The Public Trough


Heard on the street…

Katsuya is coming soon…very soon!

Katsuya by Starck, the sbe-owned sushi hot spot going in to the old Hush building at 858 South Coast Highway, will open to the public shortly after Independence Day.

Construction is expected to wrap up early next week – just in time for a slew of invite-only pre-opening events.

The new Laguna Beach location marks the first Katsuya restaurant outside of the Los Angeles area – which currently includes locations in Brentwood, downtown L.A., Glendale and Hollywood. Known for its sexy, lounge-style interiors by internationally-famed designer Philippe Starck and its diverse menu of Japanese fusion cuisine, Katsuya will go a long way in helping catapult Laguna Beach to new (national!) culinary heights.

I have had the great pleasure of dining at Katsuya at least a dozen times – in Brentwood, Hollywood, and the L.A. LIVE Center before Lakers games. The food is beyond outstanding – my personal favorites include their Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, and Spicy Albacore Sashimi with Crispy Onion. The ambience is super sexy and chic too – great for people-watching. I even dined next to Janet Jackson once! In addition to their sushi, I’m also a big fan of their Robata Bar menu, which includes charcoal-grilled skewers like Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, Chicken & Onion with Yakitori Sauce, Prime N.Y. Steak with Onion Sauce, Shrimp with Garlic Soy Butter, Yellowtail with Ginger Sauce, and my guiltiest pleasure…Chicken Meatballs!

Claes Restaurant to re-open as Claes Ovation and begin offering “small bites” and “small plates”

Claes Restaurant, one of Laguna Beach’s most historic restaurants within one of its most historic hotels (Hotel Laguna), will be re-opening next week as Claes Ovation. The conceptual makeover of the restaurant is part of a larger renovation (“facelift”) plan for the hotel by owner Georgia Andersen – which will include the introduction of artwork from the Pageant of the Masters as design accents in public spaces and in the hotel’s rooms.

The re-design was initiated by owner Georgia in honor of her late husband Claes, who passed away last summer, and is scheduled to be completed by early Fall. Georgia and Claes purchased the hotel together in 1985.

Claes Ovation will feature a brand new menu with small bites, small plates, entrees, and “Festival Fare”, three course pre-fixed dinners to be enjoyed before heading off to the Art Festivals and the Pageant of the Masters.

The new menu, created by Executive Chef Paul Bauer (who was recently inducted into the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs), will feature inventive items like Halibut Cheeks ($14), Bone Marrow Risotto with Asparagus Tips ($13), Heirloom Tomato Tartare ($10), and “Chicken and Waffles” (Sonoma Valley Duck Breast, Potato Gaufrettes, and Brandy Maple Gastrique – $14).

Claes Ovation will be unveiled next Tuesday, June 28th. For more information or to make a reservation, call (949) 376-9283.

The Rooftop now serving breakfast daily

Set atop the historic La Casa del Camino hotel, The Rooftop has long been a local hot spot with its vibrant cocktails and gorgeous sunset views. Now, those sights can be enjoyed in the morning, too, with a new breakfast menu available from 9 to 11:30 am daily.

The Rooftop’s new breakfast menu includes Huevos Rancheros ($12), Whole Grain Pancakes ($9), French Toast ($9), Breakfast Burritos ($10), a Smoked Salmon Plate ($16), and seven different “Scrambles” – including the Veggie Scramble ($11), Corned Beef Hash Scramble ($11), Italian Scramble ($11), and Shrimp Ranchero Scramble ($12). Fresh-squeezed juice and specialty coffee drinks are also available along with $7 Mimosas and $9 Bloody Marys. Reservations are not accepted for breakfast; seating is first come, first served.

For more information and to receive a special breakfast offer, visit the restaurant’s website at

An unexpected dining surprise in Costa Mesa

As a general rule of thumb, Stu and I limit our editorial scope to stories and events taking place within Laguna Beach. We are, after all, a hyperlocal Laguna Beach online newspaper – hence the name, Stu News Laguna.

Every once in a while though – about 15% of the time for me (see my May Dining Out Diary for explanation) and 0.01% of the time for Stu if you don’t count Angel games (no explanation needed) – an opportunity so great jumps out at us that we find it our duty to venture out of the bubble, experience an out-of-town adventure, and report back to the homeland with our findings.

Such was the case Wednesday night, as we found ourselves unexpectedly invited to an intimate media dinner hosted by restaurant and hospitality PR giant Wagstaff Worldwide at Leatherby’s Café Rouge in the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa (next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, formerly known as OCPAC). Stu and I had no idea what to expect – neither of us had been to a dinner like this before – and felt honored to even be included. The 6-person media dinner included food critics from Coast, Riviera, and Gayot, along with Laguna Beach Foodies’ writer Chris Trela.

What followed was a three hour culinary adventure – featuring six specially designed courses from 27-year-old Executive Chef Ross Pangilinan, an artist amongst chefs. From tomato and grilled watermelon with balsamic spheres that exploded in our mouths; to hiramasa “spring rolls” with yuzu soy gelee, jalapeno, and green apple; to house made fettuccine with fresh summer truffles; to king salmon with red wine foam reduction; to “Mamma Mia” - inspired entrees and desserts...Stu and I were both blown away!

The dinner was hosted by Wagstaff’s Ty Bentsen and Brenda Urban, who were as impressive as Leatherby’s Café Rouge and just “rogue” enough for Stu.

So impressed we were, Stu has commissioned me to write a follow-up piece for the Front Page for next week…so stay tuned!

Maggi H PhotoCafé Zoolu…


Everything’s Happening at the Zoo

Once upon a time there was a little village called Laguna Beach.  You could live in a trailer by the waves and go out diving for abalone to grill over a driftwood bonfire with your toes in the sand.  Your VW van was filled with surfboards, and your friends would come over when they were hungry because you were the only one who knew how to cook.

Such was the life of Michael Leech, long before Café Zoolu was the destination of savvy seafood lovers in-the-know.  Today, come they do, hungering for the same wood-fire grilled seafood, even if abalone is no longer abundant for the pickin’.  The VW van and the waves are still present, but Michael devotes most of his 24/7 catering to the lifestyle of a restaurateur.

Think about food, cook, sleep, repeat.

Maggi’s Photos

Maggi Photo 1

“In 1965 I got my first job at the Jolly Roger on Balboa Island, and I’ve been in the restaurant business ever since”.  Michael and his wife, Toni, launched the first of their four “Quiet Woman” restaurants back in 1973 in Corona del Mar, and had two in Laguna Beach before selling the final one in 1990.  When they opened Café Zoolu, they also opened one in Lahaina, Maui.  Michael lamented, “It was a tough commute”.  Happily ensconced only in Laguna now for 18 years, Michael is still excited about the day’s catch.

“We are famous for our swordfish.  We always get only the freshest available, and right now that’s Mexico”.  When the waters warm off Laguna’s shore, he can’t wait to get the local harpooned fish he cuts into “baseball cuts”; one pound of thick, ball-sized chunks.  Swordfish only releases its sweetest succulence when it is thick enough to remain juicy over an open flame, and Zoolu does it right.

Maggi Photo 2Café Zoolu offers mesquite- grilled swordfish three ways:  with a Lemon-caper sauce, slightly tangy; a Macadamia nut sauce, slightly sweet; or with Cajun blackened seasoning, slightly spicy.  Can’t decide?  You can order the Sampler plate, including pieces with all three flavors.

Zagat guide called it “The best swordfish on the planet”.

One of a very few places offer fresh Chilean Sea Bass now, Café Zoolu serves it up Asian style, with a slightly spicy coconut milk-based Red Thai Curry sauce, Asian Slaw and Wontons, all served atop Coconut mashed Sweet Potatoes.

Also fresh right now are the Maryland Blue Soft Shell Crabs.  Crunchy, crackling outsides with flaky, tender insides, soft-shell crabs are a rare, briny delight, available only at this time of year.  They are coated with crispy Panko breadcrumbs and sautéed in butter and olive oil.

Alaskan Copper River Salmon has just arrived upstream and into Zoolu’s kitchen.  Fired up and served with a lemon, dill, and pea-butter sauce, it’s paired with asparagus for a Spring-has-sprung combo that can’t be beat.  Well, maybe Hawaiian Ahi could be a contender.  It’s seared rare, with sesame seeds, drizzled with soy-ginger sauce and speckled with Tropical fruit salsa.

On a starter note, the Calamari “Asian Style” is their most popular appetizer.  “Like with abalone in the 70’s, I pound it to tenderize and then sautee it”.  It is prepared with a Thai peanut sauce and served with a sesame seaweed salad.

Michael is looking forward to local lobster season.  “Between October and March, we get them right off our shores.  We get big one and a half to three-pounders”.  Boil first, mesquite grill finish them, dip in warm butter and you’re in seafood heaven.

One of Café Zoolu’s devoted fans happened by while Michael was sharing his story with Laguna Stew.  Patty Keohane couldn’t resist singing their praises, “They have absolutely the best FOOD anywhere - period!”

In this neo-bohemian café Micheal Leech has struck a note of home.  While there was a simpler time before the fancy hotels and name-brand recognition came to Laguna, there still exists a place today for friends, fresh seafood, and fire.

Café Zoolu, it’s what you do.

Maggi Photo 3

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

Dennis Myers PhotoThe Evil of Toys


You may have missed the announcement that Jack in the Box has ended their practice of including toys in kid’s meals. There is a growing effort by the nutritional advocates in the country seek to ban all toys offered to children. They feel toys contribute to the country’s childhood obesity problems. Conversely they are encouraged that the same food purveyors are also offering healthy meal alternatives that are intended to turn the tide of the “War on Fat”.

Trade carrots for toys and youth will be served!

Now the paradoxical question—if the toys entice kids to eat bad fast food, what will entice them to eat so-called “healthier” food? I ask this because in my opinion the parent with the money, not the minor child will decide. If such adults made the decision to purchase the “bad” food because of the toy, then is there hope that they would choose the “healthy” food?

I would be so bold to suggest the presence or absence of a toy will have little to no impact when it comes to healthy or unhealthy food choices. Parental control has lost it way, right along with the people that think up these inane bans.

As a history lesson, toys packaged inside food offerings are not new. Cracker Jack began to package free toys in their offerings as early as 1912…almost a century ago. This ploy in particular had some positive impact upon culture, but it wasn’t in the field of nutrition. The term “came in a Cracker Jack box” was used to refer to something of little or no value. This led to the favorite belittlement regarding engagement rings, which would send brides-to-be into hysteria.

The string of “something for nothing” continued on through the years with all sorts of games, toys, cards, and prizes. Topps Chewing Gum’s introduced trading cards in 1950. TV and film star Hopalong Cassidy and “Bring ‘em Back Alive” featuring Frank Buck were two favorites. Then came baseball trading cards, which actually out-lived the chewing gum it was packaged with. By the 80’s they were sold alone, collected, traded, and became valuable collector’s items.

I spent the last two paragraphs not to entertain you with my knowledge of trivia, but to make a point about eating habits. None of these old marketing ploys had anything attached to the concept of encouraging obesity. The companies just wanted to sell more of the product and were partly deluded thinking that loyal purchasers really liked their product. We did not have a national obesity crisis regardless of the enticements used to purchase and eat a box of caramel corn to get a prize.

Why? The obvious answer is that these were items purchased singly, not with other meal items. Less obvious what that kids had little to no money to spend on such frivolity. The money had to come from the parents, who were very accustomed to saying “NO”! Usually the observation that it would rot teeth was used as a reason. In earlier times that was the end of the discussion. Further enforcement would be a very firm pat on the ass.

Also fast food dining establishments were limited. People ate at home as a family. Parents actually knew how to cook nourishing food, and usually provided no alternatives or enticement other than “eat this or go hungry”! Finally, there were no electronic devices to entrap kids into a stupor of inactivity other than moving their thumbs. We were not “encouraged” to be part of non-contact activities where there were no winners or losers. You played hard and long with the knowledge that Mom would have a great meal waiting for you at the end of the day. And maybe, just maybe after dishes were done, and homework was finished you could have an hour in front of a fuzzy black and white screen called a TV.

Eliminating toys from food items will not solve obesity in the country. If that were possible, why not insist that toys be supplied with the “healthy” options? Would that not fix the problem?

Returning part of our society that is losing at an ever-increasing rate will answer the nutritionist’s wishes. Parental supervision, a family unit with someone who can cook, re-introduction of competing for things that are important rather than receiving entitlements, and the will to not be controlled by electronic devices 24/7 would be the path to a healthier public.

The Public Trough



Grammy Award-Winning Macy Gray makes special guest appearance at Mozambique last Saturday night

Grammy Award-Winning R&B and soul singer-songwriter, record producer, and actress, Macy Gray made a special guest appearance at Mozambique last Saturday night, performing four songs to a sell-out crowd with Upstart Band. Famed for her distinctive raspy voice, Gray has received five Grammy Award nominations, winning one for her hit single “I Try” in 2001.

In addition to performing her hit singles “I Try” and “Beauty in the World”, Gray also offered up an unforgettable rendition of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”, arguably outdoing the original. An intimate, up close and personal performance, Gray’s show was a special treat to all who made it in before the sell out – including Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman!

Mozambique, which has hosted the likes of George Clinton, Bill Medley, Blondie Chaplin (Rolling Stones), Common Sense, Just Jinjer, and Donavon Frankenreiter in the past, features live bands every Friday and Saturday night from 8:45 to midnight. The restaurant/bar also features Roots Reggae bands every Sunday night from 5 to 10, and dance music from DJ Avijah (a female DJ!) on Thursday nights. As part of its SAFE RIDE program, Mozambique offers complimentary shuttle service to patrons within a five mile radius of the restaurant.

Feel like you missed out on Macy Gray’s special guest performance? “LIKE” us on Facebook (
) to stay in the loop – we were the only media outlet to post info on Gray’s last-minute local performance.

STARFISH raises over eight thousand dollars to benefit Pacific Marine Mammal Center

STARFISH hosted its official launch party last Saturday evening, raising over eight thousand dollars to benefit the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Guests of the event – which included the likes of Toni Iseman, Sherry and Larry Montgomery, Rose Hancock, Mary Ferguson, Sande St. John, and Dennis Junka – enjoyed an evening of tray passed appetizers and signature cocktails, all in the name of Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

STARFISH is now open at 4 p.m. daily for business, serving food and drinks until 10 on weekdays, and midnight on weekends.

NOTE: Stu and I were on hand to celebrate the opening along with Diane DeBilzan and my younger sister, Stacia, who was in town visiting from Bend, Oregon. My sister was blown away by the event – “I have never experienced anything like this before” – and LOVED the food. I have since gone back to STARFISH for dinner with a friend, enjoying Mochiko Chicken Teri Satays ($9), Lemongrass Filet Satays ($9), Korean Galbi Tacos ($8), BBQ Chicken Lumpia ($9), and Curried Tofu Mushroom Summer Rolls ($8) – along with three Kumquats Mocktails from bar chef Michael Guerrero (the best mocktails I’ve ever had in my life!). STARFISH also comes highly recommended by Laguna Stew columnist (and super foodie) Dennis Myers.

Pacific Edge Hotel’s The Deck now open for business

Pacific Edge Hotel’s new oceanfront restaurant and bar, The Deck, opened for business on Wednesday. The new restaurant – which offers dining so close to the sand they will actually valet your board – features a mix of 4-top tables, bar stools, and family style dining at specially-made stand up paddle board tables (compliments of Tommy Donnelly at SUPCO!), along with cabana-style dining and bar fun by reservation only on a private deck to the left of the restaurant/bar, on Pacific Edge Hotel’s lower deck.

The Deck’s new menu includes appetizers like Clam Chowder ($8), Fried Calamari ($12), Coconut Shrimp ($13), Ahi Chips ($14), Steam Clams ($12), Shrimp Scampi ($13), Artichoke Dip ($10), Honey BBQ Chicken Wings ($12), Shrimp Ceviche ($11), Oysters ($13), and Clams ($13); specialty salads from $7 to $17 – including the “Garbage” salad; and entrees like Chicken or Shrimp Pasta Pomodoro ($17), the Deck Burger ($14), a Flat Iron Steak ($25), Crab Legs ($20), the Surf N Turf Kebob ($22), Mahi Tacos ($16), a Clam Bake ($35), and Paella for 2 ($39). The Deck’s specialty martinis are priced at $12.50 – with specialty sun drinks priced at $12.

For more information on The Deck and/or to make a reservation, call 494-6700.

Ketta Brown’s


Ketta Brown

Shrimp Salad

Serves 8

4 lbs. frozen, cooked & peeled jumbo or colossal shrimp thawed

2 c. good mayo

1 T. Dijon mustard

2 T. white wine vinegar

1 t. coarse black pepper

½ c. fresh dill, minced

1 medium red onion, minced

6 – 8 stalks celery, minced


Whisk mayo, mustard, vinegar, pepper and dill together.  Add shrimp.  Add onion and celery.  Check for seasonings.  Serve or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

Myers PhotoAnswers to Fonda Eaton’s Perplexities



Recently fellow staff member Fonda Eaton expressed confusion over several culinary terms. As a favor to Fonda, whom we at StuNewsLaguna are very fond of, I thought perhaps some clarity amid the confusion could be helpful. First, you asked what al dente means.

Al dente is a cooking term derived from the early American mother’s warning, “If you stick your finger in the mashed potatoes one more time, I’ll dent your head with one of my pans”! Of course pronounced in the South that sounded like “all dent yur”. Later chefs, in an attempt to make the phrase sound more exotic, came up with the “al dente” pronunciation. Since it referred originally to making a dent, not a skull crushing blow on a rather-soft headed person, it became a common expression for something that is neither soft or hard, but just right. All the confusion comes from the varying strength of mothers that were swinging the pan—or pot! So that should help with your confusion Fonda.

That leads to another question you raised regarding the difference between a pot and a pan. At this point I should congratulate you on your terrific intellect. Pondering a pot or a pan is truly a public service, because most have the same confusion, they are just fearful of showing their ignorance. You are not, which is a brave thing.

Some things “pot” is not. Pot is not a food group as many consider it to be, as in “I just had some mind blowing pot last night”! Pot is also not a pot you pee in or for that matter a measure of wealth. “She was so poor she didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of”, statement is not a food term. However, one must point out that a pot that you pee in can be used safely in the kitchen if you wash it before use, otherwise the food may take on a musty, salty taste! Any self-respecting chef would not want that to happen.

So from this explanation you can see the word “pot” means something that holds something—like a “pot of gold”. That answers the question of what is a pot, but not the confusion surrounding the difference between a pot and a pan.

The confusion all started with Greek Mythology. You see, a Pan is the god of woods, fields, and flocks having a human torso and head with goat’s legs, horns and ears. So, when a Greek walked up to pot of Pan cooking over a fire, the usual question was, “What’s cook’n?” The obvious answer was, “a Pan”, so there you have it. The confusion over cooking Pan in a pot has lived on for eternity. Actually I like to sauté Pan in a pan using possum lard. Some say that is frying, but to fry you have to use bacon grease. Any questions Ms. Eaton?

On to the simple questions. Knives in most households are not sharp enough to cut butter yet alone a finger. Don’t be afraid of knives unless you play with them. Remember your mother who always admonished you to not “play with knives”. Watching someone on TV opening a can with a knife is not to be believed. Everyone knows that you use a church key to open a can, not a knife. Just another reason to not believe anything you watch on TV.

The difference between a griddle and a grill is simple. A griddle is a flat pan, and a grill is a griddle with holes in it. That’s why a grill is used mostly outside, because if used inside the holes would allow whatever you are cooking to fall into the stove burners. It is pretty obvious that a griddle with holes has to be used outside on a charcoal fire because you can then burn whatever you are cooking on the grill. The only proof necessary for this truism is to watch the next time you attend a backyard barbecue.  It will burn.

I hope this has all been a help to you Fonda Eaton. No thank you is needed! Just knowing that I was able to help such a culinary giant is reward enough. I remain your humble servant hardly worthy of hanging on to your skirt.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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