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Asada: A beachside vibe with tacos…and then some

Story and photos by MAGGI HENRIKSON

Asada “handmade tacos + beer” offers more than their handmade tortillas and craft brews. How about a sip of spicy sangria and a roasted veggie salad? Sounds like a nice afternoon!

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This Boat Canyon nook is like an open concept taco stand. They make 11 varieties of soft or signature crispy tacos, which are the classic surfside snack. I stopped by for lunch with a couple of friends who make this place a habit, regularly going for the crispy tacos and the huevos rancheros.

Photo by Chloe Cunningham

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All Day Breakfast – Huevos Rancheros

I went out on a limb toward alternative Mexican fare and enjoyed the Barbara’s Roasted Veggie Salad with added grilled chicken. It’s a romaine lettuce salad loaded with grilled zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and avocado, with crispy onions, cheddar and jack cheese on top. The warm veggies were nice and crunchy, but the chipotle ranch dressing was a bit heavy so next time I’d ask for that on the side.

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Barbara’s Roasted Veggie Salad

There are five “Asada Favorites” on the menu, and my two favorites in this category are the Short Rib Crepes, and the Carne Asada Plate (but I really like the Stuffed Chile Relleno too – it was a tough decision!). The Short Rib Crepes are just delicious with tender, demi-glace short ribs (prepared with Negra Modelo beer) served with a horseradish cream, roasted veggies and crispy onions. The Carne Asada Plate – great for sharing – is a nice, juicy steak marinated with citrus and plated with grilled onion, sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, beans, tortillas and Asada’s famous bacon wrapped jalapeño.

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Carne Asada Plate, great with the green citrus salsa

The menu has a little fun, too. Somebody named Raymond got over his hangover with a burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, poblano chiles, jack cheese, spicy potato tots, jalapeño smoked bacon and salsa Diablo. The eponymous Raymond’s Hangover Burrito sounds like a good solution to a pitcher of Asada’s house-made margaritas!

Asada’s newest incarnation is a lighter version of the former restaurant that was in downtown. There’s a casual vibe and options of take away – even six-packs of beer. I love the idea of party trays the next time I’m invited to a potluck (taquitos, mini burritos or tamales). Yes, bonus points to Asada for the plentiful parking in the Vons lot, and that you can order big platters to take to the beach or your home party.

610 N Coast Hwy   asadatacos.net


Five top chefs in Laguna Beach tapped for renowned OC Chef’s Table

By DIANE ARMITAGE

If you’re a foodie (like me), you probably dream that someday you’re going to have a great chef host a custom, never-seen-before and never-seen-again dinner for you and your closest friends.

With the Illumination Foundation’s return of its phenomenal OC Chef’s Table event on Sunday, March 18, your dream just came true. And, here’s the topper to the best dream ever – aside from rubbing shoulders all evening with your own table’s Chef and 32 of Orange County’s most acclaimed culinary wunderkinds, the proceeds raised go to Illumination Foundation’s mission to end homelessness in Orange County. 

Presented by Disneyland and brought to you by KPMG, Orange County’s most prestigious culinary fundraiser takes place again at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. A few tables and individual tickets for OC Chef’s Table are still available at: ifhomeless.org/occt2018.

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OC’s Top Chefs Join Mickey Mouse

Presented by Disneyland Resort on Sunday, March 18, the prestigious OC Chef’s Table culinary event features 32 of the county’s top chefs raising funds for Illumination Foundation’s mission to end homelessness in OC

The event includes a cocktail reception, live entertainment, a silent auction and even table décor that jostles for first-place pageantry. Joined by L.A.’s Celebrity Chef Jet Tila, each chef is responsible for his or her own 10-top table of patrons, creating an encapsulated “atmosphere,” from table décor to lavish courses and cocktails prepared tableside.

Event features 32 of Orange County’s acclaimed chefs

OC Chef’s Table has tapped top talent from 18 cities, representing every section of “the orange,” from Brea to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.

This year, Laguna Beach had a record five invitations to the event, with returning chefs Ron Fougeray (Splashes) and Andrew Gruel (who established Slapfish’s second restaurant in Laguna Beach after his founding restaurant in Huntington Beach). 

Chefs Rainer Schwarz (Driftwood Kitchen/The Deck/Hendrix), Azmin Ghahreman (Sapphire) and Arthur Ortiz (Skyloft) are newcomers to the event.

The OC Chef’s Table Hosting Chef is, again, Disneyland Resort’s Culinary Director of Signature Restaurants, Andrew Sutton. A longtime friend of Chef Schwarz, Sutton personally reached out to ask that Schwarz get involved in the event. 

“It’s always great camaraderie when chefs are able to get together,” said Schwarz. “But when Andrew explained the cause and introduced me to what Illumination Foundation was doing, we were absolutely in.

“I like knowing that we’re all doing something together here that causes such significant change,” he explained.  

“It’s just such an honor to be a part of this circle of chefs,” said Skyloft’s Chef Arthur. “And, there’s really no better reason for us to all join together. Homelessness is all around us, in every city of Orange County. We can look to government or agencies and expect them to help these people or take care of the issue, but nothing’s really going to change until we all take on this responsibility with an understanding that these people are our people.”

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Chefs prepare and cook all food tableside at OC Chef’s Table

Another first-time entry, our new neighboring success story, Trevor’s at the Tracks in San Juan Capistrano, echoes similar sentiment. “We’re definitely seeing more homeless people here in San Juan,” says owner Trevor Baird. “It’s heartbreaking and it can seem overwhelming, but here’s our chance to act locally, from a grass roots level, and change this - permanently. That’s what our restaurant’s mission is all about. Illumination Foundation’s invitation is perfect timing and a perfect combination for what we’re committed to doing here in our own town.”  

Alarming statistics on homeless children

Illumination Foundation primarily focuses on helping homeless families. Today, there are more than 32,000 Orange County children living in “tenuous” housing (i.e. cars) or homeless shelters. 

“The most vulnerable homeless population is that of families,” says Illumination Foundation CEO & President Paul Leon. “We receive about 55 to 60 calls per week from families asking us for help. This week, we were able to take in 10 babies with their parents, but we had to say ‘no’ to 15 others who asked.” 

The County’s first emergency housing for struggling families

Last year, the Chef’s Table event raised more than $650,000, which allowed for the completion of the Illumination Foundation’s first Theriault Emergency House, a beautiful Stanton-based home that takes in homeless families with at least one child or pregnant woman. 

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The Theriault Emergency House for homeless families with children

Built from the ground up in just seven months, it houses up to nine families at a time with large private bedrooms and baths for each family, new laundry facilities on both floors, a rambling community kitchen and living room, and a fenced, grassy yard for children to play in. 

Most families stay for about a month, working daily with case workers, doctors and local hospitals to get their lives – and health – back on track. At month’s end, families are helped into permanent housing solutions or bridge housing while they seek out permanent residence.  

Proceeds from this year’s OC Chef’s Table 2018 will go to the construction of the country’s first Recuperative Care Housing Site for children. Working hand-in-hand with CHOC Children’s Hospital, Illumination Foundation’s recuperative care program will be a safety net for unstably housed children who are recovering from an illness or medical procedure.

“Our goal is to build at least five emergency houses in Orange County, each with our foundational pillars of service and resource attached,” says Leon. “At that point, we will be helping more than 1,200 families each year get the footing they need to stabilize their lives.”

The one visit that resulted in creating Illumination Foundation

Celebrating its tenth year, “accidentally” came into being when Paul Leon crossed the bridge from “those people” to “our people” thinking.

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Illumination Foundation CEO & President Paul Leon

While completing his MBA at UCI, he began working in the hospital as a qualified nurse to determine mother/baby risk for at-risk mothers. In the process, he made a visit to the OC Armory Emergency Shelter, which provides hot meals and sleeping quarters to at least 200 people nightly during cold weather months. He was astounded and appalled to see so many children in the facility, and took it upon himself to immediately find housing for a couple families whose children were extremely sick.

“In the weeks that ensued, I was consumed with trying to find housing for homeless families and realized it was tougher than I thought it was going to be – there simply was no housing,” says Leon.

“I took this issue back to my classroom and we began working on it as a class project. In short order, we had organized a medical team that began making ‘house calls’ to the homeless,” explains Leon.

From a classroom project idea, the Illumination Foundation has quickly grown to become a national example and leading advocate for breaking the cycle of homelessness. It addresses the issue in multi-pronged fashion, from establishing resource centers and children’s “after school” tutoring centers, to providing emergency and recuperative care housing, all while directly addressing vastly improved healthcare that includes substance abuse and mental health issues.

Perhaps the most telling statement of Illumination Foundation’s success: 30 percent of the Foundation’s staff is made up of people who were once homeless and helped by the organization. 

“Our only mission is to protect these people and treat them with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve,” said Leon. “We have no other agenda.”


Award-winning Gourmet Chef teaches tricks of the trade at Spring Cooking Class Series at Montage LB 

This spring at Montage Laguna Beach, attendees of special cooking classes will learn tricks of the trade, start mastering go-to recipes and have fun with acclaimed Chef Craig Strong, who has earned the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Rating for Studio for the last nine years. 

While overlooking the Pacific Ocean at this iconic luxury resort, cooking class students will participate in “Loving French Classics” in April, “Saucing It Up” in May and “Spices of Life” in June. To complete the experience, at the end of each cooking class, guests will enjoy a wine-paired lunch.

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Chef Craig Strong teaches Spring Cooking Classes 

Since 2009, Strong has helmed the kitchen at Studio with its highly acclaimed modern, French cuisine with California influences. Under his leadership, Studio has achieved a Forbes Five-Star Rating for the last nine years and has earned Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. Strong is the force behind the ever-changing à la carte menus, multi-course chef’s tasting menus and private dinners at the elegant Chef’s Table. He is also responsible for Studio’s 1,000-square-foot raised bed garden and uses its bounty in his every day cooking, especially in his innovative gourmet vegetarian tasting menu.

Details follow for current classes:

 Loving French Classics: Sat, April 21, 11 a.m.

For those not traveling to Paris this April, they can instead attend Loving French Classics to experience French favorites at home. Participants will start with composing French onion soup, followed by coq au vin and ending with impressive éclairs.

 Saucing It Up: Sat, May 19, 11 a.m.

This class will reveal the prized secrets of sauce making, so students will have go-to sauces in their repertoire to deliciously top meat, seafood and vegetables. Participants will focus on basic meat sauces such as béarnaise and bordelaise, learn how to make beurre blanc for seafood and prepare the ever-popular hollandaise for vegetables and egg dishes.

 Spices of Life: Sat, June 9, 11 a.m.

Learning how to choose and use spices in cooking favorite dishes is what Chef Craig Strong will be sharing at the Spices of Life cooking class. Participants will create their own version of a spice blend for shrimp, make a Thai green curry fish soup and prepare spicy chipotle chicken.

The cost for each class including a wine-paired lunch is $150, plus tax and gratuity. Class size is limited. Reservations are available by calling (949) 715-6520.

Studio is located at 30801 Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to www.montagehotels.com/lagunabeach.


Who were the penguins dining at Penguin Café? If you know their identities, email us…

Something fishy was going on at the Penguin Café the other day. Two penguins, identities unknown (mystery shoppers?) sat themselves down at a table and ordered their meals.

We’re sure they must have been satisfied, otherwise there would probably have been a flap.

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Photo by Barbara Corman

Two penguins check out the menus at Penguin Café

Did climate change drive them here, or just the chance of a great breakfast?

We may never know.


Roux redux – the return

Story and photos by MAGGI HENRIKSON

Not rising from the ashes, but more like emerging transformed from its cocoon, Roux is beaming in its new incarnation.

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Roux owners, Cindy and Michael Byrne

Yes, it was closed for a time after the well-publicized split with the former chef. Now, we’re not looking back, we’re looking forward. I know I was looking forward to the new chef’s approach to the Roux theme – classic, yet understated New Orleans style.

I’m happy to report that Chef Robert Villanueva has brought his own spin on the essentials at Roux, and has also leaned a little more toward seafood. The classics including shrimp, and catfish Orleans remain in Creole style, but seasonal fish, and killer Red King Crab Legs have moved in too.

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Chef Robert Villanueva

Chef Robert says he puts his Asian spin on the French here, and I think it’s a global win. “Spicy Garlic Shrimp is really Thai Green Curry,” he says with a smile. “It’s all about fresh ingredients, and treating every ingredient properly.”

Owners Michael and Cindy Byrne have re-opened the restaurant just three weeks now, and they wanted to make sure to get everything right. “We’re only going to have so many things on the menu, so it has to be good,” said Michael. Being careful to get the menu right, and honoring the space properly is important. “It took 14 months to get a 39 seat restaurant opened, I’m not going to let it fail,” he said. “I have to do the right thing here.”

For now, the restaurant is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, with Saturday and Sunday following shortly.

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Red King Crab with clarified butter & lemons

Tweaking the menu items, Michael asked the chef to give the oysters “more zip” – and he did it the very next day. “We made sure people left saying, ‘That’s good… Wow!’”

The oysters are amazing. 

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Fried Cornmeal Oysters with Lemon & Cornichons

Chef will also listen to customer’s requests. While I was there, he made a gorgeous catfish dish for a customer who didn’t want the creamy sauce – chef made it with his version of a marinara.

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Catfish Orleans, dusted with flour, sautéed in olive oil with lump crab and chef’s custom-ordered marinara, served over herbed rice

The atmosphere is still warm and romantic, and I would call the menu sexy, even. Nothing like a nice glass of red wine, some juicy oysters, and…what? I opted for the New York Steak, grilled to perfection and glazed with a red wine peppercorn demi glace. It was absolutely tender and flavorful, and left me wanting more even though I couldn’t finish it, the 12 ounces being enormous.

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New York Steak 12oz with red wine peppercorn demi glace

The other half of this romantic dinner was my husband, Richard. He chose the Atlantic Salmon. It was nice and moist with a crispy seared top, and served with spring green vegetables.

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Atlantic Salmon 8oz with cilantro & lime crème fraiche and radish

Chef Robert is making these dishes three nights, and Michael anticipates adding to the chef repertoire with other fine chefs making weekly appearances. He’s also talking about doing pop-up dinners with guest chefs once or twice a month.

“We’re trying the idea of a “house band” of chefs who can pick it up right away, like a music house band.” 

Sounds fun. We’ll stay tuned for all that’s deliciously shaking up at Roux.

860 Glenneyre St | 949-715-3707


Construction on Red Dragon Restaurant ramps up, the Chinese government reportedly owns Montage Laguna Beach, Gail Duncan sells The Art Hotel

By SUZIE HARRISON

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

For four years, the owner of the property at 680 S. Coast Highway, a location that once housed the popular Mosun Sushi & Sake and Club M, has kept the place dormant.

Luckily for Laguna Beach, the new property owner, Enshan Zhao, has plans to open an upscale authentic Chinese restaurant called Red Dragon Restaurant in the once hopping place. 

While the site has been mainly vacant for seven years, Zhao started construction in January, according to local architect Jim Conrad.

Red Dragon Restaurant

“It’s under construction finally. It started about 60 days ago. We’re primarily just working on the demolition right now,” Conrad said. “We hope to open spring or summer of 2019.”

The cost of the property was more than $3 million. Plans are to include a two-story, 213 seat restaurant with approximately 8,000 square feet of restaurant space and 2,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space, according to the restaurant’s website.

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Red Dragon Restaurant will replace Mosun and Club M with a five-star authentic Chinese dining experience, specializing in Cantonese and dim sum

“It would have been easier to just to build a whole new building but we have to work with the existing building due to city regulations. We have some grandfathered parking that we’re hanging on to,” Conrad said. “The hardest part is really working around the old building.”

The project will feature a fine-dining restaurant with private rooms, a terrace, an indoor bar and lounge, a rooftop bar and lounge, exterior patio dining area, and a parking lot with160 surface spots, per their website.

“It’s not going to be like what was there at all. It’s really going to be a five-star restaurant, where chefs are coming in from Hong Kong. It will be a fine-dining Chinese restaurant,” Conrad said. “That level of finish for the restaurant takes time.”

He said once the building is pretty much completed, “It will need four months of finish to get it to that level that we’re shooting for.”

The new upscale Chinese restaurant will serve authentic Cantonese cuisine, a passion of the entrepreneurial owner, who is a self-described hardcore food enthusiast.

“I have a lot of Chinese clients and they all tell me there is no real Chinese food in Orange County. The sort of Chinese American food that the restaurants serve is very different than the authentic cuisine,” Conrad said.

Zhao, a Laguna Beach resident, is in the process of building a second home here.

Montage Laguna Beach

It was recently reported that the Chinese government now owns Montage Laguna Beach, among other real estate assets, after it seized control of Anbang Insurance Group. 

According to a statement by China’s Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), Chinese officials arrested Anbang’s former chairman and general manager, Wu Xiaohui, on suspicion of economic crimes in June of last year. The commission has found that Xiaohui’s actions threatened the insurance giant’s solvency. He is expected to be prosecuted for financial crimes.

Besides the purchase of Montage Laguna Beach in 2016, Anbang also purchased Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point and Loews, Santa Monica, as well as 15 of 16 hotels owned by Strategic Hotels & Resorts. 

It has been reported that CIRC plans to run Anbang under the supervision of the regulatory authorities and its $315 billion in assets for at least one year to help stabilize the company and improve operation and management. 

Ownership of Montage Laguna Beach has changed three times in just two years, which is reportedly not uncommon for luxury resorts. 

Kacey Bruno, Vice President, Communications, Montage International said, “We have no comment.”

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The Chinese government has reportedly taken ownership of Montage Hotel & Spa, Laguna Beach among other luxury resorts and including over a dozen hotels

Opening in 2003, the 250-room Montage Laguna Beach was sold to Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc. for $360 million, equating to $1.4 million per room. Situated on a 50-foot seaside bluff, the 30-acre property includes 60 suites in addition to the ocean-facing rooms. 

In addition to Montage Laguna Beach, Montage Hotels & Resorts includes a collection of ultra-luxury hotels, resorts including Montage Beverly Hills, Montage Deer Valley, Montage Kapalua Bay, Montage Palmetto Bluff. 

Each resort’s architecture and decor is unique to its surroundings, as exemplified in the Montage Laguna Beach’s Craftsman-style design, reflective of the Laguna’s artistic heritage. This year the company plans to open its first international destination, Montage Los Cabos.

The Art Hotel

It has been a sweet 16 years for owner of The Art Hotel, Gail Duncan. The collection of memories and the relationships she’s built over that span have become as precious to her as the art by local artists that adorn all the rooms.

Now that the hotel has been sold, as of Tuesday, March 6, these invaluable experiences are even more valuable to her, as she also had to leave the place she’s called home for all these years.

“I just left the apartment on Monday (March 19),” Duncan said. “The beauty of it is everyone knows it was my baby. I just fell in love with it and with being of service to people.”

Only a couple of weeks ago, Duncan had to give a presentation to the City Council on the Housing and Human Services Committee that she chairs. 

“From the bottom of my heart that night, it was about at the end letting them know how much they meant to me,” Duncan said. “At the tail end, I really wrangled saying something personal in front of the Council, but I said to them The Art Hotel was sold today.”

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Gail Duncan owned The Art Hotel for 16 years

Most important to Duncan was to express her sincere gratitude for three particular City employees that changed her life.

“If it wasn’t for Gavin Curran, Maggie Lotolc, and Laura Parisi assisting me in the beginning and holding me up at certain points, I wouldn’t be standing here today, just being so thankful,” Duncan said. “I wanted those City employees to be called out. If I didn’t have those City employees shaping me from my foundation, helping me businesswise, I couldn’t have been as successful without their wisdom.” 

It was hard for Duncan to encapsulate and share just a few of the many wonderful experiences.

One of her greatest memories was during the height of the festival season in the summer of 2012. The water heater broke down in her sold-out hotel. She said it was such an amazing example of humanity and kindness. Instead of people getting upset it brought them closer together, and rather than complaints, she received hugs and flowers.

 “It was just an incredible example of human nature at its finest holding each other up. It was one of the most special situations that I had been through,” Duncan said. “I couldn’t believe how it was the reverse, with people caring so much, helping me get through it.”

The art community and local artists were central to Duncan – after all, she named the hotel, The Art Hotel.

“Twenty-eight rooms each with a different artist. They were kind enough to lend me five or six pieces. There is a little story about them at each of the desks in the room. It was about exposure of the artists. If someone was interested, I would be the bridge to the artist,” Duncan said. “They all trusted me with their pieces. I just had in my heart I am The Art Hotel, I’m going to honor them and give them 100 percent of the sale.”

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The Art Hotel lived up to its name

The hotel had two unveilings in 2016 by the muralist Randy Morgan, who recreated the pool area. Not only was the mayor there but to Gail’s sheer surprise someone from another hotel was there to support her too.

“The murals weren’t about downtown or what’s across the street. They told a story. We ended up having four Art Walks that year and brought the community to the hotel for the first time,” Duncan said. “Randy is the one that mentored different artists, brought them in and exposed them. It just really took The Art Hotel to the best level before I sold.”

Those examples capture the essence of great memories and the many people she grateful for.

Anyway, it was a great ride. I learned a lot. I feel very connected to Laguna Beach. We all end up being family in town in some way or another,” Duncan said. “I will end up going into community service and will work even harder on Housing and Human Services.”

New Ownership of The Art Hotel…the next chapter

The new owners of The Art Hotel Rick Mangu and his wife Vicki are no strangers to Laguna Beach. They’ve lived in various parts of Orange County most of their lives. Nor are they new to hotel ownership. But they are very excited about this particular venture.

In an interview last week Mangu explained that they’ve only owned the hotel for a week. “We took it over last Tuesday, March 6.We used to live in Southern California before, so we know the area well. My daughter was one of the first graduates of Sage Hill High School on Newport Coast. We have family that lives in Crystal Cove and friends here,” Mangu said, explaining that they had to leave the area to take care of his elderly parents. Family is extremely important to Mangu.

“I am very happy that we are back in Orange County, and I am very honored actually to be in Laguna Beach,” Mangu said. “It’s amazing, you know, you go all over the world and to end up back in Laguna Beach, I dream of those things.”

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The Art Hotel is in good hands

As for owning other hotels, Mangu said, “It’s a friends and family type of deal. We try to do it as a small group of family and friends invested. That way I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I have been there and done that and now I am back again.”

The new owners are working with a design firm to make improvements to the exterior and update it to 2018, Mangu explained.

“We’re thankful to Gail. She is a great lady. I am very happy with her; she has helped us out quite a bit,” Mangu said.

Duncan stayed on the property to help the new owners transition and will continue through the summer. She feels the same and appreciates kindness of the new owners. 

“I get to still be there through the transition period. I get to experience enjoying the guests for at least a day or two through the summer, through the transition, and then let them have their dreams,” Duncan said.

The community is so vibrant and healthy there’s a lot of different activities. I think Laguna, I just find it kind of peaceful,” Mangu said. “I am very happy to be here. You don’t get a second chance all the time.”


Selanne Steak Tavern’s wine director, Vito Pasquale, earns advanced sommelier designation 

Selanne Steak Tavern, the upscale steakhouse and tavern housed in a chicly transformed historic 1934 home on Pacific Coast Highway, is proud to announce that Wine Director Vito Pasquale has earned the coveted advanced sommelier certification from the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, the premier international examining body for the wine industry.

To attain advanced sommelier status, Pasquale had to pass the accrediting body’s five-day extensive wine service program, which includes lectures and interviews and two and a half days of blind tastings, a service test and writing a theory paper.

“We are extremely proud of Vito’s recent accomplishment,” said Kevin Pratt, co-partner of the restaurant with Teemu Selanne. “He has been an integral force in helping us gain recognition for our carefully selected and cared for wine collection. And, under his direction, Selanne Steak Tavern has earned Wine Spectator magazine’s “The Best of Award of Excellence.”

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Vito Pasquale earns advanced sommelier certification from the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers 

Pasquale has worked at Selanne Steak Tavern since it opened in 2013. His responsibilities are to curate, manage and maintain the restaurant’s wine inventory of over 2,750 bottles of global selections. In addition he directs the restaurant’s ongoing sommelier education and training program, working in tandem with Executive Chef Joshua Severson for the wine list to complement the chef’s contemporary steakhouse menu.

Prior to joining the Selanne team, Pasquale held positions at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, AnQi Crustacean at South Coast Plaza and at the former Two 40 South Restaurant & Bar in Brea.

Selanne Steak Tavern is open for dinner only, nightly starting at 5 p.m. For more information or to make a reservation call (949) 715-9881 or visit www.selannesteaktavern.com.


Selanne Steak Tavern kicks off spring and brunch season with Sunday Brunch on Sunday, April 8

Spring kicks off “brunch season” in Southern California, and beginning Sunday, April 8, Selanne Steak Tavern brings Chef Joshua Severson’s crave-worthy gourmet fare to be shared with friends and family for the first time to this award-winning Laguna Beach restaurant. Severson’s newly created brunch menu is inspired by classic brunch favorites infused with his own creative twists using seasonal, local and regional ingredients. 

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Avocado Toast

 Brunch fans can enjoy such sweet and savory dishes as Pancake Soufflé with Vermont maple syrup, California berries, sweet vanilla bean cream cheese; Selanne’s Benedict with Nueske’s ham, poached egg, avocado, tomato marmalade, house hollandaise and croissant; andTeemu’s Brunch Burger made with Kobe beef, kurobuta pork belly, fried egg and tomato jam.

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Bananas Foster

Other soon-to-be favorites include: Bourbon Caramel Pecan Sticky Bun; Chicken and Waffles; Steak Bacon and Eggs; and Cured Salmon Scramble. Lighter selections feature Strawberry Salad, Shrimp & King Crab Cocktail and Avocado Toast. Hearty sides like Hash Browns Au Gratin, White Grits and other choices are also on the menu. A kids menu will also be offered.

 Guests can dine alfresco on the veranda or the upstairs patio with indoor seating available in the cozy tavern and wine bar. 

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sundays beginning April 8.

Selanne Steak Tavern is located at 1464 South Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to selannesteaktavern.com or call (949) 715-9881.


Laguna Beach Beer Company is opening in the Canyon soon, crafted by two lifetime locals

By SUZIE HARRISON

Perhaps, it’s an only in Laguna Beach kind of phenomenon, but the forecast looks good regarding the question, “If April showers bring May flowers what do May flowers bring?”

Beer, and lots of it, in the form of tasty microbrews via a 24-tap draft system. Yes, beer fans will be able to say cheers at the opening of Laguna Beach Beer Company sometime in May, if all goes according to plans. 

With a passion for craft beer, Laguna Beach Beer Company was co-founded in 2014 by lifelong Laguna Beach residents Brent Reynard and Mike Lombardo. Now it’s time to bring it home.

“The original vision was to open a small brewpub in Laguna first, build up the brand, then open a larger production brewery somewhere outside of town,” Reynard said. “However, before we could solidify a location in Laguna, an opportunity to purchase a production facility in Rancho Santa Margarita popped up. So as they say, we put the cart before the horse, but it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

Laguna Beach Beer Company found its local home in the canyon’s Civic Art District. Located at 859 Laguna Canyon Road, formerly Serra’s Bar & Grill, the restaurant and brewery will not only fill a void in that space has been vacant for a decade, it also provides Laguna with a much-needed local microbrewery, made by locals, for locals, and well, tourists obviously too.

“When we started looking a few years ago, it [the canyon] was one of the only places with the square footage we needed that was available,” Reynard said. “We really liked the proximity to the festivals, the visibility from the canyon, the parking, and having a trolley stop right in front isn’t bad either.” 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach Beer Company will serve cold, delicious craft brews from 24 taps 

The total space is 2600 sq. feet with seating for 80 and about 350 sq. feet of patio space with polished concrete floors and open ceiling with wood paneling for a beachy feel. 

 “The corner location also gives us the ability to create the open-air feeling we wanted with roll up doors on two sides giving it a breezy, light and airy feel,” Reynard said. “The lease gives us control of the space for 12 years.” 

Wendy Jung, City of Laguna Beach, Senior Planner, said, “The CUP was approved by the Planning Commission on Feb. 15, 2017 for microbrewery and restaurant use with outdoor dining areas.” 

“We have been working on this space for about two years. We had to get the normal permits including city, state and federal. We hit hurdles around every corner,” Reynard said. “I don’t recall a time when there wasn’t a seemingly insurmountable issue in our way. I attribute our success to perseverance and the lack of a ‘Plan B.’ This was it, I had no back up plan, so we had to make it work.”

“Conditions of approval were included in the CUP Resolution,” Jung said.

The layout will include a section with about ten 55-gallon oak wine and whiskey barrels, where they age some of their beer, along with high top and low top tables with a few large wood tables for groups. And for sports fans, they will have six 65” TVs to show sports.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Construction is ramping up at the new Laguna Beach Beer Company brewery and restaurant site, with an anticipated May opening date

“We will have a menu of flatbreads and sandwiches and a 24 tap draft system. The beer list and menu items will be similar to the RSM location with a few additions unique to Laguna,” Reynard said.

Currently, the Hazy IPAs are the rage and top of the Beer Company’s best-seller list. 

“I love the Hazy IPAs and our Thousand Steps IPA. For me, its hard to go wrong with a hoppy IPA. However, I love our darker beers such as the one we call ‘Scotchman’s,’ which is a Scotch Ale,” Reynard said. “It’s a style that you don’t see every day, strong dark and delicious.”

The idea for Laguna Beach Beer Company started brewing for Reynard while he was in college.

“After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2000, it was 2008 during business school while earning my MBA that I began homebrewing,” Reynard said. “I developed a passion for brewing and by the time I graduated from UCI in 2010, I knew beer was going to be in my future. I have always pursued entrepreneurial ventures.”

He wrote a business plan in 2013 and when his partner jumped on board in January 2014, the dream began to take shape.  

“We started by brewing The Greeters Ale at a friend’s brewery, a recipe we developed while homebrewing, and selling kegs of it to bars and restaurants. We sold our first pint at Hennessey’s in Laguna Beach in October 2014,” Reynard said. “By the end of 2016, three beers, The Greeters Ale, Second Reef Blonde Ale, and Canyon Road Red Ale were being poured at around 100 locations in Orange County.” 

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Courtesy Laguna Beach Beer

Company Facebook

What I love the most is watching families having fun together and groups of friends sharing an experience over a pint,” said cofounder Reynard

Laguna Beach Beer Company will have happy hours, specials, and events that will be posted on their website, https://lagunabeer.com. The hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. As for parking, there are 75 parking spots in the parking lot shared by the tenants, plus metered and street parking right out front.  

“Five years after starting the company, finally opening the Laguna Beach location, the goal that has been on our minds since day one,” Reynard said. “It’s incredible to say the least. It has always been a dream. What could be better than living and working in Laguna Beach?”


Harvest: It’s The Ranch’s fine dining side

Review and photos by MAGGI HENRIKSON

The Harvest vibe is one part earthy and downhome, and one part refinement and elegance. It’s a nice mix as you sit in the big lodge space and look out at all the green surrounding this pristine canyon location. The chef’s creations reflect that mix too, as locally sourced ingredients blend with Asian, European, and Americana influences.

I love visiting The Ranch at Laguna Beach and feeling like I’m on vacation, even if it’s just for lunch. And, of course, lunch at their Harvest restaurant is a perfect topper to a round of golf. Last weekend, I enjoyed a full two days (and nights) there and was delighted to partake of several meals worth noting.

My second favorite fish in the whole world is branzino, which is a European sea bass. (My first favorite is fresh-caught Atlantic striped bass, but that’s for home cooking, and a whole other story). I’ve seen branzino as a special at only a few restaurants, so I was very happy to find it right there on the menu at Harvest.

The thing about branzino is that the whole fish is mild and sweet, right down to the skin. It’s roasted or grilled and served whole, with head and tail, as is more customary in Europe than in California. Chef Kyle St. John has interpreted the Whole Branzino dish at Harvest served with spiced lentils, chorizo, blistered tomatoes, and salsa verde. So good, I had it two nights in a row!

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Whole Cyprus Branzino

Accompanying the branzino, we ordered another amazing seafood special – Hamachi. It was light and citrusy, and just melted on the tongue.

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Hamachi Special

The menu changes seasonally at Harvest, and right now I’d beat the doors down to have the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle while it’s featured. They make the pappardelle pasta in-house and gently toss it with white wine, garlic, truffle tremor cheese, and the most delicate and fresh assortment of wild mushrooms. You just have to say “Aww!” when you see the teeny littlest ones, and OMG when you take a taste of that wild, earthy and sinfully rich flavor.

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Wild Mushroom Pappardelle

On the lunch menu, my skinny selection – due to low carb count – goes to Harvest’s fabulous Grilled Salmon Salad. The perfectly medium-rare chargrilled salmon is served with mixed baby greens, artichokes, Greek olives, pickled onions, and feta cheese drizzled with red wine vinaigrette.

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Grilled Salmon Salad

Go ahead and work up an appetite on the lovely Ranch golf course, then feast on fine dining with a view at Harvest. You will be happily satisfied with a day well spent.


Brunch made better: Sunday mornings may become Selanne’s favorite time of week – or at least mine

Story by MARRIE STONE

Photography by Jeffrey Rovner

Selanne Steak Tavern has long been on my short list of special occasion spots in town. Since its opening five years ago, it’s the place where I’ve celebrated birthdays, Father’s Days, anniversaries and “just because” evenings out. Life’s too short and uncertain, I’ve decided, to delay gratification. And Selanne is one of those places that make indulgence worth every bite.

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Brunch is served with style at Selanne

So imagine my delight when I heard they’d begun offering my favorite meal: Sunday brunch. It’s the one meal that dares you not to spoil yourself. Sensible salads are for weekdays. Brunch is for elaborate benedicts and sticky desserts masquerading as breakfast. And, if you’re not holding a cocktail before noon, there’s a feeling you’re missing out on something. 

Consistent with our calorie conscious town, however, there are plenty of light and healthy options on Selanne’s menu. And enough mocktails, French pressed coffee, and assorted teas to make you feel part of the festive crowd.

Now that the brunch is entering its seventh week, Chef Joshua Severson and his team of creatives, including a dedicated pastry chef and masterful bartender, have had time to perfect every dish, and the results are delicious.

Eating in style

If you’re familiar with Selanne, you’ll know its warm cottage charm. The building is beautiful, the architecture straight from high-end magazines with well appointed furniture, dramatic chandeliers, and cozy nooks and corners. What I love about the space are all the options – their rooftop deck and spacious outdoor veranda, that wonderful European bar and statement staircase, the quiet wine cellar. I love the outdoor fireplace. I love the entry wishing well. Whatever your mood, whatever the weather, they’ve created an intimate setting that accommodates it.

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Brunch is better this way…along with warm cottage charm

Because I’ve never met a breakfast dish I don’t like, I allowed our server Stephen Ronnow to design my meal. I watched Stephen work over the menu like a composer arranging a symphony, mixing sweet and savory, crunchy and smooth. I started with an amuse bouche and pastry basket, moved to an avocado toast, and then onto the main meal – chicken and waffles and “Kevin’s” Bananas Foster French Toast (“Kevin” is co-owner, Kevin Pratt, who was dining at a table nearby. Hats off for designing this creative dish, Kevin). As almost an afterthought, Stephen added hash browns au gratin, a dish I haven’t stopped thinking about since. 

The beauty of breakfast drinks

In addition to a full bar, there are a few creative cocktails on Selanne’s menu. The Diablo is a specialty of bartender Neil. Casa Amigos Blanco Tequilla, lemon, crème de cassis, and ginger ale. I’m going back for that one.

I opted for my usual breakfast drink, the “Breakfast of Champions Bloody Mary.” As the name implies, it’s more than a drink…it’s a breakfast. Garnished with a jumbo fresh shrimp, a plump olive, a tiny pearl onion, and a thick slice of lime, I could have been happy drinking my brunch. Thankfully, though, this time it was only an add-on. 

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Breakfast of Champions Bloody Mary and pastries – so good

My favorite thing about Selanne’s drink menu is their offering of a mimosa flight. Selanne’s serves an array of fresh flavors – blood orange, peach, cherry, mango – and allows guests to mix and match. If you’re dining with a large party, or you’re up for drinking a bottle of champagne on your own, the table can try all the various flavors. Assuming you have nowhere to be on a Sunday afternoon, this isn’t a bad way to while away the morning.

The sweet…

Selanne’s pastry chef is a master of whimsy. Her creations are seasonal, using fresh and local ingredients. The artisan breadbasket included a blackberry scone, lemon Danish, bear claw, blueberry muffin, and a chocolate croissant. The mixture of fruit against chocolate, crumbly muffins against flaky croissants, all of it light and airy, made for a wonderful way to wait for the main course. 

My eye wandered to the next table, enjoying the Bourbon Carmel Pecan Sticky Bun. It comes in a cast iron skillet, hot from the oven, and looking over-the-top. It’s rich, thick, and gooey. And, Stephen promises, beyond belief.

But Kevin’s Banana Foster French Toast took the prize for me, and I’m rarely a fan of the overtly sweet dish. The bananas were marinated in Kahlua. The French Toast was thick, crispy and perfectly soaked. Best yet, Selanne’s uses mascarpone whip that acts as the ice cream, creating a gooey sandwich of spiked flavors. I haven’t tried anything like this one.

And the savory

I gravitate toward the savory, and Selanne’s has plenty of options to accommodate – the brunch burger (with wagyu beef and pork belly, topped with an egg), the Selanne Benedict (with Nueske’s ham), and my usual favorite – the cured salmon scramble with crème fraîche.

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Avocado toast – it’s really all about the bread and the combination of flavors

I consider myself a kind of avocado toast connoisseur. For me, it’s all about the bread, which can make or break this breakfast staple. Anyone can smash an avocado on a piece of toast. Here, it’s the combination of flavors – lemon, espelette pepper and slices of pickled radish – that make it something special. The citrus and spice is a wonderful blend. Not to mention the sunny-side egg that tops the dish. 

I don’t know whether chicken and waffles fall into the sweet or savory category, but the perfect blend of both is made better by the preparation of the chicken. Even though it’s fried, the batter is so light and airy that it lacks the heavy grease I usually associate with fried chicken. Better yet…the meat inside. It’s a tender, juicy rotisserie chicken breast. A single bite remained that I absolutely couldn’t finish. I shamelessly asked to take it home, knowing it wouldn’t make a meal, but it would still make a memory. 

But, for some reason, the dish I continue to return to in my mind is the hash browns au gratin. Perhaps because by the time I got to it, I was far too full to finish it. It was “the dish that got away.” The few forkfuls I had make this side alone worth coming back to finish. The Yukon gold potatoes are topped with a thick layer of crucolo cheese and scallions. It’s a perfect combination of potatoes au gratin and hash browns. How this is done, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but the result is magnificent. 

An evolution of flavors and creations

Selanne’s is committed to constant evolution—with the seasons and with their own creative energy. The addition of Sunday brunch is a great example of their willingness and ability to stretch their menu and meet new culinary trends, all with their own artistic imagination.

Co-owner Kevin Pratt says, “We’re extremely happy to add Sunday brunch to our offerings, and I’m proud of Chef Josh and his team for delivering creative twists on classic brunch dishes. We’re having fun with the menu and it will continue to evolve.”

And I’ll continue to be a loyal recipient of that evolution.

Selanne Steak Tavern      1464 S Coast Hwy