Prix-fixe and donate

With 18 Newport Beach and Costa Mesa restaurants participating, from Pizzeria Ortica to Brasserie Pascal to AnQi, there will be something for everybody at OC Restaurant Week.

Devotees love the ability to get three prix-fixe courses (and often a bonus) at bargain-basement prices, followed up next month with Happy Hour Week, which will feature all-day happy hour specials for a week.

The Daily Pilot interviewed Pamela Waitt, president of the OC Restaurant Assn., to get all the details.

DP: What's new at this year's OC Restaurant Week?

PW: We have been fortunate enough to keep our list of participating restaurants growing with the addition of all newcomers to the county. As diners peruse the menus, they'll notice an added dose of innovation and creativity — many are a little more adventurous by creating menus that really attract! Also, restaurants are being encouraged to serve as food collection spots for the OC Rescue Mission for the duration of the week. This means that if even half of the restaurants serve as locations, we have approximately 60 food collection locations throughout the county!

DP: Are there any hot food or beverage trends that will be highlighted this time around?

PW: One big trend we're seeing across the nation is innovative bar items, and many of our restaurants are adding cocktails to their menus. Many have added a glass of wine in the past, and that has been a great draw. Also, we are seeing chefs use more local and organic produce, and humanely raised meats. We are seeing many more healthy dining options.

DP: Has the nature or setup of the event changed over time due to the recession?

PW: It is true that an event such as this — if done right — will thrive in any economy; folks love a great deal! Of course, we are now in our second year (this is our fourth OC Restaurant Week, since they are bi-annual), and when we launched the first one, the economy lent to it being an instant draw. Our goal was, after all, to create an event that united the industry countywide, and before the creation of the Orange County Restaurant Assn., there was not an event or group that focused on bringing the restaurants together to elevate the industry as a whole. Since our first, we've added fabulous launch parties and a nonprofit component to each event.

DP: Are there any future organizational or Restaurant Week plans you can share?

PW: With the momentum we have going, there are so many fantastic things coming in the future. It seems as if our sponsors and partners grow with each event. In addition to Orange County Restaurant Week, this year we will have our second Happy Hour Week (last week of October) and earlier this year, we saw the first Kids Restaurant Week! We also just came off of sponsoring the OC Foodie Fest, attended by more than 8,500 food truck lovers! For us, the more we can do for those in the restaurant industry, the better.

If You Go

What: Orange County Restaurant Week

When: Sept. 26 to Oct. 2 (Happy Hour Week Oct. 24 to 30)

Where: Various area restaurants

Cost: Three-course lunch $10-$20; three-course dinner $20-$40


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