Top 10 Best OC Restaurants of 2015

The end of the year is fast approaching, and thanks to my computer crashing on me this week, it’s going to be close trying to get this best of list out before 2016 rolls around. So if this shows up a little late, please forgive me.

2015 was an awesome year for me in so many ways. Number one of course was getting married to the woman of my dreams. Katie finally said yes, and we got hitched in April. Everyone has asked me the same thing, “How’s married life”? My answer always is that it’s really the same. It has been one smooth transition from dating, to engaged, to marriage. We do the same things, she allows me time to blog, I allow her time to nap, and we just have to find time to see our families.

Speaking of families, 2015 was the year of the wedding for us. Besides our own, we went to six other weddings this year, which gave us plenty of time to see our families. It also gave us a little time to blog some restaurants in some places that we would not normally get to. We always enjoy traveling, but unfortunately due to the abundance of marital bliss going around, our only vacation adventure this year was going to Jamaica for our honeymoon, and the food at the resort was definitely not worth writing about.

As far as this blog goes, this is our sixth year doing it, and we are not stopping anytime soon. I really want to hit at least 1000 different restaurants before I even think of taking some time off.. Right now we are at 580 different restaurants, and 653 different posts. So I guess you can say that we still have a lot of work to do. It’s a good thing that I still really enjoy eating out, and hope that this is a great resource for all of you.

As always, before we get to our top ten list, I just want to thank all of my dining partners over this last year. Thanks for allowing me to take so many pictures of your food, before digging in. I would also like to thank all of you out there who have read, commented, and follow us on social media. I greatly appreciate it, and look forward to many more of your suggestions and complaints throughout 2016, and beyond. So without further ado, here’s the top 10 restaurants we ate at in Orange County this year.

#10 Cafe Mimosa – The only breakfast spot to make our list this year. It was a spur of the moment decision to try this place while walking the San Clemente Beach Trail, and I could not have been happier with their baked goods, and their pork belly breakfast. As with most breakfast spots around the county, there’s going to be a wait, but this place is worth it. With a promise of eating here, I’d even agree to go walking again.

#9 Pub Thirty-Two – Chef driven restaurants are all the rage right now, and they are even popping up in South OC, where chain restaurants used to reign supreme. That’s not the case anymore though, with great restaurants like Pub Thirty-Two surfacing in this Mission Viejo shopping center. We had a wonderful meal here that featured Chef Glen Tinsley’s version of farm to table cuisine, which almost made us forget the awful meal we had at this same address when it was home to one of the worst Mexican restaurants we had the displeasure of eating at. A definite upgrade now.

#8 Reunion Kitchen and Drink – Coming to us from the people behind Nick’s, French 75, and Claim Jumper, (back when they were good), is Anaheim Hills very own, Reunion. This is American comfort food at its best, with a wonderful menu that hasn’t missed the mark with any of the items we have tried. Standouts include the Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, and save room for the Butter Cake for dessert. We’re eagerly awaiting the opening of a new Reunion in Laguna soon.

#7 South Coast Kitchen – Unfortunately this is one restaurant you will not be able to make it to on this list. It saddened me to hear that this South OC gem had closed after a dispute with its landlord. Chef Justin Davis has headed up to Northern California now, and it’s a bummer we won’t be able to sample his menu which changed every week depending on what was available. Hope Chef Davis returns to us in OC someday.

#6 Driftwood Kitchen – Usually restaurants with a killer view serve lackluster dishes, and hope that the beautiful OC coastline will be enough to lure people through their doors. We did not find that to be true when we dined at Driftwood Kitchen in Laguna. The food here was prepared simply, and we found lots to like from Chef Rainer Schwarz’s menu. I’d probably get the Pork Belly and Butcher Steak combo that I had on my first visit again, but you definitely need to tell them you’re celebrating something so you can try their Toffee Cake, which is given out for birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever occasion you care to make up.

#5 SOCIAL – I can admit that SOCIAL may not be for everyone, but we really enjoyed this joint. Part hipster, kind of a rowdy bar scene, and some very good southern food with a California twist make this place a winner. We’ve been here twice now, and have had a real pleasurable time both visits. I’d talk about the food I had when I was here, but the menu changes often, so you’re likely to see other items when you come here. Come in with no preconceived notions, and you will more than likely leave happy.

#4 Leadbelly’s Barbecue – I’m a big fan of barbecue, so it’s no surprise that there are two barbecue restaurants on this list, the first of which is Leadbelly’s in Placentia. I liked that this BBQ place did not pigeon hole their barbecue into a specific region. They just have good meats, and are willing to take chances with the way that they serve them. You have to try their Loaded Pork Garlic Fries for sure, and their Burnt Ends if they are available. If they’re not, order something else, and make plans to come back again until you get to try those elusive burnt ends. Worth the trip.

#3 Pina’s Bistro – Yes, only one Italian spot on my list, but what a memorable meal it was. I usually shy away from specials, because I always figure that if they were really that great, they’d be on the menu. Glad I didn’t listen to my own advice, and had Pina’s almost always offered special, the 16 ounce Veal Chop Marsala. This massive chop is flown in directly from New Zealand, and is then cooked wonderfully here at Pina’s. Don’t scoff at the $40 price of this, you will leave full and satisfied.

#2 370 Common – I figured that since Owner/Chef Ryan Adams was splinting time between this place, and his new venture, The North Left in Santa Ana, that maybe the quality was going to suffer here. I was wrong. Everything we had was great, the Short Rib Poutine, the Hanger Steak, and one of the better Burgers in OC. Definitely one of the crown jewels of OC chef driven restaurants.

#1 Lillie’s Q – That leaves Lillie’s Q as the best restaurant that we ate at in 2015. We are extremely lucky that this Chicago based restaurant has opened an outpost in Brea. Their barbecue is legit, they have a great variety of sauces on the table, and I can not say enough good things about their grits, which are the best I have ever had. Need another reason to come here? How about all you can eat Sunday brunch? Yes, they have that, and I am salivating just thinking about it.

Okay, so that gives you a few places to try in this new year, if you haven’t tried them already. Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog, and I look forward to sharing more dining adventures with you in the new year. Happiest of new years to you are yours. Source – Top 10 Best OC Restaurants of 2015

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,


Wednesday’s Child: Jackie

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

Source Link: Wednesday’s Child: Jackie

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,

What I want you to know about overcoming a self-harm addiction

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Kristin Michelle.

“What happened to your arms?” It’s a question I hear on a regular basis as someone who once dealt with self-harm. I struggled with cutting from ages 13 through 17. I dealt with clinical depression and constant bullying from a very young age, the results of which were feelings of worthlessness and constant emotional pain from the depression. I turned to cutting as my way of coping with the internal pain and cared little for the consequences of my self-harm. Cutting was, at the time, my way of living until I got up the nerve to commit suicide. 

I am now 20 and have overcome my depression and my self-harm addiction. Unfortunately, cutting is a struggle that has left it’s permanent mark. My arms are covered from wrist to elbow in hundreds of scars of varying severity. Scar creams have done little to nothing to help fade the marks, so living with them is something I have had to get used to. Yet the reactions I get are difficult to get used to. I have been stared at, told my arms look gross, told I should seek help, told I am an attention-seeker, told that I am crazy, masochistic, emo, and so many other things that show lack of knowledge on the issue of cutting. To me it is simple, say something nice or nothing at all. To tell me how disgusting my arms look does nothing to help the situation at hand. I have had a friend tell me I should wear long sleeves to cover up my scars. I have also been told on multiple occasions that by wearing short sleeves, I am “showing off” my scars and am an attention seeker. I am not going to wear long sleeves to cover my scarred arms just to spare others the sight. It is unrealistic to expect me to wear long sleeves every day for the rest of my life to cover the marks. When I struggled with cutting, I had to wear long sleeves in even the hottest weather to cover the wounds. Cutting controlled my entire life down to what I wore. Having overcome my problem, why would I allow it to continue controlling any aspect of my life, including my clothing choices? 

I remember a recent visit to a doctor where I had to wear a hospital gown backwards, which also revealed the scars on my stomach (also from cutting). The doctor was going through my old prescriptions, none of which I am taking anymore as they are now unnecessary. The doctor got to my old anti-depressant I was on, touched one of my scars, and said, “Are you sure you don’t need this prescription?” She is not a psychiatric doctor, but I knew she meant well and I politely responded that I had not needed that for a couple of years. Then while taking my pulse, she looked at me and said, “You’re not hiding any more cuts anywhere, are you?” You don’t have to be a doctor to see that the marks on me are closed scars, not fresh cuts. At this point, I felt slightly offended, but said, “These are all years old scars, I don’t do that anymore.” While this was the most irritating case of a doctor asking about my scars, I have yet to go for a single doctors visit where the doctor or nurse doesn’t mention my scars. I will have conversations with people where they stare at my arms for about 90% of our interaction. I can tell they think I don’t notice, so I don’t mention it or call them out on it. In those situations, I wish they would just ask so I can tell them and we can move on. When I come home from college for Thanksgiving or Christmas (when it’s long sleeve weather), sometimes I notice my mom staring at my arms if I’ve worn nothing but long sleeves. I’ll subtly roll up my sleeves as if I’m hot just so she can see that I haven’t relapsed. 

Living with these scars is definitely a difficulty. Most days I don’t even notice them since I am so used to them. When someone has a negative reaction to my scars such as saying I should keep my arms covered or someone is constantly staring, I go back to feeling ashamed, like I do need to hide. I do get nice reactions from people saying I’m strong for overcoming the problem or complimenting how much I must have changed as a person because of how optimistic I am. Those reactions are so helpful. Even just asking “What happened to your arms?” not rudely, but as a simple question is great. Then I can simply explain it is an issue I once had but have recovered from and we can move on. The hardest part about living with self-harm scars is when people react negatively, because those people I’ve known to have negative reactions identify me as an ex-cutter and nothing else. I am at times identified as the scars on my arms. It’s the first thing a lot of people notice about me and my identity becomes nothing more if they are unwilling to simply acknowledge it and move past it. Everyone has their own opinion on self-harm and cutters and the stereotypes related to those things, and I understand that and try to be as polite as I can be to each and every reaction I face. It’s overwhelming at times to know I will spend the rest of my life with these scars, that one day I will have children and I will have to talk to them about what I did. It’s hard knowing I will deal with these reactions for many years to come. Ultimately, though, I refuse to let any reaction change how I view myself or my scars. To me, my scars aren’t just a teenage mistake or my own personal shame. They show that I was able to quit cutting, heal, and move on to live a good and happy life despite the pain I dealt with as a child and teenager. Of course I wish all people would understand that my past is in the past, that I am not defined by my scars, and that I am in a much better place today. Not everyone will react in a kind or supportive way, but I am fortunate enough to have family and friends who loved and supported me through the rough years and my recovery, and continue to love and support me as I continue to live a new, happier, and healthier life. I’ve made my peace with living with my scars, and anyone worth having in my life will be able to make their peace with my scars as well.

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Source Link: What I want you to know about overcoming a self-harm addiction

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,

Christmas in photos

We had a really nice and mellow Christmas this year. It was one of the first times that we didn’t travel over the holidays. My nephew is getting married in January so we will be visiting my hometown in Florida then and will see all of my family. So we stayed at home for the holidays.

We kicked off the kids’ winter break by going to Winterfest, a local festival with ice-skating, sledding, and a variety of carnival rides. These California kids are not so great at ice-skating but we had a blast.
We paid a pretty casual visit to Santa this year since all but one of our kids is OVER IT. I’m not sure why Karis is taking a knee in a football jersey for Santa. Clear eyes full hearts?
The kids took part in the Christmas musical at our neighborhood church this year. Kembe and Karis were shepherds, Jafta was a guest at the inn, and India was the winner of Israel’s Got Talent. As you can see, it was clearly a biblically accurate portrayal of Jesus’s birth.
I took part in my Christmas pageant of sorts. Beer and Hymns did our second annual Christmas carol sing-along.

We wore ugly Christmas sweaters and did all of our favorite carols, from the silly to the serious. We handed out kazoos and had a chorus of 300 people playing along to Feliz Navidad, but we also had some beautiful moments of sincerity, like singing O Holy Night.

It was fun. Maybe a little too much fun.
Last year at this event, I remember looking out at the crowd and thinking that I just threw the best Christmas party I had ever been to. And I felt the same way this year. I love getting to do this thing with these people. 

The girls and I also did our annual visit to see The Nutcracker ballet with some friends.

To be honest, I have always found The Nutcracker to be a boring and nonsensical ballet. But my girls love this special day every year.
I think they love the fact that I let them wear make up more than they love the actual ballet, but whatever. We will go with it.
On Christmas Eve, we had brunch with three other families, the same brunch we have have been having on Christmas Eve for the past 15 years. Our kids love this tradition and so do we.
The first year we did this there were two children involved. Now, we can barely fit them all in the picture.
On Christmas eve, we also took part in a new tradition. We moved this year, and in our new neighborhood, they do a Christmas eve potluck every year. It was a really cool event. After dinner, we all sat around the fire and read aloud from the Polar Express.
There is also apparently a tradition where the neighbors pull pranks on the homes of those who didn’t show for the party. This year involved bombing the front yard of a neighbor with hideous Christmas decorations. Of course, my family loved these shenanigans, and Jafta kept saying how happy he was to be engaging in his first act of public vandalism.
On Christmas morning, we stayed home and opened gifts with the kids.
Got the kids a full-size drum kit this year, which I regretted by about 9 AM Christmas morning.

Most of my kids no longer believe in Santa, but they are still just as excited for Christmas morning. 

This year for Christmas, I designated some of our family devices and laptops to each child. Over the course of the last couple of years, the kids have gotten hand-me-down laptops and iPads from us, but they have always been shared. I upgraded my laptop this year, and so did Mark, and so for Christmas morning we set out iPads and laptops that were specific to each child, instead of shared. They are used, and outdated, and most of them we already owned, but the kids were overjoyed that they had THEIR OWN.
Our living room is still unfurnished, which is usually something that causes me great annoyance, that on Christmas morning it sort of worked out to have all that space and sit on the floor.
The aftermath.
One of the things I liked about not traveling for the holidays is that we had the time to recover our house from Christmas morning. Typically, we fly out on Christmas Day and come home to the wreckage of our Christmas morning several days later. It was nice to have the time to put everything where it belongs.
We also had a mellow evening. We broke up in the copper mugs, vodka and ginger beer that Mark gave me for Christmas, and toasted with some moscow mules and tostones.
I hope you and yours had a great holiday! 

Source Link: Christmas in photos

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,

What I want you to know about being a lesbian mom

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Cary.

There was a great “What I Want You to Know” post on this site about wanting a family as a queer woman. It captured that feeling of wanting a family, but knowing that there would be more challenges ahead for you than most. My wife and I are two people who experienced this feeling. It took so much time, energy and money to bring our two children into the world, but we could overcome physical and financial obstacles. We have more obstacles ahead while we start the process of adopting our third child from Korea. I like to think that staying strong through all that it takes to build our family shows our love for our children. Now I would like to share with you a bit about life after the kids join the family. Here is what I want you to know about being a lesbian mom. What I want you to know is that being lesbians does not mean our children are crazy, out of control maniacs. Our kids are respectful and kind, I think even more so because they have two moms. Our kids know that families come in different shapes, sizes and colors. They respect differences in others, and that, I firmly believe, is a wonderful thing. What I want you to know is that my kids aren’t embarrassed of their family. When asked about his daddy, Finn, my five year old, will say,”I don’t have a daddy. I have a Mommy and a Mama and a Grandma and a Grandpa and a sister”, with a big smile on his face. People have mentioned “dad” when I’m out with one or both of my children, and I explain that they kids have two moms. I am not embarrassed, and I show Finn and my daughter Lyla they have no reason to be embarrassed either. But at the same time, I want you to know that my kids listen to what you say, too. If they see someone give a negative reaction, they hear that there is something wrong with their family. What I want you to know is that all children should be educated about different types of families. Lyla, at seven years old, says she gets tired of telling her friends that my wife and I are BOTH her moms. What I want you to know is that you shouldn’t shy away from mentioning that a child has two moms or two dads. Different types of families should be acknowledged. I want you to know that there is more than one way for a child to be brought up. Finn is a boy, and he has female parents, but he is being raised perfectly fine. He has male role models, and he loves his moms. I want you to know that even though I am their birth mother, my wife is as much of Lyla and Finn’s mother as I am, and even though Lyla and Finn are not Korean blood like my wife, they consider themselves Korean. One day they will have an adopted brother or sister from Korea, and they will all be siblings regardless of how they look. I want you to know that I will never hide the truth from my children. They will uderstand that those in the LGBT community have often had a lot of hardship in their life. I won’t pretend that there aren’t homophobes, and I will honestly say I have met some. Once I had a distant family member ask me, “How could you do that to them?” referring to the fact that my kids’ parents are lesbians. Here is my answer to that: How could I love my children unconditionally and give them a warm, safe home, food, a good education and two supportive parents who provide for them? I could do this because I believe that the type of family doesn’t matter in the least as long as parents love and take care of their children. It breaks my heart that when I see a happy, loving family, others see a sinful disgrace. Because of people like this, I want you to know that LGBT families sometimes do face discrimination. Sometimes people who have experienced discrimination don’t need lots of help, but just someone who will accept them and listen. LGBT families don’t want to be singled out. We don’t want to be separated from the straight/cisgender families in a THEM and US situation. My dream is that communities will accept all kinds of people. You should know that it’s hard to deal with those who make assumptions. I don’t always like to be different, and I sometimes dread new opportunities where I might be asked about a nonexistent husband or boyfriend. I sometimes wish I didn’t have to write letters to my child’s teacher each year, or hear my daughter say, “Mommy, why are there no shows about two moms?”. I wish my family could be understood. I wish I could stop crossing out “father” and writing “mother” on enrollment forms. I wish I could embrace my wife in public without worrying if others saw. I wish that my children would never have to worry about discrimination. Even innocent questions I can get annoyed with. But what I want you to know most of all is that being a lesbian mother has made me stronger. It makes my children stronger, and at the end of the day I love Finn and Lyla to the moon and back and wouldn’t change anything. I hope you know that families like ours just want recognition and for others to be educated about LGBT families.

Source Link: What I want you to know about being a lesbian mom

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,

To The Market: Tastemaker Series


You’ve read my musings on To The Market before, right? I’m in love with the cause, and frankly, in love with the founder, Jane Mosbacher Morris. TTM combines the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations, in the belief that resilience is more powerful than suffering. And the best way to empower survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease? To promote their economic independence. (Um, fist bump 100 times over.)

Imagine my delight when I was asked to be part of their Tastemaker series, where I answered a few questions about my style and current inspirations, and highlighted my very favorite items from the TTM website. I hope you all will check it out!

The post To The Market: Tastemaker Series appeared first on whoorl.

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,

Another Colombian Spot in South OC

LA Colombiana
1640 North El Camino Real 
San Clemente, CA 92672

Yes we eat our fair share of burgers, Italian, and Mexican food on this blog, but we also like branching out, and trying other kinds of food. No, I’m not going to stop eating my favorites, but we had a good experience with Colombian a few years back, and wanted to give it another try. We were coming down this way to visit our friend who was in a rehab facility, and decided this would be the opportune time to give Colombian food a try again.

I had heard about La Colombiana the way a lot of people have, through an article written about them in Westways Magazine. In that article, the author described this restaurant as a meat lover’s paradise, and that’s all I had to hear to put them on my list of restaurants to try. The Westways article came out earlier this year, and we finally made it in to see if this would be better than our first foray with Colombian food.

We arrived at about 8pm on a recent Saturday night. The restaurant is within shouting distance of Riders Club, and there was plenty of parking right next door at the closed Bread Gallery Bakery. We showed up without a reservation, but were seated promptly on the darkened patio out front. We could have eaten inside, but there was a guy singing inside, and it was rather loud.

The menu here is dotted with all of the Colombian staples. There’s eight appetizers offered, along with 11 entrees, all of which are the recipes of the owner, Eddy. She settled in San Clemente via Colombia many years ago, and wanted to share her passion of Colombian cuisine with her community. She’s a very hands on owner, as we saw her talking with customers, clearing tables, and running food. I was pretty hungry by this point, and looked forward to seeing the food hit our table. Let’s see how it all came out for us.

First up was an appetizer, the Colombian Empanadas ($9.95). These were filled with beef, onion, tomatoes, and potatoes. The outside is a corn and flour dough, which is a little more structurally sturdier than their Argentine empanada cousins I have tried. The insides of these were good, but made much better with the provided aji, which is described on the menu as Colombian salsa. It had real depth of flavor. I got some hints of cilantro, onion, and citrus notes when using this condiment, which Katie liked to use liberally on her entree as well as these empanadas.

Speaking of entrees, they were not too far behind our appetizer, and let’s take a look at Katie’s selection on this evening, the Pollo Asado ($12.95). This featured grilled chicken, marinated in citrus juice. Anytime our waitress came by, Katie gushed about how much she enjoyed this meal. The chicken was tender, and had added flavor from the grill and the marinade. This meal was rounded out by plantains, rice, and a Colombian salad, which is really more of a slaw in my opinion, but if they want to call it a salad, who am I to judge.

I once described the national dish of Colombia as a Grand Slam Breakfast on steroids, and after eating this, I’d stand by this statement. This Bandeja Colombiana ($17.95) was a much better version of this dish, than I had during my first time eating Colombian food. This plate of food featured a portion of carne asada, a chorizo link, beans and rice, a fried egg, an arepa, and was finished with plantains. Of course the meats were the stars of the show for me here. The carne asada was flavorful, with some tender bites included. The chorizo was a tougher grind than most people would enjoy, but I liked the meatiness of it. The beans and rice, mixed together with the yolk from the egg created a very hearty portion, which you could imagine sticking to your ribs. I’m also not much of a plantain fan, but these were a pretty good version. Smashed, and then fried, they were not overly sweet, and went well with this plate. The arepa, which is like a cheese/corn patty was definitely another highlight here. It paired nicely with the aji provided. A very satisfying meal, and a good choice for first timers to Colombian cuisine.

We finished up our night at La Colombiana with Colombian Style Flan ($4.95).  I kind of felt this was like the other flan versions I have had, but a little less sweet. It had a creamy structure, with a slightly less sugary caramel sauce. A nice end to our meal.

The flan above kind of helped me sum up what I believe to be Colombian food. I’m of course not an expert on this country’s cuisine, but I’d summarize Colombian cuisine as good, solid, and stick to your ribs kind of food, that does not rely on big pops of flavor from it, or its condiments. The aji does not add spice, but it adds another flavor element to the food. It’s definitely worth a try if you have never tried Colombian food, and La Colombiana is definitely the only game in town when it comes to South OC. With Colombian food no longer being served at Mitzi’s Kountry Kitchen in Laguna Hills, this is your only Colombian option south of Santa Ana. We experienced great service on this evening. The restaurant is pretty small, and not going to awe you with its decor, but it is homey, and a comfortable restaurant to dine in. I’m glad we gave Colombian food another try.

Out of five roses, (because the country of Colombia is one of the main producer and exporter of roses worldwide, so many of those roses you see in next weeks Rose Parade could be from Colombia), five being best to zero being worst, La Colombiana gets 3.5 roses.

To find out more information about La Colombiana, go to their website here:

La Colombiana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Source – Another Colombian Spot in South OC

Original Source of this article: Ruth Davis’ OC Blog ,