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Local Rick Jorgenson offers help for restaurateurs through grant money

Rick Jorgenson, a longtime small business consultant, has created a program to assist restaurateurs in accessing government grant money. The newly enacted Restaurant Revitalization Act was signed last month and provides $28.6 billion specifically for restaurants (which also includes cafes, saloons, bars, tap/tasting rooms, and food trucks). These are not loans but grants, so any funds received do not need to be paid back.

The RRF program is for restaurant owners with 20 or fewer locations, with operators eligible for up to $5 million per location. The grant amount is determined by subtracting 2020 sales from 2019 revenues.

Funds from the grants can be spent on a wider range of expenses than previous relief programs, including mortgages or rent, utilities, maintenance including construction to create outdoor seating, supplies, food and beverage inventory, payroll, paid sick leave, and operational expenses. 

Local Rick smile

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Laguna local and small business consultant Rick Jorgenson 

Five billion dollars of the fund will be set aside for restaurants with gross receipts under $500,000 and, for the first three weeks of the application period, the Small Business Administration will prioritize awarding grants for women, veteran, or socially and economically disadvantaged-owned businesses. The application process should be open by the middle of April.

The National Restaurant Association has led the industry’s response to the pandemic. Working with Congress and both administrations, the Association has ensured that restaurants would have as many tools and support as possible to survive. 

That included securing special treatment in the creation, and subsequent improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided more than $70 billion in support for restaurants to date; the expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit; the extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit; and inclusion in the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program.

“I’ve been working as a business loan consultant for a number of years and have seen how navigating the system to submit applications correctly and completely can be difficult. I recommend restaurant operators get their paperwork in order now, so when the funds are released (likely in weeks, not months) they’re ready to hit ‘submit.’”

If you would like more information on the Restaurant Revitalization Act, contact Rick at (949) 573-7596 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Last chance for restaurant reservations on Easter Sunday

By Diane Armitage 

Several additional restaurants have submitted their plans for Easter, so I’ve expanded my column from last week to help you make your Easter dinner decisions.

Remember too: All open restaurants are providing to-go and takeout on Easter Sunday as well. 

Orange Tier: No change for restaurants

Although we’ve recently graduated to Orange Tier, our restaurants are still seating outside patios as well as just 25 percent inside. They are not allowed to move to 50 percent capacity until we reach our next tier. In short, this means that if you wish to reserve a dining table indoors, please make reservations as quickly as possible. 

Please check my social media and TheBestofLagunaBeach.com Restaurant Directory (check the search box for “Easter”) as more restaurants check in with their details.

This Easter, our Laguna restaurant scene is a far hop from where we were at this time last year. It isn’t, however, a scene that has us returning to the way things used to be, i.e. crowded church services, Easter Egg hunts, and the usual American tradition – Easter brunch.

We’re hoping it all returns next year. In the meantime, our beloved restaurants are loading our Easter baskets with all the love and adoration they can legally muster. 

As we’re in Red Tier now, our restaurants are still seating outside patios as well as 25 percent inside. If you want to reserve a dining table indoors, please make reservations as quickly as possible. 

Here’s a quick rundown on the information I’ve received from the restaurants so far. Please check my social media and TheBestofLagunaBeach.com Restaurant Directory (click here– check the search box for “Easter”) as more restaurants check in with their details

  Easter Dinner To-Go 

While Nirvana Grille won’t be open for in-restaurant dining on Easter Sunday, Chef Lindsay has created a sizable “Mix & Match To-Go Family Style Meal” that can be ordered anytime online. Choose from a variety of appetizers, salads, and sides with proteins including rack of Pork Loin, Basil Aioli Crusted Steelhead Salmon, Grilled Seabass, Herb-Crusted Rib Eye, or Pistachio Dijon-Crusted Rack of Lamb. Desert choices are just as plentiful. 

Simply pick up Easter Sunday between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Orders must be placed by next Friday, April 2nd before 9 p.m. 

All other Laguna restaurants open on Easter Sunday are also providing takeout and delivery options. 

Easter Specialty Menus & Specialty Items

These are ordered according to the time of opening. This list reflects dine-in locations (not counter service). 

The Cliff Laguna Beach – opens 8 a.m. on Sunday, Easter specials throughout the day. No reservations; first-come, first-served.

Last chance for Cliff

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Cliff Laguna Beach

Fresh-air breakfast and endless views at The Cliff Laguna Beach

GG’s Bistro – opens 9 a.m. on Sunday, with their usual (lovely) Sunday brunch menu and an Easter special of grilled lamb chops with mashed potatoes and mint yogurt sauce.

Last chance for GG's

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of GG’s Bistro

GG’s Bistro serves up grilled lamb chops as an Easter Sunday special

Driftwood Kitchen – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with a Seaside Easter brunch served as a prix-fixe meal. Enjoy breads and pastries at the table, along with a choice of Eggs Benedict, Laguna Beach Omelette, Rack of Lamb, or Roasted Atlantic Salmon Filet. Desserts will be presented at the table and a separate kids’ menu will be available. Pricing is $69 for adults and $20 for children with six years and younger being free. Move quickly to make reservations online or by calling.   

Mozambique – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with the vaunted return of its Easter Jazz Brunch with none other than crowd favorite Mando & Friends. It’s Mando’s first show back in more than a year, and he’ll be returning every Sunday from this point forward. Mozambique’s extensive brunch menu runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the live jazz beginning at noon and rolling through 3 p.m. The regular dinner menu begins at 2 p.m. (Sorry, no happy hour on Easter Sunday.)  

Oak Laguna Beach – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with Chef Chris’ extensive brunch menu as well as Easter specials into the evening.

Sapphire – opens at 10 a.m. for Sunday Brunch with a dinner special of poached lobster. Owner Russ Bendel tells me that remaining reservations for Sunday Brunch are very scant, but the later afternoon and evening hours still offer availability; please call in advance.

Selanne Steak Tavern – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday for its Easter Sunday brunch menu. Enjoy Bananas Foster French Toast to Teemu’s “Brunch” Burger, chilled oysters, and more. Reservations via phone only, please.

Last chance for Selanne

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

Selanne’s famous Chicken & Waffles returns for Easter Sunday brunch

The Deck on Laguna Beach – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with a made-to-order omelette bar and carving station, along with at-table brunch menu options. Enjoy bottomless mimosas or two trips to the Bloody Mary Bar for an additional $19 per guest. Pricing is $60 for adults and $20 for children with six years and younger being free. No reservations accepted; first-come, first-served.

Reunion Kitchen – opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday with breakfast/brunch menu extended to 2 p.m. Their Easter special is Oven Roasted Prime Rib from noon through the evening. 

Lumberyard & Yard Bar – opens 11 a.m. on Sunday with egg specials during the day and Easter Ham with all the fixings served throughout the day and evening. 

Harley Laguna Beach – opens 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday with new brunch menu. Easter specials will also be available, including Weiser Farms Sunchokes, Seared U-10 Scallops, and a Roasted, Shaved Leg of Lamb Sandwich with slow-roasted tomato and olive tapenade, as well as a Strawberry Shortcake (strawberries compliments of The Ecology Center) on a buttermilk biscuit with Chantilly cream.    

Royal Hawaiian – opens at noon on Sunday, with an added Easter special of grilled rack of lamb. 

Last chance for Royal

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Maro at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill serves an Easter special of a full rack of wood-grilled lamb

Maro Wood Grill – opens at noon on Sunday, with an Easter added special of grilled leg of lamb.

The Drake Laguna Beach – opens at 2 p.m. on Sunday with added egg and meat dishes for Easter Sunday. 

Breakfast/Brunch as Usual

A handful of restaurants will be serving their normal breakfast and brunch menus on Easter Sunday, including Reunion Kitchen, Skyloft, C’est la Vie, Harley Laguna Beach, and the newly reopened Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch Laguna Beach. For me, any breakfast on any day of the week at Harvest is a special one! 

Last chance for Harvest

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Ranch Laguna Beach

Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch is now open for limited dining to both guests and public

Restaurants closed on Easter

AHBA (but fun news is arriving shortly with our SoLag newbie favorite).

Broadway by Amar Santana (Chef Amar’s Vaca location will be open with Easter specials for both in-restaurant dining and take-out in Costa Mesa).

Ristorante Rumari

Wine Gallery

Check my Directory for More

I’ll be updating this list as new information arrives; just check the Restaurant Directory at my website. Have a happy and safe Easter! 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


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Plenty of Laguna restaurants open on Easter Sunday 

By Diane Armitage 

This Easter, our Laguna restaurant scene is a far hop from where we were at this time last year. It isn’t, however, a scene that has us returning to the way things used to be, i.e. crowded church services, Easter Egg hunts, and the usual American tradition – Easter brunch.

We’re hoping it all returns next year. In the meantime, our beloved restaurants are loading our Easter baskets with all the love and adoration they can legally muster. 

As we’re in Red Tier now, our restaurants are still seating outside patios as well as 25 percent inside. If you want to reserve a dining table indoors, please make reservations as quickly as possible. 

Here’s a quick rundown on the information I’ve received from the restaurants so far. Please check my social media and TheBestofLagunaBeach.com Restaurant Directory (click here– check the search box for “Easter”) as more restaurants check in with their details

  Easter Dinner To-Go 

While Nirvana Grille won’t be open for in-restaurant dining on Easter Sunday, Chef Lindsay has created a sizable “Mix & Match To-Go Family Style Meal” that can be ordered anytime online. Choose from a variety of appetizers, salads, and sides with proteins including rack of Pork Loin, Basil Aioli Crusted Steelhead Salmon, Grilled Seabass, Herb-Crusted Rib Eye, or Pistachio Dijon-Crusted Rack of Lamb. Desert choices are just as plentiful. 

Simply pick up Easter Sunday between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Orders must be placed by next Friday, April 2nd before 9 p.m. 

All other Laguna restaurants open on Easter Sunday are also providing takeout and delivery options. 

Easter Specialty Menus & Specialty Items

These are ordered according to the time of opening. This list reflects dine-in locations (not counter service). 

The Cliff Laguna Beach – opens 8 a.m. on Sunday, Easter specials throughout the day. No reservations; first-come, first-served.

Plenty of Cliff

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Cliff Laguna Beach

Fresh-air breakfast and endless views at The Cliff Laguna Beach

GG’s Bistro – opens 9 a.m. on Sunday, with their usual (lovely) Sunday brunch menu and an Easter special of grilled lamb chops with mashed potatoes and mint yogurt sauce.

Plenty of GG's

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of GG’s Bistro

GG’s Bistro serves up grilled lamb chops as an Easter Sunday special

Driftwood Kitchen – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with a Seaside Easter brunch served as a prix-fixe meal. Enjoy breads and pastries at the table, along with a choice of Eggs Benedict, Laguna Beach Omelette, Rack of Lamb, or Roasted Atlantic Salmon Filet. Desserts will be presented at the table and a separate kids’ menu will be available. Pricing is $69 for adults and $20 for children with six years and younger being free. Move quickly to make reservations online or by calling.   

Mozambique – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with the vaunted return of its Easter Jazz Brunch with none other than crowd favorite Mando & Friends. It’s Mando’s first show back in more than a year, and he’ll be returning every Sunday from this point forward. Mozambique’s extensive brunch menu runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the live jazz beginning at noon and rolling through 3 p.m. The regular dinner menu begins at 2 p.m. (Sorry, no happy hour on Easter Sunday.)  

Oak Laguna Beach – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with Chef Chris’ extensive brunch menu as well as Easter specials into the evening.

Sapphire – opens at 10 a.m. for Sunday Brunch with a dinner special of poached lobster. Owner Russ Bendel tells me that remaining reservations for Sunday Brunch are very scant, but the later afternoon and evening hours still offer availability; please call in advance.

Selanne Steak Tavern – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday for its Easter Sunday brunch menu. Enjoy Bananas Foster French Toast to Teemu’s “Brunch” Burger, chilled oysters, and more. Reservations via phone only, please.

Plenty of Selanne

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

Selanne’s famous Chicken & Waffles returns for Easter Sunday brunch

The Deck on Laguna Beach – opens 10 a.m. on Sunday with a made-to-order omelette bar and carving station, along with at-table brunch menu options. Enjoy bottomless mimosas or two trips to the Bloody Mary Bar for an additional $19 per guest. Pricing is $60 for adults and $20 for children with six years and younger being free. No reservations accepted; first-come, first-served.

Lumberyard & Yard Bar – opens 11 a.m. on Sunday with egg specials during the day and Easter Ham with all the fixings served throughout the day and evening. 

Royal Hawaiian – opens at noon on Sunday, with an added Easter special of grilled rack of lamb. 

Plenty of Royal

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Maro at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill serves an Easter special of a full rack of wood-grilled lamb

Maro Wood Grill – opens at noon on Sunday, with an Easter added special of grilled leg of lamb.

The Drake Laguna Beach – opens at 2 p.m. on Sunday with added egg and meat dishes for Easter Sunday. 

Breakfast/Brunch as Usual

A handful of restaurants will be serving their normal breakfast and brunch menus on Easter Sunday, including the newly reopened Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch Laguna Beach. For me, any breakfast on any day of the week at Harvest is a special one! 

Plenty of Harvest

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Ranch Laguna Beach

Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch is now open for limited dining to both guests and public

Restaurants closed on Easter

Broadway by Amar Santana (Chef Amar’s Vaca location will be open with Easter specials for both in-restaurant dining and take-out in Costa Mesa).

Ristorante Rumari

Wine Gallery

Check my Directory for More

I’ll be updating this list as new information arrives; just check the Restaurant Directory at my website. Have a happy and safe Easter! 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


The Ranch debuts fire pit seating and new Fireside Menu at Harvest Restaurant

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is now offering fire pit seating with dedicated fireside menus, providing a new outdoor dining experience perfect for longer days, sunset views, and casual bites. 

Located on The Porch and adjacent to Harvest restaurant, the stylish stone fire pit seating areas are available 4-8 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Reservations are required and accepted exclusively through Tock.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is expanding its outdoor dining experience with a collection of six new fireside tables. Perched on the edge of The Porch overlooking the canyon and Ben Brown’s golf course, the tables are thoughtfully spaced to accommodate distancing and maximum canyon views. 

Fire pit seating comes complete with a custom Fireside Menu offering craft cocktails, local brews, California coastal wines, and delicious bites like Cheese & Charcuterie, Duck Wings, Neuske Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese, Oysters on The Half Shell, Roasted Garlic Hummus, Artisan Pizzas, Salted Pretzels, Hand Cut Fries, Warm Apple Pie, and House-Baked Cookies.

The Ranch view

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Ranch is now offering fire pit seating and a Fire Side menu 

Reservations for the new fire pit seating areas at The Ranch at Laguna Beach are available now through Tock (www.exploretock.com/theranchlb/). Walk-up or phone reservations are not accepted due to the limited number of fireside tables available. A prepaid $200 rental fee is required and applied toward the table’s food & beverage charges. Six tables are available, with a select few seating a maximum of 10 guests. There is a limit of one table per reservation.

Fire pit reservations are limited to one table per party to ensure the safety of guests, the community, and team members at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. Patrons may not book multiple fire pit tables for one group or party. Those not in compliance will not have deposits returned.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has implemented rigorous cleanliness, distancing, and sanitization procedures for guests and staff to allow for a safe fireside dining experience. These include: 

--Tables spaced and configured for maximum physical distancing.

--Select tables accommodating up to 10 guests are located furthest from The Porch.

--Limit one table per reservation. Reservations booking multiple tables for the same party will not be permitted. Those not in compliance will not have deposits returned.

--Restaurant hosts guide physical distancing at entrances, waiting areas, and queues.

--Floor distancing markers are in place to guide distancing.

--All surfaces are sanitized at least once per hour by a member of the resort’s dedicated Sani-Czar team.

--Menus are single-use, disposable, and printed on recycled paper.

--Menus are revised to reduce back of house density, while still providing the fresh, seasonal cuisine.

--Silverware is sanitized and rolled in napkins. Straws are individually wrapped.

--Glass partitions are installed at host stands for staff and guest safety.

--Table turn times are increased to ensure proper sanitation protocols.

--Hand sanitizer is readily available to guests.

--Face coverings are required and enforced for staff and guests.

--Team members will wear gloves and masks or face shields, with daily wellness checks to ensure their well-being.

--To ensure the safety of guests, staff, and the Laguna Beach community, those not adhering to the above face covering, distancing, and safety requirements will be escorted from the property. 

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide. This seal of approval is granted to hotels which uphold more than 360 health, hygiene, and safety standards to keep guests and staff safe while maintaining an exemplary guest experience.

To view the full range of sanitization, cleanliness, safety, and well-being practices at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, www.theranchlb.com/wellbeing-practices

For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach and its dining offerings, visit www.theranchlb.com. To reserve a fire pit seating area, visit www.exploretock.com/theranchlb/.


Harvest Restaurant at The Ranch reopens for limited indoor dining today

The Ranch at Laguna Beach will reopen its signature Harvest Restaurant for indoor dining today, Friday, March 19. The beloved canyon restaurant will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with reduced seating in accordance with health guidelines. The RanchLB will also offer casual outdoor dining on The Porch from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

The long-awaited reopening of Harvest at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is in accordance with state and local guidelines, as Orange County moves into the less restrictive red tier permitting limited indoor dining at 25 percent of capacity. 

Harvest will serve its complete menu of California farm and hook-to-table cuisine, marrying the bounty of the season with the atmosphere of Laguna Beach. Guests can savor seasonal dishes, featuring herbs and produce sourced from The RanchLB’s organic Harvest Garden, alongside innovative cocktails, world-class wines, and 18 craft beers on tap. 

Harvest will offer reduced seating to allow for distancing, while following strict procedures for safety and sanitization. Face coverings are required and enforced, and reservations are strongly recommended due to limited indoor seating.

Harvest Restaurant tables

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Harvest at The Ranch reopens for indoor dining today with strict safety measures in place 

For guests who want to maximize canyon views and crisp California weather, The Ranch at Laguna Beach will also offer casual outdoor patio dining on The Porch from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. This supremely scenic seating area serves up grab-and-go items, picnic-style provisions, pastries, desserts, cocktails, coffee, craft beers, and classic California coastal wines. 

The Porch is open for takeaway service from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, and transitions to traditional outdoor table service from 4-8 p.m. every evening. Face coverings are required and enforced. Reservations are not required, and seating is based on availability. 

Harvest is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Reservations are strongly recommended due to limited seating. To reserve a table, call (949) 715-1376 or visit www.theranchlb.com/dining/harvest

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has implemented rigorous cleanliness, distancing, and sanitization procedures for guests and staff to allow for a safe dining experience at Harvest and The Porch. 

Tables and chairs have been removed in the dining room to limit restaurant occupancy to 25 percent and allow for physical distancing without detracting from ambience. Tables and chairs have been reconfigured on The Porch for increased physical distancing while maintaining canyon views.

Distancing is monitored and enforced on The Porch to prevent crowding or large gatherings. Restaurant hosts guide physical distancing at entrances, waiting areas, and queues. Floor distancing markers are in place to guide distancing.

All surfaces sanitized at least once per hour by a member of the resort’s dedicated Sani-Czar team. Menus are single-use, disposable and printed on recycled paper.

Menus are revised to reduce back of house density, while still providing the fresh, seasonal California comfort cuisine guests know and love. Silverware is sanitized and rolled in napkins, straws are individually wrapped, and plates will be covered with cloches when leaving the kitchen. Glass partitions are installed at host stands for staff and guest safety. Table turn times are increased to ensure proper sanitation protocols. Hand sanitizer is abundant and readily available to guests.

Team members will wear gloves and masks or face shields, with daily wellness checks to ensure their well-being. Face coverings are required and enforced for staff and guests.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide. This seal of approval is granted to hotels which uphold more than 360 health, hygiene, and safety standards to keep guests and staff safe while maintaining an exemplary guest experience.

To view the full range of sanitization, cleanliness, safety, and well-being practices at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, visit www.theranchlb.com/wellbeing-practices. For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach and its dining offerings, visit www.theranchlb.com.


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Brussels Bistro subscription is best “Food Blues” prescription

By Diane Armitage

Have you ever felt absolutely smug about discovering something ahead of everyone else? I have to admit feeling that way every time I dig into yet another great meal from Brussels Bistro’s monthly meal subscription plan. 

Brussels first rolled out its “10 meals for $89 a month” subscription in December. I hopped on board immediately.

It’s March now and, having now tried about 35 of these meals, I have to say I’m still very impressed. This is fabulous food. 

For months, Brussels had already been dominating the 2020 takeout scene with beautifully packaged frozen and fresh food they had cooked and prepared “sous vide” style. Much of their takeout menu is vacuum-packed, allowing for easy refrigeration and extended freezing. 

In December, they began providing a 10-meal monthly subscription, with a vast array of gorgeous gourmet tastes arriving in frozen status. 

When I picked up my March allotment, Chef Nicolas told me that they’ve switched to oven and microwaveable dishes to make it even easier (as if popping a bag into boiling water isn’t easy enough).

Brussels Bistro monthly allotment

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Brussels Bistro’s March subscription – 10 meals for $89 a month

The team is also beginning to incorporate choice into one’s monthly selections. By April, they intend to have fully vegetarian, gluten-fre,  and more available in a pick-and-choose sort of menu. 

Frankly, I like the element of surprise. This month, I unpacked: 

--Cod Filet in veggie broth with fingerling potatoes 

--Chicken Meatballs with mushrooms and bacon in a gravy of beef broth, red wine, and beer (hmm!) 

--Turkey Breast with braised endive and potatoes 

--Saffron Rice with chorizo sausage 

--Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef, ground pork, mashed potatoes, spinach, and onion 

--Quinoa Caponata with eggplant and capers 

--Chicken Tangine with veggies 

--Yellow Curry (mentioned below) 

--Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes with a grain mustard sauce and cauliflower gratin 

--Rotini Bolognese with a healthy portion of freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Last weekend, my buddies, Tom and Joao, were grilling fish. I added two vegetarian dishes from my Brussels freezer to serve as side dishes – the Quinoa Caponata and the Yellow Curry & Coconut Red Lentils with Cauliflower. The two dishes were more than enough to share between the three of us and they added a gourmet quality I couldn’t have cooked up with less than a half day’s labor in the kitchen. 

Brussels Bistro chorizo

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Brussels Bistro’s Saffron Rice with Chorizo Sausage

This is truly a genius idea at a such an affordable price. The popularity is catching on – even people on the East Coast are ordering the 10 monthly meals. The Brussels team simply packs the supply in dry ice and sends it off. Chef Nicolas tells me they’ve also begun to deliver via UPS to Las Vegas, San Diego, Northern California, and more. We’re lucky locals, though – we can just pick up our monthly installment in the alley behind their Laguna restaurant. Go to www.BrusselsBistro.com to their “Orders Online” tab to subscribe.

P.S. Cocktails, anyone? 

With the announcement of their new spring cocktail rollout, Oak Laguna Beach reminded me this morning that next Wednesday is (drum roll please) National Cocktail Day.

Brussels Bistro Oak cocktails

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Oak Laguna Beach

Oak Laguna has just rolled out its Spring Cocktails, just in time for National Cocktail Day next Wednesday

If you’re willing to play, I’m here to take your votes. 

I’ll be writing in next Tuesday’s Stu News Laguna about the top five most popular cocktails in Laguna Beach. 

Is it Royal Hawaiian’s Lapu Lapu? Is it Dan the Man’s Lemondrop Martini at 230 Forest? Is it one of Neil Skewes’ famous libations at Starfish? How about a single choice from the sheer craftery at Broadway by Amar Santana, Drake Laguna Beach, Sapphire.Cellar.Craft.Cook, Driftwood Kitchen, or Selanne Steak Tavern? Will your favorite margarita make the list? 

Register your vote at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and may the best libation win. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


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Laguna chefs share the love on Valentine’s Day

By Diane Armitage

No matter what may be going on all around us, and despite the fact that social distancing is in play, Valentine’s Day will always be our annual optimist.

It may look a little different at our restaurants this year – the two-by-two tables won’t be shoulder to shoulder, and a larger percentage of Valentine dinners may be found on tables in our homes. 

Regardless, Laguna Beach chefs are ready with special plans for outdoor dining and takeout. Many, in fact, are providing their Valentine prix fixe menus for takeout this year.

Many restaurants have sent me their news for my Restaurant Directory at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/, but some menus are still in the crafting phase, so be sure to check the Directory for updates over the next few days.

Here’s the love in the air for Valentine’s Day: 

Flights to send you in the right direction

Jason and Sofia McLain are celebrating the anniversary of their first date (February 13) and their second date (February 14) with a weekend of wine tastings at their Canyon-based McLain Cellars, February 12-15. Wines will be paired with cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate. 

Gifty Ideas

Kudos to Nirvana Grille and GG’s Bistro for coming up with Valentine boutiques that offer ready-made gifts right along with their Valentine food.

Laguna chefs Nirvana

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Nirvana Grille

Various-sized Valentine Gift Baskets at Nirvana Grille make love easy

Chef Lindsay at Nirvana has crafted a number of specialty baskets starting from $49. These gems are loaded with anything from crafted chocolates to spa gift cards, champagne, essential oils, and Valentine-themed serving platters.

She’s also teaching weekly cooking classes which, for me, would be my kind of Valentine gift.

GG’s Bistro has turned its small indoor restaurant space into a boutique of foods, chocolates, house-baked goods, wines and champagnes, and creative gifts for that browse-and-buy mode. Francesca has even brought in the Valentine’s Day decor for you.

Laguna chefs GG's

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of GG’s Bistro

Shop for Valentine gifts, specialty foods, and champagnes at GG’s Bistro

Restaurants with specialty items

Because Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday with Presidents’ Day on Monday, many of our restaurants are celebrating all weekend long with Valentine specials from Friday through Sunday.

Several restaurants have created Valentine weekend specials that will be offered along with the regular menu. GG’s Bistro, Royal Hawaiian, Lumberyard, Ristorante Rumari, Reunion Kitchen, The Cliff, Skyloft and Brussels Bistro are adding delectable delight to their standard courses. The majority have confirmed that these same specials will be available for takeout.

Be sure to check these “specials” out as they are announced in the Directory because these aren’t everyday options. Consider, for instance, Skyloft’s Fried Brisket Mac with, you guessed it, beer-battered brisket topped in their famous mac-and-cheese and ladled with rosemary gravy). 

Restaurants with Prix Fixe Menus

In a normal year and a typical crowded Valentine’s Day, many chefs prefer to create prix fixe menus to keep the kitchen running smoothly. This year, with indoor dining still not available to the public, they’re not expecting the usual Valentine crowds (though cozying up in an outdoor dining setting can’t be all bad on Valentine’s Day). Despite what could be lesser numbers, a handful of chefs are making those prix fixe menus anyway.

In fact, The Drake created a Valentine’s prix fixe menu for “Dine In” and an entirely separate one for a “Couples Take-Away Meal” that includes a bottle of Prosecco Gancia Docg.

The Drake’s Dine-In menu lets you choose one salad from eight options, an entrée from nine options (including my favorite, the Chili Lime Crusted Steelhead Salmon), and one impossible option from four desserts.

Laguna chefs Drake

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Drake

The Drake’s perennial favorite, Filet Mignon in Peppercorn Sauce

While the Drake’s “Take-Away” Valentine Menu might be a bit smaller in stature for easier packing, it’s a giant in taste, from the starter of Maine Lobster Louie to the significant Surf and Double Turn entrée. The Tomato Saffron Soup and Berry Tiramisu complete the menu.

Chef Amar Santana is offering yet another decadent menu at the Broadway for both outside diners and those who prefer eating at home. Takeout orders for this specific menu must be made by Friday, Feb 12.

Broadway’s menu starts with an amuse of smoked salmon mousse with quail egg and caviar because that’s just how Chef Amar flies. Then, wander through Albacore Tataki, Lobster and Scallop Raviolo, Butter Poached Maine Lobster, and Pink Pineapple Upside Down Cake (with Grapefruit Honey Sorbet, wow).

At Driftwood Kitchen, Chef Rainer Schwarz starts his Valentine prix fixe with a champagne toast and his crazy-good fresh-baked Parker House rolls. These two items basically corner the market on love.

He continues, though, with choices of salad or Hamachi Tartare and then White Asparagus Soup. A single entrée choice isn’t easy with Petite Filet & Braised Prime Beef Shortribs with truffled mashed potatoes or Chilean Seabass Filet with Maine lobster risotto. (Oh my.) The menu wraps up with a “Sweetheart Chocolate Dessert” for two.

Laguna chefs Driftwood

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Driftwood Kitchen

Chef Rainer’s Seabass with Maine Lobster Risotto at Driftwood Kitchen

Mozambique’s Valentine’s Day includes a free champagne split for every two entrées purchased. Chef Braulio’s prix fixe menu will be the only menu offered and live music will be supplied by our own Andrew Bloom. Watch the Directory for the menu’s details on what is usually quite an extensive menu from Chef Braulio.

At Nirvana Grille, nibble your way through a cheeseboard for two as you make choices from Chef Lindsay’s extensive 3-course menu. If you’re eating at the restaurant for Valentine’s Day, consider having a Nirvana gift basket waiting at the table.

Manned by Chef Erik, Oliver’s Osteria’s kitchen is nothing but love, love, love.

It only intensifies on Valentine’s weekend with a prix fixe 4-course dinner that starts with Capesante al Cognac (seared jumbo scallops) and wanders in a happy haze through Tartara Tarufata (ground aged filet) and Tris di Ravioli (3 raviolis – Lobster/Shrimp, Asparagus & Ricotta, and Pumpkin in butternut squash sauce).

Then, for your Oliver’s entrée, choose from Filleto in Fonduta (prime filet with taleggio cheese fondue) or Branzino (Chilean sea bass). Chef’s smug Semifreddo with a mocha fondue finishes the meal.

Make reservations

Even though you may think it will be a quieter Valentine weekend, I suggest you ignore that thought completely and make your reservations as soon as possible. If you’re planning takeout, most of the restaurants will be prepared for you throughout the weekend, though keep in mind that Broadway has a Friday evening (February 12) deadline. Just watch my Directory for changes and updates as new Valentine information and menus come in, or sign up for my email for alerts.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


Harvest restaurant at The Ranch reopens for outdoor dining today

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has reopened its signature Harvest restaurant for outdoor patio dining as of today, February 5, in accordance with state and local health guidelines. 

Harvest will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, served beneath a heated canopy surrounded by serene canyon views. Live music will also be provided from 5:30-9:30 p.m. daily for an added dose of atmosphere.

Harvest Restaurant outside

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Ranch at dusk

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is also one of the first hotels in the world to become Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide. This seal of approval is granted to hotels which implement and uphold more than 360 health, hygiene, and safety standards to keep guests and staff safe while maintaining an exemplary resort experience.

Harvest restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a favorite for locals and guests of The Ranch Laguna Beach for its farm and hook-to-table cuisine, extensive wine list, garden-driven cocktail menu, and stunning views of the Aliso and Wood Canyon. The restaurant will reopen with its full menu, created by Executive Chef Kyle St. John, which marries the bounty of the season with the artistry of Laguna Beach into a vibrant array of local flavors, ingredients, and California culinary traditions. 

Harvest Restaurant dish

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Outdoor dining is back at Harvest at The Ranch 

Meals will be served on the Harvest patio, featuring a new canopy, heaters, and twinkling lights. The canopy sides will be open to allow for constant airflow, and seating will be spaced and managed to allow for distancing. Stringent sanitization protocols are implemented for guest and staff safety. Complimentary valet parking will be provided.

Created in homage to Laguna’s original Ranch homesteaders, the menu at Harvest changes with the season. Fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables are sourced from the property’s own half-acre organic garden and supplemented with ingredients from the best local producers. The result is handcrafted California comfort cuisine, locally rooted creative cocktails, 18 craft beers on tap, and unparalleled canyon scenery.

Harvest will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Due to capacity and distancing guidelines, reservations are strongly recommended. To make a reservation, visit www.ranchlb.com/dining/harvest.   

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has implemented numerous updates at Harvest to allow for a safe outdoor dining experience. These include, but are not limited to:

--Tables and chairs reconfigured on The Porch for increased physical distancing while still offering magnificent canyon views.

--Restaurant hosts will guide physical distancing at entrances, waiting areas, and queues.

--Silverware will be deep sanitized and rolled in napkins; straws are individually wrapped.

--Glass barriers will be installed at host stand for staff and guest safety.

--Table turn times will be increased to ensure proper sanitation protocols.

--Hand sanitizer will be readily available to guests.

--Face masks are required for staff and guests while visiting any area of The Ranch at Laguna Beach.

For more information about The Ranch Laguna Beach’s health and safety practices, visit www.ranchlb.com/wellbeing-practices. For more information about The Ranch at Laguna Beach, or to book a stay, visit www.ranchlb.com.


The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2 2

Laguna chefs share the love on Valentine’s Day

By Diane Armitage

No matter what may be going on all around us, and despite the fact that social distancing is in play, Valentine’s Day will always be our annual optimist.

It may look a little different at our restaurants this year – the two-by-two tables won’t be shoulder to shoulder, and a larger percentage of Valentine dinners may be found on tables in our homes. 

Regardless, Laguna Beach chefs are ready with special plans for outdoor dining and takeout. Many, in fact, are providing their Valentine prix fixe menus for takeout this year.

Many restaurants have sent me their news for my Restaurant Directory at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/, but some menus are still in the crafting phase, so be sure to check the Directory for updates over the next few days.

Here’s the love in the air for Valentine’s Day: 

Flights to send you in the right direction

Jason and Sofia McLain are celebrating the anniversary of their first date (February 13) and their second date (February 14) with a weekend of wine tastings at their Canyon-based McLain Cellars, February 12-15. Wines will be paired with cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate. 

Gifty Ideas

Kudos to Nirvana Grille and GG’s Bistro for coming up with Valentine boutiques that offer ready-made gifts right along with their Valentine food.

Laguna chefs Nirvana

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Nirvana Grille

Various-sized Valentine Gift Baskets at Nirvana Grille make love easy

Chef Lindsay at Nirvana has crafted a number of specialty baskets starting from $49. These gems are loaded with anything from crafted chocolates to spa gift cards, champagne, essential oils, and Valentine-themed serving platters.

She’s also teaching weekly cooking classes which, for me, would be my kind of Valentine gift.

GG’s Bistro has turned its small indoor restaurant space into a boutique of foods, chocolates, house-baked goods, wines and champagnes, and creative gifts for that browse-and-buy mode. Francesca has even brought in the Valentine’s Day decor for you.

Laguna chefs GG's

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of GG’s Bistro

Shop for Valentine gifts, specialty foods, and champagnes at GG’s Bistro

Restaurants with specialty items

Because Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday with Presidents’ Day on Monday, many of our restaurants are celebrating all weekend long with Valentine specials from Friday through Sunday.

Several restaurants have created Valentine weekend specials that will be offered along with the regular menu. GG’s Bistro, Royal Hawaiian, Lumberyard, Ristorante Rumari, Reunion Kitchen, The Cliff, Skyloft and Brussels Bistro are adding delectable delight to their standard courses. The majority have confirmed that these same specials will be available for takeout.

Be sure to check these “specials” out as they are announced in the Directory because these aren’t everyday options. Consider, for instance, Skyloft’s Fried Brisket Mac with, you guessed it, beer-battered brisket topped in their famous mac-and-cheese and ladled with rosemary gravy). 

Restaurants with Prix Fixe Menus

In a normal year and a typical crowded Valentine’s Day, many chefs prefer to create prix fixe menus to keep the kitchen running smoothly. This year, with indoor dining still not available to the public, they’re not expecting the usual Valentine crowds (though cozying up in an outdoor dining setting can’t be all bad on Valentine’s Day). Despite what could be lesser numbers, a handful of chefs are making those prix fixe menus anyway.

In fact, The Drake created a Valentine’s prix fixe menu for “Dine In” and an entirely separate one for a “Couples Take-Away Meal” that includes a bottle of Prosecco Gancia Docg.

The Drake’s Dine-In menu lets you choose one salad from eight options, an entrée from nine options (including my favorite, the Chili Lime Crusted Steelhead Salmon), and one impossible option from four desserts.

Laguna chefs Drake

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of The Drake

The Drake’s perennial favorite, Filet Mignon in Peppercorn Sauce

While the Drake’s “Take-Away” Valentine Menu might be a bit smaller in stature for easier packing, it’s a giant in taste, from the starter of Maine Lobster Louie to the significant Surf and Double Turn entrée. The Tomato Saffron Soup and Berry Tiramisu complete the menu.

Chef Amar Santana is offering yet another decadent menu at the Broadway for both outside diners and those who prefer eating at home. Takeout orders for this specific menu must be made by Friday, Feb 12.

Broadway’s menu starts with an amuse of smoked salmon mousse with quail egg and caviar because that’s just how Chef Amar flies. Then, wander through Albacore Tataki, Lobster and Scallop Raviolo, Butter Poached Maine Lobster, and Pink Pineapple Upside Down Cake (with Grapefruit Honey Sorbet, wow).

At Driftwood Kitchen, Chef Rainer Schwarz starts his Valentine prix fixe with a champagne toast and his crazy-good fresh-baked Parker House rolls. These two items basically corner the market on love.

He continues, though, with choices of salad or Hamachi Tartare and then White Asparagus Soup. A single entrée choice isn’t easy with Petite Filet & Braised Prime Beef Shortribs with truffled mashed potatoes or Chilean Seabass Filet with Maine lobster risotto. (Oh my.) The menu wraps up with a “Sweetheart Chocolate Dessert” for two.

Laguna chefs Driftwood

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Driftwood Kitchen

Chef Rainer’s Seabass with Maine Lobster Risotto at Driftwood Kitchen

Mozambique’s Valentine’s Day includes a free champagne split for every two entrées purchased. Chef Braulio’s prix fixe menu will be the only menu offered and live music will be supplied by our own Andrew Bloom. Watch the Directory for the menu’s details on what is usually quite an extensive menu from Chef Braulio.

At Nirvana Grille, nibble your way through a cheeseboard for two as you make choices from Chef Lindsay’s extensive 3-course menu. If you’re eating at the restaurant for Valentine’s Day, consider having a Nirvana gift basket waiting at the table.

Manned by Chef Erik, Oliver’s Osteria’s kitchen is nothing but love, love, love.

It only intensifies on Valentine’s weekend with a prix fixe 4-course dinner that starts with Capesante al Cognac (seared jumbo scallops) and wanders in a happy haze through Tartara Tarufata (ground aged filet) and Tris di Ravioli (3 raviolis – Lobster/Shrimp, Asparagus & Ricotta, and Pumpkin in butternut squash sauce).

Then, for your Oliver’s entrée, choose from Filleto in Fonduta (prime filet with taleggio cheese fondue) or Branzino (Chilean sea bass). Chef’s smug Semifreddo with a mocha fondue finishes the meal.

Make reservations

Even though you may think it will be a quieter Valentine weekend, I suggest you ignore that thought completely and make your reservations as soon as possible. If you’re planning takeout, most of the restaurants will be prepared for you throughout the weekend, though keep in mind that Broadway has a Friday evening (February 12) deadline. Just watch my Directory for changes and updates as new Valentine information and menus come in, or sign up for my email for alerts. 

P.S. About that Super Bowl this weekend

In Tuesday’s Stu News Laguna, I gave you several ideas for Super Bowl takeout ideas. If you missed it, you can find it in my blog on my website.

A much larger number of restaurants are open this Super Bowl Sunday than past years have proven. Some, however, will be closing at 3 p.m. or earlier to catch the game. Just check your favorite restaurant in the Directory to see their status. If I don’t have a status update, you might want to give them a call before heading in their direction.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


Harvest restaurant at The Ranch to reopen for outdoor dining Friday

The Ranch at Laguna Beach will reopen its signature Harvest restaurant for outdoor patio dining on Friday, Feb 5 in accordance with state and local health guidelines. 

Harvest will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, served beneath a heated canopy surrounded by serene canyon views. Live music will also be provided from 5:30-9:30 p.m. daily for an added dose of atmosphere.

Harvest Restaurant outside

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Ranch at dusk

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is also one of the first hotels in the world to become Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide. This seal of approval is granted to hotels which implement and uphold more than 360 health, hygiene, and safety standards to keep guests and staff safe while maintaining an exemplary resort experience.

Harvest restaurant at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a favorite for locals and guests of The Ranch Laguna Beach for its farm and hook-to-table cuisine, extensive wine list, garden-driven cocktail menu, and stunning views of the Aliso and Wood Canyon. The restaurant will reopen with its full menu, created by Executive Chef Kyle St. John, which marries the bounty of the season with the artistry of Laguna Beach into a vibrant array of local flavors, ingredients, and California culinary traditions. 

Harvest Restaurant dish

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Outdoor dining is back at Harvest at The Ranch 

Meals will be served on the Harvest patio, featuring a new canopy, heaters, and twinkling lights. The canopy sides will be open to allow for constant airflow, and seating will be spaced and managed to allow for distancing. Stringent sanitization protocols are implemented for guest and staff safety. Complimentary valet parking will be provided.

Created in homage to Laguna’s original Ranch homesteaders, the menu at Harvest changes with the season. Fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables are sourced from the property’s own half-acre organic garden and supplemented with ingredients from the best local producers. The result is handcrafted California comfort cuisine, locally rooted creative cocktails, 18 craft beers on tap, and unparalleled canyon scenery.

Harvest will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Due to capacity and distancing guidelines, reservations are strongly recommended. To make a reservation, visit www.ranchlb.com/dining/harvest.   

The Ranch at Laguna Beach has implemented numerous updates at Harvest to allow for a safe outdoor dining experience when it reopens on February 5. These include, but are not limited to:

--Tables and chairs reconfigured on The Porch for increased physical distancing while still offering magnificent canyon views.

--Restaurant hosts will guide physical distancing at entrances, waiting areas, and queues.

--Silverware will be deep sanitized and rolled in napkins; straws are individually wrapped.

--Glass barriers will be installed at host stand for staff and guest safety.

--Table turn times will be increased to ensure proper sanitation protocols.

--Hand sanitizer will be readily available to guests.

--Face masks are required for staff and guests while visiting any area of The Ranch at Laguna Beach.

For more information about The Ranch Laguna Beach’s health and safety practices, visit www.ranchlb.com/wellbeing-practices. For more information about The Ranch at Laguna Beach, or to book a stay, visit www.ranchlb.com.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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