Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Arnone's Little Italy - Orange

Hello it's DanGarion from Eat In OC again with a new restaurant review. We go to the Target in the city of Orange a lot. And there have been a number of times I've contemplated going to the "hole in the wall" Italian place right next to it, but never did. Little did I know that Arnone's Little Italy isn't a hole in the wall after all. Arnone's is located in a small strip mall in the same parking lot as Target, the amazing thing is that Arnone's is actually huge inside; it's as big as some chain Italian restaurants. It even has a full bar!

Arnone's Dinner Salad Arnone's Cream of Bell Pepper Soup Arnone's Garlic Bread

When we entered we were immediately greeted by one of the owners, who greeted us saying, "Ah there you are, we were waiting for you!". I got a kick out of the comment; I like people with a sense of humor. We were seated immediately since it was still early there weren't many people eating dinner yet. Our waitress arrived shortly after us seating and took our orders. Mrs. DanGarion ordered the Penne Arrabbiata ($12.95), while I ordered the Spaghetti with meatballs ($15.95), something I don't normally get when I'm out). Each meal also comes with your choice of soup or salad. I went for the cream of bell pepper soup, while the Mrs. had a salad with vinaigrette. Along with entrees we got an order of garlic bread ($3.00).

Arnone's Pasta Arrabbiata Arnone's Spaghetti with Meatballs

The cream of bell pepper soup was pretty good. I'd never had such a soup in the past, and the closest soup I'd had to something like it was Campbell's Soup, Cream of Chicken Soup. But this soup was a lot better than that. It had a light taste of cream with just a hint of bell pepper. The only thing I would have changed in it was maybe for it to be a little thicker, but it had a good not overpowering flavor that got me ready for my meal course. Mrs. DanGarion's salad was just a normal dinner salad, made with mixed greens. The garlic bread was very basic, fresh sandwich bread cut and baked with garlic butter and parmiggiano cheese, it wasn't over done which was good. My spaghetti was very good, fresh tasting meat sauce with hints of basil along with 2 juicy meatballs that were just a little smaller then a pool ball. The servings are huge, hence the reason I took nearly half of the pasta home with me. The Penne Arrabbiata was made with a spicy tomato sauce also mixed with herbs and garlic. My wife liked it but thought it was a little spicy. I had a taste and the spicy tasted like a hint of red pepper flakes that would linger and then catch up with you as you swallowed. They also serve rolls which are freshly made, didn't get a taste of them since we had the garlic bread.

Service was great, both our waitress and the bus boy took great care of us and made sure our drinks were filled throughout our entire meal. The atmosphere doesn't make you feel like you are in a strip mall; they have done a good job to take you away into what could be a great family meal.

I also found this commercial of their's online while I was researching them.

Arnone's Little Italy - MySpace Page
2143 N Tustin St
Orange, CA 92865
(714) 974-7411

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Taps Fish House & Brewery - Brea

I don't find myself in Brea too often. Maybe for work or en route to all points North. It was J's choice, and he wanted a change of scenery. Well, anything outside of our 15 mile radius from home is a stretch. We hopped in the MINI and hightailed up the 57.

For an extra minute of walking, we avoided the valet line and won an end spot in the lot behind it. The entryway frustrates me with its primary in/out butted up against their host stand. You get a windy draft *and* a line of people all at the same time. After receiving our pager, we plop down on a couch. It is so low to the ground, instead of people watching it's more like calf and shoe watching.

The booth we are brought to not only provided a wide lens view of the main dining room, but we could glimpse into the kitchen and watch the action. Family owned and operated, this 14,000 square foot homage to seafood and brews is the preferred destination for locals expecting service above and beyond the neighboring chains.

They featured a very reasonable 3-course prix fixe for $25. The starter and entree course carried eight options, plus a pint to round it all out. Feeling particularly picky, I decided against it. He was definitely the more interested party. Course one was a seafood ceviche cocktail. A small platter of tortilla chips surrounded a juicy blend of citrus marinated shrimp, scallops and fresh fish. Also in the mix were tomato, cucumber, onion, avocado and cilantro. The sleeper hit of the courses, he cleaned out the ramekin. I found myself trying their namesake salad - bay shrimp, candied pecans, sweet onion and tomato tossed with Green Goddess dressing and butter lettuce. It was a savory, sugary blend I ate with gusto.

I sipped his complimentary glass of 'Gold Winning Cream Ale' between courses. Eric, our server, was quick to recommend this instead of me ordering another. He also saw that our bread & butter needs were met. They use a balsamic dip with the fresh (Krispy Kreme hot light fresh!) loaves, which wasn't to our liking. Creamy butter was swiftly brought out as replacement.

His entree selection was the half rack of barbeque ribs. In addition, he requested the TAPS burger. His preferred entree? 12 ounces of broiled ground chuck with aged cheddar and standard fixins on a potato roll. I experimented with the drunken mahi mahi. Slightly blackened, it's plated adjacent to blue crab tostadas sauced in an tomatillo-avocado salsa and Cotija cheese. The tomato risotto underneath paled in comparison to the rest of the dish, and I only take a few bites. It fills my appetite much quicker than I'd expected.

For the finale, a chocolate (25 minute) souffle is brought to our attention. This is normally the deal breaker with new restaurant reservations. He's 80% more inclined to choose an establishment based on this single item. Chocolate hazelnut creme anglaise, powdered sugar, and fresh whipped cream make it one of the best I've had. I should probably mention that I rarely partake in souffles. It's all him.

Departing on the verge of a food coma, we are fortunate to make time to stroll down Brich Street Promenade. In this hodgepodge of possibilities, we were pleased to report North county houses a winner.

Taps Fish House and Brewery
101 E. Imperial Highway
Brea, 92821

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Orchard's Fresh Foods

Okay, not technically Orange County, but with a deal like this it's too good to pass up.

Orchard's Fresh Foods is an odd combination of higher end mom and pop grocery store, specializing in Boar's Head meat, along with some of the best cuts of meats available. The other part of Orchard's Fresh Foods in a nursery.

On Tuesday's they have all you can eat barbecue for $6.99. The pulled pork is tender, juicy and full of flavor. The chopped beef is also very tender. Both have enough fat to give it some added extra flavor. Their barbecue sauce is nice and spicy with just a hint of sweetness.

The only drawback is that they start serving the barbecue at 11:00 AM and keep serving it until it runs out. The ribs are obviously the first thing to go, and by the time I got there, they had run out. To get the best of everything, you need to hit this place up at lunch time.

They also have a wide variety of sodas from small manufacturers. I hear they also make their own root beer, but I didn't get a chance to try it.

Call ahead, as the specials seem to come and go rather quickly. A few weeks ago, they had the all you could eat barbecue Tuesday through Thursday.

Orchard's Fresh Food
16426 E. Whittier Blvd.
Whittier, CA 90603
(562) 902-1825

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Noodle Avenue Has Closed

Noodle Avenue in Tustin has closed. I repeat: Noodle Avenue in Tustin has closed. Replaced by a Chinese restaurant with the word Bistro in it. That is all.