Show 378, June 20, 2020: Anne Marie Panoringan, Voice of OC’s Food Columnist Part One

Anne Marie Panoringan of Voice of OC at KLAA Studios holding a bottle of Hand Sanitizer from Blinking Owl DistilleryAnne Marie Panoringan is Voice of OC’s well-informed food columnist She adroitly reports industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restaurateurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line column.” She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club.”

Since dine-in is back in Orange County Anne Marie has been making the rounds to observe the “new normal” in eating out. She joins us to share how OC restaurants are adapting including Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills and Whitestone Restaurant & Bar in Dana Point.

Show 350, December 7, 2019: Restaurateur Russ Bendel and Chef-Partner Jared Cook – Ironwood, Olea & Vine Part Two

Russ Bendel of Ironwood, Olea and VIneRestaurateur Russ Bendel (and partners) are the respected operators of Ironwood (Laguna Hills), Olea (Newport Beach) and Vine (San Clemente) in Orange County. Russ was awarded Restaurateur of the Year honors at this year’s Golden Foodie Awards. Ironwood has a new lounge.

Russ Bendel was born and raised in Philadelphia and relocated with his mother, father, and sister to California when he was a child. Russ grew up in the restaurant industry and always knew it was in his blood at an early age.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from The Collins College at Cal Poly Pomona with an emphasis on Restaurants and Business Management. During that time, Russ worked with Bloomin Brands Restaurant Group for 15 years, six years with Outback Steakhouse and nine years with Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. He was promoted to partner of the flagship Newport Beach location at the age of 25, youngest ever in company history.

Chef-Partner Jared Cook was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. After graduating from Western Culinary Institute in Portland Oregon, he relocated to Southern California. Since then Jared worked in restaurants such as French 75 in Laguna Beach, Chat Noir in Costa Mesa, and was promoted to Executive Chef at the Crow Bar and Kitchen, in addition to working at Vine Restaurant & Bar for the third time as a Cook, Sous Chef, and now Executive Chef.

Russ again joins us with Chef-Partner Jared Cook to continue their chat about the Holiday menus at Ironwood, Olea & Vine.


Show 291, September 22, 2018: Chef/Proprietor Dee Nguyen, Break of Dawn, Laguna Hills

Dee NguyenBack in 2006 rising-star, fine-dining chef Dee Nguyen (ex-Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel) was looking to simplify his life and spend more time with his growing family. He bravely branched out on his own to launch the modest, 50-seat Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills.

Fortunately he quickly developed a loyal following of inspired guests. It’s a very personal statement for Chef Dee who serves breakfast, lunch and brunch Wednesday through Sunday only. It’s creative, fine-dining comfort foods with a Vietnamese twist.

“Guests can select from a variety of dishes, including bison sausage, French toast crème brulee, flax seed and quinoa oatmeal and mac and cheese. All foods are prepared with fresh ingredients and are designed to meld flavors and textures together. A children’s menu and beverage list with cocktails is also available.”

Think the unexpected including Goat Chili with morita, goat cheese, Mexican chocolate and chickpeas.

Chef Dee also stages infrequent dinner pop-ups that have a fanatical following. Check his Facebook regularly to stay informed.

Chef Dee puts down his well-worn spatula and joins us.


Show 229, June 24, 2017: Restaurateur Russ Bendel, Ironwood, Laguna Hills

Russ BendelThree words — cellar, craft, cook — capture the essence of the year-old Russ Bendel-conceived restaurant Ironwood in Laguna Hills , which uped the ante on the south Orange County dining scene with worldwide wine selections, craft beers, creative cocktails and wine country cuisine made daily with the freshest and finest seasonal ingredients by Bendel’s partner, chef Jared Cook (Vine.)

Ironwood’s offerings showcase seasonal ingredients of the highest quality that are prepared daily from scratch. Guests have the choice of selecting from more than 25 global wine selections by the glass, from a cozy indoor bar and dining area or from an outdoor patio featuring spectacular views of Saddleback Mountain. Ironwood is open for dinner only.

Bendel, a longtime fixture on the Orange County dining scene who honed his craft at such fine establishments as Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Newport Beach, assumed ownership of Vine Restaurant & Bar, a Napa Valley-influenced restaurant in San Clemente in 2013. Jared Cook also heads up culinary at the critically-acclaimed, popular eatery. Another Fleming’s veteran and certified sommelier, Kevin Franke, serves as operating partner.

The name of the restaurant was inspired by the evergreen desert tree, the Ironwood, known for its hardiness and used for handles of culinary tools. Two Ironwood trees grace the entrance to the restaurant.

Proprietor Russ Bendel is our guest.

Show 169, April 30, 2016: Villa Roma Restaurant, Laguna Hills

Teresa RazoVilla Roma restaurant in Laguna Hills is one of the undiscovered gems of dining in South Orange County. Unusually they serve a menu of both Argentine and Italian Cuisine. Their Chimichurri is a word-of-mouth favorite. Co-Owner Teresa Razo (also the Marketing & Catering Director) joins us.

The traditional housemade Argentine-style empanadas are standouts. Usually available are your choice of chicken, beef or spinach. Tuesdays are Empanada Tuesdays at Villa Roma. All empanadas are 99 cents for either take-out or dine-in.

“Villa Roma is a unique restaurant combining Argentine and Italian flavors. Our cuisine combination was inspired by “La Boca”, a neighborhood of the Argentine capital. La Boca is located in the city’s southeast near the old port. In the early 1900’s, Argentina had over 2 million Italian immigrants, most of them settled in this southeastern part of the country because of the similarity to their port town named Genoa, Italy.”

“La Boca is a popular tourist destination in Argentina. It’s known for its colorful houses and pedestrian street, “El Caminito”, where street tango artists perform, musicians, and tango memorabilia is sold. Tango music drifts through the air from one restaurant bar to another.”

“We decided to continue history and bring the Argentine and Italian flavors to Orange County. Just as La Boca retains a strong Italian flavor, we retain our unique Argentine and Italian cuisine flavor.”