Truly local, truly vegan and truly delicious: My fabulous food staycation feasting on Sourced Cuisine

Story and photos by Laura Buckle

Jessica McLeish is a self confessed researcherholic. Having carved out a successful 20-year career in public relations and marketing, Jessica, a keen chef, started to help out at Alegría Farms in Irvine. It was there that her fascination with nutrition and the biochemical effects of food upon the body was cultivated. 

McLeish researched and learned how to prepare delicious meals that support the body to help itself, working with freshly picked ingredients from truly local farms. Sourcing food is something Jessica is “truly” passionate about. Many places serve food that they say is locally grown, however, this often means that the food is from California, which as we all know is a huge state, says Jessica. 

Phytochemicals are important for health, Jessica says

Take strawberries for example: Jessica explains that one of the most important things we need from our food are phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds found in food and have protective and disease preventative properties. 

But phytochemicals on strawberries have a very short shelf life of 48 hours. Most strawberries found in supermarkets or even some local farmers markets have been in transport for at least 48 hours meaning their nutritional values and benefits are greatly reduced. It is because of this that Jessica will shop for all of her produce from a choice of five local farms (depending on what is growing and where). These include Bluebird Canyon farm right here in Laguna Beach, South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano and Tustin, and Alegría Farms, Orange County Produce and Manassero Farms, all located in Irvine.  

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Check out the vibrant colors of the produce in the salad of South Coast Farms

It is not only fresh produce that Jessica is passionate about, but also her water source, having researched into the chemicals that are added to water, such as fluoride. Jessica started to use a Pristine Hydro Water Revival System, which produces properly mineralized water, water that is fluoride, acid, and 100 percent contaminant free. Jessica uses this to wash and cook her food.

So where did this food and health fascination come from? Well, San Clemente-raised Jessica’s father was an athlete, a pro surfer and soccer coach who sadly had to have open-heart surgery at the age of 45. It was due to what he was putting into his body, not his activity Jessica explains. 

Activity is good: eating healthy food is key though

Jessica is by no means discounting the importance of being active: she is a regular at Fokus Pilates, which is in fact where we met, and a volleyball player, playing most days. But she believes health has to be a balance of eating right and keeping active.

Jessica’s food delivery company Sourced Conscious Cuisine began two years ago, offering gluten free, dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free foods. Jessica and her culinary director John Pflueger make magic in their kitchen by creating healthy raw natural meals without any taste being compromised.

John Pflueger’s resume is extensive. He has cooked all over the world ranging from an Indian kitchen where the staff sang to their food, to a Michelin starred restaurant in Burgundy. We have featured him in Stu News a few times – he’s an exciting and accomplished chef. John followed a raw vegan diet for a few years and felt the benefits so when Jessica asked him to work alongside her in the kitchen he jumped at the chance. 

My food staycation with Sourced Cuisine

I was particularly excited about my Sourced Delivery, as it was the first time I had reviewed any delivery service. Jessica told me that she would be sending me 10 dishes to try, so I invited a couple of girlfriends as well as my family to join in this healthy delicious delivery experience. 

Customers are asked to place their orders online or by phone no later than midnight on Friday. This gives Jessica Saturday to source the ingredients and herself and John, as the cook, Saturday and Sunday to ensure the food is ready for delivery on Sunday. 

The menu is plentiful, with breakfasts, salads, starters, entrees, soups and desserts. There is also a section dedicated to drinks, snacks and elixirs. The food is vegan, but there is an option to add a protein if desired and obviously all proteins are organic. I allowed Jessica to choose for me of course.

The food arrived in a cool storage bag, which I will keep as it’s perfect for the beach! And so we began to unpack our goodies. 

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Unpacking our cold storage bag revealed delights such as the Buddha bowl

For our starters we had the vegetable sushi rolls, made with sweet rice, spicy carrots, asparagus, Maui onions and avocado served with a ginger sesame dipping sauce. These were delicious, light yet full of flavor and so fresh and clean in taste.

We then moved on to the Salad of Coast farms, which consisted of strawberries, basil, mint, pistachios, lime and coconut yoghurt dressing. This was actually the best salad I’ve ever tasted. The strawberries (freshly picked the day before) were a deep red almost purple color and were the tastiest strawberries I’ve ever tried. I will be ordering this salad again and again.

The field green salad came next, which was of course field greens, served with roasted beets, orange, jicama and splashed with hazelnut vinaigrette. Yet again tasty, delicious and so fresh. 

Zucchini boats were out of this world

It was then on to the entrees. The zucchini boats were out of this world good, fresh tasty zucchini served with black beans, corn, salsa fresco, chipotle nut cheese and cilantro. I have really struggled with trying to find a cheese alternative and this was fantastic.

Next up was the Buddha bowl, which I had heard about from various friends who have tried Jessica’s food. This consisted of brown rice, romanesco, yellow squash, sugar snap peas, herbed goddess dressing and sunflower seeds. I now know what they were talking about. This was a great dish, really filling, but that good feeling type of fullness. Perfect. 

The final entrée we tried was the red quinoa bowl with braised cabbage, dried fruit and nuts. This again was a filling combination of goodness and we loved it.

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The red quinoa bowl was a filling combination of pure goodness

Finally we reached the section of the menu I’d been dubious about… Was it really possible to replicate a sweet tasty dessert using no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no tastes so-good-but-so-bad-for-you additives? I wondered. The answer, my friend, is yes – Jessica can! 

The raw vegan desserts were next-level tasty. Raw banana cream pie squares with lucuma caramel tasted like they had a whole load of bad but delicious ingredients in them, however they did not: they were totally healthy, totally delicious and I wanted more. Luckily for me Jessica had included another dessert, a raw carrot cupcake with cashew cream frosting. I’ve always said Laguna Beach was the closest thing to heaven.

Sourced Cuisine’s raw desserts are heaven on a spoon

I stand corrected: Sourced Cuisine’s raw desserts are heaven on a spoon.

My whole experience with Sourced Conscious Cuisine was magnificent. I am officially a regular customer. So much goodness was delivered to my door that day and at no point did I feel unsatisfied. 

One question I did ask Jessica though was if she ever cheated, if she herself allowed herself a vice, and her reply?  “Well, who doesn’t love a Selanne’s burger and a cocktail?” That’a girl!

For orders and information go to

Pearl Street General on Coast Hwy is a hidden gem: A funky yet elegant store/bar steeped in Laguna history

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Back in 1926, the Ware family decided to build and open two stores on the corner of Pearl Street and PCH in Laguna Beach – a liquor store and a hardware store. Both stores did very well until the 1940s, when the hardware store fell into financial crisis and closed for a few years. 

Then, in 1946 (and not many people know this), it reopened as The Seahorse, Laguna’s first secret gay bar. 

It stayed that way for many years, until eventually closing down and very quickly opening back up as Laguna Auto Parts store, owned and run by the much loved Jerry Piper, who sadly passed away in 2012. 

In 2013 Laguna locals Tom and Michele Reynolds decided to purchase the building and reopen it as a craft beer and wine bar, as well as a general store that would sell coffee and operate as a sandwich bar for beachgoers. 

The Reynolds own several resorts in California and with the help of Justin Warwick, designer, consultant and all round talented creative director, they took on the arduous task of dealing with the City to get Pearl Street General store open.

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The wall coverings, the restyled furniture, the bar: everything about this store is eclectic elegance

Justin’s background in design is extensive. After a stint working in retail for Gap and Mango, he went on to own a 4,000 square foot store on Melrose in LA, selling vintage clothing home goods and accessories.  

The store opened immediately, but sadly for many years, the Reynolds couldn’t fully achieve their vision for the place. Various restrictions from the City meant that for more than years the Reynolds Family went back and forth trying to get permits to serve alcohol, coffee, and food. They attended hearings, changed concepts and plans, and basically lived with their hearts in their mouths hoping to get what they wanted. 

After three years they decided enough was enough and that they would indeed close the store. The very next day, the City called them to another hearing. This time they were granted a license to serve beer and wine, coffee, hot drinks and food that was prepared and packaged offsite – despite having a kitchen. 

These decisions enabled the Reynolds to open Pearl Street General, and although some modifications were necessary, their labor of love has really paid off. 

It’s no surprise that with Justin’s background in everything vintage and fabulous, Pearl Street General’s interior is beautiful to look at. The wall coverings, the restyled furniture, the bar area: everything about this store is eclectic elegance. 

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History – and beloved former businesses – are celebrated at Pearl Street General

Justin likes to work with whatever is available to him. At the front of the store is a display of jewelry resting on a beautiful old table, actually the original workbench used to build Pearl Street General back in the 1920s. 

The original Laguna Auto Parts sign is also located in the store, honoring the much-loved former business on this spot. The front of the store carries an eclectic mix of accessories and home-ware, as well as a huge array of produce, pastas, sauces, chips, cheese, and dips – many of which are Pearl Street General’s own brand, that Justin tells me are made in the Bay Area and transported down. 

The coffee area is stunning to look at, with its beautiful highly polished coffee machines, chandeliers and an array of mouthwatering pastries. The coffee itself is Verve Coffee which is California’s number one selling craft coffee. And trust me, it’s delicious.  

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The coffee area, featuring Verve coffee, is stunning

Located in the back of Pearl Street General is The Seahorse Lounge, and this is where the magic happens.  Anyone who visits this bar will be astounded by its beauty, its handcrafted bar, beer pumps, leather stools, and turntable – you can bring your own vinyl to play – to the wall coverings: everything is decadent, warm and most of all comfortable. The store has managed to keep its original speakeasy “secret bar” kind of vibe.  

But, not to be outdone by its beautiful décor, The Seahorse Lounge also delivers on food and drink.

I mentioned before that City restrictions mean that The Seahorse Lounge cannot cook food on site – despite having a kitchen. The Reynolds are trying to get this restriction lifted, but for now the food they can serve is pre-prepared and is brought in by local caterers. On the menu most nights are clam chowder, ceviche and bacon wrapped dates, light bites to accompany the delicious drinks they sell. 

I tried all the food dishes and they were really nice, a perfect bite to accompany the drinks we sampled. Justin explained that during Pearl Street’s opening night they had oysters too, which they are going to try and do monthly, courtesy of The Jolly Oyster

At the helm of the bar I met Nick Reynolds. Standing at 6 ft. 7 inches tall, he is the son of the owners, hailing from Three Arch Bay and now living in Dana Point with his wife and two children. Nick is general manager and chief bartender. He’s also a craft ale consultant. There’s nothing that this guy doesn’t know about ale: he was a font of knowledge and so passionate about his ales. 

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Nick Reynolds is the bartender at The Seahorse Lounge, a bar with a rich history

Nick explained to me that he had always been a wine lover, but about five years ago he stumbled across a rare beer, and his passion was ignited. 

Pearl Street General really wants to be different in the drinks that they sell: they want to offer a large selection of hard-to-find ales and wines to introduce Laguna to other flavors. They are also very interested in local breweries and carrying some local labels. 

They currently offer six labels on tap, including a gluten free option (I think I am right in thinking they could be the only place that offers this in Laguna), as well as five bottled ales and three ciders. I was lucky enough to take a sip of all six draft ales and they were exceptional. The plan is to rotate the ales bi-weekly, introducing new ones and changing them up regularly.

Alongside the craft ales is a vast selection of wines. Three choices of sparkling, seven choices of white, three choices of rosé and eight choices of red wine, hailing from all around the world.  During the evening I tried one from each section and they were all incredible.  

As a Woods Cove resident I am so happy about the arrival of Pearl Street General featuring the Seahorse Lounge. For so long we have wanted somewhere to grab a sandwich for the beach, or a coffee for our morning dog-walk, or a place to go to for a glass of wine or a beer at the end of a beach day. Pearl Street General Store is a welcome addition to the Woods Cove area. We are so lucky to have such another great choice of a place to eat and drink, one with such a great atmosphere also. 

A job well done Reynolds Family!

Pearl Street General with The Seahorse Lounge is located 1796 S.Coast Highway. (949) 715 4533

Oh, I loved my O.I. chili and so much else besides: Who doesn’t love the Orange Inn on Cleo & Coast, where tradition and good food meet?

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

This week’s food report took me to the extremely popular and very well loved Orange Inn.

The original Orange Inn dates back to 1931, however, the restaurant was not in the same location as it is now. The original location, between Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar, was then the only food establishment situated on the coastal road for miles and miles.  

Originally a stop for Irvine Ranch cowboys, it became famous for its original smoothie and the California date shake. Over time the menu grew, and the Orange Inn became popular with travellers and locals alike and, as it says in its slogan, has been refreshing the California coast since 1931. 

John Bodrero worked at the Orange Inn in the 1970s. During that time he met his wife Kathleen. When the Orange Inn became available to buy, John’s father gave him a loan and John became the owner. 

In 1985 their son Alex was born and shortly after this, 1986, the Irvine Company purchased the land on which the Orange Inn stood and developed it. That area is now the location of Newport Center Drive and Pelican Hill Resort. 

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Not your usual roadside inn: this curry dish appeals to Brits like me, who love spicy food

Luckily for John, a location became available on a site formally occupied by the Sunshine Juice Bar, on the corner of South Coast Highway and Cleo Street, and the Orange Inn has remained there ever since. 

I was lucky enough to meet Alex Brodrero, son of John and Kathleen and now manager of the Orange Inn. Born and raised in Laguna Beach, his earliest memories of working in The Orange Inn contain images of him squeezing oranges at age six. 

Alex shares the same love of and enthusiasm for the Orange Inn as his father, and says that one of the nicest things about managing the café is watching loyal customers returning over and over, not just from Laguna Beach but from all over the world. 

From cowboy hangout in the 1930s to family favorite today

Alex also explains that his father John has seen young people who came in with their parents now coming in as parents of their own children, carrying on the rich family customer traditions that the Orange Inn prides itself on.   

And who can blame them? The Orange Inn has won numerous accolades. Esquire magazine named it as one of the 10 best roadside restaurants in America. Sunset Magazine gave it the honor of best roadside breakfast in S Cal and it even featured in Huell Howser’s California’s Gold. 

I’ve visited numerous times and it’s a firm favorite with my son. The menu is a rich variety of pastries, all freshly made in-house as well as omelets, burritos, sandwiches, grill specials, soups, salads and of course smoothies, juices and shakes. You can eat in or order to go. It is service with a smile and the music – I believe they support our local radio station KX93.5 – is always on. 

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The Lagoona Toona is a hit locally

As always, I asked Alex for the names of the best sellers at the Orange Inn and had him direct me as to what I should choose. 

The number one best seller on the menu was the Breakfast Burrito, a delicious flour tortilla with a three-egg scramble, vegetarian beans, avocado and cheese served with chips and fresh salsa. First of all, this burrito was pretty large, large enough that I split it into three (I had two guests with me for the tasting). It was delicious, very fresh and so tasty. 

It was then onto the curry pumpkin and black bean soup which is available in a cup or a bowl. Alex explained that his mother Kathleen makes all the soups and he insisted that as I am British and we love a good curry, I should try it.  He wasn’t wrong, it was phenomenal, the perfect soup for this little curry loving Brit girl.

Famous for its sandwiches, Orange Inn is a longtime local favorite

Following this I asked Alex for his recommendation on a sandwich and he said the Lagoona Toona was always a hit, a beautiful mix of albacore tuna with cilantro and onion. Served on a choice of whole wheat, sourdough or rye (there are no gluten free bread options, but there are salads available) with thin slices of cucumber and alfalfa sprouts. This was absolutely delicious and I can see why the Orange Inn is famous for its sandwiches.

We then had the O.I Chili, which is made with turkey breast and is available in a cup or a bowl: again this was really very tasty and was my personal favorite.  Not too spicy, but a wonderful variety of flavors. 

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O.I. chili is guaranteed to make you say, Oh I love this…

Alongside this we also tried The Original Orange Inn Smoothie, made with fresh strawberries, blueberries, bananas, dates, fresh juice, bee pollen and crushed Ice.  These are a firm favorite with my son and I really enjoyed mine. They are surprisingly filling too.

It’s no surprise that the Orange Inn has continued to be a favorite roadside restaurant in California since time began. It’s rich in tradition, history and has a familiarity to anyone who visits. The walls are adorned with old photographs of Laguna and the atmosphere of the establishment is warm and welcoming. Alex was great. He really took his time to talk about the business and go through the menu.  

It was also wonderful to discover that he is a musical theatre actor (which many of you know is my background also) so not only did I have a fabulous meal, I also gained another thespian buddy. 

I’ve promised to go and watch his next performance and I’ll be taking a bowl of O.I. chili with me.

The Orange Inn is located 703 S Coast Hwy, (949) 494 6085.

Splashes, at Surf & Sand Resort Laguna Beach

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Laguna Beach, we are so lucky.  Not only do we have some of the best beaches in California but we also have some of the best restaurants and hotels around also.

An example of this is Surf & Sand, a spectacular beach front hotel, with stunning uninterrupted pacific ocean views, 167 elegantly decorated rooms, a beautiful pool area, and Splashes restaurant, one of my favorite places to go even if only for an appetizer and a cocktail, where I can look out at the ocean and usually spot a whale and or a pod of dolphins.

Dining with a View

Splashes serves up fresh seaside cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With the sea just 25 feet below, you can dine watching the waves roll in. However, the ocean views are not the only thing to savor, Splashes food is as famous as its breathtaking views.  The gentleman responsible for this is Splashes’ Executive Chef Ron Fougeray.

Chef Fougeray’s experience is extensive and impressive.  Time spent at Philadelphia’s most famous restaurant, Le Bec-Fin proved instrumental for Chef Fougeray. Le Bec-Fin was rated America’s finest French restaurant, and the Mobil Travel Guide consistently awarded it five stars for 40 years. 

A Chef’s background

During Chef Fougeray’s nearly seven-year tenure, he was mentored by renowned owner and French chef, Georges Perrier, and worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine. Georges left an indelible impression on Chef Fougeray, teaching him to expect only the highest standards for his menu, staff and cooking equipment. Chef Perrier continues to be a mentor and personal friend. 

In 2009, Chef Fougeray transitioned to Bibou BYOB, where he worked side-by-side with owner and chef, Pierre Calmels. He started off as Chef de Cuisine and worked his way up to Executive Chef in 2013. Bibou garnered a variety of accolades during his tenure. GQ Magazine named it one of “The Top 10 New Restaurants” and it was voted the top restaurant in Philadelphia on It was also named a James Beard Finalist for Best New Restaurant and received four bells (highest rating) from the Philadelphia Inquirer. There were only four restaurants in the entire city to be awarded thatdistinction.

Chef Fougeray makes his mark on Splashes

Chef Fougeray moved his family to Laguna Beach from Philly three years ago, and the Splashes menu changed from a softer safe menu, to a French cuisine inspired palate of flavors that represents Chef Fougeray’s enthusiasm and energy.  My good friend and fellow writer, Diane Armitage described Chef Fougeray perfectly: he reminded her of actor Edward Norton – angular, earnest and comfortable in his own skin. He is warm and full of energy, and takes his time to leave the kitchen to greet my guest and I, and tell us all about his delicious food and his inspirations. 

Chef Fougeray firmly believes in quality ingredients as well as a dynamic menu, he prides himself in selecting the best fresh produce hecan find and using that to create the magic in the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to taste the magic.

Our food journey

We were shown to a beautiful table overlooking the ocean and as we perused the menu, we were lucky enough to be presented with a small tasting of crisp octopus with chickpea puree, cured olives, Tuscan kale, fingerling chips and a Fresno coulis. This was the first time my guest had tried octopus and we both agreed it was really spectacular: fresh, tasty and not overpowering. The octopus was melt in the mouth good and the chickpea puree was prime for “dunking.”

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The Crisp Octopus

Usually when I am doing a tasting, I like to try things I’ve never tried before, however I had to go for, and introduce my guest to, the Brussels sprouts. Having never been a fan of Brussels Sprouts when I lived back in the UK, I have to say you guys over here know how to cook these bad boys and Splashes’ Brussels Sprouts are absolutely delicious. They cook them up with toasted sesame, marcona almonds, candied sweet potato and maple yogurt and the result is complete perfection. 

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Splashes’ Brussels Sprouts

Following this we chose the half dozen oysters, also from the Appetizer menu, these were delicious fresh and tasty, served with a cucumber mignonette.

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Oysters with Cucumber Mignonette

It was then onto the entrees and I decided to try the special that evening. A six-ounce seared halibut lay on top of a carrot and cumin puree served with asparagus, broccoli and beats.  As a food reporter I’m going to go out on a limb and say this was the nicest halibut dish I’ve ever had. The flavors meted together beautifully, and the fish was cooked perfectly. 

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Seared Halibut special of the evening

With me choosing a fish option, my guest chose the seared petite filet cooked medium rare and served with Yukon potato gratin, red wine cipollini, baby bok choy,  and a médoc sauce.  This was really beautiful. The filet was cooked to perfection, leaving that velvet feeling with each bite.

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Seared Petit Filet

Alongside our entrees we chose two side dishes, the shishito peppers, which are cooked with parmesan and preserved lemon, and the French green beans, cooked with shallots and Asian vin. 

It was then time for dessert and Splashes yet again does not disappoint.

We chose to share two desserts: warm bourbon bread pudding served with

honey ice cream and crème anglais. This was a little taste of heaven. The bread pudding was moist tasty and the honey ice cream complimented it perfectly.

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Warm Bourbon Bread Pudding

Alongside this we went for the dark chocolate millefeuille – a chocolate wafer, with chocolate ganache on an almond cake, served with mango cremeux. This was beautiful, rich and perfect to share and to take home – we both have teenage boys that dined on our take home leftovers.

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Dark Chocolate Millefeuille

Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort did not let me down. The service we received was outstanding, the view perfection, the ambience of the restaurant exquisite – and the food was above and beyond good. Like every single dish Chef Fougeray served us, the ingredients of this restaurant and the way they fit together make this place a ten out of ten every time.

Splashes, at Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 S Coast Highway

Lumberyard’s people pleasing menu 

is perfect for all seasons

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Located in the center of downtown on the site of an historic 20th century Lumberyard, Lumberyard restaurant has been a firm fixture in Laguna Beach for the past eight years.

A little backstory

Owner Cary Redfearn began as a busboy at the Marine Room in San Diego working his way through college on his way to a career in medicine, but quickly discovered that medical charts were no rival for the energy of the restaurant business. Before opening Lumberyard, Cary opened eight other restaurants including five Enterprise Fish Companies, currently known as Brophy Brothers (it was the John Dory when Cary ran it), in Santa Barbara and Walt’s Wharf in Seal Beach. More recently, Cary owned and operated Oysters Restaurant in Corona Del Mar from 1989-2010, which gained recognition as one of the most highly regarded restaurants in Orange County.

On the evening I reported on The Lumberyard, Cary was out of the area, but Erik Pulver, the manager, more than catered to our needs. Erik worked at Sage on the coast prior to coming to The Lumberyard three years ago.

A lot of local color

The Lumberyard prides itself on having a loyal local Laguna Beach following. It supports and holds events for SchoolPower, The Board of Realtors and many other local community groups. It’s also a hive of activity during art festival season, and is hailed as “the place” to meet on the opening night either before or after the festivals (or both).

With summer fast approaching and Sawdust Art Festival being around the corner, I felt this was the perfect time for my review of Lumberyard, and let you all know what it has to offer Laguna Beach families (and visitors).

For this week’s review I took along my daughter Lula, my friend Stacey and her son Parker. Both kids are 11 years old. 

Our food journey at The Lumberyard

As with every report I do, I like to make my way around the menu, ordering from different sections. We decided to choose a couple of appetizers for the four of us to share.  Lula chose the Fried Calamari, served with lemon aioli. (Those of you who read my reports weekly will know that this comes as no surprise when I bring Lula with me; she will order Calamari or guacamole every time). It’s worth mentioning that a gluten free alternative is offered here – Calamari Kung Po style with crushed peanuts, cilantro and carrots.

The Calamari was really good, small tasty rings and lightly fried small squid, which we all thought looked like deep fried tarantulas, giving the kids many laughs as they ate.

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Calamari Kung Po style

We also ordered the Ahi Poke, a favorite of mine everywhere I go, but I had not tried Lumberyard’s, and I was not disappointed. Served with avocado, seaweed, and crispy wontons, this dish was seriously delicious and I know I’ll be back to order it again. 

From the kid’s perspective

It was time to move on to the entrées. Lumberyard offers a great children’s menu, with choices of fillet and salmon alongside the usual suspects; chicken fingers, ribs etc. At this point I would like to tell you that my young culinary diners decided to extend their palates, and go for the slightly more adventurous choices on the menu. But as many of us know, 11 year olds know what they want (or at least think they do) and went straight for Chicken Fingers and Ribs. However, these were by no means “junk food.” With a choice of sides (naturally, these guys went for the French fries option), the children’s meals are hearty portions and fun – the chicken is a chicken breast cut to represent five fingers and lightly fried in breadcrumbs.  

The children’s dishes are presented really well and are exceptionally tasty. Like I said, the portion sizes are large and we did in fact box and take home some of the meal.

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Ribs: the portion sizes were large

Adult special time

It was time for the adults to chose and with a really diverse menu of steaks, fish dishes, salads and sandwiches, as always the choice was difficult. In the end, we went for the night’s special dish: Halibut on Asparagus and Spinach Risotto, garnished with a tomato ginger salsa. To accompany this we chose the Kale Salad, and we split the dish. This was really good, very tasty, light, with lots of different flavors and textures that all complemented each other beautifully. 

I always think its worth asking for the “special” in restaurants, as it really does challenge you to try new things, and you know that the chef will be doing his or her hardest to impress with the new featured dish. Even though we split this dish, it was more than enough, with me taking home a lot of the Kale Salad.

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Halibut on Asparagus and Spinach Risotto

Sweet for all

It was then onto dessert and we allowed our younger diners to chose. They chose Lumberyard’s Hog Heaven Pie, which has a cookie crumb crust, chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse, and topped with whipped cream. This was decadent, delicious and a big piece of pie. But we all made a gallant effort. 

Alongside this we chose the chocolate molten chocolate lava cake – a melt in your mouth chocolate cake that was as heavenly as the Hog Heaven Pie.

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Young diners enjoy every bite at Lumberyard

Our experience at Lumberyard was really very good.  It’s a perfect place to take your family pre or post art festivals (make sure to book though, as it does get busy), and with its huge local following you are guaranteed to run into someone you know. It’s a family friendly restaurant with great happy hour deals and a variety of handcrafted beers on tap, as well as TV screens broadcasting all the big games. 

Lumberyard is located 384 Forest Avenue  (949) 715 3900

Brussels and mussels make a fine combination on Forest Ave, our “little Europe” restaurant row

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Forest Avenue is like our own little taste of Europe: we have French, Italian and more, and this week’s food review focuses on our very own Belgium restaurant, the wonderful Brussels Bistro.

When I first arrived here in 2014 it was a World Cup year and as an avid football fan,  (I know you guys call it soccer but I just can’t get on board with that, I’m afraid) one of my first experiences of singing out in Laguna Beach was in Brussels Bistro watching England vs Holland. 

England lost but less about that… Instantly I loved Brussels Bistro, I loved the below ground cool basement style vibe, the wide variety of beers, the beautiful accents that resonate from the staff, but my absolute favorite thing was the fries. So when Brussels came up on my list as a restaurant that Stu News had not featured for a while, I jumped at the chance to go.

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My absolute favorite thing is the fries

Thomas Crijns opened Brussels Bistro in 2004 and it has been firmly established as one of the most celebrated restaurants in Laguna Beach, renowned for its authentic Belgium cuisine and of course its huge selection of Belgium Beers. It most recently won Open Tables February Diners Choice award, this alongside many other accolades since it opened. 

Seven months ago Thomas’ best friend of 40 years, Nicolas Servais, moved his family over from Belgium to partner with Thomas, a partnership that has only enhanced this already popular and successful bistro.

Brussels offers something for everyone: its weekly specials include Sunday steak and fries for $20 per person; Monday 50 percent off all beers when selecting an entrée; Tuesday “all you can eat mussels and fries” with a glass of beer or wine for $29 per person and Wednesday, any Belgium beer with an entrée for $25.  

My food journey at Brussels Bistro

As well as these themed nights, Brussels also offers a 4-6 p.m. happy hour and on Friday and Saturday nights, the bistro turns itself into one of the best dance music venues in Laguna Beach, playing dance music both European and American. 

I chose to do my report on Brussels on a Tuesday night. All you can eat mussels and fries? Er, I’m in!

Brussels prides itself on its mussels, which are flown in daily from Washington State and collected every morning from the airport. It’s estimated that they bring in 350 - 400 lbs every week.  

The Basic Broth starts with a base of celery onion and butter, which they call “Nature,” then additions are added, depending on what is ordered. Our server Adela was super knowledgeable and guided us through our mussel journey.

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Mussels Provencale

We started light with a small pot of Provençale, which is Nature, with tomatoes, basil and pastis. This was delicious, not too heavy but full of flavor and every mussel was equally as delicious as the next.  

Of course alongside the mussel dishes we had fries. Brussels fries really are the best, double fried in beef oil so they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. We were also given a selection of their special sauces to dip in which were all spectacular. 

The next pot of mussels were the marinara, probably the most common of the broths available, this is made of the Nature, with added white wine and garlic and was just delicious, especially mopped up with the fries or the bread that was presented to us. 

It was then time to move on to the main course style mussels, which are denser as they incorporate cream into the broth. We started with the Hoegaarden beer mussels, again made of the Nature base, with added cream and beer. These were gorgeous, the beer and cream together worked and now there was the dense creamy base, the broth stuck to the fries: perfect.

Being a huge curry fan, I suspected the curry mussels would be my favorite. I was not wrong… Nature, cream and curry powder made this wonderful broth that I dipped way to many fries into and devoured my own body weight in mussels.

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Mussels and tequila taste amazing

Just when I thought I had reached my mussel limit. Adela presented us with the special that evening Tequila, jalapeno and cream and wow – these were really good.  I’ve told people about them since and have seen a few screwed up faces at the thought of tequila and cream, but trust me it really works.

My overall experience of Brussels was really very good. Everything about the Bistro from its décor to its website design to its menu is cool European chic. I love that fact that in the heart of California I can escape into this little basement and feel I’m in Europe again, which as much as I love Laguna, it’s nice to do at times. It was great to see that Brussels is so forward thinking in its weekly deals, and I am not surprised that it has won as many awards as it has. Well done Thomas, Nicholas and team on an outstanding Bistro. 

Brussels Bistro is located at 222 Forest Avenue and opens at 4 p.m. every day.



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