Located on the gorgeous shores of Lake Mission Viejo and decorated with hand-painted murals, the picture-perfect hacienda features a menu packed with Mexican favorites. House specialties include carnitas (fresh, Mexican-style pork with frijoles, arroz, salsa fresca, and guacamole, $14.95) and the mole Maria (tender chicken topped with homemade mole sauce, $14.95). If you bring a Valentine's date, the platon de tacos (for two people, $26.95) gives you both ample opportunity to eat from either end of a custom-made taco and meet in the middle—a couples activity as romantic to experience as it is disgusting to watch. Seafarers will dig the marinated convergence of raw fish, lime, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro in Tortilla Flats' ceviche ($11.95) or the sautéed crab and shrimp medley of chimichanga de mariscos ($18.95), while herbivores can savor some deep-fried tostadas stuffed with veggies ($10.95). Chase it all with a dessert of fried ice cream ($6.95) or caramel flan ($4.95). Tortilla Flats also offers a respectable wine list.
Modeled after an Old World wine cellar, WineStyles's shelves are lined with rare bottles accrued by its staff of in-house experts hailing from quality vineyards across the globe. The shop's bounty includes handcrafted gift boxes and baskets and merchandise, such as guidebooks for translating secret codes etched in cork. Along with retailing wine and imbibing gear, WineStyles's crew grants guests the opportunity to sample new pours at frequent events and two-hour tastings three nights a week. For dedicated aficionados, the chief wine taster chooses two bottles to send to wine-club members along with tasting notes that detail their origins, a winery description, and suggested food pairings.
Make lunch or dinner into a fun foodmersible with submarine-shaped appetizer rolls such as the seared ahi tuna variation with mango, mint, avocado, and wasabi-ginger soy sauce ($7), or yam-tempura-coated fish sticks ($7). Meat goes best with meat, which explains why bold dishes like the rau ram salad with chicken, cabbage, green mango, and apple ($11) and the braised anise shortrib ($22) stand out so well. Quietly confident plates such as the tofu with eggplant, mushrooms, and Thai basil ($12) or the lemongrass jalapeno wok (tofu, $13) are equally delicious, but are more susceptible to noogies.
There’s no better place to have a good time than at Paul Martin’s house, and in this case, house actually refers to a contemporary restaurant better known as Paul Martin’s American Grill. With eight locations and counting, Paul Martin’s is quickly becoming the neighborhood hangout in many areas. Guests who come to the Irvine location will find the homemade meals made from scratch that the restaurants are known for. Make your reservation online today, and enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch meals. The dinner menu features chef’s specials that include three courses for a complete meal; if in the mood for chicken, try the Fried Chicken meal starting with an organic green salad followed by free-range buttermilk fried chicken and ending with homemade ice cream for dessert. Diners will enjoy the mesquite grill menu options as well as the perfectly cooked seafood. Guests will be interested to know that Paul Martin’s does note gluten free and heart healthy options on their menus. Valet parking is available for in-house diners, and takeout is also available for those who wish to remain home in their comfy pajamas.
The DoubleTree Irvine Spectrum puts a holiday spin on food, wine, and entertainment for Santa's Wine & Food Lovers Holiday Bash. Winemakers serve samples of premium boutique wines, pouring unlimited sips while elucidating the subtleties of their varietals. Meanwhile, chef Louis Giraud assembles two-bite appetizers, which are then dispatched throughout the room by convivial servers. The party vendors also supply samples of gourmet chocolates, cakes, olive oils, and energy drinks. Tucked into various corners, jewelers and retailers peddle artisan goods, and a tarot reader lends insight on future events. Guests who want to spread holiday cheer can bring an unwrapped toy, which will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.