Friday, July 25, 2014

Kebobs in the OC

The shrimp kabob plate from Mama's Kabob (image via Yelp
user Cam D.)
If you're like Steven Stephen, you're wondering where to get the best kabobs in the OC. Wonder no more, here's a handful of the best places, as rated by Yelp users. 

One note, I expanded the search to include kebabs, since it's essentially the same thing, except it's not cooked and served on a skewer. 

Mama's Kabob, Stanton
5 Stars (out of 87 Yelp reviews)

"It's a small mom and pop shop in a strip mall. Food was decent and I would come again. The owners were very nice and personable."  - Michelle F.

"You can feel the love and dedication in all the things they bring out." - Huy N

"Had the chicken kabob and fell in love." - Dan H. 

"The Chicken Kabab is Delicious... Well cooked, Juicy and very flavorful. The Kafta Kabab also SOOOOOOOOO DELICIOUS!!! One thing though is on the Beef Kabab, it's like a carne asada meat rather than the various other places I go [that] use the nice cubed pieces of marinated steak. This can be improved.
- Maggie M. 

"The Kafta Kabab is my personal favorite but the Chicken Kabab is very flavorful too. The Shrimp Kabab is served with a special red sauce which tastes like lobster sauce in butter. Their garlic sauce is a fine pair in any of their dishes."  - yumyum b

The Kofte Kebab from the Istanbul Grill California in
Fountain Valley (image via Yelp user Gloria V.)
Istanbul Grill California, Fountain Valley
4.5 Stars (out of 329 Yelp reviews)

"My husband and I love Istanbul Grill. The food and service is amazing!  We will be back soon with friends and family." - Lisa M.

"This restaurant is just great. Food is delicious, staff are super friendly,  place is very clean and service is perfect.  The prices are more than reasonable." - Nick A. 

"Ordered the prime rib and chicken kabab combo, chicken adane and gyro dinner. Food was great! Prime rib and chicken kabab were tender and moist." - Lindon K. 

"The kefta and the doner kebab rivaled any I've had so far." - Kunney T.

The Kabob combo from the Kerostena Grill (image via
Kerostena Grill web)
Kerostena, Garden Grove
4.5 Stars (out of 296 Yelp reviews)

"Kerostena is truly a hidden gem. Although it's small, it's very clean and organized and the service is top-notch. They also earned themselves additional brownie points for a soda fountain/beverage station for refills because I'm always thirsty =) Last but certainly not least, the food is amazing! Kerostena is definitely a must try." - Rachel V.

"The beef kebab was just okay but the chicken kebab simply sang of juiciness and tenderness...metaphorically. Sheesh, lighten up, veganazis." - Andrea R.

"Food portion was plenty. The seasoning was really good and the meat was tender. You get a lot for what you pay for." - Maila H.

"Everything is made fresh in-house and oh, so satisfactory. Go here, get anything off the menu, prepare to be amazed. #PartyInMyMouth :)" - Kevin W.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Santa Ana Hoarder Was My High School Teacher!

Retired La Quinta High School teacher was a hoarder; found
 dead on the porch of her home. (image via OC Register)
A few weeks ago I read about a Santa Ana animal hoarder who was found dead on the front porch of her home. She was sitting in a chair (although another report said it was a wheelchair) with a pet carrier on her lap. Inside the pet carrier was a live kitten.

While news of animal hoarders in Orange County isn't unusual, what did surprise me was the fact that this woman owned three homes in Santa Ana, and was a retired school teacher with a considerable pension of $120,806.52.

Could a school teacher earn that much? A little more digging and I learned the woman had been a high school history teacher for 48 years with the Garden Grove Unified School District, and for the last three decades of her career, taught at La Quinta High School.

Whaaaaa? That was my high school! And while I won't say what year I graduated (for the vain purposes of not revealing my age), I will say that I was in fact a student when she taught there. So I dug some more, which wasn't difficult, since the news of her passing was covered in the OC Register, OC Weekly, and even the LA Times.

The Register reported that the debris was so extensive, it took paramedics
several hours to get to the woman (image via Register)
It turns out the woman in question was Rita Corpin, and I did in fact have her as a teacher for world history. And the really sad part is when I found out it was her, it was not too much of a stretch to see her as a hoarder. Even then I thought of her as being a little eccentric, with a puff of curly hair and shapeless dresses, she always hugged a big stack of papers and folders to her when she walked to her classroom. She was nice, but I definitely always thought she was a character.

Ms. Corpin was believed to have been living out of a truck because her homes
were overflowing with garbage and overgrown vegetation (image via Register)
What did surprise me was that she was so well off, as in she owned three homes in Santa Ana in addition to having that considerable pension. But she spent her last days living in a pick-up truck, presumably because the mountains of garbage in all three homes made them inhabitable. Reports said that at the home where she was found, two pitbulls and approximately 50 feral cats were also discovered living among the debris. The other two houses didn't contain animals, although it was noted she fed stray cats at those residences as well.

The Register added that Santa Ana officials had issued warning notices and fines, and over the years had as many as 26 instances of contact with her. Ms. Corpin denied access to her property and made the minimal changes necessary to keep officials from forcing an inspection with a warrant.

Poor Ms. Corpin. Since her death, students, neighbors and her brother have all made comments on how she was loved and will be missed. It's a sad end for her and those animals she thought she was helping.

A note left behind at the residence of Rita Corpin (image via Register)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

$1 Movies for the Rest of Summer

Catch some family favorite movies for $1 at participating
Regal theaters (image via CinemaTour)
But there's a catch, right? Kinda - they're family movies, they're at select theaters, and they start at 10 am. This deal is best for parents with little restless little ones, or maybe teenage big ones who are home from school and are looking for something to do. One dollar for a couple of hours of peace and quiet? Sounds like a deal to me!

You can check out Regal's website to find which theaters are running the Summer Movie Express promotion, here's a quick list of some popular OC theaters:

  • Edwards Kaleidoscope Stadium 10, Mission Viejo
  • Edwards Aliso Viejo Stadium 20 & IMAX
  • Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 IMAX & RPX
  • Regal Foothill Towne Center Stadium 22, Foothill Ranch
  • Edwards Metro Pointe Stadium 12, Costa Mesa

And if you're wondering what movies are playing, here's the schedule:
    • Week 1
      Hotel Transylvania
      The Smurfs 2
    • Week 2
      Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
      The Pirates: Band of Misfits
    • Week 3
      Arthur Christmas
      Despicable Me 2
    • Week 4
      The Lego Movie
      Free Birds
    • Week 5
      The Adventures of Tintin
      Rise of the Guardians
    • Week 6
      Kung Fu Panda 2
      Madagascar 3
    • Week 7
      The Croods
    • Week 8
      Walking with Dinosaurs
    • Week 9
      Mr. Peabody & Sherman
      Rio 2
  • A portions of the proceeds will go to the Will Rogers Institute

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's too Hot to Read! Let's Look at Pictures Instead

By now those of us who haven't melted in this crazy heat are probably listless with no energy. But I couldn't help but notice some of my Facebook friends haven't lost their knack for taking awesome pics of Orange County. I dropped them in this post, along with some others I found on Instagram. Enjoy!

Welcome to Orange County's Hot -As-Africa-Weather
(image via Instagram user  rykensgrandmalola)

Friday sunrise at the old El Toro Marine Corp Air Station in
Irvine by kalibreeze on Instagram 
Santa Ana by Pocha Peña on Facebook
Huntington Beach by Corey Miller on Instagram (via Facebook)
It's hot! Image by Instagram user sand0val25

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Newport Beach Film Festival April 24

If you love movies, you'll want to check out what's playing at this year's Newport Beach Film Festival.

Beginning on April 24 and continuing until May 1st, the event presents more than 400 films from around the world.

For the average price of $14, you can watch the movies in different Newport Beach movie theaters, which are oftentimes followed by special events where you meet the film makers and mingle like a movie star.

To watch trailers or buy tickets visit NBFF's website. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thai Kitchen

Thai Kitchen in Irvine is worth a try if you're not in a hurry
(image via Yelp reviewer Jennifer T.)
Every day on my way to and from work, I've driven pass Thai Kitchen in Irvine. It was always on my to-do list of places to try out, but the fact that they only open for dinner made it seem impossible.

Finally, one night it's neon sign was ablaze with temptation and I could resist no longer. I had read the Yelp reviews which were lukewarm (they scored the restaurant 3.5 out of 5 stars), so when I went inside and stood around for a few minutes waiting for service, I was not surprised.

The most common complaint was how slow the service was, and it does seem that one server to attend to the guests in the dining room as well as the few of us that were ordering take-out was not enough person to go around. I felt bad for one guy who had ordered his food ahead of time and still ended up waiting.

It took about 15 minutes to get my Pad Thai with tofu, and cost about ten dollars. Not bad. The portion was pretty big, and tasted fresh. I later read a lot of people on Yelp saying that the food was just okay, but I liked it. Do I like it enough to go again?  That I don't know, all the elements would have to come in place again: available parking (it can fill up pretty fast), a somewhat empty restaurant, and the patience to wait.

Would I recommend it? If you have time, patience, and a love of Thai - absolutely!

Thai Kitchen
4250 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA 92604

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Where to Get a Good Samich in Orange County

I don't care what Orange County Register readers voted, I refuse to acknowledge that the #1 place for sandwiches is Subway's. Not because they can't make a decent sandwich, but because I find it hard to believe that in this great big area, that's the best people came up with.

In response, I decided to do some research on what other OC peeps are digging into on their lunch hour - here's a list of some of the highest rated sandwich places on Yelp:

Kech's in Fountain Valley
scored 5 out of 5 on Yelp
(image via Remy M)
Kech Cafe, Fountain Valley
Yelp Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Dang, what is it about Fountain Valley that they're cranking out all kinds of good food? First it was doughnuts, now this - a kind of build your own gourmet sandwich a la Chipotle or that other sandwich place that will not be named.

I suspect the reason for the high rating has a lot to do with the rest of Kech's menu, which includes wraps, pizzas and coffee drinks.

The Prosciutto Cotto panini from
Paninoteca Maggio (image via
Yelp reviewer Paul T)
Paninoteca Maggio, Santa Ana
Yelp Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Besides boasting to have "the best espresso in town," Paninoteca also offers sandwiches made with imported Italian cold cuts, fresh veggies, cheeses and fresh bread direct from "one of the finest European bakers in Orange County."

Oh they also offer salads, but does that really matter after reading that description for their sandwiches?

One Yelp reviewer suggests to "follow them on Facebook for specials and updated hours. Because it is a small business, they are not always open."

The Hot Headed Italian Meat Head
(Image via Yelp reviewer Masa H)
MeatHeadz Sandwich Shop, Huntington Beach
Yelp Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Proudly proclaiming that they offer "the biggest, baddest sandwiches money can buy," MeatHeadz offers the build-your-own set up with meats and cheeses they slice daily. They also offer their own spin on the sandwich, like "The Ground and Pound" (featuring "Pow" sauce), "The Superhotty," and "The Divorce is Final" - check out what they're made of here.

If sounds like a lot of hype, dwell on how Yelp user Brett L. describes it: "If MeatHeadz was a person, it would probably be Justin Timberlake. Coolest restaurant goin'."

The Itallian Stallion on Dutch bread;
combos include a cookie or chips
(Image via Yelp reviewer Michelle M.)
Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop, Lake Forest
Yelp Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I know, with a name like Mr. Pickle's you half-imagine a white van parked in front of the place with some guy dressed in a clown suit inviting you to pet his puppy.

Or maybe that's just me...but this place boasts an "addictive" garlic sauce and a warm cookie to complete your custom-made or specialty sandwich.

A Noonerz sandwich, with freshly baked
ciabatta bread (Image via Yelp
reviewer Mel H.)
Noonerz, Laguna Hills
Yelp Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

With "20 years of awesome sandwiches" to their credit, Noonerz in south OC gets a lot of praise. In addition to offering sandwiches like the "Best Fat Free Tuna Salad" or "Turkey Bruschetta" sandwich, they offer "handcrafted" sides like pasta or potato salad and coleslaw.

As Anthony N., a self-professed "burger guy" said about it on Yelp, "Noonerz is damn good."

Delifornia's veggie on squaw, with goat
cheese and arugula (Image via
Yelp reviewer Virginia S.)
Delifornia, Anaheim
Yelp Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Calling itself a "California inspired sandwich shop", Delifornia specializes in sandwiches and salad that are hormone-free with no antibiotics or additives.

Located in downtown Anaheim, their sandwiches have an array of flavors like a roasted turkey with warm brie, avocado and roasted garlic aioli, or a chicken salad sandwich with dried cranberries, crispy celery, and toasted walnuts.

I personally like the idea of their roast beef, horse radish cream, onion and cheddar sandwich. What's it called? The Knuckle Sandwich. Awesome.

The California Delight by Board &
Brew (Image via Yelp reviewer Tracey T.)
Board & Brew, San Clemente
Yelp Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Did you know that Board & Brew has been "keepin' it real since '79?" To be honest, I didn't even know they existed, but they make a point that with quality sandwiches presented in a straightforward menu and served alongside craft beers is what sandwich lovers are all about.

They offer different variations of a turkey or tuna sandwich, but what adds to their allure is a selection of grilled sandwiches, like the baja chicken (marinated breast with avocado, grilled onions, japlapenos and melted jack cheese).

How enthusiastic are the customers? Toni S. (all the way from Costa Mesa, mind you) raved that, "this place is unreal! I got the Baja Beef sandwich and it was out of control!!"

With all those exclamation marks, it's gotta make you a least a little curious to try it out...