Showing posts with label orange county. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orange county. Show all posts

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern in Brea

by @btsunoda

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, or better known as JFAT, recently introduced a new brunch menu. I was happy to learn about it and my wife and I recently visited their location in Brea.
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JFAT is located next to Whole Foods in the Village at La Floresta mall on Imperial Hwy just east of Kraemer Blvd in Brea. The Village at La Floresta is marketed as the hip spot for retail shopping and dining on the east side of OC.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated and quickly set the mood for Christmas. Garland was wrapped everywhere with ribbon and bows. Christmas trees were fully decked out with shiny glass ornaments.
An impressive lighted display of super premium wines is located near the entrance. Bottles of wine were lined up on the bar and they also had a fair number of craft beers on tap. TV screens were playing live sports, but it didn’t overpower the experience like a sports bar.

The restaurant is large and spacious. It is obviously designed for people to get together and converse over a good meal. In fact while we were there, there was a group of 8 that were enjoying brunch.

Totchos are simply Tater Tots topped with melted cheese and salsa fresca. 
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Simply stated, they are nachos made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips. Since I favor tater tots over tortilla chips, I had trouble eating just one bite. 

Knowing that this would be a meat heavy meal, I ordered the Charred Brussels Sprouts. This came with smoked applewood bacon, pinenuts and underneath it was some maple syrup. I scooped downwards in the dish to gather the maple syrup. This was a great combination of flavors and textures and was one of my favorite items that day.

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Malted Ale Waffles was served topped with a thick and creamy thyme gravy and applewood smoked bacon. 
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After pouring pure maple syrup on top of it all, I enjoyed the various taste sensations, crunchy, salty, sweet and smoky. I was quite happy with this dish.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Anaheim's Carolina's Italian Restaurant Boasts 400 Beers

by guest blogger Bryan Tsunoda

When I first learned of Carolina’s Italian Restaurant, I discovered that they have over 400 beers available, arguably the largest beer list in the area. That being said, I set the bar low for food and I wasn’t expecting much.
Carolina’s Italian Restaurant originally opened over 35 years ago and has been a strong foothold in Orange County. They recently opened up another restaurant in Anaheim, just down the street from Disneyland. My wife and I recently dined there for dinner.

My wife ordered the Alley Cat Amber beer from Left Coast Brewery. This beer had a nice color and was medium bodied. My house sangria was cold, fruity and refreshing. This established a nice tone for our evening.
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Instead of being served with something like cold sourdough bread, diners are presented with Carolina’s Cheesy Bread. Pizza dough is rolled and topped with a generous amount of fresh mozzarella cheese, pasta sauce and a mix of Italian herbs. This is baked in their pizza oven and delivered to the table while it’s still hot.
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I was impressed that they use fresh herbs in their dishes and later discovered that many of the vegetable and herbs are grown in their garden in the rear of the property. In fact, our server helps to take care of the garden.

Polly-O-Caprese is named after the Polly-O brand of mozzarella cheese.
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This is made with a thick slice of mozzarella cheese and placed over fresh tomatoes, basil, capers, red onions and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The addition of capers worked very well with the basil and the red onions.

Their Bruschetta consists of crisp crostini topped with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and romano cheese. 
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Other appetizers on the menu include calamari, fried mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini sticks and buffalo wings.

Frutti di Mare is a popular seafood dish comprised of shrimp, mussels, scallops and fresh clams. 
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It is served over fettuccine with tomatoes, onions and basil mixed with a small amount of marinara sauce. Because they don’t drown it in sauce, I was able to taste the flavors of each shellfish.

The “Tour of Italy” consists of smaller portions of three of their Spaghetti and Meatballs, Shrimp Alfredo and Penne Pesto
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Both my wife and I thought that their Penne Pesto was the best of the three offerings. It was filled with a generous amount of chunks of grilled chicken. Unlike many pesto dishes, this was creamy and not oily.

For dessert, we tried their tiramisu and their chocolate cake.
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Both items were moist, full of chocolate and delicious. They also have strawberry or Oreo cheesecake, spumoni, mousse cake and ice cream available.

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While we were there, we noticed a nice mix of people dining: young adults, families and senior citizens. Comfort seems to be one of the intents of the owners with quite a number of leather booths available.

Even if you aren’t in the mood for pasta, they have a number of other offerings such as soups, salads, sandwiches and pizza. The next time we visit Disneyland, we will definitely consider eating at Carolina’s Italian Restaurant.

Carolina’s Italian Restaurant
945 S. Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Where to Eat In Irvine, CA During WITS '16

There'll be 500 women travel bloggers from all over the world convening in Irvine, CA in March for Women in Travel Summit! Having lived in Southern California, I'm excited to share the diversity of the food culture we have with these women. Here are ten of my picks for the more off-the-beaten and alternative places to eat in Irvine for WITS attendees to try while they're in town:

PS. If you're a female travel blogger, be sure to check out the summit schedule and see if you'd like to join!

Bruxie
14376 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92604
Waffle sandwiches! That's all you need to know, really. Not just sweet waffle sandwiches, but savory ones like fried chicken or ham and eggs. Because who needs bread when you have waffles? Read my review from their other location.

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Mick's Karma Bar
2010 Main St, Irvine, CA 92614
This small spot is hidden in an office building but rather hard to find, but it's worth it to try their award winning burgers. The meat is ground fresh multiple times a day, making for a great burger that goes well with their strawberry basil lemonade.

Santouka
14230 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92604 
Even though great ramen places have opened up all over the LA area in the past year, Santouka still serves some solid ramen, and some of the beste in Orange County area. Santouka is an oldie but goodie, you can't go wrong with this place when you have a ramen craving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sidecar Doughnuts and Egg in a Donut, Now Open in Santa Monica

Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa was one of those places on my list for my few visits beyond the Orange Curtain, but now they opened another location in Santa Monica! The new location is certainly way easier for Angelenos to try Sidecar's beloved donuts.

Sidecar Donuts

What should you get at Sidecar? Well, I've gone to the Costa Mesa location and I've tried a few items there, from seasonal flavors to their popular Huckleberry (made with real Oregon huckleberry) or Butter and Salt donuts. These donuts are good, but they're cake doughnuts. Cake doughnuts are good, but my heart lies with raised donuts. On that note, meet my very favorite donut at Sidecar: Country Ham & Eggs
Sidecar Donuts


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bacchus Bar and Bistro (Irvine, CA)

by guest blogger @btsunoda

I recently visited Bacchus Bar and Bistro in Irvine. It is an upscale wine and craft beer bar. They also have a small kitchen where prepare a selection of appetizers, burgers and entrees. The exterior of Bacchus is deceiving because it sits in a shopping center but once you step inside, you are in an inviting and spacious area with a wine bar on one side and a retail space on the other.
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Bacchus offers over 350 bottles from around the world and has a wine bar where they can pour up to 60 different wines by the glass.
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I learned that they received the Wine Spectator award in 2014. Bacchus also offers 6 craft beers on a rotating tap along with 20 bottled craft beers. Glancing at the list of twenty, only five were from California. Belgian beers were prominently featured; there was a selection from Iceland and one from Italy.

Like their wines and craft beers, geographic diversity seems to be the desire for the focus of their cheese offerings. France topped the list with five different varieties. Holland was second with two and the US only had a single offering: Barely Buzzed from Utah. Fans of cheese from California, Oregon and Wisconsin may feel snubbed to not make the cut. Nuts, olives and various crackers and breads were also available. I was intrigued with the yuzu marmalade and the fig jam offerings as they probably go well with the crackers and breads. Some items are gluten free.

I repeated what my server said, “lobster grilled cheese” several times thinking that he had it mistaken for lobster mac & cheese. Brie and cheddar were melted with pieces of fresh lobster and served on toasted sourdough. Brie cheese added to the ‘gooey’ factor making each bite a multisensory and delicious experience.
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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Calivino Wine Pub (Anaheim, CA)

by: guest blogger @btsunoda

Sporting events and concert venues don’t typically serve cutting edge food and so I’m always on the lookout for restaurants that are situated near these types of establishments. Calivino Wine Pub opened its doors in May 2014; located on Katella Ave in Anaheim, they are ideally situated between the Honda Center and Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
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The interior of Calivino Wine Pub resembled a modern cafe: stylish chairs and tables, spot lights from ceiling and single seating by the bar. Colorful wine bottles adorned the wall of the bar area.

 I began with their bacon wrapped dates and a glass of Clayhouse Adobe White Blend.
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The saltiness of the goat cheese combined with the natural sweetness of the dates and honey paired quite nicely. The white blend was a good beginner’s wine.
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 The honey roasted brussel sprouts with pork belly had a crisp exterior and I thought that the sweetness of the honey combined with the salty and smoky nature of the pork belly was an effective way to serve an otherwise bland vegetable. I paired this with an Argentine Malbec: Elsa Bianchi. This soft wine is ideal for the person that isn’t fond of bold complex red wines and is well suited for appetizers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dami Sushi and Izakaya (Buena Park, CA) and $100 Gift Certificate Giveaway!

by guest blogger @bstunoda
PS. Be sure to scroll to the end for a giveaway!

At an Izakaya restaurant, drinking is primary and eating is secondary. People go to izakaya restaurants to socialize much in the same manner that the Spanish drink wine and eat tapas. Like the current trend in dining, small plates dominate the menu and the plates are meant to be shared.
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Dami Sushi and Izakaya is located in the brand new Village Circle on Beach Blvd in Buena Park. After entering the restaurant, I found it to be beautifully decorated in modern Asian design. A high open ceiling, beautiful lattice wall coverings and effective lighting gave diners a comfortable experience.
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Whole grain salad
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The dish wasn’t calling my name, but I tried it anyway. It consisted of endive, black rice, Indian millet, lentil, kidney beans, fresh mozzarella in a soy vinaigrette. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the ingredients worked together. I think the soy vinaigrette brought all of the disparate flavors and textures together quite nicely. I’d choose this salad over most green salads as the kidney beans and lentils gave it quite a bit of substance.

Jawanmushi was next up and it turned out to be a version of chawanmushi (steamed Japanese egg custard).
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Newport Beach Restaurant Week Menu: Great Maple at Fashion Island

Newport Beach Restaurant Week starts today, January 17, and goes on until January 26. I took the chance to explore some Orange County eats, since I'm not there much, and tried out the Restaurant Week menu at Great Maple Libations and Seasonal Plates, located inside the Fashion Island. The Great Maple will have a 3-course dinner menu for $30.


After driving to OC in LA traffic, we needed a refreshing cocktail to calm down! Lucky for us, the cocktails here were pretty good.

We started with the gin drinks. I had the Midnight Pineapple with cucumber and caramelized pineapple.
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I like that the drinks here weren't too sweet. This was refreshing and hit the spot after the long drive.

Newport Sunrise Cooler made with G'Vine gin, basil, grapefruit, lime, Cointreau
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The appetizer choices included Crispy calamari, lemon caper mayo, chili flakes, olives
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The salty olives in the calamari were a great and unexpected addition. More fried calamari should come with olives!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Theorem: An Experiment in Coffee Tasting by Portola Coffee Lab

Theorem is a unique experience in craft coffee devised by Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa. Once an hour in the late afternoons, the small room with a counter seating only six people opens up for a set menu of one of a kind coffee drinks. You can call or go on their website for reservation.

They want you to focus on the experience so no camera or phone is allowed during the tasting. I only managed to take a photo of the menu before they told me to put my camera away! Though they did let me take quick photos of the setup in between mine and the next tasting.

The menu lists four items and you can order any three for $20.
I started with an Italiano served with candied lemon. This was a play on how Italianos used to be served. Back in the day tap water tasted very mineral-y, so people tend to use lemon rind to get rid of that taste and the oil.

Next is an amazing cappuccino made using milk with 6% butterfat. This milk has a texture like no milk I've had before and it makes for an incredible cappuccino.

The Coffee Sour is an incredible non-alcoholic coffee cocktail made with a cold brew, lemon, orange flower water, orgeat, and honey. When I tasted it I couldn't even tell there was coffee in it, just a balanced, complex mocktail.

The "Enhanced Espresso" must be ordered for the whole table (for $20). Lucky for me someone there was generous enough to order it. The enhanced espresso is coffee infused with various herbs and fruits using a vac-pot (reminiscent of the Rooibos cocktail I had at The Aviary in Chicago).
This one was an extraction of cloves, cinnamon, dried cherries, almond, mint, etc.

A peek into the back room held promise for future tastings. A barrel for aging ... alcoholic coffee cocktails, perhaps?


Theorem
3313 Hyland Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(949) 284-0596
http://www.portolacoffeelab.com/theorem
Theorem on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cucina Enoteca (Irvine, CA)

Cucina Enoteca is the new restaurant at Irvine Spectrum, the second venture of Cucina Urbana in San Diego. The decor in the large space varied from a rustic patio, a high ceiling with caged bulbs in the dining room, and abstract painting in one section of the wall.

Cucina Enoteca
Cucina Enoteca has an adjoining wine store, where you can pick out wines at retail price and pay minimum corkage (on Sundays, you can get free corkage for any bottle over $20 that you buy here).
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The kitchen is now headed by Chef Lauren "Lulu" DeRouen (formerly of Pinot Provence). She wasn't in the kitchen the night I was there so I ordered instead of having the kitchen send out stuff. They did anyway!
The kitchen sent out a trio of vasi : ceci bean hummus with piquillo jam, burrata with roasted garlic confit, and duck rillette with apricot mustard.
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All three were great - I also enjoyed combining the burrata with the duck rillette together. The fresh, creamy burrata is made by DiStefano Cheese in Baldwin Park (the same one they have at Stella Rossa Pizza).

I didn't realize they were sending out the burrata vasi, so I had ordered the burrata and speck ‘caprese’ salad, with pickled pear, arugula, candied pecan, fried shallot, and sherry vinaigrette.
Burrata Salad
Well, I didn't really mind more burrata, and this one was great especially with the pear.

Friday, September 16, 2011

AnQi's Red Hour, Garlic Noodles

The An family has probably created the first high-end Vietnamese restaurant empire starting with Crustacean and now AnQi in Costa Mesa and Tiato Cafe in Santa Monica.

Where Crustacean focuses on more traditional Vietnamese, AnQi and its chef Ryan Carson leans more towards Asian fusion. AnQi is divided into three sections: there's the main dining room, there's the bar with a separate bar menu, and then there's the noodle bar (also serving dumplings). On Mondays, you can say there's four. There's the private dining room where you can partake in the molecular gastronomy menu (which I still need to review, soon).

During the Red Hour (M-F, 4-7 pm) all the cocktails are 50% off and some of the small bites from the bar menu are discounted. They recently invited some bloggers for a hosted Red Hour. We shared some fusion bar bites from an Australian crudo served with yuzu kosho granita, yuzu nuoc nam, and kaffir lime ponzu (three separate sauces) to Ahi Tuna Poke and spicy beef tongue crispy tacos.

Tacos

In keeping with the molecular side of the restaurant, there's a cocktail with cotton candy similar to that of Bazaar's. The Lotus is made with pink grapefruit and orange with vodka and tequila over pink cotton candy.
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I personally liked the Viet-No-Jito which is vodka with hand-muddled fresh lime and Kinh Gioi leaves, green tea infused with agave nectar and molecular lemon foam. The Kinh Gioi are often called Vietnamese Balm or Vietnamese Mint and added a really nice aroma to the drink (it would be better if it was rum-based, though - and same goes with most of their cocktails).

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Worthy Burgers in OC: Joseph Mahon's Burger Parlor (Fullerton, CA)

I never got to try Chef Joseph Mahon's burger while he was at Bastide, but everyone raved about it.
Naturally when he opened Burger Parlor in Fullerton, I decided I had to try it, OC or not (being in Pasadena, OC seems extra far).

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Burger Parlor is sort of a permanent pop-up. The space is Rialto Cafe by day and Burger Parlor by night (Wed to Sat nights only at the moment).
In this casual and intimate space, regular customers can chat unintimidated with Mahon, and occasionally his wife and adorable baby boy.
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There are nine burgers on the menu and thick cut steak fries, but a sign indicates that he can also construct something vegetarian-friendly. You need only ask.
Mahon has the burger basics down: good meat patty, ground daily from Nebraska Angus beef, and good buttery buns. Of course, he doesn't just stop there - more after the jump.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Indulge: Shakes and Waffle Sandwiches at Bruxie (Orange, CA)

Waffle sandwiches may be one of the few things that would make me venture out to Orange County. That's why when I had an invitation to the avocado cooking demo in Anaheim, I decided to make a day out of it and visit one OC place that's been on my list: Bruxie Waffles.

Most of my fellow bloggers love this place, although one warned me that some of the sandwiches weren't all that. Still, I wasn't deterred and made my drive on a hot summer day. My only problem when I got there was figuring out which one to order. Luckily, when I checked in on foursquare, I saw a tip from a fellow blogger, inomthings, saying to get the Green Eggs and Ham. Well, green eggs and ham it is!

The Green Eggs and Ham ($6.95) was filled ham and cheddar, jumbo egg, mayo, arugula pesto

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa Opens Monday. A Preview Lunch.

The fresh, seasonal, healthy dining is not a new concept in California. Interestingly enough, the Senior Culinary Director of Seasons 52 had his roots in Berkeley during the heydays of Chez Panisse, but the chain started in Orlando in 2003 and has now finally found a California home in its twelfth location in Costa Mesa.
At this 300-seat restaurant they're taking the healthy up a notch, though. Everything on the menu is under 475 calories. They don't use oil or butter and nothing is fried. Remember the scene in Food Revolution where Jamie Oliver made this family bury their deep fryer? Yeah, that.

There's a piano man behind the bar providing nightly live entertainment.
There's a Chef's Table that holds 12 (but you can reserve with a minimum of 8 people) where you can partake in a tasting menu similar to what I'm about to show you below.
The restaurant opens August 30, but I attended a media preview lunch last weekend.

The wine list, which offers 100 wines and 60 by the glass, at all the locations and all the pairings we had today are prepared by their beverage director George Miliotes, a Master Sommelier.

We started with some champagne (Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne) and some passed flatbreads on the patio (which overlooks the South Coast Plaza parking lot, but the weather's beautiful all the same).
Chipotle shrimp with roasted poblanos, grilled pineapple and feta cheese.
All the flatbreads are made with their brick oven.

Black Mission Fig with chevre, Nueke's bacon, mint, arugula.
The sweet figs and the goat cheese were great on top of the crispy crust.

Our lunch started with an amuse bouche:
Lump Crab and Haas avocado with pico de gallo
This was paired with a Lioco Indica Rose, Mendocino 2009 which had a surprisingly dark and deep color for a rose.

Wild Pacific salmon and sea scallop roasted on a cedar plank.
(Paired with Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Central Coast 2008)
The scallop was skewered with a stalk of lemongrass. Instead of oil or butter, they use vegetable glaze to get the moisture and the mouthfeel. Both the salmon and the scallop are very moist, though a couple of the other bloggers said their salmon was a little overcooked.
The chardonnay was clean and crisp with a little acidity and proved to be a good pairing with the seafood.

Earthbound Farm organic greens with Oak-grilled mushrooms and truffle dressing
(Paired with Sinskey Pinot Noir, Carneros 2007)
Chef Pleau shared his recipe for the truffle dressing:

2 oz miso, 2 oz lemon juice (from Meyer lemon), 2 oz olive oil (or garlic oil), 2 oz tamari/soy, 2 oz truffle oil.

The dressing had a great aroma and a nutty flavor due to the miso. Nonfat sour cream is drizzled around the side for more body.

This Costa Mesa location will have a list of biodynamic California wines that their other stores do not have, thanks to its proximity to the wine country (biodynamic wines don't travel as well).

Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with roasted garlic, basil, and light tomato broth.
(Paired with Retromarcia, Chianti Classico 2008)
This was another good pairing as the wine cuts the salt and richness that came from the goat cheese.

Mesquite-grilled lamb rack and Manchester Farms quail breast, mashed sweet potato, San Miguel farm bok choy.
(Paired with Markham Petite Sirah, Napa 2004 for the quail and De Toren Fusion V, Stellenbosch 2007 for the lamb)
Both the lamb and quail were tender and flavorful. The bok choy came from a small farm in the south part of Oxnard and was more tender than its grocery store counterparts. The South African Stellenbosch was full bodied, more subtle fruit, and was a good palate cleanser in between the two proteins.

The desserts, alas, aren't really "low calorie" but they are still under 475 calories. How? Well, smaller portions! You can eat your cheesecake and your pecan pies and rocky road cake, but the size of the shot glasses keeps your calorie intake in check.
For the dessert wine they served Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2006. Interestingly enough, the next Monday I had a 2007 Mosel Kabinett Riesling at Melisse.

One of my favorites: Pecan "Pie"

The take-home message? Seasonal fare using local, small farms. No oil, no butter, no gas, no frying and yes, even if you don't worry about whether or not they're under 475 calories, the food tastes good. You won't miss the oil, that I promise.

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 437-5252
http://www.seasons52.com/locations/costa_mesa.asp
Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

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