The Public Trough


Heard on the street…

A Note From Shaena

I’m in the middle of an emotional upheaval and have very little to offer editorially this week.

With the help of a little Bob Seger music and Gina’s pizza, though, I will get through this.

And I will be back next week…I promise!

A comment from Stu

I read a baseball book once – called Ball Four by Jim Bouton. As a baseball player and associated freak, I will never forget one thing he wrote about players who go at it day-after-day – 162 games a year…

“No player can give that ‘100%, 100% of the time.

“The best anyone can do well is to give an absolute 100%, 85% of the time.”

I have had my share of partners and co-workers over the years and I can promise you on my mother’s name – Shaena is by far the best partner I’ve ever known anyone to have and I thank my lucky stars every day that Shaena and I have this opportunity…

This woman gives 100% to StuNewsLaguna day after day – it’s time that she suffers writer’s cramp!

Rest easy my friend!

Claes Ovation at Hotel Laguna


The Grand Old Lady gets a facelift

Maggi H PhotoYou knew it had to happen. You watched her, still attracting top billing, and yet there they were; telltale smile-for-the-camera wrinkles, touches of gray here and there.  Well, Mr. DeMille, Claes Restaurant in the Hotel Laguna is ready for her close-up, once again.

With a fresh approach, and a new COO (Heinz Hofmann, see story on the front page), Hotel Laguna is standing up for the reinvented and renewed Claes Ovation, their newest and freshest face in dining.  Applause all around!

Director and widow of namesake Claes, Georgia Andersen knew it was time for a change, especially when the winter rains demanded new roofing, carpets, paint and just about everything got wet.  She picked herself up and did some thinking.  She knew she wanted to honor the legacy of her husband and the importance of the hotel within Laguna Beach history, and yet make that forward step into a new direction.

Like many of us, Mrs. Andersen does her best thinking at about four in the morning.  “I was thinking about some changes to the restaurant, but I wanted to keep Claes’ name in there.  I woke up and just knew ‘This is it!  Claes Ovation.’  His name, but a new name, and a new concept”.

Claes Beach Photo

Claes Ovation takes its cue from Claes Andersen’s European style and culinary background, and updates it with a brand-new small plate menu and with a special summer pairing.

First, they welcome all diners off with a unique “wow effect”.  A complimentary rice cake is presented on a stand and served with side dippings of tomato-chili, and chutney sauces for the sharing.  Then, the small plate menu offers such not-so-small items as “Mano de Leon Scallops” (with morel mushrooms and lavender flower beurre blanc, $16), and “Chicken and Waffles” (really a Sonoma Valley duck breast, served with potato Gaufrettes, and brandy-maple gastrique, $15).

For the special summer pairing, executive chef Paul Bauer had an idea, created a concept, and ran with it.  His “Festival Fare” menu symbolically unites two icons of Laguna Beach, the “Grand Old Lady” Hotel Laguna, with the famous art festivals.

Claes Dining Photo

“We wanted to tie together an evening at the Pageant and art festivals”, Mrs. Andersen said the other day, while enjoying an iced tea at their ocean front Terrace Café.  “It makes a perfect evening to enjoy a lovely meal right at the beach, and then just walk over to the Festivals”.

The Festival Fare is a prix fixe menu offered at Claes Ovation in three acts (Wednesday-Sunday, from five o’clock.  $40 per person):

The “Opening Act” offers a choice of three appetizers, Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart and salad, a Sweet Fennel Bisque with marinated Blue Crab and toasted Cumin Crema, or the Claes Salad made with baby Greens, Blue Cheese, Prosciutto Cotto, dried Blueberries and Honey Truffle Vinaigrette.

In “Scene Two” you have a choice of Jidori Chicken Breast (served with creamy truffle grits, cipollini onions and red pepper coulis), CLAES Bouillabaisse  (Mexican white shrimp, Manila clams, green lip mussels in a tomato saffron broth), or the Chimay-Braised Short Ribs (with baby corn and a blue cheese froth).

The “Final Ovation” serves up something sweet.  The choices are a Berry Tart (topped with Sambuca strawberries and berry consummé), The Ovation Sorbet (a trio of sorbets, topped with flavored Pop Rocks - yeah, pop rocks), and their Green Tea and Chocolate Mousse (hazelnut Feuilletine and hazelnut Anglaise).

Up close and personal is how the new restaurant relates to the oceanfront in year-round comfort with walls of glass.  Laguna’s most famous shoreline is enjoyed from every angle at Claes Ovation, with huge windows of sweeping views from Heisler Park and Main Beach, south to Cleo Street, and west toward the surfers, yachts, and sunsets.

Claes Terrace Photo

On the outdoor Terrace Café, you can delight out-of-town guests with Laguna’s eternal sunshine while you enjoy breakfasts (soon to be opened from 8:30- 11:00) like California Breakfast Burritos or Crab Cakes Benedict, and light lunches like Provence Salad and Chicken Lettuce Cups.

Not close enough to the ocean yet?  Right out on the sand, the Hotel Laguna enjoys special perks of being grandfathered in, popular since Errol Flynn took off his shirt.  You can enjoy a day of service by renting a chaise and cozying up to that Marilyn Monroe next to you.  Waiters serve drinks and food, and there is even an ocean-breeze massage tent, attended by the caring hands of health and fitness guru, Nadia Strhak (Total Wellness by Nadia, another new feature of the Hotel Laguna).

Georgia Anderson PhotoIf you really want to feel like Errol Flynn, join the (beach) club!  Members ($1000 yearly) have their own chaise, they can order food and drinks, and be billed country-club style, monthly.  Parking is included when available too.

The old bar has been re-envisioned and has a new name to-boot, thanks to Mrs. Andersen’s late night inspiration. “Just say what it is”, she decided.  And so it is, the “Ocean-View”.

Those ocean view sunsets can be even more beautiful with one of their over 800 wines.  This summer they are offering six wine choices for $25 a bottle, plus once a month wine pairings with Chef Bauer’s “Creations of the Moment”.

For beer lovers, perhaps left out of most culinary “pairings”, the Ocean View has just the ticket.  The Summer Features menu includes suggested pairings, like marinated lamb salad (with romaine lettuce, feta cheese and lemon-yogurt dressing) paired with Beers-of-the-World selection “North Coast Prangster”, a Belgian style golden ale.  For sports events, they match things up too, as in their recent “Major League Menu” (including Short Stop Dip, Grand Slam Sliders, and World Series onion Rings) that goes very well with happy hour (4-7, M-F) when well drinks and draft beers are $5.

And there is live music pairing every Sunday evening while Justin James is playing his original acoustic guitar music, they are offering “Justin Wine Specials”, glasses for $6 and bottles for $20 of the Justin 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Paso Robles, and the 2009 Chardonnay (regularly $46 a bottle!).

On Saturdays Tony Tanner tickles the ivories in the Ocean View bar.  He kicks it up old school, as in Hollywood glam, from five-to-eight in the lobby and 8-11 in the bar.  And the Summer Jazz series ($10 cover) includes live music performed in the Hotel Laguna Rose Garden, with food and beverage service from 6-8 on certain Wednesdays.

The Hotel Laguna has been a Hollywood hideaway for more years than California has historic signposts. Hollywood glamour is bred to the bone in this Laguna Beach landmark, and since she is called a she, we will think of her as the grand lady of Laguna Beach.

Perhaps once an aging starlet, but now enjoying her comeback!



Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Dennis Myers, Writing ChefΤΜ


Breakfast Surprise

Dennis Myers PhotoI look at $1.99 Breakfast signs with skepticism.

Actually I look at all marketing signs of that ilk with skepticism accompanied with the “yeh, right” muttering. But I had just finished delivering my neighbor to the Long Beach Airport, thus performing my usual valet service for those that think since I work at home, I have time. It was time I treated myself to a new experience.

So, upon seeing the sign, I proclaimed the usual rationalization of deserving a treat for being a good neighbor. Pulling into the parking lot, I must admit I really thought I was crazy. This was not going to be a treat. But then what the heck, how badly can someone screw up a $1.99 breakfast? There could not be much to mess up! Besides, there is always a Happy Meal nearby.

First impression was solid. Beautiful facilities with modern seating and plenty of glistening clean stainless steel. Standing there I saw the menu could go to $2.99 if I wanted to upgrade the morning fare. There were other modest varieties, but that upgrade was one my allowance from my wife would cover.

The few people ahead of me were being politely and cheerfully greeted by their first name! The guests smiled! They must be wearing nametags from a convention they were attending, I thought. This was a happy place without the slogan!

My turn. A server in crisp white uniform and apron greeted me with a confident smile and asked what I wanted for breakfast. At this juncture I should mention that the woman had long passed puberty, had no visible tattoos, spoke perfect English, and asked for my order with metered words that allowed me to understand what she was saying! You see when you get older, if you ask someone to repeat what they had spit out like water from a high pressure hose, they don’t slow down, they just repeat their mutterings – only loud! This causes everyone within 50 yards to look at you with sympathy.

Showing appropriate humility, I ordered the $2.99 breakfast. She quickly served with skill an ample helping of scrambled eggs, bacon, browned potatoes, and two beautiful Swedish pancakes with lingberry sauce. The food was not in sealed paper bags fresh out of the microwave. The plate was glistening white china, and not a piece of plastic in sight. Ah, you say the utensils were plastic! No! They were stainless steel, neatly wrapped in a large linen-like napkin.

And get this – the coffee was free served in cups that were real china also! This was looking good!

I seated myself near a window (clean, without adornment or greasy fingerprints), and began my breakfast with a little guilt, but clearly happy with myself for making a selection that was shaping up surprisingly well.

All I can say is the breakfast was a real pleasure. It tasted great, and when I left, my tummy was happy! Oh, you want to know where to get the same great food and service?

Well, the next time you go to IKEA, show up when they open their restaurant, which is a half hour earlier than the store opens. It’s on the second floor. They have a great lunch service also in case you cannot make breakfast.

And you do not have to buy furniture to be admitted.

Ketta Brown’s


Ketta Brown Photo


Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad

Serves 6

1 1/2 c. wild rice

1 T. kosher salt, plus mor to taste

2 1/2 T. lemon juice

2 T. red wine vinegar

2 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. honey

1 T. ground cumin

1 t. curry powder

Pinch cayenne

1/4 c. olive oil

1 15 oz. can garbanzo, drained and rinsed

8 oz. diced, smoked ham (Leave this out to make it vegetarian)

8 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 c. dried cranberries

Black pepper and hot pepper sauce, to taste


Simmer rice and salt until rice is tender, about 45 minutes.  Rice should still be firm to the bite. Drain and rinse.

Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, cumin, curry and cayenne together.  Whisk in the oil.  Add all rest to rice and pour oil mix over.  Mix well. Adjust seasonings.  Serve at room temp.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

The Public Trough


Heard on the street…

A Note From Shaena

Stu and I had the great pleasure of attending the Grand Opening of Katsuya Laguna Beach on Wednesday night. It was a star-studded affair – with NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez and sbe CEO Sam Nazarian on hand to celebrate, along with a bevy of local icons including Mark Christy and Leticia Apalategui, Elizabeth Pearson, Mayor Toni Iseman, Allan and Stefani Simon, Ben Simon, Joe and Jane Hanauer, Morris and Stefanie Skenderian, Marcus and Tammy Skenderian, Horst and Arianna Noppenberger with daughter Chiara, Chris Keller and Amy Amaradio, Peter Blake, Chris and Jill Guziak, Andrea Adelson and Scott Reckard, Alexis and Jim Bellino, Marian Keegan, Angie Miller, and Richard Reisman.

The food was outstanding as to be expected – my favorite was the miso-marinated sea bass while Stu’s was the popcorn shrimp tempura – and the drinks stiff and plentiful!

Kudos to sbe and Philippe Starck on the interior design – and to Tom Penna (ITX Construction) and Morris Skendarian on the (re)construction of the building – Katsuya looks nothing like its predecessor Hush.

The folks at sbe tell us they’re officially opening next Friday, July 8 – so begin making your reservations on OpenTable today!

Soft-Shell Crabs and Copper River Salmon

With warmer weather come soft-shell crabs and Copper River salmon, two of June/July’s great delicacies. I had the pleasure of enjoying my first soft-shell crab on Tuesday night at Café Zoolu with Stu – what a delicious treat!

On the matter of Copper River salmon – Lumberyard Restaurant just received its summer shipment on Wednesday. Only available 3-4 weeks a year, the deliciously flavorful Alaskan salmon is a real treat! Lumberyard’s Chef Armando is preparing the salmon with wild rice salad, asparagus, and Asian pear chutney. Café Zoolu is also offering the salmon right now – I overheard a nearby patron raving about it on Tuesday.

My June Dining Out Diary

It’s that time of the month again. Whether you enjoyed reading my dining out play-by-play last month or not, Stu asked me to give it to you again. So, without further ado, here’s where I put my money last month. Please note: I’ve only included meals that I paid for. Tip is included.



6/5 (D) Disneyland (Anaheim) – two churros ($7)

6/9 (D) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – treated my little sister, Stacia, who was visiting from Oregon, to dinner at Sol; shared the Ceviche and Queso Vampiro Tacos ($28.93)

6/10 (L) Nick’s – took my little sister here to show her how Laguna lunches; split the Asparagus Fries, the Veggie Burger with Potato Salad and Bacon, and the Turkey Club Sandwich with Fries; each enjoyed a Pineapple/Cranberry/Sprite drink ($56.76)

6/11 (D) Mozambique – enjoyed a late night snack with my little sis and artist friends after the Starfish and Laguna Art Museum Opening Parties; split the Peri Peri Chicken and Fried Calamari with Cilantro Aioli Sauce; listened to Grammy Award-Winning Macy Gray in the bar after eating ($16.34)

6/12 (L) La Sirena Grill – picked up a Crispy Chicken Burrito and an Extra Large Bag of Chips with Guacamole and Homemade Pico de Gallo before heading to the beach with my little sister ($13.12)

6/13 (D) Z Pizza –  devoured a small Greek pizza ($10.82)

6/16 (D) La Sirena Grill – enjoyed the Blackened Salmon Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Avocado, Papaya Salsa, and House Lime-Cilantro Dressing, along with a Horchata drink and a house-made chocolate chip cookie ($22.51)

6/18 (L) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – split the Ceviche, Queso Vampiro Tacos, Three Kurobuta (Pork) Tacos with Rice and Beans, and drinks with a friend ($57.10)

6/19 (L) Big Fish – split a ½ Dozen Chilled Oysters, Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls, Lobster Tacos, Sweet Potato Fries, the Carrot Cake Cupcake, Brownie Sundae, and drinks with a friend; enjoyed listening to the sounds of reggae duo James Ide and Kevin Leon Smith during our meal ($56.01)

6/20 (D) La Sirena Grill – treated a client to dinner; we both enjoyed Extra Crispy Chicken Burritos, an Extra Large Bag of Chips with Homemade Pico de Gallo Salsa, and Jamaica/Lemonade drinks ($25)

6/22 (D) La Sirena Grill – Extra Crispy Chicken Burrito, Jamaica/Lemonade drink ($13)

6/23 (D) Domino’s – devoured a small pepperoni pizza on a deadline night ($5.45)

6/24 (L) In-N-Out (Laguna Hills) – ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and Kona Coffee to go on my way back to Laguna from a meeting in San Juan Capistrano ($5.22)

6/24 (D) Starfish Laguna – enjoyed the Mauna Kai Ahi Poke, Saigon Spring Rolls, and a Kumquats/Sprite Mocktail at the bar on a Friday night ($28.28)

6/25 (D) Bear Flag Fish Co. (Newport Beach) – drove all the way to the Newport Beach Peninsula to pick up the Ahi Poke and Grilled Ono Burrito for dinner ($20)

6/26 (L) Sol Cocina (Newport Beach) – Ceviche, Queso Vampiro Taco ($23.57)

6/27 (D) Laguna Thai by the Sea – Chicken Tom Yum Soup, Spring Rolls, Drunken Fried Noodles with Chicken, Pork, Shrimp, Vegetables, and Egg in Spicy Basil Sauce ($31.92)

6/29 (L) Zinc Café – enjoyed a Veggie Burger with Gouda Cheese and a bottomless coffee ($13)

Total spent: $434.03

# of visits to La Sirena: 4

Percentage of $ spent at restaurants within Laguna Beach: 77% (compared to 85% last month)



Kudos to those who managed to read all the way through – you now know more about me than I’m sure you ever wished to know…for a second time.

And to those perplexed and scratching their heads right now (“how/why did I just read that?”) – hopefully you can at least appreciate a girl putting herself out there so unabashedly in this way.

Just sayin’

More photos from Katsuya’s grand opening

Sam Photo 1
Sam Photo 2
Sam Photo 3

Sam Photo 4

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

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