Call me old fashioned, but I believe that physical photos are a medium worth preserving. When I recently sat down to put together my daughter’s baby book, I thought of how printed images might at times seem like a thing of the past. But then I can’t imagine showing off my family photos by scrolling through all the images I posted to Facebook once upon a time.
Diana Schmitt of the San Juan Capistrano-based Accents Portraits by Diana understands the desire for individuals and families to preserve their most precious memories in more than merely a digital format. She has spent the better part of 30 years specializing in family portraits, wedding photos and capturing the most priceless of moments in all types of life celebrations.
With nearly 30 years of experience, Diana’s focus is families, and she always aims to deliver “extraordinary customer service.”
“Diana is amazing,” says Heidi Hitt. “She has taken so many special pictures over the years for me and my family. They all turn out so beautifully. I am so blessed to have someone I can trust to help me capture special moments in time. Everybody loves when we send out our Christmas cards; they can’t believe how beautiful the pictures are. Thank you Diana for all the beautiful memories.”
Accent Portraits by Diana and San Juan Photo and Digital is located at 32281 Camino Capistrano, Suite C-104 in SJC.
They can be reached at (949) 661-6465 or online at www.accentportraitsbydiana.com
It’s no wonder Carolyn Franks is always smiling ... as the owner and operator of ZOOMARS Petting Zoo, her days are defined by pony rides, hundreds of fluffy bunny rabbits and guinea pigs, creatures big and small and unforgettable children’s excursions punctuated by squeals of delight.
Located in the heart of San Juan Capistrano’s charming historic district, ZOOMARS Petting Zoo opened in the early 1980s as a “backyard barnyard” called the Jones Family Mini Farm. Its buildings date back to the 1800s and the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 12 years since she originally envisioned the innocent, affordable family entertainment opportunities that would come to define this local landmark, Carolyn has continually grown its offerings - both in both in animal attractions and unique activities.
Today, ZOOMARS is home to many different kinds of animals, including goats, sheep, llamas, ponies, horses, alpaca and hundreds of bunnies and guinea pigs to feed, cuddle and love. Although activities currently include pony rides, train rides and gemstone mining, Carolyn has recently introduced new musical merchandise (a CD of children’s songs created especially for ZOOMARS by a local singer/songwriting parent of kiddos who have long enjoyed the zoo) and has other equally fun ideas in the works (think jewelry design using the semi-precious stones your little ones have “mined”).
Carolyn has been harboring a not-so-secret wish to bring a special guinea pig “mascot” to life on the pages of a children’s book. While she had a very “specific idea” of Gillie the Guinea Pig’s “story” and what he would look like, the artists and illustrators she enlisted over the years weren’t quite able to truly capture the character’s personality and “sparkle.” That is, until she met Michele Dodds , a local artist - and fan of ZOOMARS - who created a “spot on” rendition of Carolyn’s vision.
From the minute you arrive at the ticket counter, you are greeted with smiles and happiness that is found throughout the zoo. If you need a quick lesson to hold a guinea pig, an extra pair of hands to set up a party, or a fun-loving miner to help your little guy strike gold, there is sure to be a caring zookeeper at every turn.
“The things I hear every day from people who have been coming to this petting zoo for years are just inspiring beyond words,” says Carolyn. “Especially when I hear things like, ‘I used to take my kids here and now I take my grandkids here.’ Wow, that’s so amazing to me. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or had a challenging day, I just GOOGLE ZOOMARS and watch the stream of endless pictures, blogs and videos from moms and dads who have posted their child’s first pony ride or a story about the wonderful time everyone had at their 4-year- old’s birthday party. Then I sit back in my swivel chair and say, Yep, this what I do. How blessed am I that I can create these milestone memories for people? That feeling makes it all worth it.”
Connect with Carolyn by visiting ZOOMARS at 31791 Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano, by calling (949) 831-6550 or visit www.zoomars.com
Hospitality has its origins in antiquity, with the first records of guest baths in Greek villages in early biblical times. Over the last two thousand years, the simple act of offering care for others has grown into a massive industry: from the first French and English rural inns and stables for travelers, to the splendor of the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Caring for others can be complicated, or it can be simple: and the San Clemente Villas are looking to keep it simple.
Aileen Brazeau and her husband Paul own and operate the Villas, and they’d like to think that hospitality is simply about listening. Listening to its residents, namely. “If we are successful at providing superior senior care and lodging, it is for that reason - we listen closely to what the residents tell us.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seniors will represent 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030. As demand for senior housing rises, the Villas are ready to meet it with their signature recipe for success: hospitality.
Villas’ residents enjoy a level of service and care often missing from senior communities. Care plans are specifically tailored to residents’ daily individual needs, and with 24-hour assistance every day of the year, the center fosters as much independence as possible while still maintaining the highest level of comprehensive care. The staff, including an Assisted Living Care manager, Licensed Nurse, and Executive Director are involved on a daily basis with the well-being of each resident, ensuring that the safety, health and comfort of each resident comes first. “The first thing that Paul, I, and our staff focused upon when we opened our doors was that each resident has a story to tell, as well as unique needs. We are interested in their stories, and we care about their needs.”
Walking into the “grand hall” of The Villas is like walking onto lido deck of a cruise ship - minus the cruise director and napkins folded to look like chimpanzees. Clearly, Paul and his wife know exactly what they’re doing, and are excelling at it, as there are smiling seniors everywhere you look: chatting amongst themselves, or with visiting relatives or staff. If it isn’t Happy Hour on Tuesday or Thursday, there is bound to be a Luau, or Karaoke Birthday Party. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, The Villas host an annual “Villas’ Got Talent” show.
Taking a peek into the kitchens is an experience in itself, where a team of chefs prepare several entrees, side dishes and desserts at breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Our residents look forward to every meal”, Aileen states, noting that it is not unusual to see a home baked pie or cobbler on the menu, following a fresh, home-style lunch or dinner. “Casual “cafe-style dining is available, as is formal. Residents can even reserve a private dining room for family visits”. But balance and moderation are keys to offering a tailored care experience, and so the Villas also boast an exercise gym and beauty salon, a library, and a game area. Nightly movies are one of the most popular venues for the residents, showing on the “big screen” in a roomy theater setting.
Like any five star hotel, the Villas rely on the services that an on-site concierge offers. Through telephone and personal interactions, the Concierge provides exemplary customer service: allowing the residents to focus on the meaningful moments they have throughout their days, instead of stressing about what the day’s schedule looks like, worry about how to pick up a prescription off site, or how to challenge themselves to keep mind and body active. The “cruise ship that never sails” couldn’t be more accurate a way to describe the Villas. As cruise directors, Paul and Aileen operate the fully-staffed community. She, her Executive Director, Karen Milroy, along with long-time Marketing Director, Diana Sanchez, work magic in the Public Relations, Networking and Marketing arena, often hosting events at The Villas that are open to local businesses and the community.
On-site presence is what sets this community apart, and what keeps the ship afloat. Most senior residence communities operate through a parent corporation, run by hired representatives. Taking hospitality to the next level, Paul and Aileen have made it a point to keep their offices onsite at The Villas, and can be seen regularly participating in activities during the week. If you see them on-site, say hello, ask a question, and expect to be hosted like you are a part of the San Clemente Villas family.
A couple of years ago in 2015, automakers topped a 15 year peak, as the confluence of cheaper gas, higher employment, low interest rates and a stronger economy created the perfect storm for auto companies to sell a whopping 17.5 million cars and light trucks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans spent roughly $570 million. Two years down the road on an average new car, and you’re looking at light maintenance: a few oil changes, wiper replacements, maybe a belt or some shiny new tires. But as the years tack on, each one of those 17.5 million cars will begin to wear down. Alternators break. Tie rod ends need replacing. (Let’s not even talk about the fact that I’ve been calling them tire rods this whole time.) So where to take your car for those repairs and routine maintenances?
Performance Haus is here to answer your questions. A mainstay of the Dana Point community since 1974, the Haus specializes in factory scheduled maintenance and repairs for Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus and Volkswagen. Proud of the reputation and history they have in the industry, Performance Haus has recently rolled up their service doors to welcome all domestic brands as well.
“Repair shops just don’t stay in a community as long as we do unless they have provided folks with outstanding service and pricing,” says Ray, service manager. “We don’t believe in making extra profits at the customer’s expense.”
As idyllic as it sounds, the Haus has the gumption and longstanding to back up its lofty promises. Using only original or OEM parts, rest assured knowing that your repairs were completed with the highest quality parts available at the highest level of workmanship on the market.
Offering everything from brake service to suspension and steering, the technicians at Performance Haus have been schooled in industry best practices, and perform all of its services and repairs per factory specifications.
“Quit being a number at your local dealership,” says Ray. “Wouldn’t you rather be treated with respect, courtesy, and loyalty? And our service doesn’t just stop at the door: we have a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty.” Be it tie rods or tire rods, the team at Performance Haus has a fix for you, and they’ll make you feel at home while they’re at it.
According to a recent LA Times article, “the Southern California housing market is red-hot again.” 2015 was the second-busiest year since the 2008 recession, and experts are calling for 2016 to be the year that the peak returns to Orange County. With so much hype in the forecast, it can be difficult for both buyers and sellers to track market trends, sift through all the numbers, and forecast what may or may not happen over years to come. I know I’d rather choose a new paint color or build my dream wraparound porch than pore tediously over CoreLogic statistics. And that’s where Sheri Normandin comes into the picture.
Often, determining the difference between one’s skill set and one’s passion leaves much to be desired: a rift not many of us have the luxury to cross over in our professional lives. For Sheri, seeing her skill set and passion collide in the real estate market has revolutionized hers. With over 25 years of executive level management and marketing in over 26 countries, Sheri’s transition to luxury property management was as smooth as can be. In fact, it doesn’t get much smoother than earning herself a top 4% spot in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Agents nationwide: and an entry in the 2014 and 2015 President’s Club. Yet, unlike a great many OC brokers, Sheri doesn’t hail from Orange County.
“I grew up on a farm,” she notes with a smile. “I’m interested in Orange County in the same way my buyers and sellers are interested: I came here to buy a house for myself, I dealt with the same process, the same negotiations; and I think that makes me uniquely suited to welcome folks to the area.”
With the increased global reach of real estate, understanding and appropriately providing services to meet the various needs out there are constantly added to the equation of buying or selling a home. Sheri services all of South Orange County, not just the city she resides in, and she is willing to go the extra mile to help her clients understand what it is they are really achieving with her at the helm of their housing project.
“The needs of a buyer are vastly different than those of a seller,” she says. “We have seen a strong recovery over the past few years, but with low inventories, it continues to be a sellers market.”
So what questions are you asking as either a buyer or seller in the current market? You may have the perfect paint chip in hand, but what kind of wall would you like to decorate? You may be approaching retirement, and are looking to downsize. Do you have specific square footage in mind? Do you have a budgetary cap? Is there room for the family dog? A yard?
“Floor plans and functionality of a home can vary greatly and rearranging the current use with minor changes can have a much bigger value to a buyer, if they can see it,” says Sheri. “Not all agents can provide that vision. I look for areas I can make the process easier for my clients and actively take things off their plate to reduce stress.”
Because everyone’s motivations are different, a good realtor connects with clients and can manage the expectations on the table, while successfully maximizing results. Finding a broker that will offer more than a minimum level of service however, can be painstaking. With her background in marketing and negotiation, it is no wonder that Sheri has found such success - invaluable when navigating the market and its constant fluctuations.
“When I’m looking for a prospective agent to sell my home, I’m asking if they do this as a full time job - I’m asking for reviews and references - I’m asking what sets them apart from other agents. Professional photography, quality marketing materials and online exposure are base requirements these days to provide great results for the seller. I go beyond what is expected, which changes with each client. I’ve planted flowers, moved couches. Selling or buying a home can be an emotional experience, and making it as positive as possible is my goal.”
In the 5th century BC, Sun Tzu compiled thirteen chapters worth of military strategy and tactics. At a great many business schools today, The Art of War is required reading for those looking to conquer the corporate ladder, or succeed in courtrooms across America.
What is missing from the classic text however, is the ever necessary treatise regarding the age old battle that rages in those homes of our American tycoons of industry and their corporate lawyers. That classic skirmish against cracked, aged, moldy grout in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
And the war cry? Care. How to care for something that seems to so easily wear away, discolor, or become damaged. Luckily for you, a field medic exists on the battlefront, and the doctor is in.
Elvin Jenkins has been in the business since 1992, and as part of a nationally supported network, is bringing The Grout Doctor to your front door. Specializing in tile, stone care, and yes, grout, Elvin and his team can renew, restore, and protect your home -- or change the look of it dramatically!
“We want you to love your tile and stone areas every day, not just the day they were installed. While tile is a non-porous material, the grout between the tiles absorbs everyday spills and dirt, almost like a sponge. If not cared for, over time, you’re going to have a problem.”
Offering free evaluations and a written estimate, The Grout Doctor would like the chance to take a look at each option open to you as a homeowner. If you’re on a budget, “restoration is less expensive, can often be completed in one day, and is good ‘green’ karma for you.”
Repair, regrouting and recoloring are also options. Locally owned and operated, Elvin and his team use their own proprietary products to ensure the highest level of quality care for your home environment.
If you were to search “grout” on Pinterest, there greets you an endless scroll of advice from home improvement bloggers, 5,467 photos of subway tile, and a healthy handful of posts regarding the newest trend on the housing market: bold, colorful grout. (Including but not limited to glitter grout. Look it up, it exists.)
Clearly the battle is raging -- choose to attack on the home front by letting the Grout Doctor fight for you.
For a FREE estimate, call Elvin and his team at (949) 336-1893 or visit www.GroutDoctor.com
A friend warned me that if our family spent a weekend at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, we’d end up booking our next trip before we even left the property.
Nestled in the scenic rolling hills of the lush Santa Ynez Valley, Alisal is a full-service 10,000-acre, all-inclusive resort/dude ranch experience that combines the elegance and comfort of the western lifestyle with a working cattle ranch where 2,000 head of cattle and 100-quarter horses leisurely graze.
Beautifully manicured lawns characterize the grounds of the main “resort” - connecting 73 California ranch-style cottage studios and suites to restaurants and recreational facilities.
Since 1843 when conquistador Raimundo Carrillo received a land grant and became the first cattle rancher of the Santa Ynez Valley, the Alisal (meaning “grove of sycamores” in Chumash, a Native American language) established itself as a working cattle ranch. In 1943, the property was purchased by The Jackson Family and evolved into a guest ranch. The exclusive hideaway opened its doors to summer vacationers with 30 initial guestrooms converted into bungalows.
The Alisal’s rich heritage and idyllic setting make it a haven for rest and relaxation and one of American’s most prestigious properties boasting a well preserved civilized past. Couples honeymoon here, families enjoy reunions and executives find a welcome respite from urban life.
In our case, we were looking for a brief respite from the day-to-day without having to travel too far from home. While Alisal is only a three to four hour drive from Orange County, it feels worlds away – the property is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and hiking trails meander around the resort’s rich flora and fauna (nature lovers can take a self-guided hike through Deer Canyon where some 64 different animals including deer, possums, bobcats, mountain lions, wild boar and black bears reside).
Back at the ranch, children as well as adults can participate in the caring of the ponies, bottle-feeding the goats, calves, exotic miniature horses and sheep seven days a week at The Alisal Barn Yard. Because our kids (ages 8 and 9) were to be first-time horseback riders up to the historic Adobe Camp for pancake breakfast the morning after our arrival, we “practiced” riding around a corral atop a gentle horse that spends a few hours each day tethered to a tree so the resort’s youngest guests can have their parents lead them around the corral at their leisure). Kids can also participate in egg gathering, grooming and exercising the animals in the corral.
A recreation center unto itself, the 100-acre spring fed Alisal Lake, filled with bass; trout; and bluegill, offers “catch-and-release” fishing. You can rent a boat or fish off the dock – our son caught his first fish (a Bigmouth Bass reeled in with Daddy’s help) by casting (also with Daddy’s help) from the dock. This sportsman’s paradise attracts bird watchers and guests with canoes, rowboats, peddle boats, kayaks or sail boats. As one of two California properties to be an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing operation, Alisal offers fly-fishing and boating lessons for children and adults.
Visitors rarely leave the Alisal during their stay and for good reason. Leaving at dawn, guests enjoy more than 50 miles of equestrian trails on horseback circling the magnificent hills and sycamore groves. Twice daily group rides, private rides and breakfast rides to the historicAdobe Camp round out a stay.
Aspiring equestrians can hone their riding skills at the corral with private lessons. Children delight in the Alisal Rodeo with stick horse and gunny sack races and boot relays in an authentic western arena. Wranglers show off with quick draw demonstrations, calf roping and barrel racing. Following the rodeo is an extravagant western barbecue with live entertainment and traditional line dancing.
For those seeking more civilized pursuits, two 18-hole championship golf courses – the par 72, 6,500-yard Ranch Course and the par 72, 6,800-yard River Course with four lakes - provide impeccably manicured fairways and greens with spectacular views of the Santa Ynez River and nearby Santa Ynez Mountains. A full range of facilities and services are offered at both courses including a clubhouse, driving range, putting green and pro shop. Private and group lessons by PGA and LPGA professionals are also available.
A full-service Tennis Center with a well-equipped pro tennis shop is situated on a scenic area of the Ranch. Tennis buffs can choose from seven hard courts. Tennis professionals, one of whom is nationally ranked, offer both clinics and private lessons by appointment.
After a lengthy day of horseback riding, the Alisal’s outdoor heated swimming pool and adjacent eight-seat spa are the perfect way to unwind.
The Ranch Room, the resort’s restaurant, serves American and western style favorites. Guests enjoy a choice of a hearty a la carte American breakfast menu items that include Linguisa scrambled eggs over a Grilled Portobello Mushroom, savory Huevos Rancheros and the Alisal’s own Buttermilk Pancakes. A lavish Ranch Room breakfast buffet of Eggs Benedict and Corn Beef Hash is also served with freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade baked muffins, pastries and breads.
Dinner is formal (dinner jackets are required for the men - and a great excuse to get gussied up for the girls) and frontier-size portions of juicy barbecued steaks, tender prime rib of beef and the fresh catch of the day including swordfish, John Dory and Seabass are guest favorites. Specialty dishes such as Osso Bucco, Hickory Smoked Briskett and slow roasted Farm Raised Wild Boar are prepared with the freshest ingredients for the guests’ dining pleasure. The Alisal features a Modified American Plan. Menus are rotated seven days a week, year round.
At the historic Adobe Camp, the resort treats guests to a full ranch breakfast including buttermilk flapjacks, scramble eggs, bacon, sausage, ham and more complete with a whimsical performance by Jake Copass, resident wrangler and cowboy poet, accompanied by Dave Stamey, the Alisal’s award-winning singing cowboy on guitar.
Alisal’s 73 guest units are decorated in classic California ranch design and configured as either comfortable studios or spacious one-bedroom suites. Each unit, designed for maximum privacy and comfort, includes a wood-burning fireplace with complimentary firewood; high-beamed ceilings; Western art; refrigerator; coffee maker (coffee and tea supplied in rooms), and filtered water dispenser. To maintain the cozy, quiet atmosphere, there are no in-room televisions or telephones; however, complimentary wireless Internet is available throughout the ranch.
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. Cutura’s Laser Genesis Skin Resurfacing, one of the modalities in use at AesthetiCare, specifically and precisely focuses on the facial areas of concern such as brown spots, loose skin, fine lines and wrinkles. It can transform your skin to a more refreshed and flawless appearance. Full face or partial Genesis laser will give your face a more youthful and softened glow.
Over time everyone’s skin begins to show signs of the natural aging process. Overexposure to the sun, alcohol consumption and smoking are all known to accelerate the skin’s aging process and wrinkles develop. These wrinkles are most prominently seen on the upper lip, around the eyes (crow’s feet), and superficially on the cheeks and forehead. Laser light penetrates to a very precise controlled depth, making the procedure safe and more predictable.
Capable of safely treating ALL ethnic and sun-tanned skin, Genesis treatments are also known as the “lunchtime” laser because there is no down-time after each treatment (generally spaced three to four weeks apart to allow the skin time to “turn over”). The number of treatments will depend on the intensity of the skin discoloration and necks can be effectively treated as well.
In my case, I was intrigued by the idea that laser skin resurfacing is gentler and more exacting than chemical peels, which may burn the skin to unpredictable depths. Melasma is a patchy brown discoloration on the skin of the face that is often referred to as a “pregnancy mask” because the increase in hormones seem to trigger this common condition. While I was pregnant, I read somewhere that over time these patchy spots would fade. But my kids are about to turn 10 and 9 this month and my mask was showing no signs of vanishing. So I was keenly interested to see if the Genesis procedure administered by Med Spa Director Lynne Brownell, RN, MSN, MP would have the desired effect demonstrated in her client’s “before” and “after” photos.
After three treatments, I have to say that I was duly impressed with the results. Several friends whom I hadn’t seen in a few months commented on my “fresh” appearance. One said he couldn’t put his finger on what was different, but that I looked great. Perfect. That’s exactly the subtle change I was hoping for in treating my uneven skin color. Today, the dense “mask” has been transformed into a far less dense coloring that more closely resembles a dusting of freckles. I’m happy to add my own testimonial and “before” and “after” images to growing number of AesthetiCare’s satisfied customers.
Here in South Orange County, we’re pretty blessed to live so close to the coast and have an abundance of wonderful dining destinations to choose from. But for inventive cuisine and exemplary service in the spirit of much-loved classic American steakhouses and taverns, there are precious few establishments that rival Selanne Steak Tavern.
Situated along Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, the restaurant is housed in a historic 1934 two-story country cottage complete with a faux water well and bucket pouring water, red brick walkways and wooden shingled roof tiles. Step through the hand-carved wooden door into the main entry and you’ll find that the interior ambiance and décor is decidedly classic modern - from the stunning glass chandelier suspended from the ceiling in the elegant foyer to the sleek Carrara marble fireplace, wide-planked oak floors, clean lines, upholstered furnishings and accented by local abstract art created by Laguna Beach artist Nick Gaetano throughout the classy bar and five dining areas (The Loft - upstairs dining room; The Wine Library; downstairs in The Tavern; or outside on The Veranda or Sunset Terrace).
Owned and operated by Teemu Selanne, hockey legend and former NHL star player for the Anaheim Ducks, and local businessman Kevin Pratt. The longtime friends and neighbors, the pair share a commitment to making their restaurant a place for “friends and families to enjoy great food and libations in a comfortable, appealing eatery.”
I would have to say the restaurant’s proprietors have certainly hit the mark – and raised the bar for destination dining in the region. On a recent date night, my husband, Tim, and I reserved a table in the upstairs dining room to indulge in a glass or two of fine wine (focused on California cult wines and other highly-rated, world class wines) and beautifully presented, delicious dishes including what are arguably among the best steaks in Orange County.
Executive Chef Joshua Severson has created a menu defined by his distinctive version of contemporary American steakhouse fare with a wonderful variety of top meats from Filet Mignon to Australian Wagyu. There are actually eight options on the menu, including the Chef’s Signature 38 oz Lord Stanley Cut, which serves two.
Our server Mike recommended that we start with the chef’s signature Pacific Diver Scallops, which he claimed were the best he’d ever eaten “with no other coming in a close second.” Now I fancy myself somewhat of a seafood and sushi connoisseur and as such, was expecting it might fall short. But I have to say, Chef nailed it with a perfectly prepared dish enhanced by a delicious cauliflower/pickled chanterelle.
A meat-and-potatoes man, my husband chose the filet mignon and while I typically steer toward seafood selections, opted instead for a 12 oz prime Rib Eye – again at Mike’s suggestion.
The marbling was superb, soft, and tender. Served with Chef’s seasonal marrow butter and bordelaise sauce, the beef literally melted in our mouths. A favorite side dish is Selanne’s signature Mac and Cheese – a decadent five-cheese fondue topped with brioche crumbs.
The menu also features several other seafood dishes which include a 2 lb. Atlantic Maine Lobster and smoked Skuna Bay Salmon. For vegetarians, Selanne Steak Tavern serves up a Forest Mushroom Risotto flavored with black truffle oil. There is something delicious for everyone’s taste.
Selanne Steak Tavern is located at 1464 S. Coast Hwy. in Laguna Beach. For reservations or more information, call (949) 715-9881 or visit selannesteaktavern.com
We knew we were in for a memorable weekend when the driveway to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar (fairmont.com/san-diego) took its sweet time delivering us to the resort. A canopy of autumn colors rustled in a lazy and surprisingly warm San Diego breeze as we made our way into the canyon just a couple of miles inland from the 5, which might as well have been 500 miles from kids, laundry, work, obligations. The autumn colors eventually broke to reveal an expertly meandering golf course, which in turn gave way to the fountained entrance to our longtime-in-coming getaway with girlfriends.
Situated adjacent to the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in San Diego, the Grand Del Mar is a mere hour’s drive from most of Orange County, but, once there, you feel utterly removed to the warmth of a Mediterranean estate. That utter removal can be of just about any flavor – we were making it a girl’s weekend, with a focus on rejuvenation and simple togetherness, but golf aficionados, outdoor enthusiasts, couples, families and foodies will all find something exceptional at the Grand Del Mar.
It is remarkable to think that, with all the affluence and attraction of Southern California, with swank people desirous of swank accommodations, it is the Grand Del Mar, nestled rurally in North County San Diego and quite out of the way of Rodeo Drive, that consistently earns the highest ratings from all the swankest reviewers and publications. Travel+Leisure named the Grand Del Mar as “California’s #1 Resort” and one of the world’s best; TripAdvisor called it the United States’ best hotel; it has swept all categories – hotel, spa, dining – with five stars from Forbes.
The Grand Del Mar is not an historic hotel – it opened in 2007 – but for those who love the richness of historic luxury, it satisfies abundantly. Many varieties of wood, marble and tapestry abound in artisan expression that is opulent without gaudiness, a balance struck by the best historic hotels. Of course, if you are one of those history types, you’ll know that historic properties are typically high on charm and low on space. Not so here. The rooms are commodiously cozy (or cozily commodious, per your preference), where you can sprawl out and never feel cold. Our suite was on an upper level with a balcony overlooking the canyon and portions of the golf course, with palm fronds swaying in the breeze just feet from us as we sipped our morning coffee.
Los Peñasquitos Canyon is a nature preserve with historical significance as the first route from Yuma to San Diego, which is today a beautiful hiking, biking and horseback riding destination. Guests of the Grand Del Mar have access to all the canyon has to offer, with bikes available for pickup at the front desk, and horses at the on-site stables ready for trail riding. For those whose outdoor adventures entail a driver and a putter, the Grand Del Mar features the only Tom Fazio-designed golf course in San Diego, complimented by swing analysis technology services, a SAMPutt lab, specialized practice areas used by some of the world’s top professionals, and more. If you’re of the aquatic persuasion, the property features two pools, one ideal for families and one infinity (read tranquility) pool for adults only. Not far beyond pools are the resort’s private beach and oceanic excursions including sunset sails and whale watching. And this only scratches the surface.
For spa enthusiasts, the Grand Del Mar offers one of the most acclaimed in the country. Naturally it features a comprehensive menu of treatments, such as cleansing facials and therapeutic massages, as well as a custom line of organic products; but it also offers a world-class spa experience, with wet and dry saunas, indoor whirlpools, separate men’s and women’s relaxation lounges with fireplaces, access to the adults-only relaxation pool and all the hot tea, snacks and chocolates you could ask for.
The dining experience at the Grand Del Mar stands on its own and is itself the reason that many travel long distances to visit the resort. Six on-property dining venues offer something for every taste, mood and interest, often to the sound of live music. Addison, led by celebrated executive chef William Bradley, is the Grand Del Mar’s signature dining feature. Local ingredients are combined with contemporary French influences and presented with exceptional service to make Addison Southern California’s most awarded fine dining restaurant.
Amaya is a more casual option fusing Spanish, Italian and French fare with expansive, sunny views of the canyon and golf course. We enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast of various benedicts and the “Black & Blue” Brioche French Toast with granola, lemon crème fraîche and berries, and an immunity smoothie for good measure (the effects were immediate). But excellence does not stop at Addison or Amaya. From its restaurants to its in-room dining, from its robust wine program to its seasonal menus and Afternoon Tea, the Grand Del Mar has something for every epicurean.
With all that the Grand Del Mar has to offer in activities, amenities, services and dining, the delight of being there is ultimately of the atmosphere, and that comes down to two things: beauty and people.
The staff members at the Grand Del Mar have a special quality. While hospitality professionals are typically welcoming, of course, the folks at the Grand Del Mar are authentically welcoming. So much so that either the resort has found hundreds of matchless thespians to do everything from valet the car to turn down the sheets, or the Grand Del Mar’s people truly enjoy being there. I want to believe that it is the latter.
As to beauty, the Grand Del Mar is simply an exquisitely designed place with lovely spaces; from the driveway to the marbled entrance to the furnishings and the vistas, you cannot escape a floor-to-ceiling sense of beauty of the most approachable kind. And so at every turn you are inspired to tranquility and delight. In the end, that is how we spent our 24-hour break from our everydays – enjoying each other, and simply basking in what the Grand Del Mar is. Long, slowly winding driveways always lead to something good.