Monarch Beach Resort’s brunch at Aveo proves a royal treat

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

May 28th marked the three-year anniversary of my arrival in the USA, so what better way to celebrate than to go out for a very fancy brunch?

For this week’s report, I ventured south. “What, you crossed the border?” I hear you cry – yes, I did, I drove all of ten minutes away and went to Monarch Beach Resort’s restaurant Aveo to sample their incredible brunch.

Monarch Beach Resort is a luxury resort, recognized among the best in the world, with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and 400 exquisitely appointed guest rooms and suites. This resort is very special, nestled along the coast in Dana Point. It features the Robert Trent Jones-designed Monarch Beach Golf Links, access to one of the most exclusive beaches in Southern California, three luxurious pools, and six ocean-view restaurants, Aveo being the one that offers brunch every Sunday from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.


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Monarch Beach Resort offers panoramic views of the Pacific

Drawing inspiration from the South of France, Executive Chef Collin Thornton also borrows flavors from across the Mediterranean, from Spain to Italy and from Greece to Morocco.

Chef Thornton oversees all culinary operations including the resort’s signature Stonehill Tavern and Michael Mina restaurant; Sombra, a poolside Mexi-Cali cantina; 33˚ North, a convivial indoor-outdoor lobby-lounge; Part & Parcel Market, a grab-and-go marketplace; and Club 19, a gastro pub dining experience. An incredibly busy chef, yet he still made time on a busy Sunday over memorial weekend to introduce himself to me and my guest. He’s passionate about Monarch Beach Resort, enthusiastic about all of his restaurants, and his love for food is evident in the way he talks.  

Canada-born Chef Thornton has a distinguished career

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Thornton began his culinary career at the early age of 14 in Edmonton, Alberta, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to an apprenticeship at the prestigious Edmonton Petroleum Club. Thornton has a distinguished 20-year culinary career working at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts properties around the world. 

He most recently served as Executive Chef of the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, home to the largest hotel kitchen in Canada, and previously held positions at Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton, Alberta; Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda; the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier on the Rideau Canal; and Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii where he oversaw 540 guestrooms, four restaurants and three lounges. 

Chef Thornton is very proud of the Aveo brunch, as he absolutely should be 

The brunch truly is a feast for the eyes. The spread spans the entirety of the restaurant, converting its bar, terrace, and dining rooms into a buffet featuring 10 over-the-top brunch stations. Never before have I seen such an exquisite buffet brunch, with so much on offer that it was difficult to know where to start. 

The brunch is divided into the following stations – well, the easiest way to explain them to you is to take you through them in order of how we ate.

The omelet and pancake station

At the omelet and pancake station, we decided to go for the omelet, with a side of bacon (the bacon here is really good, very crispy as I like it). You can build your own omelet and literally get the chef to make it just how you want it. Ours was delicious, light, fluffy and packed full of ingredients. 


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Beautiful to look at, delicious to eat

Raw bar and sushi station

West Coast & East Coast oysters, jumbo crab claws, and shrimp are offered at the raw bar and sushi station with an array of house-made accompaniments. AVEO’s sushi chef prepares made-to-order hand and cut rolls, and a bamboo boat boasts a sea of nigiri sushi. This was such a beautiful station to look at as well as eat from: the sushi was so fresh and prepared to suit your tastes and needs.

Savory station

The savory station features hearty offerings including Braised Chicken Cacciatore, Pacific Dover Sole, Moroccan Spiced Lamb Chops, and Seafood Paella that highlight the savory flavors of the Mediterranean and offer a peek into lunch and dinner items at AVEO Table + Bar. We sampled something from every dish on this station and they were all incredible. My particular favorites were the lamb chops, cooked to perfection and the sauce was so delicious. 

Little Italy station

Located outside on the terrace, the Little Italy station offers made-to-order risottos and house-made pastas & raviolis customizable with a variety of authentic Italian ingredients and house-made sauces. A wood-fired oven warms a variety of flatbreads including a sweet & savory Prosciutto & Pear with Quince. There were also cooked meats available here. We tried the flatbreads and risotto from this station, and they were both stunning.


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The dessert station is, in a word, spectacular

Dessert station

I have never in my life seen anything as beautiful and spectacular as this dessert station. Chef Thornton told me that the gentleman responsible for this was Jamon Harper, with whom Chef Thornton worked at The Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, and brought over with him when he got the position at Monarch. I’m so glad he did. 

Amid a colorful menagerie of peanut butter jelly verrines and gold-dusted caramel tartlets, the Dessert Station also boasts a triple-tiered chocolate fountain and I’m told will soon expand to feature a made-to-order frost-top ice cream bar. 

This was a real treat and we sampled as many things as our tummies would allow.

My personal favorite was the chocolate dipped strawberries, which were the most deliciously ornate things I’ve ever seen and tasted so great.

Antipasti station

Fine American & European cheeses are displayed at Aveo’s Antipasti Station with artisan baguettes, dried fruit, and a whole golden honeycomb. Smoked & cured meats and house-made pâtés & rillettes are offered alongside assorted mustards and pickled vegetables. I don’t think I have ever seen such a range and variety of cheeses in my life, all so tasty and incredibly, even though this was a buffet, there was never any mess that you would associate with a cheese board, everything was presented so well and kept very well stocked.

Other stations include a Miraval Juice & Smoothie Bar, Continental Breakfast Station, Seasonal Salad Bar, Carvery, and a Children’s Station. 

This was a serious feast, I was so thankful I wore a very flowing dress for this occasion and believe me when I tell you, I ate nothing for the rest of day… This brunch is seriously worth leaving town for.

Brunch is priced at $78 per guest, $39 for children ages 5-12, and free for children under five. 

There are some wonderful upgrades available, including the Champagne package, the Bloody Mary package, and the Mimosa package. Full details are available at the resort’s website, or Beach Resort. 

AVEO Table + Bar is located at One Monarch Beach Drive, Dana Point.

The Wine Gallery lures in locals with Siren wines, Thirsty Thursdays, and great food and music 

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

May 28 marks a very special day for me and my family as it will be the three-year anniversary of when we first arrived in America. May 30 is also a special day, as it was the first time I met Chris Olsen and ate at my “local,” The Wine Gallery.

Fortunate as I am to report on every restaurant in Laguna Beach, it is always a little more special when the owners are friends and people you hugely admire. Chris and his lovely wife Heather are such people: dedicated, enthusiastic, hard working parents who, with two young children and recent year-long remodel to contend with, nevertheless maintain their deep passion for their business model. Their investment in the Laguna Beach is something to applaud. 

Happily, the universe delivers owner Chris Olsen to Laguna

In 1999, when Chris was 25 years old, and already passionate about wine, he opened Wine Gallery in Corona Del Mar. The Gallery began as a retail store selling obscure wines, but grew organically and to the delight of his loyal customers, Chris added a kitchen. Chris soon realized that this business model, a wine bar serving food to accompany his wines, was a hit, but the limited space in that location prevented him from opening the kitchen he wanted. 

As always, the universe delivered when one of his customers happened to own property in Laguna that would be a perfect fit. Chris signed on for that space in 2012, and Wine Gallery Laguna Beach was born. It quickly became a happening place, both because of the wine and the food. 

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Wine is the lure, but the food is fabulous too

When I arrived here in 2014, The Wine Gallery very quickly became a regular haunt of mine. Chris works tirelessly to improve his business model and is constantly changing to keep up with customer base.  He not only concentrates on the selling of wine, he is also an accomplished wine maker. His beautiful Mile 260 pinot noir is a really stunning drink, named after the distance from Laguna Beach to the vineyard in Santa Barbara. This wine is a firm favorite of mine.  

Chris also sells the 154, which is named after the road in which the vineyard that makes this wine is situated. I tried this for the first time during this tasting, and it was a fantastic blend of 70 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet. I’d encourage everyone to give it a try.

My Food Journey at The Wine Gallery

Not only is the wine pretty special at The Wine Gallery but so is the food. Famous for its delicious wood fired pizzas (the gluten free option, in my opinion, is the best in Laguna Beach), The Wine Gallery’s family friendly American cuisine and menu caters for everyone. Cheese boards, snacks, seasonal plates, greens and large plates: the list is endless.

I decided to try the specials this week, and started with the Kale Special salad, a delicious tasty salad with a light oil dressing, pine nuts, capers, tomatoes and cucumber. This was crunchy, tasty and a perfect portion size for my guest and I to share.

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Without fail the kale salad is quite amazing

It was then on to the Beets and Burrata, a colorful array of beets, beautifully presented and a creamy generously portioned burrata, which went together exceptionally well.

I struggle to go to The Wine Gallery and not have a pizza. This time I chose the pizza of day, which featured The Wine Gallery’s signature homemade tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, shishito peppers, meatballs and garlic. This was really great and very tasty: luckily for my children, I didn’t finish it, so took the rest home. Yet again the Buckle children benefit from mummy’s job. 

We finished the tasting with the amazing warm apple crumble served with vanilla ice cream – wholesome, simple dessert done right. 

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Beets and burrata are beautifully presented and temptingly tasty

The Wine Gallery is also a huge supporter of everything Laguna Beach, regularly hosting popular local musicians to entertain guests. The combination of good food, drink and entertainment is what makes The Wine Gallery a hive of activity six days a week.

One particular favorite monthly occurrence is Thirsty Thursday, featuring wine label Purple Corduroy.  Purple Corduroy is the brainchild of Jeff Farthing, a successful wine maker in Lodi, Brandy Faber, marketing director with Roark clothing, and Steven Chew, DJ, surf coach and artist, all childhood friends and all Laguna Beach boys. 

So how did three surfer boys end up in the wine business? 

Brandy Faber explains, “Steven and I grew up traveling in search of great surf, and most of the great surf regions also happen to be in close proximity to the world’s great wine regions as well.” The three formed Purple Corduroy based on their love of surfing and wine making.

The name purple corduroy, not surprisingly, has the surfing connection running through its veins. 

As Brandy notes, “The biggest and best swells are depicted as giant purple blobs on a weather map. Surfers have long called swells lines as they approach the coast rows of corduroy. The symmetry of a vineyard is very similar to swell lines and when most people think of wine they think of red wine or dark grapes, purple grapes. The purple storm blobs fuel the purple corduroy swell lines before making their way to land and fueling the purple corduroy vineyards.”

Unique sirens lure wine lovers into The Wine Gallery

Purple Corduroy boasts three delicious wines, Red Siren, Blonde Siren and a Rose Siren. Steven Chew, aka SLi Dawg, the artist behind the Sirens unique design, explains that the Red Siren came first and was inspired by his Grandma Doris, who sadly passed around the time of the wine development. “Grandma Doris was an eccentric, loving lady with red hair and a passion for the ocean,” Chew says. She raised successful watermen: Steven’s uncle was an accomplished surfer and Steven recalls many happy days spent fishing on the pier with his Grandma. 

“The term Siren was an obvious ocean connection, I liked the idea of mermaids, but felt the word was a little overplayed,” Steven says. “There are myths and tales of Sirens luring sailors and watermen into the ocean with their song. The taste of our wine is like a song, singing and luring people in.”

And I would have to agree. On Thirsty Thursdays, the wine that is poured and the beats that accompany them, played by Dj SLi Dawg, certainly sing to many Laguna locals. It’s always a very busy night. 

The combination of The Wine Gallery’s forward thinking commitment to serving Laguna Beach and the genius trio of Purple Corduroy blend together as well as any wine blend I’ve ever tasted. 

Great job Chris and the PC boys – cheers to you!    

The Wine Gallery is located 1833 S Coast Highway. (949) 715 8744

If you’ve never had a Belgian breakfast, now’s the time to enjoy an authentic one at Brussels Bistro

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

It wasn’t too long ago that I reported on Tuesday nights’ Mussel Madness at Brussels Bistro. While I was there, restaurant entrepreneur Nicolas Servais told me of his and Chef Thomas Crijns’ idea to start a regular Belgium inspired brunch. Thoroughly excited at the thought of this, I asked Nicolas to let me know as soon as possible when that might begin. 

So imagine my surprise and delight to receive an email invite, asking myself and my family to be there on Mother’s Day, as they launched their Belgian waffles for breakfast and lunch.  

The new Belgian waffle menu features waffles for breakfast with either a sweet or savory twist. On the savory menu there is an Eggs Benedict Waffle: poached egg, tomato and spinach with hollandaise sauce served with bacon, ham or salmon. 

Eggs benedict waffle

For those of you with a sweet tooth there is of course the classic Brussels waffle, served with powdered sugar, butter, Nutella jam and maple syrup. They also offer a freshly made Chantilly waffle with whipped cream or another famous spread, the Nutella waffle.  

The Mikado Waffle offers ice cream and hot chocolate sauce and with all of these sweet options there is an option to add strawberries, banana and of course maple syrup. This menu is available from 8 a.m. until 11.30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Mikado waffle

The amazing duo at Brussels Bistro has really put a lot of thought into creating a weekend menu for everyone. From 11.30 a.m. onwards, the waffles theme continues, but the fillings change to include mushroom, smoked salmon or chicken-topped waffles. There is also a Vol-au-Vent waffle, a famous Belgian creamy chicken and mushroom dish offered on the crispy light waffles. 

And finally, the hamburger waffle for the ultimate fusion of the American hamburger and the authentic Belgian waffle. It’s a brave, exciting and dynamic menu, and as much as I adore a Mexican breakfast, I think it’s a welcome change in Laguna Beach that everyone should try.

Also don’t worry, people with food intolerances: they offer a gluten free waffle.

Our food journey at Brussels Bistro

I was there for brunch and believe me, having just had a rather crazy birthday weekend in the desert, I was in great need of a hearty breakfast. As it was Mother’s Day, we arrived at 10.30 a.m. and I was thrilled to see that many tables were filled. We were shown to our table and ordered drinks. I chose the Bloody Mary, which was really delicious. 

I could have predicted the way it would pan out, naturally Jonathan and I went for savory and the kids went for sweet.

I chose the Brussels benedict waffle, gluten free, with smoked salmon. This was absolutely delicious, the toppings were plentiful and the gluten free waffle was great. Naturally gluten free is slightly denser than the traditional waffle, however it was so tasty and the combination of the benedict and waffle went together so well.

Jonathan chose the bacon benedict with the hollandaise on the side, because he sometimes feels that hollandaise can be floury: however this was not the case. This dish was perfection: the bacon was cooked crispy, the eggs were perfectly over easy and the waffle (Jonathan’s did have gluten) was as light as a feather. 

My son went for the Mikado waffle (of course he did, ice cream for breakfast!), gluten free, and this was perfect for him, topped with a warm chocolate sauce. He also ordered a small side of strawberries. There was nothing left on his plate and he had a chocolate mustache, so I’m thinking he enjoyed it. 

The Nutella waffle

My daughter chose the Nutella (it’s her favorite) with a side of Chantilly and strawberries. The bird (as I affectionately call her as she eats little and often) inhaled the lot and is already looking forward to the next visit when she can make her way through the menu.

As always the service was exceptional. The atmosphere, calm and comfortable. The restaurant, cool and eclectic. If you’ve never had a Belgium waffle breakfast, go and try it. If you have had a Belgium waffle breakfast before, compare it to others. You’ll find it’s priced very well, it’s different, it’s tasty, and I’ll be visiting again for sure.

Brussels Bistro is located 222 Forest Ave. (949) 376 7955

The Scoop on scoops at an Ice Cream Social:

Moulin celebrates its first summer in Laguna


Among a muffled (well, because our mouths were full) chorus of “ohhs” and “ahhs”, Laurent Vrignaud, owner of Moulin, presents one Coupes Glacees after another to a small group of writers on his café patio. In celebration of their first summer in Laguna, Chef Jeoffrey Offer created these hand-crafted ice cream concoctions, and they are now on the menu. The Coupes Glacees are yet another element of Laurent’s time in Montmartre, Paris, that has migrated to Moulin. Lucky for us.

“Growing up in Paris, some of the most memorable moments of childhood summers were spent getting lost in the simple indulgence of a Coupe Glacee,” recalls Laurent. “These classic desserts are reflective of the café culture we embody at Moulin; providing our guests with yet another way to escape in a daydream to Paris.” 

When he was young, he tells us, his grandmother would take him to fancy cafés, and sometimes he would get his own Glacee, but most often, he would take some of hers. In Paris, he explains, it can be eaten after lunch or dinner, accompanied by a cappuccino or champagne or a Rose.

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Banana Split

We taste, and find the descriptions don’t do them justice: Banana Split -  fresh banana, split lengthwise with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream, topped with whipped cream, chocolate coulis and almond tuiles: Poire Belle Helene - poached pear with vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream & almond tuiles: Dame Blanche vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce & roasted sliced almonds: Cafe Liegeois - coffee ice cream topped with whipped cream, coffee coulis, almond tuiles, & chocolate confectionery; Boules de Glaces – choice of three scoops, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, strawberry, or exotic sherbert.

Strictly adhering to his Parisian roots (he won’t serve iced coffee because there’s no iced coffee in Paris), Laurent is clear that the Glacees must be served in glass and won’t be a to-go item. However, what will soon be a to-go item, is another new addition to the menu, a picnic lunch in a temperature controlled package, a fast and easy meal to pick up on the way to the beach.

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Poire Belle Helene

Laurent sits across the bistro table (which, along with all patio furniture, came from Parisian cafes, one under the Eiffel tower), portraying Moulin’s fare as basic Parisian café food, but it is anything but typical to Laguna patrons. 

From the crepes to the sandwiches, to the pastries, it’s all extraordinary, and now he’s introducing the French “hot dog” (house-made Toulouse sausage and Dijon mustard tucked into a fresh-baked baguette). Again, nothing standard about it. “It’s all about the bread,” he says, “that first warm bite.” Only two condiments are served; always mustard, catsup is optional. 

Laurent pauses to dip a piece of almond tuiles in the ice cream and savors it, and I imagine that he must be thinking about his childhood and the Glacees he shared with his grandmother.

On this beautiful morning, the sun melts what little is left of the Glacees, and those on the patio enjoy the passersby who stroll with dogs or children and look at us with envy. The ice cream has made me content and lazy and ready for a nap. Across from us, a couple enjoy a late breakfast of eggs, at another table, a man leisurely sips coffee and reads a newspaper, and if I didn’t know we were on Forest Ave, it could be a café in Paris. 

Compared to his Newport Beach location, which Laurent says is fast-paced with customers always on the go, Laguna Beach patrons, whether it be tourists or residents, are more mellow. And today is a good example.

Moulin is located at 248 Forest Ave, and is open daily from 6 – 9 p.m. For more information, go to:

Truly local, truly vegan and truly delicious: My fabulous food staycation feasting on Sourced Cuisine

Story and photos by Laura Buckle

Jessica McLeish is a self confessed researcherholic. Having carved out a successful 20-year career in public relations and marketing, Jessica, a keen chef, started to help out at Alegría Farms in Irvine. It was there that her fascination with nutrition and the biochemical effects of food upon the body was cultivated. 

McLeish researched and learned how to prepare delicious meals that support the body to help itself, working with freshly picked ingredients from truly local farms. Sourcing food is something Jessica is “truly” passionate about. Many places serve food that they say is locally grown, however, this often means that the food is from California, which as we all know is a huge state, says Jessica. 

Phytochemicals are important for health, Jessica says

Take strawberries for example: Jessica explains that one of the most important things we need from our food are phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds found in food and have protective and disease preventative properties. 

But phytochemicals on strawberries have a very short shelf life of 48 hours. Most strawberries found in supermarkets or even some local farmers markets have been in transport for at least 48 hours meaning their nutritional values and benefits are greatly reduced. It is because of this that Jessica will shop for all of her produce from a choice of five local farms (depending on what is growing and where). These include Bluebird Canyon farm right here in Laguna Beach, South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano and Tustin, and Alegría Farms, Orange County Produce and Manassero Farms, all located in Irvine.  

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Check out the vibrant colors of the produce in the salad of South Coast Farms

It is not only fresh produce that Jessica is passionate about, but also her water source, having researched into the chemicals that are added to water, such as fluoride. Jessica started to use a Pristine Hydro Water Revival System, which produces properly mineralized water, water that is fluoride, acid, and 100 percent contaminant free. Jessica uses this to wash and cook her food.

So where did this food and health fascination come from? Well, San Clemente-raised Jessica’s father was an athlete, a pro surfer and soccer coach who sadly had to have open-heart surgery at the age of 45. It was due to what he was putting into his body, not his activity Jessica explains. 

Activity is good: eating healthy food is key though

Jessica is by no means discounting the importance of being active: she is a regular at Fokus Pilates, which is in fact where we met, and a volleyball player, playing most days. But she believes health has to be a balance of eating right and keeping active.

Jessica’s food delivery company Sourced Conscious Cuisine began two years ago, offering gluten free, dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free foods. Jessica and her culinary director John Pflueger make magic in their kitchen by creating healthy raw natural meals without any taste being compromised.

John Pflueger’s resume is extensive. He has cooked all over the world ranging from an Indian kitchen where the staff sang to their food, to a Michelin starred restaurant in Burgundy. We have featured him in Stu News a few times – he’s an exciting and accomplished chef. John followed a raw vegan diet for a few years and felt the benefits so when Jessica asked him to work alongside her in the kitchen he jumped at the chance. 

My food staycation with Sourced Cuisine

I was particularly excited about my Sourced Delivery, as it was the first time I had reviewed any delivery service. Jessica told me that she would be sending me 10 dishes to try, so I invited a couple of girlfriends as well as my family to join in this healthy delicious delivery experience. 

Customers are asked to place their orders online or by phone no later than midnight on Friday. This gives Jessica Saturday to source the ingredients and herself and John, as the cook, Saturday and Sunday to ensure the food is ready for delivery on Sunday. 

The menu is plentiful, with breakfasts, salads, starters, entrees, soups and desserts. There is also a section dedicated to drinks, snacks and elixirs. The food is vegan, but there is an option to add a protein if desired and obviously all proteins are organic. I allowed Jessica to choose for me of course.

The food arrived in a cool storage bag, which I will keep as it’s perfect for the beach! And so we began to unpack our goodies. 

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Unpacking our cold storage bag revealed delights such as the Buddha bowl

For our starters we had the vegetable sushi rolls, made with sweet rice, spicy carrots, asparagus, Maui onions and avocado served with a ginger sesame dipping sauce. These were delicious, light yet full of flavor and so fresh and clean in taste.

We then moved on to the Salad of Coast farms, which consisted of strawberries, basil, mint, pistachios, lime and coconut yoghurt dressing. This was actually the best salad I’ve ever tasted. The strawberries (freshly picked the day before) were a deep red almost purple color and were the tastiest strawberries I’ve ever tried. I will be ordering this salad again and again.

The field green salad came next, which was of course field greens, served with roasted beets, orange, jicama and splashed with hazelnut vinaigrette. Yet again tasty, delicious and so fresh. 

Zucchini boats were out of this world

It was then on to the entrees. The zucchini boats were out of this world good, fresh tasty zucchini served with black beans, corn, salsa fresco, chipotle nut cheese and cilantro. I have really struggled with trying to find a cheese alternative and this was fantastic.

Next up was the Buddha bowl, which I had heard about from various friends who have tried Jessica’s food. This consisted of brown rice, romanesco, yellow squash, sugar snap peas, herbed goddess dressing and sunflower seeds. I now know what they were talking about. This was a great dish, really filling, but that good feeling type of fullness. Perfect. 

The final entrée we tried was the red quinoa bowl with braised cabbage, dried fruit and nuts. This again was a filling combination of goodness and we loved it.

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The red quinoa bowl was a filling combination of pure goodness

Finally we reached the section of the menu I’d been dubious about… Was it really possible to replicate a sweet tasty dessert using no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no tastes so-good-but-so-bad-for-you additives? I wondered. The answer, my friend, is yes – Jessica can! 

The raw vegan desserts were next-level tasty. Raw banana cream pie squares with lucuma caramel tasted like they had a whole load of bad but delicious ingredients in them, however they did not: they were totally healthy, totally delicious and I wanted more. Luckily for me Jessica had included another dessert, a raw carrot cupcake with cashew cream frosting. I’ve always said Laguna Beach was the closest thing to heaven.

Sourced Cuisine’s raw desserts are heaven on a spoon

I stand corrected: Sourced Cuisine’s raw desserts are heaven on a spoon.

My whole experience with Sourced Conscious Cuisine was magnificent. I am officially a regular customer. So much goodness was delivered to my door that day and at no point did I feel unsatisfied. 

One question I did ask Jessica though was if she ever cheated, if she herself allowed herself a vice, and her reply?  “Well, who doesn’t love a Selanne’s burger and a cocktail?” That’a girl!

For orders and information go to

Pearl Street General on Coast Hwy is a hidden gem: A funky yet elegant store/bar steeped in Laguna history

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Back in 1926, the Ware family decided to build and open two stores on the corner of Pearl Street and PCH in Laguna Beach – a liquor store and a hardware store. Both stores did very well until the 1940s, when the hardware store fell into financial crisis and closed for a few years. 

Then, in 1946 (and not many people know this), it reopened as The Seahorse, Laguna’s first secret gay bar. 

It stayed that way for many years, until eventually closing down and very quickly opening back up as Laguna Auto Parts store, owned and run by the much loved Jerry Piper, who sadly passed away in 2012. 

In 2013 Laguna locals Tom and Michele Reynolds decided to purchase the building and reopen it as a craft beer and wine bar, as well as a general store that would sell coffee and operate as a sandwich bar for beachgoers. 

The Reynolds own several resorts in California and with the help of Justin Warwick, designer, consultant and all round talented creative director, they took on the arduous task of dealing with the City to get Pearl Street General store open.

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The wall coverings, the restyled furniture, the bar: everything about this store is eclectic elegance

Justin’s background in design is extensive. After a stint working in retail for Gap and Mango, he went on to own a 4,000 square foot store on Melrose in LA, selling vintage clothing home goods and accessories.  

The store opened immediately, but sadly for many years, the Reynolds couldn’t fully achieve their vision for the place. Various restrictions from the City meant that for more than years the Reynolds Family went back and forth trying to get permits to serve alcohol, coffee, and food. They attended hearings, changed concepts and plans, and basically lived with their hearts in their mouths hoping to get what they wanted. 

After three years they decided enough was enough and that they would indeed close the store. The very next day, the City called them to another hearing. This time they were granted a license to serve beer and wine, coffee, hot drinks and food that was prepared and packaged offsite – despite having a kitchen. 

These decisions enabled the Reynolds to open Pearl Street General, and although some modifications were necessary, their labor of love has really paid off. 

It’s no surprise that with Justin’s background in everything vintage and fabulous, Pearl Street General’s interior is beautiful to look at. The wall coverings, the restyled furniture, the bar area: everything about this store is eclectic elegance. 

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History – and beloved former businesses – are celebrated at Pearl Street General

Justin likes to work with whatever is available to him. At the front of the store is a display of jewelry resting on a beautiful old table, actually the original workbench used to build Pearl Street General back in the 1920s. 

The original Laguna Auto Parts sign is also located in the store, honoring the much-loved former business on this spot. The front of the store carries an eclectic mix of accessories and home-ware, as well as a huge array of produce, pastas, sauces, chips, cheese, and dips – many of which are Pearl Street General’s own brand, that Justin tells me are made in the Bay Area and transported down. 

The coffee area is stunning to look at, with its beautiful highly polished coffee machines, chandeliers and an array of mouthwatering pastries. The coffee itself is Verve Coffee which is California’s number one selling craft coffee. And trust me, it’s delicious.  

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The coffee area, featuring Verve coffee, is stunning

Located in the back of Pearl Street General is The Seahorse Lounge, and this is where the magic happens.  Anyone who visits this bar will be astounded by its beauty, its handcrafted bar, beer pumps, leather stools, and turntable – you can bring your own vinyl to play – to the wall coverings: everything is decadent, warm and most of all comfortable. The store has managed to keep its original speakeasy “secret bar” kind of vibe.  

But, not to be outdone by its beautiful décor, The Seahorse Lounge also delivers on food and drink.

I mentioned before that City restrictions mean that The Seahorse Lounge cannot cook food on site – despite having a kitchen. The Reynolds are trying to get this restriction lifted, but for now the food they can serve is pre-prepared and is brought in by local caterers. On the menu most nights are clam chowder, ceviche and bacon wrapped dates, light bites to accompany the delicious drinks they sell. 

I tried all the food dishes and they were really nice, a perfect bite to accompany the drinks we sampled. Justin explained that during Pearl Street’s opening night they had oysters too, which they are going to try and do monthly, courtesy of The Jolly Oyster

At the helm of the bar I met Nick Reynolds. Standing at 6 ft. 7 inches tall, he is the son of the owners, hailing from Three Arch Bay and now living in Dana Point with his wife and two children. Nick is general manager and chief bartender. He’s also a craft ale consultant. There’s nothing that this guy doesn’t know about ale: he was a font of knowledge and so passionate about his ales. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Nick Reynolds is the bartender at The Seahorse Lounge, a bar with a rich history

Nick explained to me that he had always been a wine lover, but about five years ago he stumbled across a rare beer, and his passion was ignited. 

Pearl Street General really wants to be different in the drinks that they sell: they want to offer a large selection of hard-to-find ales and wines to introduce Laguna to other flavors. They are also very interested in local breweries and carrying some local labels. 

They currently offer six labels on tap, including a gluten free option (I think I am right in thinking they could be the only place that offers this in Laguna), as well as five bottled ales and three ciders. I was lucky enough to take a sip of all six draft ales and they were exceptional. The plan is to rotate the ales bi-weekly, introducing new ones and changing them up regularly.

Alongside the craft ales is a vast selection of wines. Three choices of sparkling, seven choices of white, three choices of rosé and eight choices of red wine, hailing from all around the world.  During the evening I tried one from each section and they were all incredible.  

As a Woods Cove resident I am so happy about the arrival of Pearl Street General featuring the Seahorse Lounge. For so long we have wanted somewhere to grab a sandwich for the beach, or a coffee for our morning dog-walk, or a place to go to for a glass of wine or a beer at the end of a beach day. Pearl Street General Store is a welcome addition to the Woods Cove area. We are so lucky to have such another great choice of a place to eat and drink, one with such a great atmosphere also. 

A job well done Reynolds Family!

Pearl Street General with The Seahorse Lounge is located 1796 S.Coast Highway. (949) 715 4533

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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