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Taste of the Harvest Beer Dinner, Spice Plates and More

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Find out what's cooking in Orange County food and dining news.

Pizzeria Ortica

October 18 signals the Taste of the Harvest Beer Dinner at TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea (714.257.0101, tapsfishhouse.com). Executive Chef Manny Gonzalez will prepare a five-course dinner with an entrée of lamb shoulder Vadouvan and a dessert of hand-dipped mini candy apples with butterscotch pot de crème and spiced caramel corn. Brewmaster Victor Novak will pair the meal with his award-winning beers, including delicious pumpkin ale. Cost, $60 per person.

Pizzeria Ortica (714.445.4900, pizzeriaortica.com) has welcomed fall with the introduction of new fall/winter dishes. Along with Ortica’s outstanding Neopolitan-style pizzas, pastas, soups, and salads, Chef Justin Miller has added a number of small plates that are perfect for the cooler weather. Look for pork belly terrine, kabocha squash tortelli with brown butter and pistachio pesto, and braised Mary’s chicken and pork meatballs in marinara sauce and more.

Enjoy new fall menu items at Seasons52 at South Coast Plaza (714.437.5252, seasons52.com).

Sapphire Laguna (949.715.9888, sapphirelaguna.com) has a new menu of comfort food “Spice Plates.” Beginning at 4 p.m., diners may order these small plates as an appetizer before dinner or as a meal for small appetites. New items include hand-cut duck fries with cold Bernaise sauce, a chicken confit taco and Hong Kong S&P calamari with a chili-garlic aioli.

On October 25, 4-7 p.m., “Howl”-O-Ween, a seasonal Yappy Hour celebration for canines and their companions, returns to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (949.240.2000, ritzcarlton.com). Prizes will be awarded for the Scariest, Funniest, Most Glamorous, and Best in Show. First place winners in each category receive a hand-painted dog bowl. The Best in Show winner receives a Posh Pooch experience that includes a two-night stay at the resort and lots of goodies. Cost to enter the costume contest is $10. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.

Halloween becomes a special fun weekend at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, October 25-27, 6-9 p.m., when guests don spooky costumes and celebrate with Creatures of the Night, presented through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment. The five senses will be put to the test as participants try to identify shadows (sight), ghoulish scents (smell), scary animal noises and music (hearing), partake in a candy bar test (taste) and “Let Me Pick Your Brain” (touch). The cost is $65 per person. For reservations or more information, call 949.240.2000 or visit ritzcarlton.com/lagunaniguel.

October 28th is Parrot Head Sunday at Bayside Restaurant (949.721.1222, baysiderestaurant.com). On this particular Sunday, a special three-course, free-flowing sparkling wine brunch is offered, as well as the regular lunch menu. Drink specials include Landshark beer, Sailor Jerry’s mai tais and the ultimate seacoast bloody Mary. Entertainment is provided by Mark Wood and the Parrot Head Duet Band.

Bristol Farms at Corona del Mar Plaza (949.760.6514, bristolfarms.com), recently held a rededication of its long-standing market. The store has new flooring and wider aisles, and has expanded its Coffee Bar, salad, soup, hot sandwich and other food stations, as well as the bulk food area and cheese island. The Wine & Spirits department is now in a large corner of the store for easier perusal of its vast selection of beverages.

Whole Foods has opened at Fashion Island. The 32,000-square-foot space is filled with natural foods, a large variety of prepared foods and wine and beer.

Blaze Pizza has opened at University Center in Irvine (949.725.0012, blaze-pizza.com). Blaze uses a “co-created” system that lets guests customize one of the menu’s signature pizzas, or create one of their own. Once the thin-crust pizza is topped, it is put into a blazing open-hearth oven where it bakes in 120 seconds.

Monday Night Football, 6-8 p.m., has returned to the big screen at Duke’s Place at the Balboa Bay Club (949.645.5000, balboabayclub.com). Hot dogs with all the trimmings are served complimentary. Reservations are not required. Check local listings for game time.

Chef Haley Nguyen will host a culinary tour of Vietnam and ancient Angkor Wat in Cambodia from January 11-22, 2013. All accommodations are first rate and meals are carefully chosen to represent the best of local cultures. Nguyen will personally give her group a rare glimpse into the past of Vietnam through history, poetry, music, dance, as well as food through the back door and off-the-beaten path. Passports must not expire six months within travel dates. A $500 deposit is required to hold a space, with full payment due by November 30. For detailed information, contact Nguyen at 714.362.4234 or haley@xanbistro.com.

Chef Shachi Mehra and General Manager Maneesh Rawat of Tamarind of London (949.715.8338, tamarindoflondon.com) in Crystal Cove Promenade, have not been affiliated with the restaurant since September 1.

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