Tempt your significant other with a treat for two.
By Beth Fhaner | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Ambient lighting, quiet conversation and savory food—add to that a tantalizing treat for two and you have the equation for a perfect dinner date in Laguna. Local restaurants are happy to lend a hand in the romance department, offering a selection of decadent desserts perfect for sharing with someone you love. Whether it’s bread pudding or inventive ice cream flavors, there’s an indulgence to satisfy every sugar craving.
Bread Pudding at Maro Wood Grill
For the past two years, the Golden Foodie Award for the Most Delicious Dessert in Orange County has gone to Maro Wood Grill. With such high praise, dessert here is a must. Chef Debra Sims recommends her popular bread pudding as an enticing and shareable finale to any meal. Featuring brioche from Bread Artisan Bakery as well as locally sourced eggs, the bread pudding is topped off with a rich and creamy bourbon sauce.
“The best thing is that the dish isn’t too sweet or too heavy,” Debra says. “Usually people like to order one for the table and have a few bites each.” Although Debra decided to retire her award-winning banana bread pudding in December, she reimagined the dish and is offering it as a rotating option on the dessert menu until the Golden Dine Out (part of the Golden Foodie Awards voting process) in August. Double chocolate is the featured flavor scheduled for February, while upcoming months may see variations that range from s’more to tiramisu or peanut butter and jelly. (949-793-4044; marowoodgrill.com)
Monkey Bread at Selanne Steak Tavern
At Selanne Steak Tavern, pastry chef Heather Fisher has wowed guests with her delectable creations, which recently earned her a nomination in the Best Pastry Chef category at the Golden Foodie Awards in September. The eatery’s signature dessert, and one of many recommended on Heather’s menu, is her irresistible monkey bread.
“It’s great for sharing, especially when it’s chilly outside and guests want to be comfy and toasty inside,” she says. “I love this dessert because it reminds me of my Texas roots. It’s a mini version of a larger dessert that we would share with our neighbors at a potluck or take over to welcome a new family in the neighborhood. Selanne Steak Tavern’s monkey bread is warm and gooey, almost like a cinnamon roll, but it’s actually seven small sticky buns when pulled apart. We serve it with bruleed bananas and maple bacon ice cream.” (949-715-9881; selannesteaktavern.com)
Ice Cream at Nirvana Grille, Three Seventy Common Kitchen & Drink, And Broadway by Amar Santana
For an establishment with a romantic atmosphere and divine desserts, diners should consider a visit to Nirvana Grille. Known for serving organic, sustainable and locally sourced cuisine, Nirvana Grille also boasts a menu of sweets made with flavorful seasonal ingredients. Among the many creations, chef-owner Lindsay Smith-Rosales recommends the ice cream trio for sharing. “Dessert would not be dessert without ice cream for me,” she says. “Each season, we have a different ice cream trio with our signature house-made goat cheese maple ice cream with two additional flavors like our lavender blueberry, salted maple caramel, basil cream or raspberry Chambord gelatos.” (949-497-0027; nirvanagrille.com)
Retro-inspired sweets are a trademark at Three Seventy Common Kitchen & Drink, and the popular Presley dessert was created especially for guests to share. Featuring cinnamon toast heaped with caramelized bananas and peanut butter ice cream drizzled with honey caramel, this dish is guaranteed to be a hit on date night. Elvis, who famously had an appetite for fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, would most certainly agree. (949-494-8686; 370common.com)
A duo in search of the ultimate cold dessert could also consider making a beeline to Broadway by Amar Santana. Here, ice cream enthusiasts can find the Broadway Sundae on the menu. This dreamy decadence consists of a warm brownie, salted caramel ice cream, caramel drizzle, spicy toasted hazelnuts and chocolate sauce topped with caramel popcorn tossed in sea salt. A towering treat that definitely satisfies the taste buds, this swoon-worthy sundae won’t disappoint. Grab two spoons and dig in. (949-715-8234; broadwaybyamarsantana.com)
The Hog Heaven Pie at Lumberyard is nothing short of heavenly. A signature dessert composed of a cookie crumb crust, chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and fresh whipped cream, the slice is creamy and rich with an intense flavor combination that can satisfy even the fiercest sweet tooth. The Hog Heaven Pie is served in a large portion, so there’s more than enough here to share with your sweetheart—the only downside is that you and your date will most likely be fighting over who gets the last bite. (949-715-3900; lblumberyard.com)