Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Recap of Newport Beach Film Festival 20th anniversary

It’s always a pleasure covering the Newport Beach Film Festival that takes place in Newport Beach and part of Costa Mesa every year. I’ve covered the event three times and I must say that it gets better every year. This year it took place from April 25th-May 2nd. This year I chose three films to screen and every single one exceeded my expectations.

Papi Chulo

The first film we screened was "Papi Chulo" which takes place in Los Angeles and is about a lonely weatherman who drives past a middle-aged Latino migrant looking for work. He decides to hire him to paint his deck, but ends up developing a friendship with him. The story gets complicated when we see the deeper reasons why the weatherman is desperately searching for meaning in his life after suffering a huge loss. We enjoyed this film very much and had no idea what to expect. We liked how it features two disenfranchised groups in society: the gay man and the migrant. Very interesting dynamics in the film!

The Harvest Season

The second film we screened was "The Harvest Season" which was shown together with the short "The Last Harvest: You can't grow without change." The short talked about the harvesting of our fruits and vegetables in the central valley of California. It talked about the labor shortage and how many crops are rotting because there is no one to pick them. It also mentions how if there continues to be a labor shortage we will not be able to buy certain fruits and veggies anymore. The film that followed talked about the wine industry in Napa Valley. Again, it talked about the labor shortage for picking the grapes. We see the lives of the temporary laborers, permanent residents and the multigenerational Latinos intimately connected to the production of premium wines in the Napa and Sonoma regions of Northern California. I likes the story of one of the laborers who travels on a work visa every year from Zamora, Michoacán to pick grapes. We see how he goes back after the harvest to Mexico in a four day bus ride. It's such a contrast to the types of people drinking the wine. Also we follow one winery owner who is a Latina and has achieved success in the family business. We see how the fires affected the region and what they are doing today to continue to recruit laborers for such back breaking work. I really enjoyed these two films because it brought awareness to some social issues that not many people know about. We drink our wine and eat our fruits and veggies without realizing how much work it takes to make it possible for us to enjoy them. 

Sea of Shadows 

The last film we screened was "Sea of Shadows." This was an environmental film about what is going on in the Sea of Cortez in Baja California. Little do people know that there is an illegal trade going on between the Mexican cartels and Chinese traffickers all surrounding the hunt for the totoaba fish which the Chinese believe has healing powers for various ailments. During this process, the fishing nets sometimes catch the vaquita porpoise on accident which is an endangered whale native to only the Sea of Cortez. Some of the concerns of the environmentalists is the depletion of the marine life in the region and especially the possible extinction of the vaquita porpoise. These is a lot going on this film and it follows a film crew that tries to get to the bottom of the trade and explores how the Mexican Navy is trying to help in the efforts to curb this crime ring. I learned a lot watching this film and I commend those in the effort to save the vaquita. The drug cartels mean business and trying to fight them just seems like a very frightening task to me. I felt like I was watching a scary movie because of how much is at stake here and the dangers of the whole situation. 

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to screen some amazing films and I can’t wait to cover the event again next year. Because of the Newport Beach Film Festival I was able to screen some amazing films and now I look forward to attending film festivals in general. It's really a great way to spend with your loved ones. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Spring Break in Detroit

This year, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the Detroit area of the United States for our spring break. The reason we went there was because his best friend recently relocated back to his hometown after many years of living in Southern California. My boyfriend had been there in 2011 so he knew a little about the city, however I knew hardly anything. I did some research and made a list of things I wanted to do there as a basis for our trip. We wanted to see a few historical sites and some sports games. We arrived to the area of Macomb which is about 45 minutes outside the city center. When we got there, it was snowing and there was lots of snow on the ground.

I talked to my coworkers and a few friends about Detroit and most of them said it was going to be really cold and really ugly. I felt kind of sad that so many people have a negative view of this part of the country. But honestly, all I really knew about the city was the few things my boyfriend told me such as that Little Ceasars pizza is from there and it’s a huge hockey town. I knew about Eight Mile Road through Eminem, the rapper but that was pretty much it. Now I will tell you that my first impression of Detroit when I arrived was not that great because I saw a ton of abandoned buildings in  downtown, but what I didn’t know was that Detroit is not just downtown, there are several suburbs  around Detroit that are gorgeous and safe.

We spent a week in Detroit and most of the time we were in the Macomb area as that is the suburbs where our friends live. You will definitely need a car to tour that area as it is quite spread out. I ordered a visitors guide of Detroit before going but honestly I didn’t really need it since we had two great friends who knew exactly what to show us. I would say that this trip was definitely a foodie trip as we got to try several different restaurants that are native to the Detroit area. 

One tip I will give you is that if you don’t like cold weather, try to plan your trip between April and September as that is the best time to go, well if you don’t mind the humid hot summer. I’m the type of person that prefers hot over cold, so going to Detroit in mid-March was quite chilly for my standards. When we arrived, there was still some now falling here and there throughout the week, mainly when we arrived but the weather got nicer later in the week. I packed gloves, a beanie, and leggings to wear underneath my jeans and that was sufficient. Also thick socks helped to keep my feet warm under my Ugg style boots that I wore all week. After a few days, I kind of got used to it but I did crave a lot of soups and hot beverages I’m guessing because of the weather. It was between the late 20s and mid 40s in Fahrenheit while we were there. We celebrated the first day of spring in the middle of the week with a little bit of random tiny icicles falling from the sky. 

My top ten places:

1. Hockey game and basketball game at Little Caesar’s arena

I’m a huge sports fanatic, so I wanted to attend a few sporting events in Detroit while we were there. We were able to go to a hockey game that Saturday we arrived and it was my first hockey game ever! Wow it was so much fun! And they gave out free green Hockeytown t-shirts since it was St. Patrick’s day weekend. I had a slice of Little Ceasars pizza at the arena which was reasonably priced at about $6. It was delicious and deep dish style which I’m not used to in California. I soon learned that the Detroit Red Wings, the town’s hockey team is a big deal for the town. The next day we saw the Detroit Pistons play, the NBA basketball team. They won just like the hockey team did so it made it extra fun. We bought our tickets online for both sporting events and we spent about $50 a ticket for each game. Parking is another story, it’s pretty pricey to park downtown near the arena, it cost us $40 each day. The other two teams we would love to watch in the future in their own sporting venues are the Detroit Lions football team and the Detroit Tigers baseball team, both not in season right now.

2. Kid Rocks Made in Detroit restaurant in Little Ceasars arena

It’s a silly story how I found out about this place. You see, I’m very active on Twitter (@acupofbely) and I follow a few Detroit blogs such as (@goodlifedetroit) which allows me to see a ton of Detroit news. I saw that there was a lawsuit in Kid Rocks restaurant and it sparked my interest on finding out more about the restaurant. With my research, I found out Kid Rock was from Detroit and had a restaurant in downtown somewhere. My boyfriend let me know it was inside Little Caesar’s arena so you have to attend an event at the venue to eat there. We found out the day before at the hockey game that we should arrive to the restaurant as soon as the arena opened because the place fills up fast. The next day we made sure we arrived to the basketball game right when doors opened, and we quickly walked to the restaurant and only waited in line for about ten minutes. My biggest tip is to get there early as soon as doors open so you won’t wait long to eat. For example, our basketball game started at 4pm and arena doors opened at 2:30pm. We got there at exactly 2:30 and walked over to the restaurant. The menu is mainly American dishes such as burgers and wings with a southern flavor. Also the items have a Detroit name to some of them. For example, I  ordered the Mexicantown chicken tacos. Mexicantown is an area of Detroit where you find Mexican establishments. My tacos were delicious, but definitely not the Mexican taco taste of Southern California. It sort of had this mild barbecue taste with the sauce they used. You definitely have to try them as it’s something different!

3. Jets Pizza

You have to try this pizza if you visit Detroit! I can’t describe it except that it’s very soft dough in the middle but crunchy at the edges so you get the best of both worlds! We had it twice in one week because it just leaves you wanting more! I don’t think pizza will ever be the same unless maybe I go to Italy. I just know I will miss this pizza place.

4. Salvation Army thrift stores

I cannot stress the amount of cute clothes you can find at Detroit area thrift stores. We were in the affluent area of Macomb and we drove around the area and found three Salvation Army thrift stores we liked. One particular store had books for 10 cents and I found a handful of good ones. There's also sales throughout the week that vary daily so it's worth visiting multiple times a week. One day they discount furniture, another day they have senior discounts, then there's colors of the day. It's amazing. At one of the stores I found a very cute LL Bean light blue jacket that is perfect for Detroit's cold weather. I got the jacket for $12.50 as all winter jackets and long sleeve shirts were 50% off that day. What I liked about shopping thrift stores is that the fashion varies from that of southern California and it makes it more fun. You may even be able to find Detroit gear for super cheap to take back home as souvenirs. I always like to find ways to score a bargain and I definitely did on this trip. I even heard from my friend that in Chicago they have a three story Salvation Army. WOW. It's nice to shop with other thrifters who get so excited when they find a good deal.

5. Tubby’s sandwich shop

Tubby's is a sandwich shop that was started in 1968 in St. Claire Shores, Michigan. (a Detroit community). I immediately fell in love with the turkey and cheese sandwich. I ordered a small size which ran about $5. My favorite part was the turkey meat. It was so thick, almost like Thanksgiving size slices. It wasn't the thin processed meat you would buy at the deli. This sandwich shop also has great customer service. I am now a fan of Tubby's and hope to go back one day for another amazing sub sandwich. 

6. The cigar lounges where you can also have dinner! (Nowhere in Cali have I found such a thing)

My boyfriend and his best friend love to have a cigar whenever they get the time to get together which is not often these days as we live thousands of miles away. In California, we would visit a cigar shop in Santa Ana but the biggest difference we found was that the two cigar shops we found in Macomb were super fancy bistros. In other words, the way it works is that you come in and get a table, order your food and drinks, and while your food is being prepared, you go check out the selection of cigars and pick one to smoke after you've had your dinner. I was amazed that this is even possible as they are so strict about cigars and food in Cali. I have yet to find a similar type of establishment in Cali. We went to The Godfather Bistro Cigar Bar on Saturday night and then went to Robustos the next weekend, both in Macomb area. It was date night so it was fun to share our men's passion for cigars and we got to dress up too for a fun night out. It was two nights of catching up and eating good food and smoking a cigar. The guys picked the fancier stronger full size cigars while the women picked the smaller size just to get the taste of it.

7. Vince and Joes gourmet market, especially the gelato!

I feel like this place is comparable to a Whole Foods in California but with way more cool sections. My boyfriend especially liked the beef section where there was a ton of red meat cuts displayed. There was also a cheese section where you can purchase fresh cheese from all over the world. My favorite part was the bakery and gelato section. They have the best Nutella gelato and chocolate eclairs and canolis in the bakery section. One thing you'll notice is that Italian food is everywhere in Detroit because of the Italian presence that is part of the city's history.

8. The gas prices

Let's not start a rant on how expensive everything in California is, but we can at least start with the gas prices. In Detroit, gas price is about $1 cheaper than southern California. When we left Cali, the gas price was about $3.50 a gallon and in Detroit it is $2.50 a gallon as of March 2019. 

9. Culver’s restaurant chili soup

This place is known for burgers and fries, but if you're in the mood for soup they have a few selections here. It certainly hits the spot on a very cold day. Their chili soup which had beans and ground beef was delicious and that's coming from someone who is picky with chili soups. 

10. Tim Hortons café  

Move over Starbucks, this café has the most delicious breakfast treats such as donuts, strawberry cheesecake muffins, chocolate chip muffins and breakfast wraps and sandwiches to name a few. Let's not forget to mention their amazing dark roast coffee. I literally went in there for one of the muffins I mentioned and a medium dark roast coffee. You can buy a box of dark roast Tim Hortons coffee at local grocery stores or online as well as the store itself. I swear, there's one of these cafes on every corner of Macomb. Starbucks, not so much. It's an interesting story too how this place started. It's actually from Canada and was started by Candian hockey player, Tim Horton in 1964. Definitely a must for your morning coffee run. And don't forget the pastry!

A few reasons you may want to visit Detroit:

1. The food
2. Attend a sporting event
3. Visit some historical sites
4. Annual Detroit International Auto Show which will be in June instead of January now. Hooray!

I will recommend that you rent a car and try to stay at least a week. There is so much to do here and not only in Detroit but outside of the city. You can find day trips to local cities such as the German town, Frankenmuth. You can also visit some of the local college towns where the world known University of Michigan or Michigan State teams play. One thing you'll know is that Michigan is a sports state. Hope you can visit one day and get to experience the kinder side of Michigan. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

April is National Social Security Month

I'm getting candid on this one. Many people are aware that when we speak about social security, we are talking about senior citizens receiving some sort of income as they reach a certain age which according to my research is 65 years of age. Did you know there is also a program called Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI that is available to folks of all ages who may need to qualify under some very strict terms? SSI and SSDI can be available to people of all ages who may have some sort of disability and the programs vary in that SSDI is for people who may have worked in the past before they apply for SSDI. 

I'm not a lawyer so I don't know the specifics of each program but I will share with you that I have been on SSDI for about five years. I qualify for SSDI because I have a mental disability which inhibits me from working full time. I would like to share with you the benefits of being on this type of program and some of the disadvantages as well as it has been a long journey for me. To qualify for SSDI, you need to prove that you are not able to keep a job due to your condition so they are very strict with who can receive benefits. As a matter of fact, only 30-35% of applicants get approved on the first try and if you get denied the first time as many do then you can appeal it and go see a judge to see if they believe you are disabled. I was approved on the first try and I believe it was because I had a strong advocate, my sister, who knew when to apply for me and was diligent in obtaining all my medical records in a timely manner that showed my ten year history with the illness. 

This article is not meant to tell you how to apply for SSDI but mainly to show you how it has worked for me the past five years and what you can gain and lose from being on this federal assistance program. I hope this article helps you see what being on SSDI is like and what you can expect. I would also like to say that I am beyond grateful that I have been in this program for five years and I always say a thankful prayer every time I get my monthly check because it has helped me tremendously the past five years. 

Benefits of being on SSDI

1. Monthly income

I recently spoke to a disability lawyer and she stated that the monthly average amount a person on SSDI receives is $1,197. In Orange County, that is not very much and it may be hard to live off this amount. I will not tell you my monthly average but it's very close to this number and this money has helped me pay for my daily living expenses and basically all my bills which includes a car payment. Unfortunately, I am not able to live on my own but my parents have helped me by providing a place for me to rent. Check with your local housing office if you want to apply for Section 8, which is a low income housing program. If you are on SSDI, you may have priority however they are very strict in who they help. You basically have to be living on someone's couch or homeless. I have my own room at my parents house so I don't qualify. 

2. Time to take care of yourself

While on SSDI my first year, it was very rough for me because I didn't know what was happening to me so I went to a lot of support groups and spent time going through med changes and basically spent a lot of time alone. I did not work this first year and never thought I'd work again because my symptoms were so severe. Being on SSDI allowed me the time to get help without having to worry how I was going to pay my basic expenses such as feeding myself or paying my credit card bills. I spent endless amount of hours at a center aimed at helping people recover from a severe mental illness. I truly believe that year was the hardest for me and isolation would be the word I best can describe it. Being on SSDI allows you the flexibility to spend time taking care of your mental health and for many stress is a trigger that can cause you to spiral into an episode so having that time to recover is crucial. 

3. You may work on a limited part time basis

After my first year, I learned that it was possible to keep a part time job while receiving SSDI benefits. There are very strict rules for this but it is possible to work on a limited part time basis. Working for me was very difficult at first but after three jobs I finally found one that was perfect for me. I have now worked at my current job for almost four years now and they have been very flexible when I needed to call in sick because my symptoms got bad. I have not disclosed my illness at work because I don't feel comfortable with that but a few coworkers know a little bit about my story. It is up to you whether you want to disclose to your employer. I have chosen to keep it a secret and when I call in sick, I simply state that I don't feel good. I know several people who receive SSDI and are currently working however I also know a few people who went back to work full time and ended their benefits. It's up to you how you feel and I always say that recovery is different for everyone and it is not a straight line. For some, they may recover faster than others and for others like myself, I keep a very simple life as to not trigger another episode. I can't imagine having to ever go back to working fulltime. It's just not wise in my mind. 

4. Spending time with family 

I have been very fortunate to be able to attend special school events with my nieces these past five years that I wouldn't have been able to if I was working a high demanding full time job. I am very grateful to be able to take time off to spend this quality time with my nieces and nephews such as attending their field trips, going to their graduations or simply just running errands for my family during the week. I feel like sometimes having a mental illness is a blessing in disguise. You get to enjoy the simple things in life instead of stressing how you're going to make it through your 40 hour work week and enjoy your short weekend. I've learned to appreciate each day on its own and have come to enjoy spending time with my retired father. I am the go to person when it comes to taking him to his doctor appointments as the rest of my family including my mother work full time. My mother also designates me as her official Christmas shopper each year since I have two weeks off from work during Christmas time and I can shop during the time everyone else is at work. I've learned to appreciate my down time as I can assure you that part of my mental breakdown resulted from a very stressful life. 

5. Take up a hobbie

Because you may have extra time on your hands, pick up a hobbie that will help brighten your mood. For some that hobbie may be poetry, drawing, running, playing music and for me it has become writing. I enjoy sharing my story with others and write about pretty much anything. I encourage you to think about what truly makes you happy and pursue it. My therapist recently asked me "What is your happy place?" and after thinking about it for a few minutes, I finally said "Seeing farm animals happy." That is what brings me joy in addition to writing. We then brainstormed and I have made it a goal to go see the farm animals at the Orange County Fair this summer. 

Disadvantages of being on SSDI

1. Random reviews

I'm not sure how often folks get reviewed but I recently learned that younger folks get reviewed more often than older folks. I have gone under reviews pretty much every year since I've been on the program. This review period has caused me tremendous stress each time and I go through a period of anxiety every year. I believe I get reviewed because I work part time and they want to make sure I still qualify as disabled. My mother has always advised me to quit my job so I'm not reviewed as often but my therapist and I have agreed that this is not the best option for me. You see, working part time helps my self esteem and gives me structure. I feel like I have a purpose in life as opposed to waking up every day and wondering what I am going to do that day. It is up to you whether you choose to work on SSDI, but again the reviews can be quite stressful. 

2. Limited income

One of the rules SSDI has if you work is that you can't make over a certain amount each month to receive your check. This means that you are limited to a small income every month. It's very difficult to live on such a limited income however I have set my life up in a way where this is possible. I shop for clothes at the Goodwill, I don't eat at fancy restaurants and rarely travel. As a matter of fact, travelling is very difficult for me since flying causes me some anxiety and there's always that fear that I will have an episode in a far away place. Sometimes social media can be difficult because you see your friends doing some of the things you wish you could do, but just remember not to compare your life to others as they have not had a life changing experience as you have. Find a way to give back to the community instead. I have a passion for helping others who suffer from mental illness and want to become a mental health advocate since I have so much knowledge now after the last five years. I am even involved in the mental health ministry at my church and I like to attend mental health conferences. I am even going to speak on the panel at the UCI Mental Health Conference this year, my alma mater. I am glad to be a helping hand to those who are newly diagnosed and can feel so lost. 

I hope this post helps you see the life of someone who receives SSDI. The best thing I can tell someone who is newly diagnosed is to seek help. Don't do this alone and try not to isolate yourself as your symptoms may become worse. And be patient with your recovery process. It is different for everyone so don't compare yourself to others. It takes time to start feeling great again. I have learned to accept the "new" me and don't try to go back to the life I had. It took a long time for me to accept my new life, but I have learned to embrace it an help others along the way. 

If you need more information on SSDI, please visit

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Fall Items at Boudin Restaurant

Boudin Restaurant has launched three new menu items for the fall season. They include the Ham 'N Brie on Rosemary Focaccia sandwich, the Original Sourdough Philly sandwich and the Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Kale Salad. Bloggers and their kids were invited to sample the new fall menu items at the Boudin Restaurant located in Huntington Beach.

The Ham 'N Brie on Rosemary Focaccia sandwich is made with applewood smoked ham, Brie cheese, arugula and Cranberry Dijon spread on rosemary focaccia bread. It will cost you $8.99.

The Original Sourdough Philly sandwich is made with roast beef, provolone cheese, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers spread on a garlic buttered sourdough baguette. It will cost you $10.29.

The Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Kale Salad features romaine lettuce, Tuscan kale, roasted butternut squash, red quinoa, dried cranberries, feta cheese and honey mustard dressing. This item will cost you $9.59.

I highly enjoyed sampling all three fall menu items and my favorite was the Ham 'N Brie Rosemary Focaccia because the Cranberry Dijon gave it a distinct flavor.

Along with sampling food, bloggers also had the chance to sample wines. We sampled the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and the La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The wines were very smooth and paired well with the food items. My favorite was the Chardonnay.

While the adults enjoyed some wine pairings with their food items, kids were kept busy by creating Halloween hats and trying out the Mac 'N Cheese.

For more information about Boudin Restaurants, please check out

Thursday, October 15, 2015

OC Auto Show 2015

The OC Auto Show has come back again to showcase more than 500 new vehicles from 34 different manufacturers. It also features more than 100 vehicles to test-drive, a Camp Jeep Anaheim experience, an all new exotic gallery and more. I encourage you to take the family and visit as you will find something for the whole family to do. They have a kids section where they can be a part of the Discovery Cube OC’s Hot Wheels Experience.

I attended as a member of the media today along with my best friend and we had the opportunity to look around and take pictures with our favorite vehicles. The prices of the vehicles we liked ranged from $23,000- $200,000. The lowest price belonged to the Toyota Tacoma while the highest price went to the Bentley GT. My friend’s favorite manufacturers included Mercedes, Audi and Acura. My favorite was the BMW’s. It was interesting to see how we both liked different vehicles.


My friend currently drives an Acura SUV and she compared her truck to the newer model and she loved it. Similarly last year when I attended the OC Auto Show, I was able to compare my 2004 Chevy Impala with the 2015 model and it was so different. I most recently purchased a 2014 Honda Accord and I love it however today I realized that if I could afford it, I would most definitely purchase a BMW.

It was a fun experience to be able to compare the looks and prices of the different vehicles. I didn’t realize how expensive Jeeps can be as we found out today that a new Jeep Grand Cherokee can cost you up to $60,000 if it is fully loaded. I really enjoyed riding the Jeep Grand Cherokee at Camp Jeep today. The Jeep vehicles are made to withstand rough terrain as we experienced today.

I invite you to check out the OC Auto Show this weekend October 15-18 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

OC Auto Show

800 West Katella Avenue

Anaheim, CA 92802



Thursday 4pm-10pm

Friday 12pm-10pm

Saturday 9am-10pm

Sunday 9am-7pm


For more information, check out

Halloween Time at OC Goodwill

Halloween time is around the corner and OC Goodwill is gearing up to provide costumes to the many people that celebrate the holiday. The busiest shopping season of the year for OC Goodwill happens around Halloween time, not Black Friday like most other stores.

Bloggers were invited to a media event to try on costumes and be a part of three costume contests to win prizes such as gift certificates and coupons. The categories for the contests were Classic with a Twist, Super Heroes and Celebrities. The first two were group contests while the last one was an individual contest. My group won second place for Classic with a Twist. We dressed up as sports witches. One of us was a witch that played baseball while the other witch played golf. It was a lot of fun. For the superhero category, we dressed up as Poison Ivy. Then for the last category I dressed up as Madonna while my friend dressed up as Hilary Clinton.

OC Goodwill has devoted a section in all of their stores to all things Halloween and you can usually find the section towards the front of the store. You can purchase second-hand costumes and invent a costume or you can also purchase new items such as Day of the Dead masks. You can also find wigs, hats and more.

The great part of OC Goodwill is that when you purchase any items you are directly contributing to support OC Goodwill’s job training and career services for the thousands of people Goodwill serves annually. You can also donate old costumes you don’t use anymore to OC Goodwill and be a part of the cause.

I had a great time attending the “Build-A-Scare” event at the OC Goodwill location in Westminster. It really pumped me up to become creative with my costume. This year I am going to be a Little Mermaid and I already purchased the tail and wig. All I need is the purple bra top or blouse. I plan on looking for the purple top at my local Goodwill location. I like that OC Goodwill stores separate their blouses by color so it should be easy for me to find.

I encourage you to shop for your Halloween costumes or props at any OC Goodwill store since you will usually find what you are looking for. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Recap: Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival

I attended the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival this past weekend and the food did not disappoint. I attended as a member of the media and tried some delicious food and wine on both Saturday and Sunday. I attended with my best friends and although there were several wines to try, we mainly tried out the food. Here I list my top three restaurants of the festival plus one pastry restaurant:

1. Red O
    143 Newport Center Drive
    Newport Beach, CA 92660

This restaurant is located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. I have always wanted to try it because I've heard great reviews. I tried the chicken tamales with green sauce and they were delicious. Chef Rick Bayless was there to greet his fans as well. The chicken tamales had a hint of sour cream on top with some special sauce. It gave it that extra kick and extra flavor.


2. Filomena's Italian Kitchen
     2400 Newport Blvd
     Costa Mesa, CA 92627

This restaurant was only present on Saturday so if you went on Sunday you might have missed it. They showcased chicken breast and mashed potatoes with gravy that left my mouth watering. It is part of an Italian restaurant that serves pizza, pasta and many other "recipes, flavors and techniques brought from Italy." I would highly recommend this place to anyone who loves Italian food.

3. Slapfish
    19696 Beach Blvd
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648

The best seafood at the festival was the "Clobster Roll" that was showcased by the restaurant, Slapfish. My best friend and I had to get seconds. It was THAT good. The half crab, half lobster roll was spread on a mini-bun bread. It was the perfect combination. I would highly recommend it.

4. B. Candy
    3100 E. Coast Highway
    Corona del Mar, CA 92625

This pastry restaurant definitely hit my sweet tooth. There were cookie bites, mini-cupcakes, brownie bites and ice cream sandwiches known as the "Cookie Monster." My favorite was all of the above as I am a sucker for chocolate. Their ingredients are served fresh and you can definitely taste it in their dessert. I would definitely suggest that you try the "Cookie Monster" as it was a blend of ice cream with chocolate chip cookies.

I highly enjoyed covering the Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival and hope to attend next year as well. I really do hope you try one of the restaurants mentioned above. You will not regret it.