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Bite Size Festivals

Pop the Cork - After the success of its inaugural celebration, SOCO Uncorked returns to Costa Mesa.

Since the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen began gathering renowned chefs and vintners to Colorado’s green mountaintops in 1983, food festivals have grown into an integral part of the country’s culinary scene. Such events provide an effortless and enjoyable way for diners to explore a variety of dishes, wines and cocktails all at one time. These festivals also lure chefs out of the kitchen and into the limelight. While you might dine at your favorite restaurants multiple times a month, engaging with the chefs and watching them cook is an exciting and rare experience.

Orange County is gaining traction as an innovative culinary region. Local eateries are garnering attention for their lush seasonal produce, fresh-caught seafood, fast-casual dining scene, and regional flavors stemming from Mexico, Vietnam, China and Italy. In March, three OC food events promise to stimulate your taste buds while serving charitable causes.

The Reel Thing
Restaurant Week allows diners to taste some of the finest offerings that Orange County dishes up. From March 6 to 12, eateries along the coast will prepare condensed tasting menus at discounted prices. If trekking all over the county for a deal isn’t your cup of tea, opt instead to attend the official Restaurant Week launch party on March 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Irvine Marriott. Tasty bites concocted by the chefs of Red O, Fig & Olive, Five Crowns and 25 other restaurants will be served, along with an artisanal water bar provided by Voss from Norway, a Kéan pour-over coffee station and specialty cocktail bars by Patron and Chambord. :: ocrestaurantweek.com   

Dreamy Dinner
Napa Rose executive chef Andrew Sutton and Disneyland’s Grand California Resort and Spa will host 30 celebrated chefs on March 13 for the revamped OC Chef’s Table. Formerly known as Table for 10, this culinary event features a five-course meal accompanied by enchanting tablescapes decorated to pair with each participating restaurant. The chefs include Studio at The Montage’s Craig Strong, Pascal Olhats, Bambú at Fairmont Newport’s Brian Doherty, Club 33’s new chef de cuisine Justin Monson and several more celebrated locals. The event commences with a cocktail reception hosted by Nolet Spirits. In true Disney fashion, Mickey and Minnie will welcome attendees and pose for photos before the guests are escorted into the grand ballroom for the dining extravaganza. The evening aims to raise more than half a million dollars for the Illumination Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strives to end the cycle of homelessness in Orange County. The evening will be topped off with luxury vacations raffled off to locales such as Bali, Costa Rica and Whistler. :: ifhomeless.org

Pop the Cork
After the success of its inaugural celebration, SOCO Uncorked returns to Costa Mesa. The OC dining mecca houses some of the county’s most celebrated restaurants, such as Noah Blom’s ARC and Carlos Salgado’s Taco Maria. But on March 31, food won’t be the only draw for this one-day festival. Handcrafted vintages curated by LCA Wine owner Nancy Milby and the open-air courtyard flooded with live music promise a relaxing backdrop to engage with other food-centric locals and SOCO chefs. Imbibe for a good cause, since the event benefits Project Hope Alliance, a local organization dedicated to eradicating child homelessness. The $100 VIP hour features live cooking and tasting demonstrations that bring you even closer to the kitchen action. :: socouncorked.com

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