I took a bit of time today to reflect on the past 12 months and came to the conclusion that 2011 has been a truly unprecedented year for ‘foodies’ in Orange County. We have witnessed an explosion across the entire gourmet spectrum with phenomenal new restaurants, bars, farmers’ markets, culinary shops, coffee houses and food trucks bursting on to the scene.

And as I look back over the year, I feel incredibly lucky to have met so many kind, talented people who have invited me behind-the-scenes and given me access to some of the very best culinary experiences that Orange County has to offer. 

Below is a Taste of 2011 – a small selection of some of my favorite Anne Watson Photography food photographs that I’ve had the opportunity to shoot.  It’s been a great year – Thank you to all of you who have made it possible. Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store. Happy New Year!  

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SoCo Farmers’ Market at The OC Mart Mix / SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa offers some of the freshest organic, local produce that Southern California has to offer. Open every Saturday from 9am – 2pm, this market has quickly become my weekly Saturday destination. Photo: Watermelon from Menos Farms
The most authentic, delicious Chimichurri around is made fresh daily by the chefs at Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels – the Argentine Gourmet Food Truck. Photo: Gallons of Fresh Parsley & Chopped Garlic by Piaggio
All Hail the Mighty Beer.  One of my favorite new Downtown Santa Ana haunts – Chapter One: The Modern Local has one of the best handpicked selection of beers from around the globe I’ve experienced. Photo: Green Flash ‘Le Freak’ Belgium IPA available at Chapter One
Shattering all preconceived notions of what ‘Vegan’ cuisine looks & tastes like – Stephanie Morgan and the ladies of the Seabirds truck know how to make vegan = delicious.  Photo: Vegan Waldorf Salad by Seabirds
The guys at 24 Carrots Catering opened the doors this year to their much-anticipated Bistro 24. Only the geniuses in the kitchen at 24 Carrots can make cheesecake crust look as appealing as the filling! Photo: Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust at Bistro 24
This November, Chef Andrew Gruel & the masters of sustainable seafood in the kitchen of the SlapFish Gourmet Food Truck won the Farm to Food Truck Challenge II at SoCo Farmers’ Market with this ‘Flight of Seafood’ dish using fresh ingredients gathered from the Market. Photo: Lobster Doughnut with apple & leek, Seared Scallop with almond butter & Brussel leaf salad, and Black Cod with a beet & carrot slaw by SlapFish

Some of the nicest people I’ve met in 2011 created one of the most delicious dishes I’ve tasted all year – Christie, Vinnie & Eddie of the Home Skillet Gourmet Food Truck make this beautiful Pork Belly Slider, a signature Home Skillet Dish. Photo: Pork Belly Slider
One of my favorite new shops of all-time recently opened in The OC Mart Mix in Costa Mesa – Savory Spice Stop offers one of the widest selections of spices from around the globe. A culinary enthusiast’s dream.  Photo: Black Lava Sea Salt from Hawaii at Savory Spice Stop
This year, I had the opportunity to shoot the Grand Opening of one of Downtown Santa Ana’s newest hot-spots – brainchild of Executive Chef Jason Quinn (of The Lime Truck), The Playground.  And, it was there that I tasted the BEST cheeseburger. Ever.  Photo: The Playground Burger
One of the newest Gourmet Food Truck’s on the GFT Scene also happens to be one of my all-time favorite trucks – the amazing Taco Maria. Chef Carlos Salgado creates some of the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever seen out of this truck’s kitchen – Michelin Star-Quality fare using the freshest ingredients that will blow your mind. Photo: Jardineros Taco (beautiful Roasted Pumpkin & Black Bean vegetarian taco) by Taco Maria
2011’s best new coffee shop opened in Orange County in May – exploding onto the scene, Portola Coffee Lab’s baristas create some of the best-tasting and most beautiful coffee drinks I’ve ever had (and, I lived for years in Italy – seriously, Portola’s espresso is THAT good.)  Photo: Latte Art by Portola Coffee Lab