New Year's Day is coming. In the interest of the gastronomic improvement of our fair readership area, I offer the following set of suggested New Years' resolutions for the diners of Orange County.
1. I will not eat at the Cheesecake Factory this year.
Or the Olive Garden, Chili's or Outhouse Steakback. Your time is too valuable to spend two hours waiting for a table on a Friday night, when what you'll be getting is food prepared in some faraway commissary and shipped in for the last two steps of the process. Support your local restaurateurs, who make tastier food, who are far more numerous, and who deserve your business more than some faceless chain.
2. I will try real Mexican food this year.
El Torito and El Torito Grill don't count. Try Oaxacan moles, Mexico City-style pambazos, Sinaloa-style seafood, Yucatán banana-leaf wrapped pork, spicy carnitas sandwiches from Jalisco, birria from Michoacán... the list goes on and on and on. None of it is to be found in Taco Bell; all of it is delicious, the vast majority of it is handmade, and the prices are stunningly low. You just have to get over your irrational fear of Santa Ana and Anaheim.
3. I will go at least once a month to a farmers' market.
Just because we live in the suburbs doesn't mean there are no farms; even without resorting to produce grown in distant Fresno, there is a cornucopia of produce grown right here in Orange County. Irvine was lima beans before it was tract homes, and patches still exist. This is prime citrus season, so lord the amazing tangerines, grapefruits, lemons and blood oranges over people in New York whose only fresh produce comes from greenhouses or importation. For a list of farmers' markets, click here; bear in mind many markets are cancelled until the 3rd of January.
4. I will drink locally produced beer instead of Budweiser, Miller or Coors.
Just because a beer is mass-produced doesn't mean it's bad. (Your humble author, for example, is a dévoté of Newcastle Brown Ale.) That said, Orange County is a burgeoning destination for beer, so much so that even the San Diegans and the Angelenos are stopping by. There are microbreweries from south (Pizza Port in San Clemente, Cismontane in RSM) to north (Bootlegger's in Fullerton, Bruery in Placentia), west (Newport Beach Brewing Company, Brewbakers in Huntington Beach) to east (Backstreet Brewery in Yorba Linda, Tustin Brewing Company). Go; explore responsibly.
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5. I will not drive needlessly to Los Angeles.
Yes, Los Angeles is overwhelming in its choices, and sometimes only LA will do. When you don't feel like wasting time and gas sitting in traffic, try looking through our archives for something closer. If you're looking for Vietnamese, Mexican or Korean, you shouldn't need to head north past the Orange Curtain; if you're looking for great cocktails, fancy occasion dinners or steakhouses, you needn't leave either.