Birthday Lunch at Tommy Bahama

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My husband took me to one of my favorite restaurants, Tommy Bahama, in Newport Beach for my birthday. We are incredible spoiled and extremely blessed here on the West Coast, enjoying the temperature in the mid 80s in January, while friends on the Central and East Coasts are experiencing one of the harshest winters in years.  I wish there’s a way to balance out the two extremes for a comfortable temperature for all of us. Sending love and warm thoughts to Chiberia and other cities currently buried in snow.

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Not to toot our own horn or anything, but my husband and I might just be the best kind of patron a restaurant can ask for. We make reservations in advance, arrive on time, order our appetizer and main dish in two minutes of arrival, and pay for our meal even before we are done. By the time one of us take the last bite, we’re pretty much ready to walk out the door. (And we always tip 20%.) It’s not that we don’t enjoy a nice, long meal out, but when you have an active 10-month-old baby sitting next to you in a high chair vying for your attention, you only have about 30- to 45-minute window to shove the food in your mouth before she starts screaming like a pterodactyl, scaring other poor diners!

My husband and I took turns feeding and entertaining Pon Pon while we chomped down Jumbo Lump Crab and Avocado Salad. Once she got out of the baby stroller and comfortably into the high chair, she started playing with her favorite book and let us enjoy lunch tear free! Yipee!

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Tiger Shrimp Linguini (for him).

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Grilled Steak Tenderloin Salad (for me). This has always been my all-time favorite steak salad (I order this every time) but I found the salad to be a little heavy-handed with salt this time.  I wanted to give Pon Pon a piece of the potato, but it was much too salty for her still-developing palate. That was a real bummer!

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The complementary butterscotch pudding was amazing!

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As we were driving home (after spending a few hours at Sur La Table and Bristol Farm, inside the same shopping center), we spotted a mysterious herd of quirky bunnies in a park so we stopped by.  The bunnies were in a park next to the Newport Beach City Hall.

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Thank you for the wonderful birthday!

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Trick or Treat? Sprinkles Cupcakes

The recent food trend that settles well with my stomach is frozen yogurt. I’m a self-proclaimed fro-yo addict so the fact that shops are popping up right and left is nothing short of pure delight (competition only helps consumers!). My date night with my boyfriend is not complete until we take a trip to a nearby frozen yogurt shop that we feel, believe it or not, may offer better yogurt than Pinkberry (if that were possible). I somehow always find ways to squeeze in a spoonful (or a bowlful) of ice-y swirl even on a full stomach.

Well, another trend I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is over cupcakes (even a magazine like InStyle dedicated a section on celebrities and their favorite shops). This, unlike the frozen yogurt fascination that is completely justifiable in my book, is still a bizarre concept for me. Although I like eating cupcakes, it’s difficult for me to tell the difference between the gourmet kind and the one you pick up at a local bake sale. Afterall, isn’t a cupcake just a miniature sponge cake smothered in sugary frosting? Really, how do you make a cupcake outrageously better than a bakery next door, and moreover, how can each cost as much as a meal?

a-strawberrySo I turned to the trendy and popular Sprinkles Cupcakes for answers. But after sampling a few of its offerings, I became further confused.

Let me preface this by stating the obvious: the cupcakes from Sprinkles are good. The place have great selections, from the basic vanilla and chocolate, to more exotic flavors like Chai Latte and Red Velvet, and the entire experience of visiting the most talked-out place is truly titillating. But if I ignore all the fluff and focused solely on the product, I’m afraid I’m not able to justify the whopping $3.25 each cupcake costs.

I know that cupcakes have great possibilities. Just take a look at this amazing blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit which features colorful and unorthodox recipes like Green Tea, Lavender and Honey Cupcake Bombe (ooooh). Or a mouth-watering recipe like Pomatcha Cupcakes found on Raspberry Eggplant (aaaaah).  Now, for a bite of something like that, I’ll be happy to dish out my hard earned money. But nothing at Sprinkles stood out as extraordinary, and they were just … well, good, at best.

I’m not dismissing Sprinkles altogether though. I will probably pick some up for special occasions as the decoration/packaging alone makes it a lovely gift. I hope someone will bring me some soon so I can enjoy the sweet cake without burning a hole on my wallet.

I went to the Sprinkles in Newport Beach (in the same shopping center as Tommy Bahama) but there’s a more popular one in Beverly Hills.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: 944 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★☆☆

I met this sweet pup, Hug, dressed up as a lion for Halloween while waiting in line at Sprinkles. He was so charming that I could not resist taking a picture!  Happy Halloween, everyone!

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Paradise Revisited: Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe

I went on my first and last blind date a few years ago, as a naive twenty-something. My friend thought it was a good idea to set me up with one of her single, guy friends. He was a nice guy and a fairly good-looking, courteous fella but the only thing we had in common was that we were single. He rambled on and on about himself the entire time and, although I prefer listening than talking most of the time, it got to a point I wanted him to just shut the hell up.

The worst part of it all was that he took me to Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café in Newport Beach. The restaurant was superb as always – with wonderfully tropical and coconut-y décor, delicious Caribbean-inspired dishes and consistently amazing service. In fact, this place is one of my favorite places to dine. The worst part was that the place happened to be gazillion miles away from home and thus not giving me the chance for a getaway. It was the most excruciating evening of my dating life and I promised myself then that I would never go on a friggin blind date ever again. I know I sound so mean by saying this but if you were there with me that night, you will totally sympathize. Just for the record, he was not a bad guy at all. We just had no chemistry at all.

Last Saturday was the first time I visited Tommy Bahama’s since the incidence, and luckily I was with a darn good company this time. My best friend’s pals were visiting the area from San Francisco so she and her other friends, who lives in San Diego, decided to meet up in the middle for a mini reunion, and I was her plus-one for the afternoon.  I have met them all before and I absolutely adore them.

With great wine, food and friends, I was able to wash away the bitterness of the yesteryears and begin a new memory with Tommy!

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Tortola Tortilla Soup, a savory blend of ground corn tortillas and vegetables with grilled chicken seasoned with island spices and garnished with lime sour cream.

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Saba Steak Salad, marinated and char-grilled tenderloin medallions served over a bed of fresh mixed greens tossed with tamarind vinaigrette. Garnished with grilled potatoes, vine-ripened roma tomatoes, shiitake chips and garlic aioli.

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Tommy’s Great Big Crispy Fish Sandwich, crispy beer battered local island fish topped with honey-roasted onions. Served with french fries and island tartar sauce.

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Wha’Jamaican Chocolate Cake, a flourless chocolate espresso cake served with white chocolate crème anglaise and garnished with chocolate shavings.

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Pina Colada Cake, a moist vanilla layer cake with Myers Dark Rum and chopped pineapple, covered with white chocolate mousse and toasted coconut.

Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe: 854 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★★★