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Ribbon cutting at Tea & Turmeric draws crowd of well-wishers to congratulate the Reddy sisters

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Even though sisters Kavita and Vidya Reddy opened the doors of their Tea & Turmeric shop in December 2021, on Thursday evening, May 19, they were officially welcomed into the Chamber of Commerce. At the ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of Tea & Turmeric, Paula Hornbuckle- Arnold, acting interim CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, thanked everyone for coming. “I am excited to have Vidya and Kavita as part of our Chamber of Commerce.” 

ribbon cutting certificate

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(L-R) Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Dawn Kamber, Vidya Reddy and Kavita Reddy

Chamber Board Director Lynda Halligan Olsen was on hand and said, “We’re really excited. Tea & Turmeric is not only a local business, it’s a family business.” 

Fifty to 70 people attended, milling around the unique shop full of handmade products, the Reddy’s own blends of Indian spices, spice kits and teas, their Ayurvedic Wellness line and so much more. 

Dawn Kamber, field representative for OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, presented Vidya and Kavita with a certificate recognizing the opening of the shop.

ribbon cutting scissors

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(L-R) Lynda Halligan Olsen, Dawn Kamber, Vidya Reddy and Kavita Reddy

“The is a realization of a dream,” Vidya said. “This is a love note to our mother and grandmother. They instilled in us not only the love of food, but that it’s an expression of love, and it’s how we can communicate and connect. For the last two years we have all held our collective breath, but (on this occasion), let’s let it out together.” 

Kavita added, “Thank you for embracing our little dream.”

Attendees at the event were treated to amazing dishes Vidya made from her grandmother’s recipes and the sisters’ own personally blended spices. “It’s important to us because it’s not just about the recipes they left to us, but also that the food and spices are good for you,” said Vidya.

ribbon cutting interior

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Attendees 

They served their signature pink detox chai which is the top selling tea in the shop and one they blend themselves from their “granny’s” recipe. “We served curried hummus with pita chips and potato samosas with tamarind-date chutney,” Vidya said. “We also served our grandmother’s South Indian lemon rice. And finally there were spiced turkey meatballs. I made all the food, using the spice mixes in our Indian Made Easy Kit. It took me two days to make the food.”

Since the initial opening in December, Kavita and Vidya have rearranged the displays, transformed the center island and added more artisan products. 

ribbon cutting food

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It took two days for Vidya to prepare the food from her grandmother’s recipes 

“We understand the store better now,” Vidya said. “The event took over two months of planning because we wanted to have our new video series in place. In the store, we installed several tablets that run videos we made to show how to use specific products like our Booze Infuse.”

Kavita admitted producing the videos was a lot of work, but worth it.

ribbon cutting videos

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New instructional video series

The two months of planning included the completion of their Ayurvedic Wellness line, which they wanted to have ready to launch at the event. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medicinal practice that divides people into three constitutions or doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Each dosha has its own set of recommendations for eating, exercise and self-care for living your best life. 

Vidya explained, “We created an online quiz of 10 questions that identifies the taker’s dosha. We have the dosha quiz on an iPad in the store, where you take a few minutes to answer the quiz, which tells you which dosha you are. For each of the three doshas, we have a kit that includes a full lifestyle guide, a customized tea, a customized spice mix, a kitchari which is a cleansing food mix, a beauty mask and a meditation stone.”

ribbon cutting senate

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Ash Alvandi, district director for Senator Dave Min, presented a Certificate of Recognition to Vidya and Kavita 

“We were very pleased with the turnout and glad that everyone had a great time,” said Kavita and Vidya.

If you visit the Farmers’ Market, the Tea & Turmeric booth is there every other Saturday. Stop by and say, “Hello.”

Tea & Turmeric is located at 1175 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

For more information, go to www.teaandturmeric.com, or call 949.715.9600.


Red Dragon restaurant project approved, parking plans will return to council for final review

By SARA HALL

After being stalled for years due to a definition disagreement with a state agency, the Red Dragon restaurant project was unanimously approved by Laguna Beach City Council this week. But the conditioned approval included direction on the plans for parking, which will return to council for final review before the restaurant opens.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on Tuesday (April 26) to approve a Conditional Use Permit, design review, a Coastal Development Permit and several variances for the proposed restaurant at 680 South Coast Highway, formerly the Mosun restaurant and nightclub.

Although they also agreed that several conditions related to parking need to be worked out and return to council for review before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Several public speakers and local residents agreed that it’s a worthy project, but that the parking plan wasn’t clear and there were concerns about the potential impact on the neighborhood. 

“I’d like to see the project approved too (and) I’d like to see something that the neighborhood can support,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen. “It sounds to me like there is a deal to be made there, it just needs more work.”

“Things need to be nailed down,” he added.

Conditions related to off-site parking agreements, a valet plan and employee parking can be modified to note that they will return to the council prior to the issuance of a COO, confirmed Principal Planner Martina Caron. 

Related to the other key items of discussion, councilmembers also agreed to a maximum of 150 seats, hours of operation limited between 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and parking planned for at least 52 customers and 30 employees.

Ultimately, the council approved a motion that also included removing take-out from the resolution (it was initially included in the previously approved CUP), but allowed for delivery services.

Whalen suggested they grant the CUP with the required condition that it comes back to the council on the items specified.

Others agreed that the parking plan is the biggest issue that needs to be settled before it returns.

Councilmember George Weiss said he loves the project, but is concerned that they are “pushing the envelope,” in terms of the parking not being fully thought out.

“It’s kind of messy,” he said. “There’s a number of moving parts to this.”

He suggested holding off on the applicant-requested breakfast hours until the parking plan is solidified and studied to ensure it’s working as expected. This is a high-end restaurant that will likely attract people from the surrounding areas, he noted, so it will likely be busy.

The building is beautiful and it’s a great addition to the city, he noted, but it’s a lot of people to accommodate and vehicles to park. 

“I support this project, I want it to go through,” Weiss said, “but I want it to go through with the best solutions for parking that we can come up with.”

It’s not fully figured out quite yet, Whalen agreed, although the applicant team didn’t know what the council was going to require, which makes it hard to finalize any parking plans.

Red Dragon renderings

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach/James Conrad Architects

Proposed elevation renderings for the Red Dragon project

Overall, councilmembers liked the project and were excited to see it come to town.

 “I just love the building and I think it’s going to make a really great addition to our dining atmosphere here in Laguna Beach,” said Councilmember Peter Blake.

It will be an improvement to the previously “blighted” area, he said. It’s also not intensified over the previous use, he added, if anything it will be reduced from the nightclub use to fine dining.

The applicant has gone out of their way to get the parking mitigation plan to work, Blake said. Many of the guests will likely take Uber or other rideshare services, he commented. He doesn’t anticipate a parking problem. 

And it should be conditioned on the parking they are proposing to bring in, he added. 

 “As long as they can park what they say they can park,” Blake said. “I think it’s time we opened this restaurant up and let people enjoy it.”

It’s been vetted “up and down” since starting the process about six years ago, he noted. 

Council previously approved the remodel project in April 2016. Design review was required for the upper-level additions, elevated decks, rooftop equipment and some other modifications. It was determined not to be a “major remodel” and that there was no increase in intensity, therefore city staff found it exempt from the need for a Coastal Development Permit. The Planning Commission later approved a variance to allow the roof to be constructed over the proposed trash enclosure. Construction started in early 2018.

A member of the public challenged the city’s determination in September 2018 and requested a determination by the California Coastal Commission executive director.

After a site inspection and a stop-work order for some additional slab demolition that had occurred, it was still determined not to be a major remodel by the city. However, after some back and forth with the CCC, it was concluded that the development requires a CDP. Based on this, city staff advised the applicant that new plans would need to be submitted as required for a major remodel and a CDP.

Red Dragon current property

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The current property for the proposed Red Dragon project 

The city’s current land use element policy addresses major remodel, but it’s fairly vague, Community Development Director Marc Wiener noted at Tuesday’s meeting. It says more specificity is provided in the municipal code, but that’s not the case, he explained. 

“So, it’s really a difference in interpretation,” of what constitutes a major remodel, Wiener said, “the city’s understanding of that was different than the Coastal Commission’s.”

The CCC’s standard isn’t codified in the Coastal Act, he added, so it’s been a work in progress and developed through their review of projects.

“It’s kind of a moving target,” Wiener said. 

In the case of this project, the city believed it to be under the major threshold because almost 70% of the exterior structural walls are being preserved, but the CCC said the roof structure (which was completely removed) should also be included. 

Since that time, the city is now on the same page with the Coastal Commission, Wiener said. Staff is planning on bringing an ordinance before the council in June that will provide clarity to the definition and more flexible standards. 

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The CIiff Restaurant spotlighted for April

The Cliff Restaurant has been honored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris as the Local Restaurant Spotlight for April. The Cliff sits on a hill, overlooking the beautiful Laguna Beach coast. The Cliff is known for its signature cocktails, oceanfront dining, live music and gorgeous views.

The Cliff Petrie Norris

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Courtesy of the Office of Cottie Petrie-Norris

(L-R) The Cliff Manager Kathleen Davis, Banquet Manager Louie Mateo and Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris

“I’m so happy to recognize The Cliff as our Local Restaurant Spotlight for April. This family-owned favorite is a staple for the Laguna Beach community and offers world-class ocean front dining with a remarkable view,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.

Manager Kathleen Davis said, “We offer a stunning world-class oceanfront dining experience with 180-degree whitewater views. Our customers agree, best in Laguna!”

Visit them at 577 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, or their website at www.cliffrestaurant.com and follow them on Instagram @thecliffrestaurant and on Facebook @thecliffrestaurantlagunabeach.


The Ranch at Laguna Beach announces 2022 summer programming

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is gearing up for an exciting summer packed with outdoor activities and seasonal events. Nestled in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, the premier sustainable resort is hosting an array of interactive events and unique experiences for guests and locals alike to celebrate a true California summer.

To kick off the season, The Ranch at Laguna Beach is hosting the return of its Junior Explorers Camp for hotel guests. The weekday program will resume on June 15 through August 27 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Designed to spark children’s interest in the Great Outdoors, Junior Explorers provides immersive nature activities for kids ages 6-12. Camp enrollment is $75 per camper/day including lunch, Junior Explorer backpack, water bottle, T-shirt and patches. The daily itinerary is as follows:

Wednesday: Garden Party

Campers begin their adventure at The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s historical Scout Camp. Explorers will meet with Farmer Leo for a lesson on planting, germination, harvesting and composting at Harvest Garden. Following the garden session, kids will create seed jars to take home and round out the morning’s activities with games and lunch.

The Ranch Planting

Photos courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Campers will learn lessons on planting

Thursday: Artists Summit

Children craft nature journals and practice sketching in plein air. Explorers will learn creative techniques such as shading and brush strokes, evaluate different kinds of art at the resort and learn about the many artistic influences in Laguna Beach.

The Ranch Compass

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Junior Explorers will embark on a nature hike

Friday: Canyon Creatures

Explorers go on a nature hike, where they uncover traces of wildlife and make their own clay casts of their favorite animal tracks to take home. Children will learn about the rich history of the Aliso and Wood Canyons, dating back to Native American tribes.

Saturday: Aviation Adventure

Campers are greeted by hawks and owls in an interactive session with the Orange County Birds of Prey Center. Kids will learn about raptors and rehabilitation, build owls out of pinecones, and end camp with a final round of games and lunch.

The Ranch Owl

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An owl is among the raptors greeting campers, courtesy of the Orange County Birds of Prey Center

In addition to the Junior Explorers Camp, The Ranch at Laguna Beach will also host a range of summer events to maximize longer days and balmy evenings. These weekly events include garden tours, stargazing with a master astronomer, daily live music on The Porch, complimentary weekend fitness classes, a round of golf on Ben Brown’s, and Grill ‘N Glow fire pit rentals at Lost Pier Café, the resort’s oceanfront dining venue on Aliso Beach.

The Ranch Ben Brown's

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Enjoy a round of golf at Ben Brown’s

For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach’s summer programming, visit www.theranchlb.com/play/events/. To make a reservation, contact 949.499.2271, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is located at 31106 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.


The Great Food Truck Race rolls into Laguna with a fantastic fleet of culinary kitchens on wheels 

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The Great Food Truck Race is a reality television and cooking series that originally aired on August 15, 2010, on Food Network, with Chef Tyler Florence as the host. Billed as a cross between Cannonball Run and Top Chef, this show features several competing teams of three who drive across the United States in their food trucks and make stops every week to sell food in different cities. The 14th season titled “All Stars” premiered on June 6, 2021.

the great FOA

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All veteran-operated Southern Pride Asian Fusion drew in crowds at FOA

With Chef Tyler at the helm, on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the 2022 competitors came into Laguna for the filming of its 15th season. 

Even before The Great Food Truck Race, Chef Tyler has delighted the masses by sharing the sights, sounds and flavors of his unique culinary vision with fans around the world. After graduating from the prestigious culinary program at Johnson & Wales University, he tackled the Big Apple where he helmed multiple acclaimed restaurants and established himself as one of New York City’s finest young stars. His most recent restaurant opening took place at the end of 2021, with Miller & Lux, a modern American high-end steakhouse in the Warriors’ Chase Center’s Thrive City, San Francisco. He resides in nearby Mill Valley.

the great plant based

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Senoreata serves up plant-based food

The Great Food Truck Race pits teams of food truck operators in a series of challenges that test their culinary skills and teamwork. The show travels across the country each season, with the competing food trucks on the road shining a spotlight on different cities. At each location, the food truck teams set up shop and compete for the most sales. The team that earns the least will have to “turn in their keys” and leave the competition (drive home). 

Second day of filming

On Thursday, the Food Network filmed residents and visitors partaking of all the various food delights. Hailing from Los Angeles, Mikayla [food fan] tried out the salmon and coconut rice from Saute Kingz from Florida, which was parked in the Royal Hawaiian parking lot. Mikayla gave the dish rave reviews. “I saw the news that the food trucks were going to be down here, so we came to sample them,” she said. 

the great mikayla

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“The Great Food Truck Race” fan Mikayla came all the way from L.A.

In the first two seasons of The Great Food Truck Race, the competitors were seasoned, professional food truck operators who were competing for a cash prize (first season was $50,000 and second season was $100,000). In the following seasons (save for season six), food trucks were provided to novices (from home cooks to former restaurateurs) who have dreamt of owning and operating their very own food truck. In seasons three, four and five, the winning team got the money and got to keep the food truck they were provided by the show. In season six and onward, the show reverted back to awarding the winning teams just the $50,000.

Lots of locations 

At Pavilions Parking lot on Thursday

–Girl’s Got Balls: This women-owned food truck from Fox River Grove, Illinois served a variety of ball-shaped, handheld gourmet eats. Their flavors kept you wanting more! This was the only food truck fare I sampled, and the Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Ball was an orb of delight.

the great balls

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Girl’s Got Balls is a women-owned and run food truck

–ESO Artisanal Pasta: Offered authentic tastes of Italy across New Jersey fare, such as Sicilian Fried Chicken, Cavatelli and Green Goddess Bruschetta.

–Senoreata: All plant-based offerings such as Picadillo Nachos and Ceviche with hearts of palm.

–Maybe Cheese Born With It!: From Toledo to Laguna, this is the only drag queen mac & cheese food truck from Ohio. Who doesn’t love mac & cheese?

the great drag queen

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Maybe Cheese Born With It! is Ohio’s only drag queen mac & cheese food truck 

–Salsa Queen: From Florida, they featured Day of the Dead décor and dishes such as Heart Attack Quesadillas, Commando Tacos and Buffalo Chicken Tostadas. 

At the Royal Hawaiian parking lot on PCH:

–Sauté Kingz: Hailing from Daytona Beach, Florida, they use the freshest locally sourced ingredients, herbs and produce. Among their menu offerings was baby salmon or chicken with orzo pasta.

–Food Flight: They are new, and this is the first competition for them. They walked the short distance to Heisler Park with samples to entice visitors with offerings such as Machu Picchu Steak Sandwiches.

At the Festival of Arts:

–Southern Pride Asian Fusion: This food truck is run by three military veterans who met a culinary school.

the great salsa queen

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Salsa Queen

History of American food trucks

Lest you imagine that food trucks are a new phenomenon, the history of American food trucks dates back many years. Mobile dining and street food have been part of American’s dining habits since the late 17th century where it could be found in many of the larger cities on the East Coast. In 1691, New Amsterdam (now known as New York City) began regulating street vendors selling food from push carts.

the great ESO

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ESO Artisanal Pasta brings the authentic taste of Italy to their menu offerings

Since then, food trucks have taken a front seat in the world of American street food and are part of an ongoing food revolution. Food trucks have become so popular that in October 2010, the prestigious Zagat guide announced that in 2011 they would begin to provide reviews of food trucks. In June 2014, the National Food Truck Association was formed, creating the first national association of food truck associations.

the great food flight

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Food Flight gave out samples in Heisler Park to entice visitors 

Food truck fare is here to stay and as time goes on is becoming more sophisticated and versatile, and on Wednesday and Thursday, lucky residents sampled some of the best.

However, we’ll have to wait until the show airs this summer to find out who won!


Two Laguna Beach restaurants selected for Illumination Foundation’s Chef’s Table Culinary Gala, March 27

Two popular eateries in Laguna Beach have been selected to showcase the culinary skills of their chefs at the ninth annual Chef’s Table Culinary Gala presented by nonprofit Illumination Foundation. 

Set for Sunday, March 27, the event returns to the Disneyland® Hotel where a ballroom full of renowned local chefs will bring their extensive culinary chops to life, much to the delighted senses of guests.

Local restaurants include Harley Laguna Beach with Chef Greg Daniels and Oak Laguna Beach with Chef Nicholas Shipp.

Two Laguna Beach Daniels

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Submitted photos

Chef Greg Daniels, Harley Laguna Beach

Two Laguna Beach Shipp

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Chef Nicholas Shipp, Oak Laguna Beach

“We are delighted to have such a stellar lineup of culinary experts at our spectacular evening and look forward to a night of good food, good cheer, and most importantly, raising funds for a good cause,” said Illumination Foundation CEO Paul Leon. 

“We are delighted to have such a stellar lineup of culinary experts at our spectacular evening and look forward to a night of good food, good cheer and most importantly, raising funds for a good cause,” said Illumination Foundation CEO Paul Leon. 

The 2021 Chef’s Table raised more than $1.3 million. Illumination Foundation was able to purchase and open a fourth family emergency shelter for homeless families with children with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Proceeds from this event will support a campus in Santa Ana that will provide housing for seniors and families, as well as a preschool. 

This year’s Chef’s Table will once again be co-chaired by Dr. Jacqueline Dupont-Carlson and Karen Jordan. For sponsorship and ticket information, visit https://auctria.events/Chefstable22.

For more information on the Illumination Foundation, visit www.ifhomeless.org.


Table for Ten draws area’s top chefs, raises more than $300,000 for Pascal Culinary Scholarship Program

Table for Ten, orchestrated annually by Kristin Martin and KM Productions for deserving non-profits, held its 16th annual culinary extravaganza at the Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters grounds on Sunday, March 6. More than 300 gourmet food and wine lovers attended the sold-out event, with guests enjoying scrumptious multi-courses tableside from 30 talented chefs, along with superb wine pairings and tables uniquely decorated by each restaurant.

Table for Ten Pascal trio

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Photos by Tony Lattimore

(L-R) Table for Ten Venue Host Chef Donald Lockhart (Terra Restaurant), Event Chair Chef Pascal Olhats (Pascal Cuisine Catering) and Honorary Chef Ugo Allesina (Prego Restaurant)

A tempting silent auction was held during a reception prior to dinner on the Festival grounds that featured area chefs and wineries offering hors d’oeuvres and premium wines. The 52-bottle Bottle Shock Wine Tree opportunity drawing drew brisk ticket sales, with the winning ticket going to Dave Hoff. His wife, Traci Hoff, was the winner of the Heads or Tails game $500 prize – a very lucky couple! Supporter and wine connoisseur Mona Lee Nesseth donated the wines, valued at $4,000.

Table for Ten Nesseth duo

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Bottle Shock Wine Tree underwriter Mona Lee Nesseth with George Rozsahegyi

The event’s Honorary Chef, Ugo Allesina of Prego Restaurant, was honored by Pascal Olhats, the event’s Chef Scholarship Chair, whose culinary scholarship program was the recipient of the evening’s proceeds. He lauded Allesina for his culinary skills as well as giving his time and energy to a multitude of charitable causes in Orange County for many years.

Table for Ten Montage chefs

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(L-R) Montage Laguna Beach Chefs David Serus and Ben Martinek

Table for Ten Fougeray

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Chef Ron Fougeray of Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort 

Table for Ten St. John

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Chef Kyle St. John of The Ranch Laguna Beach 

Among the 30 participating Orange County chefs were Laguna Beach’s Chef David Serus and Chef Ben Martinek of Montage Laguna Beach; Chef Ron Fougeray of Splashes at Surf and Sand Resort; Chef Kyle St. John, The Ranch Laguna Beach and Chef Peter Moon of Seabutter restaurant. Among the Cocktail Reception hosts was Donald Lockhart of Terra Laguna Beach.

The live auction, led by spirited auctioneer DawnMarie Kotsonis, once again showcased an overnight villa stay at Pelican Hill Resort, including spa treatments, golf and a chef’s dinner for 10, as well as dinners offered by participating chefs in the winners’ homes. Included were Ugo Allesina of Prego Restaurant, Chris Tzorin of Taste Collective, Brandon Hall of Thyme Well Spent Catering and Jonathan Stanley of Dana Point Yacht Club.

Table for Ten Oswalds

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Kimberly and Daryl Oswald of Laguna Beach

The designated charity this year was the Pascal Culinary Scholarship Program, which creates grants for culinary arts students in Orange County. The program works with Saddleback Culinary Arts College, Orange Coast College Culinary School and chefs currently working who would like to go back and further their culinary arts dreams. Olhats, who launched the program, said, “The scholarships provide monies to offset or cover the students’ tuition, fees, books and equipment. The college foundations select the recipients based on need and merit.”

Table for Ten Seabutter

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The Seabutter restaurant table with Chef Peter Moon

Towards that end, Table for Ten netted more than $300,000, which will provide grants to deserving culinary arts students through the Pascal Culinary Scholarship Program.


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Bianchi Tasting Room: A tasteful tease to award-winning wines

By Diane Armitage

It’s been four months since the popular Paso Robles winery, Bianchi opened its “bottle shop” in North Laguna. It was almost an afterthought, really, as the primary reason for the real estate was to situate a southerly home office back in Laguna Beach where family co-owner Beau Bianchi resides. (He graduated from Laguna Beach High School, in fact.) 

Tucked in with just a small sign announcing its existence, you might think people would zip right past the place. On the contrary, Bianchi quickly proved a bustling resource to locals and fan visitors alike. The bottle shop proved so popular, in fact, that residing Manager Cristina Martinez one day asked Bianchi, “What’s a bottle shop without a tasting room?”

Bianchi and the rest of the ownership agreed with her. An added liquor license eventually allowed for the bountiful harvest of one sleek tasting room. It easily seats 14 to 16 people and is available for private parties for up to 20 people. 

Bianchi tasting room

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Bianchi’s Tasting Room in North Laguna offers wines by the glass, wine tasting menus and bottles to go

Nearly 50 years of winemaking

Bubblier than the first taste of sparkling wine she pours, Martinez adds a warm and funny presence in the cool, modern edifice. Most recently hailing from Lido Bottle Works in Newport Beach, Martinez is a fount of information on the three-generation winery that began in 1974.

Bianchi’s Paso Robles vineyards enjoy three distinct areas, each offering up award-winning Cabernets, Zinfandels and Merlot. Over the years, the family with resident Winemaker Todd Weiher, has forged relationships with neighboring vineyards to create signature blends of Chardonnay, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, too. 

Binachi wine close up

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Bianchi’s family vineyards offer up multiple award winners, each of which are available for tasting in the new North Laguna location

A taste of all the best

The Laguna Beach Tasting Room offers glasses and bottles of the entire Bianchi collection as well as a lively tasting menu of five select wines. The current tasting menu offers Sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc, Signature Chardonnay, Bianchi’s best-selling Reserve Duality Red Cuvée (75% Zinfandel, 25% Sangiovese) and Reserve The Geste GSM Blend. 

The Tasting Room has full charcuterie and cheese boards from Newport Coast’s Butchery, and neatly pairs three of the tasting menu’s wines with cheeses, too. A fourth wine, the Bianchi Signature Selection Chardonnay, is paired with a most enjoyable Laguna Beach Gourmet Popcorn, which hails from its “headquarters” just a couple miles south in the Village Gallery next to GG’s Bistro.

Bianchi wine and charcuterie

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Charcuterie pairings from neighboring The Butchery and Laguna Beach Gourmet Popcorn round out the tasting experience

“This is just a great place to drop in for a glass of wine, even if you’re not interested in doing a full tasting,” said Martinez.

“Yes, we see plenty of visitors to Laguna Beach during the day, but we’re meeting a lot of nearby neighbors in late afternoons and evenings who just stroll down the hill, and we like being that kind of mellow hang out,” she said. 

Beyond the Tasting Room, the Bianchi headquarters space houses several offices and a residential area that could eventually host larger parties and outdoor tastings. Although that result may be several months off, it’s refreshing to hear the Bianchi family planning in this direction, with vineyards in Paso Robles and roots here in Laguna Beach. 

Where to find Bianchi

Bianchi is located in North Laguna at 496 N. Coast Highway at the corner of Coast Highway and Myrtle, across from Laguna Nursery. The Tasting Room is open every day of the week except Tuesday. Hours are 4-8 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays from 4-9 p.m., Saturdays from 1-9 p.m. and Sundays from 1-7 p.m. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


The Great Food Truck Race kicks off Season 15 in Laguna Beach

The Great Food Truck Race, hosted by Tyler Florence, which airs on Food Network, kicked off Season 15 with a two-day stop in Laguna Beach, filming at venues around town.

Here are some photos taken during Day 1 of filming at Lot 10 next to Art-A-Fair.

The Great Food Truck Race Girl's Got Balls

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Photos by Jan Schrieber

“Girl’s Got Balls,” a women-owned food truck from Fox River Grove, Illinois, will be featured on Season 15

The Great Food Truck Race Maybe Cheese

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“Maybe Cheese Born With It!” is Toledo, Ohio’s only drag queen mac & cheese food truck

The Great Food Truck Race Salsa Queen

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Let’s make it spicy with the “Salsa Queen” food truck

The Great Food Truck Race ESO

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 The “ESO Artisanal Pasta” food truck brings the authentic taste of Italy across New Jersey

The Great Food Truck Race Southern Pride

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 The “Southern Pride Asian Fusion” food truck is powered by three military veterans who met at culinary school

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for Stu News Laguna’s Tuesday edition, to check out Day 2 and where The Great Food Truck Race filmed in town…let’s get rolling. 


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Laguna restaurants love Valentine’s Day 

By Diane Armitage

For the last several years, Valentine’s Day has always been mixed into the same weekend as Presidents’ Holiday, and it’s like the Fourth of July here in the middle of February. We go from empty streets to packs of roving people in a matter of hours. 

This year, however, our merchants and restaurants might actually enjoy a double whammy with two back-to-back weekends bringing in droves of visitors. Starting on Feb. 11, the hotels and resorts in town are telling me they’re nearly sold out for the Valentine’s Day holiday. And, starting on Feb. 18, they’re telling me the same for the Presidents’ holiday. 

To open or not open on Valentine’s Day?

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday, several of our restaurants had a decision to make because they typically shutter on Monday nights. Although most like Ristorante Rumari have announced opening for this special night, AhBa Owner Nick Bennett decided to stay closed and Harley’s Chef Greg Daniels chose to focus on the busy Friday/Saturday prior instead of opening on Monday night. Wine Gallery Owner Chris Olsen is still weighing his options. 

Laguna restaurants Connole

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Photo by Diane Armitage

Local favorite Ristorante Rumari will be opening on Monday night (just for Valentine’s Day) with Chef Craig Connole dishing his usual (giant) flavorful dishes

Some restaurants already sold out

Some Laguna Beach restaurants are already reporting that they’re solidly booked and not accepting more reservations for Valentine’s evening (Monday, Feb. 14) (i.e., The Drake, Harvest at the Ranch Laguna Beach, Splashes at Surf & Sand). Most restaurateurs who have reported in, however, are still noting room for reservations, but be quick about it! 

Keep in mind, too, that you can celebrate Valentine’s Day all weekend long prior to Monday, with many restaurants offering their “special weekend” specials throughout. 

Specials for the weekend, specials for the yay

For Valentine’s, most of our Laguna Beach restaurants are offering their main menu fare with super specials added in. Be sure to check out those specials at restaurants such as G.G’s Bistro, The Cliff Laguna Beach, Starfish, Reunion Kitchen, 230 Forest, Romeo Cucina, Ristorante Rumari and Sapphire.Cellar.Craft Cook.

Lumberyard’s Cary Redfearn is using the holiday to post a number of new entrée items from Chef Primo, including a fabulous new Rainbow Roll and Surf ‘n Turf for two. Dessert options include their new Churros with warm chocolate dipping sauce. They’re served up with horchata, one of my most favorite drinks of Mexico made with rice, cinnamon and vanilla and strained for a rather decadent beverage that looks like milk but tastes so much better. 

Keep in mind, too, that Lumberyard’s little sister, The Yard Bar, will also be opening Saturday and Sunday of Valentine’s weekend, which is happy news for those of us who have come to love that peaceful patio. 

Romance & prix fixe go together like wine & chocolate

Many Laguna restaurants are offering specialty prix fixe menus on Valentine’s evening. 

Broadway by Amar Santana’s menu includes options of Seabass, Roasted Duck Breast, Filet Mignon and a most enticing Coconut Passion Seduction dessert. 

C’est La Vie’s Antonio Roa’s entrée options included Seared Scallops, Chateaubriand, Branzino, Roasted Duck and Cotes D’Agneau (lamb chops). Save room for dessert as C’est La Vie offers a significant variety of options.

Laguna restaurants C'est La Vie

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Courtesy of C’est La Vie

C’est La Vie’s Valentine prix fixe menu includes one of Chef Antonio’s bestsellers – the Roasted Duck with orange glaze sauce

 Las Brisas will offer both main menu and a hearty five-course prix fixe menu with entrées that include Grilled Lamb Chops, Butternut Squash Tamales and Filet of Beef, too. 

Oliver’s Osteria is quickly filling with reservations for its specialty Valentine’s Day menu (small wonder). Starting with course options of Antipasto, Chef Erick wraps in a second course of Pasta before landing on entrée options that include Braised Beef with velvety mashed potatoes, Chilean seabass and Eggplant stuffed with salty ricotta, cherry tomato and basil. 

If, by the way, you would rather avoid the Valentine crush, consider giving a Valentine’s Day gift for Oliver’s Tuscany Wine Dinner, set specifically for “2/22/22” at 7 p.m. It’s just $80 per person (tax and gratuity extra) and will feature Azienda Vinicola Frescobaldi wines. 

Laguna restaurants Oliver's

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Courtesy of Oliver’s Osteria

Chef Erik’s Branzino at Oliver’s Osteria

Ivan Spiers’ Mozambique and Skyloft are, once again, offering a plethora of entrée items to choose from in their prix fixe menus. 

Mozambique’s menu offers Sea Bass, Steak & Lobster, Grilled Prawns, the New Zealand Rack of Lamb and best-selling specialty dishes such as the Peri-Peri Chicken and Durban Curry. 

Mozambique is also offering live acoustic music on the Rooftop and in the Durban Room. 

Laguna restaurants Mozambique

Courtesy of Mozambique Steakhouse

Mozambique’s large prix fixe menu includes its popular Steak & Lobster combo as an option

Skyloft’s prix fixe menu offers its bestsellers, too, from Scallops and Sea Bass to Halibut, Red Tiger Jumbo Shrimp, Steak & Lobster, Cajun Pasta and the Skyloft BBQ Plate (to name a few). Skyloft is also offering live music on the rooftop. 

Make your reservations as soon as possible

I know you may have Superbowl on your mind as next weekend’s first priority, but be sure to book as soon as possible for your Valentine’s dinner plans out in Laguna Beach. Enjoy the love! 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).

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