Fonda is back!

Ed. Note: Ms Eaton called us and said she hoped we’d let her return – she always calls the shots – and we said, “Sometimes you just have to say, oh what the ….”


Comfort Food Correspondent

To all of you honey bunches who have missed me, well, now you don’t have to!

My readers know that one of my favorite places to eat in this burg is GGs Bistro – and it’s simple, they do food right!

I bounced in earlier this week and couldn’t contain myself – they have a delicious new happy Hour Menu filled with some of my very favorite things – for five bucks each!

And – they have some new entrees to boot!

Well, here, see for yourself.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Happy Hour Menu

Monday – Friday 4-6 p.m.


Humus • Calamari Fritti • Bruschetta Mediterranean Salad • Caesar Salad • Eggplant Salad • Pizzetta • Burger & Fries Adana Kebab (Koobideh) & Fries • Chicken Kebab & Fries • Spaghetti Bolognese •

Fettuccini Alfredo (Mushroom)

Drink Specials

Cocktails & Margaritas $5

Cadillac & Skinny $7

Selected white or red wine by the Glass $5,

Beer $3.50

GG's Photo

They have also added some delicious new menu items – and I love lamb – anything lamb!

Lamb kebab

Ali Nazik Kebab

Shrimp Salad

GG’s Wedge Salad

Antipasto skewer


540 S. Coast Hwy


The Public Trough


Heard on the street…

The Wine Gallery to open soon

Construction of The Wine Gallery – the new restaurant and wine bar opening at 1833 S Coast Hwy in the building previously occupied by Elle H – is ramping up. The new spot marks the second Wine Gallery for Laguna Beach resident Chris Olsen, who also owns The Wine Gallery in Corona del Mar, now in its 12th year of business.

The Wine Gallery’s menu will feature a wide variety of appetizers, salads, pizzas, and entrees – like Oven Roasted Cremini Mushrooms, Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rosemary Potatoes au Gratin and Braised Vegetables, and Clam Pizza – to accompany featured wines and beers. In addition to dine-in food and beverage service, The Wine Gallery will also offer fine wines for sale by the bottle or case and wine related accessories on a retail basis. In addition, The Wine Gallery will offer private wine maker dinners by special invitation on a monthly basis to customers interested in unique wine, beer, and food pairings.

The Wine Gallery is scheduled to open early fall.

Sorrento Grille to close August 31…the Common Table to open in its place

After 23 years of business in Laguna Beach’s downtown village, Sorrento Grille will close its doors August 31.

Executive Chef Ryan Adams, 37, bought the restaurant from owners Philo and Diane Smith and is planning to reopen it as the Common Table in September, which will feature “edgy, comfort food” at an “affordable price point”.

Adams has been with Sorrento Grille since 2008. Before that, he oversaw the restaurant as corporate chef at Culinary Adventures, the restaurant mega-group that previously owned Sorrento Grille among other restaurants.

The Common Table will be a completely different dining experience, driven by an ever-changing menu created by Adams – with items like Veal Cheek Shepherd’s Pie and Pork Deckle, served with greens, black-eyed peas, and cider-mustard gravy, to look forward to. Small ($2-5), medium ($6-15), and large ($14-28) plates will be offered.

General Manager Lori McLean won’t be going anywhere either. She will be staying on to help Adams and will work at the new restaurant.

The property will be closed for renovations and will reopen as the Common Table in late September.

Katsuya kick-off lunch to benefit kids

New hot spot Katsuya will be donating 50% of all lunch sales to our Boys & Girls Club on Monday, July 25.

Mayor Toni Iseman will lead an official ribbon-cutting ceremony beforehand at 11 a.m. to welcome the new restaurant to the community – all are welcome.

For more information or to make a reservation call (949) 793-4030.

My 24-mile walk to San Clemente - and back

Last Sunday, I did something I’ve always wanted to do – I went for a walk Forrest Gump style. I headed south on the PCH simply to see where the road would take me.

“Having a Forrest Gump moment and going for a long walk,” I wrote on my facebook wall. “Be back later today.”

With no particular destination in mind, I spent the next nine hours – from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. – on a journey to San Clemente and back. Yes, I walked 24 miles in one day to San Clemente and back. And what an amazing adventure of the body, mind, and spirit it was!

A couple of notes from the road:

Just because I’m Italian doesn’t mean I won’t sunburn. The next time I decide to walk to San Clemente and back, I’m going to wear lots of sunscreen and a hat. Neither the full body burn nor subsequent full body peel are good looks for me.

I have a newfound respect for marathoners. I mean, I was walking and in pain for days after...but they run it!

On the border of Capo Beach and San Clemente at 2720 Camino Capistrano rests an amazing and unassuming little Hawaiian sandwich and salads shop called Hulaville, with the best pulled pork sandwich and mango jerk chicken salad I have ever tasted! And no, it wasn’t just because I was starving– I went back a few days ago and was even more impressed the second time than the first. Not to mention they showcase Hawaiian music every night and offer free ukulele lessons!

I have the most amazing business partner a girl could ever ask for. Thanks again Stu for dropping off pasta and salad from Gina’s Pizza along with aloe vera for me on Sunday night…you’re simply the best!

Ketta Brown’s


Ketta Brown Photo

Orzo with Everything

16 oz orzo (rice shaped) pasta

12 - 15 peeled, whole clove garlic, baked then pureed

1 jar Trader Joe’s julienned sundried tomatoes (do not drain)

1 jar TJ’s pitted kalamata olives, sliced

¼ - ½ c. balsamic vinegar

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

½ c. toasted pine nuts

½ c. basil, chiffonade

Boil pasta until al dente. Drain.

Add all other ingredients and put in fridge for at least 24 hours.


The DECK at Pacific Edge Hotel


Hit The Deck


Maggi HNow, it looks as if we can walk the beach from Main to Bluebird and find several tasty options for refreshment.  It’s as if Laguna has turned around to face itself and decided to put on a good ocean face.  Forget packing up the car and finding another parking space.  Now you can walk the shoreline, and just south of Legion St., step right onto The DECK, Laguna’s latest wave front sensation.

Deck Open PhotoNestled between the Pacific Edge Hotel and The Beach House restaurant, who knew there was space for you and a hundred of your closest friends?  Well, apparently it was brothers Noah and Matt Pike, sons of restaurateur and creator of The Beach House tradition, Gale Pike.  Ah, the next generation has decided Laguna is a pretty good home…and so have hundreds of their friends.

In days past, the space currently occupied by The DECK was used for private functions, weddings and such, and was a private heaven for those lucky enough to be invited.  But once Noah and Matt had a chat with their dad, a deal was struck between the Pacific Edge Hotel, who owns the land, and The Beach House, who owns the liquor license.  Nine months later, more or less, the DECK was born, not without birth pains from working through city regulations.

Deck Way PhotoA new vibe with roots in the family tradition, the DECK is an updated beach cottage, with an open invite to all.  Who wouldn’t want to come to the party?

The stylish sun-seeker with a wad of cash may opt for a private cabana, with plenty of entertainment opportunities, including separated deck space with sultry furnishings, an indoor living room, kitchenette, bathroom, and even some with a bedroom.  Oh, yeah, and a “cabana girl”, styled-out in a halter dress, providing everything you and your guests would like from the restaurant and bar, and “beach sherpa” to ready your chaise on the sand.  Rates change according to demand, but the high so far was the Fourth of July, when they went for $2500.

Make a “friend” of the DECK on Facebook and you will be notified of specials, including discounted deals on the cabanas.  In fact, opening day on July 1 was a huge success, with a line waiting out-the-door, thanks in no small part to their Facebook announcement.

Manager Stephanie Moore was just as surprised as anyone, “It was awesome to see how word can spread within 3 or 4 days”.

Stylish cabanas, cottage-style cool architecture, umbrellas and surfboard tables, The DECK caters to a fun and lively clientele.  But they are not fancy, at least not in terms of fashion.  The DECK is a carefully crafted casual place, with flip-flops, and beach attire welcome.  Stephanie likes to say “No shoes, no shirt, no problem”.

Deck Umberlla Photo

Cabana deck seating

The DECK is ready for fun, lunch, dinner, and brunch (Saturdays and Sundays 11- 3).  Look for smaller plates with items similar to The Beach House menu.

Lunch choices favor salad (their “Garbage Salad”, including everything you can imagine from a salad bar) and seafood fare (the “Ahi Chips”, which is, in fact, a whole piece of ginger-soy marinated tuna seared rare, and served with Asian slaw and wonton chips). Brunch items include their “Green and White Omelette”; egg whites swirled with asparagus, jack cheese, and spinach.

Head waitress, Carly Saunders, has been with The Beach House, and now The DECK, for 5 ½ years.  She knows what the favorites are.  “Everyone loves the Kobe burger and the Laguna Mojito”.  We understand, and love Kobe burgers, but what’s a Laguna Mojito?  “…and the Cool as a Cucumber Martini”.  Say what?

Deck with Customers Photo

Turns out The DECK worked out a deal with the city to provide a good food menu first, but they managed to work up a pretty inventive drink menu too.

The “Laguna Mojito” combines classic Mojito ingredients of fresh mint, lime, and rum, but they tart it up with Bacardi Limon and Prickly Pear juice.  The “Cool Cucumber” is mixed with Hendrick’s gin and St. Germain liqueur, lime, mint and fresh cucumber.  Things heat up with their “Sangre del Diablo”; citron vodka, fresh basil, blood orange and cayenne pepper.

Escape to the umbrellas on The DECK for a little cool shade, a belly-up bar, and the rhythm of the rolling surf.  You’ll find tasty plates and a fresh face on Laguna’s sunny ocean-side.


The DECK - 267 Sleepy Hollow Lane (valet parking available)

From Nancy’s Garden

A little about me and my garden...Nancy Johnson

Noncy PhotoAbout 6 years ago I was flipping through a magazine and saw a wonderful photograph of a vegetable garden and decided I wanted one and I wanted mine to look as nice as the one in the photo. I had very little space but that didn’t stop me.

I started building my dream garden and early in the process was amazed to discover how all the smells from a vegetable garden brought back so many memories of my childhood. I remember that my grandfather and my father both had wonderful vegetable gardens.

And I especially remember the battles my dad had with the gophers. I’ve had similar battles. Gophers attacked my first garden. I walked out one morning to find all the plants lying on their sides - the roots completely devoured. That led to digging out the beds and lining them with chicken wire.

Nancy Garden Photo

The next year the rabbits and raccoons came. Up went the chicken wire fence. Last year it was the birds. They were getting more blueberries than I was, not to mention pecking at the tomatoes.

But this year was the worst - squirrels and rats. Enclosing it has worked so far. It’s all been trial and error blended with lots of love and conversations...yes, conversations with the plants. I read that tomatoes respond better to the female voice than the male voice. Maybe that’s why I have good luck with them.

As a Portfolio Manager with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, my job is very rewarding but carries a huge responsibility in making sure the families I advise can afford to send their children to college and still retire comfortably.  I find that digging in the dirt at the end of the day really helps get rid of my stress.

And an added benefit...when my son was younger I discovered he was more likely to eat his veggies if he got to go out and pick them...even the Brussels Sprouts!

Nancy Garden Photo

I love to cook and there’s nothing better than walking through the garden at dinnertime and deciding what to make. I love it when my friends call me and say, “Quick, help. What can I make for dinner?” I ask what they have in the house and it’s like one of those cooking shows...I come up with a recipe on the spot.

Check out Nancy’s blog for more about her garden and recipes…

And now – Nancy’s recipe

Tarragon Shrimp On The BBQ with a Fresh Garden Tomato Salad aka Larry Nokes’ Favorite

Don’t let the word tarragon stop you from trying this!

When I saw this recipe years ago in the LA Times I almost didn’t make it because I didn’t really care for the strong taste of tarragon. But to my surprise, I discovered the marinade flavors blended into a smooth mellow taste and didn’t scream “licorice”. Now it is one of my easy summer go-to BBQ recipes. Not only do I love it, at my house it’s known as Larry Nokes’ Favorite Shrimp!

I like to serve it as an appetizer because I can grill it just before my friends arrive - the shrimp actually tastes better at room temperature. This easy dish lets me greet my friends and enjoy my own party.


2 TBS lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

2 TBS good extra virgin olive oil

3 TBS diced red onion

2 cloves garlic

1 TBS chopped fresh tarragon

1 lb. fresh large shrimp, peeled, deveined with tails on

salt and pepper to taste

Puree lemon juice, zest, olive oil, red onion, garlic and tarragon in a small food processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place shrimp and marinade in a Ziplock bag and refrigerate 30 mins to an hour.

Remove shrimp and lace onto stainless steel skewers. I find stainless steel doesn’t burn on the grill like the bamboo skewers and it’s easier to remove the shrimp after you grill them.

Grill shrimp over medium-high heat until pink and no longer opaque - about 2-3 minutes per side depending on the heat of your grill.

Don’t overcook or shrimp will be tough!


If you’re growing your own tomatoes, just go to the garden and choose a few ripe ones. I always seem to add basil, so to change it up, I picked some sweet spring onions.

I cut the tomatoes in half, chopped the onion and used both the green and white parts, drizzled a little extra virgin olive and seasoned with salt and pepper. One word - YUM!

I plated it with some fresh lettuce from the garden and had a feast.

Hope you enjoy it, too!

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis MyersDennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

An Environmental Discontinuity

You probably have never heard the title phrase, so let me explain. Back in my days of writing strategic plans at General Electric, one of my associates used “environmental discontinuity” as a way of mocking a corporate practice or position that went against all common sense or practicality. It explained something that stood in the path of progress towards a goal, but whose existence could not be rationally explained. In short, something that should not be, but was. Perhaps an example will help.

As a usual practice, my wife and I take her brother out to eat every weekend. Usually we stay in San Juan Capistrano because it is where Rodney resides. San Juan does not have a preponderance of restaurants, especially that can meet my brother-in-law’s dietary needs. We are always looking for a new opportunity.

We had watched the development of Vitto’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant site, an obvious newcomer to the area. It’s location in the downtown area, on the corner across from the Swallow’s Inn was indeed perfect for us. (I use Swallows since most of my readers would know that locale.) Near the municipal garage for parking, and of course, featuring Rod’s perfect health food—pizza!

Sunday was our time to try newly opened Vitto’s. Beautifully done with a bar and two dining rooms, it conveyed the feeling of a casual dining place for the family. They had obviously not pinched pennies when it came to the construction and furnishings. The menu is extensive and features about any kind of Italian dish you could expect from a true Italian chef. And it was delicious.

Vitto was there as the patriarch of the family. Grey haired with a starched white apron he moved around the rooms with ease and humility welcoming everyone to his new restaurant with his thick Italian accent. His son was also there with Vitto’s wife and several other members of the family. Truly a family owned business that would be a perfect fit for our community’s standards of what an acceptable business should be. No chains, not competitive with anything else, and willing to bend standards so as to not make waves.

When Vitto’s son visited our table, we inquired about the restaurant’s history. This was only their second location. The first is in Mesa Arizona, where they have been operating for 35 years. They had always wanted a restaurant in California, and this was it. He went on to say that they searched for a location for 14 months, so the eventual settling in San Juan was not a quick or emotional choice. Their search started in San Diego and progressed north to Orange County. In OC he looked at San Clemente, Dana Point, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, and of course San Juan Capistrano.

Since he didn’t mention Laguna Beach, I had to ask why the pass on arguably the premier location for quality dining establishments. “Everyone told me to steer clear of Laguna because the city was terrible to do business with.” He went on, “They would charge all kinds of fees and assessments that would exceed other cities. If the costs did not cripple you, they would take at least two years of time to get through all the approvals. By the time you would be broke.”

I know the response from any Laguna official, from the city staff, to the Planning Commission, to the City Council would say this is not true. We are business friendly and help all applicants maneuver through all the checkpoints with ease and speed. I have repeatedly had this mantra explained to me. So how come that wasn’t the message Vitto’s got?

Sounds like there is a real perception problem…

Truly an environmental discontinuity!

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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