Mirepoix Restaurant with Chef Laurent Brazier at Laguna Culinary Arts Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights

He’s back!

After six years of being absent from the Laguna Beach restaurant scene, Chef Laurent Brazier, former chef/owner of the Zagat-rated Picayo Restaurant on North Coast Highway, has reemerged to launch Mirepoix at Laguna Culinary Arts, a unique restaurant concept where each day the prix-fixe menu is fresh and new.

Chef Laurent began his culinary career in Paris in 1984, where he worked in the kitchens of 2- and 3-star Michelin restaurants before joining Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach as sous-chef in Antoine, an award-winning French restaurant. In 1990 he took the head chef position at the Café Fleuri where he garnered several Gold Awards in French cuisine from southern California restaurant writers. He left for Beirut, Lebanon in 1994 to open a fine dining restaurant for private investors, then another in a four-star hotel in Propriano on the island of Corsica, France.

Returning to America, Chef Laurent opened Picayo Restaurant in 1997, where his French-Mediterranean cuisine quickly became a favorite among the locals. It was rated “best restaurant in Laguna Beach” then “Best Food in Orange County” by the Zagat survey.

During his tenure at Picayo, Chef Laurent began teaching the secrets of his delicious cuisine to his most devoted followers at cooking demonstrations at the restaurant, eventually bringing many of those fans to his home-chef classes at Laguna Culinary Arts. In 2005, Chef Laurent sold Picayo to devote his attentions full time to teaching and running the Professional Chef Program at Laguna Culinary Arts.


Provided photo

Bistro Setting for Mirepoix at Laguna Culinary Arts

Now, six years later, after sharing his unique passion and culinary talents with hundreds of students, from casual home cooks to budding professionals, he has opened a new restaurant concept, Mirepoix at Laguna Culinary Arts.

Mirepoix offers four-course prix fixe dinners elegantly served every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The menu changes nightly, and features delicious creations with the same Mediterranean inspiration that Chef Laurent is known for. Weekly menus can be viewed at www.lagunaculinaryarts.com.

To compliment the fine cuisine, diners can peruse the “walk-through wine list” in the Wine Cellar, featuring over 350 labels from all over the world. Another unique feature of Mirepoix Restaurant is that all of the wines are available at regular retail prices.

Nancy Milby, Executive Director of Laguna Culinary Arts states, “As ‘mirepoix’ is the combination of three ingredients that serve as a flavor base for many dishes, Mirepoix the restaurant has the ingredients – the excellent meal overseen by Chef Laurent and served by a trained staff, the bistro casual elegance of our dining room, and the retail wine pricing with our walk-through wine list – that will serve as the base for a memorable dining experience!”

As a bonus for those customers attending the Pageant of the Masters, Mirepoix offers free parking during the show if you dine prior to the performance. Reservations are recommended by calling 494-4006. 845 Laguna Canyon Rd

The Public Trough



Heard on the street…

Picayo closes its doors after 20 years of business in Laguna

Picayo Restaurant, a whispered favorite among North Laguna locals, closed its doors last Saturday. “There were a lot of wet eyes in the building,” said co-owner Hamid Risdana in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I’m retiring. I’m reaching the age that I should slow down. The hours are too long – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it’s time for somebody younger to come in.”

Purchased by Risdana and co-owner S.K. Paul in 2004, Picayo was at one time Laguna Beach’s highest Zagat rated restaurant, earning a score of 28 (out of 30) in 2005. Lauded for its quaint and welcoming vibe, Picayo will forever hold a special place in the memory of our town.

Although the space will currently remain unoccupied, Risdana is hopeful that something else great will move in. “I live in town. I’m going to come back as a customer.”

French 75 to host Father’s Day Poker Tournament

French 75 will host a Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament on Father’s Day –

Sunday, June 19. The tournament, which will begin promptly at 1 p.m. (with sign-in at 12:30), will take place on French 75’s newly renovated outdoor patio/courtyard. The entrance fee is $25; the buy-in is $100.

While gambling, poker stars will enjoy a special “Poker Menu” – with gourmet grilled burgers and hot dogs, the Ahi Tower, and the Pear Gorgonzola Salad to choose from (all priced at $12.50 and under) – as well as Stella beers on draft. The Masters Finals will also be shown on an outdoor TV – with the sound for all to hear!

There are just 20 (of 50) spots remaining. For more information on the tournament and/or to make a reservations for you and your special dad, call Mark DePalma at (949) 683-5591.

Romeo Cucina offering menu prices from 21 years ago

In celebration of its 21st birthday, Romeo Cucina has revived its original menu from 1990 at its original prices. The special menu, which was unveiled on May 30th, will be offered through June 31st.

Sample menu items include Insalata della Casa (house salad) for $6.95, Amante di Cesare (Caesar salad) for $7.50, Capellini ala Checca (Angel hair pasta) for $8.50, Gnocchi al Pomodoro for $8.50, Pizza Napoletana for $9.95, Pizza Margherita for $9.95, and Ossobuco alla Romana (my favorite) for just $22.95.

For reservations, call the restaurant at 497-6627.

My Date with the Octopus

If anyone told me I’d be eating octopus at 10 o’clock in the morning, I’d tell them they were crazy. But so it was this Tuesday morning, as I attended an octopus cooking demonstration at [seven-degrees]. The event was hosted by former Laguna Beach mayor Steve Dicterow and business partner Virgil Gentile, who recently launched a new West Coast distribution branch for Gullo Specialty Foods, a cuttlefish and octopus distribution company based out of New York City.

The guest list read like a “who’s who” of Laguna’s culinary circle, and included Chris Keller and Chef Craig Connole of Big Fish/K’ya, Chef Pascal Olhats of French 75/Brasserie Pascal, Chef Craig Armstrong of Splashes/Surf & Sand, Karyn Philippssen of the Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau & Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association, and Laguna Stew’s very own Dennis Myers.

How I ended up in this crowd of culinary luminaries is beyond me – but thank you Dennis and Karyn for thinking of me.

The event kicked off with a spirited intro by Gullo Specialty Foods, Corp. owner Frank Gullo, an Italian-born octopus and cuttlefish distributor who flew in all the way from New York City to present to us. “If you’ve tasted octopus before, it was probably mine,” boasted Gullo, whose company ships about 4,000 lbs of octopus a week to high-end restaurants in New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami, Las Vegas, and Napa Valley. Gullo’s company catches most of its octopus and cuttlefish off the Canary Islands – warm waters that produce a smaller, sweeter octopus that cooks in 1/3 the time of other (larger) ones and thus experiences less shrinkage during the tenderization process. Gullo’s company owns the exclusive rights to catch octopus and cuttlefish in these waters – and as such, effectively “owns” the market.

What followed was a three-part octopus and cuttlefish tasting, compliments of [seven-degrees] Executive Chef Robert Villanueva – (1) Large Octopus with Gigante Beans, (2) Baby Octopus in Pistachio and Basil Pesto with an Arugula Salad, and (3) Poached Cuddlefish in Miso Marinade with Jumbo Shrimp and a Crispy Sesame Soy Salad. The octopus was grilled to perfection – so sweet and tender – and presented flawlessly by Villanueva. It melted in my mouth and left me yearning for more. We finished up with a question-and-answer session, with Laguna’s chefs inquiring about distribution costs/timelines – and cookies.

Don’t be surprised if you begin to see octopus popping up on our menus here in Laguna. It’s a growing trend across America – especially amongst celebrities and the wealthy – and it’s much tastier than squid. Just remember…you heard it here first!

Tabu Grill…

Revitalizing a winner

Maggi H PhotoTabu Grill is looking to the future.  They are taking their accolades and ratcheting it up a notch.  According to new General Manager, Michael Digiovanni, the highly rated, sultry Zagat-Spot has made room for improvement.

Tabu Photo 1“After seven years, you need a little revitalization”.

They are improving training service standards and amping up the summer vibe.  “We have a menu geared for summertime and are opening the front patio for small plate and exotic drink options”.  With four tables outside (seating for 12), reggae and jungle-thumping rhythms, it sounds like a good way to deny the June gloom.  Well, there are heaters just in case.  But with specialty sangrias like Huckleberry, Blood Orange, and Sage (prepared with house-made ginger syrup, Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Chardonnay), one may be inclined to lean back and enjoy the clouds.

Says Digiovanni, “We can serve five-star food in a casual environment”. A kick-off to summer, Laguna Stew thinks about salad (bikini time, right?).  This is a tasty Tabu line-up: Organic Spring greens, prepared with organic tempura poached egg, asparagus, English peas, champagne vinegar foam and California Ranch extra-virgin olive oil.

Tabu Photo 2Digiovanni is a (fit) fan of the Rib Eye, a 16 oz. bone-in steak, certified, from Snake River Farms, the “American Kobe” ranch of exceptionally high quality-rated beef.  It is grilled to perfection and served with their “Forbidden Rice” risotto, caramelized Cipollini onions, organic mushrooms, apple-smoked bacon, fresh horseradish, and chanterelle cream.

Chef Kevin Jerrold-Jones, esteemed chef behind all the culinary firepower, is young but mighty among the foodie elite.  Earning high marks among celebrities and locals alike, he designs seasonal menus to reflect what’s in season, and things that excite his fancy.  What about starting with pan-seared Foie Gras served with house dehydrated strawberry-rhubarb chutney, tangerine French toast, and Marcona almonds?  It’s like a flavor mystery wrapped in aroma!

Tabu Photo 3Do linger after sunset so you can enjoy dessert confections like the house-made Angel Food Cake  (with blueberry Chantilly cream, blueberry “caviar”, and spindled sugar).  Good night!

Digiovanni wants you to remember that Tabu grill is ever striving toward higher ground.  “We have higher service and cooking standards because we want to make the next-level move”.  What, a top Zagat rating isn’t good enough?  “We aim to be the best in the OC, and, hey, we have the greatest sunsets in the world here at around 7:30”.

In fact, the summer vibe rolls in for “social hour” at 4:30 with $10 small plates, and “Summer Sips” wines priced from $5, until seven o’clock on the patio.

You will enjoy sun or June gloom at the romantic and delectable Tabu Grill.

Maggi photos

Pacific Edge Hotel to open its new oceanfront restaurant and bar, The Deck, this Wednesday


It’s the summer of restaurant openings in Laguna Beach, with Nancy Wilhelm’s Starfish now open, and sbe’s Katsuya, Scott McIntosh’s Asada Laguna, and celebrity chef Amar Santana’s Broadway by Amar Santana to follow shortly. Add to the list The Deck, Pacific Edge Hotel’s new oceanfront restaurant and bar, slated to open next Wednesday (June 15th) at 10 a.m.

The Deck will occupy the building at 627 Sleepy Hollow Lane between The Beach House and Pacific Edge Hotel, formerly used by Pacific Edge Hotel for pricey oceanfront weddings and special events bookings (known as The Villa). It will feature oceanfront dining so close to the sand, they will actually valet your board.

The Deck’s new Conditional Use Permit (CUP) comes after a year-long battle with the city over concerns over parking, noise, and…the menu. But more on that later.

As part of its agreement with the city, Pacific Edge Hotel – purchased last summer by Joie de Vivre Properties, the second largest operator of boutique hotels in the United States – was forced to abandon its weddings/events CUP. As such, it can no longer offer wedding accommodations at 627 Sleepy Hollow Lane.

The Deck was slated to open last summer but hit major roadblocks over liquor licensing and parking, which put the project’s launch on delay for over a year. Although the restaurant obtained its liquor license in September, it still needed to conduct an extensive parking analysis for the Planning Commission to demonstrate that the use would be operating in conjunction with and incidental to its primary hotel-motel use. Since 36% of Pacific Edge Hotel’s overnight guests patronized the Beach House Restaurant between October 2010 and November 2010, the same would be true for The Deck, it argued, and therefore additional parking would not be needed.

The Deck ran into additional problems over its proposed menu, which the Planning Commission deemed too bar-like in nature. “The use appears to be a bar use rather than a full-service restaurant where guests are served at tables,” argued the Planning Commission at the Deck’s April 27 hearing. “The proposal appears to be similar to the Rooftop Lounge located in La Casa del Camino. The Fire Department has expressed concern about potential obstruction of exiting paths, if the use functioned like a bar.”

As a result, The Deck – backed by parent company and hotel powerhouse Joie de Vivre Properties – went back to the drawing board and strategically re-envisioned its menu and seating plan to more clearly reflect its mission as a “restaurant first, bar second.” The Planning Commission approved the changes – “The applicant has responded to the issues…and revised their application” – and so it is that The Deck came to be approved.

The Deck, which is slated to open next Wednesday, will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Please check back next week for a complete sampling of their menu.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ

Mom’s Food Circle


Dennis Myers PhotoThere was considerable national press a few weeks ago regarding announcement of the new government “food plate” and the war on obesity. I am not sure that perhaps the fact that Mrs. Obama announced the revelation caused the stir, but that is beside the point. We now have a new design - a circle rather than a triangle - bearing the impressive ad agency-like name of MyPlate. Oh yes, the circle is now referred to as a Nutrition Plate instead of a Food Pyramid. To whit, the war on obesity being waged by the federal government is kicked up a few notches for a couple of million dollars.

Too bad they didn’t have Mom Myers around to set the record straight regarding how to feed a family. She didn’t need a chart to follow in her house. Here were her rules.

“If you want good food, you eat at home; if you want to see people, you go out”, that was her motto. So, we ate at home! And that was a good thing. We had three squares a day, and sat at the family kitchen table to eat them. That included my dad, who came home every day for lunch. There were also ancillary rules like, don’t take more than you can eat and always clean your plate. Also, you don’t leave the table until that plate is cleaned. The government wants portion control? Mom knew how to handle that.

No waste was tolerated in Mom’s kitchen. If there were left over mashed potatoes (whipped with whole milk and lots of butter – Michelle, say eek!), we had potato patties browned in the skillet the next day. Left over chicken ended up in a casserole with other left overs. And what if we didn’t like a dish? Mom simply said, “I made it just the way you are going to love it”! Another clean plate, unless you wanted to sit at the table all day while everyone else got to go outside and play baseball or shoot some hoops.

We had no restaurants to speak of in town, no pizza places, and no fast food drive-ins. So you say, we probably had a plain diet of cheap meat and beans. Nothing fancy like you could get by going out! Not so, and here is how Mom turned out what today would be called gourmet in many circles.

We had a garden, not something small, but a half-acre. I know because I had to tend it all summer. The table was rife with fresh picked greens, squash, corn, or potatoes. The rest was canned. It made eating your veggies a snap. When you had to tend them, pick them, and clean them you appreciated them showing up on your plate. If not, refer to Mom’s rule about clean plates!

Friends had fruit trees that produced product that was canned and preserved as jellies and jams. Canned apples meant great pies with crusts made by Mom’s or Grandma’s own hands. Made all the work in the garden worthwhile when a hot slice of cherry pie showed up in front of you with the vanilla ice cream melting down the sides. Currant jelly on toast in the morning was the best. I hear currant berries are making a comeback. Never left as long as Grandma Kammerer was around.

Dad got into the act also. He went fishing. (We had to help scale, clean and fillet the fish.) I would give anything to have a mess of fried bluegills right now. He also hunted for squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, and quail. There was also deer and elk. Today you pay a premium in a restaurant to get a piece of venison or a braised quail. Basically if Dad brought it home, Mom cooked it.

My Grandmother also got into the food act. She was an avid wild berry picker and morel mushroom hunter. Fresh fruit on your plate or in a pie was never an issue as long as Grandma was around - and she was until she died at age 96. Marie Callender’s or Polly’s Pies were not needed. And the mushrooms? Lightly dredged in flour and fried in butter aside a couple of eggs and toast for breakfast would make any Michelin starred chef drool with delight.

So there you have it - Mom’s answer to MyPlate. She made it herself, you got breakfast before going to school, a hand packed lunch, and dinner at 6 p.m. If you lost your lunch or were late for dinner, you really got hungry by the next time Mom worked in the kitchen. The only hope you had was making a Miracle Whip and Wonder Bread sandwich when Mom wasn’t looking!

Eat your heart out Michelle!

The Public Trough



Heard on the street…

Starfish to open Wednesday

According to the restaurant’s automated voicemail, Starfish will open to the public Wednesday, June 8. For more information and/or to make a reservation, call the restaurant at (949) 715-9200. You may also visit www.starfishlaguna.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/starfishlaguna) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/starfishlaguna) to stay in the loop. Starfish is located in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center at 30832 S Coast Hwy.

BIG FISH Facebook Father’s Day Contest

House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer is offering a special Facebook contest for Father’s Day.  To enter (1) find your favorite picture of you and your dad on a fishing trip, (2) “LIKE” House of BIG FISH and Ice Cold Beer on Facebook, (3) post on your Facebook wall where you and your dad went fishing, your favorite memory of your trip together and why your dad is so special...and don’t forget to attach the photo!

Selected winners will receive a $100 Gift Certificate to the restaurant, 2 BIG FISH T-shirts, and a framed photo of them with their dad in the restaurant.

For more information, call the restaurant at (949) 715-4500 or visit their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/


My Dining Out Diary

I decided to monitor my dining out habits for a month. How interesting, I thought – at least to me. Without further ado, here’s where I p ut my money last month. Please note: I’ve only included meals that I paid for. Tip is included.

5/1 (L) La Sirena - extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($10)

5/1 (D) Royal Hawaiian – cheesy fries, ahi poke, two pineapple and sprite drinks ($26.75)

5/2 (D) French 75 – charcuterie and cheese plates, sliders, and drinks for friends ($72.90)

5/3 (L) Rose Bakery (in CdM) – best veggie burger I’ve ever had in my life ($6.53)

5/5 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo, large Jamaica (hibiscus) and lemonade drink ($15.23)

5/6 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($9.47)

5/7 (D) San Shi Go – treated my sister, her boyfriend, and friends to my sister’s 29th birthday dinner; sampled new menu items including Spicy Tuna on Fried Rice, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapenos, Albacore Tuna and Crispy Onions; also enjoyed classic favorites like Tai Sashimi with Yuzu and Sea Salt, the Salmon Lemon Roll, and the Backflip Roll ($150)

5/8 (B) Banzai Bowls – enjoyed a large Diamond Head acai bowl after spin class ($8.25)

5/12 (D) Tabu Grill – split the Passion Fruit Soy Braised Prime Boneless Short Ribs and Miso Marinated Mero Sea Bass with a friend; enjoyed House Made Angel Food Cake with Blueberry Chantilly Cream, Blue Berry Caviar, and Spindled Sugar for dessert ($120)

5/15 (L) Papa’s Tacos – ordered two pork tacos to go, along with a large bag of homemade chips, a side of homemade pico de gallo, and an orange soda ($11.42)

5/15 (D) Ruby’s Diner – succumbed to a Mushroom Swiss Burger with fries and a large Black Forest Cherry Shake ($21)

5/16 (L) La Sirena – extra crispy chicken burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo, large Jamaica (hibiscus) and lemonade drink ($15.23)

5/17 (L) La Sirena – treated a client to lunch; we both enjoyed blackened salmon salads with roasted red peppers, avocado, papaya salsa, and house lime-cilantro dressing ($30)

5/17 (D) Domino’s – ordered a large pepperoni pizza for delivery (love their new recipe) ($20)

5/18 (L) Gallo’s – tasty classic Italian sub with a bag of salt and vinegar chips ($9.46)

5/25 (L) La Sirena – flavor-packed al pastor (marinated pork) burrito, large bag of chips with a side of pico de gallo ($13.38)

5/26 (D) Javier’s Crystal Cove – pork fajitas and drinks with friends; hung out with one of the notorious Real Housewives of Orange County ($72.58)

5/27 (D) Zeytoon – Spicy Sausage (Sujok) Sandwich with tomatoes and pickles pressed in Mahdnakahs bread ($12.32)

Total spent: $624.52

Visits to La Sirena: 6

Percentage of $ spent at restaurants in Laguna: 85%

For those of you that managed to read all the way through – thank you for indulging in my exercise on TMI (too much information). You now know more about me than I’m sure you ever wish you to know.

Ed. Note: I’m full just from reading!


Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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