Sunday, March 31, 2013

Membership Has Its Privileges at Riders Club

The Riders Club Cafe
1701 El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672

I guess it is no surprise that we love burgers. We started this blog partially because we wanted to find the best hamburger that is offered in our area. In the three and a half years that we have had this blog, we have written about 65 different burger places. That is roughly 15 percent of our just over 400 posts have featured burgers. I guess you can say that we are a little obsessed.

In those three and half years a number of burgers stand out. The over the top half bacon, half ground beef burger at Slater's 50/50, the great flavor profiles of the Burger Parlor in Fullerton, the very well made, yet simple burger from Mick's Karma Bar, and my favorite burger up until this point, G Burger, from the far outpost of  La Habra. Now our burger beat takes us from the counties most northern city, to the city that is the most southern, San Clemente, where we have heard good things about Riders Club Cafe.

Riders Club Cafe came across my radar while the OC Weekly was doing their Game of Burgers contest. That contest never did declare a winner, but I tried some good burgers because of it. Riders Club did not even get out of the first round of that contest because they went up against Mick's Karma Bar. That was a tough matchup for sure, because Mick's makes a very solid burger. There were only 32 burger places in this OC Weekly contest, so I had some high hopes for the burger at Riders Club.

Riders Club Cafe is kind of off by itself. I do not know this area too well, but there does not seem to be anything else really around the restaurant. We got to Riders Club at about 6pm on a Saturday night. We must have hit it at a good time because there were only two people ahead of us in line, and after we ordered the line was close to being out the door. The menu is located right next to the register, on a chalkboard. It is not a very big menu. Only four food items on it; the burger, a hot dog, carnitas sandwich, and a club salad. After ordering, finding a place to sit in this tiny ten table restaurant can be a challenge. We got lucky and found a place outside. The food was brought out by the hard working surfer looking guys working here. Let's see if the burgers from Riders Club will be as memorable as others we have had.

Up first is Katie's burger. The burgers at Riders Club are of the build your own variety. The lettuce, pickle, raw or grilled onions, and house spread come with the burger automatically. You of course have the option to add additional items for an extra charge. From the extras list she selected the goat cheese spread and mushrooms. With these two extras at one dollar each, her burger was $9.95. She could not have been happier with this juicy burger. She felt all of the toppings came together to create a subtle flavor that did not overtake the flavor of the beef. She was also a big fan of the freshness of this burger. It did not leave a heaviness that other burgers leave you with sometimes. On future visits here, she would be hard pressed to get anything but this burger.

I sometimes go overboard at these build your own burger places. I have to learn that simplicity is the key when trying out a burger place for the first time. Even with that said, I still really enjoyed my creation here at Riders Club. With my burger I added a poached egg, bacon, cheddar cheese, and avocado. This burger was delicious, but I should have gotten it with a runny egg, or not gotten the egg at all because it was overcooked. Like Katie had said, the toppings were all very good, but they did not detract from the beef here. All of the items were very fresh. I would have liked a little more of their house spread on this, but I always like a lot more sauce than the usual burger eater. The bun is also worth noting at Riders Club. It was very soft, but still held the contents of the burger nicely. There are no fries at Riders Club, their burgers are served with kettle chips. To tell you the truth I did not even miss the fries, because I liked the thickness of the kettle chips.

You know that I was not just going to come down here to just have a burger, I also needed to try one of their Chili Dogs ($3.00). This chili dog featured their home cooked chili, sharp cheddar cheese and red onion. The hot dog was good, but nothing that would make me order it again. It was definitely an all beef hot dog with a decent snap to it. The chili was good and smooth, but a little too mild for my taste. The bun was pretty average.

I left Riders Club Cafe very satisfied, and pretty impressed with their burgers. Where do they rank out of all the burgers in OC? They definitely have a place on the Mount Rushmore of OC burgers that I have tried so far. That puts them in the top four. Nothing gets people more heated than when you mention what you consider to be your top burgers. Okay, maybe pizza gets people ramped up as well, but burgers are a very close second. I would definitely make the trek back down to San Clemente for another burger anytime. I would also like to try their carnitas sandwich on future visits. With the cramped quarters of this restaurant it might be a challenge coming here, but it will definitely be worth it once you have one of their burgers.

Out of five surfboards, (not only because the city of San Clemente has a number of surfboard manufacturers, but also the San Clemente High School surf team has won numerous national championships), five being best to zero being worst, The Riders Club Cafe gets 3.5 surfboards.

For more information about The Riders Club Cafe, click here:

The Riders Club Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raising a Glass at the Pint House

The Pint House
1547 W. Katella Ave.
Orange, CA 92867

To say that I am excited that hockey is back would be an understatement. Two months into this shortened season, things could not have gone better for me. Not only has my favorite sport come back to life, but my beloved Ducks have been the second best team in all of hockey for most of the season. Going to the games has become fun again. Adding to the excitement of the hockey season are the new restaurants that have opened up near Honda Center since the last time the puck was dropped. The Tilted Kilt has opened in the old Carino's space on Katella. Also in the same center is another new restaurant, and this games location for a pregame meal, the Pint House.

The Pint House takes over where the Auld Irisher was located. The original Pint House opened in Downtown Fullerton in 2009. This new location has been open just six months, and I am sure they are excited to have the hockey crowds come in before and after the games. You would think that with all of the turnover in this shopping center, the operators of this center would be a little more lax about people parking here to go to the games. We have never had a problem, but the security guards in the golf carts make a pretty big show about writing down license numbers and letting people know that they can't park here for the games. If it wasn't for the fans going to the games, some of these new restaurants may suffer the same fate as Carino's, Bob's Big Boy, and the Auld Irisher. It doesn't make sense to drive people away from your shopping center that has certainly had its problems keeping tenants.

Sorry for my little rant. Back to the Pint House. We got here about an hour before the game, and the bar area was packed with fellow Ducks fans, and a couple of Wild fans. I was not sure we were going to have time to eat, but when we approached the hostess stand, she took us right to a table in a room behind the bar. The interior of this restaurant is a lot sleeker than it was when this was the Irisher. That restaurant always seemed a little more dingy, but the Pint House is a little more updated and feels cleaner. We only had about forty minutes to eat before making our walk down Katella to hopefully watch another Ducks win, so let's see how the food turned out for us.

None of the appetizers really caught my eye, so I let Katie order what she wanted. She selected the Soft Pretzels ($6) to start off with. These three large Bavarian style pretzels came with salt on them and a Bechamel-cheese sauce. The pretzels were soft, with a good chew to them. I would have liked the pretzel heated a little more than it was. The bechamel sauce was very mellow, and coated the pretzels nicely. For not being a pretzel kind of guy, I liked these enough to eat one out of the three that we got.

Instead of focusing on the appetizers here, I really wanted to try their salads. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I almost always order a Caesar salad when it is available. This would be the case again at Pint House. The Caesar Salad ($8) started with the normal base of romaine lettuce, croutons, and Parmesan cheese, but then they added grape tomatoes and red onions to make this Caesar their own. I actually liked the inclusion of the red onion here, but it did take away from the feeling that this was a Caesar salad. Also not helping matters here was a very bland house made Caesar dressing. It really added nothing to this salad. On the positive side, this was a very large salad for the price, but I would not get this salad again.

Katie had a little bit better luck with her salad choice here, the side salad version of the Pint House Salad ($3). She was very happy with the freshness of the produce here, along with a very good ranch dressing. Other than that she thought this salad was not earth shattering, but it did satisfy her. Well worth the three dollar price tag.

When the burgers arrived, that is when the Pint House kicked it up a notch. Let's start with mine. I ordered the Black and Bleu Burger with bacon added ($13 + $2 for the bacon). This burger came with caramelized onion, blue cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, and A-1 steak sauce. The burger patty was seasoned with lots of black pepper, and was full of flavor. The toppings each added their own component to this burger as well. The bacon was cooked crisp, and the heavily studded sesame seed bun was sturdy enough to hold all of the contents of the burger. A very satisfying burger experience. With my burger I had the choice of a side item, and I went with the Parmesan garlic fries. These were fried nicely, but the garlic did not really shine through like I had hoped. Still well made fries though.

Katie ordered a burger as well, but her choice was the Napa Burger ($13). This one came stacked with melted brie, sundried tomato, caramelized onions, garlic aioli mayo, and lettuce, with the half pound burger being glazed with a Cabernet demi-glace reduction. Very fancy burger toppings for sure. She thought this burger was very rich with all of these ingredients. The demi-glace was the most memorable part of the burger for her, and she would opt for a different kind of cheese on this next time to help cut down on the richness of this burger.

We usually get dessert, but we were running a little bit behind for the game, and we still had a ten minute walk to get there. The burgers at the Pint House really saved this place for me. I was not too fond of the salad or the pretzel, but their menu is pretty large, so I know I would be able to find other side items and salads that I might like here. I felt the prices were a few dollars too high for the burgers though. My burger was good, but I do not think it was fifteen dollars good. The portion sizes were definitely very generous at the Pint House. The service was very good for us on this night, with one exception. All of the food above came out at the same time. All five plates hit our table at the same time, so I had to juggle my usual eating order so my burger did not get cold. Even with this minor hiccup, we will definitely make the Pint House part of our rotation of restaurants to eat at before Duck's games, as long as our car does not get towed from their parking lot.

Out of five pucks, (because I am happy that hockey is back, and I could not think of anything else), five being best to zero being worst, the Pint House gets 3 pucks.

For more information on locations and menus of the Pint House, click here:

 Pint House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Need to Cry for Us, We are Having Argentine Food

Villa Roma
25254 La Paz Road
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

It always seems to be the case. When it is restaurant week, that is always the week we are the busiest. Whether it be Ducks games, family dinners, or get together with friends, or as was the case for this years Orange County restaurant week, we had all three of these things to do on this very jam packed week. With so much going on it left us with just one night to enjoy the prix fixe meals from some of the top restaurants in OC. With just one night to ourselves, we wanted to experience restaurant week, but we didn't want to travel far from home. So we went to the closest participating restaurant to us, which just happened to be Villa Roma.

Villa Roma is located in Laguna Hills, behind the Hot Off the Grill, and in the same shopping center that has that empty restaurant on the corner that has been many different eateries including Elephant Bar and Yamato. Both of those restaurants are now long gone, but Villa Roma has survived in that same shopping center for close to eight years now. Villa Roma was originally located in Lake Forest back in 1993, but due to the remodeling and closure of the shopping center it was in, it necessitated a move. Also when Villa Roma opened it was strictly an Italian restaurant. Now after several trips to his native Argentina, the owner has incorporated Argentine food, as well as Italian.

We got to Villa Roma a little after six on a Thursday night. Coming from the outside, this restaurant is deceptively large. There is about twenty tables in the spacious dining room. A long bar off to one side, and they even have a market selling Argentine items, sandwiches, and wine. While we were eating here they switched from 80's music coming through the speakers, to live music standards played by a guitar wielding singer. During our visit the restaurant got to be more busy, but was never more than half full. Most tables were here to try the OC Restaurant Week menu, so let's see if this dinner was worth sacrificing a rare night at home for us.

Before we even ordered, this bread basket was placed before us. When it was placed in front of us my first thought was that this could have fed five people, not just Katie and I. Of course we took this as a challenge and ate the whole basket. The bread was soft on the inside, with a sturdy crust on the outside. In lieu of butter, we used the oil and vinegar provided on the table.

The restaurant week menu at Villa Roma featured four courses for $30. A really great deal. It started with our choice of appetizers. Of the three that were offered, I knew it was never in doubt that Katie would choose the Insalata Caprese. This appetizer started out with sliced tomatoes topped with buffalo mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Katie was pretty impressed by the serving size of this starter. The thick cuts of tomato and mozzarella were both very fresh, and started Katie's meal off perfectly.

Much like how Katie's appetizer choice was never in doubt, mine never was either. The Empanada and Bruschetta was calling my name from the moment I saw this menu. The empanada was one of the best I have had. They come with either chicken, beef or spinach, and of course I selected the beef. The whole empanada was so well made from the great crust, to the not overly seasoned beef inside. These lacked the greasiness that I have had with other run-ins with other empanadas. I usually hesitate to get bruschetta, because my Mom always makes a big deal over me having something with tomatoes, since she knows my disdain for the fruit. I guess I will have to live with the gentle ribbing once again. This bruschetta featured lots of garlic, while not focusing too much on the tomatoes. Also making this even better, was the nice crunch that the bread had. I may never be a tomato guy, but this was a good bruschetta.

Onto course number two, the soup and salad portion of the evening. Katie had the Ensalada Mixta. This mixed green salad also included tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives, Parmesan cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing. The garlic flavor in the dressing really gave this salad a boost. It was also was helped by the fact that the produce was very fresh here. Katie went as far as calling this salad, "scrumptious". I think that means she liked it.

Lately I have turned into a soup kind of guy. At Villa Roma the same held true when I ordered the Minestrone Soup. This Italian vegetable soup was a little on the mellow side. I was asked if I wanted Parmesan cheese with this, and who would ever say no to cheese, definitely not me. The cheese brought the soup a needed flavor boost. The soup would have been okay on its own, but the cheese made this even better. This minestrone soup had a lot of veggies in this large bowl.

I have been with Katie for four years, and this is the first time I have seen her order eggplant. This Melanzane ala Parmigiana had a real eggplant lasagna feel to it. The eggplant was sauteed with ricotta cheese, herbs, and onions, then topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce. Katie was not too fond of this plate. She thought that this was a very bland eggplant, and the sauce needed more spice. This was served with a penne marinara, which Katie described as cooked well, but the sauce was very watery.

Since Villa Roma is an Italian/Argentine restaurant, and because Katie already got something off of the Italian portion of the menu, I had the Entrana Villa Roma. When I think of Argentine food, I always think of skirt steak and chimichurri. For those of you that are unsure what chimichurri is, it is a sauce traditionally made up of finely chopped parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and red or white wine vinegar. It really goes well with steak. The chimichurri was very well made here, but the steak is what I had issues with. I know that skirt steak is not the best cut of beef, but this one did have some good parts to it. The middle part of the meat was very good and tender, but the ends were riddled with fat, and not cooked well at all. The serving size was very generous, but if it was not for the chimichurri sauce, the meat would have had a hard time standing on its own. This was paired with roasted potatoes and vegetables. The veggies were in big hunks and cooked nicely, while the potatoes needed to be a little more crisp, and brought to the table warmer.

We finally made it to course number four, dessert. The Housemade Flan Tiramisu sounded interesting, but we did not detect any hint of flan with this. The tiramisu was light, and not overly drenched in espresso. The mascapone was just right, and this was not as wet as some tiramisu's can be. A very solid dessert.

I of course saw chocolate as a dessert option, so I took the opportunity to order the Chocolate Mousse. I was surprised when this chocolate mousse came out as a slice, as I was expecting a cup of mousse for some reason. This mousse was accompanied by a raspberry sauce, which helped cut the sweetness of the rich chocolate. I would have liked this a little more if it would have had more of a cookie crust.

I guess after seeing all the food that we got during our visit to Villa Roma, you can say that this OC Restaurant Week deal was well worth the visit. We got all of this food for thirty dollars each, and when I added the individual prices up on the menu, it came to over $40 for each of us. A savings of $20 between us. The food here at Villa Roma was a little hit and miss. We both liked our starters and some other parts of the meal, but the entrees failed us. They were not awful, but both of us would probably get something else on future visits here. Dinners on their regular menu hover right around the $20 mark, which might be a tad high for this restaurant. The service we had on this night was very good. Even as the restaurant got busier as the night went on, our waiter and bussers took great care of us. Wish we had more time to visit other restaurants during OC Restaurant Week, but like I have said almost three straight years, there is always next year.

Out of five horses, (because the national sport of Argentina is not soccer, but a sport called, "pato", which is played on horseback, and is a mix between polo and basketball), five being best to zero being worst, Villa Roma gets 3 horses.

For more information on Villa Roma, click here:

Villa Roma Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fueling Up at the Filling Station

Filling Station
201 N. Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866

Sometime a repeat visit is deemed necessary. Some restaurants are more known for their breakfasts, rather than the lunches they serve, while sometimes just the opposite is true. This will be our second trip to the Filling Station. We made our first visit almost a year and a half ago for lunch. You can read that review here. The lunch was pretty standard, but I had heard that breakfast was the thing to get at the Filling Station.

Lucky for me, my usual dining partner when I am in Downtown Orange had morning tutoring to do at Chapman University, so Chris suggested we try the breakfast at the Filling Station. We got to the Filling Station at 9 on a recent Thursday morning. The weather was a little crisp, but we chose to grab a seat on the patio, just like the last time we visited. The patio borders Glassell, and has a great view of the downtown Orange hustle and bustle, (okay not exactly New York or Boston, but there are some people walking by).

For those of you that do not know, the Filling Station got its name because back in the day this used to be a gas station. Now they are more known for filling peoples stomachs, instead of filling their tanks. I was excited to try their breakfasts here, and wanted to see if they were worth all of the hype. Let's see how it all worked out for Chris and I.

If there is one thing I have learned about my Cousin Chris on our dining adventures through Orange, it is that he does not really eat a lot. Okay, he might eat like a normal person, but compared to me, he eats like a bird. Just kidding big guy. Chris opted to get the Belgian Waffle with Banana added ($7.25). This was a good sized waffle, but I could have finished this off rather quickly. Chris felt this waffle was better than average and that the banana was fresh. Other than that he really did not have too much to say about his breakfast.

Okay now this is more like it. I love breakfast, and if my breakfast doesn't come on two plates, then I don't feel like I have enough food to start my day. At the Filling Station I had three plates, so I had some high hopes that this would at least fill me up. The Cinnamon French Toast Breakfast ($9.75) comes with two slices of cinnamon french toast, two eggs, and either two strips of  bacon or two sausage links. The bacon and eggs were okay here. It is kind of hard to make these two items stand out too much, unless it is really thick bacon, which this was not. The bacon was nice and crisp though. The featured act for this breakfast was to be the cinnamon french toast. I ordered this because many of the reviews on Yelp mentioned the french toast. They use Hawaiian bread for their french toast here. I liked the sweetness of the toast, but I did not get much in the way of cinnamon with this. This french toast was rather pedestrian. It did not really stand out too much for me. It was not bad, just average. To round out the breakfast, and get a serving of vegetables I ordered a side of Hash Browns ($3) These hash browns were nice and crisp which I liked, and they were not too greasy, so they were almost healthy for me.

The Filling Station was a decent place to have breakfast, but just like their lunches, they failed to produce that wow factor, that would justify a long drive to downtown Orange. If I were in the area again, and wanted breakfast, I would still come back to the Filling Station, but I would probably try one of their specialty items that they have listed on the menu, and forgo the french toast. The patio is a really nice place to sit, and if you can not be parted from your dog, the patio is canine friendly as well. Glad I had the chance to visit the Filling Station again, and it is always great to catch up with my cousin Chris.

Out of five squeegee's, (because I always seem to hit the gas stations that don't have squeegee's), five being best to zero being worst, the Filling Station gets 2.5 squeegee's.

For more information about the Filling Station, click here:

Filling Station on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Trip Down the Coast For Breakfast

RJ's Cafe
25001 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Dana Point, CA 92629

Our winter this year in OC has been one of the mildest in a long time. There have been a few days of temperatures in the 50's and a few days of rain, but for the most part the weather has been great. Especially when you consider the record snow that the eastern part of the country has encountered.

Katie and I decided to take advantage of a nice February morning in the mid 60's, by walking the harbor in Dana Point. Exercise is great and everything , but of course I had alternative motives for doing this. It of course gave us a reason to try a breakfast spot, in a city where we have not been back to for almost a year, Dana Point. After reading the reviews of breakfast places in this seaside town, one place really grabbed our attention, RJ's Cafe.

RJ's is located in the shopping center across from Harpoon Henry's and The Brig. It is a shopping center with wood buildings, and RJ's is kind of hidden from street view. Just look for the crowd of people waiting for a table on weekends. We got to the restaurant at 10:30, and was told it was going to be a twenty minute wait. It was closer to 45 minutes, but the people watching made the time go by quicker than you would think.

RJ's has a nice outside patio that has about ten tables, but we were sat inside the bustling, somewhat cramped dining room. The dining room has about 20 tables, some of which are too close together. They do have more than enough people working here though. I counted at least six wait staff, taking orders, running food, and making sure things were running smoothly. It seemed to be a real team effort. The dining room had a pretty relaxed feel, even though the weekend breakfast rush was in full effect. The menu included almost everything you would expect on a breakfast menu, including some items that RJ's put their own spin on. Let's see what came to our table on this gorgeous southern California winter morning.

One of the items that most people on-line talked about most here was the Apple Cinnamon Stuffed French Toast ($8.25). This is made with French bread, stuffed with cream cheese, and topped with apples and cinnamon. It was then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. I am not the worlds biggest fan of cream cheese, but Katie really seemed to like this better than I did. When I have something like French toast, I want it to be sweet. The cream cheese cut the sweetness too much for me with this. I did like this a little better by adding some maple syrup to my half of it.

After almost four years of being together, sometimes Katie can still surprise me by what she orders. I can not remember another time that she has ordered an Eggs Benedict ($9.25), like she did here. This classic breakfast dish was made the traditional way. Katie was pretty pleased with this plate. She felt the egg was well done, the ham was nice and thick, and the hollandaise sauce was very flavorful. She liked that they were not skimpy with the sauce, so she could mix it into her home fried potatoes.

I am usually more partial to breakfast skillets, which they don't have at RJ's,  so I was relegated to having an omelette. The breakfast menu is very omelette focused here, with a whopping fifteen varieties of this breakfast staple. I eventually settled on the Hole In The Fence Omelette ($8.95). This unusual sounding omelette contained mushrooms, sausage, and jack and cheddar cheeses. This omelette was made with three eggs, and it was pretty tasty. Filled with lots of fillings that were cut in big hunks, this was a very stomach stuffing breakfast. The home fried potatoes could have been fried crisper, and maybe seasoned a little more than they were. A very good omelette though.

It is easy to see why so many people flock to RJ's for breakfasts. They give you a lot of food for the price. Very few of the items are over the double digit mark, and you will definitely leave RJ's very full. I would not hesitate to order any egg dish here, but I would probably forgo the stuffed french toast in favor of the blueberry pancakes on future visits. Even with the busy atmosphere here, our service was pretty good. Food was served promptly, the waitress kept things moving, and they did all this without making us feel rushed. This was a good place to replenish after our walk around the harbor.

Out of five pilgrims, (because Dana Point Harbor contains a replica of Richard Henry Dana's ship, The Pilgrim, which is used as a floating classroom by the the Ocean Institute), five being best to zero being worst, RJ's Cafe gets 3 pilgrims.

For more information about RJ's Cafe, click here:

R.J.'S Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 15, 2013

Learning What Goes On at Second Harvest OC

Second Harvest Food Bank Orange County
8014 Marine Way
Irvine, CA 92618

I have been with my girlfriend Katie for pretty close to four years now. Besides her, one of the things I love the most about her is her family. They are a great, close knit group that has welcomed me into their lives with no hesitation. I might be a handful sometimes, but they never seem to bat an eye. 

One of the members of the family that I have noticed the biggest change in during my close to four years in the family, is Katie's little sister, Emily. When I first came into the picture Emily was still in college, spent many nights on the couch watching TV, and had a strange obsession with Justin Timberlake. Okay, not much has changed, except that she has now graduated college and has a "real" job at Second Harvest Food Bank. I was intrigued to see what went on at a Food Bank, so she was gracious enough to take me on a tour.

We started our tour in the busy parking lot of the food bank. Second Harvest has been located on the old El Toro Marine Base since 2007. The move became necessary after they outgrew their former 53,000 square foot building in the city of Orange. After a long approval process and retrofitting of the warehouse, Second Harvest opened the doors of their new 121,000 square foot building. The facility was definitely busy, as we were standing in the parking lot. Two trucks made their way to the loading docks to drop off food. I was very excited to see the work they do here, so Emily decided to start our tour. 

When the food arrives it comes in on pallets or boxes. The majority of the food that the food bank acquires is from restaurants, grocery stores, food manufacturers, growers, the USDA, and through corporate and individual food drives. 

The food is then placed in milk crates for sorting. This is where the volunteers come in. Groups and individuals check the food for safety, sort and label all the incoming food. Last year the food bank used 10,000 volunteers. Many companies have donated their time at Second Harvest as a way to give back to the community and as a team building experience. 

Once the food is sorted by the volunteers it is then checked into the food banks inventory system, where it can be ordered by Second Harvest non-profit partners. Organizations then have the opportunity to come into the facility to pick it up, or have it delivered to them. 

Some of the sorted food is used in what Second Harvest calls Emergency Food Boxes. These boxes contain staple items, and are distributed to 13,000 families that are in the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. Also, once a year they can provide these boxes to 300 non profit agencies, who in turn distribute them to over 22,000 families. Rather remarkable numbers.

One of the newest features at Second Harvest Food Bank is the creation of Izzy's Corner. This area of the warehouse grew out of the necessity that there was no opportunity for children to donate their time helping out at the food bank. The warehouse at Second Harvest is a very active place, so they needed to have a gated area where girl and boy scout troops, church youth groups, and school aged children could help their peers by packing and sorting thousands of pounds of food for children and families in need.

While we were on our tour, Emily was spewing out many staggering numbers. Orange County may seem affluent, but there are 400,000 people who struggle with hunger. Nearly 35 percent of this group are children.  Other groups who struggle are seniors, single parents, the working poor, the unemployed, and the homeless. 

So how can you get involved? Of course Second Harvest Food Bank accepts monetary funds. For every dollar that is donated, they can provide three meals for the hungry. Ninety cents out of every dollar goes directly to feeding the hungry. You may also choose to donate food, whether through an organized food drive or by dropping off fresh produce, canned foods, or other items in their original packaging to the Second Harvest warehouse. Lastly, you may volunteer your time by choosing to sort and label food,  harvest at the Incredible Edible Park by picking weeds and planting seeds, or if you have any other talents that you feel the people at Second Harvest would benefit from, they would love to hear from you. 

As we ended our tour back where we had started, I saw another truck leaving the warehouse. It made me happy that I knew that another truck was on its way to feeding the hungry of OC. It also made me proud to know that our little Justin Timberlake loving, couch sitting family member, Emily was working at a place that is doing so much good for the community. Very proud of you and your coworkers Em. 

For more information about what goes on at Second Harvest Food Bank Orange County, and to find out how you can help them with their great work, click here: