Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Paying homage to an icon, this reinvented Newport Beach restaurant offers a new generation of connoisseurs a world-class culinary experience

In the months since the new Ritz Prime Seafood opened its doors to a new generation of culinary enthusiasts, much has been written about how this reinvented restaurant stacks up against the iconic Newport Beach establishment from which it draws inspiration (founded by Hans Prager in 1977, The Ritz enjoyed a 30+ year run as the go-to special event venue before closing its doors in early 2014).

Where the throwback dining institution was characterized by Old World charm and three-martini power lunches, the new-and-improved version is a contemporary iteration of a classic.

While the décor of the beloved brand was all dark wood, dark tufted leather booths and antique chandeliers, The Ritz Prime Seafood showcases a new address (a 6,800-square-foot space with seating for upwards of 200 in the old Chart House location along Mariner’s Mile), sleek, chic décor, cream and tan leather interiors, upholstered booths, loads of natural light thanks to a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and the piéce de résistance: a spectacular, sparkling waterfront view and scores of multi-million dollar yachts dotting Newport Harbor.

My husband and I have foodie friends who have introduced us to a number of truly diverse, unique and memorable dining destinations – each month, we alternate with this couple to select and host our respective “picks” for an evening out. I will concede that a few of our choices over the years have been a bit lackluster by comparison, so when we secured a recent reservation (it would be our first experience there as well), it was a highly anticipated event. I am happy to report that The Ritz Prime Seafood more than delivered with exemplary service (our server deserves to be mentioned by name – Matthew Tinnes was amiable, attentive, knowledgeable and unobtrusive), an elegant ambiance and a seafood-centric menu defined by the classics and eclectic dishes with a twist (think extravagant menu items like grilled lobster with burgundy truffles, herbed butter, blistered lemon, truffle foam and levain toast, a succulent chilled seafood sampler dubbed the Ritz Tower, a bone-in fillet smothered in foie gras butter and Ossetra White Sturgeon caviar served with crème fraiche, egg, chives, red onions and brioche toast points).

For landlubbers, The Ritz Prime Seafood serves up tender filet medallions paired with grilled broccolini and a wild mushroom demi-glace, a flavorful jidori chicken and the aforementioned grilled to perfection bone-in filet.

As great as these entrees are, the seafood dishes are where this restaurant really shines - from sushi, sashimi and raw bar to the signature cioppino chock full of lobster, scallops, mussels and shrimp, almond-crusted Mahi Mahi and Chilean sea bass enhanced with pepita pesto, sweet garlic puree and braised leeks.

Our friends were so impressed by our “over the top” selection that they have added The Ritz Prime Seafood to their list of “favorites.” For our part, my husband and I would like to thank to the culinary team and wait staff for providing a dining experience that will be a true challenge for our friends to top next month.

The Ritz Prime Seafood is located at 2801 West Coast Highway in Newport Beach. For more information or to make a reservation, call (949) 720-1800 or visit

Go outside. Look to the east - towards Boston, and Manhattan, and the Atlantic Ocean. Look further. Squint a little until you can see Italy’s western shore. 25 miles from Pompeii, and roughly 6,446 miles from Orange County, CA lies Naples; a city renowned for its distinctive exports: thin crust pizza, opera, and Rino Caturano. “My parents sacrificed everything and came to the United States with nothing in order to provide a better quality of life, and give their children opportunity.”

From far across the Atlantic Ocean and the Tyrrhenian Sea, they traveled with six year old Rino and his four siblings to make a life in Orange County. At 18, Rino took the Oath of Allegiance, became an American citizen, and realized a longtime dream of his parents. Living for years in a 650 square foot apartment with his family, Rino looked toward a dream of his own. For over a decade, he has been diligently building that dream with Keller Williams. Now the largest, fastest growing real estate franchise in North America, Keller Williams is transforming the housing market one customer at a time.

Working from the ground up, Rino took over the Mission Viejo office 7 years ago, and since has transformed it into the largest real estate franchise of its kind, with over 300 agents working out of the office. Team leader and franchise CEO, Rino believes what sets his Keller Williams office apart from the competition is that the office is “a place where I can cultivate a business that is in alignment with my personal values. Real estate allows me to have a family, have abundance, and then to help other people do the same.” The culture of Keller Williams reinforces that from the top down; looking for individuals who adhere to a code of ethics, are excellent communicators, respond to both clients and other agents with grace and confidence, and do the right thing even when it isn’t convenient. Sound a little bit different from the typical money hungry agency down the street?

We’ve all heard the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. But how many businesses in a capitalist republic like ours actually adhere to it - how many CEO’s and CFO’s and Presidents and even mid-level managers lead their employees down the path of true hospitality?

Derived from the Latin “hospes,” meaning host, or guest, and formed from “hostis,” which means stranger or enemy, hospitality literally takes its roots from hosting strangers. Not necessarily an ideal one would hold up when thinking about letting someone into their house, especially not allowing a stranger to host other strangers in their house. And yet Keller Williams truly believes that they are in the business of people: and would like their agents to be responsible, caring, direct, honest, transparent, and forthright. “It’s not about the commission first, it’s about the client first. I’m looking for agents whose mindset is to do the right thing, even when it isn’t convenient.” Rino goes so far as to request past customer testimonials from his prospective team members.

The culture of Keller Williams reinforces that from the top down; looking for individuals who adhere to a code of ethics, are excellent communicators, respond to both clients and other agents with grace and confidence, and do the right thing even when it isn’t convenient.

In Orange County, where the market is growing into a more balanced inventory of properties, low interest rates are creating a demand, and Rino’s team is there to satisfy it. “In a world where the only constant is change, it is all important as realtors to continue education, stay abreast of market trends, and utilize the latest technologies,” says Rino.

Sometimes change happens so slowly or incrementally that people don’t notice, but Keller Williams is looking to stay ahead of the curve, developing programs for training and mentoring new agents, including a coaching program out of Rino’s office, and an app that sellers and buyers alike can use to access real time information about the housing market from the comfort of their own homes. He pairs up rookie agents with a seasoned professional to mentor them through their initial questions and reservations, and for the top 20% of the seasoned professionals who join his team, Rino personally mentors them to help build their own models and develop their systems and teams: giving them “the tools for success so each agent will truly be the CEO of his or her own business.”

Buyers today are able to lock in a payment with permanent financing for 30 years. If you rent, you have no idea what the market will look like 3, 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Which leaves the monthly cost of housing totally up in the air. With a fixed rate loan, your housing cost is the same today as it will be in 30 years. A lot can happen in that span of time: and Rino is excited for that possibility.

“That’s the reason I got into this industry, because I love to help people grow,” he says. “I love what I do for a living. It has been an amazing experience, not being from this country, to have this opportunity and lead hundreds of people. My success has been based upon helping agents believe in themselves and providing them with tools to help them succeed.”

If you’re looking to hire a realtor, you probably have a ton of questions. How many people is your realtor currently working with? How much attention will my property receive? How will it be marketed? What are those channels of exposure? Your realtor has questions for you too. What is your timeline? How urgent is this sale to you? Today, the world is the local market, and buyers aren’t just coming from around the corner any more. Rino and Keller Williams are nailing those questions to the door and pinning the answers down one by one.

“We want people to know they have support here,” he says. “The office is a family for them to sustain inspiration - and I believe what makes us the number one office is the community we have built.”

Rino is helping the individuals who work with him become better people, because it translates. They better they are, the more help you get. Part of that involves giving back. Rino’s team participates in the Keller Williams Cares program, which puts on RED days: Renew, Energize, Donate. The team has collected food for the homeless, cleaned beaches, and remodeled homes for battered women. “We have pride in what we do. We talk about our vision for the future.”

Go outside. Look in the direction of your dreams: east to Naples, or down the street, across town, or over the next state line. Sit down Rino. See what happens when you work with a professional who lives by his words: “This is what I believe: 1. Your first loyalty is to your family. Always.  2. Whatever you do, do it well and have pride in yourself. 3. Take the word commitment seriously. When you commit to something, commit. That’s where true success is, in the ownership of family, work, and community.”

My husband and I made the mistake of telling our kids we were planning an overnight stay and two days of fun at Legoland in California two weeks prior to the planned visit earlier this summer. As you can imagine, we were on the countdown for the the next 13 days, peppered with questions about which attraction in the park we would experience first, if we could plan to be at the entrance “right when they open” so as to be among the first in line, whether two days was really enough time to enjoy the main park, the water park AND the aquarium?

The hotel was a dream come true for our kids and their parents - they loved everything about their stay - from collecting clues in a scavenger hunt that results in a code that unlocks a treasure chest in the room (which reveals a Lego set they could work on while mom and dad get the bags unpacked) to the “friends-themed” room (divided into an adult section with a king bed and a smaller nook with bunk beds). The rooms are themed according to four popular lines of Lego toys: pirates, adventure, friends and kingdom).

Bricks restaurant features a buffet of foods that will appeal to everyone — soups, salads, easy-access entrees, and a bar at kids’ level so that they can serve themselves.

Breakfast, which is included with the room, has everything you can think of: eggs, an omelet station, pancakes, yogurt parfaits, pastries, fresh fruit and an array of hot and cold beverages.

But the best benefit of staying in the hotel situated at the entrance to the park? Hotel guests enjoy early access - a full hour before the general public. And if you want to take a break to relax or refuel, get your hand stamped and you can come and go as you please (with free return entry into the park without waiting in line).

The New! NINJAGO World® Attraction

Two years in the making, NINJAGO World® features a 4D interactive ride that uses cutting-edge Maestro hand gesture technology that enables guests to throw fireballs, shockwaves, ice and lightning to defeat villains. Riders collect points for their "training” and battle efforts and scores are displayed when their quest is complete. Effects such as heat, smoke and wind are incorporated throughout the adventure, giving guests the ultimate interactive 4D experience.

The ride is the center of NINJAGO World® where interactive experiences test guest’s creativity, speed, balance and agility. Twenty-two Lego models flank the new land, in addition to a new retail outlet, Wu’s Warehouse and a dining option, Ninja Kitchen, where Legoland chefs put a special twist on Asian street food with Bahn Mi sandwiches on fresh baked baguettes or steam Bao Buns with crispy pork belly, lemongrass chicken or baked sweet chili tofu.

NINJAGO World® is included in admission to Legoland California Resort. For more info, visit or call (760) 918-5377.

RAYA and 180blu offer inventive dishes, hand-crafted cocktails and unparalleled, awe-inspiring views

Here in South Orange County, we’re pretty lucky to live so close to the coast and have an abundance of wonderful dining destinations to choose from. But for inventive cuisine coupled with awe-inspiring ocean views, there are few establishments that rival RAYA and 180blu.

Both reside in The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel - RAYA boasts a bright, open space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific while the aptly named 180blu is an outdoor lounge/deck situated 150 feet above Salt Creek Beach, defined by the same breathtaking 180 degrees of blue sky and clear blue ocean water.

RAYA and 180blu’s culinary offerings (dishes on the 180blu menu come from the RAYA kitchen) showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meat. Acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors define the seasonal menu which draws inspiration from California and Asian cuisines.

RAYA has long been a favorite special occasion “date night” dinner destination - the service here is what you’d expect of the Ritz-Carlton and consistently so: Attentive yet unobtrusive, professional, yet casually friendly. The same could be said of the service at 180blu, the perfect locale to find yourself at happy hour - for the food, the handcrafted cocktails and the spectacular sunsets.

RAYA’s menu encompasses an array of small (appetizer) and large (entree) plates. If you’re having trouble deciding, a great option to start is the restaurant’s signature Seafood Sampler, which arrives with a trio of popular picks from the small plates options, including oysters on the half shell, rock shrimp aquachile, tuna tataki and salmon tiradito.

There is an abundance of gluten-free options (noted by a special label) ranging from a seafood risotto chock full of Maine lobster, prawn, Santa Barbara mussel, calamari, Spanish chorizo, saffron rice and Dungeness crab to the all-natural Prime New York steak accompanied by a Dungeness crab potato puree, grilled pickled onion, chipotle hollandaise and truffle chimichurri.

The Miso Alaskan Black Cod is my favorite dish on the menu - this flavorful fish dish literally melts in your mouth and is perfectly paired with charred asparagus, daikon (Japanese turnip), kabayaki sauce (think a sweet soy sauce) and togarashi aioli.

The menu at 180blu is a more casual affair characterized by refreshing hand-crafted beverages (watch Mixologist Erin Snider demonstrate how to make Tequila Sangria, one of the specialty drinks served here), small plates and desserts from RAYA (our favorite here is the Wild Mushroom Huarache - a variation on flatbread piled with wild mushroom, caramelized onion, black bean, goat cheese and truffle oil. Bonus! Weather permitting, live music Thursday through Sunday from 6 pm - 9 pm.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is located at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For more information, call (949) 240-2000.

Situated on the California-Nevada state line, South Shore is one of those fantastic year-round destinations

Asnowy wonderland in winter and a water enthusiast’s dream in summer, there’s never a bad time to visit the spectacularly scenic South Shore of Lake Tahoe. Split by the massive, magnificent alpine lake in the middle, both the north and south shores are easy to navigate and offer an abundance of outdoor (and indoor) attractions and activities year round.

Our family has always been partial to the south side of the lake and some of the best memories we’ve made over the years have been on those vacations we have taken here with friends.

So I was really looking forward to our family/friend trip to South Shore last month. Our kids – at ages 8 and 9 – were old enough to enjoy much of what Tahoe has to offer and because a family of friends (ranging in age from 8 to 78) who reside in nearby Reno and Carson City were driving in to spend the entire day from mid-morning to early evening during our stay, we went with a much more comfortable, cozy and convenient accommodation option. Rather than book a traditional hotel room, we decided to rent a privately owned vacation home rich in amenity for all ages. The Tahoe Keys Resort and Lake Tahoe Reservation Bureau ( or 800.698.2463) offers an extensive selection of rental homes, condos and cabins to suit your specific needs and budget – whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic retreat, a family of five or a large group of friends.

As anticipated, this trip more than delivered. Driving into the region, the views of deep gorges, craggy mountains and the tall green trees are singularly beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay - the home we selected, located at 950 Balbijou Road, is a super spacious newly renovated, professionally decorated four-bedroom house centrally located to everything - grocery stores, shops, the casinos at stateline. The views are incredible - a large deck on the second floor overlooks a private residential beach below, the master bedroom windows face the lake (imagine waking up to the beauty of the lake each morning) and the back door opens out onto a beautiful downstairs deck steps from the water’s edge.

The home’s luxury accommodations are characterized by beautiful furnishings, high-end finishes and a feature few rental properties can boast - a lakefront location with its own private beach, waterfront access and steps from a wooden pier perfect for strolling. Bonus! Two houses down the beach was a place to rent kayaks ($25 an hour for a single and $35 an hour for a tandem), which made it completely unnecessary (but for a few hours aboard a paddewheeler - more on that in a moment) to ever leave the property since we had literally everything we needed on site.

Between the private beach, the large, open concept living space and multiple dining areas, renting this particular house for our four-day stay proved to be the perfect choice – we had plenty of space to stretch out and everyone had their own rooms to retreat to (the master features a king bed and private bathroom; queen beds in the second and third bedrooms and two sets of twin bunk beds with a shared bathroom was ideal for the younger set). The home sleeps 12 with an queen size sleeper sofa in the den. We saved time and money by being able to cook our meals and dining in rather than eating out three times a day. Several cozy fireplaces provided the perfect ambiance for cool nights and a pool table in the bonus room for apres summer fun.

Other than kayaking, if you’d like to spend time out on the lake, another unique option is to book a daytime scenic cruise or an evening dinner cruise aboard one of two spacious paddlewheelers - the M.S. Dixie II or the Tahoe Queen (800-23-TAHOE). Our group opted for the family-friendly Tahoe Queen boat tour of Emerald Bay – an absolutely must for amazing photo opportunities. Take in some of the most incredible scenery in the world, enjoy lunch, hot cocoa and a good dose of South Lake Tahoe history with the Captain’s live narration. The kids had a ball exploring the boat’s three decks while the adults sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Unlike vacations where we schedule a series of specific activities designed to keep everyone occupied and entertained away from the hotel room, this trip was all about taking full advantage in all the rental home had to offer - the kids were in and out of the house all day long, spending hours at the water’s edge building a sand castle “village,” hunting for seashells, kayaking with the grown ups and strolling the pier. Evenings were filled with board games, billiards and “movie nights” with kid-friendly programming on Netflix and big buckets of popcorn. Lunches and dinners were either easy outdoor affairs - steaks, burgers, hot dogs and grilled corn cooked on the barbecue or on the last evening, a multi-course meal prepared in the chef’s gourmet kitchen - and for the adults, “happy hour” on the upstairs deck was a nightly highlight sipping a glass of fine wine while watching the sun slip over the horizon - a perfect end to each fun-filled day in one of the prettiest places on the planet.

Your Beach Day Just Got a Major Makeover

May gray and June gloom are finally burning off (thank you summer gods!), and with the sun finally shining all day long, it’s the perfect weather to get to the beach - and really, what better way to spend a fun-filled day with family and friends than when everyone is in “vacation mode” and the kids are out of school? The rest of the summer is calling for clear blue skies and temperatures in the low to mid-80s at the beaches (truly temperate relative to the triple digits expected inland).

But getting to the coast can seem a daunting proposition: hauling a cooler, beach chairs, towels, umbrella, packed lunch, sand toys, and the latest beach read: which is why I believe the bungalows at the Pacific Edge Hotel are the best kept secret for the most unique, enjoyable way to experience the surf and sand.

Situated steps from the sand along a scenic stretch of Laguna Beach, the Pacific Edge Hotel features five themed beachfront suites, each with its own signature design and atmosphere and characterized by stunning interior decor that includes a comfortable living room overlooking the ocean, a VIP Bungalow Host, a private bathroom with shower, bar area, valet parking, catered food and beverages, air conditioning, flat screen televisions, and a private deck area with direct access to the beach. For our family, getting to the beach in the first place is a bit of a holiday in itself. Having discovered the luxury service of a private bungalow to relax for the day by the waves (and host my husband’s recent birthday soiree with family and friends) seems like a fairy godmother granted all my wishes at once. Typically, hotel beachside service includes a branded hotel umbrella, chaise lounge, mai tai, and some toys for the kiddos. Pacific Edge has taken the concept a entirely new level.

The hotel itself, set on the South Coast Highway, is just a mile and a half from the shops and art galleries in Laguna Beach, and twelve miles from Newport. Working with Billabong, Fox, Sailor Jerry and Gorjana + Griffin, the hotel designed a series of signature bungalows perfect for any type of gathering: corporate meetings, birthdays, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, or even just the perfect “day cation.” New to the lineup is the XS Bungalow, also known as the COF, or Center for Optimal Fun. Designed to give guests the best of both adventure and opportunity, the Bungalow has partnered with the Eco Warrior foundation, offering surf lessons, snorkel and free dive tours, mountain biking, hiking, and Stand Up paddling. After a long day of adventuring, what better setting to relax at than your private deck with a cold XS cocktail in hand?

If you just can’t see outdoor adventure and relaxing beach day going together, try the Billabong Bungalow. My favorite of the five, offering a soothing color palette and laid back beach vibes, is the perfect spot to grab some sand and laze the day away. The reclaimed wood accents and epic images of surfers riding waves on the walls certainly add to the ambiance, making the bungalow the most divine daycation yet. With five bungalows to choose from, there’s something for everyone: the day we were there, an entire extended family were on hand in honor of their matriarch’s 80th birthday; a group of motocross racers and enthusiasts were celebrating a recent win; even a band of boys (men who went to high school together 20 years prior) were gathered for a day in the sun that was “reminiscent of a grown up version” of their childhood man fort. From glamorous Gorjana + Griffin to the fierce Fox Head bungalow, summer is waiting for you at Pacific Edge.

For more information, visit or call (949) 281-5709.

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.

Co-owners Paul and Aileen BrazeauCo-owners Paul and Aileen BrazeauAileen 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.”

2016 0309Walking 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. 

2016 0302Taking 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.

To learn more about The Villas and its history, founding, beginnings or review a list of available services, be sure to visit the web site at


As summer approaches and the final weeks of school wind down before the crazy chaos that defines “family vacation” days descend upon our household, my husband and I decided to coordinate a romantic weekend to celebrate (both of our birthdays are in the same month). We were looking for a locale no longer than about an hour away by plane, with plenty of outdoor activities and indoor recreation, a temperate climate and fine wine and dining. And ideally an all-inclusive experience so that once we checked in, we wouldn’t want (or need) to leave until it was time to head home.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay) proved to be the perfect two-night stay at an idyllic retreat situated between forested hills and a stretch of coastline that is arguably among the most beautiful scenery in northern California.

A mere 23 miles from San Francisco International Airport, this secluded, luxury hotel feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Perched atop a cliff on a crescent-shaped stretch of California coast with panoramic views of the Pacific, this luxury five-star, six-story resort is more akin to a European castle than a California hotel property. Spread out across the main building with several adjacent guesthouses, the 261 rooms are defined by marble soaking tubs, Egyptian cotton linens and large picture windows. From the moment we stepped into the lobby to the time we checked out, our experience was an unforgettable escape to another time and place.

From dramatic lanterns greeting guests on the front drive and glass of local wine offered upon check-in to indoor fireplaces throughout the property and wine tasting in Cork Wine Bar (the resort’s custom-built wine room), fire and wine define the “theme” of the guest experience here. Curl up with a good book at the communal firepits against a backdrop of breathtaking views and relax to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below. Enjoy a glass of wine at sunset or roast s’mores (gourmet kit available for purchase).

Rich in amenity and thoughtful touches range from a luxurious 16,000 square-foot spa, a trio of dining experiences (more on that later) and the Cork Wine Bar featuring Vintner Series wine tastings, local cheeses, expert sommeliers and over 5,000 bottles of wine. But our most favorite feature was hands-down The Ritz-Carlton Club Level. Often referred to as a “hotel within a hotel,” guest rooms and suites on this concierge level (available for an additional fee) allows access to an elegant, sprawling lounge characterized by sweeping ocean views (think waves crashing on the sand below and the signature 18th hole of one of the resort’s two championship golf courses), wood-burning fireplace and complimentary beverages and exceptionally delicious culinary delights served throughout the day.

We loved being able to pop in pretty much anytime during the day for a quick bite during the food and beverage presentations (Club Breakfast, Light Snack, Hors d’ourvres, Evening Desserts) - showcasing regional specialties made with locally sourced ingredients, whole fruit and freshly baked cookies. The lounge was the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine, champagne or made-to-order cocktails paired with artisan cheeses and cured meats and a farm-fresh casual menu.

Take a long hike following the Coastside Trail which follows the ocean bluffs between Pillar Point Harbor and Poplar Avenue. If you’d rather take to the water, California Canoe and Kayak and Half Moon Bay Kayak Company rent kayaks and offer lessons and tours. Sea Horse Ranch offers trail rides on the beach every day (except when it’s storming) and you don’t need a reservation. Just drop by (wearing long pants) and they’ll do the rest (there are horses of every temperament for the novice to the experienced rider).

Wine & Dine

Dining is also a special experience at the resort, the recently renovated upscale Navio Restaurant serves coastal-inspired California cuisine against a backdrop of panoramic views of the Pacific. Meaning “ship” in Portuguese, Navio’s wooden ceiling resembles a boat hull and its menu changes with the seasons - dishes here are true farm-to-table appetizers and entrees. The Brandt Farms Prime Grilled filet was cooked to perfection and the Fort Bragg Black Cod served with serrano ham, Half Moon Bay Artichoke, fava beans and spring onions was melt-in-your-mouth heavenly - and that’s high compliment from a girl who’s half-Japanese and knows her way around black cod (aka butterfish). Other popular picks included the Diver Scallops which arrived with English peas, pork belly and Little Gem lettuce and the Olive Oil Poached Halibut accompanied by heirloom carrots, puffed wild rice and snap peas.

Cork Wine Bar: Stop by the resort’s signature wine room for flights of wines, cheese and chocolate, as well as wines by the glass or bottle. Sommeliers specialize in introducing guests to interesting new wines and in providing education on every aspect of the wines.

Vintner Series: For the curious beginner to the seasoned wine connoisseur, the resort’s Vintner Series brings California wine country and wine educators to Cork Wine Bar every weekend. Each month, a different California winery is featured and representative from the winery is on property each weekend to educate guests about their wines and wine in general.

Monthly Vintner Dinner: On one Friday each month, the Chef de Cuisine of Navio creates a custom four-course dinner menu, meticulously paired with wines from the monthly vintner. Ingredients for the vintner dinner, including produce, meat and fish, come from producers in and around Half Moon Bay.

For more information, visit or call (650) 712-7000.

Brainwave Optimizationtm is a holistic non-invasive procedure using EEG-based technology that helps the brain relax to promote better performance.

When I sat down to chat with Mary McPherson, founder of the San Juan Capistrano-based Awoken Life, it was immediately evident that Mary’s true desire is to help people.

As I entered Awoken Life to the sound of a waterfall and a sweet fragrance in the air, it felt as if I had walked in to a sanctuary. Michelle Newell (office manager and brainwave optimization technologist) greeted me and asked if I would like some water or tea. “We want our clients to feel at home, relaxed and safe, this is a place welcoming those who are ready to get past the conditions of an imbalanced brain,” says Mary McPherson, a Certified Brainwave Optimization Specialist.

Awoken Life offers a variety of services but specializes in Brainwave Optimization (something you might have heard about on Oprah, read in the pages of People magazine or in science journals). “Brainwave Optimization is for people who would like to get back to living a happy and more balanced life with a natural, holistic approach. Brainwave Optimization is an eeg based technology consisting of a week long intensive program which leaves you centered, balanced, and recharged. “Some of the things we help people with are anxious feelings, lack of focus, addictions, anger, sadness, brain injuries, panic attacks, PTSD, obsessive thinking and sleep disorders.”

For my part, I am convinced the best testament to what Awoken Life is and the program’s ability to truly “awaken your brain’s limitless potential” is Mary herself. While interviewing Mary for this editorial feature, I discovered her to be an inspirational example of self-empowerment and what we as individuals are capable of achieving when we refuse to be defined by labels that others - and more often that we put on ourselves. I found Mary to truly be the modern face of a renaissance woman.

Mary, who holds a degree in Chemical Engineering, spent her early career as a very successful Materials Science Engineer working for world-leading companies like DuPont and Himont Advanced Materials. She has published several technical reports and holds patents for original research such as; changing of molecular structures of plastics and optical thin film production using gas plasma technology. It’s easy to see why someone might think of Mary as an “engineer.”

Clients who met Mary in another career incarnation as the owner of Elegant Wall Painting where Mary’s original art hung in galleries across the county and she provided fine wall finishes and murals (she ap-prenticed at the age of 15 with Master Mural Painter Ricardo Estrada), understandably think of Mary as an “artist.”

For the many clients she has helped overcome a variety of conditions ranging from anxious feelings, anger and addictions to sleep disorders, headaches and sadness, Mary is simply “amazing.” Through Awoken Life and Brain-wave Optimization, Mary is able to combine her edu-cation, skills, talent and training with a deep desire and passion for helping people live their best lives.

Some of the issues brainwave optimization helps with include Anxious feelings, lack of focus, addictions, sadness and sleep disorders.

If you ask Mary, she’ll tell you that all of these descriptors - and more - are accurate. Which is exactly the point - “when you are able to awaken your brain’s true potential, there is virtually no limit to what you can believe and achieve.”

“Your brain is the control system for your body,” says Mary. “Brain balance and harmony are essential to overall well-being and op-timal cognitive, emotional and physical performance,” says Mary. “Once the brain is balanced, the body follows. This condition of balance and harmony for the brain is known as homeostasis. Once you’ve achieved homeostasis, you’ll enjoy new states of self-regulation and relaxation, leading you to think more clearly, perform more successfully and experience a higher degree of hope and happiness.”

Brainwave Optimization is a unique highly scientific, yet holistic approach to brain balance. Over 100,000 people have successfully participated, and the number grows every day.”We start with an intensive scientific evaluation of your brainwaves, called an As-sessment using a very advanced computer program,” she says. “We determine where the imbalances and frequency levels are and from that we are able to tell if you’ve experienced trauma. We can ‘draw a picture’ of what you may be feeling or living through just by looking at the assessment results. For anyone interested in finding out more about why they feel the way they do, an assessment on its own can be very revealing and helpful.

“We can then create a plan customized to your specific needs. The five day process of Optimization is always centered on your goals and helping you achieve overall balance and harmony. You can relax in our zero-gravity chair while listening to audio feedback being created by your own brainwave frequencies and mirrored back through this advanced technology (this process can be viewed at, under “What is Brainwave Optimization?”).”

Brainwave Optimization is one of the many tools that Awoken Life utilizes in order to bring about a more fulfilled and enriched life for all of their clients. Its unique technology is like exercise for the brain. “We focus on the parts of the brain that may not be functioning at their peak because of traumas or injuries sustained throughout the course of ones’ life,” Mary explains. “When our brain is balanced, our bodies and our lives can achieve well-being and a higher degree of performance and happiness.”

Awoken Life is dedicated to helping people achieve their potential, through Brainwave Optimization, in addition they offer packages including guided visualization as part of the process. “Guided vi-sualization helps the client to consciously work through their chal-lenges, while Brainwave Optimization works on the subconscious and below subconscious levels.”

Awoken Life also offers a variety of services such as Life Coaching, Hypnotherapy and The BioMat - an infrared mat with NASA created technology used to improve circulation, relieve pain and more.

Scrolling through the many client testimonials on her website, it’s clear that Mary has found her true calling.

“I cannot put into words how much Awoken Life has changed my life,” says Vince, Dana Point. “Alcohol dependency, depression, spelling and even my fear of heights suddenly became manageable. I went in to this a total skeptic and was made in to a believer. Thank you for giving me a life I never thought possible.”

Another client, Penny from Mission Viejo echoes Vince’s sentiment and adds “Two longtime friends from separate parts of my life said ‘The old Penny is back!’ and our three adult children claim there is a ‘night and day difference’ and that I am “so much calmer, so centered.’ I’m thinking so much more clearly. What a blessing! The depression, anxiety, OCD and ADD are virtually gone.” (Note: Penny underwent two intensives to achieve these results).

“My goal is for my clients to walk away with a greater sense of self-empowerment and a clearer vision of themselves and the world around them,” says Mary.

Mary is also available for speaking engagements, workshops and private coaching sessions.

Brainwave Optimization with RTBTM is not intended to treat, cure, heal, or diagnose any disease, mental illness. Brainwave Optimization is intended to balance and harmo-nize brainwaves. Individual results may vary.


For a new approach to total brain wellness, call Awoken Life at (949) 661-6909 or visit
May 28, 2016

The Cutting Edge

Finding Personal Attention and Absolute Satisfaction at AesthetiCare

Last year, there were over 15.9 million aesthetic procedures performed in the United States. A 2% increase over 2014, and a staggering 115% increase since the year 2000. Liposuction, breast augmentation, facelift, tummy tuck: the list is seemingly endless. For the past 29 years, AesthetiCare has been performing cosmetic surgeries of the like- discovering, along the way, that cosmetics aren’t simply about looking your best.

“The face we present to the world affects our self esteem, and influences our personal and professional lives.” Though specializing in cosmetic and plastic surgery and medical spa services, AesthetiCare, in a rather stark contrast to other facilities that perform similar procedures, wants you to think carefully about your expectations. “Cosmetic surgery deals with improvement, not perfection. And it should be done to please yourself, not to meet someone else’s expectations. In fact, they’ve coined a phrase to that particular effect: “enhance your body, ease your mind.”

Ron Moser, M.D. likes to think that AesthetiCare’s favorite phrase is the key to their success- a deep rooted sense of service, and an attendance to the patient’s every need. “We do everything we can to make a positive change in patient’s lives. To help them regain the youthful image they had at a younger age, or to enhance their body or face. Customer service is the most important thing in this market. So many other physicians do not spend the time necessary to answer the patient’s questions and instill confidence in their services.”

Confidence is key in a practice such as this. Licensed surgery centers, surgeons named Diplomates of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and a minimum of ten years experience in outpatient surgery for nursing staff is nothing to shake a stick at. With new procedures and devices at their highly capable fingertips, AesthetiCare has more than you need to shape a whole new outlook on life. TruSculpt, one of the newest modalities in use at AesthetiCare, uses heat sculpting technology to melt away fat and tighten loose skin.

“The TruSculpt treatment can be performed almost anywhere on the body,” says Dr. Moser. “No surgery is required and a full treatment of any one area can be performed in roughly 30-40 minutes.” A breakthrough radio frequency (or RF) technology, TruSculpt delivers deep tissue heating to melt the fat and provide a reduction in cellulite. The newest way to lose inches and remove stubborn fat, the procedure follows in the footsteps of other treatments AesthetiCare offers: Laser Genesis, LimeLight Facial Skin Therapy, CoolGlide Laser Vein and Hair Removal, and Titan Laser Skin Tightening. The true beauty of TruSculpt lies in its no downtime guarantee: putting you back on your feet and ready to hit the ground running in 40 minutes or less. In the following interview, Dr. Moser answers frequently asked questions.

Q: How can a prospective client determine if he or she is the right candidate for truSculpt?

A: Your doctor will determine if treatment is right for you during a one-on-one consultation. Typically patients have a BMI less than 30 and have slight bulges in certain areas of the body. TruSculpt is also not to be used as a weight loss product.

Q: Who cannot be treated with truSculpt?

A: Patients who cannot be treated with truSculpt include (but are not exclusively) those who are pregnant, people who have cardiac pacemakers or internal defibrillators, those with malignant or benign tumors in the target area or those with metallic implants of any kind in the target area, including joint replacements.

Q: Can truSculpt be used on all skin types?

A: Yes, truSculpt can be used on all skin types I-VI on the Fitzpatrick scale. Please always consult with your doctor beforehand.

Q: How long does a treatment last?

A: Typically a treatment lasts 1 hour or less. Your doctor will consult with you on which areas will be treated. Your doctor or a staff member will be with you administering the treatment the entire time.

Q: How many treatments will there be?

A: Your doctor will consult with you on the number of treatments to deliver based on the area(s) you wish to be treated and desired results you are looking for. Typically a patient will receive 1-2 treatments and each treatment will be about 2 months apart.

Q: When can I start seeing visible results?

A: TruSculpt delivers RF energy and uses the body’s natural system to break down cells in certain areas. This process takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months and a patient may begin to see results anytime during that period and beyond.

Q: How long will results last?

A: Long term studies have not yet been conducted on truSculpt to determine exactly how long results can last; however we expect results to be permanent, providing the patient does not gain additional weight due to lifestyle dietary and/or exercise changes.

Q: What do I need to do before a treatment?

A: You do not need to do any activities or prepare in any way for a treatment. Once you are at your doctor’s office, your doctor will do some brief pre-treatment activities such as cleaning your skin, removing any makeup or lotions, taking photos/measurements, and removing any jewelry or body piercings in the treatment area.

Q: What happens during the treatment?

A: Your doctor or operator will identify with you the specific areas of the body to be treated. After a brief pre-treatment preparation, your doctor will be applying the truSculpt handpiece to your skin which in turn will deliver a pulse of RF energy. Each pulse will last on average 4 minutes; upon completion, your doctor will move the handpiece to an adjacent area to begin a next pulse. The entire treatment will last for 1 hour or less.

Q: What does it feel like?

A: TruSculpt is specifically designed to be a very comfortable procedure for you. As the truSculpt handpiece delivers energy you will feel that specific area heat up. Due to its unique design, the heating of the area will be quite tolerable and your doctor can adjust the temperature depending on your comfort level. Typically no pain medication, topical anesthetics, gels, or active cooling will be used or administered to you.

Q: Can I return to normal activities after my treatment?

A: Yes you can. The procedure is a completely non-invasive technique, so typically you can return to normal activities immediately. Often times, patients return to work after the session is over.

Q: Do I need to take special supplements or follow a strict diet and exercise program?

A: No supplements or pills are required and you do not have to adopt new diet and exercise habits. However, many patients feel more motivated to take care of themselves after the truSculpt treatment and often use traditional diet and exercise as a complement to truSculpt.

Q: Is truSculpt safe? Is it painful? Are there side effects?

A: TruSculpt is uniquely designed to provide a very safe and comfortable procedure. Typically, there is no downtime after the treatment though patients may experience minor temporary pain or discomfort. Side effects can include redness, sweating, and mild tenderness in the areas that are treated. Usually this dissipates within a few hours. Your doctor can talk to you more about what to expect during and after treatment when you meet for your consultation.

Q: How much does truSculpt cost? How many treatments will I need?

A: The price for truSculpt varies, depending on your areas of concern, the number of treatments needed and your ultimate goals. Your doctor would need to consult with you in person to help estimate the cost.

Page 25 fthr2For more information or to connect with Dr. Moser directly, call (949) 661-1700 or visit

AesthetiCare Orange County is located at 30260 Rancho Viejo Road in San Juan Capistrano.