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Laguna Beach

The Cliff welcomes Claudia Nygaard to upcoming songwriter showcase on Sept 30

On Monday, Sept 30 at 7 p.m., The Cliff proudly welcomes Claudia Nygaard to the stage for the venue’s songwriter showcase. Nygaard is currently on tour promoting her latest CD Lucky Girl.

Nygaard has won numerous awards for her writing, including the prestigious Kerville Folk Festival songwriting competition. She’s also cut her songwriting teeth as a salaried staff writer on Nashville’s Music Row. 

The Cliff Claudia

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Courtesy of

Claudia Nygaard will grace the stage at The Cliff on Monday, Sept 30 

Longtime Laguna local Denny Freidenrich is especially excited for Nygaard’s performance. “I’ve known Claudia since we were in junior high school. Over the years, I have had the privilege of hearing her perform several times. I’m excited that my friends in town finally will get a chance to see her at The Cliff.” 

For more information on Claudia, visit her website at

The Cliff is located at 577 South Coast Hwy. 

The Drake brings back nostalgic supper club

Story and photos by Diane Armitage

Last night was the official “opening night” for the long-anticipated Drake Laguna Beach. 

It was an impeccable experience, which is a rare thing to say on a restaurant’s opening night. 

The Drake dining room

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Early diners arrive for the inaugural night of The Drake Laguna Beach

Yes, they’re still stepping into their stride, but for a 0-day-old restaurant with just a smattering of rumored family and friend dinners last week, The Drake is acting like it’s been doing this a long, long time. Small surprise as Executive Chef Paul Gstrein has been cooking for the world’s finest restaurants for decades now, and his son, Nick, is right here next to him, carrying the baton forward.    

The Drake Nick and Paul

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Son Nick has joined Dad, renowned Chef Paul Gstrein, in the launch of The Drake Laguna Beach

Fine dining returns to a well-deserved space

It’s been four years and two months since Tabu Grill closed in this space. I chose to sit at the chef’s bar with the same open kitchen, and it brought back a flood of happy memories.

When Tabu opened in 2004, it was one of the first of the swanks in town, joining the likes of 230 Forest and Clae’s. Its arrival opened the door to a new kind of culinary mecca here in town, a graceful nod to fine dining that proved the world had not gone the way of the “fast casual” scene. 

With Tabu’s success, several high-level restaurateurs took a chance on Laguna Beach, including Azmin Ghahreman (Sapphire), Lindsay Smith-Rosales (Nirvana Grille), Amar Santana (Broadway), Maro Molteni (Maro Wood Grill), Ryan Adams (370 Common), Teemu (Selanne), Reiner Schwarz (Driftwood Kitchen), and Chef Mark Cohen with his second Laguna restaurant, Watermarc. 

Today, The Drake Laguna Beach took on the mantle…not only from Tabu Grill but from the original Drake Hotel in Manhattan that created such an impression on Alec Glasser that he felt compelled to carry its grace and timelessness forward to this space.

“It’s been in my mind for so long that it’s a little overwhelming tonight to see it all in reality,” he said, beaming. “We want this to be a great place for Laguna.”

What’s in store on the menu

The menu isn’t overwhelming, and that’s a good thing. The Drake is starting with seven appetizers, three salads, and 10 entrées. With entreés alone ranging from Maine Lobster to chicken, pork, scallops, two fish, and four meat dishes, there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone.   

The Drake mozarella salad

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Mozzarella Salad 

I tried the Mozzarella Salad, a significant serving of the freshest burrata with baby heirloom tomatoes, roasted pepper strips, and a surprisingly welcome scatter of briny green olive slices. My neighbor tried the Triple Brie Alpine Melt, which proved a miniature homage to the Alps themselves. She claimed it was the best she’s had. 

Though I’m not sure I can ever stray from the Mozzarella Salad again, a passing plate of Lamb Lollipop appetizers had me coveting. 

IThe Drake lamb lollipops

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Lamb Lollipops 

Chef sent out a sampler of the Venison “Diane” (thank you very much), and I must say I’m delighted to have this menu item bearing my name. Served up with “exotic mushrooms” and polenta, it was priceless.   

The Drake filet mignon

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Filet Mignon

For my entrée, it was the Filet Mignon with a potato trio and peppercorn sauce. Perfectly cooked with potatoes in every fashion, and a decent pour of Luigi Bosca Malbec in a wine glass that, alone, made me feel pretty special.

A lasting impression

With live jazz and piano lilting from its opening at 5:30 p.m., the Drake’s bar/lounge settled in as if it had been doing this for decades. In fact, the entire restaurant feels as if it’s been here for decades. The Drake Hotel in Manhattan may have been demolished in 2007, but its spirit seems to have found its new home here in Laguna Beach. 

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

Royal Hawaiian pulls off first Argentinian beef agreement in Western U.S.

Story and photos by Diane Armitage 

The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, long known for its iconic Lapu Lapu cocktail, recently invited two iconic and internationally renowned chefs into full ownership and operation in January of this year – brothers Martin Molteni and Mariano “Maro” Molteni.

Now, this Laguna-based restaurant is enjoying another iconic moment as the first in California…and the first in the Western United States all the way to Chicago…to be wood-grillin’ the hallowed beef of all beef – Argentinian Angus Beef.

Royal Hawaiian Maro with beef

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A giddy Chef Maro Molteni holds his newest arrival – Argentinian beef

Argentinian beef has not been served in any Western U.S. restaurant since 2001. The rare treat will be featured as a special to the regular menu that began last night (Thursday, Sept 19) until a larger supply chain can be established. 

The brothers plan to replace all of the steak cuts on the menu with Argentinian beef. It will join popular and new menu items such as Hawaiian Opah, Local Lobster, Hawaiian Poke, Seared Ahi Tuna, and the RoHi’s best-selling Pacific Sea Bass.

Royal Hawaiian: The best of international coastal cuisine

Since opening their rendition of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill in April of this year, Chefs Maro and Martin have introduced a coastal culinary heritage to the menu by featuring combined wood-fire grill magic from the Hawaiian Islands, South America’s coastal regions, and North America’s Pacific Coast.

Royal Hawaiian Martin

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The Prime Ribeye Roast is a group event favorite amongst the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s cross-cultural wood-grilled dishes

And, while the brothers have only produced the finest in organic proteins on their menu from their opening day – wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef, pork and poultry from America’s most vaunted ranches – Maro and Martin had an ace up their sleeve. 

Even before they opened the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, they were working with U.S. and Argentinian governments to allow them to fly in what is largely considered the finest in beef produce globally – Argentinian Angus Beef.

An 18-year effort to bring back the beef

If you’ll remember, back in 2001, England reported a particularly venomous hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak in its cattle. It was a giant mess that began in two small ranches and spread like wildfire through Europe. 

When that moment occurred, the United States shut its doors to many incoming international beef sources, only slowly re-opening the doors as the various countries leapt through new, fiery hoops of proven sanitation and cleanliness at both international and U.S. FDA approval levels.

In January of just this year – 18 years later – the announcement was made that Argentina would, once again, be allowed to export its renowned grass-fed beef to the United States. Martin and Maro, our local Argentinian chef brothers, were the first to jump on board, eagerly working behind the scenes with Premier Meat to import this “cut above the rest.”

Why Argentinian beef is so revered

For thousands of years, Argentinians have been raising cattle in the Pampas, an endless stretch of glorious wild grassland at the base of the Patagonias. 

They practiced conscious care long before the rest of the world hopped on board, and today’s Argentinian cows are still fed a grass-only diet, allowed to wander aimlessly on the plain, and are completely hormone free. Their beef shows higher levels of natural vitamins, minerals and proteins, and contain three times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than conventional beef raised in feedlots. CLAs are fatty acids that provide anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

But to those who love eating beef, Argentinian beef simply represents tenderness, glorious flavor, and juicy texture. “It’s unbeatable palatability,” said Chef Martin Molteni. “There’s really nothing like its taste in the world.”

“Finally, it’s here!”

Royal Hawaiian Co-Owner Chef Martin Molteni continues to operate one of the most vaunted restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina and travels back and forth between the two restaurants. 

Maro, first known in this town for Laguna’s local favorite Maro Wood Grill, until he sold it in 2017, has taken on more of the day-to-day-helm at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill. It was Maro, then, who giddily received his first shipment of Argentinian beef this week. 

Royal Hawaiian steak

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It may still be called a New York steak, but this beef is all Argentinian

He immediately stoked the Hawaiian’s new wood-fire grill and sliced several New York cuts. After holding one steak cut in his hands for that long-awaited Holy Grail moment, he grilled several cuts for his staff, happily ingesting two steaks himself.

“I may sound crazy, but this is one of my happiest days ever,” said Chef Maro, with a beaming smile. “Finally! Finally, it’s here!”

The best-selling book 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

Coyote Grill howls its 30 years on Sept 24

Story by Diane Armitage

Photos from Coyote Grill

In late August of 1989, the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson version of Batman was setting $100 million records, “Good Thing” was topping the charts from the Fine Young Cannibals, and Kim Bryant was opening South Laguna’s Coyote Grill. 

Coyote Grill building

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Coyote Grill, 1989

Neighborhood icon

Fast forward 30 years, and Coyote Grill has only grown in mega-popularity. It is a neighborhood icon as well as the primary traffic element I refer to whenever I’m directing someone to my Table Rock home. 

The Coyote crew is celebrating this month with a culmination party on Tuesday, Sept 24. 

Hundreds of people have already been participating in the restaurant’s raffle. Once patrons spend $10, they’re allowed to drop their name and phone number in the raffle box with hopes of winning Calamari Tacos for a year (my favorite tacos in all of Laguna Beach for a whole year!), free valet for six months, and a host of other gifts and specials. 

Patrons can participate in the raffle multiple times with each visit they make to the little neighborhood restaurant/bar before September 24. Winners will be drawn on the 24th after the party officially kicks off at 4 p.m.

The Sept 24th party will also welcome Casamigos Tequila (I can only hope George Clooney will come along), Mago Hot Sauce, and a photo booth. 

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years already,” says Co-Owner Desirée Gomez (Kim’s oldest daughter). “I started helping here as a hostess when I was 12, so it’s been a very fast-moving 18 years.”

Coyote Grill Kim

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Kim Bryant

Kim Bryant took over the restaurant space from Cove restaurateurs in 1989. Prior, Bryant was an existing 9-year owner of Café Del Coyote in San Clemente (now the Pizza Port), but had found the enormous space taxing, and sought out a smaller footprint. He kept the San Clemente location open till 1993, and then focused all of his efforts on the SoLag location.

For several years, all four of Bryant’s kids worked at Coyote Grill. He left in 2001 for Hawaii, taking his oldest son, Justin, with him to operate a commercial kitchen there. That left Desirée, Jarrod, and Tiana to grow into their roles at the family-run Mexican restaurant.

Coyote Grill family

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Familiar faces in the family and extended Coyote Grill family. From left, Bartender Stephen Morand (Desirée’s husband), Co-Owner Desirée Gomez, Maile Earlywine (Desirée’s daughter), Tiana Watson (sister), and Manager Radley Pilanca.

“We had been raised in the restaurant as kids, so it didn’t seem like such a giant thing to step into bigger roles here,” says Desirée. “Looking back now, though, I think: We were just kids!”

While regulars saw these mighty, mighty kids grow into ownership and operation of a viable business, they continued to enjoy a large Mexican-American menu that offered all their favorites. 

“We’ve only added about 6 or 7 items to the menu since Dad first put it in place,” says Desirée. “We can’t even do specials because everyone who comes here already knows what they want to eat.”

Last family member standing

Recent departures have seen her siblings and children head off to their own new worlds, which leaves Desirée the last family member standing. She doesn’t mind, though, as she has plenty of help from her extended family of chefs, cooks, bartenders, and servers that have been in play at Coyote Grill for 20 years or more. 

Any plans to shut this thing down and move on, too, I ask? 

“Once you hit 30 years, you can’t just call it quits,” says Desirée. 

(This is a relief to me. Where would all of us SoLag people go, for heaven’s sake? We would just wander our non-sidewalk streets with blank, sad faces.) 

“We still have to get our kids through school in Orange County, so we’re not going anywhere…at least not until our 40th celebration,” she adds. 

Coyote Grill is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to roughly 9 p.m.

The restaurant is located at 31621 Coast Hwy. For more information, call (949)499-4033.

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

Lost Pier Café hosts new Locals’ Night every first Wednesday of the month

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Lost Pier Café, in association with The Ranch Laguna Beach, wants to celebrate the people who make our community so special to be a part of, our locals. On Wednesday, Sept 4, the restaurant officially celebrated our community with its Locals’ Season Kick-Off.   

Lost Pier palms

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Lost Pier Café kicked off its first Locals’ Night on Wednesday

These special days are for you to find a space where friends and family can come visit with one another, meet your neighbors, disconnect from our fast-paced lives, enjoy live music, games, s’mores by fire pits, high-quality beachside fare, drinks, and the gorgeous scenery (and sunsets) of Aliso Creek Beach.

Lost Pier locals

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The night wouldn’t be complete without locals…

“This is our effort to say thank you to our faithful regulars who have always supported us and continue to make us what we are,” stated Lost Pier Café manager Rachel Morin

Lost Pier music

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And live music…

Mark your calendars for October 2, November 6, and December 4 and onward into 2020 for more fun at Locals’ Night.

Lost Pier bonfire

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The kids loved making s’mores by the fire pits

For more information on Lost Pier Café, visit

Lost Pier Café is located at 31131 Coast Hwy.

Tortilla Republic closes suddenly, Fishbone hoping to swim in

By Diane Armitage

Tortilla Republic Laguna Beach abruptly closed with locked doors and a simple note this Tuesday, Sept 3.

Their note to the public stated: “Due to the recent influx of Mexican restaurants in Laguna Beach, it has become unsustainable for Tortilla Republic to continue operations.”

Tortilla Republic sign

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Courtesy of Diane Armitage

Tortilla Republic Laguna Beach closed permanently on Tuesday, Sept 3

At my last count (and thanks to my readers), there are 14 “Mexican cuisine” restaurants remaining in Laguna Beach (not counting franchise Taco Bell), most of which have been in play for several years. The recent opening of South of Nick’s just a few doors south of Tortilla Republic, however, might have sounded the death knell. (This, of course, purely speculation.)

Tortilla Republic, the brainchild of brother-sister duo John Halter and Mina Azami, first gained enormous popularity in Kauai and West Hollywood with help from a third partner, Mortan Kaag, and their mom, Cathy Shyne, who served as Consulting Chef.

Tortilla Republic salmon

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Courtesy of Diane Armitage

The blackened salmon was a popular dish at Tortilla Republic

After expanding to a successful location in West Hollywood, the family decided to open in Laguna’s old Asada/Javier’s space in May 2015 with high hopes for introducing their brand to South OC. Faced with a vast tourist trade and longtime locals still singing the blues over the loss of Javier’s, the owners remained optimistic, introducing locals’ programs and assertive happy hours, brunches, and weekly specials. 

Management could not be reached for comment. 

Fishbone fishin’ around

As Tortilla Republic clears the vast restaurant space, the City says that Fishbone Kitchen + Bar, a concept of Fishbone Restaurants.

In the City of Laguna Beach, an application is the first step in showing interest. In this case, Fishbone is asking the City to “grandfather” in the existing conditional use permits (CUPs) already granted Tortilla Republic. This typically means that they plan no enormous renovation changes to the exterior, expect to offer the same amount of seating, and are grandfathered into the parking arrangement already established for the previous operator. 

Per the City, the application is under review; the City has not yet gone back to Fishbone with any recommendations or requested changes in the application. 

“Portuguese and Mediterranean” solution

Chef and Managing Partner Pedro Pereira opened his restaurant in 2008 (take-out Portuguese barbecue chicken). After selling it, he opened his first Fishbone restaurant, an upscale dining concept with whole fish offerings that change seasonally. The restaurant also serves meat, duck, pasta dishes, and more 

Management could not be reached for comment by deadline, but I’ll be the first to let you know when we do have that conversation.

Meanwhile, another “fast casual” claims they’re putting their dogs in Laguna Beach

While we’re on the subject of “fast casual,” a press release just hit my desk this week from Sumo Dog, a gourmet-style hot dog concept. 

Sumo, born and bred in the L.A. basin, has recently shut down its restaurant spaces opting, instead, for large “permanent carts” that include their first OC endeavor at the Irvine Spectrum. 

Sumo Dog’s press says they will be opening more permanent carts in locations that include Laguna Beach, but they have not yet filed an application with the City of Laguna Beach. 

Food vendor cart, perhaps? 

I asked the City if Sumo Dog could be interested in filing for permission as a potential new roaming vendor cart that the State of California has required all cities to “welcome.” At this point, only two vendor carts are in play in Laguna Beach, and nothing yet has been filed by Sumo for a possible cart of dogs on wheels.

Tortilla Republic Sumo Dog

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Sumo Dog – cart or no cart?

I’ll be reporting more on this as I talk with Sumo Dog’s management and watch the application process go through. Keep in mind that initial press from many companies does not take into account the application and permitting process in our fine city. Until their permits show up on the windows of an establishment, it may or may not happen.

(For those of you interested, the two vendor carts that showed up this summer in Laguna were ice cream and “memorabilia” carts. I haven’t witnessed them in action, but I’ve been told they were both active along Main Beach.)

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

Locals’ parties and pub crawls popping up everywhere

By Diane Armitage

As much as we love our tourists for their economic boost, we locals can’t help but feel a bit of happy happy joy when Labor Day creates that invisible cutoff day. 

While our city remains much busier year-round now, it’s still a welcome relief to be able to drive from one end of town to the other in less than 45 minutes. 

A pub crawl that’s actually become…sensible?

I’ve been fairly pelted with “Tourists Be Gone” party invitations these last two weeks.

I’ve also found it rather interesting that the old “Take Back the Town” locals’ pub crawl might be making a comeback, this time, though, with much greater sensibility: People are renting party buses instead of trying to drive or perambulate themselves through town. 

If you’re a resident long enough to remember, the annual event would start at the Royal Hawaiian in North Laguna, hit local favorites downtown (namely Marine Room and The Saloon), then slowly wind its way south to eventually stop at The Dirty Bird and Tortilla Flats (the latter of which Mozambique briefly inherited before the crawl was, ehrmm, laid to rest).

Locals parties Royal

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Submitted photo

Guys toasting in bar at Royal Hawaiian

This last weekend, the Royal Hawaiian reported two “pub crawl” party buses, and they’ve received (gracious) calls warning them of incoming bus crawlers this coming weekend, too.     

Vino & Vinyl

For those of you not gifted with the organization gene for people and party buses, The Ranch at Laguna Beach is offering two events this week that would qualify as locals’ parties, too. 

Always on the first Tuesday of each month, it’s Vino and Vinyl on The Ranch’s patio. 

Mark Christy trundles out his turntable and speakers and treats patio guests to about three hours of monthly album picks from his personal collection. He makes a great DJ, explaining historical and personal history stories connected to each “theme” of the month. 

Guests staying at The Ranch always wander up for the event, but the patio primarily belongs to Laguna locals who regularly show for kibitzing purposes. It’s a super de-stressor and a unique effort on Mark’s part. It’s proven quite the sustainable, underground party. 

Lost Pier 

Then, The Ranch’s little sister – the Lost Pier Café at Aliso Creek Beach – is hosting a locals’ party tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept 4) from 3 - 8 p.m. I’m a big fan of the Lost Pier, even mentioned it in my article for best Labor Day picks last week! 

Locals parties Lost Pier

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Photo by Diane Armitage

There will be a sunset gathering at Lost Pier on Wednesday

On Wednesday, the café team is inviting everyone down for sunset with music, games, firepit s’mores, and more. 

Note: Keep in mind that even though we’re locals, the Aliso Creek parking lot doesn’t recognize our esteemed citizenship. Either park on the street and hoof it down on the handy path or pay the meters to avoid a parking ticket.

Get out of the burrow you’ve called home all these summer months and reconnect with your local pals. I’ll see you out there!   

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

Slice Pizza and Beer introduces new box design by Laguna Beach ceramicist Sharon Hardy

Slice Pizza and Beer, owned by Suzanne and Cary Redfearn, has just released its second Laguna Beach artist designed box. Suzanne says, “In keeping with the concept of promoting community, we decided when we opened to have local artists design our boxes.” 

The inaugural box was designed by local painter and screen printer Cynthia Fletcher. It’s a depiction of two clasped hands and represents kindness and unity. The quote that accompanied the design (printed on the inside lip of the box) was by Mother Teresa: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Slice Pizza Sharon and Cynthia

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Submitted photo

Sharon Hardy (on left) and Cynthia Fletcher

“Our new box is designed by ceramicist Sharon Hardy,” says Suzanne. “She used to live on Cerritos Drive and would wake each morning to the golden hills of Laguna and the soaring hawks. Her box quote is: ‘Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird.’ –Langston Hughes.”

Sharon Hardy is an artist who primarily uses clay to create wall and free- standing sculpture. The dualities of chaos and order, growth and decay, organic and mechanical are the inspiration for Sharon’s sculptures. Tension between parts and the whole, form, and patterns found in the systems of nature drive the ideas behind her work. 

Slice Pizza group

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Friends gather to celebrate passing of torch (box) with Suzanne Redfearn (second from left), Cynthia Fletcher, and Sharon Hardy

Sharon received her BFA from Arizona State University and studied ceramics at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. She has exhibited throughout California including at The Richmond Arts Center, The Irvine Fine Arts Center, SCAPE Gallery, and Gallery 825. Her works hang in private collections throughout the U.S.

Slice Pizza and Beer is located at 477 Forest Ave. For more information, call (949) 715-3993 or visit

For information about Cynthia Fletcher, go to

For information about Sharon Hardy, go to

Royal Hawaiian offers new twist on holiday parties

By Diane Armitage

Dear Reader, 

I know you don’t want to hear this, but Thanksgiving is less than 100 days away. 

It falls late this year, too, which can cause even greater stress for corporate event planners and family heads-of-state who want to secure a great holiday dining or party experience. 

All of Laguna’s restaurants are gearing up for holiday requests. Chefs across the city are telling me that bookings have already begun for those few prime days in November and December. 

And, while I’m sure every restaurant is happy to negotiate large parties and buyouts, I think it’s cool that the Molteni chef brothers at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill have come up with a number of offerings for smaller, more interactive holiday parties, too.

“We’re booking catering parties and in-restaurant large holiday parties and buyouts for up to 150 people,” says Chef Maro Molteni. “But we want smaller companies and family gatherings to know they’re just as important to us, so we came up with some fun twists on the usual holiday party.”

Fun Twists for Smaller Parties

In addition to “Tiki Cocktail Parties” and holiday-plated dinners, the Royal Hawaiian has also introduced Rum Tasting Events, Rum- or Wine-Chocolate Pairing Parties and Tiki Cocktail-Making Classes for groups of 12 to about 20.

Royal Hawaiian rum

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Courtesy of Royal Hawaiian

A sampling of gourmet rums at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

“We’re working with a huge number of super-gourmet rums for our cocktail program,” says Royal Hawaiian Mixologist Sean Melia. “These events are a perfect way to teach our guests about the amazingness of higher-level rums.”

Chef’s Dinner + Lunches Too

After the initial success of their Chefs’ Dinners a few weeks ago, the Molteni brothers also are offering an off-the-menu, interactive Tasting Dinner for private parties up to 20. And, they’re opening the restaurant for holiday lunches and early cocktail parties (for all sized parties) from November through the end of January. 

Royal Hawaiian menus

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Courtesy of Royal Hawaiian

Tasting Dinners at Royal Hawaiian are off-menu creations

“The holidays are stressful enough,” says Chef Maro. “We want to do what we can to make holiday events flexible, easy and fun.”

Nothing wrong with using imagination and a little magic at the holidays, right? People interested in booking at Royal Hawaiian can email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

Chef Craig Strong to serve as celebrity chef for Laguna Art Museum’s Gala 2019

On Saturday, Sept 21, Laguna Art Museum will launch its second century with its Gala 2019 event from 5:30 to 11 p.m. at the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach. More than 350 guests will enjoy performance art, dancing, exquisite wines, and fine dining by Chef Craig Strong. 

Craig Strong is Chef and Owner of Ocean at Main, the culmination of over 20 years of distinguished experience. The restaurant recently opened in Laguna Beach with chef-driven, seasonally changing dishes that highlight pristine ingredients. 

Laguna Art Craig

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Submitted photo

Chef Craig Strong will serve a celebrity chef for LAM’s Gala 2019 

Chef Strong was the executive chef for nine years at Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, where he helped the restaurant garner Five Stars from Forbes. Previously under Chef Strong’s helm, the now-called The Langham Huntington in Pasadena earned a Michelin star for two consecutive years. 

Earlier in his career, Strong cheffed at The Arts Hotel in Barcelona and The Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead, Georgia, and served as sous chef at Glitretind Restaurant at Stein Erikson Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah. He studied at L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington, D.C.

The museum will recognize longtime supporters and community philanthropists Jane and Joe Hanauer as the Honorary Chairs for Gala 2019 and will honor the acclaimed and beloved California artist Lita Albuquerque with its Wendt Award. 

Proceeds from the event ensure operating support for Laguna Art Museum to continue its mission to be the premier museum for California art and a center of culture for Laguna Beach.

For more information about Gala 2019, including to purchase tickets, visit

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr.

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