Best Of :: People & Places
After years of running a recruiting firm in Newport Beach, Dave Martin decided to change direction. His choice of a new path was obvious: "My life really does revolve around food," he says. "Good food and good times. But hey, isn't that what life is about?"
Now, his life revolves around both even more than before, thanks to Bravo's Emmy-nominated reality show Top Chef. Out of thousands of applicants for the first season of the cutthroat culinary competition, Martin not only made it onto the show, but he also placed third—while uttering the closest thing the show has had to a catchphrase so far: "I'm not your bitch, bitchz!"
Now, Martin is a jet-setting chef, darting all over the country to serve such A-list clientèle as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who hired him to cater their 20th birthday party. Dave also headlines as guest chef at restaurants around the country, including Sage in Newport Beach, all while running his own catering company, As You Wish Catering.
So without further ado, here are a few of Dave Martin's favorite places and things of Orange County:
1. La Creperie Cafe:"All right, so this place is for when you are willing to venture past the proverbial Orange Curtain and travel ever so slightly to Belmont Shore in Long Beach. La Creperie is a quaint little French-inspired restaurant in breezy Belmont Shore that serves up some pretty authentic sweet and savory crepes. You've gotta try the Rusticana with chicken and sherry cream—tasty." 4911 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8499; www.lacreperiecafe.net.
2. BevMo! and Hi-Time Wine Cellar:"These are the two places I head to when I need to restock the wine fridge. BevMo! is a chain that has incredible deals on wine and even runs specials for buy-one-get-one-for-a-penny-or-a-nickel. They are great quality wines, too, not two-buck Chuck. BevMo! also has a wide selection of other alcohols, mixers and everything needed to put together your own event at home.
"But I have to recommend Hi-Time when looking for more specialty or boutique wines. They have an incredible beer selection, to boot, with real experts in the alcoholic beverage tasting arena to help you when you need a hand with what pairs with what. You can even stop by for one of their weekly wine tastings." BevMo!, various locations, www.bevmo.com; Hi-Time Wine Cellar, 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; www.hitimewine.net.
3. Lunch at Bistango:"My favorite waitress at Bistango is JJ. I have been having lunch with her for more than 12 years. I love the prix fixe lunch program and the great wines by the glass. It's usually a suit-and-tie crowd, but I've shown up in shorts, and they still let me in." 19100 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, (949) 752-5222; www.bistango.com.
4. Mozambique:"I met Mozambique's chef, Alfonso, last year after Top Chef, and he was more than welcoming. It is a really nice venue with an awesome patio for weekend brunch with a view. The food is South African, which introduces some wonderful tastes and flavors like the peri-peri sauce—a blend of special peppers." 1740 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-7100.
5. Sage on the Coast:"I love hanging out at Sage on the Coast with my girlfriends Stacey and Kim, having champagne and wine at the bar along with the killer short ribs and barbecue-pork crepe. They come highly recommended. You have to try them. Just tell them Dave sent ya." Crystal Cove Promenade, 7862 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 715-7243.
6. Boating in Newport Harbor:"Fortunately for me, I have some good friends from college who happen to have a boat docked in Newport, so we can cruise around the harbor and enjoy trekking about the peninsula. I'm allowed onboard as long as I bring the snacks. But even if you don't own a boat, I believe there are day rentals for little cruises or evening gondola cruises, if you are looking for something a little more romantic."
7. Houston's in Irvine."Yes, I know it's a chain restaurant, but it is one that I have tried across the country, and I have to tell you they are very consistent and provide really solid service. I am a creature of habit and always get the same thing, which is my version of the Biltmore chicken sandwich (havarti cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce). It is so tasty! I crave it along with a hearty glass of pinot noir. Other great items are their house smoked salmon and, of course, the ribs and shoestring fries." 2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine, (949) 833-0977.
Anh Do has no qualms about referring to her late father, Yen Do, in the present tense. "My father values people over profit," she says. " And he values the community over the individual. I have those sentiments. I think that's what he teaches me all the time."
Despite his death last year, theirs is an ongoing conversation that began in 1978, when Yen Do enlisted Anh and his other children to help bundle stacks of his nascent newspaper, Nguoi Viet Daily News, in the family's garage. Yen Do had been a reporter in Vietnam before coming to the U.S. with his wife and four children as part of the first wave of refugees after the Vietnam War. The family moved from one refugee camp to another before being adopted by a family in Santa Rosa, who helped them get on their feet.
Once they were on their own, Anh remembers a busy, vibrant home in constant flux. "There were lots and lots of refugees. My parents took in all these people coming over," she says. "We shared everything. We never had our own room or toys. For me, that was normal."
Throughout these years, her father harbored the dream of launching his own newspaper for the many Vietnamese refugees in the country. Anh says her mother worked full-time in the electronics business so that her father could hatch his first edition of the paper, whose name means "Vietnamese people," in 1978. "Her paycheck provided for all of us; the paper didn't provide any money," says Anh of the early years.
But her memories of helping her father bundle stacks of paper and the books and refugee friends that continually filled the Do home have served as her inspiration for the writing and community-relations work she does today. (In addition to writing for Nguoi Viet, she is a guest columnist for The Orange County Register.)
Anh is not editor in chief nor CEO of Nguoi Viet, preferring instead to maintain her close ties to the community as vice president of community relations. "I think I'm the public face of the company in the greater community," she says. People tie her and her father together, she says, and that helps maintain the paper's reputation as a place not only for news, but also for community.
"I see myself as a connector," she says. "I try to stay ahead of what's going on with the Vietnamese community, the greater Asian community and the greater community as a whole. . . . I offer Nguoi Viet as a solution to help [people] meet the people they need to meet and launch the ideas they want to launch."
Here are seven of Anh's favorite things about OC:
1. The soil: "Things grow here. People grow here. I've seen it all my life."
2. "Pacific Coast Highway on a SoCal day. Escaping with our dogs, peeking out of the window for a good whiff."
3. "The dessert case at Zov's Bistro." 17440 17th St., Ste. B, Tustin, (714) 838-8855.
4. Bolsa Avenue: "Mornings, in the embrace of Little Saigon, when your chances of finding a parking space increase so much more."
5. The abundance of grocery stores: "It helps to track down any ingredient on earth."
6. Plentiful restaurants: "Every week I try a new one."
7. "The fact that my parents live here."
If you're going to fall to your knees in front of something representing the highest power, it better be something pretty darn bitchen. The folks at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano must have had this in mind when they commissioned 85 craftsmen in Spain to create the Grand Retablo, the massive golden altarpiece that adorns the mission chapel today. A very grand $2 million was poured into this masterpiece of Brazilian cedar and 24-karat-gold flakes, which stands more than four stories high and is adorned with swallows and saints. It brought tears to the eyes of parishioners when it was unveiled in March, and rightfully so.
Vladimir Guerrero gets the big money, Francisco Rodriguez sports the cool goggles, and Orlando Cabrera deserves all your love after that All-Star Game snub. But the man who embodies why your Anaheim Angels are no longer a pendejada is Reggie Willits. He's homegrown, not brought in as a free agent; a scrapper, not naturally gifted; humble, a sleeper prospect and plays the small ball the way the Los Angeles Dodgers did for years and are starting to do again. His unlikely storyan Oklahoma stopgap for oft-injured outfielder Garrett Anderson who built his home around a batting cagehas already graced the pages of The New York Times and the blathering tubes of ESPN. More important, though, the squirt has continued to hit above .290 through this long, hot summer. Finally, someone at whom fans can chant "Reg-gie, Reg-gie!" who actually deserves it.
Ahh, the batting cages. The underachieving brother of the driving range, the redneck cousin of the racquetball court, the Okie-in-law of the lap pool. When it comes to solitary versions of large-scale sports, it doesn't get much better than the batting cages, does it? And batting cages don't get much better than Boomers. Whether you need a few brush-up swings, or you're working on your comeback, la The Natural, Boomers' cages have everything you'll need. Grab Wonderboy, or one of the battered aluminum sticks they've got behind the counter, and go rope a few: 70-mph stingers, fast pitch, slow pitch, softballeven bumper boats! Ahem, not that that has anything to do with batting cages; they're just fun, okay? Buy 30 pitches for 2 bucks, or have your own personal home-run derby with an hour's worth. Sure, you'll have a monster blister, but that's what all those skeeball tickets are for: the free batting gloves! Do yourself a favor: Get in good with the staff, and when that time comes along in your life that leaves you at your most desperate, you'll be able to get a job working the cages. It's a step up from the ball-shagger on the driving range, and you'll get the respect of a carnybut with more permanence.
Admit it: The first time you drove past that giant, angled black cube beside Insterstate 5, you thought the actual kids' museum it belongs to was inside. Later, maybe you caught the light shining through it, realized it was hollow, and wondered what the point was. Did the designer of the Discovery Center just really, really like Pink Floyd and somehow figured kids could learn about the actual dark side of the moon? Turns out it's actually a massive solar-panel array that powers the museumif you pay admission, you can find out all the groovy details and, yes, even get inside it. If solar power is indeed the future, could it be that one day we'll all have trippy black cubes attached to our homes? We can but hope.
Yes, it's baseball, and technically, he's a manager, but we're going with the Soshon this one. He's won two division titles and a World Series, has a winning record, and is fluent in Spanish. If there's one thing Orange County likes more than a winner, it's one that is fluent in Spanishexcept maybe Walt, but he's dead now, at least until they thaw him out. OC sports fans (or the Los Angeles fans of Anaheim, if you believe Arturo Moreno) are lucky enough to have Scioscia, which offsets the terrible luck that landed Angels fans that insufferable rally monkey. Scioscia has a distinctly National League style, which seems to work well against an unsuspecting American League defense. His coaching has seen the departure of the "Cowboy Curse," a reference to original owner Gene Autry's haunting due to the rumored Indian burial ground in the outfield. Scioscia has done away with the patented August Angel Fade that typically saw them blowing huge leads late in the season. He also got rid of those cheesy, periwinkle, angel-winged-logo uniforms ESPN lovingly referred to as the "softball beer league" threads. Scioscia has turned the Angels into an American League powerhouse to be feared and respectedand given the once-notoriously sit-on-their-hands Anaheim fans something to stand up and clap about.
It may technically be Newport Beach, but a day spent at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve won't feel like it. Tucked behind Highway 73, the 1,000-acre preserve includes rolling bluffs that surround 752 acres of wetlandswhich are home to 200 species of birds. Pack a lunch; bird-watch (best in the winter), hike or kayak; and forget you're as close to home as you are.
When the Anaheim Ducks acquired Teemu Selanne for a second stint in 2005, many fans figured it was just a sympathy signing, allowing one of the most popular players in franchise history to retire a Duck. But Selanne proved doubters wrong last year, winning the National Hockey League's Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy (for comeback player of the year) and helping the Ducks to the Stanley Cup semifinals. But the eternally smiling Selanne outdid himself this past season, becoming the first player in NHL history older than 35 to record consecutive 40-plus goals seasons while leading the Ducks to, well, if we have to tell you what they did this past season, you deserve deportation from Orange County. Even if Selanne retires, as he's hinted recently, he's made no secret of his love for the county, for Ducks fansand even if he hated us, we'd still love him forever for the goals he produces in buckets.
Come on, people. Even Google Maps chokes on this. Pick one and stick with it. Our copy desk will back you up 100 percent.
Santa Ana stands as one of Orange County's least upscale citiesand is, as a result, its most soulful. While the lack of general affluence has resulted in some run-down neighborhoods, "Orange County" has reared its wealthy head even here. Located off Broadway, just off Interstate 5, Floral Park is a neighborhood of wide, peaceful streets, huge lawns and beautiful architecture . . . and nary a tagger in sight. Built between the 1920s and the 1950s, the neighborhood features tasteful farmhouses, Tudor- and ranch-style homes, and well-kept lawns. The homes are painted tastefully, and the air is filled with the sounds of lawn mowers and children's laughter. This is Santa Ana? Sure, the price of a home in this neighborhood far exceeds the kind of money most SanTanans will ever see, but even Orange County's grittiest town has to have its glamour.
At Tierrita Flamenca, a flamenco-dance company populated by little girls with slick black hair, long colorful skirts and hand fans, the girls are encouraged to have attitude. The baby troupe is the brainchild of Claudia de la Cruz, who runs the Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute at her "underground," lower-level studio at Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center in downtown Santa Ana. She created the dance company in 2004 after she noticed that some of the students in her kids' classes were harboring dreams of becoming professional flamenco dancers. The institute offers classes in the form, which evolved from Moorish, Sephardic and Gitano musical traditions in southern Spain, to children as well as adults at all levels. Students can learn everything from traditional Sevillanasto castanet and palma(palm) techniques. Those who become addicted to what de la Cruz calls the "flamenco lifestyle" can audition for her adult dance company, Tierra Flamenca, after one year. After several years, she says, students may be invited to join her professional dance company, which tours nationally. "If I don't dance, I die," says de la Cruz, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, with family roots in Jerez, Spain. De la Cruz's institute gets our hearty ol: If we didn't have the mighty little piece of Andaluca that she brings to OC, surely we would die.