gourmet bites in that cellar, where you choose what (and how many) wines you’d like to pair with your meal. You head upstairs for a threecourse second act—a seafood app, a fowl or meat dish, and a salad. Intermission follows. (Loosen that belt!) Then the three-course finale—a palate cleanser, an entree and a dessert. We give it a Tony. Hobbitrestaurant.com<br /> <br /> 5 We’re dying To Try<br /> <br /> Red O <br /> <br /> Rick Bayless is a name familiar to true foodies everywhere—if not for his fresh-Mex gourmet restaurants (Frontera Grill, Xoxo and Topolobampo in Chicago, and Red O in West Hollywood), then for his winning participation in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters competition in 2009. So you can bet that gourmands along our coast will welcome him with healthy appetites when he opens O.C.’s first Red O resto in Fashion Island this winter. Expect to see signature dishes like his ceviche (a favorite at Topolobampo), a variety of pork dishes and his mesmerizing mole. Redorestaurant.com<br /> <br /> Fig & olive <br /> <br /> Right now, you can only find one of these fine restaurants in New York or in L.A. But come November, Fig & Olive will be serving its Mediterranean-style cuisine created by Executive Chef Pascal Lorange from a new Fashion Island spot. Want a few faves? Try the fig Gorgonzola tartlet or the grilled branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) glazed with fig Balsamic vinegar and served with figs and snow peas. Figandolive.com <br /> <br /> ProveNANce <br /> <br /> Cathy Pavlos has long been a sweetheart among O.C. foodies for her European bistrostyle cuisine found at her first eatery, LUCCA, which opened in Irvine in 2005. So we can’t wait to taste what she’s planning for her second spot, Provenance, set to open in September in Newport. We’ll no doubt find a menu that changes with the seasons, with ingredients grown on property in a 1,300-square-foot garden. (Think heirloom tomatoes for Caprese salads and raspberries for desserts.) We’re hungry already. Luccacafe.com <br /> <br /> lArk creek <br /> <br /> This month’s opening of the latest in the popular chain of eateries by Bay Area-based Lark Creek Restaurant Group will mark a homecoming of sorts for its co-founder Michael Dellar, who visited Balboa Island often as kid. We’re happy to welcome him back, and we’re delighted to embrace the Cali wine country cuisine he’ll be bringing with him. Expect to see lunch and dinner menus filled with wood-fire grilled steaks and seafood, pastas and salads—and an equally impressive wine list. Larkcreeknb.com <br /> <br /> THe WiNery 2 <br /> <br /> It’s been the buzz about town ever since word began to spread that JC Clow, Yvon Goetz and William Lewis would be taking over the former Villa Nova space in Newport, and bringing their wine-country cuisine and award-winning vino list to the coast. The original restaurant at The District at Tustin Legacy has consistently ranked among the region’s best, and we expect to see more of the same from this second outpost. Thewineryrestaurant.net<br /> <br /> One To WaTch<br /> <br /> Bill BraCken <br /> <br /> This is a man who’s always cooking up something. He’s known best (and adored) for his mac and cheese with truffle shavings and lobster chunks, which was a mainstay on the menu during his many years at Island Hotel’s Palm Terrace restaurant. He went on from there to nurture his Midwestern roots at DivBar on Newport’s Mariner’s Mile and won the hearts of the Cali Riviera’s barbecue lovers. Now he’s on to other ventures. He’s been baking up a storm, creating what we think could be the next big thing since the cupcake. They’re called ensaymadas—soft, sweet and savory Filipino pastries with American twists, like bacon crumbles sprinkled atop a sugary glaze. (We’ll be sure to give you a heads up when they hit the market.) And he’s working on gaining nonprofit status for Bracken’s Kitchen, a program aimed at feeding the hungry from his food truck. We can’t wait to see what happens next! Brackenskitchen.com<br /> <br /> 5 WiTh sTaying PoWer<br /> <br /> Still going Strong... <br /> <br /> Dr. Phil once named Scott’s Restaurant & Bar (scottsrestaurantandbar.com) among his favorite places to dine in Orange County. And what’s not to like? The seafood is fresh and the selection is bountiful. The beef is prime and delicious. And the ambience is upscale and romantic. It offers everything you’d expect to find in a fine-dining destination located within South Coast Metro. We love the daily oyster selection, served on the half shell. And the Asian pear salad is a refreshing lunchtime starter. The seared ahi? Oh, that’s divine, served with a soy glaze, sticky rice and macadamia nut spinach. More, please!... For more than 30 years, Antonello Ristorante (antonelloristorante) has been the place where Orange County’s power players eat, drink and network, and much of that has to do with owner Antonio Cagnolo, whose traditional Italian menu is best described as gourmet comfort food—Mediterranean style. And with the addition of the new wine room, there’s even more to love… It didn’t take long for Orange County’s foodies to fall in love with A Restaurant (arestaurantnb.com), although its 2008 opening came with some bittersweet goodbyes. Its beloved predecessor, The Arches, had occupied the landmark space on PCH for decades. But a creative, skilled group of investors (including the likes of TV producer McG and Sugar Ray drummer Stan Frazier) wowed us all with their impressive blended menu of classic steaks (the 12-ounce block cut New York steak is the bomb), contemporary seafood dishes (we live for the spicy yellowfin tuna on crispy eggplant) and sultry surrounds. A-plus for A!... Longtime landmark Five Crowns (thefivecrowns.com) has graced the corner of Poppy Street and PCH since 1965 with its inviting, cheery façade, which was modeled after an Old English countryside inn. The warmth continues inside with antique decor, period paintings and fireplaces lit with flames, along with a knowledgeable staff who will treat you like royalty (you are, after all). The fare is equally elegant, with a combination of classic dinner items (prime rib, natch) and contemporary cuisine using organic, local, seasonal produce and ingredients. A menu highlight: the 24-ounce wet, aged double-cut Angus rib-eye… The Anaheim White House (anaheimwhitehouse.com) is O.C.’s own personal celebrity, and it’s been a must-visit for presidents, world leaders and gourmands since Bruno Serato took it over in 1987. It’s had a makeover in recent months—the interior, for example, features frescoes that re-create paintings by artists like Guido Reni—and is now touted as an Italian steakhouse offering dishes like the New Zealand rack of venison. But not to worry: Those Northern Italian regional dishes that you know and love are still on the menu.<br /> <br /> 5 in The BrUnch Bunch<br /> <br /> HaveN gAStroPuB Just when we thought Haven couldn’t get any better, this cozy neighborhood joint started plying us with goodies like the hash pile, housemade chorizo and glazed doughnut holes. It’s all part of its weekend breakfast menu, or what we call brunch. (Come on, fried eggs served past noon?) And it’s not just about the food. The always buzzing bar fills our glasses with cool cocktails like the Bloody Haven, with the restaurant’s own Bloody Mary mix. (Gotta love that spice!) Havengastropub.com<br /> <br /> Sol cociNA Here, weekend brunch is a fiesta. The mango mimosas and margaritas flow, the crowd is lively and the food has a lot of kick. Nab a seat on the patio overlooking a quiet corner of Newport Harbor and feast on seasonal entrees like the chorizo and potato scramble or the always popular souffle Carlotta, Sol’s decadent bread pudding spiked with Patron Citronage and lemon zest, buttersauteed, then topped with syrup, mango, berries, vanilla whipped cream and almonds. Don’t think about the calories. Solcocina.com <br /> <br /> motif Want an extravagant brunch? You’ll get it on Sundays at Motif at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, where simply stunning views of the Pacific meet an amazing spread. There’s everything from a seafood station stocked with crab, shrimp, oysters in the half shell and ceviches to an Asian barbecue and wok spot. The menu gets a boost this month with Middle Eastern dishes from The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Doha and the pre-opening of Dubai—all part of the renowned resort brand’s efforts to take you over the top. Stregismb.com <br /> <br /> meSA Come Aug. 4 and Sept. 1, all the hip kids in town will flock to the edgy Mesa lounge and restaurant for its seasonal, monthly brunch program. The affairs run from noon to sunset, and feature libations and sangria prepared by the spot’s mixologists, local fare, special guest musicians and table tennis. Interested? We suggest you make a reservation— today. Mesacostamesa.com <br /> <br /> Sidedoor It’s all about Sunday Sessions at Sidedoor. The gastropub’s funky brunch program features tunes from local Djs, performance and visual art from area painters, lensmen and poets, and an ever-changing menu of equally artistic, inspired food. The tomato scramble with chanterelles and roasted corn is a favorite, as are the confit duck drumettes. Sidedoorcdm.com<br /> <br /> 5 cooL cocKTaiLs<br /> <br /> For the Sipsters<br /> <br /> We love the steaks and wine, and we’re crazy over Fleming’s six 99-calorie cocktails (flemingssteakhouse.Com). The zesty profile of the Farmer’s Skinny Daughter, with Ketel One Vodka, lemon and cran juices, and fresh basil and strawberries, is so darn refreshing!... We know blueberries are full of antioxidants, and that True Food Kitchen (truefoodkitchen.Com) has mastered the art of healthful dining. So we weren’t a bit surprised to find a blueberry mojito worthy of our list. It’s made with Papagayo organic rum, Veev Acai liqueur, blueberries and mint. Bottoms up!... We’re always in for a spin on the standard sip at Chapter One: the modern local (chapteronetml.com), and the Belly of the Beast roars with housemade bacon bourbon, Luxardo cherry liquor, Dolin vermouth and Kampot tincture… When we can drag ourselves away from the wine at CUCINA enoteca (cucinaenoteca.Com), we go for the Kensington White Sangria’s blend of peach brandy, apple juice, fruit, a splash of soda and, well, white wine... Tamarind of London (tamarindoflondon.Com) intrigues us with Indianinspired takes on classics, like the (T) old Fashioned, with Maker’s Mark, brandied cherries, bitters and garam masala-infused syrup. See what we mean?<br /> <br /> 3 haUTe sPoTs<br /> <br /> SETTINg THE ScENE <br /> <br /> Tucked away in the Penthouse at South Coast Plaza, Marché Moderne (marchemoderne.net) is the place in Orange County to enjoy supreme French fare while mixing and mingling among stylish clientele with sophisticated palates. You’ll find ladies who lunch there, along with power players (like the Segerstroms themselves) and gourmands who delight in the creations of husband-and-wife culinary talents Florent and Amelia Marneau. Insider tip: Be sure to book a reservation between July 11 and 18. That’s when Florent will be cooking up his bouillabaisse, and all of the fish that goes into the mix is flown in from the South of France. It’s a treat he offers for a limited time each July in honor of Bastille Day… We love Gulfstream’s luxe, modern coastal vibe just as much as we love the food (hillstone.com). So it’s no surprise that this Corona del Mar Plaza restaurant draws a beautiful crowd of hip, tanned and successful foodies. To add a little romance to the mix, try the oysters, shucked to order. (And the beet salad is died-and-gone-toheaven good.) During the summer, grab a seat on the patio at lunch to soak up the sun and enjoy the scene… The uberglam lounge at Mastro’s Ocean Club (mastrosrestaurants.com) is always—and we do mean always—packed with the crème de la crème of Newport. But we can’t blame them; we join them. After all, the coastal view is impeccable. And the food and drink? Divine.