Taste, texture, flavor and palatability: Chef Marc hits the mark on each at 230 Forest, where seafood rules

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderfully talented and genuinely very nice guy Marc Cohen, owner and chef of Watermarc here in Laguna Beach. That tasting experience goes down as one of the best according to my two children, both of whom thoroughly enjoyed their visit. As did I.

However Watermarc was not where Chef Marc’s Laguna Beach career began. In 1996, while working at the highly respected Bluepoint Grill in Washington, he met Richard and Terry Rothbard, Laguna locals, who were vacationing at the time, and were so blown away by Chef Marc’s food that they approached him to head west, bringing his talent and his passion with him here to their hometown.

Despite Laguna Beach being so incredibly beautiful, leaving home is not easy and I totally empathize with Chef Marc when he talks about that move as being super hard. It is indeed very difficult to move yourself and your partner such a long way from extended family, particularly when you have a young family yourself.  

In addition Marc had to open a brand new restaurant, coordinate the renovation, devise the menu, and hire staff, as well as familiarizing himself with the local community. It was a huge risk, often taking him away from his wife Michelle for up to 17 hours a day. 

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Once a market, 230 Forest is now a contemporary and comfortable restaurant

230 Forest Avenue had never been a restaurant – in fact it was a market, originally called Forest Avenue Market. 

The building itself is more than 100 years old and is classified as an historical building, meaning that when Chef Marc and his partners talked about naming the restaurant they were restricted. They could only use the number and street name: they could however ditch the word “market,” as it no longer was one.  

230 Forest Avenue was a hit from day one, and it’s easy to assume that’s because of its great location. It is indeed in a great spot in downtown Laguna. But while many restaurants have tried and failed, 230 Forest has remained one of the liveliest, busiest and most well respected places to eat and the reasons why are clearer with every bite of the delicious food they serve.

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The lobster rolls are just one reason 230 Forest is so memorable

When Marc opened Forest Avenue, he really wanted to create a New York Bistro kind of vibe, and it certainly is just that. Renovated in the summer of 2016, the restaurant is contemporary, yet comfortable. 

The bar area is warm and inviting with the small kitchen and prep area fully visible to the customer. The tables are evenly spaced; the art hung on the walls is local and in keeping with the ambience.

Like Watermarc, the majority of the staff at 230 Forest has been around for a long time.  Having worked in the food industry in the past, I have seen how hard it can be to keep staff. I asked Chef Marc his secret to hiring and maintaining his staff as well as he appears to achieve in all of his restaurants.

Respect appears to be the key. Chef Marc is the first to admit that he expects a lot from his staff but he also respects every single role his team members play. Having worked every part in the restaurant and hospitality industry during his life, Chef Marc realizes that there is no better job and as long as all play their role right, all should be treated with respect. 

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Fried Brussels sprouts and braised bacon are cooked in lime, sea salt and clover honey: this kind of dish sets 230 Forest apart

Marc also hires right. He looks for professional, personable people, people who have extensive knowledge of the menu and his local diners and has the right personality to deliver his unique food. Our server was Jorge, also known as KoKo, who has been there for the past 13 years. He was funny, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, thus making the night’s experience even better.

My experience at Watermarc meant that I had no doubt that the food here would be exceptional. Chef Marc has a rule that every plate in every restaurant must have the following components: taste, texture, flavor and palatability.

My Food Journey at 230 Forest

What I noticed about 230 Forest is that the menu is seafood heavy. Chef Marc is very proud and confident of his seafood dishes and sources all his seafood from the best places – Hawaii, Japan, Alaska and Maine, to name but a few. Marc also ensures that he focuses on seasonal items to give his customers the best flavors. 

I started the evening with fried Brussels sprouts and braised bacon. These are cooked with lime, sea salt and clover honey and are absolutely to die for. The sweetness of the clover honey and the sourness of the lime, adds more flavor to the bacon and Brussels sprouts. Perfection. 

It was then onto the New England lobster rolls, which were warm Parker House rolls, filled with delicious fresh meaty lobster and sprinkled with sea salt. These were light, tasty and very more-ish. 

For the entrée, I decided to go with Jorge’s recommendation and try the special blackened salmon dish, which was served with a sweet potato hash and a charred salsa served with a corn nage. This dish was phenomenal: the fish was so fresh, the flavors so complementary and the presentation so exquisite. 

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Talk about taste, texture, flavor and palatability: the scallops have it all

It was then time to try the Day Boat scallops, served with a corn risotto, braised bacon and a tomato salad. Yet again Chef Mark has the flavor combinations down. The textures worked so well together and the scallops were fresh tasty and cooked just right.

And then: dessert. And lucky me, my tasting was the night before they launched their new dessert menu. I allowed Marc to decide which dessert I should try and quite frankly he could not have picked better one for me.  

Because I’m a huge crème brulee fan, Marc chose the pistachio crème brulee served with cranberry sorbet and biscotti. This was amazing, there was nothing left on my plate. That’s all I can say about that. 

My time at 230 Forest did not disappoint. Marc and his staff were attentive, professional and focused on ensuring I had the best food and the best time. 

I love the look and feel of the space and the history behind the building.  I hope to be a customer for the next 26 years and more.

230 Forest is located (not unexpectedly) at 230 Forest Ave. Call (949) 494 2545 for reservations. Website is www.230forestavenue.com.

Suzie’s ARTiculation

Off season, Laguna’s artists are on (part deux)


While I’m busy counting the minutes, days, months, etc. until Laguna’s Festival Season, feeling off, our artists have it going on. Check it out!

David Milton, “I just participated in the Laguna Museum Auction 2017 last week. I enjoy contributing to the LAM event and have been active for 10 years, always a lovely and worthwhile night. My painting was already sold when I arrived. I had a great time.

“I am working of course on my new body of work for the upcoming Festival of Arts and Sawdust Festivals. With the new grounds going in, we anticipate an interesting summer, with a brand new 21st century look.

“I am also working on my newest painting for submittal to a museum show in Wisconsin called Birds in Art. It is an international competition with an avian twist.” 

Elizabeth McGhee,“Things never really slow down after summer for me. I am on the board for the Artists’ Fund at the Festival of Arts. We are already preparing for our Art-To-Go fundraiser this summer and we will be hosting professional development seminars/panel discussions this spring as part of our Education branch. 

“I am teaching art at the CSP Youth shelter through LOCA and teaching private drawing and painting lessons out of my studio. 

“I am entering regional shows too. I will have a painting at the Autry Museum as part of the California Art Club’s 106th Gold Medal Exhibition. My painting ‘Odd Duck’ was part of Laguna Art Museum’s ‘California Cool’ silent art auction.

“Plus I am busy painting getting ready for this next summer at the Festival of Arts.”

Vinita Voogd, “Besides continuing to work in my studio, I’m teaching all levels of printmaking at Golden West College in Huntington. I also serve on the board for LOCA, the Los Angeles Printmaking Society, the LAPS Foundation, and the FOA Artist Advisory Committee. And I’m the manager/art educator at the Festival for all printmaking activities and workshops. 

“I was also closely involved in a fundraising effort for the Glennwood House. In January, I was invited to teach workshops in a printmaking studio in Wales, UK. In April, I will be organizing the GWC Rock Your Block event, where my students will be printing their large format woodblocks outdoors with a three-ton steamroller.” 

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Photo provided by the artist


Hedy Buzan will be featured in a group show at BC Space in spring, exhibiting works that address the outcome of the presidential election…feelings, etc.

Hedy Buzan, “I am exploring a group of paintings and mixed media pieces that are more purely abstract than earlier works, as well as continuing to explore abstracted landscape. I have a piece in the Saddleback Faculty show on campus from this series.

“On a completely different note, I’ve been completely torn up about the presidential election outcome. Jennifer Griffiths invited several women, including me, to comment with artwork that combines words and images for an exhibition that will mount this spring at BC Space Gallery.

“I’m a big history buff so I am working on a series of small collages that feature portraits of women whose writings have influenced American history and put forward a progressive agenda.” 

Reem Kahlil, “I enjoy the beautiful days and amazing sunsets and take in the beauty our town has to offer. I feel much gratitude to live here in Laguna Beach. 

“I mostly am an art educator passing on different mediums to youth in our community during off season. Along with educating myself to constantly evolve with my work. Being a fiber artist, I like to change with different ways to exhibit my works during festival season, from clothing design to two dimensional, trying to stay true to my sustainable art form.” 

Tom Swimm, “Just had opening reception for ‘Visions’ solo exhibition at Pacific Edge Gallery on Feb 11, great turnout and many sales. Also, three large commissioned works for local collectors as well as another commission painting for a new hotel in Palm Desert. In addition to painting projects, also will be teaching oil and acrylics at San Clemente Art Supply and having a weekend acrylic painting weekend in March.”

Cherril Doty, “This, for me, is really the ‘on’ season. It is when art gets created, creative stretches are made, writing is done, mixed media art workshops are planned and executed. The summer festival season in many ways feels more off-season as I sit there enjoying what goes on around me.”

Marsh Scott, “I just got back from a major public art install, ‘Connectivity,’ in Oklahoma City, a major sculpture commissioned as a result of a national Public Art competition.Now, I’m in Washington, D.C.”

Until next time…so much off-season art, so little time!

Play misty for me – please! – Laguna has been looking so magical on recent mornings…

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Photo by Scott Brashier

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

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Photo by Joshua Bruckner


Fred Scott Gould Jr

November 25, 1969 – January 3, 2017

Fred Scott Gould, 47, passed away January 3, 2017 in Temecula, CA after a long battle with medical problems. Fred was a runner, former collegiate rugby player and avid movie fan.

Born on November 25, 1969 to Zenith M Gould (later Zenith M Rocco) and raised from age 9 by his stepfather Mark E Rocco. 

Fred was enamored with coins and numbers from an early age. It is no surprise he became a very talented financial analyst for several Fortune 500 companies. He lived and worked in Atlanta, GA, Allentown, PA, and Princeton, NJ before he landed in Laguna Beach, CA to be with Mark and Zenith. He moved to Temecula, CA for a brief period for work.

Fred was born in Portland, ME and raised in Atlanta, GA. Fred attended Boston University and Auburn University graduating with a Finance Degree. 

Fred could make you laugh by using movie soundbites to answer questions. Fred especially loved Laguna Beach. He loved the people, beach, surf and sunsets.  

Fred was cremated. His ashes were spread in a place he and his mother loved in a private service.

Fred is survived by his mother, stepfather and uncles Michael and Robert Schmerbeck of Pennsylvania. Fred was deeply loved and will be missed!

Dennis’ Tidbits


February 17, 2017

Storm parade on steroids as monster moisture pool moves into S Cal

The Pacific is on steroids as the storm parade continues with a monster moisture pool waiting in the wings, setting its sights on central and Southern California this time. The core of the latest low will be a real low-rider probably making landfall somewhere around Point Conception with barometric readings way down there at around 29.20 inches of mercury on your standard aneroid barometer. 

A majority of our Pacific storms usually make landfall somewhere between the Bay area and the Washington and Oregon coast and we get the trailing cold front with the barometer rarely sinking below say, 29.60 inches but this one is really far south with a central pressure of 29.25 and the low continues to intensify as it tracks to the east.

It’s a rare occasion when locally the barometer goes below 29.50. In all my 59 years of documenting this stuff, it’s happened maybe a dozen times. 

The lowest reading I’ve logged is 29.02 in late January of 2010, 29.11 on February 10, 1978, and 29.21 on March 1, 1983. More often than not, local barometric pressure locally on any given day is somewhere between 29.80 and 30.20. Here at 6 p.m. on Thursday it’s down to 29.62 and dropping fast.

This particular rain event will be our heaviest yet to date with 3-6 inches in most lowland areas, up to 10 inches in places like Ojai and Santa Clarita or even Santa Ana Canyon at the base of Santiago Peak as orographics really come into play. 

Snow levels are quite high as this moisture is sub tropical in nature so locally snow levels will be as high as 8,000 feet dropping to 6,000 once the front passes through. The Sierras are going to get really hammered again, especially the southern Sierras from Mammoth south.

We’re on a healthy pace to collect 20 inches of rain this season and maybe quite a bit more than 20 at the rate we’re going as more cyclones are out there in the Big Pond getting their act together. 

Here in Laguna most computer models rounded off see at least 3.25 inches before all is said and done. If that pans out, our 2016-17 total will be upwards of 18 inches and counting. Our last really wet season was 2004-05 with over 30 inches. 

Stay tuned! 

See y’all next week! ALOHA!

Barbara’s Column

Woman’s Club honors 2016 Mayor Steve Dicterow



You could call the Outgoing Mayor’s Luncheon at the Woman’s Club a standing room-only event. 

Guests at the luncheon rose to their feet to applaud 2016 Mayor Steve Dicterow at the conclusion of his remarks. The speech was Dicterow at his best – a rousing call to public service, and acknowledgement of the folks who supported him and his vision for his hometown – a Who’s Who of Laguna.

“I know everyone here,” he said in wonderment. “This is so meaningful to me.”

Dicterow first paid homage to folks seated at the head table. 

“The most important one is my wife Katrina,” said Dicterow. “No one is stronger at keeping me level when things don’t go so good.”

He introduced his law partner, Bill Levin – Dicterow is a graduate of USC Law School – and close friends, former Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman and the Edens.

Grossman and Dicterow meet almost weekly and usually find something about which to argue.   

Next in line for kudos: the City Council.

He deplored the lack of civility in politics and lauded the council for avoiding it. 

“We can be 180 degrees opposed but we can still work together,” Dicterow said.

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Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd congratulates Steve Dicterow, with Anne McGraw, president of the Woman’s Club, looking on

Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd read the city’s proclamation honoring Dicterow, which included a “whereas” ending the proclamation out of respect for Dicterow’s firm stance on time limits for speakers at council meetings.

“He had two rules (for the public): if there were 10 or less, they could speak for three minutes; If there more than 10, they got two minutes,” said Boyd. 

Architect Leslie LeBon, who has served as Dicterow’s campaign manager, joked that she purposely did not bring her 50-minute power-point program to the luncheon.

Speaking off the cuff, LeBon complimented Dicterow’s leadership skills and integrity, as well as his ability to bring citizens together.

Dicterow believes it is the obligation of every citizen to be involved in their community. 

“We live in a democracy and the only way it can succeed is if ordinary people participate,” he said in the interview written by Robin Pierson

He first dipped his toes in Laguna’s political waters as a board member of the North Laguna Community Association, at a time when neighborhood groups carried big sticks in town. 

“We didn’t have a secretary,” said former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman, at one time active in the group. “So our President Ganell Baker put an ad in the paper for the unpaid position. The next meeting, there he was. I asked who he was and was told he answered the ad.

“When he announced he was going to run for council, I said nobody knows you. He told me he was going to knock on every door in Laguna.”

It worked. 

“In 1994 crime was high, we had just had the worst fire in our history and we were facing a $20 million lawsuit (Diamond Crestview development),” said Dicterow in the interview. 

“I felt the city was going in the wrong direction and I could help it go in the right direction.”

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Submitted photo

Doing the wave, the Woman’s Club way? Luncheon attendees hoist placards with photos of Steve Dicterow

Dicterow was 34 when he was elected for his first term. He is now 62 and beginning his fifth term, still as impassioned as he was 28 years ago. 

Every table at the luncheon had photographs of Dicterow spanning his years of service and different hairstyles. Folks were asked to wave the photos every time Dicterow’s name was mentioned. Since the luncheon was all about him, the photos were hoisted frequently. 

“This means so much to me,” Dicterow said. 

The woman’s club has been honoring the outgoing mayor for 20 years, said President Barbara Crane. Club Treasurer Anne McGraw chaired the luncheon. 

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