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Kitchen in the Canyon presents Mother’s Day “Brunch and Blooms in the Canyon”

Mother’s Day is on Sunday and Kitchen in the Canyon is hosting a very special “Brunch and Blooms in the Canyon.” The Flower Stand will be on hand with dried flower bouquets for the moms to cherish for a lifetime. 

Kitchen in toast

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Photo by Grant Puckett

Treat mom to some tasty French toast at Kitchen in the Canyon 

As for brunch, for those moms with a sweet tooth, the French toast topped with a homemade strawberry sauce is a top choice. For those craving a more savory plate, the avocado toast garnished with micro greens and pickled red onions is highly recommended. Pair it with a warm cup of coffee or grab a mimosa and celebrate. 

Kitchen in the Canyon is open everyday from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. at 845 Laguna Canyon Rd.


“Changes in Latitude Happy Hour” kicks off at Royal Hawaiian next week

It’s been one month since the newest rendition of The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill opened with Chef Owner/Operators Maro Molteni and Martin Molteni. 

“My brother and I have opened many restaurants around the world, but we’ve never experienced an opening like this one,” said Chef Maro Molteni. “Everything started off with a giant bang and it hasn’t slowed much since. 

“It’s been great to see so many of my former patrons from my previous restaurant show up, and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know the North Laguna contingency of locals and their friends,” he said. 

“Changes in Latitude Happy Hour” kicks off next week

In celebration of its one-month anniversary, and in thanks to all the many loyal patrons who have supported the restaurant’s opening, the Molteni brothers are announcing their newest addition, the “Changes in Latitude Royal Hawaiian Happy Hour.” 

The “Changes in Latitude Happy Hour” begins Tuesday, May 7, from 4 to 6 p.m. The happy hour will continue six days a week, Tuesdays through Sundays (the restaurant is dark on Mondays). It will not be available on Mother’s Day but will otherwise stay in play year-round.

“If you’re going to name your happy hour ‘Changes in Latitude,’ you have to provide that attitude-shifting experience all year long for your locals and incoming visitors. We really want this to be the place where everyone goes to celebrate all the good in our lives,” said Chef Maro. 

A revolving, evolving Happy Hour Menu

With summer approaching, the initial “Changes in Latitude” menu focuses on signature, frosty RoHi cocktails, select summery wines, craft beers, and well drinks at special pricing.

Changes in Lapu Lapu

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Submitted photo

The infamous Lapu Lapu cocktail is still the restaurant’s #1 best-selling cocktail

The restaurant has reintroduced the original recipe for the infamous Lapu Lapu cocktail. Still the restaurant’s #1 best-selling cocktail, it is also available on the new “Changes in Latitude Happy Hour Menu” at special pricing.

The popular Blue Hawaiian cocktail is also making an appearance on the new “Changes in Latitude Happy Hour Menu” at special pricing. 

Much like the ever-changing dinner menu of entrées, the chef brothers have created a Happy Hour menu that will also change and evolve through the seasons. 

Pair your drink with an innovative appetizer menu with all items priced between $5 and $10. Try authentic Hawaiian Ahi Poke served with house-made sweet potato chips, Grilled Shrimp Skewers, Wood-Grilled Shishito Peppers and Edamame, Provoleta Flash-Fried Cheese Bites, steaming Empanadas with a variety of delicious fillings, and more. 

“Everything is finger food for a reason,” said Chef Maro. “We’re the Royal Hawaiian. Everything is casual and fun. And this is your vacation time now…even if you’ve worked all day.”

The Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill is located at 331 N. Coast Highway, a half block north of the Laguna Art Museum.


Culinary and visionary talents combine to take Las Brisas to new levels of distinction during 40th year

By DIANNE RUSSELL

It’s impossible to walk by Las Brisas’ crowded patio and not salivate over the food and the unparalleled view of Main Beach and the coast beyond. Yet, as Las Brisas celebrates its 40th year in business, new General Manager Howard Gardner and new Executive General Manager Michael Gaines visualized a culinary revamp that would take the legendary restaurant up a notch – or after tasting some of the innovative dishes, I’d say quite a few notches. 

A significant Southern California landmark perched above the scenic Laguna Beach coastline, Las Brisas is a premier dining destination. A strong sense of history stretches back to the Victor Hugo Inn, a world-class eatery and celebrity getaway that debuted in 1938. The breezy retreat overlooking the Pacific transformed to Las Brisas in 1979, yet still retained the beauty and charm of a romantic, bygone era.

Culinary and dining

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Courtesy of Las Brisas

Unparalleled view

Although the restaurant underwent modifications in 2017, the new changes will bring it more in tune with its magnificent surroundings. 

Gardner, who brings more than 25 years of experience from revered establishments such as Water Grill, says, “The menus were fragmented. There was a separate one for the patio and the dining area. Our goal was to unify and elevate the dining to a new level, with the intention that the inside and outside spaces and the culinary experience match the extraordinary views. We wanted the food to equal the ambience.” (To this end, the former Sunday buffet is now full service as well.)

With this goal in mind, Gaines, an Orange County native whose diverse background includes posts in Michelin-starred kitchens in northern California, and being a restaurant owner himself, collaborates with Las Brisas’ esteemed culinary team to redefine modern coastal cuisine.

Culinary and fish

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Courtesy of Las Brisas

Conramar Fish 

They’ve already opened up the area next to the patio and plan to put booths in along the windows. Additionally, within the next six months, they will reupholster the dining room booths, update the bar and replace the outdoor awnings. “We’re taking it step by step,” says Gardner. “We also retrained the crew and introduced new uniforms.” 

The cuisine is described as seafood focused with a Mexican touch. Gaines’ touches are subtle and sublime; the parsley herb finish on the Conramar fish, the cauliflower puree with the scallops, and the unexpected crisp smoked salmon tostada. It’s certainly not your everyday smoked salmon on a bagel, no one would imagine the flavor of smoked salmon, crema, capers, and pickled red onion could pair so well with a tiny crisp tortilla. 

Culinary and salmon

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Smoked Salmon Tostada

The Contramar fish (snapper) for two, served with rice, beans, and homemade tortillas, begged to be assembled into fish tacos, which many at the table took to heart. Inspired by a restaurant in Mexico, only a certain number of these dishes are prepared each day. The fish is mild and perfect with the accompaniments, and the homemade tortillas are dense enough to handle them. 

Gaines says that they use 200 lbs of masa every day for the tortillas (and 12-15 cases of avocados). The tortilla chips, the salsas, and the guacamole are all made on-site.

I didn’t taste the Pork Spareribs with Chipotle Glaze, but my tablemates remarked on their tenderness and the “not too heavy” sauce, which they said, “Starts off sweet with a great spicy afterbite from the chipotles.”

Culinary and scallops

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Courtesy of Las Brisas

Seared Sea Scallops

The sea scallops were a favorite. Seared, they are served on a cauliflower puree with tomatillos, green olives, and wine beurre blanc. The puree and salt of the olives accent the silkiness of the scallops.

The white shrimp and crab ceviche is fresh and light with a surprise crunch of jicama. Not heavy-handed with seasonings as so many ceviches are, this one lets the individual flavors soar.

In refining the menu, Gaines decided to limit the dessert options to three: Traditional flan, which is the right texture (not too custardy) and flavor, and not overpowered with caramel. It’s served with seasonal fruit, in our case tangerines. 

Culinary and flan

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Photo by Dianne Russell

Traditional Flan

The chocolate flourless cake, when eaten with a small dollop of the whipped cream, is a combination made in heaven. The third dessert option is a trio of sorbets – coconut, mango, and pineapple, which I will give a try next time.

“Our number one priority is ensuring that our longstanding community and visitors have an exquisite experience from the moment they step on the Las Brisas property. The views are, as always, stunning, and our goal was to create a culinary program that is just as memorable,” Gaines said.

And they have succeeded. Mine was a blissful experience, one shared by those around the table who all commented on the superb and inventive fare. Gaines’ culinary talents and the management expertise of Gardner have combined to make their vision come to fruition.

Las Brisas is located at 361 Cliff Dr.

For more information, go to www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com or call (949) 497-5434.


Guest Chefs at Friendship Shelter

Guest Chefs group

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Submitted photo

The Visit Laguna Beach team served dinner at the Friendship Shelter on April 24 to give back to the local community. Each night, volunteer “Guest Chefs” provide dinner to the clients in both shelter programs. The emergency shelter in Laguna Canyon is always looking for volunteers and groups to drop off an already prepared meal. Not only is this a truly meaningful way for volunteers to directly connect with the people they’re helping, but it provides significant budget relief for the organization.


Barbara’s Column

A tasteful night in Laguna 

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Photos by Doug Miller

The Laguna Board of REALTORS® and its Charitable Assistance Fund hosted a tasty party Wednesday night at Seven7Seven.

“A Taste for Charity” is one of the Realtors’ two biggest and most enjoyable fundraisers, 

“It was a fantastic event,” said Realtor Marcus Skenderian, whose company COMPASS was a sponsor. “There was a great cross section of people, not just Realtors. And it raised a lot of money.”

Founded in 2004, the Laguna Board of REALTORS® and Affiliates Charitable Assistance Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which exists to the benefit the local community, Realtors and Affiliates. 

The founding Board of Directors envisioned a nonprofit organization that would raise funds to donate to the local nonprofit organizations in need.

A taste Anne

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Tracy Brown, Anne Belyea, and Dr. Korey Jorgensen

In keeping with that goal, local organizations, which do not have other consistent means of support, are prioritized. 

This year’s event raised funds to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Laguna Food Pantry, Laguna Beach Seniors, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, No Square Theatre, First Thursdays Art Walk, Sally’s Fund, the Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Fund and the Charitable Assistance Fund, used for the needs of REALTORS® and Affiliate members in times of medical, financial and local disaster hardship.

Anne Belyea was on hand to represent the Laguna Food Pantry, Celeste Gillis represented LPAPA and Angela Shipp attended on behalf of LBHSSF. Past Laguna Seniors President Chris Quilter and John Fay, who Quilter said is leading the charge on behalf of Lifelong Laguna, were in the crowd.

A tasteful auctioneer

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Zack Krone, auctioneer, and his spotters

The event has increased in popularity since it began when mostly only Realtors attended. 

Skenderian opined that the crowd on Wednesday may have been the biggest ever. 

Proceeds had not been counted by the deadline for this column, but Community Events Chair Brendy Michael projected $70,000 would go to charities. Michael was assisted by Chairs Robin Thomas and Andrew Graff, in charge of the donated art; Dianna Redman, silent auction; Rick Graves, video production; Candice Henderson, restaurants; Ron Pickett, sponsors; and Denise Campanelli and Tracy Brown, theme decor and entertainment. 

Their combined efforts was rewarded in the money raised for these designated charities, but also because everyone at the event was having a good time. 

A tasteful Graves

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(L-R) Heather and Rick Graves, Pam McCurry, and guest

“We have only lived in Laguna for three years and we don’t go to many events,” said Sandy Jauregui, who attended with her husband, Rick. “But we will come back to this.”

“This” featured booths offering tastes of signature foods, ranging from barbecued ribs to gelato – hence the name. Participants included Skyloft and Tommy Bahama, both located in the Heisler Building on South Coast Highway, the oceanfront Cliff, K’ya Bistro in the Casa del Camino, and downtown eateries – Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico, Thai Brothers, Gelato Paradiso and Nirvana Grille, which also has dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.

As usual, there was a silent auction. Among the donors: Victoria Skimboard, Fawn Memories, Areo, Lisa Vanderbeck, C’est La Vie, Hennessey’s Tavern, Spa Josephine, the Coffee Bean, Gina’s, Sock Harbor, the Laguna Playhouse and the Pageant of the Masters.

A taste bidding

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Bidders battle for items

Temporary walls were covered with donated art. Donors included Tom Swimm, Dennis Zervos, San Caglayum, Michael Hallinan, Charles Pabst, Rick J. Delanty, William Crawley, Tom Lamb, Laura Cunningham, Anthony Salva and Lindsey Duffer. Marc Chagall and Lu Hung seriographs were also donated. 

And since the event was billed as a celebration of Laguna’s past, it should be noted that the Laguna Board of REALTORS® is an integral part of Laguna’s past. It was chartered by the National Association of REALTORS® as a local Board in 1924, even before Laguna Beach became a city. It has grown from a handful of real estate agents sharing information to a full service Board of REALTORS® providing all of the services and products its members require.

A taste group

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(L-R) Kurt Kress, Kristen Mullen-Kress, Loraine Mullen-Kress, Reuben Gulledge, Courtney Shepard and Rick Trevers

Also a blast from the past: KX 93.5’s early morning DJ Ed Steinfeld provided a feast of music from the Swing Era – Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, etc. For those who rise early, Steinfeld features in-studio performances, audience-inclusive games, the latest local news and community information.

Among the throng enjoying the evening: Stephany Skenderian, Tammy Skenderian, Dr. Korey Jorgensen, Brad Arnold and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Wendy Potter and longtime friend Susan Arrendondo. The children of each of them went all through Laguna Beach schools together, then on to UCLA together and now are interning together at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center. 

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. Contributions are welcomed.


Las Brisas makes culinary revamp timed with restaurant’s 40th Anniversary

Las Brisas is excited to unveil an entirely new dining and beverage program, a culinary revamp to coincide with the restaurant’s 40th anniversary. Originally built in 1938 as the historic Victor Hugo Inn, the space was transformed to Las Brisas in 1979.

Matching the property’s stunning views, innovative sea-to-table culinary programming delivers bold, traditional Mexican flavors captured through a lens of fresh Californian ingredients. Authentic techniques and housemade specialties, such as tortillas, rich salsas, and slow-braised meats, enrich guests’ palates with simply executed dishes and artful plating. 

In the coming months, the restaurant also plans to thoughtfully redesign the expansive bar and lounge area to create a new destination for locals and visitors, while maintaining its timeless charm. The redesign will be led by locally-based Margee Drews Design.

Las Brisas Roasted Chicken Mole

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Submitted photo

Las Brisas is revamping its dining and beverage program to coincide with the restaurant’s 40th Anniversary this year 

New Executive General Manager Michael Gaines, an Orange County native whose diverse background includes posts in Michelin-starred kitchens in northern California, and being a restaurant owner himself, collaborates with Las Brisas’ esteemed culinary team to redefine modern coastal cuisine with a distinguished dining experience, creating a menu reflective of the vibrant ocean setting and local bounty.

Working alongside Gaines is General Manager of Operations Howard Gardner who brings more than 25 years of experience from revered establishments such as Water Grill. Together the duo putting food and service at the forefront of Las Brisas.

“Our number one priority is ensuring that our longstanding community and visitors have an exquisite experience from the moment they step on the Las Brisas property. The views are, as always, stunning, and our goal was to create a culinary program that is just as memorable,” Gaines said.

The chef-driven menu draws inspiration from a 3,000-mile savory adventure through the Mexican Riviera, highlighting California’s seasonal bounty from land and sea. Welcoming guests for all-day dining, the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, indulgent dinner selections, and Sunday brunch. 

Las Brisas Hiramasa Crudo

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Submitted photo

Las Brisas’ menu highlights include a tasty Hiramasa Crudo with crispy shallots

Menu highlights include French Toast served with seasonal fruit, cacao nibs, toasted macadamia nuts, and tangerine butter; Hiramasa Crudo with crispy shallots, cilantro, lime, and olive oil; Dungeness Crab Salad with grapefruit, avocado, frisée, and green goddess dressing; Seared Sea Scallops with cauliflower puree, tomatillo, green olives, and sparkling wine beurre blanc; Al Pastor Tacos with charred onion, pineapple, cilantro, and salsa verde; and Roasted Chicken with mole, rice, onion, and white sesame seeds, among many other dishes.

Rounding out the menu is a beverage program centered on approachable favorites and traditional mixology, in addition to an extensive tequila library and a well-rounded list of wines. Seamlessly balanced selections include the Spicy Margarita with Pueblo Viejo Blanco Tequila, fresh lime, and agave-chili tincture; Salty Dog with Tito’s Vodka, grapefruit juice, with a salted rim; and Mai Tai with Plantation Pineapple Rum, Curaçao, lime, orgeat, and bitters. 

Las Brisas Al Pastor Tacos

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Submitted photo

A bevy of new beverages and popular favorites pair well with their tasty meals

The diverse wine collection filters prominent classics for meal pairing with limited-production international bottles, ideal for special occasions. Purveyed from vintners in Italy, France, New Zealand, and Argentina, as well as the Californian coast, guests remain well-equipped to complement the contemporary cuisine with a light libation and 

laid-back environment.

Located at 361 Cliff Drive, Las Brisas is open daily for breakfast or brunch, lunch, and dinner. Reservations can be made via OpenTable and walk-ins are welcome. For more information, visit www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com.


Nirvana Grille debuts Spring Menu with 50 percent off this week, starting tonight

Welcome the flavors of spring at Nirvana Grille with the restaurant’s Spring Menu Debut. Enjoy up to 50 percent off starting tonight, Tuesday, April 23 through Sunday, April 28. The special is all night, on all new menu items.

Committed to offering delicious food and impeccable service, Nirvana Grille’s uniquely fresh menu allows a kitchen full of high-quality ingredients to take center stage, led by Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales.

Nirvana Grille wine

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Enjoy Nirvana Grille’s new Spring Menu with 50 percent off through Sunday

Nirvana Grille’s “ingredients first” philosophy begins at the local level, working closely with purveyors to ensure access to the best available provisions so the restaurant can change menus with the seasons. 

Nirvana’s menu is composed entirely of all-natural meats free from hormones and antibiotics, organic free range “Mary’s” poultry, and sustainable seafood. It’s all about the food and the guest’s experience for this fantastic restaurant.

Limited space is available and reservations are required by phone. For reservations, call (949) 497-0027. 

For more information, visit www.nirvanagrille.com

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway #101.


Lumberyard Chef Challenge dishes up a decade of support for SchoolPower

Photos by Kristin Karkoska 

On April 1 at Lumberyard restaurant, Laguna school principals dueled as guest “chefs,” serving up competing three-course meals to a sellout crowd of SchoolPower supporters. No, it wasn’t an April Fools’ joke; it was the 10th year of the Lumberyard Chef Challenge, a beloved event that this year raised over $10,000 for SchoolPower.

Lumberyard owners Cary and Suzanne Redfearn conceived the event. “It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. Based loosely on reality cooking shows, it is a night of chef-inspired food along with the opportunity to mingle with the principals and other community leaders, all for the benefit of SchoolPower,” says Suzanne. 

The Redfearns generously donate their restaurant, including all of the food and staff, for the event. Cary adds, “We were so fortunate to have our kids attend school in Laguna and receive such a fabulous education – Chef Challenge is our way of giving back. We opened Lumberyard to be a community restaurant and this event so epitomizes that goal.”

Lumberyard Chef group

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El Morro Principal Chris Duddy, Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg, Student Resource Officer Corporal Cornelius Ashton, LBHS Principal Jason Allemann, and Top of the World Principal Michael Conlon

The principals select items and serve guests, but the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Josue Tavare and the Lumberyard staff. This year the elementary school principal duo of Chris Duddy and Michael Conlon took home the coveted Golden Spatula. 

Their entree, grilled Angus New York steak on a bed of mushroom risotto, beat out Laguna High School Principal Jason Allemann and Thurston Middle School Principal Jenny Salberg’s pan roasted Tasmanian Red Trout with spring vegetables. “I always enjoy some fun banter with parents in a casual environment and it’s for a worthy cause. Duddy and I look forward to continuing our winning streak next year!” says Principal Conlon. 

Lumberyard Chef food

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Lumberyard Chef Josue Tavare’s entree duo at the 10th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower

New to the event was School Resource Officer Corporal Cornelius Ashton, who helped tally votes and announce the winners. SchoolPower trustee Monica Golden was excited to meet him at the event. “I had heard great things about Officer Ashton from my kids, so it was great to chat with him at the Lumberyard. He has a way of instantly engaging you and is such a positive person. I can tell why everyone loves ‘Officer Corn,’” she says.

Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions made by SchoolPower Endowment Board President Chris Clark and SchoolPower’s First Lady Katie Houlahan. Clark won the honor of top bartender for a third year running.

Lumberyard Chef table

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SchoolPower supporters Harpal and Shaheen Sadhal and Danielle and Jeff Roedersheimer enjoy the 10th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge

“Each year the event seems to get better – the food, the energy, the people – and we look forward to the tradition continuing for many years to come,” says Suzanne. 

SchoolPower’s mission is to enhance the educational experience of the whole student as they grow from TK through 12th grade. In 2017-18, SchoolPower contributed over $760,000 to the Laguna Beach school district to help support a wide range of programs, including small class sizes, academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, STEM programs, and wellness and student support. 

SchoolPower’s Wave of Giving campaign is on now at give.lbschoolpower.org.


Kitchen in the Canyon serves delicious Easter brunch

On Easter Sunday, April 21, from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., Kitchen in the Canyon will be serving up a super tasty brunch menu. If you’ve waited until the last minute or just don’t feel like whipping up a festive feast after your family egg hunt, hop on over to Kitchen in the Canyon’s brunch. 

Kitchen in the pastries

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Submitted photo

Drool-worthy pastries will be served at Kitchen in the Canyon’s Easter brunch

Complete with mimosas and bloody mary’s for the adults and kid-friendly treats for your little bunnies, guests can enjoy brunch outside on Kitchen in the Canyon’s patio amidst Laguna’s gorgeous hillsides, or inside for a taste of the restaurant’s rustic-yet-modern vibe. 

Located in Laguna’s Civic Art District, Kitchen in the Canyon is dedicated to bringing its customers delicious, non-GMO California comfort food, and their Easter brunch is sure to be one that adults and kids alike will enjoy. 

For more information, visit www.kitcheninthecanyon.com or call (949) 715-5388. 

Kitchen in the Canyon is located at 845 Laguna Canyon Rd.


Nirvana Grille debuts Spring Menu with 50 percent off April 23-28

Welcome the flavors of spring at Nirvana Grille with the restaurant’s Spring Menu Debut. Enjoy up to 50 percent off from April 23-28 from 5 to 9 p.m. The special is all night, on all new menu items.

Committed to offering delicious food and impeccable service, Nirvana Grille’s uniquely fresh menu allows a kitchen full of high-quality ingredients to take center stage, led by Chef/Owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales.

Nirvana Grille wine

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Enjoy Nirvana Grille’s new Spring Menu with 50 percent off

Nirvana Grille’s “ingredients first” philosophy begins at the local level, working closely with purveyors to ensure access to the best available provisions so the restaurant can change menus with the seasons. 

Nirvana’s menu is composed entirely of all-natural meats free from hormones and antibiotics, organic free range “Mary’s” poultry, and sustainable seafood. It’s all about the food and the guest’s experience for this fantastic restaurant.

Limited space is available and reservations are required by phone. For reservations, call (949) 497-0027. 

For more information, visit www.nirvanagrille.com

Nirvana Grille is located at 303 Broadway #101.

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