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RECAP: Taste of Newport

I hesitate to call this a review. We headed down to the Taste of Newport last evening.

Entry was $25 each, which I thought was steep, but there were a LOT more booths than is typical at this sort of "Taste Of" business. (The last one I went to, Taste of Northampton [Mass.], was free to go in but had maybe 10 booths). Parking was free and easy -- just park in any of the lots around, and the corporate lots were also open.

The paper tickets so common at "Taste Of" events are finally gone -- you get a card and you load money on it. I ended up loading $25 each onto two cards, and you can "cash out" your card at any cash booth when you are done, so you don't have money sitting on a useless card. Cash and credit cards are taken both for entry and for the e-scrip cards.

There were a bunch of us, so we made a deal not to get more than two of any one item so that we could all taste, so I got to taste a lot more than I bought.

Agora Churrascaria: linguiça e frango, $4. Pork sausage, bacon-wrapped chicken, two pieces of pao de queijo (cheese bread), one piece of fried plantain. Good. Salty, salty, salty, but good.

Back Bay Cafe at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort: beef tenderloin "martini", $6. Good, great green sauce, but the presentation was a little uppity for me and the meat was just slightly overcooked for being eaten cold.

Bambú at the Fairmont Newport Beach: Asian flatiron steak with Thai potato salad, $4. I liked the lime-y taste (as opposed to the limey taste) of the steak, though my wife was just OK on it; we both really liked the Thai potato salad with sliced red potatoes in a tangy dressing.

Chronic Cantina Sports Bar: 2 potato tacos, $3. Tasty, but needed a bit of salt. They were generous with the salsa, sour cream and guacamole, and you could have whatever "normal" taco toppings you wanted. I'd totally eat this again.

Gelato Paradiso: small cup, mango sorbetto and chocolate-hazelnut gelato, $4.25. I liked the chocolate-hazelnut gelato -- creamy, rich, not too airy -- but the mango sorbetto was the winner. I'm not used to sorbetto being so creamy!

Ho Sum Bistro: Ho Sum chicken and shrimp dumplings with garlic-cilantro sauce, $3. Three dumplings, which weren't bad at all, covered in this totally addicting but SPICY garlic-cilantro sauce. We'd totally do this again.

Mama D's Italian Kitchen: Chicken ravioli, $3.50. They didn't stand up well to their holding tank -- they fell apart. It was tasty, just lost all structural integrity on the fork. Probably much, much better at the restaurant.
It's still on today, on Newport Centre Drive between Santa Rosa and San Miguel.

Marrakesh: Bastilla, $4.50. Bastilla is one of those dishes you either love or don't get. I love it; my wife doesn't get it. It's chicken and almonds in phyllo dough with cinnamon and powdered sugar, a "chicken dessert" if you will. I liked it but I'd have liked it a lot better if the chicken hadn't been ground into oblivion.

Panini Garden Bistro: Open-faced panini with goat cheese and red peppers, $3. It was fine -- the goat cheese was tangy, but the bread was soggy.

Pavilions: Rancher's Reserve tri tip beef sandwich, $4. A huge sandwich, the meat was tasty but would be better with better sauce.

Sabatino's Lido Shipyard Sausage Company: sausage and peppers, $6. Really, really, REALLY good sausage cooked over lump charcoal with pan-fried onions and peppers.

Sam and Harry's at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa: Jumbo lump crab cake, $5.50. A huge crabcake that was almost 100% crab, with great remoulade dressing. I wanted five of them. This was one of the two winners of the festival in both my book and my wife's. We would totally eat in a hotel restaurant to eat this.

Soprano's: slice of New York pizza, $2.25. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the Iowa Hawkeyes banner in the booth; after we finally were able to procure pizza (they kept not having any because they were reheating one pie at a time), it was most definitely NOT New York pizza. The quest continues...

Tapas Restaurant: churros and chocolate, $3.50. The churros were tasty, a little spicy from the cinnamon, very sweet. The chocolate was almost unsweetened (as is usually the case in Spain), but I wanted twice the chocolate for the three churros. Someone else got the paella and pronounced the rice good but the shrimp pointless.

Ten Asian Bistro: lobster hand roll, $7, and Kobe beef slider, $5. The lobster hand roll was good, but a bit boring -- not sure what I was expecting. The slider, though, was the other winner of the festival. The "Polynesian rolls" were, of course, King's Hawaiian Bread, but with sweet spicy mustard, caramelised onions, the aforementioned burgerlet, and cheddar or gorgonzola (we got cheddar, my wife being allergic to blue cheeses). It was really, really REALLY good. I would have liked the fries to be fresher, and the 11-spice mixture was really probably just seasoning shake from Cost Plus, but it was very, very good overall.

It was an expensive evening -- $100, which included a beer, a wine, two sodas and a water -- but perhaps Newport Beach isn't the chow wasteland I think of when I think of the 949. And Marrakesh has a branch in Studio City on Ventura...

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  1. Hey Das Ubergeek,

    Great recap/review. I need to put up mine from the Irvine Global Village Festival from comparison. The two events appeal to entirely different audiences, but I think they're both worth a visit.

    - Chubbypanda

    http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chubbypanda

      Ok, I've got the posts up now. The nosh at the Irvine Global Village Festival isn't quite as posh as the dishes being offered at the Taste of Newport. On the other hand, admission is free, which makes me a happy panda.

      I've got my review of the Irvine Global Village Festival up on Chowhound here:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

      The full version with pictures is up here:

      http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.c...

      If you have the time next year, I'd love it if you could make it to the festival next year and tell me how you think it measures up against a Taste of Newport, which I think is a superb fooding event.

      - Chubbypanda

      http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.com

    2. Das Ubergeek: For bastilla, get the duck version at Chameau or, from what I read, the one at Tagine on Robertson near Wilshire in Beverly Hills but avoid the "entertainment" value of the studio city version of Marrakesh.

      1. Thanks - we're heading over in an hour - will go straight to the crab cakes & sliders!!

        1. The Taste of Newport has priced itself out of being an event that "everyone" can enjoy, especially families. A shame because there have always been some great food vendors there and the setting is pretty nice.

          That being said, sounds like you liked the sausage from Sabatino's. I really enjoy italian sausage and I've had it all over the country. Sabatino's tops the list in my book...it's overpriced compared to most sausage out there, but I can say that it's worth it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: RSMBob

            For the cost of admission you could buy Sabatino's?
            Don't you still miss Carluccio's for breakfast?

          2. Seeing the GoGo-s or Kenny Loggins is well worth my $25 :-) We figured it was $200 for a concert & dinner for 4, so not too bad when you look at it that way.

            Review:

            Artesa Chard for $9.75 for a little plastic glass was a rip-off. Wish I liked beer or mixed drinks better w/ my food...

            Agoura Churrascaria - tri-tip w/ cheese bread & bananas - love this - rare, juicy & I'm addicted to those cheese balls - still can't figure out how they get that texture inside - more gummy than regular dough & much better than I'm making them sound! $5.00

            Ciao - Penne w/ Grilled Shrimp in Vodka Sauce - this did nothing for me - overcooked & soggy pasta & shrimp - $5.00

            Five Crowns - Prime Rib sandwich - very overcooked - meat was grey & unappetizing - $4.75 (this used to be so good, so more than dissappointing)

            Pavilion, Island Hotel - Spicy grilled prawns w/ heirloom tomato & baby mozzarella salad - prawns were good, but not spicy. Salad good, except for hard little balls of mozzarella - did nothing for it. Mozzarella should have been fresh. $7.00

            Sam & Harry's NB Marriott - Crab Cake was wonderful, as described. Ours was on the cool side - my only complaint. Would definitely go back for a hot one!! $5.50

            Ten Asian - Concur on the kobe beef slider - delicious & juicy. Fries so so $5.00

            Went back to look for the German upside down cake (now I see it was at Pavilion, The Island Hotel), but couldn't find on our way out ;-(

            1 Reply
            1. re: torta basilica

              I didn't eat the shrimp -- seafood and cheese don't work together for me -- but when I had the mozzarella, it was fresh, may be a problem of graceless aging.

            2. I was at the Taste of Newport ALL weekend ($80 admission pass for 3 days with some food included). I know, I need a new hobby that does not include eating. First off, I thought Smashmouth on Friday was the best show, with Mark McGrath of SugarRay jamming with them. Go-Go's were so-so, the Kenny Loggins show was fun-ner.

              Now the food.....

              Here's my top 8:

              1. I thought the crabcakes at Wildfish were awesome until I tasted the Sam and Harry's version. Fantastic. I had 5 all weekend. oink.

              2. Seafood chowder at Backbay Cafe (Newport Dunes Resort)

              3. Maminha (tri-tip steak) at AGora. And those cheeseballs!!!! The Asian owner gave me at least 10 all weekend. It's chewy and addictive.

              4. Ten Asian's Braised Boneless short ribs of beef over shiitake and garlic mashed potatoes

              5. Pistachio ice cream at Gelato Paradiso (Corona del Mar and Laguna Bch locations)

              6. Smoked Penne pasta with roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in white wine cream sauce and tiramisu at Pomodoro Italiana

              7. Sabatino's sausage (they gave free tastings, I must have had 10)

              8. HO Sum Dumplings- chicken and vegetable dumplings in cilantro-garlic sauce yummmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

              gee whiz.

              My friend especially liked the warm peanut butter and chocolate bread pudding at Paviolion, Island HOtel.

              The best white wine is Beam's Clos du Bois Chardonnay
              and the best red wine is Wild Horse Zinfandel.

              Kirin during a Smashmouth show is a must-drink. ha!

              1 Reply
              1. re: ml22

                Sounds like a great weekend to me :-)

              2. We went on Sunday. Went early and didn't stay for Kenny Loggins, wasn't enough shade and ran out of money. $50 admission for 2. Put $50 on the card upon entering, recharged for another $50. $150 for some samples? I can eat at Studio for that. Dixie Cup sized glasses of wine for $4.50 to $9.75 debit that card pretty quickly.

                Agree that Ten Asian Bistro's Sliders were delicious
                and Agoura Churrascaria's Brazilian Cheese Bread is addictive although the bacon wrapped chicken was dry.

                The Ho Sum Bistro dumplings were a value although they were served with way too much garlic sauce.

                Five Crown's Prime Rib Sandwich had good bread and the meat was good quality. I don't mind it cooked well if it's good quality because even then I find it tender. It was somewhat dry though because it needed au jus to dip it in, then it would have been really good.

                Sabatino's gave a good-sized and, as usual, delicious portion of sausage in their sausage boat. I think it was $6 and it filled the container. That and Ho Sum's dumplings were the value vs. taste ratio winners for me.

                The Back bay Cafe Beef Tenderloin Martini was OK. Just a basic stewish-consistency gray matter poured over mashed potatoes. No bright green accompaniment like was mentioned previously.

                After the above mentioned tastes (and about 3 glasses of wine and a beer a piece) we'd spent $100 and didn't feel like spending even more $. Plus there weren't a lot of other restaurants that I felt like spending $3-$7 dollars on, La Salsa? Maggiano's? McCormick & Schmick's? Pick Up Sticks? Royal Thai? Back Bay Cafe'? Clayton Shirleys? Been to all of these and don't need to sample them again. It was too hot for chili at the Red Rock Chili Co, and too hot for lasagna or ravioli.

                All in all I don't know if I'd go back unless a band I really wanted to see was playing. I did however enjoy the "Electric Irish Music" of the Fenians. Brought out the Chicago in me.