Word about our breakfast toast taste test has spread like, well, avocado

A little more on the subject from Lynette

Turns out that when you tell people you’re doing an avocado toast taste test, the word spreads like, well, mashed avocado, and all at once yesterday Dianne Russell and I were inundated with stories about really, really good avocado toast, told where we should have gone, and we were urged also to break out of our comfort zone and try pumpkin toast. 

Sadly, deadline day prevented us from experimenting with the pumpkin option. But we offer Project Juice’s version below for the avocado-averse. (And Project Juice has avocado toast too.)

Diane Armitage, who writes our Laguna Beach Best column, strongly recommends Skyloft’s avocado toast, available all day, and on weekends for breakfast as well. (It was a weekday when Dianne Russell and I scoured the town for the right toast to taste-test.)

“I’ve never been a fan of the current trend of ‘avocado toast,’” Diane A tells us. “It’s usually a bland attempt at finding another way to use a stale piece of bread and an over-ripe avocado.” 

(Methinks being a regular food reviewer must lead to a little cynicism sometimes, Diane A?) 

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Skyloft’s Avocado toast

Diane A goes on to say, “Skyloft’s Avocado Toast, though, is a robust, confident entry that you can actually pick up with your hands.”

(This is an interesting angle that we neglected to mention in our feature, the handiness or otherwise of the dish in question. I appreciated the Zinc version very much, but it’s true that I feared it would topple over in my hand, so generous was the serving of the glorious green fruit – but I found that a good problem to have.) 

“Chef Arthur’s choice for fresh-baked, thick pumpernickel is a happy anomaly that holds its own and blends beautifully in taste to the creamy, spicy, blistered-tomatoe-y goodness,” Diane added.

Here’s how the menu describes the delicious dish at Skyloft:

“Seasoned crushed avocado with lemon dill aioli, spicy avocado dressing and a creamy hint of queso fresco. Topped with blistered cherry tomatoes and micro cilantro. Served on fresh baked pumpernickel bread with a simple side salad.”

I’m sold. See you there tomorrow, Dianne Russell?

And in other news…

Project Juice Laguna Beach also offers avocado toast, described as follows: 

Gluten free toast spread with fresh avocado, microgreens, and black sesame seed seasoned with sea salt and black pepper with a touch of lemon. Top with Bee Pollen Booster for an extra dose of vitamins, minerals and protein.”

But it’s the pumpkin toast that sets Project Juice apart. The company’s board certified nutritional consultant, Marra St. Clair, says that Project Juice Laguna Beach is pumped for fall, and they’re introducing their favorite pumpkin flavors with its new Pumpkin Spiced Protein Oats and Pumpkin Butter Toast.

“The flavor of the season is more than just delicious - with its fiber-to-calorie ratio, pumpkin can help us feel fuller, longer,” St. Clair says. “It’s also heart healthy, with the prevalence of phytosterols that studies have shown can reduce bad cholesterol.

“Pumpkin also has more potassium than bananas, making it a phenomenal choice to help repair the muscles pre- and post-workout.”

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Project Juice’s pumpkin toast

Hence the pumpkin toast option, described thusly in the press release:

“This perfectly toasty-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside gluten-free vegan toast is everything that’s right in the pumpkin world. Combining bee-free honey, spiced pumpkin butter, and almonds, the Pumpkin Butter Toast is a great source of fiber, protein and healthy fats, and is well-suited for a quick breakfast or as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. 

St. Clair adds that pumpkin is also a tremendous source of vitamin A and is rich in beta-carotene, which aids in eye health, and is also loaded with antioxidants. They say that pumpkin can also help boost the mood, with amino acids that have been shown to aid in the production of serotonin. 

This strongly suggests that I should indulge in pumpkin on deadline days. 

And that maybe the saying should be “a pumpkin a day keeps the doctor away.”

Especially, of course, if used as a doorstop.


Fun, German food, and rollicking festivities at Anneliese School’s Annual Oktoberfest on Oct 14

Anneliese Schools is proud to announce its annual Oktoberfest celebration taking place on Sat, Oct 14, at Willowbrook Campus, located at 20062 Laguna Canyon Road, from 12-5 p.m. Last year, over 1,000 people attended the event. 

The celebration takes place in the Willowbrook Campus’ gorgeous gardens, where attendees can sit beneath the grape arbor and enjoy German fare while listening to live music performed by professional musicians, including Heinrich Martin, Kallie Forester, and Adam and Roberta Haines.

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Kids enjoy rides at Anneliese’s Oktoberfest

Guests will be able to dine on delectable traditional Bavarian food, including bratwurst, potato salad, sauerkraut, pork roast, goulash with dumplings, pretzels, along with delicious festival favorites such as organic cotton candy, organic sno-cones, and more.

A mechanical bull ride has been added to last year’s favorite bungee-jump. Professional face painting and balloon art may be enjoyed by children and grown-ups alike.

Free trolleys will be shuttling passengers from City Lot 16 to the Willowbrook Campus. Parking is free.


Driftwood Kitchen: Peaceful ocean-close oasis with plentiful delicious dishes

Story by LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Photos by Larry Tenney

My recent visit to Driftwood Kitchen took place shortly after hurricanes – spawned by the Atlantic Ocean and whisked into monsters by the warm tropical air – devastated Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

By contrast, here in Laguna Beach, the Pacific Ocean was living up to its name, peacefully lapping the shore just yards from the table where I sat with long-time friend and social media whiz Larry Tenney, who was going to take photographs of our dinner. 

The sun slipped down the sky, settled Humpty Dumpty-ish on the horizon for a brief moment, then fell slowly from view. 

We sighed contentedly, and focused on the menu.

Would we try the grilled Spanish octopus to start, or the yellowtail carpaccio with pineapple vinaigrette?  

Instead we chose the yellowfin tuna tartare and squash blossoms, then ordered and sipped our cocktails – mine called Livin’ on a Pear.

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What to do about the leaf in my Livin’ on a Pear?

I don’t usually drink cocktails, I’m boringly Chardonnay, so this was quite an adventure for me. I had to ask Larry how to cope with the leaf floating on top of this deliciously mint-fresh drink with cucumber undertones. At least it wasn’t an umbrella. I could have injured myself.

“How lucky we are,” Larry said, “to have jobs like this.”

For a while we mused about the randomness of life – how tranquil the setting was right now, and how quickly things could change: Laguna knows tragedy, knows wildfires, knows floods, knows mudslides. What did our respective futures hold? Was this all too good to be true?

And then we forgot about all that, because our food had arrived, and we were hungry.

Larry and I both loved the yellowfin tuna tartare: the crunch and crush of the sesame taco, the cool smooth contrast of tuna on the tongue, the pop of spicy mayo, the dollop of avocado mousse (you can never go wrong in my world when you add avocado) and the colorful sprinkle of topeka caviar titillating the taste buds.

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The four tacos arrived upright in a line, rather like expectant rollercoaster riders

“What’s great about this,” Larry had commented when the tacos arrived, firmly upright like expectant rollercoaster riders, “is the way it is presented. So often poke dishes are plonked onto the plate from a circular mold. Like cat food from a can. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Indeed, though now that image is going to be hard for me to shake. But he was right. This dish looked wonderful and tasted fantastic. 

(Later I would learn from Chef Rainer Schwarz that he had once tried to take the yellowfin tuna tartare off the menu. But hordes of angry villagers had stormed the restaurant, carrying placards and torches, demanding the dish be restored, and so he complied. No, I made that up, but local enthusiasm for this particular dish cannot be exaggerated.)

Larry had chosen the squash blossoms in part because of their likely aesthetic appeal, but they also delivered on taste, he said. They were served with soft ricotta and shallots, in a tempura batter with a chunky heirloom tomato sauce.

I asked the Chef whether much had changed for Driftwood since it opened its doors not that many years ago. 

“Not really,” he said. “What we planned originally has worked out well. Of course we adjust the menu seasonally but we like to keep it simple and very good. Restaurant concepts are always changing, but for now? Why change, we are doing great and people love Driftwood.”

I can attest to that, having on many occasions tried and failed to get a last-minute reservation.

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The wild king salmon sat on a raft of carrots atop a puddle of creamy kale

Schwarz says that tourists make up 70 – 80 percent of summer diners, with the opposite in winter. Tourists love the ambiance and choose the more conventional dishes, he said, while locals are more inclined to be adventurous. (He doesn’t sell a lot of his Seared Hudson Valley foie gras in the summer.)

Well, Larry and I weren’t that adventurous, I must admit. I chose the wild King salmon. Thing is, I’m not really a foodie, I’m just an eater who knows what she likes. And I like salmon. My husband cooks it often. So I thought I’d test out a new version which he might like to emulate.

The salmon arrived, interestingly perched on a raft of carrots atop a tasty puddle of creamy kale.

Well, it was delicious! I ate it all. 

Larry’s butcher steak and pork belly joined us with an air of pomp and circumstance, unabashedly meaty, with the pink and amber colors of the steak, pork, crispy red onions and chimichurri sauce reflecting hues of the sunset. 

“This,” Larry said, “tastes as good as it looks.” 

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Larry’s butcher steak and pork belly dish came in sunset hues

Between happy bites, we chatted about a long-ago sandcastle-building event in Daytona Beach that we’d worked on during our years at a PR agency, back in the nineties. About our adventures with the Party Smart campaign, an NFL quarterback, and the Talking Pump at the 76 gas station on the Grapevine. (It’s a long story.)

Conversation flows at Driftwood; it’s the kind of restaurant where you feel very much at ease, with the noise level – at least outside – is low and the ambiance peaceful. (Except when Larry roared with laughter, sending sea gulls into panicked circles. He has that kind of laugh…)

Finally, dessert. Which I never eat, because calories, except I did, given that it was sticky coffee cake with Chantilly cream, and who can refuse that? Plus I was on assignment. I had to eat it. 

My taste buds thanked me.

Before paying the bill, we chatted to our server, JR, who loves working at Driftwood Kitchen. He told us that the staff are very close-knit and often all dive into the surf together (fortunately not while we were there, that would have been a bit of a shock, but of course they only do that in the downtime – and apparently the Chef is a very good belly-boarder, though he doesn’t surf). 

Then we found out, just before we left, that JR had worked for FEMA in the past.

Once again Larry and I contemplated the sadness of the devastation to our east, and our good fortune, to be here, in this place, at this time – because who can live in Laguna and not feel immensely grateful for the sun, the sea, the wilderness, our friends, and good food?

And so the evening ended at this magical ocean-close oasis, as the lights of Laguna homes turned the purpling hillsides into artwork, crickets began to chirp, and the ocean grew dark and secret. 

Driftwood Kitchen is located at 619 Sleepy Hollow Lane. Phone 949-715-7700.


Golden Foodie Award for “best service” honors Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach

For the fifth time in Golden Foodie’s six-year history, Selanne Steak Tavern has been recognized in an outstanding category.  On Sept 24 at the Annual Golden Foodie Awards ceremony, emceed by Food Network celebrity Simon Majumdar and held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, an audience of 250 people was on hand as Selanne Steak Tavern was presented a Golden Foodie Award for Best Service.

The other four awards that Selanne Steak Tavern has received include; Best Steak for the restaurant’s outstanding menu execution, service and overall program in 2016; Best Wine in 2015; and Best New Restaurant and Best Steak in 2014.

The Golden Foodies – the People’s Choice Food Awards – honors excellence in the world of restaurants, chefs, bartenders, food, drinks and hospitality. Results are culled from online nominating and voting by industry professionals, avid restaurant devotees and other influencers.

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Sommelier Vito Pasquale and Chad Sisco

 “To be recognized again by the Golden Foodie Awards is an ongoing testament to the devotion and professionalism of each member of our outstanding staff,” said Selanne Steak Tavern’s co-owner Teemu Selanne. “Kevin Pratt and I are thrilled our restaurant has won this industry validation especially on the heels of being recognized by Wine Spectator magazine for our wine program.” 

Selanne Steak Tavern recently garnered the “Best of Award of Excellence,” granted to only 1,168 restaurants globally from the prestigious magazine. Located at 1464 S Coast Hwy, Selanne Steak Tavern opened in Nov 2013 and is owned by Hockey Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne and local OC businessman Kevin Pratt. 

Housed in a reimagined 1934 historic home along the Pacific Coast, it’s an upscale contemporary steak house with an upstairs dining room, downstairs tavern and bar area, a wine room for more intimate dining and two patios for alfresco dining. 

 Selanne Steak Tavern is open for dinner only, starting at 5 p.m. For reservations, call 949-715-9881 or visit www.selannesteaktavern.com.


Ivory: Unique dishes – and there’s parking!

Story by MARRIE STONE

When I entered Ivory Restaurant, my first impression was, “This place feels chic and sophisticated, trendy and beautiful, but without an air of pretention.” 

The noise level is delightful for maintaining a civilized conversation (which I loved), yet the subtle remixed rhythms of European electronica still made for a young, cool atmosphere. 

More important, no one at Ivory is trying to be anything they’re not. They’re simply—and genuinely—delighted to be there. And that authenticity, combined with the classy coastal atmosphere, attracted my attention.

A Ukrainian Foundation

When I had a chance to talk with owners Alexander Pavlovsky and Olga Bevz, my feelings began to make sense. Both Alex and Olga grew up in the Ukraine, where eating out wasn’t just a luxury—it was nearly beyond the realm of possibility. “Ever since I was a little girl, I always loved gathering places and great food,” says Olga. “Eating out wasn’t a common thing, so I was fascinated with this concept of a restaurant.” 

Alex shared Olga’s childhood experiences. “We were friends a long time and both realized we had the same concept in mind,” says Alex. “Owning a place for people to gather and enjoy their experience.”

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Photo from website

Ivory’s exterior is attractive

Together, they began looking for a coastal location, modern and fresh. Ivory fit the bill, with a white décor and old world elements that gave the space a chic vibe. The room is small and intimate, appointed with luxurious leather couches and flowing white drapery. They were inspired to add an outdoor patio with a living wall of jasmine. “Ever since we did that,” says Olga, “it’s become a hit. Especially during the warm summers.”

Ukraine meets California for a perfect culinary union 

Did that Ukrainian influence find its way onto Ivory’s menu? Da! (Actually, in Ukrainian, it’s “tak.”) Alex and Olga strive for exclusive offerings that are difficult to find in other Orange County restaurants. Their blini, for example, is a quintessential Ukrainian dish infused with a Californian touch: Crepes filled with braised short ribs and a mushroom sauce. Alex is quick to point out these are nothing like French crepes. You won’t find this taste or texture elsewhere. That culinary homage to their homeland makes Ivory’s menu utterly unique.

This winter, Alex will expand the Ukrainian influence to include pelmeni—a Russian boiled dumpling, filled with veal. It will be presented in a way consistent with Ivory’s style, incorporating both the influences of Southern California and Alex and Olga’s heritage.

Other signature & standout plates

Chef Jesus Duran joined the Ivory team as a line cook and quickly demonstrated unparalleled creativity and passion toward food. He moved through the ranks, becoming their trusted head chef in February of 2015. “When he came in,” says Alex, “we fed off a lot of his ideas and improved the menu to provide an excellent food and tasting experience.” 

What sets Jesus apart? He’s a wizard with meat temperatures and textures, says Alex. The octopus ceviche, for example, is a very tricky protein to get just right. “Jesus has perfected the process,” says Alex. “There’s a very narrow window of cooking time to get the right texture.” Jesus knows just the sweet spot.

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Shrimp, Ivory style

Another signature favorite is the Boom Boom Shrimp (an homage to Laguna’s old Boom Boom Room), a light and crispy shrimp marinated and served with a creamy aioli. My recent visit to Ivory proved that the hype over this appetizer was justified. The flavor combinations and crispy texture tasted just right. We also applauded the goat cheese and beet hors d’oeuvres, which I hadn’t associated with Ukrainian cuisine until I spoke with Alex and Olga. Beets—of course! The fresh cucumbers and pears on the side made this a delightfully light dish.

Let me not forget the prawns in a citrusy asparagus risotto. The lemon leek buerre blanc sauce created a light finish to the heft of the risotto. Against my better judgment, warning me against eating a full serving of risotto, the plate returned to the kitchen clean. And, surprisingly, I didn’t have that overly full feeling I’m often left with after a hearty carb-rich meal. 

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Beets – of course…

Alex also worked with Jesus to create the blackberry duck. “Duck isn’t something you see on a lot of menus,” says Alex. “We wanted a standout dish to differentiate us from typical fare.” The duck is complemented by farro and a side of blackberry sauce.

“The sweetness of the port and darkness of the berries work really well together,” he says. I must return to test this for myself!

The Dirty Russian & other drinking delights

Olga and Alex wanted to ensure their specialty drink menu represented their heritage, as well as a variety of options for their guests. There’s an old Soviet Union hangover cure that involves pickle juice. Actually, maybe it is just pickle juice. Alex decided to experiment. The result is a twist on the classic dirty martini, using pickle juice and adding pickled tomato, as well as good vodka. Diners can’t get enough.

This winter, Alex will bring his own family tradition into the restaurant. For years, he’s personally made a cranberry infusion for the enjoyment of his friends and family. Fresh cranberries, muddled with sugar and vodka, infused for over a week—what’s not to love? Plus, probably some antioxidants. “It creates this amazing tasting beverage,” says Alex. “Our version of the cosmopolitan.” 

It will go on the menu in a few weeks, plenty of time to become a local favorite this holiday season.

A local advantage

A few other things make Ivory particularly palatable for locals. Free, easy and plentiful parking. All the time. If you live in town, I hardly need to tell you this is a treat. 

After some research, I also discovered their happy hour is nearly unmatched in Laguna. Served from 5 to 6:30 p.m., you’ll enjoy 50 percent off appetizers and well drinks. They also have a reasonable prix fixe menu—four courses for $35. 

But, more than that—at least for me—are all the benefits that come from its location off the beaten and overcrowded Laguna path, nestled in the Canyon near the Sawdust Festival. This means the beach bikini crowd isn’t strolling by the front window looking for a seat. This intimate setting makes Ivory a perfect choice before a night at the Laguna Playhouse, with whom they partner often for various events. 

“Unlike other places in Laguna that get continuous walk-by clients,” says Alex, “we’re a destination. We work harder to provide a better experience. As a result, Laguna locals love us. We have a loyal support-base, and don’t rely on drop-in business.”

For those who want a place where they can relax, away from the frenetic crowds and beach scene, Ivory fits the bill.


Tortilla Republic will contribute 20 percent of sales on Sept 27 to help rebuild Mexico City 

On Wed, Sept 27, Tortilla Republic will support and stand with Mexico City to help citizens after the recent earthquake.

Tortilla Republic Nachos: every bite helps

On that day, Tortilla Republic will be contributing 20 perecent of its sales to UNICEF’s effort to provide food, water, shelter, protection, and health care to Mexico City after the devastation of the recent earthquake. 

Along with the other sponsors, Herradura Tequila, will be serving $8 margaritas. For more information on upcoming events, visit www.tortilla republic.com

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.

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising

949.315.0259

Email: Lynette@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc

949.715.1736