Imagine a perfect California evening in lush surroundings with gentle breezes. Imagine sipping some of the most superb wines from all over the world. Imagine delectable culinary delights from innovative gourmet restaurants. Imagine the mellow background vibe of Frank Sinatra’s timeless tunes.
This delightful scene is not a figment of my imagination. My husband, son and I were immersed in just this setting several weeks ago when we attended the second annual SOCO Uncorked, a decidedly upscale wine and food festival in Costa Mesa, California. Sponsored by the South Coast Collection (SOCO) and LCA Wine, this elegant event was held in SOCO’s charming open air courtyard. SOCO is a classy shopping destination that includes more than 70 gourmet restaurants, food purveyors, unique boutiques and exquisite designer showrooms.
LCA Wine, a wonderful wine retail outlet, is located in SOCO and offers wine tastings and wine education, as well as stocking a wide variety of outstanding wines from all over the world.
As an added bonus, a percentage of the proceeds from this festive event was contributed to Project Hope Alliance, an admirable venture aimed at ending homelessness in Orange County.
Here is just a sampling of some of the delicious small bites (and some not so small) from SOCO venues that we enjoyed:
Our first treat when we walked into the courtyard was Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop’s famous turkey melt sliders on pretzel bread, which were just plain scrumptious. (Don’t tell, but I went back for seconds.) Bistro Papillote had one of the most enticing selections of appetizers, including mouth-watering escargot with garlic butter on baguettes and fresh Ahi tartare served with avocado mousse and olive tapenade. Our son’s favorite bite was ARC’S perfectly prepared steak roulade on crostini. And I relished Restaurant Marin’s savory salmon on crostini. Pueblo served one of the most uniquely flavored and delicious nibbles: lamb meatballs with sofrito and mint yogurt. (Sofrito is a classic Latin American sauce made with garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, tomatoes and olive oil.) Temakira had three creative tidbits: salmon poke on rice patties, tofu and avocado topped with shiso (an Asian herb similar to mint), and flavorful salmon skin on cucumber with sweet chili. From Taco Maria, we sampled a tangy soup made with pork chorizo, black beans and queso. The Mixing Glass served a unique, crispy Manzanilla cocktail with lime and mint. We learned that “manzanilla” is Spanish for “little apple.”
We were pleased to see Surfas Culinary District represented since this kitchen and restaurant supplier is one of our favorite stops in SOCO. Their restaurant, Surfas Café, was serving cheesy spinach and sausage puffs, clever mini pop tarts with Cabernet jam, and a refreshing vanilla bean lemonade.
There was no shortage of sweet treats, such as assorted decadent chocolate truffles, bonbons and colorful mini macaroons from ST Patisserie. We also absolutely loved a variety of delicious little cupcakes from SusieCakes.
Theorum (a concept coffee bar) and Portola Coffee Roasters served some delicious, inventive cocktail-inspired coffees, such as Negroni, consisting of distilled coffee, juniper, verjus, Campari, dandelion bitters and grapefruit or Horchata made of Kyoto cold drip coffee, long grain rice milk, cinnamon and orange.
We Olive Wine Bar offered a tasty olive oil sampling with almost every variety of olive oil you could imagine. OC Baking Company, a supplier to several SOCO restaurants, was also represented with a beautiful variety of delectable artisan breads.
As we wandered around the festive courtyard, we paired these delicious dishes with a wide selection of exquisite wines from California, Oregon, Washington, France, Argentina, Italy, Austria, South Africa, Portugal and Spain. Whether it was a Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zaca Mesa Viognier, we discovered some wonderful wines that we will try again.
We were so glad that last year’s live music was back again this year. We love Matt Mauser from the Tijuana Dogs who warbled familiar inspiring tunes and was accompanied by a fabulous 12-piece Sinatra tribute band. The stylish crowd wandered from place to place, swaying to the music while they snacked and sipped. It was a quintessential California evening that was over all too soon. The good news is that we can go back to SOCO whenever we want (and we will) to taste and sip and just generally capture some of the same spirit of this special experience.