Taste of Orange County, a premier food, wine and entertainment festival featuring more than 50 restaurants and wineries, will kick off at noon Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.
The two-day event is back after a 16-year hiatus and will include local restaurant samples, cooking demos from top chefs in Orange County, wine and tequila tastings, entertainment and music to showcase local culture and lifestyle.
A few participating chefs include Shachi Mehra of Tamarind of London, Craig Connole of K'ya Bistro/House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, Pascal Olhats of Pascal Restaurants, Louis Jocson of Red Table, Matt Briggs of Mastro's Ocean Club, Greg Daniels from Haven Gastropub/Taco Asylum, and Michael Doctulero of Scott's Seafood.
On Saturday, Taste of Orange County will be open from noon to 8 p.m. for guests ages 21 or older, and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday for all ages. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Orange County Food Bank and the Culinary Liberation Front.
General access tickets cost $25, VIP access costs $179, and an Ultra Pass costs $250. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.tasteofoc.com.
The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater is at 8808 Irvine Center Drive.
Snow cones for adults
Grown-up snow cones are the new rage this summer at Raya at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Raya's chef de cuisine, Marissa Gerlach, serves the frozen childhood desserts for adults with tasty ingredients such as tequila, rum, pisco, blood orange and coconut water.
Her inspiration came from visits as a kid to the Orange County Fair, where snow cones are a must.
"I loved being able to pick a color and watch the ice slowly turn into a blast of flavor," says Chef Gerlach. "And holding the cone was a way to cool off in the summer heat."
The refreshing adult snow cones can make an afternoon in the sun even better at 180bl¿, the resort's oceanfront lounge.
The new menu features a trio of snow cones: blood orange tequila margarita with Herradura silver, Grand Marnier, blood orange and black salt; a coconut rum cool off with Malibu coconut rum, coconut water, coconut milk and sweeten toasted coconut; and chicha morada with pisco, pineapple, clove, cinnamon and sweet purple corn.
180bl¿ also serves handcrafted drinks and RAYA-inspired appetizers such as smoked swordfish tacos, crispy achiote pork wings and queso fundido.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For more information, call (949)240-2000.
Fifth taste burger joint opening in Laguna
It's opening week for the new Umami Burger in Laguna Beach. The joint was founded by Adam Fleischman and has a cult-like following.
We highly recommend our favorite, the Hatch Burger, with roasted green chilies, housemade American cheese; or the Umami Burger with shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, Parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. And you can't go wrong with the Manly Burger, with its beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings and bacon lardons.
Be sure to try the sides too: sweet potato fries, malt liquor tempura onion rings and delicious house pickles. Umami's sauces make everything taste that much better, so try some Umami ketchup, house spread, roasted garlic aioli, kombu relish, jalapeño ranch or the diablo sauce.