Show 234, July 29, 2017: Executive Chef / Proprietor Amar Santana’s Vaca Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner

Amar Santana at the Top Chef FinaleOn Thursday evening, August 10th Chef Amar Santana’s Vaca in Costa Mesa is hosting a sumptuous, 7-course wine-paired dinner with an abundance of passed hors d’oeuvre as a festive Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit to celebrate South Coast Plaza’s 50th Anniversary.

Chef Amar is also well-known locally for Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and as the runner-up from lucky Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” in what the judges noted was the tightest final competition of the series’ long history!

Santana and partner Ahmed Labbate, whose roots together at South Coast Plaza go back to 2008 when they opened Charlie Palmer, will welcome 100 discriminating guests with a love of food and wine to the Beard dinner. Santana is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

The festivities on August 10 will include a small silent auction during an al fresco reception. While enjoying the signature Vaca Tonic and hors d’oeuvres, guests may peruse deluxe offerings, which will include a LVMH Luxury Champagne experience for 16 guests; packages from South Coast Plaza, the Montage Laguna Beach and Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, unique dining experiences, luxury travel destinations, and high-end wines.

Seats are $350 and $300 for members of the James Beard Foundation, all inclusive. For reservations to the Friends of James Beard Dinner at Vaca, please register online her For more information, please contact VACA GM Ghali Benhima at 714.463.6060. A credit card will be requested to secure the reservation.

VACA Group Partner & Executive Chef Amar Santana (well-traveled) provides the tempting preview.

The Orange County Register’s long-time Food Business Staff Writer, Nancy Luna, had a great explanatory piece with Chef Amar on Vaca’s upcoming Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner that ran in the print edition on July 27th.

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Show 232, July 15, 2017: Rance’s Chicago Pizza and DINE LBC – Long Beach Restaurant Week

Rance Ruiz and Aaron TofaniAuthentic Chicago-style Pizza in Long Beach (and Costa Mesa) from young proprietors who grew up in Orange County? You bet…

DINE LBC Long Beach Restaurant Week is set for August 5th through August 13th, 2017. More than 60 diverse Long Beach restaurants spanning 12 neighborhoods will offer special multi-course menus at affordable prices.

New to DINE LBC is Rance’s Chicago Pizza in Belmont Shore. They are already something of a local institution for Pan, Stuffed and Tavern styles of pizza. Also wings with praise-worthy, house-created sauces.

We’ll meet the proprietors of the dough, Chef Rance Ruiz and Aaron Tofani.

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Show 232, July 15, 2017: Rance’s Chicago Pizza and DINE LBC – Long Beach Restaurant Week Continued…

Race Ruiz and Aaron Tofani or Rance's Chicago Pizza at AM830Authentic Chicago-style Pizza in Long Beach (and Costa Mesa) from young proprietors who grew up in Orange County? You bet…and it’s Rance’s Chicago Pizza (Belmont Shore & Costa Mesa) a first-time participant in the upcoming DINE LBC Long Beach Restaurant Week.

They also are earning praise for their new wings with accompanying sauces, and salads with house-prepared dressings. The next Rance’s will be in the ambitious University Village center just North of the existing University of Southern California campus.

DINE LBC Long Beach Restaurant Week is set for August 5th through August 13th, 2017. More than 60 diverse Long Beach restaurants spanning 12 neighborhoods will offer special multi-course menus at affordable prices.

Just as many regions around the country hold city-wide restaurant week events, the participating Long Beach restaurants will be offering multi-course, “value-oriented” meals set at one of six price points: $15, $25, $35, $45, $55 or $65 per guest.

Founder and organizer Terri Henry, who brought restaurant week to Long Beach in 2014, said that besides attracting local “foodies”, Dine LBC allows those who view dining out as a luxury to also enjoy an exceptional experience. The nine-day event that includes two full weekends gives locals the opportunity to visit multiple participating restaurants and also allows those in neighboring cities who find it difficult to travel to Long Beach during the week more options.

“With recent minimum wage increases, overhead and cost of goods increases, an annual restaurant week drives much needed traffic into our valued restaurants”, said Henry, who said the event will span across twelve Long Beach neighborhoods and has a comprehensive marketing, advertising and PR campaign valued at over $500K to support the nine- day event.

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Show 229, June 24, 2017: Jeff & Christa Duggan, Portola Coffee Roasters

Jeff and Christa DugganIn conjunction with its 6-year anniversary, Portola Coffee Roasters has redesigned its flagship location inside The OC Mix at South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa. The new design, intended to improve the customer experience, takes advantage of the latest in brewing technologies to achieve a higher level of service, product quality, and consistency not possible before.

“The original idea behind the oval shaped bar was to create a visual theater for our customers curious about the brewing science we employ – it is both interesting and educational to be able to see firsthand how things are done at Portola,” explained Jeff Duggan, who, with his wife Christa, opened the flagship Portola Coffee Roasters location in Costa Mesa in 2011 to bring a 100% single-cup craft brew coffeehouse to Orange County.

“With the new design, this goal is better achieved. It will be much different than the ‘order here, pick up over there’ model. We will service customers in line so once they order, their drinks will be made while they watch, and they pay at the end when their drink has been served.”

Joining us with all the artfully brewed details are proprietors Jeff & Christa Duggan.

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Show 214, March 11, 2017: Anne Marie Panoringan, Food & Libation Journalist

Anne Marie PanoringanOur irregular ace field correspondent, Anne Marie Panoringan, (a regular contributor to OC Weekly) has previewed the 50th Anniversary Dining Specials (March only) at South Coast Plaza in a marathon eating tour. We’ll hear about all the delicious morsels being showcased.

Anne Marie managed six courses in one evening’s ample dining excursion. Course Four was an intriguing Lima Bean Soup from zCafe. It’s a tribute to the farmland that was the past of the land South Coast Plaza now occupies. The “farm” was planted in lima beans. They still grow a few lima beans on Segerstrom property, and the Lima Beans used in the anniversary soup are actually sourced from this property!

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Show 214, March 11, 2017: Chef Brian Huskey, Tackle Box, South Coast Plaza’s 50th Birthday

Brian HuskeyIt’s the 50th Anniversary of Costa Mesa’s celebrated South Coast Plaza. Most of the restaurants there are doing something special to celebrate during the month of March.

Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 11 alum, Chef Brian Huskey of Tackle Box (on the sand in Costa Mesa), has created the Camarena Tequila chipotle-braised carnitas taco entrée for Wahoo’s Fish Taco in South Coast Plaza.

It’s available exclusively for $5.50 at Wahoo’s SCP (2nd level of the Crate and Barrel / Macy’s Home Store Wing) for the month of March, only.

Wahoo’s 30th Anniversary will be next year in 2018!

We’ve reeled in Chef Brian to provide the lip-smacking details.

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Show 206, January 14, 2017: Executive Chef Amar Santana, Vaca and Broadway by Amar Santana

Amar SantanaAmar Santana is the Executive Chef/Proprietor of Vaca in Costa Mesa and Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. Vaca was Orange County Register Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson’s “Best New Restaurant of 2016. For Season 13 of Bravo’s Top Chef Amar was the runner-up by the thickness of an onion skin. Chef Amar is also a distinguished alum of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP.)

Amar joins us to preview C-CAP’s Winter Harvest Benefit Dinner at James Republic in Long Beach on February 8th. The popular James Republic is one of the top destination restaurants in Long Beach. The evening is a spectacular, multi-course feast.

James Republic is co-owned by Executive Chef and Restaurateur Dean James Max (a multiple James Beard Award nominee) of DJM Restaurants. Chef Dean will be flying in from his base in southern Florida to present a course. James Republic’s executive chef, David MacLennan (opening exec chef) will also be preparing a course.

Chef Amar’s dish is under the veil of heavy secrecy but he does hint it will be a pork spectacular. The award-winning El Segundo Brewing Co. is brewing a special craft beer to pair with Chef Amar’s dish exclusively for the evening.

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Show 184, August 13, 2016: Rachel Klemek, Blackmarket Bakery, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana

Rachel Klemek of Blackmarket Bakery and the CampRachel Klemek’s Blackmarket Bakery is a home-grown institution in The Camp in Costa Mesa and now in Santa Ana, too, in the Santora Building. Her newest location, in the City of San Diego, will launch soon. Rachel also has a pop-up at The OC Fair in the OC Promenade through August 14th. It’s time for our annual visit with baker, Rachel Klemek.

Chef Rachel, grew up in the South, influenced by her two sugar-loving Grandmas. Baking and eating cookies, Bojangles (biscuits), breads and other delicacies were forms of communication, a way of showing — and sharing — family love. After experimentation and hands on experience in the industry, she attended the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, in Baking & Pastry, graduating at the top of her class.

In 2004, she struck out on her own, founding Blackmarket Bakery in an inauspicious industrial space in Irvine, CA. Since then, her product line, legend and lore have grown. Her incredible cakes, cookies, brownies made from wine flour and fresh breads are just a few items that showcase Chef Rachel’s culinary playfulness.  Her new egg sandwiches have also generated a loyal following.

Furthering her goal of empowering the community with quality, Blackmarket Bakery offers a selection of fresh, whole-food based items that are pleasing to the body and the mind.  By using fundamentals – butter, flour, sugar, eggs (all black market goods during WWII) – Chef Rachel focuses on delivering what the community is missing.

 

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Show 167, April 9, 2016: Executive Chef Amar Santana, Broadway by Amar Santana & Vaca

Amar Santana at the Top Chef FinaleExecutive Chef Amar Santana (a C-CAP graduate) is the Proprietor of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and the new Vaca in Costa Mesa. Both restaurants have highly innovative beverage programs to compliment the stellar cuisine.

Chef Amar was also one of two finalists on Bravo’s Emmy-Award winning Top Chef Season 13 which just concluded with a two-part finale in Las Vegas. Amar battled Chef Jeremy Ford, the Chef de Cuisine of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room in Miami. In a very close finale Chef Jeremy edged out Chef Amar for the title of “Top Chef.”

Gail Simmons, one of the “Top Chef” regular judges, has an insightful post on the “Top Chef” Finale (dated April 6th) in the blog section of the “Top Chef” area of Bravo’s Web site. It explains, course by course, the judging for the Finale.

Also OC Weekly’s Anne Marie Panoringan penned an entertaining weekly recap of each episode of “Top Chef” Season 13 with an emphasis on covering Chef Amar. You can find these archived pieces on ocweekly.com. Search on the site for Anne Marie Panoringan and “Top Chef.”

Chef Amar should be justifiably proud of what he accomplished during Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” The level of competition was the highest of any prior season! James Beard Award nominees as well as Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” were among the strong field of super-talented Cheftestants. Amar also retains great respect for Chef Jeremy Ford.

Chef Amar’s “Top Chef” Official Bio:
Amar Santana serves as the Executive Chef and Partner at Broadway By Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, CA and Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA. Born in the Dominican Republic, he immigrated to the US at the age of 13 and began his culinary career at 16.

He has been mentored by some of the world’s most renowned chefs, including Charlie Palmer, who helped him develop his skills of expressing his passion through food. By combining flavors and culinary traditions from all over the world, Chef Amar provides a truly unforgettable gastronomical experience.

Chef Amar is our very special guest.

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Show 157, January 30, 2016: Thomas Pham, The Halal Guys (for SoCal) and Churned

Halal GuysAfter opening its first two West Coast locations to huge crowds and an almost never-ending line, The Halal Guys are entering new territory with its upcoming grand opening in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

The fast-casual New York famed concept opened its first West Coast location in Costa Mesa last October, its second location in Long Beach this past January and have plans to bring 50 units throughout Southern California.

Known for its famous white sauce, gyro sandwiches and chicken-and-rice platters, The Halal Guys menu offers a mix of different Middle Eastern dishes. The Halal Guys aim to be different and encourage patrons across America to ditch burgers for something unique.

They pride themselves on only using high-quality products like their chicken. It has never been frozen and is marinated and seasoned overnight, then cooked and chopped on the grill and served directly to the plate to ensure a crave-worthy meal that’s piping hot. The Halal Guys’ mission is to ensure that every customer leaves happy, with a smile on their face and a satisfaction that brings them back again.

Halal Guys local franchisee, Thomas Pham, is our guest.

He’ll also talk about his new, soon to launch ice cream concept, Churned. The decadent ice cream is made in front of the guests in small batches and served in a fresh croissant. The churning equipment is imported from Italy. (The Italians certainly know a few things about premium ice cream.) The first location (opening later this month) will be in the Union Market at The District, Tustin.

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