eating my way through Old Town Orange

I love discovering local treasures while playing "tourist" within my own town. Having lived in Orange County my whole life, it's a humbling experience to realize that I've driven past some amazing places thousands of time, but have never really SEEN them before. And I'm glad that my eyes are finally being opened, little by little. This past weekend, I got the chance to explore some hidden gems of the Orange Circle as a few friends and I participated in a walking food tour of Old Town Orange. Just so I wouldn't get caught up in "work" mode while hanging out with my besties, I left my good camera at home. But I couldn't resist whipping out my iPhone camera to capture a few highlights as we went along.

Here we go...

First up, I just have to say... I LOVE the Orange Circle. The textures and lines of the buildings are amazing... but I'm glad that I finally got the chance to go a little deeper into the heart of the city.

We met inside of the old Wells Fargo building (which I learned is one of the oldest buildings in Orange County). Just look at the beautiful ceiling.

Jen and I, about to get our grub on...

We began with empanadas and plaintains at Felix Continental Cafe. And having skipped breakfast that morning (oops), I couldn't have been happier. My husband being Colombian, I am definitely partial to this food, and it did NOT disappoint. (Side note: I also highly recommend their Cuban sandwich. Your stomach will make yummy noises.)

Then a quick stop into The Enchanted Florist, where the owner (Kate) presented each of us with a gorgeous long-stemmed rose. I have to say, I was very impressed with this place... and Kate. This wasn't just another flower shop. It is definitely unique, as EVERYTHING is custom made. There are no floral arrangements sitting on the shelf just waiting to be brought home or sent to someone. When you call or come in to place an order, the floral arrangement is created from scratch right then and there. It's pretty magical.

Next up was Paris in a Cup... tea salon, market & boutique. It was the most adorable thing I've ever seen. I wish I had pictures of the super-cute tea salon to share, but it was closed for private parties. Instead, we sipped on tea and slurped some baked potato soup, then wandered around their market area inside.

We then crossed the street to Francoli Gourmet... Authentic Northern Italian Cuisine & Specialty Giftstore. I will definitely be coming back. Not only was the food delicious, but the place itself was beautiful, and I felt completely taken care of by Luis, the manager. He is onsite 6 days a week, and says he has a knack for remembering faces and favorite foods ordered. He believes that food is to be enjoyed, and that a good meal should last at least an hour to an hour and a half. (No power-lunches here, people.) And I LOVE how community-minded this restaurant is... all artwork in the restaurant is by a local artist who actually has her studio around the corner. We were thrilled when she actually popped into the restaurant for a minute and we were able to meet her in person!

Next it was off to Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain, which has been an establishment in Orange since 1899. Did you know that it used to be illegal to sell soda water on Sundays? As an alternative on Sunday's, Watson's started selling ice cream sodas minus the soda... which led to what we now know as the traditional ice cream sundae! (You can read even more cool facts here on their site.) While at Watson's, we were treated to some of their famous rice pudding.

We made a quick stop-off in the middle of the Orange Circle, where we learned that the original fountain that used to be here is now resting at the Orange Library & Historic Center. We were also told about how the Orange Circle gets dressed up for Christmas each year, and inevitably... the Baby Jesus gets stolen. So, it's a good thing they happen to keep a couple "spares" on hand. Ha!

Then we were off to The Bruery to enjoy some beer & cheese. I'm not much of a beer person, myself, which was why I was totally surprised to be enjoying our little sampling. I swear it smelled like citrus and was all kinds of yummy.

Next we popped into The Bite Market, a gluten-free and dairy free community grocery store. Bridget, the owner, told us how she has started this market out of necessity... her had been having medical problems where his lungs were filling with fluid and the doctors couldn't figure out why. This issue was ongoing for several months. After visiting with a holistic health provider, she was told that her son was allergic to gluten. And after removing gluten from his diet, his lungs cleared up within 3 DAYS! Wow, pretty amazing, huh? Bridget promotes local products in her store, and we were able to sample one of her gluten & dairy free cookies.

Next up was the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Yum! We were treated to a bite of their "avalanche bar" which contained all kinds of rice krispie and peanut butter goodness.

The next stop was the Orange Candy Co. And this was like a blast from the past... all kinds of candies and characters from my childhood surrounded me.  We all sampled a piece of ZOTS candy, laughing at each others' expressions as the candy started to fizz in our mouths.

We next headed to the Citrus City Grille, where we were treated to french onion soup and their delicious rosemary bread.

Our last stop on the tour was at Cafe Lucca for some gelatto. Because everyone needs to finish with dessert, right? And how sweet it was... I sampled their chocolate-covered banana flavor and was in heaven.

It's a good thing we ended our tour at this time, because we were all stuffed!

If you're looking for something a bit different to do, and want a taste of local flavor, I highly recommend taking this food tour yourself. And if you get Linda as your guide, be sure to tell her I said "HI."