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O.C. ITINERARY

How Campus Found Its Grove

And don't miss the art, quake gear, tofu and gifts.

May 13, 1999|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Yes, Virginia, orange groves still exist in Orange County. In fact, now might be the ideal time to visit one of the county's oldest original (non-replanted) Valencia groves because the fruit will ripen soon. It covers more than 30 acres and dates from 1939.

You'll find the grove at Irvine Valley College, where you can do lots more besides. Then check out Arbor Village Center, where you can enjoy distinctive Korean fare at Irvine Tofu House and amusing Japanese gifts at Kitty House.

MORNING 1

Irvine Valley College devotes a third of its 100 acres to Valencia orange trees; at 125 trees per acre, that comes out to thousands of trees. The grove, deeded from the Irvine Ranch, dates back about 60 years. The school contracts out its care and juicing and benefits from a commission on juice sales. You can visit, but you can't pick.

Elsewhere on the campus, you can view exhibits at the school's art gallery and monitor Southern California earthquake data tremor by tremor. (Campus maps are available in Administration, A-100.)

Two earthquake measuring devices can be seen in Physical Sciences (B-200). A seismograph with a remote sensor in the San Gabriel Mountains shows local activity instantly; CUBE (Caltech USGS Broadcast of Earthquakes) monitors all of Southern California, indicating location, depth and magnitude within a minute and displaying data for 30 days.

Gallery Hall, in Humanities and Fine Arts (A-300), provides a venue for faculty art through Friday and student works from May 20 to Sept. 3.

A consignment car fair takes place Saturdays and Sundays (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in a lot flanked by the orange trees; you can sell your car, and the school gets a percentage.

On the first Sunday of every month (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), scores of antique dealers hawk their wares in a lot facing Irvine Center Drive.

The first Saturday of the month--hold on to your chapeau--you can learn to play petanque. (It's the French version of boccie ball.) At 10:30 a.m., a champion player offers free lessons on a petanque court next to the school's athletic fields.

LUNCH 2

Soups at simple, cheery Irvine Tofu House, in the Arbor Village Center, come in oyster, kimchi (pickled cabbage), pork, meat dumpling, mushroom and beef-and-clam versions ($6.99). Each includes a pancake-like "Korean pizza" appetizer, half a dozen condiments, such as kimchi and marinated squid, and rice. Crack an egg into the roiling soup. The waitress pours water into the rice bowl and leaves it soaking; once the soup dishes are cleared, she serves it as a finale to the meal.

You'll find inexpensive dim sum at nearby A&J Restaurant (Suite D, [949] 786-3585). Items start at 75 cents and top out at $4.15 for noodle soups such as beef tendon or shredded pork with salted cabbage. O'Shine Cafe (Suite H, [949] 559-5888) offers a melange of items, not only adventurous dim sum, such as hot, spicy pig's kidney, but also Russian borscht, Japanese mussels, Provencal lamb chops and African spicy pork chops.

AFTERNOON 3 4

For snacks, duck into Champion Food Co. for Shanghai puffy dried pork, spicy beef jerky, black chili bean curd, dried star fruit, white prune or tangy olive. The company prides itself on its wedding cakes. Slake that thirst with tapioca ice tea or a watermelon milkshake. A vending machine dispenses "bendable smile aliens."

Kitty House specializes in Sanrio's Hello Kitty line, and it's not just for kids: Consider the Hello Kitty toilet seat cover, miniature cello and dustpan. The store also carries non-Kitty products and characters. Air fresheners come in rose and squash, scents come in the shapes of windmills and tiger-striped airplanes, and candles are shaped like succulents, lamps and raspberries. Non-Kitty characters include Pikachu pocket monsters and Babe--don't mention O'Shine's hot spicy pig's kidney.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

1) Irvine Valley College

5500 Irvine Center Drive, (949) 451-5277. (Orange groves near Jeffrey Road and Barranca Parkway.)

Campus open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

2) Irvine Tofu House

14475 Jeffrey Road, Suite B, (949) 786-2412.

10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

3) Champion Food Co.

14775 Jeffrey Road, Suite L, (949) 857-6686.

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

4) Kitty House

14775 Jeffrey Road, Suite I, (949) 559-6890.

10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily.

Buses: OCTA Bus No. 75 (Santa Ana-Laguna Hills) runs along Jeffrey Road, Walnut Avenue north of Jeffrey Road and Irvine Center Drive south of Jeffrey Road. Bus No. 175 (Irvine) runs along Jeffrey Road, and on Walnut Avenue and Irvine Center Drive north of Jeffrey Road. Bus No. 673 (Irvine-El Toro Marine Corps Air Station) runs on Irvine Center Drive south of Jeffrey Road, and on Sand Canyon Avenue north of Irvine Center Drive toward the Marine Corp Air Station.

Parking: Irvine Valley College offers parking in lots with meters and permit dispensers. Arbor Village Center provides free lot parking.

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