It is rare to find someone who knew their path early - by divine intervention, fate or luck. Someone whom, through circumstances beyond their control, walked into their calling and have found great success. Providence. Serendipity. Whatever you might call it, Daniel Lara is one of those lucky few. A native Southern Californian, out for the day with some friends on the Huntington Beach Pier, Lara was a recent high school graduate when he struck up a conversation with “an interesting character” - a chance encounter that would change the trajectory of his life forever.
The Hollywood stunt man Lara met that day happened to have a side job as a real estate and mortgage broker. He shared with Lara how he’d recently sold an apartment complex for $8,000,000 to a connection he’d made through a movie he'd worked on. This initial meeting led to a fledgling friendship during which the then 19-year-old's initiative and ambition so impressed his friend that he offered Lara his first job in real estate. By 23, Daniel was leading a team of loan originators. By 30, he ran a mortgage company. “Unbelievable opportunity and a ton of really hard, honest work” ensured that his experience grew exponentially in a very short time.
Lara took a small mom-and-pop brokerage in Huntington Beach and "put them on the national stage by merging with an FDIC Mortgage Bank. Most companies dream of such an opportunity - in a few years I was able to make that happen for them.” Three years ago Lara opened his own company, Regal American Mortgage in Laguna Hills, a newly developed division that he and his team have expanded to five states thus far. "Our ambition is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all things are right. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true."
Having a dream come to fruition at such a young age, having the right person come into your life at the most opportune of times – Lara was blessed with both. While in his early twenties, he found himself uniquely positioned and eager to learn all he could from experiences with every type of lending institution - banks, lenders, brokers. Experiences and expertise that would not only serve as the underpinnings to his operational philosophy and enable his company to truly help homeowners, but would prove instrumental in Lara’s own professional success.
Having independently produced $97 million in closed transactions in 2016, Lara earned the distinction of being named to the upper echelon in his industry – among the top 200 loan agents in the nation or … 1% of the 1%. His personal production is currently approaching $1 billion, Lara specializes in VA loans, the total of which account for 60% of his closings.
“Our ethos is ‘finance your legacy’ and I say that with extreme seriousness,” he says. "We’re not just making sure we are giving clients the best rates and lowest fees: that’s standard. We’re listening. We’re preparing our clients for a structure that they can build a life off of.”
Balancing his business on the pillars of honesty, integrity and American family values hasn’t been easy, especially in a rapidly changing environment fraught with an unforeseen pandemic and global financial crisis. “If we can set the stage for your finances to leave a legacy behind and help take care of your family, we’ve done our jobs, no matter the time it takes, or the state the world is in.” The opportunity to learn from all walks of life has given Lara and his team the ability to stay nimble, agile, especially in these trying times.
Having an old fashioned eye for customer service and hospitality helps as well. Lara can rely on his team to service their clients, and therefore, their community’s needs because he has surrounded himself with a core group of like-minded, proactive professionals. These individuals, who bring a wealth of experience to the organization - some with only three years and others 35 years’ with MS degrees in finance - “have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for their work, and that has helped to develop momentum and unique programming over the last few years."
Lara adds that his administrative staff is "like none other I have ever worked with - because they are incredibly efficient and organized they help our clients navigate the hurdles to get a loan, very very quickly. We’re on pace to break all records I’ve set in the past as a top 1% producing agent in the nation.”
One of company’s more unique offerings assists seniors who may fear that they will not be able to age in place. Financing a new home purchase or refinancing your current loan is a common product Regal American is very familiar and extremely capable in handling, negotiating a reverse mortgage (HECM loan) is entirely another type of financing for elderly clients. “I want to be creative about the solutions we are able to offer our clients, and surprise folks with an opportunity that may have previously been viewed in a negative light.” Living Legacy loans, as they are referred to in the Regal American offices, allows clients to pursue their ideal lifestyle even if retirement income may not have kept up with costs of living. Allowing homeowners to turn a portion of their home equity into cash, and forego a monthly house payment takes the pressure off of individuals, and allows seniors to write their own legacy.
“There are so many nuances in every client’s financial life, and it takes a seasoned professional to navigate waters muddied by years of suspect business practices and preconceived notions.”
There are tens of thousands of mortgage companies in the US, and competition is no less fierce in Southern California. The impact of COVID-19 has stricken many, and shifted the way we look at global and local commerce, financing our goals, causing droves to scramble to maintain a standard of living to which we were accustomed just a few short months ago. In spite of those changes, Lara believes that Orange County has a unique ecosystem, and current predictions show only a small hiccup in housing trends before the market stabilizes. Fortunate: that the pride of homeownership, median income, and overall longevity of the OC all contribute to consistently positive growth. As homeowners are quick to take advantage of low rates and qualify for the mortgages they are receiving, we should step through these trying types relatively quickly.”
I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today …”
“It is quite simply a perfect environment in our real estate economy,” says Dan. “Right now, we are experiencing the highest home values paired with the lowest rates in American history. Once things begin to normalize, rates will increase and lenders will very likely tighten loan restrictions. All of which makes this the ideal time to finance or refinance (whether you want to take cash out to keep on hand for a rainy day, pay off credit card debt, install solar or make other desired home improvements). Don’t sit on the sidelines while the opportunity passes. I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today."
How many other companies are marching toward incoming changes instead of simply riding out the tide? With the patience to teach and the skills to execute, Regal American is a veteran at helping first-time home buyers, knowledgable refinancers or savvy investors. “When there is an opportunity to refinance and claim a better rate, we’re doing the hard work, staying ahead of the curve, and notifying our clients of market changes."
It could have been cloudy that fateful day, his friends deciding to stay indoors instead of venturing to the Pier. Lara could have still been living down the road in the city of his birth: San Clemente. But for whatever reason, that one move, one meeting, one conversation, changed Lara's trajectory by 1%, and eventually he found himself walking down a completely different path than on which he began. Regal American’s goal is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all cylinders are firing, when things are right, and as they should be. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true.
Perhaps Regal is that one move, one meeting, one conversation for you.
23022 La Cadena Dr., Suite 206
Let’s talk about reasons to install a new pool or update a tired and outdated backyard. I don’t just mean how incredible swimming pools are for increasing the value of your home or in the case of updating your pool, for energy and cost savings … I’m talking about a certain kind of admiration from your kids, grandkids and loved ones. I’m talking about a vanity-free, personalized outdoor entertainment space everyone will enjoy. Think of the unlimited possibilities – all because you make the decision to turn your own backyard into the kind of relaxing resort that you may have only dreamed of.
The fantasy is easy enough - but where do you begin? How do you know where to start?
That’s where Rich Tonti, owner and founder of Pacific Paradise Pools, comes in. He’s been transforming people’s lives and backyards for over 35 years, right here in Orange County. His team does every pool style: clean-lines mid-century, formal elegant designs, tropical rockscapes and any other at-home resort. It almost makes you want to charge admission for your own family and friends to take a dip.
Our mission is to help homeowners enjoy their pools, maximize their fun and create memories for a lifetime, while staying at home.
“Our mission is to help homeowners enjoy their pools, maximize their fun in their backyard and create memories for a lifetime all while staying at home,” says Rich. “I am very proud to say that we also have some of the most professional, talented, experienced and polite staff in the pool and spa industry.”
If you’ve got an existing swimming pool that has been neglected as much as our beach bodies seem to get, don’t worry, they also do major pool and spa renovations. Rich and the Pacific Paradise Pools Team strive very hard to go above and beyond to ensure their customers are satisfied at every turn. They have an in-house staff of designers and work with Interior Designers, Landscape Architects and other Trade Professionals to ensure you get the full HGTV effect.
“We aim to please and make sure that we develop an outdoor living space that will complement your family’s lifestyle and home’s personality as well as provide years of outdoor enjoyment,” says Rich. They’re not the bragging type, but the truth is this Huntington Beach-founded business is an award - winning company and has been honored on numerous occasions from industry associations and a variety of professional trade platforms. Pacific Paradise Pools won one of only four Pinnacle Awards from Luxury Pools and many other industry awards from their peers for design excellence.
While they appreciate the accolades and feel the awards “validate our hard work and business strategy,” their team is even more grateful for “the referrals from loyal, happy customers that truly prove our clients endorse what we do.” The fact of the matter is, these projects don’t just provide you with beautiful backyard entertainment, they give you endless relaxing weekends and evenings after a long day at the office or after the kids and grandkids sports games.
Rich and their team may not be there to serve you drinks poolside, but then again, with their 5-star customer service, maybe you just need to ask(although, rumor has it they help you christen your pool with a bottle of Tonti Family Wine!). And, if you’re looking to sell soon, backyard entertainment areas are rated among the top requested home upgrades you can showcase.
Pacific Paradise Pools works its magic quickly and efficiently when executing a project, just let their team know how they can help you during this exciting process.
We’d hate to make him blush, but we’ve got to get the word out about what Rich does when he isn’t creating backyard memories for his clients. Currently he volunteers an average of 10 or more hours a week on projects and spends a couple weeks every year volunteering overseas. Since 1994, he has been a part of “Men and Women of Action,” a volunteer construction and disaster relief organization. Traveling all over the world, he’s helped re-build homes, build schools, churches, orphanages and medical clinics on five of the seven continents. Hurricane relief in the South East, to Zambia, Brazil, Romania, Honduras, Nepal, Bulgaria, Ecuador, the Philippines, schools in Mozambique and homes in Mexico. A recent project in a in “The Bush,” outside Mozambique’s capitol city where “we are partnering to build a new community, with small homes, school classrooms and an afterschool mentor and feeding program, which ministers to 350 kids 5 days a week.” “This gives life meaning, and couples my skills as a builder and my passion to assist those in need of a helping hand,” says Rich, who recently completed a couple of projects a little closer to home: a multiple school building roof project in Fresno, a church hall in Bakersfield, a drywall project, in Simi Valley, for a senior citizen and a dozen homes in Tijuana, Mexico, with a Santa Ana based group named Corazon. There, the recipients of the homes are worthy candidates who have performed hundreds of hours community service and are nominated by their neighbors to receive, their first home, using funds generated through donations here in the states.
“Raised right here in Orange County, it’s always especially nice when we have the opportunity to give back in our own community as well.”
Learn more about Men and Women of Action by visiting www.mwoa.ngo or Corazon at www.corazon.org
Interested in their Pool Design and Construction Services? Read unedited testimonials and experience their unparalleled customer service by visiting:
Or call Rich directly at
(714) 437-POOL (7665)
Classy Closets’ unique, custom solutions for the home and office can instantly double or even triple your storage space.
Closet organization is something of an oxymoron at my house. Same goes for my home office. I actually do know where everything is in the stacks of paper that perpetually reside atop my desk, but good luck having anyone else make rhyme or reason of my filing “system.”
I’m clearly a candidate for the handiwork of a company like Classy Closets – if it’s a matter of function or simply a desire to have your mess aesthetically addressed, Classy Closets will customize your work/life space with made-toorder cabinetry and organization systems for your home office, garage, bedroom, laundry room, pantry, media centers, wallbeds and more.
Think you can’t afford to bring in the professionals? Classy Closets, which has served all of Orange County and San Diego since 2003, offers organization options for virtually every budget – from basic white melanine to solid wood cabinetry.
“Nothing we do is cookie cutter,” says Company CFO Gary Pavitt. “Although Classy Closets is a franchise, we’re not governed by the rules that typically dictate processes of typical franchise operations – particularly with regard to the materials and mounting systems we use. What works in terms of style and function at a home in Tucson, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily translate to a house in Huntington Beach. So we have the freedom to customize our work to our client’s specific needs and desires.”
Another differentiator is that Gary and his team manufacture their products right here in Southern California, which affords them the ability to offer their clients a broader range of product options at a level of quality that is “second to none.” And because they are “hands-on” from design consultation to manufacture and installation, Gary and his staff pride themselves on providing unparalleled customer service.
“What’s really fun is having the ability to create the products in-house,” says Gary. “I really enjoy introducing new ways to make things better, bringing in new products and keeping up with the latest trends in the industry. We go out of our way to keep our customers satisfied … that’s what makes it all worthwhile. As in any business, your customers are golden and we’ve been very fortunate that a large percentage of our business is in referrals.”
Repeat customers Marta and Mike Fowler of San Diego say that Classy Closets is a “dream company - one that not only delivers beautiful craftsmanship, but also that elusive quality of excellent service. Every good cliché regarding their work applies.”
“This is our second home that Classy Closets has refined to meet all our storage needs, from closets to garage, from bathroom storage to entertainment center. And they never try to oversell, giving honest recommendations for products, charging fair prices within reach,” says Marta. “Their creative solutions and impeccable workmanship combine to make functional pieces we love living with. We have only one warning: Classy Closets is addictive, and you will find yourself wanting to spread the good news.”
In a letter to Gary’s business partner Kate Monaghan, Carlsbad-based Interior Designer Karen Wirrig echoes the Fowler’s sentiment and adds that “my new master closet is beautiful and your attention to detail is evident. I also want to commend your installation crew. They were on time, tidy, polite, and did excellent work … I will wholeheartedly recommend your company to all my clients. It has been a pleasure to work with you all.”
23024 Lake Forest Drive, Suite K
The average American household has 45 lights in it. Cup lighting, recessed, portraiture; indoor, outdoor. Incandescent, CFL, LED. There are likely as many types of fixtures and functions in the residential electrical world as years Steve Carter Electric has been in business.
A staple in south Orange County for the last thirty years, it isn’t hard to imagine why someone might call in the professionals at Steve Carter Electric for help wiring and all things electrical.
Dedicated to providing the best quality on every job, and investing in long-term service is the backbone of the business, and what Steve Carter himself carries into every job.
“We know that your home is more than a tangle of wires: its not the fixtures, its the connections made inside and out.” Specializing in whole house fans, lighting and electrical upgrades, repairs, back-up power, panel upgrades, landscape lighting, E.V charger installs and general troubleshooting, there isn’t a job too complex to take on.
One of the perks of publishing South County Magazine is being able to give testimonials for local businesses that our family has personally utilized. As a San Juan Capistrano resident blessed to live in coastal OC, I realize it’s ridiculous to refer to the unseasonable warm weather we experienced in September and October as uncomfortably “hot.” But warm air rises and our bedrooms are upstairs - where the temperature would get to the mid-80s, which would make it a little warmer than we’d like when trying to get to sleep at night.
My husband had been hankering to have a whole house fan installed after we experienced the benefits for ourselves while visiting family friends in Northern California. With 10 minutes of turning the whole house fan on, all of the warm air had been evacuated from the home, replaced with the cooler ambient air from outside - dropping the temperature in the house by 10 degrees! He was sold. In researching local companies, we came across the Yelp 5-Star rated San Clemente-based family-owned Steve Carter Electric. We couldn’t be happier with the QuietCool whole house fan we had installed - and equally importantly, the service provided by Steve and his team of professionals and are now all set to make quick work of the warm air during our next “hot” spell.
“I knew back in high school that I wanted to learn the trade and become an electrician,” says Steve. “My Dad taught me to take pride in my workmanship, and I’ve carried that through until today. We don’t cut corners because we’d like to be your electricians for life.”
Steve Carter Electric (949) 481-4752 www.scepros.com
McDonnell’s “masterpiece fighting jet,” the F-4 Phantom, rolled off the production line in December 1960, as a fleet defender built to intercept nuclear foes. Delivered to Miramar Naval Air Station, the jet was eventually bound for nearly four decades of service in the U.S. military.
For a rookie pilot, the F-4 could be a little hard to handle, its two-seater capacity requiring a little more of a team effort than fighter pilots were used to; and a nose that rose notoriously slowly off the deck of an aircraft carrier. For those of us who know nothing about planes, let alone what Mach 1 or 2 mean, a slow-going-nose doesn’t sound like much. But for Colonel Gregory G. Raths, USMC (RET) it was as much of a trial as any: with a bit of speed, that slow nose could over rotate to a stall. A rather rude initiation to the Marine Corps, if you ask me.
Luckily, meeting Col. Raths is nothing like stalling out over the deck of a 45,000 ton aircraft carrier, even though his sights are currently set on becoming a U.S. Congressman this year - perhaps a task equal to lifting off the deck in a multi-million dollar war machine.
A charming, well-spoken man, the Colonel speaks lovingly of his parents, and the four brothers and three sisters he grew up with in Phoenix, Arizona. The fifth of eight children, Col. Raths had an early view into the life of a serviceman. His father served in the Army Air Corps from 1941-1945, as a bomber pilot during WWII, and flew combat in the European theatre in the A-20, a night fighter and adaptable light bomber mostly used by the Allied forces in World War II. His mother stayed home full time with the family, keeping the household running.
“As a kid, I mowed lawns, delivered handbills, went door to door selling anything from light bulbs to Christmas lights,” he says. Each step around the neighborhood was a step towards a life of service: to his community first as an Eagle Scout, class president, and multi-sport athlete, and eventually to his country - joining the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program in 1972 after his freshman year at Arizona State University (ASU).
Enduring summer training at Quantico during the summers of 1973 and 1974, Col. Raths also received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1975. By the time he graduated flight school in Pensacola, FL, “Vietnam was over, and the military began drawing down its forces, and reducing its budgets. My first assignment was in Orange County, CA - at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.”
Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple … We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Congress members even now are receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients are only receiving a 1.6 percent increase in 2020. Hospital bills are rising. We need to make a decisive move. - Col. Gregory G. Raths
Closed now, El Toro was long part of the vision of a developing community - a vision that Col. Raths would like to see brought back to American towns. Dwight Whiting, Boston-born founder of the town of El Toro, helped establish the first church, negotiated the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad through the valley, and saw the future of the community in its gentleman farmers: working hard and living off the wealth and proceeds of their walnut and apricot groves. Replaced now by shopping malls and a new town moniker, the vision Whiting and Col. Raths share for the country is fading, and Col. Raths believes it is time for a change.
“The American people have had enough,” he says. “We have been deceived, betrayed by our elected officials. We need new leaders with honesty and integrity” - two traits Col. Raths learned en force through his tours aboard the USS Midway, and later as squadron commander off the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. “Washington D.C. has proven its ineptitude, and we must not allow this dreadful sequence to continue.”
His new assignment is a personal one: One he believes must be based on solutions, not politics as usual. Courage, rather than the opinion of a special interest group, or the hope of reelection.
Col. Raths has no aspirations to become a career politician - he’s already completed a 30 year military career and spent the past fifteen years in the private sector as a commercial airline pilot, president of an automobile parts distribution firm, and is currently an author and publisher. He is the current Mayor of Mission Viejo and volunteers within his community as a member of the Elks Lodge, president of the Mission Viejo Rotary Club, American Legion, VFW, St. Kilian Knights of Columbus and Vice-Chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors Veterans Advisory Council.
He is running for office because he simply believes that “a drastically new course for this nation must be drafted” and is committed to leading that charge on behalf of his friends, neighbors and fellow citizens in California’s 45th Congressional District.
A SENIOR FOR SENIORS
When asked what types of current policy he sees as going in the wrong direction that he would correct if elected to office, Col. Raths points to the “fiscal mismanagement of programs such as Medicare and Social Security.”
“Why are members of Congress receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients are only receiving a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2020?” he asks. “Medicare co-payments, prescriptions and hospital bills are skyrocketing. I will focus on our seniors and see that they are taken care of.
“Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple. We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Six percent. We need new leaders who are not worried about the next election or pleasing special interests groups. We can’t count on the same politicians who got us into this mess to get us out. There is only one special interest group I am interested in serving: the people of the 45th Congressional District.”
Col. Raths brings a unique experience and perspective to negotiating Washington’s political scene. Previously having served as Chief of Staff of the White House Military Office taught Raths much about how career politicians function, and he’d like to be a force that changes those functions.
At Mach speeds, most modern aircraft must compromise in order to maintain handling ability. Supersonic speeds create shock waves, and the stronger the shock wave is, the greater the pressure difference, which causes a sonic boom. While those outside the cockpit are witness to the boom, those inside the aircraft cannot hear it. America is at the edge of Mach speed right now, cruising into the path of governmental dependence and the “damaging impact of complacency and apathy.” Col. Raths would like to take back the controls.
Overseeing military support from the White House is no small task, especially after serving in the military at such a volatile and unpopular time, and Raths is all too familiar with the stresses and victories surrounding military legislation coming from Congress. He would like to make it clear that his next battle is back in Washington, fighting for the people of the 45th Congressional District where he’d like to “fix the mess that has been created by politicians invested in maintaining their power, rather than doing what they know is right based on the principles that made this nation great to begin with.”
For our future and that of our children and grandchildren: the time to survey the scene has passed. Start those engines, ladies and gentlemen.
For more information on Col. Gregory Raths’ campaign or to contact him directly, visit www.gregraths.com, call (949) 292-2468 or write to: Col. Gregory G. Raths, 26551 Maside , Mission Viejo, CA. 92692.
Content approved by Supporters for Gregory G. Raths for Congress.
Studies have shown in recent years that multitasking, once held to be the epitome of a refined work ethic, may actually be detrimental to one’s productivity.
Apparently, trying to complete more than one task at one time interferes with specific forms of brain activity, mussing things up, instead of straightening them out. Dr. James Vartanian is in the business of straightening things out. Instead of multitasking, he much prefers being multi-specialty.
Convenience comes with efficiency, and at the Vartanian Dental Group, that means offering a full-team approach. Each member working within his or her own area of specialization, from start to finish. Oral examinations, teeth whitening, crowns and bridges, porcelain veneers, bonding, dental emergencies. The team offers full spectrum, comprehensive dentistry services that also includes sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, root canals and extractions and implants.
Convenience comes with efficiency, and at the Vartanian Dental Group, that means offering a full-team approach.
“I come from a family of physicians, and wanted that balance of healthcare and hands-on customer service,” says Dr. Vartanian. "I am able to offer that philosophy and culture here with quality dental care at affordable pricing. You don’t have to be referred out, you won’t feel as though we’re juggling a multitude of tasks behind the scenes. We’re here to help you create a beautiful smile - and that’s our entire focus.”
Having been in practice for over twenty years, Dr. Vartanian and his team provide the whole experience. State-of-the-art facilities, filled with welcoming and engaged staff. Ready to help dental professionals with financing options and easy-to-make appointment platforms. Multitasking might not be the key to feeling great at the end of the day. But a beautiful, healthy smile just might be.
Vartanian Dental Group accepts Medicare Advantage Dental HMO Plans. The office is located at 26302 La Paz Road, Suite 203 in Mission Viejo. For more information, call (949) 586-5669 or visit www.vartaniandentalgroup.com
The Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” is bestowed upon restaurants that take its commitment to its wine program “a step further,” displaying excellent breadth across multiple regions and/or significant depth of top wines, along with superior presentation. As an aspiring oenophile, I learned the above while swimming around online in search of a special “date night” dining destination.
My husband has a deeper knowledge and appreciation for fine wine, so I was determined to find an establishment that would provide the “wow” factor - in its wine selection, culinary offerings, ambiance and service. Housed in a gorgeous, historic 1934 home along the Pacific Coast Highway, Selanne Steak Tavern delivered on all counts.
The award, I learned, is typically given to restaurants that offer upwards of 350 wine selections, and exude a deep commitment to the craft behind a good pairing, or a vintage itself. Selanne Steak Tavern received the honor based on its intensely impressive selection of 2,750-bottle wine list, with origins spanning the planet. Designed to appeal to locals and visitors alike, the cellar boasts flavors from all over our fair state - including California cult wines - as well as other highly rated, world class wines from 435 additional worldwide locales stretching from New Zealand to Spain, Portugal to Peru.
Brick pathways and wooden doors open to an ambiance that successfully transports the spirit of classic American steakhouses and taverns to Southern California’s iconic Laguna Beach. With a robust menu of succulent steaks and chops, superb poultry, game and seafood straight from the inspiration of its co-owners: Six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne and local businessman Kevin Pratt, the steakhouse features a comfortable and classic environment for all. Enjoy any of the five distinct dining settings on site: bistro-style Wine Library, the handsome Tavern, outdoor, relaxing Veranda or Sunset Terrace, or the elegant upstairs Loft.
“Food should support the community it comes from and tempt the palate of those around it,” and tempt it does. Tender prime meats and Chef Vincent Terusa’s favorite farm-to-table ingredients and creative presentations are showcased in a warm, inviting ambiance characterized by wide planked oak floors, a whitewashed fireplace original to the building, and abstract pieces by local Laguna Beach artist Nick Gaetano.
Popular starters include the Pacific Diver Scallops (enhanced with cauliflower and pickled shimeji mushroom) and the the Wagyu beef tartare (paired with fingerling chips, wild rocket and quail egg). Although I’m generally more of a seafood aficionado while my husband is the resident meat-and-potato man, I changed my mind three times as I watched as aromatic dishes were delivered to guests around us. I finally settled on the abundantly flavorful grilled-to-perfection ribeye served with Chef’s truffle butter and bordelaise. The broccolini (with garlic chili oil/lemon) and butternut squash (maple bourbon tonic/sage) were the ideal accompaniments both in flavor and texture to the melt-in-your-mouth prime meat.
Earlier this fall, Selanne and Pratt opened their latest collaboration: The Penalty Box - a counter service casual eatery - in Garden Grove. “A salute to creative casual food and, of course, hockey,” the original, all-American comfort menu cleverly and whimsically refers to Selanne’s love of the NHL. PUCKS are burgers made with the eatery’s signature blend of sirloin, short rib and wagyu beef; STICKS are four different temptations of hot dogs; WHIPPED ICE are tantalizing ice cream shakes.
Selanne Steak Tavern
1464 South Coast Highway
There’s a real sweet spot when it comes to dinner. Full and fed, of course. More than that however: a parent’s dream exists somewhere in the time it takes to get the kids to calm down and actually eat the meal you spent time precious time preparing for them. 15 years in the making, Dream Dinners has been helping people solve the “what’s for dinner” question.
Easy, family friendly meals put you at the table sooner. Sandy Ransom (who co-owns Dream Dinners in Lake Forest with her husband Richard) and her team know their customers by name.
“We take pride in making our business a place that is comfortable and inviting to use.” Not a buffet, or a meal in a box that shows up on your doorstep, Dream Dinners is an easy meal assembly “store.” Coming from over 30 years in the food service industry, Sandy wanted something different, “something purposeful.” Since 2002, Dream Dinners has helped American families sit down to 100 million meals. For a busy mom, it can be a lifesaver. I know firsthand.
Between work, school pickup and drop offs, homework and shuttling two kiddos to their respective after school activities, it’s often a challenge to figure out what to make for dinner, never mind finding the time (or energy) to prep the meal in advance each day - all in an oftentimes futile effort to cut down on time spent cooking and more time actually enjoying the dish as a family. Add to that a desire for healthy, home cooked meals vs. pizza delivery, takeout, fast food on the run or the standby chicken nuggets that I cringe to admit are too often a staple. But that was before I discovered Dream Dinners.
The entire process simply couldn’t be easier or frankly, more fun. My 11-year-old daughter accompanied me on my first foray into the Dream Dinners experience last month. I viewed the monthly menu online, picked the entrees and selected my session time. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed everything about the process - following the easy directions to assemble a month of meals for our family. Simply keep the meals you want to eat the next few days in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer. Cook as directed and enjoy. Easy peasy.
As a huge bonus, we are able to enjoy flavors and recipes that I wouldn’t otherwise have any exposure too. Or rather, as a result of my less-than-inventive recipe repertoire, my family would still be rotating through my limited culinary offerings. This particular month, we dined on delicious dishes including Chateau Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce, Fully Loaded Chicken and Potato Soup with breadsticks, Garlic and Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak, Chicken Yakitori over Jasmine Rice and the kids’ new favorite - Pizza Burger Sliders on Pretzel Buns.
I’m going to change lives with my newfound knowledge. Well, at the very least, I’m going to share my culinary discovery of Dream Dinners with my mom friends. It isn’t even that we collectively mind the time in the kitchen. But the time in the kitchen is time away from our kids, time away from playing games, or helping with homework. Time spent in disconnect. As Sandy says … “We’re looking to grow, looking to reconnect and build strong relationships. Where else can you do that but over the dinner table?” A sweet spot indeed.
Dream Dinners is located at 22369 El Toro Road in Lake Forest. To connect with Sandy directly, call (949) 583-2800.
Just across the big blue bay from Southern California’s most laid back city, Coronado Island is San Diego’s best kept secret. Fun for family outings, or a mid-week escape from busy Los Angeles or Orange Counties, the island boasts a rich, romantic history and charming small town atmosphere that I’m certain proves to be a particularly welcome respite for those looking for a relaxing retreat from their work-a-day worlds. Such was the case for my husband and I on a recent weekend getaway, but that isn’t to imply there is any shortage of activities. We brought the kids along and discovered that there is truly something for everyone, at every speed.
Although locals refer to it as “the island,” Coronado is really a peninsula connected to the mainland by a finger of land called the Silver Strand. With wide leafy streets lined with Victorian homes and Southern California beach bungalows, the island is small enough to walk almost anywhere (it’s only a mile from the San Diego Bay side of the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean). Once we parked the car at our “home base” upon arrival at the ideally situated and idyllic Glorietta Bay Inn (more on that in a minute), we literally left it in the lot the entire stay and tooled around town on foot or on two wheels.
Our weekend away was defined by unparalleled accommodation, scenic splendor, family bonding and even a bit of history. A visit to the Coronado Museum offers a glimpse into the life on the island dating back to the 1880s. For an active afternoon endeavor, there are plenty of places to rent a kayak or paddleboard to cruise under the bay bridge. For our part, we opted to take a two-wheeled tour to explore the environs at a leisurely pace.
We rented bicycles from Wheel Fun Rentals (wheelfunrentals.com) and started off along Coronado Beach before spending the better part of the afternoon tooling around town, along the Bayshore Bikeway, past Glorietta Bay and the Coronado Golf Course and under the Coronado Bridge (if you continue following the well-marked bike path, you’ll end up at the Coronado Ferry Landing, where a ten-minute ride would bring you to downtown San Diego.) Fans of author L. Frank Baum’s iconic classic “The Wizard of Oz” will enjoy pedaling past the quaint yellow Cape Cod-style home (located right across from Star Park) that he rented during his stays and the place where he penned three of the books in the Oz series.
When we travel with the kids, we always try to incorporate an activity or educational opportunity to learn something “remarkable” or interesting about each locale. Sometimes we happen to stumble upon a unique aspect of the area and other times, it’s an endeavor best left in the hands of the professionals - in this case, local knowledge in the form of Nancy Cobb, Coronado Island resident and owner of the Coronado Walking Tour (coronadowalkingtour.com). The 90-minute guided stroll starts in the Music Room of the The Glorietta Bay Inn and offers walk-bys of castles and cottages, along with a legendary tale or two about movie stars who’ve spent time basking and relaxing on the eternally sunny Coronado Island. I have to say, our family learned everything we now know about the Spreckels Mansion and Coronado Island from Nancy, who provided a thorough and entertaining accounting of the island’s history and famous (and infamous) highlights.
If all you want to do is sit back and let someone else play tour guide, the Old Town Trolley is just the fit. Looking for an even more tranquil experience? Sit back and take in the surf, sand and spectacular sunsets at any of Coronado’s five gorgeous, rarely crowded white sand beaches. At dusk both days during our weekend stay, my husband and I strolled the picturesque stretch of sand and surf that meanders for over a mile along Ocean Boulevard in front of historic and glamorous houses. Voted among the top 10 beaches in the USA by the Travel Channel, this long and wide coastline is great for walks, runs, beach volleyball or sandcastle building. If you’re traveling with a furry friend, there’s even a leash-free dog zone at the far end of the beach where pups can frolic in the waves.
Situated across the street from Coronado Beach, the Glorietta Bay Inn (gloriettabayinn.com) leans into the legendary reputation of island relaxation.
Originally built as the private residence of sugar baron John D. Spreckels, this beautiful boutique hotel features 11 mansion rooms (in the original building circa 1908) and 89 contemporary rooms and suites added in later years. Easy strolling distance from an array restaurants and retail shops, this landmark attraction famous for its grandeur architecture combines Old World charm with incredible California comfort. The Inn showcases a scenic outdoor verandah, a storied music room complete with a baby grand piano and a sun-warmed lobby that once served as the grand foyer to Spreckels’ home.
The structure was originally designed with the simple, classic lines of Italian Renaissance to showcase its six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room and library. At that time, Spreckels’ Mansion featured a brass cage elevator, a marble staircase with leather-padded handrails, skylights, marble floors and some of the Island’s most spectacular gardens. The home was built with reinforced steel and concrete, an earthquake precaution Spreckels insisted upon after living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
In 1913, Spreckels, a dedicated musician and pipe organist, added a spectacular 800-square-foot Music Room with an enormous 41-rank Aeolian Pipe Organ. The horseshoe-shaped Music Room, which can be enjoyed today with its player piano and as the starting point of the aforementioned historic tour of Coronado, boasts nine French doors which lead out to the breakfast patio overlooking Glorietta Bay and the Hotel del Coronado.
Each of the historic mansion rooms are uniquely styled: the Sugar Baron Room, originally the private bedroom of Mrs. Spreckels, features a king-bedded room with a large balcony and a spectacular view of Glorietta Bay; the Spreckels Suite (once the private bedroom of John D. Spreckels), this beautiful room has a living room area with a convenient kitchenette, and a separate bedroom with a king size bed. French doors off the living room open up to a spacious balcony with an equally gorgeous view of Glorietta Bay. Amenities for all accommodations include access to a heated pool, complimentary continental breakfast and daily afternoon refreshments. And bonus! Glorietta Bay Inn offers its guests complimentary beach chairs, towels, and toys - so there’s no excuse not to stake out your own spot to soak up the sun. And with year round Vitamin D, you’ll never run out of reasons to visit.
Beauty has certainly changed a lot over the years. At the risk of dating myself, I’ve lived through trends like mini-buns, barrettes, chunky highlights in non-traditional hair colors. Blue eyeshadow. Half-hair up with cornrows. Thankfully, I’ve moved on (even though I was sadly unable to ever achieve “the Rachel”). I’m grateful for cutting-edge salons (pun intended) like Salon Capistrano where seasoned professionals keep up with the rapidly evolving trends to deliver world-class service to their customers.
Voted “Best of San Juan Capistrano” seven years in a row, Salon Capistrano is a full service salon that offers hair services, facials, chemical peels, waxing, nails and makeup/airbrush application. Since the salon opened its doors in 2012, Owner Paula Guerena and her team have strived to ensure that each of their clients “shine.”
“We want to make the special events of your lives even better - from weddings and proms to class reunions, galas and teens/ladies/men’s night out,” says Paula, whose personal area of expertise since 1994 has been in anti-aging facials and chemical peels to help keep her clients’ skin youthful and healthy.
Paula and her team pride themselves on keeping up with the latest techniques and products in the industry through continuing education classes, and never let their standard of service falter. “Our clients continue to tell us how warmly received they feel the moment they walk in the door, and that the salon has a ‘great vibe.’” A fact that can surely be directly attributed to the kind and considerate group of independent contractors who truly work together here in harmony as a team.
“We all come from different backgrounds, but our passion for making people look and feel their best is what led each of us to the beauty and customer service industry,” says Paula. No egos ... just exceptional service.
Connect with Paula directly by calling (949) 212-6262. Salon Capistrano is located at 32241 Camino Capistrano, Suite A103 in San Juan Capistrano.