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Laguna Beach

Nirvana Grille debuts Spring Menu with 50 percent off this week, starting tonight

Welcome the flavors of spring at Nirvana Grille with the restaurant’s Spring Menu Debut. Enjoy up to 50 percent off starting tonight, Tuesday, April 23 through Sunday, April 28. The special is all night, on all new menu items.

Committed to offering delicious food and impeccable service, Nirvana Grille’s uniquely fresh menu allows a kitchen full of high-quality ingredients to take center stage, led by Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales.

Nirvana Grille wine

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Enjoy Nirvana Grille’s new Spring Menu with 50 percent off through Sunday

Nirvana Grille’s “ingredients first” philosophy begins at the local level, working closely with purveyors to ensure access to the best available provisions so the restaurant can change menus with the seasons. 

Nirvana’s menu is composed entirely of all-natural meats free from hormones and antibiotics, organic free range “Mary’s” poultry, and sustainable seafood. It’s all about the food and the guest’s experience for this fantastic restaurant.

Limited space is available and reservations are required by phone. For reservations, call (949) 497-0027. 

For more information, visit

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway #101.

Lumberyard Chef Challenge dishes up a decade of support for SchoolPower

Photos by Kristin Karkoska 

On April 1 at Lumberyard restaurant, Laguna school principals dueled as guest “chefs,” serving up competing three-course meals to a sellout crowd of SchoolPower supporters. No, it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke; it was the 10th year of the Lumberyard Chef Challenge, a beloved event that this year raised over $10,000 for SchoolPower.

Lumberyard owners Cary and Suzanne Redfearn conceived the event. “It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. Based loosely on reality cooking shows, it is a night of chef-inspired food along with the opportunity to mingle with the principals and other community leaders, all for the benefit of SchoolPower,” says Suzanne. 

The Redfearns generously donate their restaurant, including all of the food and staff, for the event. Cary adds, “We were so fortunate to have our kids attend school in Laguna and receive such a fabulous education – Chef Challenge is our way of giving back. We opened Lumberyard to be a community restaurant and this event so epitomizes that goal.”

Lumberyard Chef group

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El Morro Principal Chris Duddy, Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg, Student Resource Officer Corporal Cornelius Ashton, LBHS Principal Jason Allemann, and Top of the World Principal Michael Conlon

The principals select items and serve guests, but the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Josue Tavare and the Lumberyard staff. This year the elementary school principal duo of Chris Duddy and Michael Conlon took home the coveted Golden Spatula. 

Their entree, grilled Angus New York steak on a bed of mushroom risotto, beat out Laguna High School Principal Jason Allemann and Thurston Middle School Principal Jenny Salberg’s pan roasted Tasmanian Red Trout with spring vegetables. “I always enjoy some fun banter with parents in a casual environment and it’s for a worthy cause. Duddy and I look forward to continuing our winning streak next year!” says Principal Conlon. 

Lumberyard Chef food

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Lumberyard Chef Josue Tavare’s entree duo at the 10th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower

New to the event was School Resource Officer Corporal Cornelius Ashton, who helped tally votes and announce the winners. SchoolPower trustee Monica Golden was excited to meet him at the event. “I had heard great things about Officer Ashton from my kids, so it was great to chat with him at the Lumberyard. He has a way of instantly engaging you and is such a positive person. I can tell why everyone loves ‘Officer Corn,’” she says.

Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions made by SchoolPower Endowment Board President Chris Clark and SchoolPower’s First Lady Katie Houlahan. Clark won the honor of top bartender for a third year running.

Lumberyard Chef table

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SchoolPower supporters Harpal and Shaheen Sadhal and Danielle and Jeff Roedersheimer enjoy the 10th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge

“Each year the event seems to get better – the food, the energy, the people – and we look forward to the tradition continuing for many years to come,” says Suzanne. 

SchoolPower’s mission is to enhance the educational experience of the whole student as they grow from TK through 12th grade. In 2017-18, SchoolPower contributed over $760,000 to the Laguna Beach school district to help support a wide range of programs, including small class sizes, academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, STEM programs, and wellness and student support. 

SchoolPower’s Wave of Giving campaign is on now at

Kitchen in the Canyon serves delicious Easter brunch

On Easter Sunday, April 21, from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., Kitchen in the Canyon will be serving up a super tasty brunch menu. If you’ve waited until the last minute or just don’t feel like whipping up a festive feast after your family egg hunt, hop on over to Kitchen in the Canyon’s brunch. 

Kitchen in the pastries

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Submitted photo

Drool-worthy pastries will be served at Kitchen in the Canyon’s Easter brunch

Complete with mimosas and bloody mary’s for the adults and kid-friendly treats for your little bunnies, guests can enjoy brunch outside on Kitchen in the Canyon’s patio amidst Laguna’s gorgeous hillsides, or inside for a taste of the restaurant’s rustic-yet-modern vibe. 

Located in Laguna’s Civic Art District, Kitchen in the Canyon is dedicated to bringing its customers delicious, non-GMO California comfort food, and their Easter brunch is sure to be one that adults and kids alike will enjoy. 

For more information, visit or call (949) 715-5388. 

Kitchen in the Canyon is located at 845 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Nirvana Grille debuts Spring Menu with 50 percent off April 23-28

Welcome the flavors of spring at Nirvana Grille with the restaurant’s Spring Menu Debut. Enjoy up to 50 percent off from April 23-28 from 5 to 9 p.m. The special is all night, on all new menu items.

Committed to offering delicious food and impeccable service, Nirvana Grille’s uniquely fresh menu allows a kitchen full of high-quality ingredients to take center stage, led by Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales.

Nirvana Grille wine

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Enjoy Nirvana Grille’s new Spring Menu with 50 percent off

Nirvana Grille’s “ingredients first” philosophy begins at the local level, working closely with purveyors to ensure access to the best available provisions so the restaurant can change menus with the seasons. 

Nirvana’s menu is composed entirely of all-natural meats free from hormones and antibiotics, organic free range “Mary’s” poultry, and sustainable seafood. It’s all about the food and the guest’s experience for this fantastic restaurant.

Limited space is available and reservations are required by phone. For reservations, call (949) 497-0027. 

For more information, visit

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway #101.

Wild about Chef Rainer Schwarz’ new spring menu at Driftwood Kitchen: vibrant seasonal fare at its best

By dianne russell

We all know that spring brings wildflowers, especially this year, but it also produced something else to be wild about – a new seasonal menu at Driftwood Kitchen created by Chef Rainer Schwarz. He is also the Executive Chef of The Deck on Laguna Beach and Hendrix Restaurant and Bar.

Tuesday evening, my fellow writer at Stu News Marrie Stone and I had the pleasure of sampling some of his new dishes while sipping springtime cocktails and watching the sun set over the Pacific. 

Wild about Rainer

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Courtesy of Driftwood Kitchen

Chef Rainer Schwarz introduces new seasonal menu

Adding to his already acclaimed menu of ocean-inspired offerings, Chef Rainer introduces dishes featuring fresh, vibrant spring ingredients. Among the new items is the DK Seafood Tower, a seafood lover’s dream, filled with Maine lobster tail, king crab leg, poached jumbo Mexican shrimp, oysters on the half shell, Spanish octopus ceviche, and tuna tartare.

Wild about ceviche

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Spanish octopus ceviche

“Our new spring menu sees the addition of the season’s freshest ingredients presented in dishes designed to keep our menu fresh and excite guests,” commented Chef Rainer. “We are focused on utilizing the best local ingredients to complement the freshest seafood we can get our hands on.” 

Chef Rainer’s new menu features the following dishes: 

Quinoa Salad: avocado, grilled sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese, lime-mint vinaigrette 

Roasted Baby Beet Salad: red and white Belgian endive, caramelized onion vinaigrette, roasted pine nut and toasted goat cheese crostini

Wild about salmon

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Photo by Marrie Stone

The salmon was smooth as silk

House Cured Steelhead Salmon: cucumber and dill creme fraiche, brioche toast points, Peruvian peppadews 

Duck Confit and Goat Cheese Ravioli: beurre blanc, sautéed mushrooms, toasted pistachios 

Although I didn’t try this dish, Marrie had great things to say about it. “The duck ravioli was a stand-out. So rich and cheesy, it almost reminded me of a fondue. The sauce paired so well against the smoky tenderness of the meat. I haven’t had anything like it, and I’ll be back to have it again.”

Large Plates: 

Whole Roasted Dover Sole: “sauce Grenoble”, potato onion brandade 

Seared Diver Scallops: pan seared scallops, fregola pasta, cauliflower, Moroccan salsa, Marcona almonds

Wild about soup

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Creamy roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Pan Seared Thai Snapper: roasted eggplant chutney, tomato jam, grilled yellow squash, blistered baby heirloom tomato 

(This sampling was a winner. The Thai Snapper melts in your mouth and pairs beautifully with the zesty eggplant chutney.)

Blackfoot Buffalo Ribeye: ancho chili glaze, creamy parsnip puree, green beans and sweet garlic parsnip chips

“People tend to shy away from bison, but the tenderness of this cut and the leanness of the meat make it one of my favorite beef dishes,” says Marrie. “It dissolves on the tongue, no knife required. And the sweet tang of the marinade made it an unexpectedly delightful dish.”

Wild about meat

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Photo by Marrie Stone

Blackfoot Buffalo Ribeye

Grilled Center Cut Swordfish: roasted carrot, Okinawa purple potato, green zucchini curry, fried onion, coconut cream, pickled red jalapeño, micro cilantro salad 

DK Seafood Tower: Maine lobster tail, king crab leg, poached jumbo Mexican shrimp, oysters on the half shell, Spanish octopus ceviche, tuna tartare (Petite/Large)

Wild about seafood tower

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Marrie Stone

Seafood Tower

At the end of the evening, Marrie said, “There’s no better setting to indulge in a decadent meal. The ocean is the perfect backdrop for Driftwood’s array of fresh seafood, which creates a feast for all the senses. The crashing surf, the sunset, the salty scent in the air all set the mood for a special night indulging in every course.”

Chef Rainer’s menu still includes Driftwood Kitchen’s signature Yellowfin Tuna Tartare Tacos, Grilled Spanish Octopus, and Whole Fried Texas Redfish, which can feed up to four guests and must be ordered in advance. 

Driftwood Kitchen is located at 619 Sleepy Hollow Ln and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

For more information, go to or call (949) 715-7700.

Laguna Beach Taste of the Nation returns May 5 at the Montage

Montage Laguna Beach is once again hosting Laguna Beach Taste of the Nation overlooking the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, May 5, to help raise funds for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry. 

Host chefs for the 12th annual event Benjamin Martinek, chef de cuisine of award-winning Studio, and Lee Smith, pastry chef for Montage Laguna Beach, will welcome Australian award-winning Chef Curtis Stone as a special guest, along with other visiting chefs.

From 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., guests will savor featured bites created by celebrity chefs from California and two outstanding chefs visiting from Montage Los Cabos, Mexico. Excellent wines and champagne for sipping and crafted cocktails, including Cinco de Mayo celebration cocktails provided by Casamigos at the Margarita Bar, will be served.

Laguna Beach Montage pool

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Submitted photo

The iconic Montage Laguna Beach will hold Taste of the Nation on May 5 

The full roster of visiting chefs who will be preparing gourmet delicacies includes: host chefs Benjamin Martinek and Lee Smith of Montage Laguna Beach; Xavier Solomon and Alexis Palacios of Montage Los Cabos; Eric Samaniego of Michael’s on Naples Ristorante; Bryant Taylor of Chianina Steakhouse; Brother Luck of Four by Brother Luck; and Bryan Brown of Bourbon Steak, A Michael Mina Restaurant.

Along with craft cocktails from Tito’s and wines from ZD Wines and MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, will be champagne and a visiting champagne specialist from Veuve Clicquot. There will be a silent auction, an exciting live auction, and an after-party with more gourmet offerings. 

Additional highlights include one-of-a-kind wine tastings, a champagne toast, parting gift, and mingling with celebrity chefs. Sponsors of the event are Citi, Sysco, Food Network, OpenTable, Montage Laguna Beach, Orange Coast Magazine, Moss Adams, Southern California Gas Company, BJ’s Restaurants, Pirch, Epstein Becker & Green, and Villa Real Estate.

The beneficiary of Laguna Beach Taste of the Nation is Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry program, established to end childhood hunger in the U.S. by ensuring kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast, and families learn skills to shop and cook on a budget. To date, No Kid Hungry and its partners have provided more than 500 million meals.

Ticket are $250 per person for general admission from 3 to 7:30 p.m. or $275 for VIP admission from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Additional information can be found at

Montage Laguna Beach is located at 30801 Coast Hwy.

GG’s Bistro presents special dinner focused on Friendship Shelter on Monday

Join GG’s Bistro on Monday, April 8 from 6 - 8 p.m. for dinner, wine, live music, and to learn more about how Friendship Shelter is ending homelessness in our community.

Friendship Shelter’s Executive Director Dawn Price will be at the event to give an update on Friendship Shelter and answer any questions that attendees may have.

The dinner is $50 per person and GG’s Bistro will donate 20 percent of this to Friendship Shelter ($10 per person).

GG's Bistro outside

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Courtesy of Instagram

GG’s Bistro’s lovely outdoor patio

GG’s will offer a selection of menu items as well as one glass of wine or nonalcoholic beverage for each attendee. Additional beverages will be available for purchase. Live music will be performed by Gabriel Friedman.

Friendship Shelter was incorporated in 1988 to provide year-round shelter and rehabilitation to homeless adults. Today, the nonprofit provides a full complement of services to the most vulnerable homeless people in our community, and is focused on finding the most appropriate permanent housing solution for each individual. 

Friendship Shelter follows the housing first and harm reduction models of care, and has worked with more than 10,000 people to end their homelessness. The organization is proud that each night more than 160 homeless and formerly homeless people sleep safe, warm, and cared for in a Friendship Shelter program.

For more information, visit   

GG’s Bistro is located at 540 South Coast Hwy #108.

LB Brewery becomes Oc Craft, Laguna’s first gastro brewpub

Tomorrow, April 3, Laguna Beach Brewery has a big reveal with a new concept and new name – Oc Craft Gastro Brew Pub, with a motto of “Home of Real Laguna Beer.” And true to the slogan, it’s made in Laguna. 

The menu will be updated as well. Giovanni Labile, co-manager of Oc Craft, and formerly of Ocean Avenue Brewery, says, “We’ve been listening to our customers who ask where they can find a good burger at a reasonable price, so we’re now going to focus on burgers. We’ll have a grass-fed beef option, a gluten-free bun option, a vegan burger with vegan cheese, turkey burgers, lamb burgers, and a chicken option.”

LB Brewery new logo

Oc Craft Gastro Brew Pub unveils tomorrow, Wednesday, April 3

Giovanni says, “We’re elevating our level more in line with the Laguna level.” He said that when they opened the brewery and offered Mexican food, it was different, but now with others doing the same in town, it’s no longer needed. 

Oc Craft will be open from Monday - Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on weekends. The bar will have entertainment and stay open until 1 a.m.

The restaurant is also reaching out to locals and the LGBTQ community with the idea that it’s a good spot to have events. 

 Oc Craft is located at 237 Ocean Ave. For more information, call (949) 497-3381.

Royal Hawaiian reopens on Wednesday with renovated look and menus


Laguna’s grand dame, the Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill restaurant, is re-opening this Wednesday, April 3, under new owner/operators (and brothers) Maro Molteni and Martin Molteni, and the buzz is significant.

The restaurant will be open six days a week, beginning at 4 p.m. It will be closed on Mondays.

Royal Hawaiian interior 2

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Courtesy of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

The new Royal Hawaiian opens on Wednesday

The Royal Hawaiian temporarily closed its doors on January 22, handing the keys and ownership of the restaurant to Chef Maro Molteni, the former owner of the award-winning restaurant Maro Wood Grill. His brother, Martin, is also a part owner, dividing his time between Laguna Beach and his culinary empire in Argentina. 

Opening Week Already Sold Out

When the popular chef team announced opening day to their email and social media audiences, it took less than two hours to fully sell out Wednesday’s opening day. Thursday, Friday and Saturday sell-outs quickly followed suit. 

The Royal Hawaiian team is limiting walk-ins during its first week, too, with their focus on providing great service and food to the restaurant’s packed reservations lineup. 

Reservations Available Sunday Forward

There’s hope, though! Some reservations are still available for Sunday, April 7, and I’m told that next week is substantially quieter. Reservations can be made at the website at, and Easter brunch and Mother’s Day brunch are open for reservations, too. 

People can also begin booking group dining, cocktail parties and special events at the same website.

Royal Hawaiian brothers

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Martin Molteni (left) and younger brother Chef Maro Molteni are the new owners/operators of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

“We were really overwhelmed with the number of reservations we received right out the gate, but it was gratifying, too,” says Chef Maro Molteni. “Every restaurant’s first week is a little wobbly, and we know there’s a lot of expectation here for Royal Hawaiian, but we’re hoping everyone will understand, be a little patient with us and enjoy the experience.”

A New Look for Starters

Expect an entirely new look when you visit Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill. Molteni hired Laguna resident (and former Tabu Grill décor genius) Christine Hallen-Berg to create the grand dame’s look moving forward.

“There were all these great tikis and totems and they were beautiful, collected over years and years of the Royal Hawaiian’s existence,” says Christine. “So, my main goal was to spotlight each and every one of them in a bigger way, and the only backdrop that would work best with them was…blue.”

Royal Hawaiian interior 1

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Courtesy of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

“Blues” highlight the new interior design of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

“When I was in Croatia 15 years ago, I saw a sunset with this beautiful blue and I’ve never forgotten that color. So, we reproduced it here. It’s a color everyone loves. It brings the sky and the ocean inside, and that’s what Hawaii – and Laguna Beach – celebrate every day,” she says.

Laguna resident Chris Karl added his design skills on the plant side, building out fresh flower scenics and adding live plants at every turn.   

A New World Based on Historic Cooking Cultures

Last week, the Molteni brothers put the shiny new kitchen and new wood-fire grill to the test with two giant private parties for Laguna-centric friends and family. Then, they executed a soft opening dinner on Saturday night with the full menu in play. 

This Wednesday’s opening will introduce the last bastion to full-service play – the much anticipated cocktail list. While hundreds of people continue to speculate about the changing food and drink menus in Royal Hawaiian’s social media platforms, the chefs and Laguna resident mixologist Sean Melia have been in lockdown mode on what exactly will be served. 

“Everyone wants their favorite food and drink item from the Royal Hawaiian,” says Chef Maro. “But people forget that this restaurant has been serving up food and drink for seven decades. That’s a lot of favorite menu items!

“So, we’re definitely maintaining a great Polynesian style – and we definitely have the original Lapu Lapu recipe back – and this is definitely going to be a fun, high energy place. And I think people are going to love our menus.” 

While younger brother Maro has spent hours in input on the menu, older brother Martin has primarily been in charge of creating Royal Hawaiian’s next era of food and drink.     

Martin, named Argentina’s #1 chef, and one of the highest ranked chefs internationally, cooks in multiple cuisine styles as a guest chef to vaunted restaurants everywhere. So, when it came time to restructure for Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill, he spent time researching the historical cultures of Polynesia and tropical/coastal regions in South America. 

“You look at the 12,000 miles between the Hawaiian islands and the tropical coast of South America and you think there’s no way they have anything in common in their cooking styles,” says Chef Martin. 

“But, their historical cooking cultures are very similar, running surprising parallel through the ages. So, we thought we’d introduce a new kind of menu to Laguna Beach that weaves these worlds together. I don’t think there’s any better place to do this – in just the few months I’ve been here, I’ve met Laguna residents from all over the world, and we know that it attracts international visitors all year long. 

“The Royal Hawaiian is our way of welcoming this big wide world of people into an experience that proves that it really is a small world after all,” he says with a smile. 

A Sneak Peek at the Menu

Of course, the classic Lapu Lapu, Mahi Mahi, Blue Hawaiian and more will be greeting guests at the bar. A genius mixologist in his own right, Melia has been working with the chefs to create a number of “other coastal tropicals” to the menu. 

“It wouldn’t be fair to work out this whole meld of coastal food items without introducing a whole new world of popular coastal cocktails, too,” says Melia. “This has been such a great experiment; I think we’re going to have a bar program here that is truly unique and a lot of fun.”

Royal Hawaiian Sean and Willie

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Popular Laguna mixologist Sean Melia and returning Royal Hawaiian bartender Willie Ames are working out an entirely new list of “tropical coastal cocktails”

More important to Chefs Maro and Martin than the actual menu items is the sourcing of all their ingredients. Together, they spent weeks in research, searching out the finest grass-fed beef and lamb, researching Pacific-based fish and shellfish options, meeting with organic farmers, combing through farmers’ markets and more. 

On Saturday night, just 40 people were introduced to the new food menu. It is, indeed, a heady and lovely mix. 

Pure Polynesia sparkles with Ahi Poke, Hawaiian Hamachi Sashimi, Local Halibut Ceviche, Grilled Lobster, Mesquite Grilled Sausage, Ora King Pink Salmon, Grilled Whole Pork Rib, and a Royal Hawaiian Burger.

Royal Hawaiian Ahi

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Seared Ahi on Field Greens

And, items such as fresh-baked, super-steamy Empanadas, Lemon & Thyme Scented Charred Chicken Breast, Veal Sweetbreads, Braised Lamb Shank, Ribeye Angus Beef, and the return of Maro’s famed Ricotta Gnocchi served with Ossobucco and wild mushrooms share the spotlight with equal aplomb. 

Future Plans

After its first few weeks, Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill will be rolling happy hour into play with a new bar menu. With every intention to welcome families into the restaurant, the Molteni plan to introduce a kids’ menu in the weeks ahead, too. As noted, reservations are already being taken for Easter and Mother’s Day brunch (menu-driven, not buffet). The chefs say a weekly Sunday brunch won’t be far behind, but they want to be firing on all cylinders first. And, rumor has it that a special Sunday afternoon cocktail party will be making a weekly appearance starting sometime in May, too. 

“The Hawaiian culture is big on ‘ohana’ – it’s all about the family,” says Chef Maro. “This is what we want the Royal Hawaiian to be – a place where you always feel like family because…in the end, that’s all that really matters. It’s not about the colors of your walls or how you serve your lobster or the pattern you use to recover your chairs…it’s about creating a place where everyone feels like family.” 

Diane Armitage is the author of a recently published 175-page book – “Laguna Beach’s Best” – a travel guide for locals and visitors. She writes a subjective blog found at She is a regular contributor to Stu News.

Laguna Chefs share the Love on Valentine’s Day


Yesterday, I was talking to one of our Laguna chefs about Valentine’s Day. 

Oddly, reservations for Valentine’s Day tend to occur well in advance, while Mother’s Day reservations tend to happen at the last minute. Imagine that. 

If you’re one of the few who’s still making your plan for next Thursday, Valentine’s Day, here’s a quick roundup from many of our local restaurants. More details are still rolling in from chefs, so be sure to check my blog at for the latest details. 

Laguna Chefs The Loft

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Courtesy of Montage LB

Valentine’s Day dessert – The Loft

Specially-Created Valentine’s Day Menus

I’m putting these in no particular order, but figure we should start with the newest chef on our block, Chef Greg Daniels, and his welcome talent at Harley. (Be sure to meet his new mixologist, Jeff, too. Awesome cocktails!) 

Harley Laguna Beach – Chef Greg Daniels is making a splash with a Valentine’s menu that starts with New Caledonian Blue Prawns, moseys through Wood-Grilled Scallops and Grass-Fed Filet Mignon, and offers up black truffle and wild mushroom risotto, pan-fried gnocchi, and quite luxurious desserts.

The cost is $90/person, including a $20 required deposit that will be removed from your final bill. 

Go to to reserve or call (949) 715-1530.

Harley’s regular menu is also available.

Wine Gallery Laguna – One of my favorite (and somewhat undiscovered) chefs, Chef Josh Mason, has returned to Wine Gallery, and he’s crafted a 4-course dinner that brings back the best of Josh. Options include Lobster Bisque, Prime Rib with Pommes Purée, and Halibut with a White Wine Tomato Brodo. 

The cost is $75/person with a $30 additional option for a flight of three hand-picked wines from Owner Chris Olsen. (I’d take the option any minute, just sayin.)

Go to or call (949) 715-8744 to reserve.

Pizza and salads from regular menu also available.

Nirvana Grille – I had the pleasure of having dinner with Chef Lindsay last Friday evening. It’s lovely to see her restaurant still filled with happy diners after all these years. She just signed a new 10-year lease, so be sure to keep Nirvana on your list. This year’s Valentine’s menu offers up options such as House Made Salmon Chowder, Grilled Center Cut Swordfish, Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon, Portobello Mushroom Risotto and more. Finish the evening with a decadent dessert trio. 

The cost is $79/person. Add Drew Barrymore Rosé for just $8 a glass or Bottomless Jean Phillipe Champagne for $25 per person.

Call quickly as she’s almost reached her reservations limit: (949) 497-0027 or go to

Splashes at Surf & Sand – Seats are almost sold out for Chef Ron Fougeray’s Valentine’s treat. Choose from menu options such as the Oyster Trio, Salsify & Frangelico Soup, Colorado Bison Duo, Bronzino, Roasted Veal and more. Rumor has it that the resident Pastry Chef has gone all out with equally as decadent dessert options. 

The cost is $135/ person or $185 with wine pairings. Call (888) 281-3502.

Broadway by Amar Santana – Chef Amar has come up with an inventive menu that features colors and flavors to entice the senses. Enjoy a “red-for-passion” course of beet-cured Wild King Salmon, a “green-for-vitality” course of Herb-Crusted Lamb Loin, and a black course for “power, decadence and sexiness” featuring Porcini Dusted Filet of Beef with black truffle purée and more. 

The cost is $135/person. Credit card is required at reservation. Call (949) 715-8234.

Broadway by Amar Santana’s A la carte menu is also available. 

Laguna Chefs Broadway

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Courtesy of Broadway by Amar Santana

Decadent dessert at Broadway by Amar Santana

Mozambique – Always a believer in music + great food for the most memorable Valentine’s days, Chef Braulio has created a menu that includes 11 entrée options featuring Chilean Sea Bass, Filet & Lobster, New Zealand Rack of Lamb, Cioppino and more. Live music on Valentine’s features special guest Louis B. Middleton in the Durban Room and the Neil Diamond tribute band America’s Diamond on the main stage. 

The cost is $79/person. Call (949) 715-7777.

Driftwood Kitchen – Chef Rainer Schwarz is pulling out all the stops with items such as Pan Seared Crab Cake, Double R Ranch Petite Filet with Maine Lobster, European Branzino and more. The meal includes a champagne toast and dessert for two. 

The cost $89/person. Call (949) 715-7700.

Note: For those of you who would rather whisk somewhere other than Laguna, check out Chef Rainer’s great Hendrix Restaurant in Ocean Ranch by Cinepolis. He’s created a very similar menu to the Driftwood Valentine menu, with pricing at $69/person.

Call (949) 248-1912.

Studio, Montage Laguna Beach – You know you can’t go wrong for romance at the renowned Studio. Chef Ben Martinek’s amuse bouche starts with a Shigoku Oyster on the half shell, and the menu rolls from there with Smoked Red Abalone, Roulade of California Petrale Sole, Duck Breast and more. 

The cost is $175/person, $270 with wine pairings. Call (949) 715-6420.

The Loft, Laguna Beach – New Chef Joosung Lee is offering a 4-course menu with items such as Steelhead Trout Tartare, Cauliflower Flan, Catalina Island Striped Bass, Sweet Potato Gnocchi and more. 

The cost $150/person, $210 with wine pairings. Call (949) 715-6420.

The Loft’s egular menu is also available.   

Valentine Specialty Items Served With Regular Menu

These restaurants are featuring specials along with the nightly regular menu: 

Sapphire Laguna – Any time Chef Azmin comes up with specialty items, you can be assured it’s going to be one of a kind. Opt for items such as Lobster & Shrimp Bisque, Oven-Roasted Steelhead Salmon, Raspberry Almond Tart and more. Call (949) 715-9888 for reservations.

Lumberyard – Always a local favorite, Owner Cary Redfearn and Chef Armando Ortega have drummed up some specials that you haven’t seen in the restaurant yet. Sorry, mum’s the word on this! 

Make reservations at or call (949) 715-3900.

230 Forest – Chef Marc is offering up a number of specials along with the regular menu. His is a popular restaurant for Valentine’s, so reserve soon at or call (949) 494-2545.

Skyloft – In addition to the regular menu, opt for off-menu items such as Salmon Quinoa or Grilled Pork Chop. The great musician Francois Dean in in the house beginning 7 p.m.

Watermarc – At his other popular restaurant, just a block from his initial 230 Forest restaurant, Chef Marc has organized a number of specials true to Watermarc’s cuisine. 

For reservations, call (949)-376-6272 or go to 

Valentine’s All Month Long

Ristorante Rumari’s – Owner Vince Crivello and his chefs decided to celebrate a month of amoré because…well, why not? This February menu is NOT offered on Valentine’s Day but is served Sunday through Thursday throughout the month. A three-course menu, it offers options such as Pollo Siciliana, Ravioloni Macchiati Con Vodka, Penne Al Salmone and more. The dinner includes a glass of house wine or Italian Prosecco. (Watch for my review on this next week in Stu News Laguna.)

The cost is $45/person. For reservations, call (949) 494-0400 or go to

Laguna Chefs Rumari

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Ristorante Rumari’s

Dessert at Ristorante Rumari’s

And, You Could Always Start with Dessert First

Montage Lobby Lounge – Leave it to Montage Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith to roll out every sweet imaginable for a Dessert Buffet in the Montage Lobby Lounge. It’s a finer version of Willy Wonka’s world with tables piled with macaroons, brownie lollipops, ivory chocolate pots de crème, a “Montage Cream Bun Collection,” and an entire collection of chocolates, from eclairs to chocolate chunk cookies, house-made chocolate bonbons, and truffles. 

 The cost is $45/person and the entire table is required to purchase (no sharing please). 

Diane Armitage is the best-selling author of the book, The Best of Laguna Beach, and offers a cornucopia of Laguna based reviews, finds and upcoming events at her blog,

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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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