Tortilla Republic will contribute 20 percent of sales on Sept 27 to help rebuild Mexico City 

On Wed, Sept 27, Tortilla Republic will support and stand with Mexico City to help citizens after the recent earthquake.

Tortilla Republic Nachos: every bite helps

On that day, Tortilla Republic will be contributing 20 perecent of its sales to UNICEF’s effort to provide food, water, shelter, protection, and health care to Mexico City after the devastation of the recent earthquake. 

Along with the other sponsors, Herradura Tequila, will be serving $8 margaritas. For more information on upcoming events, visit www.tortilla republic.com


At 242 Café Fusion, artful sushi pleases the senses

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

If you’ve ever wondered what outer space might taste like, (and you don’t plan on making that trip anytime soon), or secretly wanted to feast on the sublime colors of a Monet painting (most museums frown on licking the paintings), visit 242 Café Fusion Sushi. All your wildest food fantasies, including some you’ve never even imagined, will come true.

In Laguna, we are surrounded by an abundance of the creative arts, but never have they been more evident than in the artful sushi of Miki Izumisawa, owner and chef of 242 Café Fusion. She has been in the rare category of female sushi chefs for more than 25 years. 

And if the definition of creativity is to focus on the connection between unrelated things, she possesses that quality with a capital C. She concocts dishes that are visually stunning, and unexpectedly co-mingles ingredients that would surprise the most educated palate, unearthing taste buds one never knew existed.

 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Chef Miki Izumisawa puts finishing touches on Aroma of Space Roll

“We would like you to enjoy our ‘Art’ with all of your five senses, so that it becomes a healing energy in your body,” Miki says. 

Before coming to Laguna, Miki worked for Nobu in Las Vegas, and she says that 25 years ago, the chef there, by combining different culinary traditions, introduced fusion-sushi cuisine. When she opened Café Fusion in 2000, she upended the twist on conventional sushi even further. 

The choice of this location for her restaurant was serendipitous, Miki believes. The very same yin-yang symbol she has tattooed on her upper back was etched into the concrete in front and on a block in the back of building. Since yin-yang represents the fusion of the two cosmic forces, or two halves that complete the whole, it does seem as if fate led her here, a perfect place for her to combine elements of diverse cuisines into exquisite fare.

 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Monet’s Garden

Miki comes to creativity naturally. She studied in Japan with the renowned Naka Bokunen, a woodblock print artist famous for his Okinawan landscapes. As an expression of her love for nature, these colors and scenery translate into her dishes. She explains, “I name the dishes out of aspects of nature to convey the significance of nature.”

(And she gives back by donating part of Café Fusion’s revenue to nature conservation groups such as WWF, “To send out love and appreciation to our planet Earth,” she says.)

“Each dish is a handcrafted piece of art where our cooking ingredients come together like paint on a canvas. The main themes of my art are Nature, Gaia (Mother Earth), Space, and Feelings,” Miki says. 

An example of this is Monet’s Garden, a sashimi style dish which combines the lush lavender and greens of Monet’s landscapes with the simplicity of the fish (albacore, salmon, yellow tail, white fish, spicy tuna, and the pure flavors of the sauce (light soy vinegar) and toppings (Lotus root, tomato, ginger, which she pickles herself, mustard greens, salt Koji, purple cabbage, and Yuzu lemon Chia seeds). When I finally took up the chopsticks to taste it, it was impossible not to feel guilty about spoiling the beautiful design. But it was worth it!

 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Ocean Bubble

When I ask which are her signature dishes, Miki replies with a smile, “Everything is signature.” Her reputation has drawn celebrities to sample her cuisine, Pink visited only a few nights before, and in the past, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have dined there. Also, Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame has dropped in.

Another of her dishes that reflects the nature theme is Ocean Bubble, a carpaccio of salmon, yellowtail, and white fish, topped with chopped grape and sweet onion, jalapeno and mustard green sauce with a foamy topping (salt water dashi) as frothy as a wave. The taste surprise was the jalapeno, a wonderfully spicy contrast to the mellow fish and lacy foam. 

At Café Fusion, not only has Miki challenged the traditional role of male sushi chefs, she has taken it a step further. Yin-yang also means a starting point for change, and it’s apparent in her all female team. A force to be reckoned with.

 

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

(l-r) Marie Grow, Candice Benson, Miki, Ana Garcia, Evelia O’Campo

A newcomer, Marie Grow, who is training with Miki, came from Seattle, and has only been at the restaurant for a few days. She explains how such a young woman became interested in being a sushi chef. “An uncle introduced it to me after he went to Japan to study sushi. I always liked cooking, and I started as a server for three months.” Marie is clearly happy to be at 242, and says, “Miki doesn’t waste anything, everything is usable here and adapted into another dish, even salmon cheeks and fins.” 

Because Miki has no family in the US, and hasn’t been back to Japan in five years, it appears as if this team of women is her family. In her spare time, (if there is spare time, she works every night), Miki likes to hike in Bishop, Lone Pine, Shasta, and Yosemite, where she takes photographs. And as for her favorite foods, (doesn’t everyone want to know what chefs eat?), she likes kale and Italian food.

Nearing the end of the meal, Miki introduces the Aroma of Space Roll, a culinary trip to outer space, in more ways than one.

Miki says, “According to astronauts, space smells of raspberry, pineapples, rum, something burnt and charred metal.” Her interpretation of this aroma is pineapple sautéed in butter, freeze dried raspberry topping with a smoked flavor, seared tuna, yellowtail, salmon, albacore and black snapper. The sauce consists of Koji with salt, black sesame garlic, spice seaweed, and oolong tea. She finishes it with 10 different toppings, (black pepper corn, green pepper corn, pink pepper corn, all spice, goji berries, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, walnuts and pistachios) to represent 10 stars.

This is a dish that exemplifies Miki’s ability to meld together unexpected flavors and textures, smooth with crunchy, sweet with savory, the buttery pineapple and a sudden pop of a goji berry or pistachio. The tastes just don’t stop. And I didn’t want them to.

I’ll be back to sample more of Miki’s signature dishes, which just happen to be everything on the menu!

242 Café Fusion Sushi is located at 242 N Coast Hwy, 949-494-2444. For more information, go to www.fusionart.us.


Would I rue going to Roux? The answer is nooooo! Quite the opposite

Story by LYNETTE BRASFIELD

In March, my son Dylan and his wife Ann, who live in Brooklyn, New York, were scheduled to meet us in New Orleans for a few quick days together – precious days, given the distance between us. 

But quirky weather cancelled their flights, making the trip impossible for them, and that left my husband Bill and me feeling quite miserable, despite the great jazz and sensational food we enjoyed on Magazine Street. 

So when I heard that Dylan and Ann were going to be able to fly to Laguna over the Labor Day weekend, and that Roux, a new Creole restaurant less than half a mile from us, had opened – and then, that our regular food columnist Laura would sadly not be able to do the Roux review (which sounds like a dance, but isn’t) – I immediately offered to write the necessary report, thinking the restaurant a thematically and gustatorily perfect choice for the four of us.

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Photo by Ann

The Chef Tyler’s Brussels sprouts were amazing

The only snag is that I’m not an observant food writer. I like almost all food, with the possible exception of poi. If someone cooks a dish for me, then I’m pretty much guaranteed to love it, no matter what. My palate does not discriminate: it welcomes all flavors equally. 

Also, because I’m not much of a cook  (though I’m famous for my cottage pie, I will say), I barely know the difference between herbs and spices. I even pronounce herbs with an audible h! Blame my South African upbringing.

Plus I seem to have writers’ block when it comes to describing food. 

I know delicious when I taste it, and that’s about it.

Fortunately my dear daughter-in-law Ann is a great cook with an excellent culinary vocabulary, and Dylan has an imaginative turn of phrase, so I turned to them for help.

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Shrimp and grits: “a Mardi Gras in my mouth”

Thus it is that I offer their observations: Dylan described his shrimp and grits starter as “a Mardi Gras happening in my mouth.”

Ann suggested that the dish tasted so celebratory because of the quality of the homemade stock and the unique, subtle blend of seasonings, including bay leaf, garlic and thyme. The shrimp were “fat and tasty, and the rice was great,” said Dylan.

“Those grits were the best I’ve ever tasted,” Ann said. Her mother is Southern, so that’s some praise indeed.

Ann also explained why I found Chef Tyler’s Brussels Sprouts so amazingly tasty. “They were cooked perfectly, charred perfectly but in such a way that they retained their soft texture inside,” she said. 

“Some chefs carry the charring too far and the Brussels sprouts arrive burned and dry. But these Brussels are nice and big and succulent and the garlic brings out the slightly bitter taste in precisely the right way,” Ann added.

(This is not how we usually talk to each other, but the occasion demanded such exchanges of information.)

The service was terrific. The ambience, too, is delightful: dark wood and fleur-de-lis décor offer Louisiana charm, while the restaurant retains the casual yet intimate and buzzy vibe of the former Café Zoolu. 

My lovely daughter-in-law was also a fan of the ratatouille. Our server, whose name I have forgotten, which is a terrible thing for a food reviewer to admit, and which is just one reason why this is very likely the last food report I will ever do, told us that “you won’t find dishes with lots of cheese and tomatoes in New Orleans cooking.”

Ann concurred, believing that the ratatouille benefited by not being dominated by tomatoes, so that the flavors of eggplant and zucchini had a chance to introduce themselves independently to the taste buds. 

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Photo by Ann

Crab presented in a shell

She was also impressed with the presentation, especially her Creole Stuffed Crab starter featuring the crab in its original shell (or a close facsimile, I cannot be sure).

“What do you think, Bill?” I asked my husband about his Roux Catfish.

“Good,” he said. “Very good!” High praise indeed, from a man who talks in superlatives only when St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball is the subject matter.

The dessert, oh, the dessert! I never allow myself dessert because of the calories, but as a food reporter, I had no choice, did I?

We tasted the cheesecake, which was fluffier and lighter than New York cheesecake – “It’s Italian style,” Ann explained.

(Dylan wasn’t talking much at this point – his mouth was fully involved, like a California wildfire. An adjunct professor now for a decade, still, when he is taken out on the town, he reverts to college-age behavior and makes the most of every restaurant meal. It warms my motherly heart.)

Then came the bread pudding. “The bourbon sauce was awesome,” Ann noted. “The texture of the pudding was just right, silky and not too eggy.”

I could only nod in agreement. My mouth, like Dylan’s ,was busy, preferring cuisine to conversation.

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Photo by Lynette

My fortunate fellow food-reviewing family pre-Roux: Bill, Dylan, Ann

A word about the wine list: Among others, it lists wines that are “interesting,” which I felt was the perfect way to stimulate diners to try a little variety.

 With our fish dishes, we drank an excellent Leth Gruner Veltliner, an Austrian wine. Ann chose a glass of Evolution Pinot Noir from Oregon to go with her Hanger Steak, her entrée, which was served on a bed of garlic sweet potatoes and which she enjoyed very much.

“Most people would find this wine a little too light to accompany steak, probably they’d order something a little more full-bodied,” she said. “For sure, it would go great with all the seafood dishes. But I love this wine.”

Just as we all loved Roux. The food is simply – what’s the word I’m looking for?

I know! Delicious! 

(I failed to realize that, as a fill-in food reporter, I was supposed to have chatted to the chef before leaving…ah well. What is true is that Chef Norm Theard’s dishes spoke to me, Dylan, and Bill loud and clear, while engaging in a more nuanced conversation with the lovely, more culinarily conscious Ann.)

Who needs to fly to New Orleans, anyway, when you can get an Uber to Roux at 860 Glenneyre?

Editor’s Note: After we’d scheduled our dinner, Diane Armitage, a REAL food writer, sent us her report, which readers will enjoy… it also gives a little more background about the owner and chef.

 

Ain’t No Blues at Roux!

By Diane Armitage

Obviously, the tiny restaurant space at 860 Glenneyre Street has some serious mojo going on. For years the host to Michael and Toni Leech’s well-loved Cafe Zoolu, she re-invented herself for a soft-opening last weekend with a soft-spoken Chef and a rowdy rabble of happy Laguna fans.

Now, she is Roux.

I don’t believe it’s fair to do full-fledged reviews on a new restaurant until she’s gotten her legs under her. I’ve been on the other side - the restaurant development side - too many times! No matter how great all the pieces are, and no matter how ready you think you’re going to be, the initial opening of a restaurant is just too chaotic. (Actually, it’s more like an Oklahoma tornado. You do your best to take cover and ride it out.)

So, this isn’t a review of my dining experience on the second night of Roux’s existence … it’s just an observation on what I think the future holds for Laguna’s latest culinary addition.

In short, Roux has a long and happy life ahead of her.

Significantly spruced with the glow of New Orleans about her, Roux still bears the trappings of all that has been wonderful with previous chefs there - namely, the awesome Chef’s Counter that provides an unobstructed view of imaginative food in the making. I sat myself directly across from the co-owner Chef himself and enjoyed two hours of spying on practiced greatness in action.

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Chef Norm Theard

Chef Norm Theard is a classically trained French chef, which becomes immediately apparent as you see how he runs his French-inspired kitchen - rarely do any of the cooks need to step out of their four-foot “well” of specificity and, for the most part, they work in breezy, friendly silence.

This is going to be a locals’ hang out right from the start. For one thing, longtime residents and Saloon owners Michael and Cindy Byrne are co-owners in this project and I can’t think of a person in the five-state area who doesn’t adore this couple. 

Secondly, ROUX still has enough of the old Café Zoolu vibe to assure locals that the building’s appreciation of local love is still in play. 

Chef Norm Theard lives above the shop

Thirdly, there’s Chef Norm Theard who’s relocated to Laguna Beach because he’s committed, man. In fact, he and his wife live above the restaurant now. As local restaurants go, that’s always a sign of good will and longevity.

As the onslaught of family and friends ordered every imaginable thing on the menu, the team worked methodically and quickly, producing a raft of truly innovative dishes. New friends sitting next to me ordered the Roux Salad tossed with Pork Andouille dressing (that’s a first for me).

Many people believe that a restaurant’s greatness can be decided in the tale of the soups, but when I have the option, I think a chef’s proclivity can be just as easily determined by trying his or her grits. I dug into Chef’s Shrimp & Grits appetizer, the grits melding with bay leaf, garlic, cream, thyme and Yvonne sauce (typically a popular Orleans-instituted sauce of butter whisked to brown, and then removed from heat in the nick of time for added lemon juice and red wine vinegar). Everything in the dish was perfectly cooked and just the right temperature (grits are fussy, man).

My neighbors allowed me a photo of their Hanger Steakbefore mopping the plate clean. It’s a hearty portion of grilled steak atop garlic sweet potatoes, Ratatouille (a painstaking dish in and of itself), and a drizzle of parsley butter sauce. 

Photo by Diane Armitage

Roux Catfish

Noting that this will be the item I try on my next return, I order the Roux Catfish, which claims to be Chef Norm’s favorite. (When in a Hurricane 5 soft opening situation, always opt for the Chef’s favorite.)

Chef Norm imports this catfish because it’s “lighter and sweeter” as opposed to what some would term “muddy” tasting. Personally, I think this guy could dredge the Mississippi for catfish and it would still be spectacular. Simply sautéed in olive oil and secret spices, laid on a bed of Creole rice and Ratatouille, and crowned with shrimp, lump crab and browned butter sauce, the entire entrée simply melts in your mouth.

Alas, I arrived after the Blueberry Bacon Goat Cheese Cobblerhad sold out. I settled instead for Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauceand am sure I emerged the dessert winner of the evening.

As I said, this isn’t a formal review, just an opinion of her first howdy-do to the community. As her namesake proclaims, I think Roux is already a foundational element to Laguna’s growing culinary greatness.


Penguin Café: a place parents treasure, and for good reason

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Back in July last year, I was lucky enough to report on the Penguin Café, if you remember rightly I took my then-13-year-old son who I affectionately referred to as the bottomless pit. From that moment my son has become a firm regular in the cafe, often having a sandwich after a morning surf.

The Penguin Café has been in Laguna Beach since 1942, and is proud to be one of Laguna’s oldest family-run businesses. They have served generations of Laguna families.

Since 2001, Sabrina McMurray and her husband Michael have owned and run the restaurant, which has been in the McMurray family since 1968. Sabrina has worked there since she was 14 years old, in every capacity, as a waitress, kitchen assistant, cook and now the owner.

The café was originally named “The Penguin Malt Shop” and served vanilla floats and iced drinks (hence the Penguin title). Over the years the menu has evolved, and now the restaurant serves famously hearty made-to-order breakfasts and lunches using family recipes.

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Pie at the Penguin!

The past few years have been challenging for the Penguin Café. All the kitchen staff left to start their own businesses, so Sabrina has been spending the majority of her time in the kitchen.  

However, with a new chef and kitchen assistants, she is back at the front, warm and welcoming and socializing with customers. Sabrina is an extremely busy lady, so when I heard that the Penguin was to open two evenings a week (Wednesday and Thursday) for dinner, I half expected her to tell me she had hired someone to help. 

It turns out, no, this was all her and her husband Michael’s idea to give Laguna Beach more Penguin hours. She specifically chose Wednesday and Thursday nights as she realized that being a mom in Laguna Beach, these are sports nights, meaning cooking dinner is always a rush and not very satisfying.  

Penguin’s new evening menu can be ordered to go, so if your family doesn’t fancy sitting, then that is an option. For this report, we decided to sit in, “we” meaning four members of Stu News staff.

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My chili was fabulous

As with the daytime menu, Penguin’s evening menu is extensive with a breakfast-for-dinner menu featuring breakfast favorites, a burger section, and hot dog section as well as sandwiches, soup and salads. The hot dog section was created with Mayor Toni Iseman in mind, who once told Sabrina there was a desperate need for a hotdog place in Laguna Beach.

Our food journey

I decided to order from the soup and salads section and chose the chili bowl, this was a deliciously light homemade chili that wasn’t overly spicy, so great for those who are not keen on spice. You know me by now though, I ordered a side of jalapenos. 

Lynette ordered the burger and it was really exceptional, homemade and huge. Really tasty, with fresh salad to garnish, as well as a side salad to start.

Dianne ordered the veggie burger and was really impressed with the vegetarian option. Like everything in Penguin Café, don’t expect small portions. 

Shaena went for the Bird Dog, a special hotdog that comes with grilled onion, bell pepper, jalapenos, a scoop of chili with cheese and fries. This was outstanding! I think everyone on the table had food order envy.

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Shaena enjoys the Bird Dog

Alexis had a grilled cheese and I was so glad she did as she was the only one to order fries, so I stole a couple and they were delicious.

It was safe to say that everyone was completely satisfied and like everything at the Penguin it filled us up without breaking the bank.

It was then on to dessert and Sabrina (who loves baking) had made two fabulous pies. One was a mixed berry, which was warm, delicious and just like my grandma used to make, and the other a chocolate mousse cake, which was decadent and naughty.

 Sabrina plans on changing the pies weekly and believe me, it is worth checking them out. 

Once again Penguin Café really impressed me, I urge you all to go visit it one evening. Hungry athletes will thank you!


Oak is designed for locals, by locals, and its American food with Latin flair is proving a huge hit with locals

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Finally this week I was able to report on our new restaurant Oak in Laguna Beach.

This was a review I was so excited to do having watched the former Olamendi’s and Seaside Lounge restaurant being literally transformed over the past few months into a stunning contemporary cool space which now has a totally different vibe, making the most of its central location and killer ocean views. 

Upon arrival at Oak, you just know that this place is all about detail, from the stunning wooden flooring that extends to the out door courtyard area, the inviting hostess stand, the artwork, the beautiful crafted bar area with a cool muted tile that faces out to the ocean and the balcony with comfortable and chic furniture. It is truly a job done well and has quickly become the talk of the town.  

Which is exactly what the developers of this restaurant wanted.

Becoming a local hangout was “a most important factor for Oak”

The VP of Hospitality Ann Page explained that being a local hangout was the most important factor in the whole development of Oak. “We wanted a place that local people would love, tourists are of course always welcome, but we really wanted this place to be a local hangout, for families to visit after the beach or for lunch.” (Oak is now open for lunch every day.) 

As well as having a very cool contemporary vibe, Oak’s family-friendly side shines through, with a great kids’ menu and a box of toys, including fidget spinners, for children to choose from upon arrival.

Oak’s local vision is reflected in their menu, which is an array of American comfort cuisine with a Latin flair, developed by Oak’s amazing (more on him later) executive Chef Chris Tzorin. 

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Chef Chris Tzorin’s Oak tattoo: the restaurant has literally gotten under his skin

With dishes such as Brooks Street classic meatballs and cocktails named the Lagunarita and the Brah Berry this menu reads like a conversation between two local surfers on the shore at Hakama. With an array of cocktails, more wine and beer choices than you can quite believe, this restaurant has left no stone unturned when it comes to catering for Laguna locals. 

I was delighted to speak to Chef Tzorin himself to hear just how he developed this menu and his journey to becoming executive chef of Oak.

It seems that, as with many people who end up in Laguna Beach, there is history and a magic that connects people to our town and chef Tzorin is no different. Upon meeting Chef Tzorin I liked him right away, he is straight talking but with edginess, a coolness that is emulated by his many tattoos: he actually has OAK tattooed on his arm. He’s like a rock star chef but is a family man with a beautiful fiancée, one young son and a baby on the way in January. His father was the corporate chef of the Beach House (before the The Deck and Driftwood Kitchen) in Laguna as well as two other locations. 

At the young age of 20, Chef Tzorin first became an executive chef

Chef Tzorin loved to cook from a very early age. At 13, he would regularly take charge in the family kitchen and would ask question after question regarding the science of cooking, and his father encouraged him to always carry a notebook, so that if he ever had a question or an idea he could quickly write it down. He still carries this notebook in his back pocket to this this day.  

At 17 years old Chef Tzorin would leave La Quinta High School every day and take the bus from Westminster to Laguna to help his father out in Laguna Beach, it was here he really fell in love with the town. Working with his father taught him many things: kitchen skills, how to pace himself for long shifts, budgeting and devising menu’s based on specials and seasons. As well as working at the Beach House, Chef Tzorin was also enrolled in culinary school, where he graduated with honors at 19 years old.

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The Heirloom beet salad looked beautiful and tasted great

At age 20, Chef Tzorin decided to leave the Beach House, for no other reason than he needed to spread his wings independently from his father. He took up residency at Opah under the watchful eye of Laguna’s favorite Marc Cohen (230 Forest and Watermarc). Chef Tzorin learned so much from Marc Cohen and thrived under his watchful eye as a sous chef.  

During that year he received a call from the Beach House location in Dana Point offering him the Executive Chef position. “I was 20 years old,” Tzorzin says, “and being offered an Executive chef position, no way would I turn that down.” 

After a successful time there, Chef Tzorin moved onto private catering, before working at acclaimed restaurants such as French 75 and Savannah Chop House and he was instrumental in the opening of Tortilla Republic located here in Laguna Beach. It seems that Laguna just kept luring him back.

A star on TV too

Following a brief hiatus from restaurant cooking, Chef Tzorin worked in cooking PR, private classes and was involved in television programs such as Cut Throat Kitchen and Guys Grocery Games (he was the season nine winner). He travelled to Mexico, learning more about culinary fare, specifically locating himself in Tijuana, which has become one of the most dynamic culinary cities in the world.  

After that time he returned to Laguna Beach, more knowledgeable, more mature and more eager to settle and make something of his own.  

Oak came at the right time and Chef Tzorin has been involved in the whole design of the kitchen ensuring it was just how he wanted it to run.  He designed the menu, sat on the steps at Oak Street Beach, or sat on the staircase below the building as it was renovated, asking various Laguna Beach locals what they wanted on the menu. 

My Food Journey at Oak

I decided to approach this food journey as a true Laguna Beach local. I was salty sandy and fresh off the beach, when my two children and I went in for an after-beach day meal. Our wonderful server Bri Terrafranca seated us and immediately gave us her recommendations, which I love a server to do, as I am very indecisive. We started with a few appetizers family style (to share). 

The calamari served with rice wine coleslaw and sriracha aioli, was delicious: small crispy calamari, pretty spicy to taste but not greasy and a good portion size.  The crispy duck drums were spectacular with a sweet citrus glaze. And my personal favorite, the Local Albacore stack, which consists of a spicy soy sriracha marinade, mango, avocado and wonton chips was so tasty (there was nothing left).

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The crispy duck drums were spectacular

Alongside this we also ordered the Heirloom beet salad, served with burrata cheese, watermelon, radish, candied pecans and garlic oil.  Not only did this look beautiful, but it was so tasty and I loved the combination of the red and golden beets. 

By this point we were kind of full, Oak’s portions are very generous and the thought of trying an entrée was overwhelming. However like true Buckles we rose to the challenge by ordering two dishes to share that we were recommended by the chef and our server. 

First up was Chef Z’s Hot Chicken, which is Chef Tzorin’s take on a chicken sandwich. It is rare I will order chicken sandwich (always favoring a burger) but this was insanely good, served with hot sauce and pickles with a side of fries. Delicious.

Next was the Chilean Sea Bass with whipped potatoes summer squash and blood orange butter. This dish was really tasty and my youngest child, who usually only eats fish if it is breaded, devoured this. 

It was then onto desserts and Oak does not disappoint, they served us a combination of two – Frozen Nutella Cappucino served in a large mug and absolutely decadent, and the doughnuts and ice cream which my children boxed, took home and devoured for breakfast the next day. (I know, I am Mother of the Year.) 

The food at Oak was great, we shall definitely return, but that is only one part of this place that will bring me back. This place has thought of nothing but locals in its design and its execution. The staff are wonderful, the chef is inspiring and they are open to suggestion critique and adjustments. 

I urge you to go and try it as soon as you can. Oak is located at1100 South Coast Highway, #202 (above Gina’s pizza). Phone: 949.940.3010

Website: http://www.oak-lagunabeach.com


Waterman’s Ball was wonderful

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

On Saturday August 5, The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) honored inspirational professional surfer Bethany Hamilton as Waterman of the Year; Parley For The Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch as Environmentalist of the Year; and all- around surf industry legend Herbie Fletcher with the Lifetime Achievement Award.  

A Special Recognition Award was also presented to the International Surfing Association (ISA), the world governing body for surfing, for its unwavering and successful efforts in getting surfing included in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The 28th Annual Waterman’s Weekend was held at one of my favorite venues, The Ranch at Laguna Beach. This year the entire event was held at The Ranch with the Waterman’s Golf Tournament at Ben Brown’s Golf Course. The tournament took place on Friday, August 4 and featured a 3-club and barefoot format.

On Saturday, August 5 the industry gathered under the stars at The Ranch for the Waterman’s Gathering to celebrate this year’s honorees, raise money through silent and live auctions and enjoy a farm-to-table meal with friends.

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Laura Buckle with Bethany Hamilton

I was lucky enough to be invited along once again to cover this fabulous night for Stu News and as always the event did not disappoint. 

The Award Winners

Waterman (woman of the year) Bethany Hamilton: Bethany Hamilton is known around the world as the inspirational pro surfer whose determination, heart, and skills brought her back to competitive surfing after a shark attack in 2003. The attack left her without her left arm, however she overcame the odds to return to surfing at the highest level. 

Hamilton’s story has reached far beyond the surf community. Following the release of her autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (2009), and later with the release of the feature film Soul Surfer (2011) she inspired millions with her story. Hamilton continues to be an inspiration through her pro surfing and big wave accomplishments, and as an author, wife, and mother. 

I was lucky enough to talk to her and meet her beautiful family briefly where we discussed her life and her remarkable “just get on with it” determined attitude.

My children encouraged me to ask her one question, which was “Are you afraid of anything?” her answer was not being a good enough mom or a good enough wife is the only thing that scares her. She was truly deserving of this marvelous award and it was a complete pleasure talking to her. 

Environmentalist of the Year

SIMA’s 2017 Environmentalist of the Year was German-born Cyrill Gutsch who is a designer and creative entrepreneur based in New York City. At first glance, not what one would expect in an ocean environmentalist honoree, but a life-changing meeting with Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society inspired Gutsch to commit his life to protecting the world’s oceans back in 2012. That meeting was the catalyst for founding Parley For The Oceans, a non-profit network that seeks to facilitate collaboration across the fields of business, government, activism, art and science – with the ultimate objective of conserving the earth’s oceans. Gutsch has worked tirelessly in connecting many walks of life, people, cultures and businesses in order to create change, from pro surfers Greg Long and Ramon Navarro to Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth to companies such as Adidas and Corona. Gutsch is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the health of the earth’s oceans.

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“While he may not be widely known in the surf world yet, I can tell you that Cyrill is without question someone who is a friend of surfers around the world,” said Paul Naude, SIMA Environmental Fund President and CEO of Vissla. “Simply put, Cyrill is an agent of change, and his work to create a forum and network of others who want to protect our oceans is what the world needs right now. And the surf industry needs it more than ever. We couldn’t be happier to award Cyrill with the Environmentalist of the Year award.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: Herbie Fletcher

A Southern California native, Fletcher has continued to re-invent himself and the industry since he began surfing in 1948. In 1976 Fletcher created the revolutionary peel-and-stick Astrodeck, and went on to become an icon of self-promotion. In fact, his first foray into film in 1985 (Wave Warriors) was a self-made promotional movie for Astrodeck, and was followed by with four successful sequels. Fletcher was not only behind the camera, but also starred in several surf films in the 70s and 80s.

As the patriarch of the famous Fletcher clan (wife Dibi, sons Christian and Nathan and grandsons Greyson, Lazer and Jetson), Herbie remains as integrated in the industry as ever. His most recent projects include a RVCA + Astrodeck collaboration, and creating fine art pieces from broken surfboards.

Special Recognition Award – ISA – Fernand Aguerre

In August 2016, the announcement was made to the world that surfing would be included in the Olympic Games after decades of hard work and dedication from the ISA. SIMA honored the work of the ISA with the 2017 Special Recognition Award as the surfing community prepares itself for its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The award was presented to ISA President Fernando Aguerre who has tirelessly spearheaded ISA’s Olympic Surfing movement, a vision first pioneered by Duke Kahanamoku who is widely regarded as the “father of modern surfing” and was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming.  

Fernando was the life and soul of the evening’s event, both he and his wife were the most colorful people in town with smiles to match their fabulous outfits.

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The Ranch provided exquisite food

Mark Christy and the team at The Ranch pulled out all the stops for this event. The venue was beautifully presented, the organization ran without a hitch and the food we ate on the fairway of hole nine was exquisite. Not only did I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for the winners but also for The Ranch, which is proving itself to be one of the most fabulous venues In Laguna Beach.

A little bit about SIMA

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) is the official working trade association of more than 300 surf industry suppliers. Founded in 1989, SIMA is a non-profit organization that serves to promote awareness of the surf industry and participation in the sport of surfing through public relations efforts and a variety of services, educational programs and research. 

In addition, SIMA actively supports oceanic environmental efforts through its 501(c)(3) charitable environmental foundation, the SIMA Environmental Fund. In the past 27 years, SIMA’s Environmental Fund has raised more than $7 million for environmental groups seeking to protect the world’s oceans, beaches and waves. 

The SIMA Humanitarian Fund, also a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, was established to award grants to various surf or boardsport related social and humanitarian non-profit organizations whose efforts are focused on improving the quality of life, health and/or welfare of people. Since 2004 the SIMA Humanitarian Fund has raised and donated more than $1.7 million to surf-related non-profit humanitarian organizations. For more information regarding SIMA, visit www.sima.com.

Kya

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillepsie  Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

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