Taste something different

Annual event brings attention to eateries that customers might have passed up before.

September 02, 2010|By Candice Baker
  • Christopher Michael, the owner of Christopher Michael Artisan Chocolates on Newport Boulevard, has been chocolatier to the Grammy Awards and the Academy Awards, among others.
Christopher Michael, the owner of Christopher Michael… (Kent Treptow, Daily…)

September was called Herbstmonat ("harvest month") by Charlemagne and Gerstmonath ("barley month") by the Anglo-Saxons.

But here in Newport-Mesa, September is better known as epicure month. With both the Taste of Newport and Orange County Restaurant Week approaching, area foodies are salivating like Pavlov's dogs.

A much-loved event now in its 22nd year, the Taste of Newport intermixes iconic menu items from area restaurants, confectioners and wineries for the county's palates to explore.

Entertainment at this year's Taste of Newport is as top-notch as its exhibitors, and will include the Gin Blossoms on Sept. 17; Foreigner on Sept. 18; and Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo on Sept. 19.

Some of the Taste participants are newer names trying to differentiate themselves in the competitive Newport-area dining scene; others have been around longer than the event.


Back in the spotlight

The Ritz Restaurant, a longtime area fixture, is back at this year's Taste of Newport to reintroduce itself to the community.

"From a food and service quality standpoint, it's probably right up there with the best of them," Ritz Manager Ray Jacobi said. "We create great price value. We're only open five days and nights a week now, from Tuesday through Saturday, with a big emphasis on live entertainment. We're making it fun again."

Jacobi said he looks forward to renovating and repositioning the restaurant, which was founded in 1977.

Jacobi became managing partner of the Ritz in June 2009, and is the former managing director of the Island Hotel; he was the property's general manager when it was managed by the Four Seasons.

"It's part and parcel with the resurrection of the Ritz to get back into the community," Jacobi said. "What better way than to use the Taste to jump that threshold? We want to be a neighborhood restaurant. We don't want to be an occasional restaurant. Being a strong neighborhood restaurant dictates a strong neighborhood presence."

That includes regular outdoor barbecue dinners Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and frequent live performances from musicians like the Fabulous Baker Boys, Jim Roberts and Jimmy Hopper.

"The place is alive; we want to keep it casual, but with great service and food quality," Jacobi said. "We've got everything from seafood to beef to pastas, with great specials every day. We do a businessman's lunch for $12 where you're in and out in 35 minutes."

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles