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Dave Martins' Best Orange County 2007 - 7 Favorite Things

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.

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