Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly On the Line column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

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I bet you don’t require a holiday to remind you to treat that special someone.

If it were up to me, I’d take them somewhere new.

There’s something about being on the up-and-up with openings that makes a date a little more cool.

Here’s my selection of new and delicious destinations to give some lovin’ any time of year.

Breakfast Republic’s shrimp and ricotta frittata with upgraded brussels potatoes. Credit: ANNE MARIE PANORINGAN/Voice of OC

For Breakfast

Breakfast Republic
410 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa

If the way to their heart involves my favorite meal of the day, then hit up the newest branch of this San Diego-based chain. Churro pancakes, kombucha flights and all the egg dishes await. It doesn’t hurt that Breakfast Republic also contains a full bar. We always get a kick out of the egg-themed waiting area. For a more hearty meal, be sure to upgrade those potatoes to include Brussels sprouts and bacon. I’m getting a growler of cold brew for the office the next time I swing by. Open daily until 3 p.m.

For Lunch

BELLO by Sandro Nardone
1200 Bison Ave., Newport Beach

Lento o Veloce (slow or fast) lunch service began last month at this chic Italian dining room. Patrons short on time can indulge on porchetta sandwiches, poached and marinated chicken salad known as conserva di pollo, and a selection of pizzas only available in the daytime. Of course, you’re certainly welcome to linger. Find BELLO tucked in the back of the plaza off MacArthur.

Interior of Strong Water. Credit: Photo courtesy James Tran and Olivia Beall

For a Cocktail

Strong Water
270 S. Clementine St., Anaheim

Whether it’s the start of an evening, a nightcap, or going out for drinks, this tiki-themed speakeasy is a cocktail lover’s fantasy. Strong Water’s primary bar focuses on rum and playful concoctions. However, your gin lover should book a reservation for their Juniper Merchant back room. The crew is gregarious, and Chef Tia’s eats complement both beverage menus. Bonus: parking in this stretch of Anaheim is a breeze.

Vegan eats at Gracias Madre. Credit: Photo courtesy Gracias Madre

For Dinner

Gracias Madre
1617 Westcliff Dr., Ste. 112, Newport Beach

Formerly the eatery known as Cafe Gratitude, this brand from the same restaurant group is a vegan-friendly establishment with a tequila-focused bar program thanks to Luis Del Pozo. Newport locals have embraced the switch to Gracias, opting for black bean burgers, al pastor pineapple tacos, and cleansing juice blends from the kitchen of Chef Alan Sanchez Lazaro. Light a candle outside, lounge on the patio, and give thanks to mom.

A triple threat of soy drink treats from Soy Good. Credit: Photo courtesy Soy Good

For Something Sweet

Soy Good
12192 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove

Feeling lactose intolerant? Swing by Soy Good’s unique dessert and beverage shoppe for tasty alternatives to those dairy cravings. While they also fry up some savory snacks, it’s definitely a way to quell your sweet tooth. When in doubt, begin with a flavored soy milk such as black sesame or soychata, and work your way up to the pudding with your choice of flavors. Trust me when I say that adding boba isn’t necessary for a satisfying treat.

In Other News

“Happiness Is . . . .,” a Peanut’s-themed show on the Calico Mine Stage at Knott’s Berry Farm. Credit: Photo courtesy Knott’s Berry Farm

Good Grief!

Knott’s Peanuts Celebration is here!
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park

Throughout the year, Knott’s Berry Farm holds a bevy of seasonal events. This time around, it’s centered around the lovable Peanuts Gang. During select dates until March 1, 2020, swing by this nostalgic Buena Park amusement spot for a swell time. Character-themed rides, new musicals, and, of course, creative eats galore are for the taking at Knott’s! Pulled pork mac and cheese can be found at Wagon Wheel Pizza. I was intrigued by Strictly-on-a-Stick’s dilly dilly dog: a corn dog stuffed with a dill pickle. Grab a sarsaparilla root beer float on your way out at California Marketplace’s Cable Car Kitchen. Or, try my personal fave: Charlie Brown Nutella macarons from Ghost Town Bakery. That zig zag gets me every time. Pick up the brochure upon entering for a full list.

Chapman Crafted co-founder Wil Dee. Credit: Photo courtesy of Bob Hodson Photography

For Your Caffeine Fix

Chapman Crafted
123 N. Cypress St., Orange

Chapman Crafted started as a craft beer brewery, but recently expanded its repertoire to factor in coffee. Baristas at heart can brew a robust sip from home with beans selected by their director of coffee, Noah Poletiek. Chapman Crafted’s 12-ounce bags include the deep berry and floral complexity of Composition House Blend, and Odd Levity, a single-origin washed Rwanda. There’s even a Composition Brewers Blend specifically for the homebrewer ready to infuse coffee into a batch of beer. Currently, you can pick up a bag in Old Towne; however, barista coffee service isn’t available currently. If you’re in the mood, stay for a pint of First Roast porter while you’re there. You can also pick up their beans down the street at Haven Craft Kitchen.

New Restaurant Grand Opening

The choco samosa, mango mojito, sloppy Khan, and Afghani seekh kabob at Khan Saab. Credit: Photo courtesy Khan Saab

Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen
229 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton

Pakistan, India and Afghanistan are the countries of inspiration for this entirely Halal menu. This Wednesday, Feb. 19, Chef Imran Ali Mookhi (a Golden Foodie Award winner) will celebrate the grand opening of Khan Saab. The event will commence at 5 p.m. with a ribbon cutting attended by the Consul General of Pakistan and continue with dinner. Proceeds will benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Orange County. The eclectic menu will include Australian Wagyu beef steaks, traditional kabobs and curries, plus dishes such as F.B.C. (a.k.a. Fried Butter Chicken) and Ghiradelli chocolate samosas. An alcohol-free bar program will be featured (sound familiar?). Be a part of opening night festivities and support a local charity at the same time.

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.

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