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Even though school has started for many, the Summer lingers on all year long for adults who live by the seashore. My friend Robin recently moved and I went down past the “Orange Curtain” to see her new place and to spend a day by the pool. One of her friends is living on the beach for the month of August, and as the sun set, we decided to go get dinner. Even though I know and love many places in Laguna, like Sapphire and 230 Forest, I’m always happy to try new places suggested by locals.

After going through a list of possibilities, we were driving up PCH when we drove past Mare and both my friends literally swiveled their heads and said, “Let’s go to Mare”! Since they both thought it was a better place than the other options they had suggested, we pulled into the one remaining parking spot behind the Holiday Inn. Ok, I admit, going to a hotel restaurant, especially a Holiday Inn hotel restaurant is not normally my choice for dinner, but when two local food lovers literally decide in chorus that it is the best idea, I put my skepticism aside and enjoy the journey.

The outdoor space is absolutely lovely with flickering candle lights and a wall of warmth. Triangular canopies provide shade in the day but add a nice architectural feel at night. The style is casually elegant with wrought iron railings and a modern interior. Definitely sit outside if there is a table and wait if there isn’t a table.

The first taste of this bright garlic, olive oil, and parsley dip for the bread was addictive. We ate it so fast we asked for a second plate before we even ordered our appetizers.

The second plate of dip ended up being a zesty sauce for the $13 fried calamari we ordered to share as well. The sauces that came with the perfectly crisp squid were fine, but nothing exquisite, so we asked for more lemon and used the the garlic bread dip as our calamari dip!

Since we all loved carpaccio, we also shared the $14 filet mignon and although the picture does not do it justice, this was a great version of the classic, with quality olive oil and generous arugula, capers, and Parmesan.

I ordered the chef’s special, a $22 spaghetti verde with shrimp and peppers that was the definition of summer on a plate. The home made pasta was cooked al dente, the shrimp were tender and the zingy little peppers added just enough color and pizazz to make the lemon and butter based sauce sparkle. Everyone at the table loved this dish and I would gladly order it again. After the hearty appetizers, I barely made a dent in this bowl of pasta, so it became my lunch the following day, and it reheated to be as tasty as it was the night before.

The friend who was living on the beach decided while we were still in the parking lot that she wanted the $24 limoncello infused radiatore pasta* with Maine lobster, shallots and a pinot grigio sauce. If I had not ordered the special, I would have ordered this delightfully rich sumptuous dish.

My friend Robin ordered the $19 chicken with portobello mushrooms made with a Sicilian Marsala wine served with sauteed spinach and rosemary potatoes. The chicken breasts were tender and moist and the sauce was complex but I felt it need just a touch of salt.

Since all of us barely managed more than two bites of our entrees after eating all of the bread and appetizers, we all went home with lunch for the following day. And even though we didn’t order it for ourselves, one of the friends took home some meatballs for her boyfriend which she said were the best meatballs she has ever eaten. I would have taken an order home if I was not already bursting at the seams with an entree to take home already.

A wonderful night ended with the sight of a full moon as we walked out of the restaurant 🙂

*For people who are allergic to gluten they offer gluten free pasta for $3.50 more or whole wheat pasta for $2.50 more.

Mare Culinary Lounge on Urbanspoon


I’m not one of those people who camp out for a special on Black Friday, but I do appreciate a great one day deal. The Surf & Sand in Laguna Beach is one of my favorite hotels, with wonderful food, spectacular views, and within walking distance to Forest Avenue (the main thoroughfare).

The rooms normally go for about $400 a night during low season and as much as double that in the Summer, so if you add on the resort fee and parking, you are looking at a premium price for a premium resort. I appreciate quality, but when you can get quality at a discount, that is literally the best of both worlds.

If you set your alarm clock to call 866.860.6154 or book online on November 23, 2012 between 7am and 7pm, you can book a one night stay for as little as $219 Sunday-Thursday or $299 Friday and Saturday. You must go by January 31, 2013, but you also get complimentary resort fee and parking for this rate!

The best part is that if you can’t get through, they are offering the same deal on Cyber Monday but only online!

Get set, ready, dial (or type)!

The Surf and Sand in Laguna is the perfect place for a beach side getaway; with the crowds of summer gone, this is a great time to go to the beach before it gets cold (for California). They have a special package called “Live a Little” that includes one nights’ accommodation with a three course dinner for two for $369 Sunday-Thursday (add $100 for the week-end). If you want to “Live a Lot”, you can opt for two nights, three course dinner for two, $100 resort credit, and complimentary valet parking for $738 Sunday-Thursday (add $200 for week-ends). These rates don’t include any alcoholic beverages, taxes or gratuities. Make sure you call to reserve at 877-349-0345 and mention the special when you book to get your discount.

If you just want a taste of the resort, I would recommend their spa & lunch package which combines a 50 minute massage or facial with a three course lunch at Splashes for $125. Make sure to call the spa to reserve your package at 949-376-2772.

Or savor the view and stop by for a glass of wine at their bar as you watch the waves any Monday-Thursday between 2-5 pm and get 50% off your bill (the discount is also available between 8-10:30pm). Make sure you print out the promotion page to get your discount.

Now all you have to do is choose whether you want to savor, taste, or live in Laguna at the Surf & Sand (or all three).

It is getting to be that wonderful time of the year, when sales start appearing on all the items you wanted for Christmas but did not receive. In this slow economy, stores at the beach are struggling to stay afloat until the weather warms.

Every January I head down to Laguna Beach to visit my best friend Cindy, and to shop at all the stores which have “local” sales; about the only people in town and shopping in January at the beach are the locals, so the savings are a nice bonus for being an all year resident.

Soul to Sole has two locations within walking distance of each other in Laguna; the Beach Street store has the higher end designer merchandise, while the Coast Highway store has a little of everything, including the funky fads that are a one season or one occasion buy.

The little local secret is that the second week of January the Coast Highway store has a $12 shoe sale where nearly every pair (a few window display items are $50) is $12. Yes, you read that correctly. The shoes range from Jeffrey Campbell, to Kors and Blowfish; designer shoes which retail for about $100 normally, so we are not talking about the ugly, cheap, hurt your feet shoes that are truly only worth $12. A bargain is only a bargain if you receive value and use from your purchase.

So act like a local this year and head to Laguna for some very satisfying sole food.

It is getting to be that wonderful time of the year, when sales start appearing on all the items you wanted for Christmas but did not receive. In this slow economy, stores at the beach are struggling to stay afloat until the weather warms.

Every January I head down to Laguna Beach to visit my best friend Cindy, and to shop at all the stores which have “local” sales; about the only people in town and shopping in January at the beach are the locals, so the savings are a nice bonus for being an all year resident.

Soul to Sole has two locations within walking distance of each other in Laguna; the Beach Street store has the higher end designer merchandise, while the Coast Highway store has a little of everything, including the funky fads that are a one season or one occasion buy.

The little local secret is that the second week of January the Coast Highway store has a $12 shoe sale where nearly every pair (a few window display items are $50) is $12. Yes, you read that correctly. The shoes range from Jeffrey Campbell, to Kors and Blowfish; designer shoes which retail for about $100 normally, so we are not talking about the ugly, cheap, hurt your feet shoes that are truly only worth $12. A bargain is only a bargain if you receive value and use from your purchase.

So act like a local this year and head to Laguna for some very satisfying sole food.

>It is getting to be that wonderful time of the year, when sales start appearing on all the items you wanted for Christmas but did not receive. In this slow economy, stores at the beach are struggling to stay afloat until the weather warms.

Every January I head down to Laguna Beach to visit my best friend Cindy, and to shop at all the stores which have “local” sales; about the only people in town and shopping in January at the beach are the locals, so the savings are a nice bonus for being an all year resident.

Soul to Sole has two locations within walking distance of each other in Laguna; the Beach Street store has the higher end designer merchandise, while the Coast Highway store has a little of everything, including the funky fads that are a one season or one occasion buy.

The little local secret is that the second week of January the Coast Highway store has a $12 shoe sale where nearly every pair (a few window display items are $50) is $12. Yes, you read that correctly. The shoes range from Jeffrey Campbell, to Kors and Blowfish; designer shoes which retail for about $100 normally, so we are not talking about the ugly, cheap, hurt your feet shoes that are truly only worth $12. A bargain is only a bargain if you receive value and use from your purchase.

So act like a local this year and head to Laguna for some very satisfying sole food.

Summer is coming and a couple of days or week at the beach is a nice getaway for those of us who don’t live by the ocean. I rented the Calef Beach Chateau in Laguna Beach from VRBO (vacation rentals by owner) and woke to a beautiful view of the ocean from a lovely studio with a quiet patio, a fully equipped kitchen, and bathroom for only $135 a night. The special touches of owners who live on their property show, from the fluffy bathrobes, to the condiments in the kitchen, everything in their accommodations makes you feel more like an invited guest than a renter. If you are willing to walk the steep hill down to Coast Highway, there is a gourmet restaurant at the bottom, so you don’t even have to drive for a meal if you have the shoes and stamina to walk. As with my rental in Paris, they offer a welcome bottle of wine upon arrival; sipping a glass of wine at sunset or having coffee in the morning on the beautiful patio is a perk you don’t get in hotel rooms at this price. My friend Cindy, who lives nearby, came over and said she would send friends and relatives here when they come to visit her because it really is a nice home away from home.

If you do decide to drive down the hill, go to my favorite restaurant Sapphire Laguna (see earlier post), or 230 Forest Ave in the heart of town (order the tuna nicoise salad-the BEST I have eaten anywhere, then indulge in the croissant bread pudding for dessert). If you want to truly feel like you’re on vacation, head over to Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen which welcomes you with a smile, a sense of humor, spicy food and sweet drinks. Their menu belies their spirit and humor as wine is listed under “old fermented grape juice” and you are warned that they are on Caribbean time (you can’t rush a good thing, you know, like loving, it takes time and care).

Go to the beach this summer and play!

>Summer is coming and a couple of days or week at the beach is a nice getaway for those of us who don’t live by the ocean. I rented the Calef Beach Chateau in Laguna Beach from VRBO (vacation rentals by owner) and woke to a beautiful view of the ocean from a lovely studio with a quiet patio, a fully equipped kitchen, and bathroom for only $135 a night. The special touches of owners who live on their property show, from the fluffy bathrobes, to the condiments in the kitchen, everything in their accommodations makes you feel more like an invited guest than a renter. If you are willing to walk the steep hill down to Coast Highway, there is a gourmet restaurant at the bottom, so you don’t even have to drive for a meal if you have the shoes and stamina to walk. As with my rental in Paris, they offer a welcome bottle of wine upon arrival; sipping a glass of wine at sunset or having coffee in the morning on the beautiful patio is a perk you don’t get in hotel rooms at this price. My friend Cindy, who lives nearby, came over and said she would send friends and relatives here when they come to visit her because it really is a nice home away from home.

If you do decide to drive down the hill, go to my favorite restaurant Sapphire Laguna (see earlier post), or 230 Forest Ave in the heart of town (order the tuna nicoise salad-the BEST I have eaten anywhere, then indulge in the croissant bread pudding for dessert). If you want to truly feel like you’re on vacation, head over to Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen which welcomes you with a smile, a sense of humor, spicy food and sweet drinks. Their menu belies their spirit and humor as wine is listed under “old fermented grape juice” and you are warned that they are on Caribbean time (you can’t rush a good thing, you know, like loving, it takes time and care).

Go to the beach this summer and play!

Diamonds are not the only gems that sparkle, and sometimes colored gems like sapphires can glitter with surprising fire and color. Sapphire Laguna Beach is a restaurant that serves global cuisine with imagination, flavor and warmth like the gem of its’ namesake. This is now one of my favorite stops in Laguna Beach, with a view of the water, a warm fire pit for cool nights, and beautiful glass light fixtures inside, the style and decor match the chef’s skill in the kitchen. For lunch the sampler is a great way to try out the various dishes if you can’t decide, but personally I tend to order the Barramundi (a white fish from Australia) with truffled frites (fries with bits of truffle) and haricots verts (green beans). All the ingredients are perfectly balanced for flavor and texture in a pleasing presentation.

Nightfall brings a romantic sultry vibe to the place and the menu choices reflect the atmosphere with more robust selections. Or if you are in the mood to drink and nibble, the appetizers are perfect small bites to share or satiate instead of dinner, or as a prelude if you linger at the cozy bar. Try a glass of the Chateau Musar 2004 from Lebannon, a smooth blend of Cinsault-Carignan, Cabernet and Syrah. If you love it you can buy a bottle next door at the Sapphire Pantry which also has prepared take out and specialty items for a picnic on the beach. I introduced a friend to French macaroons from the pantry, unlike the coconut ones found everywhere else, these are delicate bite-sized pastry rounds (imagine a fresh lady finger) filled with flavored cream. She loved the caramel.

The complex, called the Old Pottery Place, is located about a mile south of Forest Avenue, so it is a bit of a hike from the center of town, but there is parking in the back if you want to drive. There are several stores all connected to each other, with chocolates, shoes, books, clothes and home decorations, all waiting for exploration after your lunch or before your dinner, so stroll around and eat with your eyes if not your wallet!

>Diamonds are not the only gems that sparkle, and sometimes colored gems like sapphires can glitter with surprising fire and color. Sapphire Laguna Beach is a restaurant that serves global cuisine with imagination, flavor and warmth like the gem of its’ namesake. This is now one of my favorite stops in Laguna Beach, with a view of the water, a warm fire pit for cool nights, and beautiful glass light fixtures inside, the style and decor match the chef’s skill in the kitchen. For lunch the sampler is a great way to try out the various dishes if you can’t decide, but personally I tend to order the Barramundi (a white fish from Australia) with truffled frites (fries with bits of truffle) and haricots verts (green beans). All the ingredients are perfectly balanced for flavor and texture in a pleasing presentation.

Nightfall brings a romantic sultry vibe to the place and the menu choices reflect the atmosphere with more robust selections. Or if you are in the mood to drink and nibble, the appetizers are perfect small bites to share or satiate instead of dinner, or as a prelude if you linger at the cozy bar. Try a glass of the Chateau Musar 2004 from Lebannon, a smooth blend of Cinsault-Carignan, Cabernet and Syrah. If you love it you can buy a bottle next door at the Sapphire Pantry which also has prepared take out and specialty items for a picnic on the beach. I introduced a friend to French macaroons from the pantry, unlike the coconut ones found everywhere else, these are delicate bite-sized pastry rounds (imagine a fresh lady finger) filled with flavored cream. She loved the caramel.

The complex, called the Old Pottery Place, is located about a mile south of Forest Avenue, so it is a bit of a hike from the center of town, but there is parking in the back if you want to drive. There are several stores all connected to each other, with chocolates, shoes, books, clothes and home decorations, all waiting for exploration after your lunch or before your dinner, so stroll around and eat with your eyes if not your wallet!

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