Ring in the New Restaurants

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Casey's Cupcakes opened a story in Fashion Island recently.

“Happy New Year! Happy New Meal!” I exclaimed.

“Happy new meal?” Stasha turned from her desk and gave me a quizzical look. “What are you going on about this time, Trela?”

“Newport Beach welcomed a handful of new restaurants last year, which means we need to plan some new dining excursions.”

“Chris, for me a new meal means dining at a restaurant I’ve never been to before, no matter how long it’s been in business. There are still a few restaurants in Newport that I’ve yet to dine in, so–”

“So we’ll get to those,” I interrupted. “I’m looking forward to visiting some of the newest dining spots. Interestingly enough, most of them have sister restaurants in other cities, and chose Newport Beach as their newest location.”

“Such as?”

“Such as Mozambique, whose flagship restaurant is down the coast in Laguna Beach, and Casey’s Cupcakes, which also has a location in Laguna Beach.”

“But that’s not a restaurant,” protested Stasha.

“Maybe not, but you can easily make a meal out of those decadent baked treats.”

“Tamarind of London opened last November,” recalled Stasha. “We went to the opening.”

“True, but the dishes they served just whetted my appetite for more.”

“Pizzeria Mozza opened, too. I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet,” Stasha lamented. “It’s Mario Batali’s first OC restaurant–the same restaurant he opened with Nancy Silverton in Los Angeles a few years ago.”

“And now Batali, like everyone else, has discovered the friendly culinary climate of Newport Beach. But the one I’m curious about is Peter’s Gourmade Grill.”

“Hmmm…don’t know that one.”

“Owner Peter Stavros is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who opened his first restaurant inside a converted Valero gas station in Tustin back in 2010,” I explained. “Last month, he opened a new location in the Balboa Fun Zone.”

“You’re right – that certainly sounds intriguing.”

“And Crow Bar in Corona del Mar opened Crow Burger Kitchen on Newport Boulevard last summer.”

“Just what Newport needed, another burger joint.”

“In this case, yes. The burgers are made with 5-ounce beef patties that contain a blend of prime chuck, short rib, brisket and hangar steak. Not your ordinary burger by any means.”

“Chris, I’ve found there’s nothing ordinary about dining in Newport Beach.”

Here’s a brief overview of some of Newport’s newest “non-ordinary” restaurants we’re looking forward to visiting:

MOZAMBIQUE

Portuguese sailors discovered Mozambique on one of the many stops they made to replenish supplies. It was here that they sampled a little known spice called Peri-Peri. This unique spice is still used today in the country’s colorful seaside restaurants – and it’s used in many of the dishes found at Mozambique Peri Peri at The Bluffs on Bison.

This is the fast-casual concept version of the original Mozambique restaurant in Laguna Beach, and is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Newport location has many of the same sensations dishes, but the portions are smaller, as are the prices.

More info: mozambiqueperiperi.com.

PIZZERIA MOZZA

What do you get when three noted restaurateurs – Nancy Silverton, Joe Bastianich and Food Network star Mario Batali – join forces to create an Italian eatery?

You get Pizzeria Mozza, which opened several months ago on Coast Highway. One look at the menu lets you know this ain’t your daddy’s pizza joint.

Fried squash blossoms filled with ricotta, bone marrow al forno, and crisp duck leg with lentils are just a few of the surprising menu items.

And then there’s pizza. Among the dozen or so options: egg, bacon and potato; white anchovy, tomato and Fresno chiles; and clams, garlic, chiles and oregano

More info: pizzeriamozza.com/NewportBeach/home.cfm.

PETER’S GOURMADE GRILL

In 2010, Peter Stavros – a Cordon Bleu-trained chef – came across an abandoned Valero gas station in Tustin. For some reason, he thought it would make a great restaurant, and labored literally day and night to open his tiny Peter’s Gourmade Grill.

The concept was a hit, so Peter opened a second location in the Balboa Fun Zone, boasting the same sensational dishes.

The menu seems simple: wraps, burgers, salads and sandwiches. However, under that simplicity is a creative twist on the tried and true.

For example, Peter’s Sweet Potato Gooey’s are a crazy yet blissful concoction of sweet potato fries topped with maple syrup, brown sugar and toasted marshmallows. The burgers are reported to be as tasty and juicy as they come, while the sandwiches run the gamut from gyros to grilled tuna.

More info: gourmadegrill.com.

CASEY’S CUPCAKES

Who’s got the best cupcakes in OC? Casey’s Cupcakes, which recently opened a new location in Fashion Island! At least that’s what the readers of OC Weekly said when they voted Casey’s Cupcakes as having the “Best Cupcake” in OC Weekly’s 2011 “Reader’s Choice Awards.”

That tasty distinction follows Casey’s triumph last year on The Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” battle.

So what makes Casey’s Cupcakes so special?

Her recipes were developed with her grandmother, and what grandma doesn’t know how to bake? Casey honed her recipes and developed a pink décor concept, which works perfectly with her pretty baked goods. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Casey was one of the stars of the TV series Laguna Beach. But celebrity or not, Casey does know her cupcakes.

More info:  caseyscupcake.com.

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