We love writing about our epicurean experiences at Newport Beach restaurants, but our quest for quality cuisine doesn’t end at the dinner table. Not only are we out and about pursuing palate-pleasing dishes, we love talking shop with chefs, sommeliers and other industry insiders.
Over the past several weeks we’ve enjoyed culinary concoctions by Chef Yvonne Goetz of the Winery Restaurant in Tustin and Chef Franco Barone of Il Barone in Newport Beach, and sampled fabulous fare at the Newport Beach Film Festival’s opening and closing parties.
Last month’s meeting of the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association (yes, we’re members) was held at The Winery Restaurant in Tustin, a bit off the beaten Newport path, yet significant because Newport Beach resident Yvonne Goetz is the restaurant’s chef and co-owner.
We were curious to know how Chef Goetz got involved with them, so GM and co-owner JC Clow filled us in on the details.
“We interviewed chefs from several major cities looking for someone who would do cutting-edge, wine-country-esque things that you didn’t really see in Orange County,” explained Clow. “Chef Goetz had been with the Ritz Carlton for 14 years and was looking to make a change.”
Goetz turned out to be a perfect match for Clow’s culinary concept.
“He can do wild boar, alligator, ostrich, elk, venison, caribou, squab, quail, pheasant, frog legs, foie gras 30 different ways – she’s so creative, and that’s just what we wanted.”
“How do you define yourself in the marketplace?” Stasha asked Chef Goetz.
“We are a fine dining restaurant that has developed a good following,” he replied. “Around here there’s no competition in our style, but you have to always be creative to keep bringing people into the restaurant.”
“Speaking of creative,” she continued, “what’s the most mind-boggling ingredient you’ve discovered recently that you’ve incorporated into your menu?”
“Lemon verbena,” stated Chef Goetz. “It’s a cross between lemon and thyme. We just added it to the menu, mainly for fish and lobster. It’s my favorite ingredient right now.”
And after the phenomenal dinner we had, The Winery is now one of our favorite restaurants.
This month’s So Cal Restaurant Writers meeting was held at Il Barone Ristorante in Newport Beach, where Chef Barone and his wife, Donatella, are serving up incredible Italian cuisine. The place was packed on a Wednesday night, a good example of why So Cal Restaurant Writers named the Il Barone “Restaurateurs of the Year.”
Our five-course tasting menu for the dinner meeting started with a salad course of Finnochio e Scamorza—grilled fennel and scamorza cheese drizzled with peperoncini oil and aged balsamic vinegar. This was followed by Garganella al Pesce Affumicato, which featured homemade slant-cut pasta with assorted house smoked fish in a creamy pesto sauce and sprinkled with toasted pistachios.
Next, we were served Branzino con Crusto, a petite and tasty blue nose seabass crusted with parmisiano and prosciuto, then baked and served over sautéed black kale that was drizzled with a lemon pesto sauce. The final meat course was Spezzatino alla Romana, or Roman-style beef stew.
The decadent dessert was Mascarpone Semi-Fredo: sponge cake with marsala syrup and chocolate mascarpone.
All told, the dishes were inventive, creative, pretty on the plate, and pleasing to the palate. Bravo Barone!
Opening and closing nights of the Newport Beach Film Festival featured fun after-parties that were as different as the opening and closing night films.
On opening night, the large courtyard in front of Bloomingdale’s Fashion Island was packed with people enjoying samples of food from 20 local restaurants.
Closing night was a smaller affair in the streets of Lido Village, with food provided by 118 Degrees. What caught our eye, though, was the Napa Style wine booth, which was serving samples of several wines, including three from Newport Beach Winery.
“What are you pouring tonight?” Stasha asked the winery’s marketing rep, Justin Myers.
“This one is called Wretched Excess, and it has the image of a thousand dollar bill on the label,” explained Justin. “People kept asking owner Richard Moriarty if they could buy his wine at cost. He said that’d be $1,000 per bottle because that’s what it costs him to produce a bottle of wine in Newport Beach. A friend of his said there’s no success like wretched excess, so there you have it.”
“It’s amazing,” I said. “What is the blend?”
“This has cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc, petite verdot and malbec. It retails for $42 per bottle, and we’re pleased to say that Napa Style will now be carrying our wines, including our other blends: OC Red and Back Bay Cuvée.”
Irvine Ranch Market and Hershey’s on Balboa Island also carry Newport Beach Winery products.
We continued our stroll through Lido Village and spotted Film Festival CEO Greg Schwenk and Chef Pascal Olhats of Brasserie Pascal and Tradition.
We chatted with them for a few minutes and learned from Greg that the Film Festival exceeded attendance projections again this year, and that the films were extremely well-received by audiences and critics alike.
And of course Pascal loves the Film Festival—his Brasserie is located across the street from the Big Edwards theatre where the key films are screened.
Stasha turned to me with a grin and said slyly, “It seems to me that wretched excess has been had by all.”