A Night At The Taste Costa Mesa

For many years Orange County was a bit of a culinary wasteland. Sure, it’s was home to some notable restaurants but they were few and far between. I essentially grew up in the land of the chain restaurant and enjoyed many a dinner at Olive Garden and California Pizza Kitchen. As I grew older and eager to branch out I’d simply head to LA to try the latest food trend. But in recent years things have changed and the county has become quite the culinary destination. There are innovative food halls, trendsetting restaurants and a vast range of ethnic cuisines just waiting to be tried. It’s cause for celebration and happily I did just that last weekend at The Taste Costa Mesa.

About a month ago I attended The Taste at Paramount Studios. The Los Angeles Times event has been a mainstay for several years with good reason – it brings together the area’s leading chefs in aculinary celebration. This year, The Taste expanded to Costa Mesa to do the same for Orange County and it was a delicious affair.

There weren’t as many booth in Costa Mesa as in LA but the portions were more bigger allowing me to truly savor some amazing dishes like the Colombian Burger from The Cut. A thick beef patty was topped with smoked mozzarella, cilantro chimichurri and roasted banana resulting in a truly delicious burger. It was one of the first bites I tried and remained my favorite dish til the very end of the night.

I’d long been wanting to try L.A. Brisket so I was happy to see them on Saturday night. In fact, I was so happy that I forgot to find out what I was trying. All I know is that it was a delicious, delicious brisket sandwich that just melted in my mouth.

Chew Noodle Bar offered one of the smallest, yet most delicious, bites of the night. Their Chashu Fritter featured a nugget of chashu pork topped with unagi sauce, mayo and scallions. This deceptively simple combo sure packed a whole lot of flavor.

Clearly my night was all about meat and another winner was the Braised Pork from Ellie’s. the melt in your mouth pork was topped with pickled pepper and sunchokes and rested on a dollop of seminola grits. Like the Chashu Fritter it’s a deceptively simple combination that was filled with flavor. This is the perfect comfort food as we head into winter.

Of course, I needed something to wash it all down with and there were plenty of spirit vendors on hand to offer an array of cocktails.

I was lucky enough to have a designated driver so I indulged to my hearts content. My two favorite drinks were from an old favorite, Bulleit Bourbon, and, new to me, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low.

The Taste Costa Mesa confirms what I already knew – Orange County really is a culinary hot spot. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to sample an array of bites it’s time for me to head out and hit up the restaurants themselves. Hmmm, which should I try first?

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