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.
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.