5 Reasons To Be Excited About Summertime In Orange County!

Star Forman

In a county grouped by fundamental divisions—North County vs. South County, Republican vs. Democrat, Stanton vs. everyone else—there is one thing nearly all of us can agree on: that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido is a sell-out. Oh, and that summer here is bliss, better than anyplace else in the States.

This season is our communion, a time when we all, unburdened by social definition, come together for shared experiences at the same places—the Orange County Fair, the cliffs of Laguna, the blistering heat of Hootenanny—we’ve patronized for decades. Muslim, evangelical, La Habran, San Clementean—we all gather for about three months of celebrations, chilled treats, festivals, or acts of kindness and camaraderie we wouldn’t think of at any other time. But our communities are so diverse that some activities have yet to become an Orange County (and Long Beach) summer tradition along the lines of the U.S. Open of Surfing or decrying the Irvine Co.‘s continuing development of our agrarian past. The following is a list of the 100 greatest things about summer in la naranja: some are familiar, some not, all necessary to enjoy the summer at its fullest. Now excuse us while we drink away another middling Angels’ season.

1. IT’S WHEN TABLE SETTINGS BECOME COOL
It’s only during summer that table settings become cool, and it only happens at the Orange County Fair, which offers county residents the opportunity to create tablescapes (curse you, Sandra Lee, for that term’s popularity) to be judged by etiquette mavens with levels and rulers. The nearly lost art of which glasses belong on which side of the plate and which forks are which get revived and interpreted through a breathtaking array of colors. The decorations are as creative—there was once a “Second Breakfast” table setting meant as an homage to the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—as the menus that accompany them are horrifying. The Orange County Fair at the Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa; www.ocfair.com. July 14-Aug. 15. Remember this information: We’re only repeating it this once—and right at the top.

2. NAENGMYEON TIME!
When the mercury heads into the upper 90s and Garden Grove Boulevard gets so hot the pavement shimmers, when the only sound in the afternoon is the humming of air-conditioning units, that’s when it’s naengmyeon time. Naengmyeon is a Korean dish made of cold buckwheat noodles with various toppings—slices of beef, a slice of Korean pear, half a hardboiled egg, vegetables—and it comes in two varieties, both of which beat the heat. Bibim naengmyeon (literally, “mixed buckwheat noodles”) is mixed with a spicy sauce made of chile-spiked bean paste, which belies the cold temperature at which the dish is served; the resulting sweats could make anyone forget the heat of the day outside. If sweatin’ to the chiles doesn’t sound appealing, mul naengmyeon (“water buckwheat noodles”) is offered as a huge, stainless-steel bowl of the chewy noodles served in broth so cold it should have ice chips floating in it. There’s no meal more refreshing in the summer. Try the version at Morangak. The bizarre thing for a dish so perfectly suited for a blazing-hot summer is that it’s traditionally a wintertime dish in North Korea, where it was invented. 9651 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-1177.

3. MEXICAN FLAGS AT THE HB 4TH OF JULY PARADE
The Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade is famous (and famously long) and full of American flags. But in a subtle reminder that California’s history doesn’t only include the Stars and Stripes, the Colegio de Bachilleres Plantel Baja California in Mexicali come down Main Street every year in black uniforms with a giant Mexican flag. They’re a great band and draw a lot of cheers, but in the years it hits 80 degrees before 10 a.m., those black uniforms must be punishing. Along Pacific Coast Highway from Eighth to Main streets, then up Main to Yorktown, Huntington Beach; www.hb4thofjuly.org. July 4, 10 a.m.

4. CANNING OUR BACK YARD’S BOUNTY
Summertime means fruit—and tons of it, from strawberries to plums, apricots to figs. It’s hard to not splurge when the heady scent of fresh peaches invades the nostrils, but the penalty for overbuying is the heartbreak of moldy fruit a few days later. Learn to can your own fruit, and enjoy the taste of summer in bleak February. Canning is very popular in a down economy; nearly every grocery store and hardware store in Orange County carries a wide selection of supplies, including glass jars. Don’t know how to get started? The Internet is a treasure trove, but several groups offer canning classes on an occasional basis—Google ’em! And if your local searching brings you to classes by Delilah Snell, significant other of our own Gustavo Arellano, well, tell her we said hi!

5. ORANGE INTERNATIONAL STREET FAIR
What do you get when you put tens of thousands of people in the Orange Circle? The unofficial end of summer in Orange County, the Orange International Street Fair. While the decorations are cheesy (imagine that, someone using a capital sigma for the Es in “GREEK”) and the parking absolutely hellacious, the music is good, and the food from the organizations in the middle of the street are a cut above the usual festival food. Where else can you get Norwegian pastries and Swiss cervelas in OC? There’s beer in plastic cups throughout, sit-down beer at three ends (at the brick-and-motor Bruery Provisions, Haven Gastropub and the District—you’re on your own for the east side of Chapman), and more crafts and things to buy than any person ever needs. Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, Orange; orangestreetfair.org. Sept. 2-4.

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