Month: August 2016

19 Restaurants and Eateries

Are chain restaurants your worst nightmare? Are you more food truck than drive-thru? Rather starve than choke down a microwave burrito? You’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find some outstanding options in a very specific part of town: Anaheim’s Center City.

A great place to start is the Anaheim Packing House, the renovated orange packing warehouse that’s now a vast foodie’s paradise. There are some sit-down places, but there are a whole bunch of countertop vendors who seem to have all brought their boutique food operations under one roof. It’s two floors of almost every ethnic food you could imagine with a bright atrium in the middle, communal tables, and outside decks on either side. Where to start, where to start.

Crêpe Coop

Breakfast! In the lower level of the Packing House, the Crêpe Coop makes sweet crêpes and lets you create your own conical concoction. You might consider one of their signature ones, like the OG with strawberries, Nutella and whipped cream. Or the Fruity Pebbles, made with vanilla gelato, strawberries, mango and actual Fruity Pebbles (hence the name). My favorite is the Night Crêpe made with green tea gelato, blueberries, mangos and honey.

Pandor Bakery

Also a terrific choice for breakfast, with sweet and savory crêpes, and their signature Dornut. Or maybe it’s a Cronut. At any rate, it’s a donuty thing made with croissant dough, then topped with cinnamon sugar or stuffed with different fillings. They also have outstanding omelets, paninis and salads.

Black Sheep

Almost next door to Pandor you’ll find the Black Sheep grilled cheese sandwich bar. You can go old school with The Classic, or get crazy with goat cheese, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and arugula pesto. The Man has salami and smoked cheddar, and The Pork comes with swiss, porchetta, harissa garlic aioli and onion jam. It’s all good.

The Kroft

The Kroft is the brainchild of Matthew Tong and Stephen Le who created the popular SWSH Shabu Shabu, and they have another winner here. Their fresh, locally sourced menu includes rotisserie meats and prime rib along with house-made soups and hand-cut fries for their specialty poutines.

ADYA

Chef Shachi Mehra presents a California take on classic Indian food with bold flavors and spices. There are kebabs and curries, from mild to spicy, pavs, Bombay’s version of the sloppy joe, and kaathi rolls, griddled wraps served with chutney. Their naan bread is a must, and the goat cheese naan is a meal in itself.

Ecco Pizza

If you’ve forgotten what real pizza tastes like, try Ecco’s Naples-style, wood-fired, thin crust classics. Even a basic Margherita pizza is outstanding with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (not that bagged, shredded stuff), fresh basil and olive oil. Don’t worry, they’ve got plenty of meaty options for you carnivores, too.

Georgia’s

Georgia’s is the real deal. Barbecue pulled pork, fried catfish, hush puppies and fried chicken. True Southern comfort soul food. And if you have any room left, gotta have the sweet potato pie.

The Iron Press

Waffle sandwiches. Craft beer on tap. Done and done. Is there anything that isn’t better on a waffle? No. Clearly no. Fried chicken? Burger? Fried egg? Prosciutto and gruyere? The list goes on.

Kettlebar

Steam kettles aren’t some trendy, hipster, steampunk idea for cooking, it’s based on the famed Las Vegas’s Oyster Bar and its New Orleans inspired Southern cuisine. It’s a smart way to cook food quick and evenly without overcooking. Try the Kettlebar pan roast with snow crab, shrimp, lobster and chicken. Gumbo with Andouille sausage, shrimp and chicken. But you can’t go wrong with a classic shrimp po’boy either.

Orange Tei

If your only idea of ramen is the cheap stuff that got you through college, you have to try authentic Japanese ramen from Master Shigetoshi Nakamura. The signature Citrus Ramen has a chicken broth base and tangy kick. The Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with Pork Chashu might be their most popular, and they have a nice variety of sushi rolls as well.

Rolling Boil

A traditional hot pot restaurant with a modern twist serves garden fresh local veggies—in actual garden pails. Choose a broth, pick your proteins, and pick a sauce or two. In addition to chicken, salmon, shrimp, and scallops they have three kinds of beef: New York Steak, Rib Eye, and melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu.

The Blind Rabbit

And when you leave the Rolling Boil, look to your right and you’ll see a wall of Japanese beer kegs. There’s a secret door to the Blind Rabbit speakeasy here, with exquisite craft cocktails served in an intimate, period-decorated micro bar. For foodies, there’s a short but impressive menu featuring duck confit mac and cheese, wild mushroom chorizo dip and deep fried banana bread.

Urbana Fish Market & Mexican Eatery

With its Day of the Dead décor and authentic Michoacán cuisine, Urbana is a must-see. They specialize in street tacos and ceviche with bold takes on seafood and guisados (slow-cooked meats). The hand-made flour and corn tortillas are a bonus. They also have a nice selection of tequilas and mescals and mix up some spicy cocktails.

Popbar

Upstairs near the atrium, look for the long line of people and you will have discovered Popbar. Started in New York City’s hip West Village, these addictive little gelato on a stick treats are a big hit on the West Coast too. They use real fruit and natural ingredients in creating exciting flavors and unusual combinations. Flavors include green tea, peanut butter, pistachio and coconut, and you can have them dipped and rolled in chocolate, sprinkles and nuts.

Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream

Hans’ ice cream is made fresh, in the original Santa Ana location, using only the richest cream from local dairies. In addition to classic favorites, like Butter Pecan and Cookies & Cream, the Hans’ team is constantly inventing new flavors, like Coffee OREO® and Nutella® Krunch. Try them in a shake or sundae or just on a good old-fashioned cone.

That’s a lot of ground to cover—and food to feast on—and that’s all just in the Packing House. Just across Farmers Park from there you’ll find Umami Burger in the historic Packard Building.

Umami Burger

A true gourmet burger with lots of interesting toppings like truffled aioli, miso mustard and bacon lardons, but their real secret is how they prepare their beef. They call the flavor Umami, borrowed from the Japanese, and it’s savory, meaty and described as “the fifth taste.” Using carefully selected and single-source beef, it’s coarse ground, seasoned, then cooked on a cast iron griddle. Sounds simple enough, but you have to taste one. And don’t forget to try the maple bacon sweet potato fries.

Further on, just around the corner, is the Center Street Promenade and the Center Street collection. A couple more places that need to be mentioned are Pour Vida and Healthy Junk.

Pour Vida Latin Flavor

This is Jimmy Martinez’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant and it focuses on his Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. They make their tortillas in-house (including squid ink ones for their seafood options) and deliver handcrafted tacos to your table with unique and unexpected flavors. There’s pineapple skirt steak, mango pork, tempura oyster and lobster. Everything’s made in house including their salads, fresh-pressed juices, cocktails and sangria.

Healthy Junk

Now something for the vegans. Healthy Junk brings you all your favorite comfort foods guilt-free with meatless burgers, pizza, wings, and fish ‘n’ chips—even a Philly “Chez Stake.” The bar serves vegan beers, organic wines and their juice bar is top notch with fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies, and the open-air “Good Food Court” is inviting and comfortable.

Foodies rejoice! And the next time your significant other says nothing sounds good for dinner, just get in the car and start driving toward Anaheim’s Center City. Then just follow your nose.

Hit the Farmers Market!

Pasta Primavera. Maybe you know it as that dish at the Italian restaurant that’s kind of loaded with cream sauce and a few wan veggies. And if so, it may not strike you as an uber healthy recipe. Or as a hallmark of spring farm-to-table cooking. And yet, it’s a dish with roots (see what we did there?). Primavera means “spring” in Italian—think Boticelli and his cavorting Renaissance nymphs—and an authentic pasta primavera is a dish that should herald the bounty of the season. When it’s made properly, it’s the kind of farm-to-table recipe that just begs you to visit one of Anaheim Center City’s farmers markets and load up on the delicate veggies that are at their freshest and most seasonal right now. And there’s a slew of other great recipes, too—all weeknight quick—to help you put a healthy farm-to-table dish in front of your family in a hurry. Are you hungry yet?

Farm to Table

 

Farmers Markets: Shopping Straight from the Source

Here’s step one in your farm-to-table cooking adventure: Hit the farmers market. When Anaheim Center City was coming into focus, it was obvious that honoring the neighborhood’s agrarian heritage meant giving local farmers markets access to primo real estate. So now, twice a week, local farmers roll into Anaheim bringing with them a wide variety of seasonal produce and flowers, much of it organic, all of it ready for a farm-to-table feast.

On Thursdays, Downtown Anaheim’s Certified Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair takes over Center Street Promenade from 11am-4pm. Among the market stalls you’ll also find food vendors—including some vending seriously tempting treats, like Lucky 13 Sweets, Le Petit Pommes Frites, Bakeshack and Kettle Corn King—but keep your focus. Remember, you’re here for healthy recipes! Here’s a tip: Your objective is to try and “eat the rainbow.” That means vibrant green kale and Swiss chard and collards, and dark, colorful berries. Beets the color of garnets. Stone fruits in jewel tones.

On Fridays, the healthy farmers market action moves to the Farmers Park Market in the Packing District, open from 4-8pm in the 2-acre park next door to the historic Anaheim Packing House. At this time of year, you’ll find seasonal delicacies there like artichokes, cherries and peaches, plus apricots, pluots and nectarines, along with the first ripe tomatoes (check out the heirloom varieties) and early summer squashes like zucchini, patty pan and crookneck. Farmers Park Market also has sustainable beef, pork, lamb and chicken from Da Le Ranch, a small family farm located in the central Inland Empire. It’s the type of enterprise that exemplifies what’s best about farmers market shopping: The opportunity to put together a farm-to-table feast of healthy recipes while simultaneously supporting local agriculture and small farmers that farm with the future in mind.

Anaheim Farmers Market

What should you buy at the market? Everything! Seriously. That’s the other great thing about farmers market shopping. Supermarkets buy from national and international brokers, and as a matter of course, you can get just about any kind of fruit or vegetable you want at any time of year. It just may taste like… nothing. At the Anaheim farmers markets, on the other hand, you’re buying from local growers, and that means that the produce on offer reflects what’s actually growing in Southern California at that time of year, and so loaded with flavor. So feel free to shop to your hearts content. We like to graze when we’re shopping, freely snacking on samples to see who has the sweetest tomatoes and berries, the juiciest citrus. After all, scoring the most flavorful ingredients is key to your farm-to-table feast!

Putting it All Together

So are recipes. You’d be surprised, though, how many of the best healthy recipes are essentially straight forward and simple. They let your hard-won farmers market produce shine, relying on a little oil, a little acid and a little seasoning to highlight its natural deliciousness.

Here’s a basic farm-to-table technique to master: Take root or cruciferous vegetables like beets, parsnips, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, then roast in a 350°F oven until the veggies have a light char. Before serving, splash them with a little vinegar (try seasoned rice wine vinegar or sherry vinegar) or a squeeze of lemon juice. For extra nutritional and flavor dimension, you can add cooked grains (farro, barley, quinoa) to your roasted veggies, but that’s going beyond. Serve the dish with a simple protein like chicken (go for the thighs!) or salmon and you’ve got a healthy meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes.

That pasta primavera dish is equally fast and delicious. While your salted pasta water comes to a boil, prep a variety of fresh spring farmers market vegetables. Think sugar snap peas, asparagus, baby carrots cut into thin slivers, delicate slices of summer squash, and maybe a few mushrooms for meaty texture (this healthy recipe is vegetarian). Try adding shelled fava beans if you’re feeling adventurous. While your pasta is cooking (toothsome fettuccini is the best choice here), quickly sauté the vegetables all jumbled together in olive oil with some chopped garlic. We’re talking 5-7 minutes here, max—about the same length of time as it takes to cook the noodles al dente. Season the veggies at the end of cooking with salt and pepper and a splash of white wine. Then add the hot, drained pasta to the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice, check your seasoning (add salt and pepper if necessary), then serve hot with parmesan cheese for sprinkling. No cream, no overcooked vegetables—just farm-to-table fabulous.

For a few more healthy recipes to help you with your farm-to-table feast, check out this Asparagus & Leek Pizza from Shutterbean; an exotic Moroccan Fava Bean & Vegetable Soup recipe that was published in The New York Times; and this bright and flavorful dish of Crispy Lemon Roasted Baby Artichokes by Running to the Kitchen.

With the days lengthening and growing warmer, ‘tis the season for fresh food. Head to Anaheim’s Center City and the farmers markets and get cooking!

p.s. So inspired you’re thinking of making cooking your career? Check out the classes at Culinary Lab at the Packing House.

Cheap Date Alert!

Okay, can we just start by agreeing that the words “cheap” and “budget” are sort of outdated pejoratives? Not that we’re not going to use them over and over again (precision of message and all that), but here’s what we believe: there’s no shame in frugality. Or in free! In fact, one of the most amazing things about Anaheim’s Center City is its urban appeal—it’s a vibrant cityscape of sights, sounds and sensations, all of which can be enjoyed by anyone. That makes it a pretty outstanding place for a cheap date.

For example, say you’re a foodie. On Thursdays, Downtown Anaheim’s Certified Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair takes over Center Street Promenade from 11am-4pm, with a mix of market stalls and food vendors. Then on Fridays, it’s the Farmers Park Market from 4pm-8pm, which features shopping and food, of course, but also free (yes!) yoga from 10-11am. Is the farmer’s market a great place for a cheap date? Um, are locally grown, farm-fresh tomatoes a taste of heaven? Of course. The trick to a fun, nearly-free farmers’ market date is to use it as an opening act of sorts. So plan ahead and bring a basket, maybe a blanket and a few utensils—enough to pull together a picnic and nosh al fresco on your edibles.

After eating, it’s time for a workout. The Frank Gehry-designed Anaheim Ice offers open skate sessions daily for $10, plus $3 for skate rental (Gehry’s eye-candy architecture is a bonus freebie). Under the rink’s undulating wooden curves you can make like a Duck (it’s the Anaheim Ducks NHL team’s training facility) showing off your speed work, or get in touch with your inner Michelle Kwan. Just remember that dating etiquette demands one thing: solidarity. So if one of you slips and goes down on the ice, make sure you both go down. It’s called bonding.

After that, drinks and maybe a few more nibbles may be in order. If you and your date are into vino, pop into Gypsy Den at the Center Street Promenade. The menu is as eclectic as the boho ambience, and the from-scratch fare pairs well with one of the vintages on offer at the winebar/coffeehouse/eatery. Or, if you’re a craft brew aficionado, head for The Iron Press, where “hoppy hour” from 3-6pm, Monday-Friday, features pours from $3-$4.50. The rotating selection of local beers on tap is truly impressive (check out taphunter for the latest line-up), and the $10 Bird in the Hand waffle cone—stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken and spicy slaw and served with jalapeno maple syrup—is a great cheap date dish, big enough for two to share and messy enough to inspire conspiratorial laughter (and maybe even a little finger licking). But if instead you’re into cocktails, head for the Packing House, and Hammer Workshop & Bar. It’s the spot to convene with the spirit world, thanks to inventive craft libations, many of which are based on fresh fruit elixirs that harken back to the locale’s roots as an orange-packing facility.

You’ll want to stay put at the Packing House to satisfy your sweet tooth and wind down your cheap date with dessert. Popbar has frozen gelato and sorbetto on a stick, which get dipped, drizzled and sprinkled to create your own hand-held pop art. Or Crêpe Coop has a wrap on French flair, using the thin, sweet Parisian pancakes to envelope fillings of hand-scooped ice cream, nuts, chocolate and fresh fruit. And finally, there’s Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream. Why is it the perfect cheap date spot? Because housemade flavors like lemon custard, root beer marble and wild mountain blackberry are chill enough to elicit brain freeze, but hip and hot enough to cement your bona fides as a cheap date impresario.

And that’s what budget dating at Anaheim’s Center City is all about.

Sunday Funday

Don’t mourn the end of the weekend—revel in those last precious hours of freedom with wild abandon. Sunday brunch is an essential part of preparing for a new work week. If you’re in the Anaheim area the best place to start your Sunday Funday celebration is in the Packing District in Center City. You’ll find everything you need from delicious grub to a little exercise and even opportunities to get your creative juices flowing.

With the abundant options to fill your Sunday Funday, it’s important to pace yourself. Start the day off at the crack of ten with a yoga class at Farmers Park, courtesy of The Yoga Mat. Farmer’s Park is a two-acre park with a community garden, olive grove and boardwalk that runs between the Packard Building and the Packing House. Bring a yoga mat (obviously), towel, water and sunscreen, and do your most impressive downward dog or your fiercest warrior pose. Best of all, it’s free (but donations are greatly appreciated).

No Sunday Funday is complete without fantastic food. Next, head over to The Gypsy Den on the Center Street Promenade for Sunday brunch and their Anaheim-famous $10 bottomless Mimosas. The décor is casual, shabby chic with mismatched furniture and random artwork, and it’s a great place to have a cup of coffee (or Mimosa), hang out and people watch—the outdoor patio sits right on the Promenade. The brunch menu is vegetarian/vegan friendly and their breakfast Panini is to die for. The Treasure Bowl is another great option with Greek yogurt, berries, honeycomb and granola. There are some great vegan desserts too, like the coconut cake, so save some room.

Next stop, Pour Vida Latin Flavor. Chef Jimmy Martinez is the former chef at BOA Steakhouse and former executive chef at 41 Ocean Club. The tacos are fantastic with seafood and vegetarian options, and the salads are excellent. But the drinks are the stars of the show with exquisite craft cocktails and fresh-pressed juices.

It’s been a long day, but you need to wrap up Sunday Funday with a little mystery. Head over to the “super-secret” speakeasy-style bar known as The Blind Rabbit. Inside the Packing House, look for the Rolling Boil hot pot place. Now, look around casually to see if you’ve been followed. If the coast is clear, saunter towards the Japanese beer keg wall—that’s where you’ll find the secret door to The Blind Rabbit. You’ll need a top-secret password which only a select few people in the world who have Internet access and are able to navigate the Blind Rabbit Instagram page will be able to procure. Reservations are recommended, unless you enjoy standing around trying to look inconspicuous for hours on end.

Brew Master

Inside you’ll find yet even more imaginative craft cocktails and a short bar menu with exotic comfort food like the duck confit mac and cheese and the pork two ways made with pork belly and pig ears. Round out the evening with an order of cinnamon toast crunch sorbet.

Planning a spectacular Sunday Funday has never been easier. Simply start your celebration in Anaheim’s Center City. There’s so much to do here, you’ll be hard pressed to get it all in on one day. Don’t forget to document your festivities using #CtrCity.

Now go home. It’s Sunday.

 

The Art of Anaheim

cheap-date-ideas

Looking for things to do in Anaheim? Something different from the typical Anaheim attractions? Try adding a little culture to your life. The art of Anaheim is everywhere in Center City, but you have to pay attention (and know where to look) or you just might miss it.

Downtown has several examples of amazing public art and you can spend a good part of a day discovering it all. There’s also Muzeo, a 25,000 square foot complex encompassing Anaheim’s original Carnegie Library and a state of the art gallery space. The Art Crawl experience happens several times a year with the next one being on November 12th.

You can take your own unguided “Art of Anaheim” tour fairly easily. I suggest starting in the Center Street Promenade area and checking out some of the public art, then by the Muzeo and the Center Gallery, and then wander over to ICE to see the Frank Gehry building. Also, check out LA’s Peter Shires’ “The Neighborhood” installation.

Look for the numbered circular plaques marking the downtown area’s public art, usually on the ground near the artwork. It’s hard to miss the “Hammer Clock” standing nearly 12 feet tall at the corner of Clementine and Promenade—an enormous claw hammer perched over a large pocket watch. The artist is Daniel Martinez and he has several other works of art in the area. Follow the trail from Hammer Clock to his “Video Trees,” birdhouse-like sculptures showing public information, local videos and even traffic conditions.

Heading on you’ll discover another well-represented artist, Nobi Nagasawa, his most popular works include “Orange Crates,” the stone sculptures “Anvil and Nails,” and “Coyote Bench.” One of his more interesting works is the “Sinking Canoe,” placed inside the parking garage at the Center Street Promenade—a nod to the earliest mode of transportation in the area.

Buster Simpson contributions include “Knowse to the Grindstone,” wooden “Nursery Planters,” and the iconic “Anaheim A Benches.” He also created the pavement inscription “Original Anaheim City Map.” His “Exchanger Fountain” is an inscribed drinking fountain adjacent to a willow, channeling gray water to nurture its growth.

For art on a grand scale, there’s the Anaheim ICE building. It’s known for being one of the major works of architect Frank Gehry and it’s also the practice and training rink of the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League. The facility resembles a pair of huge, arched quonset huts, and inside the soaring laminated wooden beams and braces create a nautical effect that recalls the inverted ship shape of Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Anaheim ICE

Muzeo has widely diverse exhibitions and is currently featuring Vitality of Line: works by Nicolay Paskevich (through September 11th).

Another gallery worth checking out is the Center Gallery, which features works throughout the year at the Downtown Anaheim Community Center. They provide local visual artists a 6 to 8 week long opportunity to exhibit their art. It’s a great place to see the work being created right here in our own community.

Downtown Anaheim’s Art Crawl Experience (ACE) is a quarterly art walk and arts festival which takes place on the second Saturday of February, May, August and November from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Now in its 6th year, guests enjoy a dizzying array of attractions ranging from pop-up galleries to craftspeople exhibiting their unique wares. New to the event in 2016 will be an assortment of culinary creations made by local food artisans.

ACE was created by artists and community art patrons with the intent of bringing arts and culture downtown by showcasing art in public places, street artisans, and the brick-and-mortar galleries.

During the evening of an ACE, attendees stroll among outdoor permanent art fixtures, such as Peter Shire’s illuminated birdhouse sculptures, to discover artists demonstrating their creative process live for curious onlookers.

Participating downtown eateries and shops transform their spaces into one-night pop-up galleries, while the latest art exhibits are revealed at brick-and-mortar galleries, including Center Gallery and MUZEO. Gourmet food trucks rally and local entertainers perform throughout the experience.

Anaheim Foodies Pop Up Bar

The crawl stretches from Clementine to Anaheim Boulevard along the Center Street Promenade with activities reaching around the corner to the Anaheim Packing District. Art lovers can catch rides aboard the open-air trolley for complimentary rides throughout Downtown Anaheim’s Art Crawl Experience.