Food-Focused Daycation

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With trendsetting restaurants, a local farmers market and unbeatable views for alfresco dining, it’s no wonder that foodies flock to Laguna. Here, insiders share their favorite picks for the ultimate food-themed daycation.

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Morning: The arrival of the Laguna Beach farmers market on Saturday morning marks the beginning of a food fest. Pick up seasonal produce, artisanal breads, fragrant flowers, gourmet prepared foods and more. For the freshest picks, get there when it opens at 8 a.m. “Produce is at its best early in the morning,” says Marc Cohen, chef-owner of local restaurants Watermarc and 230 Forest Avenue, as well as Opah Seafood Grill in Aliso Viejo. “As it gets later in the day, the quality is not the same.”

You’ll work up an appetite meandering around the market, assuming you resist nibbling throughout. A favorite breakfast spot of Lindsay Smith-Rosales, executive chef and co-owner of Nirvana Grille, is The Patio at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, where you can watch golfers tee off at the city’s only golf course while enjoying morning favorites like frittatas and pancakes. In addition to traditional classics, the menu boasts both Southern (chicken and waffles) and south-of-the-border (Baja omelet) flavors. Don’t miss the smoked bourbon bacon cinnamon roll if you’re feeling indulgent.

Cater your own picnic for a lunch at Montage (pictured: Lindsay Smith-Rosales and family). | Photo by Zeller Photography
Cater your own picnic for a lunch at Montage (pictured: Lindsay Smith-Rosales and family). | Photo by Zeller Photography

Afternoon: Combine mouthwatering food with Laguna’s ocean breezes and dramatic views, and you have the perfect picnic experience. Aspiring chefs may want to whip something up from ingredients gathered at the farmers market, or you can grab gourmet take-out from a local restaurant. A few perfectly portable options include tacos at La Sirena Grill and paninis from Zéytoon Café—both are available with an array of meats and veggies.

Montage Laguna Beach is a go-to alfresco lunch spot for Lindsay and her family. “We love going over there because the view is great,” she says. “They have an expansive area with picnic tables and we can bring our dogs and walk them on the trail.”

Afterward, hop on Laguna’s free weekend trolley to explore the town and enjoy a sweet treat. For handmade gelato, Marc suggests dark chocolate or pistachio at Gelato Paradiso, tucked away on Peppertree Lane.

Candied salmon salad at 230 Forest Avenue | Photo by Jody Tiongco
Candied salmon salad at 230 Forest Avenue | Photo by Jody Tiongco

Evening: As day turns to night, pre-dinner drinks are in order. Lindsay points to Surf & Sand Resort’s bar, Rooftop Lounge, Las Brisas and K’ya Bistro Bar to enjoy sunset views while you sip. K’ya’s popular happy hour even runs on weekends; stop by between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. when many drinks are available for $5.

Delicious dinner choices abound in Laguna. Foodies interested in the latest that the town has to offer should check out the revamped menu at 230 Forest Avenue, released in May in honor of the restaurant’s 20th anniversary. New offerings include nearly 20 different bites, small and sharable plates, and sides. For an exclusive treat, ask about the off-menu candied salmon salad. “It is salmon pan-seared in vanilla bean sugar with a mango vegetable slaw, walnuts and goat cheese,” Marc explains.

Those in the mood for California cuisine with an ocean view can visit Driftwood Kitchen, a year-old gem teeming with coastal ambience. “You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you knew about it,” Marc says of the restaurant’s location on Sleepy Hollow Lane.

– Written by Vicki Hogue-Davies

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