Relax, Reconnect and Retreat to the Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Someone once told me that Carmel was about the “same driving distance from Orange County as it is to Mammoth Lakes.” What they failed to mention was that this picturesque seaside city but is a world away from the rugged peaks of the Eastern Sierra - particularly when planning a romantic retreat defined by gourmet cuisine, fine wine, panoramic ocean views and a languorous pace.
Situated on the southern bend of the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel is 120 miles south of San Francisco, and is an historic nod to the independent and creative spirit of California’s early residents. The last time we visited the region a few years ago, we spent time in Monterey with a mind toward family-friendly fun and the town’s arguably incomparable aquarium. This trip, however, wasn’t about the area’s early inhabitants, cultural significance or family attractions. This was an escape - for grownups only. Pure and simple.
On foot, or by car, there is no lack of activities in Carmel - a quaint, seaside town chock full of fresh air, quaint breakfast nooks, boutique shopping, art galleries, and antiques: all tucked into corners lined with California Cypress or tracked through by cobblestone pavers. The Scenic Road - just off the far end of Ocean Avenue - offers views to transfix, of both stunning homes and the Pacific seascape below.
So we set our sights on the 28-rolling acre estate that is home to the Bernardus Lodge & Spa in Carmel Valley (bernarduslodge.com), for a taste of romantic perfection. Rooms replete with seagrass wall coverings, bathrooms with heated floors and ash wood throughout were just what the doctor ordered. We would achieve our slow ambulations through the Lodge’s gardens and vineyards, and enjoy a VIP wine tasting, farm-to-table fare and garden-to-glass experiences (Bernardus produces its own honey and wine to give its food and drink menu an added personal touch - take a guided hive walk in the property’s new apiary, flush with 180,000 Italian honey bees). Because Bernardus Lodge & Spa has an extensive range of organics on site, from herbs to veggies, vineyards to fruit trees, the estate produces much of its seasonal menu on-site: a dream for a couple of amateur foodies.
Lucia Restaurant + Bar, named after the eponymous mountain range that runs southeast from Monterey County, features an eclectic and airy space, perfect for afternoon drinks or in-between meals, and a bar chock full of craft cocktail specialties. We enjoyed a round of drinks in the bar, and followed it with a hearty entree from Chef Cal Stamenov. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, Cal moved across the country to test his skills at New York’s famed Four Seasons, then worked his way west again to perfect his talent in restaurants all along the coast. At home in the rustic-ranch decor of Lucia, the communal table is never bare of a local, artisanal favorite straight from the garden.
Indulge in the VIP Experience at the Bernardus Winery - an exclusive private tasting with a personal host of Bernardus’s smaller production vineyard designated wines paired with three of my favorite things in life: Artisan cheeses, charcuterie and chocolate.
The city of Carmel might well be a photo reference for Merriam-Webster’s definition of “intimate” - and the property at Bernardus is no different. We were consumed by the solitude, and not at all surprised by the fact that the valley was recently named one of the top ten most romantic places in Travel + Leisure. The roaring surf nearby, more than 300 days of sun, and world-class amenities at hand were more than enough to set all of our cares aside and soak into the weekend. Having a spa onsite where we could practice yoga, surrender to all-natural treatments at the salon, and relax poolside was almost too decadent. Needless to say, we somehow managed. We’re looking forward to our next visit - to enjoy another glass of wine or two out on the bocce lawns. I’m owed a rematch anyway.
When I was 24 and planning a trip with a girlfriend to Cabo San Lucas, our families thought the idea sounded, well, fine. They didn’t know much about the destination other than it was resort town, and that some people they knew owned a timeshare there. So as we boarded the plane to fly down, my friend and I had little inkling that we would spend much of the next decade reminiscing about Cabo as one of our best vacations ever. Annoying, it must have been, to hear all about the pools and the sun and the hammocks and the food. At least that’s what my husband told me. Right up until he suggested that we take our kids.
Our just-turned 10-year-old daughter is still obsessed with Disney’s Moana, so we had to fudge a bit when we were explaining that while it wasn’t Hawaii, we would be swimming in the same ocean (and we could definitely still sing “You’re Welcome”) while sunning on the sand under the palm trees. Our 11-year-old son is excited about anything involving the ocean and when he learned that there would be a “kids” and “teens” club chock full of age-appropriate activities, he was beside himself in anticipation. Cabo, on the razor’s edge of sand and surf, offers an inspired, elegant destination vacation a quick two hours by plane from Orange County. As such, the Los Cabos Corridor has become a prime escape year round. And the AAA Five Diamond Award winning Grand Velas Los Cabos (grandvelas.com) might just be its crown jewel.
Offering beachfront vistas from the balcony of every luxury suite, its tranquil setting on the shimmering shores of the Sea of Cortez makes simple work of forgetting the bustle and vibe of Cabo San Lucas, just beyond the Carreterra Transpenninsular. This is the fifth resort in the Velas Resorts family of hotels. Once here, you feel utterly removed from your everyday life. That utter removal can be of just about any flavor – we were making a four-day family vacation with a focus on adventure, rejuvenation and simple togetherness, but golf aficionados, outdoor enthusiasts, couples, girlfriends and foodies will all find something exceptional at the all-inclusive luxury beachfront resort.
Incomparable accommodations & amenity
The resort offerings include 304 oceanfront suites (with more than 100 connecting rooms - ideal for families with kids or even multi-generational family members vacationing together).
For spa enthusiasts, the Grand Velas offers one of the most luxurious sanctuaries for the spirit. Naturally it features a comprehensive menu of holistic, wellness-inspired treatments, cleansing facials and therapeutic massages, based on age-old rituals and treatments; but it also offers a world-class experience, with 20 spa suites, a lavish Water Ceremony, beauty salon and spa boutique - in an environment defined by the breathtaking beauty where the desert meets the sea on the Baja Peninsula.
The dining experiences at the Grand Velas stand on their own and are likely the reason that many travel long distances to visit. Seven on-property dining venues offer something for every taste, mood and interest. For more sophisticated palates (by that I mean parents vs. younger children), the Grand Velas features an incomparable pair of dining destinations: the French-influenced Piaf and the resort’s signature restaurant - Cocina De Autor, a elegant-casual dining experience for guests 18+ led by celebrated Two Michelin Star Chef Sidney Schutte of the Netherlands and characterized by “creative cuisine” - each meal an extraordinary culinary journey - presented with exceptional service.
Family-friendly eateries include Azul (casual buffet and a la carte menu), the pool-casual Cabrilla for ceviche and seafood, and a trio of resort casual eateries: Velas 10 (steaks and seafood), Lucca (Italian-Mediterranean) and Frida (gourmet Mexican). From its restaurants to its in-room dining, from its robust wine program to its seasonal menus, the Grand Velas has something for every epicurean.
All about perspective
Most adults think of Mexico and see visions of bikini’d spring breakers, but I knew better. My 24-year-old brain took me immediately back to the magic of paradise- and that, without the built in amusement of Grand Velas’ Kids Club and Teens Club. Reserved especially for children, the resort serves up an impressive, all-inclusive platter of activities for the kids to choose from in their very own 1,000-square-foot retreat (for kids ages 4 to 12) replete with storytelling, board games, arts and crafts, bingo, movies and more for the younger set. Teens (ages 13+) enjoy their own state-of-the-art 2,700-square-foot facility to partake in everything from healthy cooking classes, movies and foosball to Xbox and Wii. Each day’s worth of activities are tailored to the child’s age and interests, so there isn’t any chance of that dreaded summertime phrase: “I’m bored.” Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Club is complimentary with the resort’s standard package, including dinner every evening and group activities that stretch well into the night hours.
All-inclusive resort and babysitting on-site? My husband could truly experience the incredible paradise of one of my favorite vacation destinations, and our kids could too: with the added bonus of anytime activity at the Club. We took full advantage, discovering the Baja outback, and explored all that Cabo had to offer we two novice oenophiles (read: wine lovers) while our kiddos formed new friendships and played at the Club. They had no clue that Mom and Dad (during part of our vacation anyway) were busy soaking - literally - in red wine, red wine leaf extract, and post-winemaking grape marc in warm water. The antioxidants and bath temperature provide the body with penetrating nourishment and revitalization that seeps into each and every pore. Perhaps next time we’ll take advantage of the Wine Lover’s Getaway: hopping on a private jet transport to Baja California’s top wineries to make our own vintage.
This time, though, was largely about family bonding and adventure so we scooped up the kiddos and experienced the surf and sand together, letting our imaginations run wild: pretending that Poseidon himself was the king of the resort, but mostly just imagining what it would be like to never come home. Not hard to pretend when sailing, scuba, snorkeling, fine dining, fitness, and fishing charters are the theme of the day, nor when the family suites feature private terraces, bathrobes and slippers in mini sizes, and kid-friendly evening turndown. Perhaps never was there a resort that actually understood the need for families to get away together, and still have ample time and space for personal reflection and relaxation.
With all that the Grand Velas has to offer in activities, amenities, services and dining, the delight of being there is ultimately of the atmosphere, and that comes down to two things: beauty and people.
While hospitality professionals are typically welcoming, the staff at the Grand Velas are authentically convivial. So much so that either the resort has found hundreds of matchless thespians dedicated to guest satisfaction (from the seamless check-in process upon arrival to 24-hour in-suite room service) - or the Grand Velas’ team truly enjoy being there. I believe it is the latter. The personal concierge service here sets a new standard in hospitality excellence.
As to beauty, the Grand Velas is simply an exquisitely designed place with lovely spaces; starting with its majestic, tiered architecture opening out to panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico where the golden sand embraces turquoise waters, from the grand, fifth-floor open-air lobby to the well-appointed suites, you cannot escape a floor-to-ceiling sense of unrivaled beauty. And so at every turn you are inspired to tranquility and delight. Ultimately, that is how our family spent a few days away and what we’ll remember most – enjoying time together against what is arguably among the most magnificent of backdrops.
Let’s do the math: two cities, a pair of longtime girlfriends, two husbands, five kids. Jobs, bills, school, parent teacher conferences, sports teams, coffee dates, dinner guests. Totaling out to terribly long stretches between “girlfriend get-togethers” with a close friend who lives across the county, but might as well be across the country for as infrequently as we seem to be able to catch up in person.
Enter the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. Poised on the bluffs above Dana Point, the resort’s casual air lends itself to an oceanfront dream that just won’t quit. Afternoon surf lessons and nearly 400 suites replete with airy layouts and coastal views, on-site gourmet dining at Raya, enoSTEAK, or 180blu to tempt the palate with fresh, innovative cuisine or tapas and cocktails at sunset were more than what my friend and I needed to get away for the weekend and slow down the hectic pace we’ve grown accustomed to.
When your goal is to unwind, there is always a strong case for a stay-cation, which means there is always a strong case for the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
Since a weekend at the Ritz offers OC locals all the “away-ness” a vacation promises without the attending hassle, it’s an especially attractive option for an uncomplicated getaway for girlfriends seeking a short respite from the obligations of home, husbands and kiddos. Within a half hour, you’re in paradise, with no need to leave it until you’re headed home.
Of course, if you find yourself at any Ritz, you find yourself in luxury; but our Ritz has some special advantages. Most rooms offer breathtaking ocean views from private patios or balconies, and the entire southwest side of the property is ocean-facing, with nothing but sand interrupting the space between building and water. This factor alone transports you; but then it’s all the ritzy little things that make it a getaway.
Every guest, and every group of girlfriends, at the Ritz-Carlton has a multitude of ways to vacation. Yoga or Pilates classes and an ocean-front fitness center start your days off in wellness; free use of the sauna and steam room at the Ritz-Carlton Spa settles you in for rejuvenation; a Beach Butler Service provides beach recreation equipment including fins, towel service, umbrellas, and beach chairs; access to tennis courts, including rackets, is unlimited.
A girlfriend getaway to the Ritz-Carlton arguably would not even be one without a rendezvous with relaxation at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, where therapeutic excellence meets an ocean-inspired approach, using rich minerals, sea salt, algae and water as common treatment elements. The broader resort is an energetic place; stepping into the Spa, the outside world – even the lively Ritz, even the best of friends – fades away to quiet personal peace. The therapists at the Spa are second to none, providing therapeutic and beauty treatments as extensive as the whole body, or as specific as hands, face or feet. The relaxation massage I received was one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
Dining at the Ritz-Carlton is itself a worthy reason to pay a visit any day of the week, but for a girlfriend getaway, you could have a different experience for every meal, each appropriate to the moment: a light, casual breakfast at the Market Place (try the quinoa bowel for a guiltless treat); a poolside snack while lounging midday (the fresh pita and house-made hummus from the Dana Pool Cafe is surprisingly finger-licking); a late drink at the outdoor, oceanfront lounge, 180blú (the Tequila Sangria is a specialty). Raya, however, is the dining experience that mustn’t be missed.
Raya showcases Chef Steve Wan’s Pan-Latin coastal cuisine, prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, and natural and organic meats. You can find breakfast and lunch here, but we opted for an indulgent dinner overlooking the Pacific as the sun set brilliantly. At Raya, every detail of each dish is lovely to the eye as well as the palate, and every detail of table service is expertly executed – all a fitting counterpoint to nature’s exquisite display just on the other side of the glass.
Over chardonnay we shared the lobster tacos, Hamachi tiradito (served on a jicama “tortilla”) and petite lamb lollipops, all succulent ways to start a slow meal with a good friend. One of the menu’s most popular offerings, the miso Alaskan black cod is a delicious dish that should not be missed. The New York prime is cooked-to-perfection and accompanied a la carte by the Dungeness crab mashed potatoes (a special recommendation by our server that was the perfect complement to all our main courses).
The cod at Raya, the ocean-inspired spa experience, the floor-to-ceiling views, and the prime beach location are all uniquely OC; but take away the “Laguna Niguel” and you still have “Ritz-Carlton,” which is always a compelling option for a vacation-away-from-vacation – with girlfriends, or otherwise.
This Summer at the Ritz-Carlton
You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy the beauty of the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel this summer.
Live Music & Sushi @ 180blú
Fridays and Saturdays, music from 5–8pm, sushi from 6–9pm.
Thursday, May 10, 2018 | 5 to 8 p.m.
Thursday, June 14, 2018 | 5 to 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 12, 2018 | 5 to 8 p.m.
Thursday, August 9, 2018 | 5 to 8 p.m.
For people and their pooches! Cocktails, beer and a selection of barbecue items available for purchase. Proceeds support The Veterans Initiative of Canine Companions for Independence.
Festival of Arts Exhibit:
45 Years of Contemporary Art
May 11 - September 4, 2018
Honoring the oceanfront resort’s long-term partnership with Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, guests are invited to view the exhibit featuring 13 contemporary artworks from the Festival’s Permanent Collection.
I love the concept of consignment - finding a true treasure for which someone else paid full retail and I get the benefit of acquiring the same item sans the depreciation. But I have a friend for whom the word “resale” is synonymous with sketchy deals on Craigslist. Suffice it to say that it took some doing to convince her to explore the offerings of the San Juan Capistrano-based Revel Consignment.
We were on our way to lunch and had some time before our reservation so we walked in and got so caught up perusing the beautifully displayed furniture, art and home accent pieces that very nearly missed meeting our friends on time. Selling both new and consigned furniture is just the tip of the iceberg; eclectic decor, accessories, and design inspiration ensure a unique and ever-changing shopping experience for each customer who walks through the door.
Owners Kathleen “Katie” Dabney and Sam Gaylord came from relatively disparate backgrounds to start Revel Consignment. Their mutual love of design and flair for creativity blossomed out of years in the finance and marketing industries, reflecting in the detailed care and management of San Juan’s showcase consignment shop.
“We wanted to create a one-of-a-kind store, full of beautiful treasures our customers would be delighted to take home,” says Katie. “We’re upscale, but accessible: and we think that’s the main reason folks love shopping with us.” Revel’s inventory is updated daily, and covers everything you might want in your dream home: from quality furniture, lighting and wall art to accessories such as throw pillows, mirrors, and statement decor pieces.
Sourcing from all over the world, Revel takes only the best, and offers personal and quick delivery right to your home for a nominal charge.
“Some interior design firms offer up only full scale services, costing thousands of dollars,” says Katie. “We bring it home to you: one piece at a time, or everything you want at once.”
My friend is almost never actually looking for anything specific. She is one of those shoppers that seems to perennially window-shop. But, given the reins in this gorgeous store, she shopped like a stealth bomber flies: silent and deadly. We wandered around Revel chatting and laughing as casually as if we were walking down the street, until she saw something she liked. It was all over after that.
“We’re not an antique mall,” Katie says with a laugh. We would heartily agree. My friend walked through Revel like she had been let into a museum full of fine art that she could take home and show off to the ladies in her garden club.
“We’re here providing quality that lasts, for a style and design sense that will survive trends and fast fads. Yes, it is eclectic, and edgy, but there is a piece for every room, no matter what vintage or vision our customers have.”
We walked out of Revel with a pretty pewter serving tray, complete with scrollwork edging and the weight of history behind it. Headed for a life on an antique steamer trunk in my friend’s receiving room, the tray had not one thing to do with her image of Craigslist deals in supermarket parking lots. In fact, you’ll have a much easier time finding brass and crystal accents or the latest spring combinations within the walls of Revel Consignment.
“It isn’t enough to provide a single space with a few beautiful elements. Walking into the home of your dreams requires following the golden rule of decorating from William Morris; ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’”. And my friend and I would agree: there’s certainly no shortage of either here.
Revel Consignment is located at 31896 Plaza Drive, Suite E3 in San Juan Capistrano. To connect with Katie and Sam directly, call (949) 388-9070 or visit www.revelresale.com
Assisted Living facilities have struggled with their reputation for a great many years. The emotional understanding of what those facilities actually do is mired in miscommunication. Ivy, or rather Hedera, as it is known in the scientific world, has also suffered from a bad rap for years. An immigrant to the States, Hedera is a genus of 12-15 species of evergreen that climbs or creeps, loves rocks, and is native to western central, and southern Europe, Africa, Asia, Japan, and Taiwan. Making the list of best air-freshening plants, ivy also takes one of the headers in place of non-native invasives that threaten wildlands. But, what things connote aren’t necessarily what they denote, as I learned a number of years ago in my tenth grade English class.
I’m dating myself here, but about the time I was attending that English class, the company dedicated to residential senior care that would eventually become Ivy Glenn opened its doors for the first time. Including the 14 bed home originally opened on Venice Island in Florida, it has been over a quarter century since Ivy began taking care of seniors in Laguna Niguel. Plenty of time to disprove the negative connotations that go hand in hand with assisted living, and plenty of time to perfect each service in its handbook of home assistance. Hospice care, end of life care, Alzheimer’s, and dementia fall under the truest definition of what Ivy Glenn provides. Yet, mention any of these words by themselves and their denotations fall short of the meaning of loving care and kindness, which Ivy Glenn actually specializes in.
The tagline on their website states simply, “residential senior care reimagined.” Matt Posselt has a much bigger picture in mind than that tagline states at surface level. Matt’s mother Gail, and father Tod lent him the unique privilege of not only growing up in a senior care home but also learning the value of life and family. Growing up in the service field, “I learned how to make the important decisions to keep my elder care homes consistently delivering quality care while working to truly improve the lives of the seniors in my care.”
A job too important to do all alone, Matt relies on the expertise his mother - now retired - has provided him over her time in the industry. “My mother continues to believe that the growing senior community is in desperate need of quality homes,” says Matt. “This means an entirely different thing to us than most.” Setting the benchmark for care in senior living is no small task, and upending the reputation assisted living has garnered over the years? Even larger.
“Ivy Glenn is the pinnacle of my mother’s experience, love, and dedication to her residents,” most of whom are still high functioning. Residents are often still extremely alert and independent when they come to assisted living homes.
“We’re also just equipped and qualified to care for every sort of condition that comes across our plate,” says Matt. Keeping individuality and independence intact is the first task, and maintaining the family’s respect for their care and maintenance as a human being means each one of our residents can continue to live life to the fullest. “I believe, and have heard from our families, that the reason they love Ivy Glenn is due to the fact that we treat our seniors like family; not only living in an environment that feels very much like home, but being taken care of, waited on.”
Residents enjoy a variety of scheduled activities each week and furry friends visit regularly as Ivy Glenn has coordinated with a provider of “pet therapy.” From the beautifully appointed rooms, to the exquisite grounds, you won’t find another home that combines all the amenities of a four star hotel with the comfort of one’s own living room.
“The most important work we do is provide our seniors with a loving home.” Love, like ivy, grows exponentially with the proper care and attention. It can strengthen walls and rebuild that which has begun to crumble. That’s a connotation worth fighting for, a distinction Ivy Glenn finds worth defining.
To connect with Matt directly or to schedule a complimentary tour, call (949) 697-1410 or visit www.IvyGlennRSL.com
There is something powerful about true, deep calm. The spread of quiet. Perhaps the draw of it is why so many seek the peace of the woods, the white noise of the ocean, the exquisite contentment a great yoga class can bring. People are drawn to it, animals can’t get enough of it. Ryan Furlet is the possessor of a powerful calm. With the laid back aesthetic of a Bob Marley fan and the grace of a Zen master, Ryan is perhaps the gentlest soul I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And what’s even more important than my first impression was that of our family dog Bella.
I have never seen anyone elicit such a serene demeanor out of our otherwise rambunctious labrador retriever pup than Ryan did when we signed on for a Life Center Evaluation, and then a Private Life Center Session. But what sold me on Ryan’s unique abilities was watching him train Charlotte, the six-month-old golden retriever belonging to the owner of the jiu jitsu dojo my kids attend. In front of the dojo, while class was in session. Which means 20-some-odd children were actively sparring just on the other side of floor to ceiling windows while their parents are lined up outside chatting and watching their kiddos work - all of which should have been a major distraction for the pup and an increased challenge for the trainer.
Ryan, who had brought along his own five dogs in order to train Charlotte with the aid of his “pack.” As the pack leader, Ryan put his own pups into “down stay” at one end of the walkway, then sat with Charlotte 15 feet away, murmuring instructions to her. Amidst all the activity and noise, his dogs watched Ryan intently, awaiting his next command. He quietly called each over, one at a time to join he and Charlotte while the remaining dogs held position until it was their turn. Suffice it to say the other parents and I were slack jawed as we watched him work.
From that day forward, the other moms and I referred to Ryan as the “dog whisperer,” which it turns out is an apt moniker as Ryan occasionally assists Cesar Milan as one of his trainers. Ryan truly is a K-9 guru. And he is looking for new pups to join the pack.
“Here at the Life Center, we understand that just as parents may differ in their method of directing their children,” Ryan notes, “so do our pet parents with their K-9 companions.” Their mission is to provide the healing and rehabilitative process needed to improve on the standing expectations between pets and their parents. What is actually reasonable to want from one’s pet? What can your pet expect from you? Ryan is a firm believer that creating better pet behaviors makes a happier home life. Now expanding his services to include nearly the entire South Orange County area, from Aliso Viejo to Laguna Beach, the K-9 guru is literally willing to go the extra mile to help you and your canine compadre reach the powerful center of true, deep calm.
Offering one or two hour private Life Center sessions, group classes, or two or three-hour private sessions at your home, each pet and parent will “move forward from their own foundation, tap into a required understanding, and create positive energy.” Home sessions are built around the balance of communication between pet and parent, and maximizes the training experience by allowing the trainer the insight into the way parents nurture, and pets respond.
And boy, do pets respond. Not many people can take over 10 dogs to the park, off leash, and put just one into stay and walk away with the rest of the pack and have the dog patiently wait until called. Going out of town and want your pup to relax just as much as you are while on vacation? At the Life Center in San Clemente, Ryan will board and train your dog at the same time. Keeping Bella overnight the first time cemented our family’s belief in his methods - Bella came home a more well behaved, more calm canine. So much so, that we regularly leave Bella in Ryan’s care when our family travels.
From a wee pooch to those looking for more intermediate or advanced training options, no dog is too much for the deep well of calm that comes from someone as dedicated to their craft. With 5 rescue dogs of his own, it really is no wonder that Ryan has found himself as the guru of South Orange County when it comes to pups and their parents.
To connect with Ryan, call (949) 449-9618 or visit www.k-9guru.com
My husband recently discovered that there are certain restaurants in our area which have a “ghost menu.” Items the chefs are willing to whip up for guests, but only if you know what to ask for. His immediate request? A grilled cheese sandwich. I couldn’t help but laugh. All the choices in the world awaited, including some of the best kept secret recipes of city’s cooking elite, and he picks a grilled cheese. His response? “You can’t ever go wrong with comfort food.”
He was right. And that’s exactly what EATS Kitchen & Bar at the Hotel Irvine offers: except that instead of a ghost menu, the entire regular menu is chock full of comfort-food-gone-gourmet. Forget the stale pub-concept eatery and remix the classics with the chef’s creative take on all your favorite staple foods - his culinary passion is evident in his mouthwatering signature burgers, regional specialties and tapas-style small bites. Right alongside delicious craft beers, intriguing wines, and signature handcrafted cocktails. Featuring indoor and outdoor spaces to lounge and linger, including an outdoor fire pit, EATS takes the foods your Mom fed you on your birthday and family holidays, and serves them up with vibrant decor and a circular bar centerpiece.
Featuring expansive indoor and outdoor spaces, cozy booths and an alfresco patio with fire pit, EATS Kitchen & Bar decor draws inspiration from all over the world. Chef Jason combines international flavors with local, farm-fresh ingredients to create a menu that is decidedly original and delicious. For starters, we opted for the Butcher’s Board - the chef’s selection of artisan meats, grilled sourdough and house pickles.
The signature EATS burger was worth writing home about - and that’s really saying something since my husband is quite the connoisseur (his burger arrived on a brioche bun with smoked bacon, Tillamook cheddar, house aioli and onion bacon jam - wonderful flavors you might not think to pair. My steak salad was a equally flavorful, inventive blend of organic greens, chimichurri steak, roasted cherry tomatoes, shaved radish, ciabatta croutons and feta cheese with a sun-dried tomato and basil vinaigrette. House specialties range from the house-smoked baby back ribs flavored with a bourbon barbecue sauce and accompanied by house fries and coleslaw to the steelhead salmon with beluga lentils, wilted spinach and lemon caper butter.
Kids (12 and under) eat free every night during dinner time and our kiddos loved digging into some of Chef Jason’s favorite childhood dishes including chicken strips and fries and penne pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese.
EATS Kitchen & Bar in the Hotel Irvine is located at 17900 Jamboree Road in Irvine.
For reservations or more information, call (888) 230-4452 or visit hotelirvine.com
My grandmother and I used to joke with each other about the subtle difference in meaning between the words ‘subscribe’ and ‘ascribe’ (now that I’m thinking about it, that joke doesn’t seem like a joke at all - at least not in the joking-as-comedy way. Ok, ok, we’re language nerds).
But I think the beauty in each one of those words’ individual meanings gives light to a great many situations I find myself in as an adult, dealing with each day’s new challenges and obstacles. Particularly, when I think on the task of helping to care for my grandmother as she aged. Ascribing to something means to think of it in the sense of belonging- giving a thing qualities, or characteristics. Subscribing, on the other hand, denotes membership: signing up, signing onto a mission, pledging something.
As adults moving through the world, we ascribe to, and subscribe to on a daily basis, typically with little thought to the consequences. Signing up for a newspaper? You get the daily news. Calling someone brave when they kill a spider in the house? They receive a compliment. Put your grandfather, father, mother into a senior home? What could possibly happen? Have you broken down that decision? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts if you start joking around about ascribe/subscribe, you’ll come to the same conclusions I did: especially when you consider the depth and breadth of services provided by Alliance Eldercare.
Coming from a background of elder hospitality was the first step toward providing the best in senior assistance for Alliance founder Derek Mannion.
“In 1931 my grandmother, Sophie Mannion, opened the first board and care home in Kaimuki, Hawaii,” he says. “My father told me many stories of my grandmother taking seniors into their home and caring for them until they passed.”
Derek was able to witness his grandmother’s legacy in action, as well as the firsthand experience he garnered observing his father care for his aging grandmother in-home until she passed at the age of 91. For over a decade, Derek has been working in the healthcare industry, dedicating his life to helping families find care options for their loved ones that match up with the seniors’ needs.
“In 2014, I completed the Residential Care Facility for the Elderly certification in order to better serve seniors,” he says. “I was blessed to have my father live with me, at the age of 83, and care for him to the best of my ability until he passed away in February.”
Ascribing gentleness, kindness, and passion to Derek aren’t hard, and those are the first qualities you see when greeted by the staff at Alliance. Their mission: to find the best senior healthcare options available for your loved ones, is simple, and crystal clear. In its fifth year of operation, Alliance Eldercare is your one-stop source to help navigate the myriad of (oftentimes overwhelming) senior care options on the market - from independent senior living and board and care homes to memory care communities, long term, hospice, Parkinson’s, and more.
“I’ve seen every option out there from my grandmother’s boarding house to the in-home I provide for my father and everything in between,” says Derek. “At Alliance, we’re not just searching for an open bed for someone - we’re searching for the right care for your loved one.”
Client Cheri West sent the following to Derek as a testament to his personal approach: “You have gone far beyond our expectations of helping make sure my mom will be happy with her assisted living! You gave her your full attention and listened to her wants and desires and have made sure the place that was chosen was the best place for her. She has depended on you to do things that should have been handled by family, but you wanted to make sure it was handled correctly and followed through to the end. I hope we can keep in contact, I really feel you’re part of the our family!”
Alliance comes to you: to sit and talk face to face. Offering free guided tours of Assisted Living facilities and Board and Care Homes puts seniors and their families in the position to gain a true understanding of the options available to them, as opposed to trying to make a decision based on cold-calling or emailing a laundry list of homes.
“I prefer the personal touch,” he says. “That’s what sets us apart. Seniors need advocates, and we are happy to do our part.” The clincher? There is no obligation, and their service is completely free of charge. “When you do the right thing, word gets out.” Now that’s an idea I’ll subscribe to.
For a FREE Care Needs Assessment, Derek and the Alliance Eldercare team can be reached by calling (866) 936-4241 or visit www.AllianceEldercare.com
We all come from somewhere. A city, in a state- a street, down the street from your neighbor. A neighborhood. The concept of which, arising from the social attitudes of the early city planners, crystalized out of the 1900’s when Clarence Perry modeled residential development in growing urban areas. Just another collection of lines on a blueprint; just another place to rest at the end of the day. But what really exists in the places we call home? Shops, restaurants, hotels: the places we meet and connect, work, eat, celebrate. North Park, in San Diego is no different. With a visible history that began more than 100 years ago, around the advent of the term “neighborhood,” the streetcars that lined John D. Spreckels’ San Diego Electric Railway ran along University Avenue and 30th. Creating, passenger by passenger, the heart of the community.
Bringing residents, shopkeepers, and business investors alike, those who came to the neighborhood then and now were greeted by the tallest commercial building on the block: once, the home of real-estate partnership between William Jay Stevens and John “Jack” Hartley, the eldest son in the Hartley family, and whom the 40 acres that lay between Ray, 32nd, University, and Dwight were named after. “Hartley’s North Park” stuck, and has remained the city’s Busy Corner ever since. The neon sign signifying North Park’s Busy Corner hung from 1935 to 1967, and was replaced after years of community advocacy in 1993: bringing light back to a neighborhood containing some of the area’s most beloved art galleries, studios, performing art venues, sushi stops, vegetarian cafes, coffee shops, and brunch spots in San Diego.
Bringing the truest meaning of community to Clarence Perry’s “neighborhood”, The Lafayette originally opened its doors in 1946. Only a couple short miles from the world famous San Diego Zoo, and Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres of culture and nature, the hotel still holds tightly to the Hollywood charm it brought the area upon opening. An eclectic collection of rooms awaits each eager guest, and an amenities list as long and varied as the sea life in San Diego’s sparkling waters ensures there is no low point in your modern travel experience. Priding itself on being great at everything it does, the Lafayette Hotel boasts great food, great people, and great beds.
Dive into the historic Johnny Weissmuller-designed Olympic Pool or take a lap around the hotel’s two classic restaurants: HOPE 46 or The Red Fox Steakhouse. Get recommendations from locals on North Park culture and history, and dive into San Diego’s finest with a long list of to-do’s from the Lafayette’s well-traveled circle of friends. And, with over 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space both within the hotel and without, there isn’t a community space quite like it in the neighborhood.
Newest to the neighborhood is the African penguin colony at San Diego’s own Africa Rocks exhibit. With an insider tour offering unique views of the penguin’s home beach and nesting area, guests learn how zoo caretakers are working to conserve the birds in the wild. The zoo, a haven for animals ranging from savannah to sea spotlights the incredible diversity of species found on their native African continent. Penguins are just the tip of the zoological iceberg, joined by the Nubian ibex, ring-tailed lemurs, leopards, meerkats, and West African dwarf crocodiles. A tour for all ages, each takes place under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable guide. If that doesn’t sound like enough of a day to you and the family, plan your trip to the Zoo and Wild Animal Park around an immense list of activities and animals destined to make the most out of your visit.
The recent winner of The Nonprofit Institute’s Kaleidoscope Award for Good Governance, San Diego’s own Museum of Man was recognized for celebrating and promoting good governance propelling their organization’s performance and fulfillment of its mission. A huge hit for all ages, guests can explore the human connection in a dynamic environment, reflect on one’s place in the global community, and strive together to push the boundaries of human invention. Exhibits range from the newest, opening in April 2018, to tours of the historic California Tower: reopening after being closed to the public for the last 80 years. Climb seven floors, sneaking glimpses of the beauty that awaits at the top, emerging into the sunlight where panoramic views of Balboa Park, and its majestic history await below. Inspired by the churches of Mexico and Spain, the tower was closed to the public shortly after the 1935 Cal Pacific Exposition: and is now the hottest attraction in North Park for adults and families alike!
Stepping into the neighborhood means being welcomed home, and what says home more than a classic American meal, artfully crafted from locally and responsibly sourced seafood, veggies, and meats. If their handmade craft cocktails weren’t enough to welcome you to the table, the hustle and bustle of this North Park favorite serves up some of the most incredible comfort food in town. Having committed years ago upon their first meal to ensure they produced with the most natural ingredients possible, Urban Solace features antibiotic free meats, the best boutique wines, and a unique selection of craft beers. Matt Gordon, chef and owner of Urban Solace, set out on a mission to create a place where he felt good about the product they served, down to the most basic and rudimentary ingredients. Just like his family table at home, Matt and his wife created the menu taking no food item for granted: down to the pure cane sugar that goes into each soda in the restaurant.
Located in the intensely charming North Park community, The Prado restaurant helps set the scene with colorful decor and patio seating, inside a gorgeous Californian hacienda, akin to the newly reopened Museum of Man’s California Tower. Hearkening back to the original Golden Coast charm San Diego has grown famous for, The Prado looks like a castle plucked out of the temperate hills of Spain: with designated date nights, happy hours for the most seasoned vignerons, and a two course theatre menu featuring their very own Prado favorites, like Pan Roasted Sea Bass and Mustard Crusted Pork Chop. Going out on the town has never been so delightful, nor delectable. With weekly live music in the Prado Lounge, the restaurant boasts the height of hospitality, from the first course of the day, to dessert at the very end. Taste historic California in the heart of San Diego one bite at a time, at the Prado Restaurant, Balboa Park.
Hospitality has its origins in antiquity, with the first records of guest baths in Greek villages in early biblical times. Over the last two thousand years, the simple act of offering care for others has grown into a massive industry: from the first French and English rural inns and stables for travelers, to the splendor of the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Caring for others can be complicated, or it can be simple: and the San Clemente Villas are looking to keep it simple.
Aileen Brazeau and her husband Paul own and operate the Villas, and they’d like to think that hospitality is simply about listening. Listening to its residents, namely. “If we are successful at providing superior senior care and lodging, it is for that reason - we listen closely to what the residents tell us.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seniors will represent 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030. As demand for senior housing rises, the Villas are ready to meet it with their signature recipe for success: hospitality.
Villas’ residents enjoy a level of service and care often missing from senior communities. Care plans are specifically tailored to residents’ daily individual needs, and with 24-hour assistance every day of the year, the center fosters as much independence as possible while still maintaining the highest level of comprehensive care. The staff, including an Assisted Living Care manager, Licensed Nurse, and Executive Director are involved on a daily basis with the well-being of each resident, ensuring that the safety, health and comfort of each resident comes first. “The first thing that Paul, I, and our staff focused upon when we opened our doors was that each resident has a story to tell, as well as unique needs. We are interested in their stories, and we care about their needs.”
Walking into the “grand hall” of The Villas is like walking onto lido deck of a cruise ship - minus the cruise director and napkins folded to look like chimpanzees. Clearly, Paul and his wife know exactly what they’re doing, and are excelling at it, as there are smiling seniors everywhere you look: chatting amongst themselves, or with visiting relatives or staff. If it isn’t Happy Hour on Tuesday or Thursday, there is bound to be a Luau, or Karaoke Birthday Party. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, The Villas host an annual “Villas’ Got Talent” show.
Taking a peek into the kitchens is an experience in itself, where a team of chefs prepare several entrees, side dishes and desserts at breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Our residents look forward to every meal”, Aileen states, noting that it is not unusual to see a home baked pie or cobbler on the menu, following a fresh, home-style lunch or dinner. “Casual “cafe-style dining is available, as is formal. Residents can even reserve a private dining room for family visits”. But balance and moderation are keys to offering a tailored care experience, and so the Villas also boast an exercise gym and beauty salon, a library, and a game area. Nightly movies are one of the most popular venues for the residents, showing on the “big screen” in a roomy theater setting.
Like any five star hotel, the Villas rely on the services that an on-site concierge offers. Through telephone and personal interactions, the Concierge provides exemplary customer service: allowing the residents to focus on the meaningful moments they have throughout their days, instead of stressing about what the day’s schedule looks like, worry about how to pick up a prescription off site, or how to challenge themselves to keep mind and body active. The “cruise ship that never sails” couldn’t be more accurate a way to describe the Villas. As cruise directors, Paul and Aileen operate the fully-staffed community. She, her Executive Director, Karen Milroy, along with long-time Marketing Director, Diana Sanchez, work magic in the Public Relations, Networking and Marketing arena, often hosting events at The Villas that are open to local businesses and the community.
On-site presence is what sets this community apart, and what keeps the ship afloat. Most senior residence communities operate through a parent corporation, run by hired representatives. Taking hospitality to the next level, Paul and Aileen have made it a point to keep their offices onsite at The Villas, and can be seen regularly participating in activities during the week. If you see them on-site, say hello, ask a question, and expect to be hosted like you are a part of the San Clemente Villas family.