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Avila’s El Ranchito and Laguna Presbyterian team up to provide Waymakers with Taco Tuesdays

The old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” suggests that the caring involvement of an entire community is necessary for its children to grow and prosper in healthy environments.

It is also an especially appropriate description of how generous members of Laguna Presbyterian Church and Avila’s El Ranchito Mexican restaurant are teaming up with Waymakers Youth Shelter Laguna Beach to provide the shelter’s clients with Taco Tuesday meals now through the end of this year. 

“We want to show our clients, who are at-risk youth ages 12-17, that there are individuals in the community that care about their well-being like we do,” explained Chelsea Burch, Volunteer Coordinator at Waymakers. “We leverage community resources in our work to create healthier situations for these youth, which includes sharing meals together. As you can imagine, the COVID-19 crisis has made it much more difficult financially for nonprofits like ours, and so we are especially grateful to El Ranchito and Laguna Presbyterian Church for providing the Taco Tuesday meals. This will make a huge difference for us.” 

Avila's El Ranchito family

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Courtesy of El Ranchito Facebook

The Avila Family: Michael and Christine and their two children, Benson and Braden

Michael Avila, whose family-owned Mexican restaurants have had a reputation for “treating customers like family” for over 50 years, says, “We’re honored to now be able to extend our hospitality to the clients of Waymakers through these Taco Tuesday meals.” 

Likewise, Camron Hauer, newly appointed Laguna Presbyterian Church Student Director and Laguna Beach High School Water Polo coach, notes, “I have been inspired with the care that Waymakers brings to those who come through their doors. It has been a pleasure to see other organizations and individuals reaching out to them in order to be a part of what they are doing. I urge anyone who wants to help to contact Waymakers in order to see how they can support them. We who are lucky enough to be a part of this community know how special it is. It is my hope that we continue to be a community who loves our neighbors.”

Hauer’s personal connection with Waymakers started with him being an Elder representing the Mission Outreach Committee, which supports Waymakers through Laguna Presbyterian Church.

For more information on Waymakers Youth Shelters, visit www.waymakersoc.org.


Mozambique owner Ivan Spiers keeps live music alive by featuring musicians in outdoor venue

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

At one of the few venues allowed for live music in Laguna, Ivan Spiers, owner of Mozambique, is helping musicians and music stay alive in these difficult times. Since musicians weren’t allowed to perform inside, last year Spiers was granted permits for the large tent installed in his parking lot. During the ensuing months, while navigating through the restaurant’s various openings and closings, he invited musicians to come and play.

“I thank the City for working with us to get the tent,” he says. 

Spiers wanted to bring back the music as soon as possible after COVID, of course, for guest enjoyment, but mostly to help the artists survive. 

Free entertainment 

“A lot of artists haven’t been able to work much in the last 18 months, so we are trying to do our part to support them and help them earn tips,” says Spiers. “We have always supported musicians, and the customers are generous in tipping them.” 

The entertainment is free to patrons. 

Spiers bought the restaurant (formerly Tortilla Flats) 19 years ago and spent three years rebuilding it. During the years, Mozambique has been a place to go for good music (and great food).

Mozambique owner building

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Large tent in parking lot at Mozambique

On Thursday through Sunday evenings, different rotating bands perform from 6-9 p.m. On Sundays, Mando Cordova plays jazz from 12-3 p.m., and C-Flat plays Reggae from 6-9 p.m.

Spiers has yet another plan to further support musicians by increasing the hours of operation for live music.

Even though Mozambique now stops the music at 9 p.m. due to the neighborhood noise issues, Spiers has a remedy in the works for that. “In the next nine months, we are going to totally soundproof the building and expand.” 

Only the dining room downstairs will be open for that time period.

“There is much better sound technology now, and I’ve had experts working on it,” Spiers says.

The musicians

Cordova has been playing at Mozambique since 2016 and currently entertains during Sunday Brunch. 

“I am blessed to have somewhere that supports live music,” says Cordova. “There’s nothing else like this venue – a place where there is equipment, and you can just step in and play. I’ve played with several of the other musicians who perform here. We all know each other.”

He sings in three languages – English, Spanish, and Portuguese. With those credentials, one would imagine Cordova came from a long career as a musician, however, he had two careers before this one. He spent 21 and a half years in the Marine Corp, and 16 years as a Police Officer in Long Beach. 

“I was dealing with so much violence,” says Cordova. “Music is the balance in my life.”

Following his parents’ lead, Cordova started playing music when he was a kid. His dad played jazz trumpet and his mother is a vocalist. Delving into jazz six years ago, Cordova rediscovered the American songbook and performs songs by legends such as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. He hopes the audience experiences the intention behind the songs, “By letting me reach their souls and share feelings.” 

In addition to Mozambique, he plays at The Drake on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mozambique owner smiling

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Front row: (L-R) Mando Cordova, Mozambique owner Ivan Spiers, Jara Harris; Back row: (L-R) Fully Fullwood, Koko Powell, Rock Deadrick, Bob Hawkins, Andrew Bloom, and Michael Hyde

Bob Hawkins, Rock Deadrick, Fully Fullwood, and Michael Hyde make up the band C-Flat which plays Reggae on Sunday nights from 6-9 p.m. 

“We started playing late last year,” says Hawkins. “It’s a great place to play. Ivan provides such a wonderful situation for musicians. We thank him for that.”

“Ivan does a great job of supporting live music,” adds Hyde, who used to play at the White House and Cliff Restaurant.

Fullwood chimes in, “There is always a positive vibration. It’s great working here – and working with all the other musicians.” He also does studio work. 

“I have worked with Ivan and love the opportunity to play live,” Deadrick says. “I very much appreciate the way he supports the music community.” 

The Andrew Bloom Band, which plays on Saturday nights, is composed of Andrew Bloom, Jara Harris, and KoKo Powell. Andrew Bloom started playing at Mozambique when he was just 17 years old, “This place is a blessing for all of us during this time – to have steady work means so much, especially now.”

When not playing at Mozambique, Bloom tours with his band and performs at weddings and other events.

Spiers understands musicians

“It’s the best job and experience I’ve ever had – with the greatest boss who understands musicians and that music is your living,” says Powell. 

Harris, who is soon going on tour with Donavon Frankenreiter, is also part of a band called Slapeak (a name taken from one of their songs). They’ll be playing at Decades in Anaheim on May 28 and will also perform for four nights (from May 6 through May 9) at the Coach House.

“It’s so nice to have a guy like Ivan who understands how the pandemic affected musicians,” says Harris. “He made it a priority to provide work for musicians.”

“Laguna Beach is all about the arts, and music is one of the arts that needs to be supported through this tough time,” says Spiers.

Live music is alive and well at Mozambique, thanks to Spiers and his fantastic group of musicians.

Mozambique is located at 1740 S Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to www.mozambiqueoc.com or call (949) 715-7777.


Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith of Nirvana Grille: a balancing act extraordinaire

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Starting over again after the COVID-19 pandemic is a delicate balance on many fronts – especially for restaurant owners. In addition to not knowing, “What the future will look like,” says Lindsay Smith, owner and executive chef of Nirvana Grille, there are other unknowns as well.

During the past year, Laguna native Smith faced challenges in both her business – and home life. Yet, her response was, “How can I make this work?” This appears to be a mantra that propelled her to where she is today – the only female restaurant owner/chef in Laguna Beach. Smith was just 29 years old when Nirvana, which celebrated its 13th anniversary on March 15, opened.

In September of last year, she and her then husband Luis, co-owner of Nirvana Grille, divorced after 16 years of marriage. They have two sons, 12-year-old Diego and 4-year-old Mateo.

New roles

As a result, Smith bought out her ex-husband’s share in Nirvana Grille, which was their second restaurant, they opened in 2008. She has now taken over as sole owner. Couple this with her new role as a single mother – who puts in countless hours at the restaurant – and it’s a situation riddled with complications.

Compounding the dilemma of, “What will the future look like?” paired with the question, “What do I want to be and do now?”

“Whatever that is,” she says, “I’ll build from there with a positive perspective and deal with things as they come. I have begun learning to let the rest go.”

Pandemic

Somehow Smith is making it work. During the shutdown, the restaurant maintained its co-op and takeout. The co-op market, which is still operating today to many loyal patrons, was Smith’s innovative response to food shortages and “stay-in-place” orders. It was a godsend for many people in the community.

Currently, the restaurant and co-op are both operating Wednesday through Saturday from 5-9 p.m. for indoor and outdoor dining, and in May will additionally open on Tuesdays. During the summer, they will reopen for Sunday dining.

Chef Owner Linday Smith closeup

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Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith

“There’s not enough business yet on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to justify opening for us.” says Smith. “We have to bring in a certain amount of money just to open and pay the staff.”

“The one silver lining during the pandemic is that I’m able to be with Diego and Mateo on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. It’s taught me to be present – not just physically – but in the moments when I’m with them.”

On the remaining days, she has many close friends that help her juggle the childcare arrangements when they are with her.

For Smith, there is no passing the buck or calling in a backup. “People at the restaurant count on me to show up,” she says.

To be sure, all the moving parts in the restaurant business are unpredictable, as evidenced by a call she got during the interview that one of her back servers went into the hospital for gallbladder surgery. She quickly had to find a replacement.

 As with many restaurants, Smith is dealing with a staff shortage.

“Some of the 20-30-year-old workers have moved back in with their parents,” she explains. “Some have found jobs online offering more consistency and more money, and in other cases, the money for staying at home is more than they’d get paid working with the current and past stimulus checks.”

Smith is currently looking to hire folks who want to get back in the workforce part-time with a more reliable work ethic.

Passion for food

In the midst of all the changes during the past year, one thing is clear – Smith is a curator of food and the food experience.

“It’s an expression of who I am,” she says. “I love the interaction with diners. Through my food, people get to see a side of me that they don’t usually get to see. It impacts my life, and it makes a difference. It’s my way of being seen and heard.”

Chef Owner Lindsay Mateo

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Mateo helping with the chopping, although his mother says he is primarily interested in taking things apart and putting them back together

She also expresses herself through the art that’s on display in the restaurant. Her father Michael Smith, an antiquities dealer in Santa Fe, N.M., and former landscape gardener here in Laguna, additionally introduced her to love plein air paintings. The first piece he gave her hangs in the restaurant. “I appreciate the crisp and accurate interpretation of Southern California, mostly Laguna – it’s such a unique space.”

The rhythm

Smith’s passion for food and food preparation is evident.

For her, it comes down to the cuisine. “It’s all about the food,” she says. “It’s trial and error, playing around with things, so as not to waste the flavors. I’m inspired by how people put things together. I also find ways to use what is in season to shape my menus and make sure that nothing is wasted, and adjust as needed.”

Smith admits she doesn’t follow food trends, mostly for the mere fact that many trends today she was raised on over the last 40 years. “I consider myself – and my palette – the demographic I try to please. I want approachable food, with clean flavors and integrity in my food.”

“The line in the kitchen is like a dance. When it’s not consistent and you have different people working together, it often changes the rhythm. The fluidity to service is a must and the team must be cohesive to make it all flow. On the line, there’s no need to speak, we read each other, and move in sync when the flow is right. I love playing music on the line and just having fun. I like to be in the kitchen these days at least once or twice a week to support them and make sure our quality and consistency is upheld. This also supports my staff to have a consistent rhythm, and I am able to jump in only when needed and focus toward my business needs when I’m not cooking.”

“If you go to a restaurant and the dish tastes different from the last time, it usually means that someone else likely took over one of the positions that night.”

As a curator of the food experience, she likes nothing better than to be out on the floor and help patrons with their selections.

“Now, I can look to begin to make that part of what I do,” Smith says. “If someone is uncertain about what to order, I’ll suggest combining a couple entrées and tailoring it to the diner’s wants. I love guiding people through a meal, pairing a wine with a dish, making it an experience – and they get what they want. Now the challenge is figuring out how to incorporate this desire to be on the floor more, and shape a guest experience, or at the least allow people the opportunity to ask for me when they want help.”

Chef Owner Lindsay Diego cooking

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Smith says Diego loves to cook

Smith goes above and beyond in other service areas as well. She describes a recent evening in which a couple – with three children and a baby – she had helped with a few suggestions through the evening, but then just as their meal came, the baby became fussy. “I took the baby and entertained it while the parents finished eating by going in the kitchen, sitting at my computer, and watching the cars.” At one time or another, she’s also taken older kids back to see the kitchen. She keeps crayons and coloring books on hand, and used to have toys on hand for each age group. “If the kids are happy, the parents will be, and they’ll want to come back. It’s a win-win situation.”

They have a great kids’ menu – based on Diego and Mateo shaping the menu over time to make up the meals.

The road to Nirvana

Smith’s love for cooking started at a young age.

“When I was around 9 years old, I would often visit my grandmother and we’d watch Julia Childs’ cooking show on PBS together.”

Her parents divorced when she was three years old, but she was raised by both parents as well as her stepfather, who gave her and her sisters a lot of guidance and structure. Smith’s father moved permanently to Santa Fe, N.M., when she was 14 years old and shortly thereafter, her mom and stepfather divorced. 

At the young age of 15, she went to work at the Renaissance Café on Forest Avenue, and so began her introduction to the restaurant industry. Her junior year, she went to independent studies, got a second job, and moved into her own place in South Laguna until moving up to live with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco, where she got her GED early, worked, and attended college.

Chef Owner lLndsay kidding around

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Life with a 4-year-old and 12-year-old is never boring

“After living in San Fran, I went to the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico for a year and to Kauai, Hawaii, where my mom ran an ayurvedic retreat with a private chef. When she moved back to the mainland, I stayed and worked for my stepfather at his soap and candle shop. Then I got a job in the kitchen at Postcards, a restaurant in Hanalei Bay. I also spent time going to the farmer’s market and cooking with my roommate and my mom’s chef.”

Just after turning 20, Smith came back to the mainland and cooked the holiday dinner with her grandmother once again and was encouraged to see if a culinary career would be a good fit. She decided to start at Orange Coast College in taking an intro cooking class. “I really liked it,” she says. “So I decided to continue for a degree in the culinary program at Orange Coast College and live with my grandmother for a bit until moving back to Laguna Beach about six months later. That first year was great sharing with my grandmother the mutual love of cooking – and what she inspired in me to go for, which was what I love and was good at doing.”

Work, work, work

While still attending classes, Smith worked for (and this list would make anyone’s head spin): Creme De La Creme Catering, 5 Feet Catering, Pascal Olhats’ Catering, Cienega Catering, Fox Studios, and Universal Studios.

“I started with Pascal in the Traditions by Pascal Restaurant because of working catering with him and was referred by his Catering Director Patti, a dear friend. Shortly after, I also started working in the mornings at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. After a year, I decided it was too much, and that for the long-term, I could grow at the Ritz-Carlton.”

Then after a year and a half working in the kitchen at Ritz-Carlton, she suffered an injury to her right hand that required multiple Cortisone injections, surgery, and a year of physical therapy.

“I had to decide ‘do I give it up’ or find another way,” she says.

And again her mantra came into play, “How can I make this work?”

Smith switched to the front of the house and for the next four and a half years, cycled through 19 different departments at the Ritz. “It’s where I learned how the daily service of a restaurant all worked operationally. It was every single tool I needed to open a restaurant,” she says. “The hand injury turned out to be a gift. I learned everything I needed to succeed in what I did not know now 21 years later I’d be sitting in an interview running my very own restaurant.”

Chef Owner Lindsay kissing

Click on photo for a larger image

A more peaceful moment 

However, at the time, Smith didn’t know if she’d be able to cook again.

“I wasn’t willing to give up on what I loved to do. I just had to adjust how I was involved in it. During the last year and a half I was at the Ritz, I started my own business as a private chef cooking for clients in Laguna and the outskirt cities. At the same time, Luis and I were starting to date. I would cook and he would serve the meal. We made a great team. He had moved on to the Montage six months prior, and I left the Ritz in order to focus on my catering. After six months on my own, I accepted a position at zpizza as their corporate chef. A year and a half later, I decided to venture out on my own, and we opened our first restaurant in Mission Viejo four months later – in 2006.” 

However, Smith always wanted to have a restaurant in her hometown of Laguna Beach.

Thirteen years ago, that vision came true. “We started here in Laguna after two years in Mission Viejo, and we ran them concurrently for four years until November 2012 when the lease was up there.”

What the future looks like

Regular customers are coming back. “Friends in the community I was raised in are very important to me,” Smith says.

Previous to the pandemic, Nirvana Grille could seat 82 inside diners – now it accommodates 44, including the big booth and outside on the rooftop and downstairs patio could seat 70 diners – now 46. Smith says, “I’m not sure we’ll fully go back to the way it was. I like that the tables are farther apart. It’s easier for servers and more conducive to dining.”

Part of the digital tools that came with the pandemic will stay.

“The digital menus have been great,” Smith says. “The menu can be changed immediately. If we run out of something, we take it off the menu.”

As for other pre-pandemic elements, there’s one that won’t re-emerge.

“We won’t do happy hour anytime soon again, I think. I want customers to visit and stay and relax, and not rush, as if they’re coming into my home.”

For someone who will be a mere 42 years old on May 26, Smith has overcome seemingly impossible odds to get where she is today.

“I believe what you think is what you create, and that it manifests itself into what you want,” she says. “But be clear about what you want – and that it’s not attached to an outcome. Having this mentality in many areas, especially now, has been very important to me and exemplifies keeping a positive outlook in times of adversities.”

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway St, #101.

For more information, go to https://nirvanagrille.com/ or call (949) 497-0027.


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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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).


The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

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

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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).

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