Friday at Taste of Newport, Fashion Island

Usually when I decide to spend like a baller for a nice dinner (about twice a year), Newport Beach is the first place I think of. Luckily, the 20th Annual Taste of Newport rolled into town, bringing an onslaught of appetizers and entrees to sink my teeth into. By the time I had scarfed and sipped my way around the place, I counted about 30 restaurants in all.

In an attempt to start the night on a light note, one of the first pasta samples that caught my eye was a catering company called Alacarte Catering. I know, it sounds pretty standard and obviously a pasta salad isn't usually much to write to home about, but their samples of cold Italian pasta with just as flavorful and light as I had hoped. The sample left plenty of room for a few beers.

In an effort to stick with the cold stuff, I picked up a small Styrofoam box worth of Crunch Rolls from San Shi Go, a great little sushi place on Balboa Island. They had a pretty basic menu for TON, which didn't even begin to match their restaurant menu. But I guess when you're doing a street fair exhibition, you have to leave the fancy stuff at home.

One place that was definitely a hit was Back Bay Bistro and their Lobster Quesadilla along with their highly touted sea food chowder. In the hot foods category, the chowder scored high marks. It was a hearty little cup bursting with shrimp, crab and potato; definitely something worth going back for. If you're a fan of any seafood dish that doesn't require cracking a shell, then the chowder is a must try.

And of coarse, my Italian genes would not let me leave the gates without a sausage sandwich slathered in marinara and onions from Sabatino's. On hearty Italian bread, Lido's Italian sausage was so authentic, sweet and greasy that it made me shed a little tear for New York as I chomped it down.

Okay, not really, but it was the perfect concert snack by the time 90's KROQ alums Third Eye Blind strutted on stage to packed crowd. But I must confess, I didn't really give a crap about the band. Not because I can't stand to watch a band rise out of alt-rock obscurity to fire up the crowd at a food festival, but because the crowd rush to the stage freed up the food lines... a precious 45 minutes which I made sure to take advantage of.


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