Tabu Grill…

Revitalizing a winner

Maggi H PhotoTabu Grill is looking to the future.  They are taking their accolades and ratcheting it up a notch.  According to new General Manager, Michael Digiovanni, the highly rated, sultry Zagat-Spot has made room for improvement.

Tabu Photo 1“After seven years, you need a little revitalization”.

They are improving training service standards and amping up the summer vibe.  “We have a menu geared for summertime and are opening the front patio for small plate and exotic drink options”.  With four tables outside (seating for 12), reggae and jungle-thumping rhythms, it sounds like a good way to deny the June gloom.  Well, there are heaters just in case.  But with specialty sangrias like Huckleberry, Blood Orange, and Sage (prepared with house-made ginger syrup, Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Chardonnay), one may be inclined to lean back and enjoy the clouds.

Says Digiovanni, “We can serve five-star food in a casual environment”. A kick-off to summer, Laguna Stew thinks about salad (bikini time, right?).  This is a tasty Tabu line-up: Organic Spring greens, prepared with organic tempura poached egg, asparagus, English peas, champagne vinegar foam and California Ranch extra-virgin olive oil.

Tabu Photo 2Digiovanni is a (fit) fan of the Rib Eye, a 16 oz. bone-in steak, certified, from Snake River Farms, the “American Kobe” ranch of exceptionally high quality-rated beef.  It is grilled to perfection and served with their “Forbidden Rice” risotto, caramelized Cipollini onions, organic mushrooms, apple-smoked bacon, fresh horseradish, and chanterelle cream.

Chef Kevin Jerrold-Jones, esteemed chef behind all the culinary firepower, is young but mighty among the foodie elite.  Earning high marks among celebrities and locals alike, he designs seasonal menus to reflect what’s in season, and things that excite his fancy.  What about starting with pan-seared Foie Gras served with house dehydrated strawberry-rhubarb chutney, tangerine French toast, and Marcona almonds?  It’s like a flavor mystery wrapped in aroma!

Tabu Photo 3Do linger after sunset so you can enjoy dessert confections like the house-made Angel Food Cake  (with blueberry Chantilly cream, blueberry “caviar”, and spindled sugar).  Good night!

Digiovanni wants you to remember that Tabu grill is ever striving toward higher ground.  “We have higher service and cooking standards because we want to make the next-level move”.  What, a top Zagat rating isn’t good enough?  “We aim to be the best in the OC, and, hey, we have the greatest sunsets in the world here at around 7:30”.

In fact, the summer vibe rolls in for “social hour” at 4:30 with $10 small plates, and “Summer Sips” wines priced from $5, until seven o’clock on the patio.

You will enjoy sun or June gloom at the romantic and delectable Tabu Grill.

Maggi photos

Pacific Edge Hotel to open its new oceanfront restaurant and bar, The Deck, this Wednesday


It’s the summer of restaurant openings in Laguna Beach, with Nancy Wilhelm’s Starfish now open, and sbe’s Katsuya, Scott McIntosh’s Asada Laguna, and celebrity chef Amar Santana’s Broadway by Amar Santana to follow shortly. Add to the list The Deck, Pacific Edge Hotel’s new oceanfront restaurant and bar, slated to open next Wednesday (June 15th) at 10 a.m.

The Deck will occupy the building at 627 Sleepy Hollow Lane between The Beach House and Pacific Edge Hotel, formerly used by Pacific Edge Hotel for pricey oceanfront weddings and special events bookings (known as The Villa). It will feature oceanfront dining so close to the sand, they will actually valet your board.

The Deck’s new Conditional Use Permit (CUP) comes after a year-long battle with the city over concerns over parking, noise, and…the menu. But more on that later.

As part of its agreement with the city, Pacific Edge Hotel – purchased last summer by Joie de Vivre Properties, the second largest operator of boutique hotels in the United States – was forced to abandon its weddings/events CUP. As such, it can no longer offer wedding accommodations at 627 Sleepy Hollow Lane.

The Deck was slated to open last summer but hit major roadblocks over liquor licensing and parking, which put the project’s launch on delay for over a year. Although the restaurant obtained its liquor license in September, it still needed to conduct an extensive parking analysis for the Planning Commission to demonstrate that the use would be operating in conjunction with and incidental to its primary hotel-motel use. Since 36% of Pacific Edge Hotel’s overnight guests patronized the Beach House Restaurant between October 2010 and November 2010, the same would be true for The Deck, it argued, and therefore additional parking would not be needed.

The Deck ran into additional problems over its proposed menu, which the Planning Commission deemed too bar-like in nature. “The use appears to be a bar use rather than a full-service restaurant where guests are served at tables,” argued the Planning Commission at the Deck’s April 27 hearing. “The proposal appears to be similar to the Rooftop Lounge located in La Casa del Camino. The Fire Department has expressed concern about potential obstruction of exiting paths, if the use functioned like a bar.”

As a result, The Deck – backed by parent company and hotel powerhouse Joie de Vivre Properties – went back to the drawing board and strategically re-envisioned its menu and seating plan to more clearly reflect its mission as a “restaurant first, bar second.” The Planning Commission approved the changes – “The applicant has responded to the issues…and revised their application” – and so it is that The Deck came to be approved.

The Deck, which is slated to open next Wednesday, will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Please check back next week for a complete sampling of their menu.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

Mom’s Food Circle


Dennis Myers PhotoThere was considerable national press a few weeks ago regarding announcement of the new government “food plate” and the war on obesity. I am not sure that perhaps the fact that Mrs. Obama announced the revelation caused the stir, but that is beside the point. We now have a new design - a circle rather than a triangle - bearing the impressive ad agency-like name of MyPlate. Oh yes, the circle is now referred to as a Nutrition Plate instead of a Food Pyramid. To whit, the war on obesity being waged by the federal government is kicked up a few notches for a couple of million dollars.

Too bad they didn’t have Mom Myers around to set the record straight regarding how to feed a family. She didn’t need a chart to follow in her house. Here were her rules.

“If you want good food, you eat at home; if you want to see people, you go out”, that was her motto. So, we ate at home! And that was a good thing. We had three squares a day, and sat at the family kitchen table to eat them. That included my dad, who came home every day for lunch. There were also ancillary rules like, don’t take more than you can eat and always clean your plate. Also, you don’t leave the table until that plate is cleaned. The government wants portion control? Mom knew how to handle that.

No waste was tolerated in Mom’s kitchen. If there were left over mashed potatoes (whipped with whole milk and lots of butter – Michelle, say eek!), we had potato patties browned in the skillet the next day. Left over chicken ended up in a casserole with other left overs. And what if we didn’t like a dish? Mom simply said, “I made it just the way you are going to love it”! Another clean plate, unless you wanted to sit at the table all day while everyone else got to go outside and play baseball or shoot some hoops.

We had no restaurants to speak of in town, no pizza places, and no fast food drive-ins. So you say, we probably had a plain diet of cheap meat and beans. Nothing fancy like you could get by going out! Not so, and here is how Mom turned out what today would be called gourmet in many circles.

We had a garden, not something small, but a half-acre. I know because I had to tend it all summer. The table was rife with fresh picked greens, squash, corn, or potatoes. The rest was canned. It made eating your veggies a snap. When you had to tend them, pick them, and clean them you appreciated them showing up on your plate. If not, refer to Mom’s rule about clean plates!

Friends had fruit trees that produced product that was canned and preserved as jellies and jams. Canned apples meant great pies with crusts made by Mom’s or Grandma’s own hands. Made all the work in the garden worthwhile when a hot slice of cherry pie showed up in front of you with the vanilla ice cream melting down the sides. Currant jelly on toast in the morning was the best. I hear currant berries are making a comeback. Never left as long as Grandma Kammerer was around.

Dad got into the act also. He went fishing. (We had to help scale, clean and fillet the fish.) I would give anything to have a mess of fried bluegills right now. He also hunted for squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, and quail. There was also deer and elk. Today you pay a premium in a restaurant to get a piece of venison or a braised quail. Basically if Dad brought it home, Mom cooked it.

My Grandmother also got into the food act. She was an avid wild berry picker and morel mushroom hunter. Fresh fruit on your plate or in a pie was never an issue as long as Grandma was around - and she was until she died at age 96. Marie Callender’s or Polly’s Pies were not needed. And the mushrooms? Lightly dredged in flour and fried in butter aside a couple of eggs and toast for breakfast would make any Michelin starred chef drool with delight.

So there you have it - Mom’s answer to MyPlate. She made it herself, you got breakfast before going to school, a hand packed lunch, and dinner at 6 p.m. If you lost your lunch or were late for dinner, you really got hungry by the next time Mom worked in the kitchen. The only hope you had was making a Miracle Whip and Wonder Bread sandwich when Mom wasn’t looking!

Eat your heart out Michelle!

The Public Trough



Heard on the street…

Starfish to open Wednesday

According to the restaurant’s automated voicemail, Starfish will open to the public Wednesday, June 8. For more information and/or to make a reservation, call the restaurant at (949) 715-9200. You may also visit or on Facebook ( and Twitter ( to stay in the loop. Starfish is located in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center at 30832 S Coast Hwy.

BIG FISH Facebook Father’s Day Contest

House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer is offering a special Facebook contest for Father’s Day.  To enter (1) find your favorite picture of you and your dad on a fishing trip, (2) “LIKE” House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer on Facebook, (3) post on your Facebook wall where you and your dad went fishing, your favorite memory of your trip together and why your dad is so special...and don’t forget to attach the photo!

Selected winners will receive a $100 Gift Certificate to the restaurant, 2 BIG FISH T-shirts, and a framed photo of them with their dad in the restaurant.

For more information, call the restaurant at (949) 715-4500 or visit their Facebook page (


My Dining Out Diary

I decided to monitor my dining out habits for a month. How interesting, I thought – at least to me. Without further ado, here’s where I p ut my money last month. Please note: I’ve only included meals that I paid for. Tip is included.

5/1 (L) La Sirena - extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($10)

5/1 (D) Royal Hawaiian – cheesy fries, ahi poke, two pineapple and sprite drinks ($26.75)

5/2 (D) French 75 – charcuterie and cheese plates, sliders, and drinks for friends ($72.90)

5/3 (L) Rose Bakery (in CdM) – best veggie burger I’ve ever had in my life ($6.53)

5/5 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo, large Jamaica (hibiscus) and lemonade drink ($15.23)

5/6 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($9.47)

5/7 (D) San Shi Go – treated my sister, her boyfriend, and friends to my sister’s 29th birthday dinner; sampled new menu items including Spicy Tuna on Fried Rice, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapenos, Albacore Tuna and Crispy Onions; also enjoyed classic favorites like Tai Sashimi with Yuzu and Sea Salt, the Salmon Lemon Roll, and the Backflip Roll ($150)

5/8 (B) Banzai Bowls – enjoyed a large Diamond Head acai bowl after spin class ($8.25)

5/12 (D) Tabu Grill – split the Passion Fruit Soy Braised Prime Boneless Short Ribs and Miso Marinated Mero Sea Bass with a friend; enjoyed House Made Angel Food Cake with Blueberry Chantilly Cream, Blue Berry Caviar, and Spindled Sugar for dessert ($120)

5/15 (L) Papa’s Tacos – ordered two pork tacos to go, along with a large bag of homemade chips, a side of homemade pico de gallo, and an orange soda ($11.42)

5/15 (D) Ruby’s Diner – succumbed to a Mushroom Swiss Burger with fries and a large Black Forest Cherry Shake ($21)

5/16 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo, large Jamaica (hibiscus) and lemonade drink ($15.23)

5/17 (L) La Sirena – treated a client to lunch; we both enjoyed blackened salmon salads with roasted red peppers, avocado, papaya salsa, and house lime-cilantro dressing ($30)

5/17 (D) Domino’s – ordered a large pepperoni pizza for delivery (love their new recipe) ($20)

5/18 (L) Gallo’s – tasty classic Italian sub with a bag of salt and vinegar chips ($9.46)

5/25 (L) La Sirena – flavor-packed al pastor (marinated pork) burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($13.38)

5/26 (D) Javier’s Crystal Cove – pork fajitas and drinks with friends; hung out with one of the notorious Real Housewives of Orange County ($72.58)

5/27 (D) Zeytoon – Spicy Sausage (Sujok) Sandwich with tomatoes and pickles pressed in Mahdnakahs bread ($12.32)

Total spent: $624.52

Visits to La Sirena: 6

Percentage of $ spent at restaurants in Laguna: 85%

For those of you that managed to read all the way through – thank you for indulging in my exercise on TMI (too much information). You now know more about me than I’m sure you ever wish you to know.

Ed. Note: I’m full just from reading!

The Public Trough



Heard on the street…

Sunsets, Summer Sips and Sangria at Tabu Grill

Tabu Grill, the highest Zagat-rated restaurant in Southern California two years running, is now offering small plates, sangria, and outdoor dining as part of its new “Summer Social Hour”. The new menu, which features House Poke, Cheese and Chocolate Plates, Olives and Roasted Nuts, and a Crustini Trio, is being offered Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Tabu’s outdoor patio, along with “Summer Social Hour” priced wine ($5 to $7 per glass), microbrew beer selections ($6), and exotic Tabu style sangrias ($5 per glass). Sangrias offered include one with Green Apples, fresh Huckleberries, Blood Orange and Sage; and another with Watermelon, Mint, Fennel and Meyer Lemon.

Tabu Grill, which celebrated its 7th anniversary in March, recently announced Michael Digiovanni as its new General Manager. Digiovanni was initially brought aboard two months ago by owner Nancy Wilhelm to replace Gretchen Andrews as Wine Director. About a month ago, he was promoted to GM by Wilhelm – who found herself spending more and more time on her new Starfish concept. Under Digiovanni, expect more of the same great excellence Laguna Beach has grown accustomed to but from a fresh (and handsome) new face.

Café Heidelberg to open for dinner soon!

Café Heidelberg will begin offering dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. starting the first week of June.

In addition to offering new dinner items like “steak, hamburgers, mini sliders, and fajitas,” the new dinner concept will feature table service and an expanded beer, wine and champagne selection.

Café Heidelberg, known for its exceptional breakfast and lunch menus, coffee and view, offers casual outdoor seating on the corner of Brooks and South Coast Highway – excellent for people watching. Starting in June, the restaurant will close down at four p.m. for an hour before reopening at five for dinner.

Tabu Grill raises over $100,000 for Project HOPE School Foundation

Chef Kevin Jerrold-Jones and Tabu Grill raised over $100,000 for Project HOPE School Foundation this past Sunday, as part of the Fifth “Culinary Masters” at Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport Beach.

The annual culinary fete featured 20 top area chefs/ restaurants – which also included Claes’ Paul Bauer and Splashes’ Jeff Armstrong.

Selected “tops” amongst participating chefs/restaurants, Chef Kevin Jerrold-Jones prepared a sumptuous wine paired dinner for lead sponsor Trace3, who put up $10,000/head for the dinner. The evening also included musical entertainment and an extraordinary upscale lifestyle auction, as well as a “Meet the Chefs” cigar and chocolate martini party at Duke’s.


Project HOPE, which stands for “Homeless Outreach Program in Education”, is a county-run school designed to help children without permanent homes transition into the mainstream educational system. It currently serves approximately 60 students in a fifty week a year, half-day educational program based in permanent facilities in the city of Orange. At the end of the academic day, students are transported to the Tustin Boys and Girls Club for tutoring, sports and enrichment programs. The Mission of Project HOPE School is to provide an exceptional academic environment that empowers homeless and economically vulnerable children to achieve their fullest potential.

And now, a special treat!

Ketta Brown PhotoKetta Brown is the President of the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Governors – the LBUSD School Board. We have heard from many that she is a wonderful cook.

When that was mentioned to her, she replied, “I have no formal training other than I didn’t poison my family when I took over after my mom died in 1981.  They were a very easy audience! My absolute passion is cooking and food!”

In addition to treating her family and friends to her famous salads, Ketta has been teaching her recipes to kids at Top of the World School for the past four years.

“The ‘Orzo with Everything’ is my signature salad.  The ‘Greek Shrimp with Orzo’ is one that I make in my TOW cooking class; so if first and second graders can do it, so can anyone.

“The purpose of this one is to get the kids to see, smell and feel real, fresh herbs.  We also talk about why these particular herbs are used (plentiful in the Mediterranean region) and each distinct flavor/smell works together.  The class is primarily one to expose kids to cuisines and foods they may not have had before so they aren’t afraid to try new stuff.”

We will be featuring Ketta Brown’s recipes beginning today. We know you will enjoy and perhaps even have some fun with your kids ‘trying new stuff’!

Ketta Brown’s

Orzo with Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes & Herbs

½ c. olive oil

1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined

6 – 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved

¾ c. chopped herbs such as dill, thyme, marjoram or any combination

2 t. grated lemon zest

Juice from 1 lemon

1 lb. orzo pasta

2 c. crumbled feta

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped


In a large skillet, sauté shrimp and garlic in olive oil until shrimp is just pink. Toss in tomatoes, herbs, zest, lemon juice and ½ t. each salt & pepper.   Meanwhile, cook the orzo pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente (about 10 minutes).  Drain and toss with shrimp mixture.  Add feta and parsley and toss again.

Servings:  6


We asked Fonda Eaton to offer an opinion on Ketta’s recipe:

I will make this solemn promise – I will try something new, I will make this recipe! Truly, I love food but I must admit, I have never been worth much in the kitchen.

I have a few utensils and collected a set of knives from someone or someplace but I haven’t the slightest what they are all supposed to do! I mean, they will all slice your finger if you don’t pay attention. I saw a guy selling a knife on TV and he cut a can in half! Now I ask you, why would anyone do that? Doesn’t he have a can opener?

I need someone to explain to me the difference between a pot and a pan and a griddle and a grill; sauté and fry; why they say high, medium or low heat. Won’t a high flame cook things faster? All three setting will burn your fingers!

Like Mrs. Brown says, even first and second graders can make her recipe – so – I’ll do it – as soon as I figure out what al dente means.

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 Gillespie, 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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