All throughout my youth, I wondered why people didn’t like going to the dentist. That all changed when I moved away from home to go to college, and had to find a new dentist for the first time. That experience opened my eyes to how intimate dentistry is and how vulnerable you feel if you are not comfortable in the dental office.
Your smile/mouth is the first thing people notice when they speak to you. Finding someone you trust to take care of your dental hygiene is imperative to enjoying the confidence a beautiful smile gives you. Ivan Ho, DDS is one of those select few dentists you can trust. From the moment you meet him, you are immediately touched by his warm nature and empathy.
Dr. Ho has been caring for patients for over twenty years and has won numerous awards and reviews that focus not only on his excellency within dentistry, but also the warmth with which he treats his patients - as welcome guests and friends.
As a University of Southern California School of Dentistry graduate and an award winning board certified dentist, Dr. Ho lectures nationally and internationally about both cosmetic and implant dentistry. His expertise and warm demeanor have earned him the respect and trust of both colleagues and patients.
“As a doctor myself, extensive knowledge and expertise is important,” says Patient Steve H., MD. “Dr Ho is truly an expert!”
Angela P., a local school teacher, echoes the sentiment and adds: “I’ve been searching for a dentist with honesty and compassion, I found Dr Ho through a co-worker and refer all my friends and family to him.”
Dr. Ho has had more than his fair share of time in the dental chair as a patient. This has given him the unique perspective of both a professional and a patient.
“I had extra teeth and gum issues that required multiple gum and oral surgeries from my childhood all through my adolescence,” says Dr. Ho. “Despite the many and varied procedures I went through, I was fortunate enough to see wonderful providers and I was extremely grateful for the care they gave me. The experience of rectifying my own oral health led me to pursue dentistry. I wanted to give back to a profession that changed my life.”
In 1992, Dr. Ho started his practice in Laguna Hills and added a second office in Rancho Santa Margarita and with great dedication and hard work, cared for residents of both cities.
“As my children started to grow up, I realized that I wanted to spend more time with them while I could,” he says. “So I sold my Laguna Hills location and focused on RSM, which is where I lived. I recently relocated back to Laguna Hills as now my children have grown, but my parents need a little more attention. They reside in Laguna Woods Village.”
Dr. Ho has been enjoying his return to Laguna Hills and being able to care for patients that got him started twenty-plus years ago.
“It is not just fillings, crowns, implants, cosmetic dentistry or cleanings: it’s ‘beyond the nuances’ dentistry. Your oral health plays a very important role in your overall health and your ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life like eating good food.
“After all, your smile is an indication of what is within.” Dr. Ho says with an engaging smile of his own.
Ivan Ho, DDS
DOCOI, FAAID, AACD
Pro Smiles OC
24953 Paseo de Valencia, Suite 6C
You might be surprised to learn what the country’s fastest growing industry is and it’s not RV sales, in spite of a year of lockdown. But the demand to get on the road is certainly fueling the drive toward recreational activities in North America, and e-bikes are running away with the market.
Fueled by demand from both Canada and the U.S., e-bikes are looking at an annual growth rate of close to 11% over the next few years, marching right along with a booming housing market and burgeoning infrastructure development. Targeting not only recent retirees, but enthusiasts of all ages looking to stay active, get outside or simply prefer to tool around town on an E-bike - the evolved and infinitely more exciting electric iteration of the traditional two-wheeler.
While E-bike purveyors are seemingly on every corner, few have experienced the explosion in interest and growth locally like Doheny Bike - the fastest growing E-bike company in Dana Point.
This is perhaps due in large measure to the popularity, versatility, utility and affordability of the company’s Fold N’ Go collection - available in a array of colors and profiles. But undoubtedly in equal measure is the mission of its co-owners - Jason Spates and Micah Meiring - to “give back to the community.”
Doheny itself boasts a robust outdoor history. Killer Dana, the aptly named freight-train-thick swell brought in surfers and developers alike. Hoping to keep the community close to the land and sea that brought it prosperity originally seemed logical for Jason, Micah and their team, working with the City of Dana Point recently to hand out 75 complimentary helmets, scooters, and skateboards. “Dana Point is an amazing community, and we want to help more kids enjoy it safely.
Doheny Bike is donating a Doheny EZ Folding bike to Pet Project’s biggest fundraiser of the year on September 19th called Pet Project Foundation: Roaring for Rescues! Proceeds will benefit the animals at the San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter.
“It should be fun, but we’re also thinking beyond fun to community, individual expression and the ability to remain mobile.”
“We recognized the opportunity to give back, to contribute to our com- munity that shaped our childhood, and it felt natural to encourage mo- bility and personal freedom when the pandemic had taken so much of it away.” Jason and Micah are a couple of local Dana Point dads, lucky enough to have lived near the world-famous Doheny Beach surf spot their entire lives. “Our freedom was nearly unlimited as kids in the 1970’s and 80’s - we wanted our own kids to be as mobile as we were.”
The idea of access and freedom have long been associated with the bi- cycle, and Doheny Bike believes in sending its patrons out on adventures to places unknown, where they might not have ventured before. They set out to provide an affordable solution for everyday mobility.
“With the average buyer’s budget in mind, we wanted a functional riding experience that is not trendy, awkward and limited to your hometown,” says Micah. “Creating the agility of the Fold N’ Go anywhere design, we have provided a solution to buyers that want to travel in a smaller car with electric bikes and ultimately extend their outdoor adventures.”
As parents, Jason and Micah stress the importance of safety, and encourage all riders to be over 16, along with the importance of sizing the bike out, wearing a helmet, and meeting minimum requirements to ride the bikes safely on the road.
“It should be fun, but we’re also thinking beyond fun, to community, individual expression, and the ability to remain mobile.” On a single charge, you can ride up to 50 miles. Put a basket on the back and you’re ready for the store or farmer’s market. “I wanted something better than traffic in my car and I just knew that the options I had to help my community needed to be affordable and reliable.”
With a background in commercial truck leasing and loans, and an early pandemic ride on his nephew’s electric scooter, genius was born. “There’s something about being out in the fresh air that made a great start to the day.” The recent cycling boom couldn’t agree more.
34163 Pacific Coast Hwy. #100
I was chatting with a friend the other day about gyms. He was bemoaning the era of headphones: AirPods, Beats, you name it. I laughed at first because it seemed like such a funny complaint: I don’t like gyms because people wear headphones. But then it dawned on me as he continued to talk, that he was really referring to the missed sense of community he used to get when he went to the gym. Or, as he calls it still - the club. The Club isn’t gone, however. Not by a long shot. That place you could go to achieve your fitness goals or simply be well among a group of other like-minded folks? It still exists, in Aliso Viejo at ClubSport - Orange County’s premier fitness resort-style gym where “you’re more than a member, you’re a member of our family.” And the experience here is even more amazing than ever.
Group fitness classes similar to the ones you may enjoy at boutique studios can be found at ClubSport Aliso Viejo with over 70 weekly instructor-guided class options such as boxing, cycling, Pilates, yoga, Zumba, barre, aquatics, and the increasingly popular HIIT workouts using water rowers, striders, and strength-training equipment. And don’t forget the wide range of court sports including racquetball, squash, and basketball.
Relaxation more your speed for the day? Book a massage or facial treatment at the luxurious R Spa - which is also partnered with the Rejuvenation Room offering IV vitamin therapies and vitamin injections. A full-service restaurant, the vibrant Citrus Fresh Grill & Market serves up “naturally delicious” new world cuisine, snacks, and smoothies for dine-in or takeout crafted from real, wholesome ingredients sourced locally. And the piece de resistance (at least for parents in the small-children-at-home phase of life)? Kids World. And yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds. This “club within a club” is a place specially designed for children from infants to pre-teens with an array of age-specific activities, amenities, fitness, and entertainment. The club’s unique video camera coverage allows parents to “check-in” on their youngsters from monitors conveniently located throughout the club.
If you have no idea where to begin when it comes to your fitness and nutrition goals, ClubSport Aliso Viejo has that covered, too! There is a wide range of options for personal training, an immersive 8-week weight loss program called Rev32, nutritious take-home meals, and accessible advice from on-site professionals that make it easy to stay accountable to yourself.
There is literally something for everyone. Whether it be relaxation or rejuvenation you’re looking for, or to get super sweaty alongside your Boot Camp compadres, the Club hasn’t actually gone anywhere. It’s simply gotten better. As for the Air-Pods? You can take ‘em or leave ‘em.
ClubSport Aliso Viejo
The San Diego Zoo has been a family favorite since our kids were still in strollers.
Until earlier this month, our last visit had been pre-pandemic so we were eager to see how much had changed - and stayed the same since our last day trip trekking amongst the many natural enclosures that are home to over 12,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies from around the world.
Located just north of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park, the world-famous 100-acre wildlife park is also an accredited botanical garden, caring for more than 700,000 individual plants, including a prominent accredited collection of close to 13,000 specimens, representing 3,100 species.
Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks has transformed 8 acres of the Zoo into six habitats that spotlight the amazing biodiversity found on the African continent, ranging from savanna to shore. Africa Rocks’ gently winding, ADA-accessible pathway leads guests through different types of African habitats — Including Cape Fynbos, with African penguins; West African forest, with African dwarf crocodiles; Acacia Woodland, with African birds, leopards and vervet monkeys; Ethiopian Highlands, with hamadryas baboons, geladas and Nubian ibex; Kopje, with dwarf mongooses, bateleur eagles, servals, meerkats, klipspringers and rock hyrax; and Madagascar Forest, with fossas, honey badgers, lemurs and Coquerel’s sifakas.
A pioneer in building "cageless" exhibits, Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth founded the Zoological Society of San Diego in 1916. The impetus and his inspiration for The San Diego Zoo? Dr. Wegeforth heard a lion roaring from its tiny cage when it and other animals were abandoned after a 1915 expedition. Today, over 100 years later, the San Diego Zoo’s work extends way beyond the zoo itself (and San Diego Zoo Safari Park)
Whether you're visiting for the first time or make this coastal city a frequent weekend destination, the San Diego Zoo is an absolutely treat for all ages. It's a wonderful educational opportunity and a refreshing excursion to get a little closer to nature.
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive
Fifteen months is a long time. Enough to grow a backyard garden, and master a sourdough recipe. Enough time for an entire pregnancy and six months of infancy on top of it. Enough time to master a couple recipes, and then get really sick of making the same couple things over and over again. Enough to get really excited for restaurants to open up again, and get a table at your favorite dining destination that is finally back to business.
South Orange County is brimming with energy. Weeks past the summer solstice, the days are long, warm, and bright: perfect for grabbing an early morning coffee down by the beach, a quick fish taco for lunch, or an evening out to indulge in exceptional culinary creations and craft cocktails with friends you haven’t seen in months.
That was the theme of a recent evening out when my husband and I joined another couple for dinner at Hendrix - a popular neighborhood restaurant in Laguna Niguel’s Ocean Ranch that offers a menu of New American cuisine, assimilating the flavors from the melting pot of traditional American cooking techniques. Already fans of Executive Chef Ranier Schwarz’ offerings, our foodie friends were anxious to sample his newest seasonal dishes showcasing summer’s most vibrant ingredients - much of which is sourced from local and regional farms.
We did our best to work out way through the menu and each dish more than delivered on its promise of ocean-to-table freshness and flavor. My personal favorite? The melt-in-your-mouth pan-seared Diver Scallops with bold Moraccan salsa. I also discovered a truly inventive starter in the creamy Avocado hummus, for which the accompanying fried pita chips were merely a delivery device - I would happily eat this by the spoonful.
The BBQ Octopus tacos enhanced with pineapple salsa, pickled fresno chiles and lemon creme fraiche and the Duck Confit Salad with beautiful green and yellow wax beans were a table fave.
Among the menu’s more protein-forward options include the Braised Kurobuta Pork Short Ribs and the Prime Rib Dinner for Two. Perfect for those who can’t decide, the Roti Platter arrives with mouth-watering rotisserie chicken, leg of lamb and prime rib served with Weiser Farms “drip” potatoes and au jus.
Not that we had any business ordering dessert after such copious consumption, but the Sticky Toffee Cake with vanilla whip cream and the Valrhona chocolate mousse tart with salted caramel sauce and fresh raspberries were both worth writing home about.
32431 Golden Lantern
Located at the corner of
Del Avion and Golden Lantern
in the Ocean Ranch Village
Insurance for All with Jonathan Bayani
GEICO Laguna Niguel
There are very few things that throw people off balance more easily than an accident. Be it at home, in the car, or on the water, an accident can ruin a day, a week, or even a year for the uninsured. For the last 85 years, your safety and that of your family has been GEICO’s ultimate priority, and for Agency Owner Jonathan Bayani and his team of licensed agents at the GEICO local office in Laguna Niguel, carrying that mission on is about much more than offering competitive rates.
Bayani and his team strive to serve South OC residents with elite and tailored customer service curated over the last twenty years in the auto and insurance industries. Customers can purchase car insurance, as well as coverage for renters, condos, RV’s, boats, and commercial vehicles. Identity protection, jewelry, and homeowners are also among the list of offerings GEICO boasts: a far cry from the original single policy auto coverage GEICO founders Leo and Lillian Goodwin offered clients in 1936 when they first opened their doors.
“As the father of three children, looking after the wellbeing of my family is top priority,’ says Bayani. “Insurance is integral to every industry and after serving the San Diego Padres and seeing how closely knit the players and their families are to their individual coverage, I wanted to bring what I learned to everyday folks in my own community.”
A bilingual team of agents, the office in Laguna Niguel will look to bring savings to each client that walks through their doors. “We have special association and alumni discounts for graduates of UCLA, SDSU, UCI, CUSF, CSULB, USC and other local schools.” Active duty military serving at Camp Pendleton may also qualify for GEICO’s military discount.
Accidents or incidents can derail even the best laid plans, but they don’t have to. GEICO has been proving that for 85 years, and Jonathan and his team are here to back you up for those to come.
27261 La Paz Road, Suite J
Family-Friendly Fun on the Bay
My husband and I were talking recently about the possibility of once again coordinating family travel in the not-too-distant future. The past year and a half has been one full of cancelled plans, rerouting expectations, and daydreaming about when things open back up. But the real kicker of the conversation was the silver lining - the discovery that we haven’t actually had to go far from home to find some incredible vacation destinations.
With a short leash like we had over the last fifteen months, there was at first an immense creative pressure in order to keep ourselves entertained, in addition to our two kids. But the magic of stay-cationing meant that we didn’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time in the car on the road, or paying exorbitant fees for parking at this tourist trap or another. There are a remarkable amount of places to go across Orange County and the greater Southern California region. And, marked by gorgeous weather and long summer days, San Diego tops the list.
Positioned on a sparkling stretch of private beach in San Diego’s Mission Bay, the Bahia Resort Hotel is only an hour drive from Orange County, easily accessible and amenity rich - a perfect prescription for the current times.
Guests enjoy easy access to the beach with rooms and suites literally steps away from the sand. All accommodations feature relaxing views of either Mission Bay or the property’s lush private gardens and ground floor accommodations come with a private patio. The resort’s suites offer not only more space with separate bedroom and separate living room area, but some also include a kitchen with stove/oven, microwave, mini-fridge and sink for a convenient dining option during your stay.
For our part, we opted for a little of both - stocking the mini-fridge with drinks and munchies to keep the kids hydrated and nourished between activities and stepping out to dine al fresco on the spacious patio at Cafe Bahia. Only the freshest ingredients, locally sourced, make the menu. Including all of the traditional breakfast favorites and delectable dishes of eclectic American fare for lunch or dinner. Our family are particularly eclectic eaters: My husband, Tim, is a strictly meat-and-potatoes man; I love all things seafood; our son loves burgers and fries and our daughter still prefers classic kids’ favorites like Mac n’ Cheese and chicken tenders.
The menu here offered something for everyone. The Braised Short Rib was delicious, paired with taleggio roasted corn grits, cumin carrots, red wine demi, pearl onions and balsamic glaze and I thoroughly enjoyed the flavors and textures of the seared salmon entree - roasted tomato vinaigrette, accompanied by a quinoa primavera cake, baby mache and dried cranberries.
San Diego is one of Southern California’s most activity-full cities itself, and the Bahia certainly takes advantage. The gorgeous year-round weather lends itself to tennis, taking a dip in their Olympic swimming pool, lounging in a cabana on the private beach, stand up paddleboarding, afternoon bike rides, boat rentals for a scenic spin around the bay or simply using the resort as a jumping off point for any one of the city’s numerous activities: from family-friendly Legoland to the world famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Tucked away in its own peninsula on the Bay, the resort is a tropical vacation without the plane ride to get there.
Right on property, San Diego’s premier land and water sports rental company - Action Sport Rentals (actionsportrentals.com) - endeavors to meet the needs of all aquatic enthusiasts - for active options, rent a single or tandem kayak, stand up paddleboard, pedal board rental or body board rental. If you prefer a leisurely watercraft, Action Sport Rentals offers sailboats, fishing boats or pontoon rentals. For those who have a need for speed, guests can rent jet skis or a powerboat. We spent the entire day outdoors - starting with a spin around the bay aboard a 20’ Hurricane Deckboat. The powerboat we chose is a fast, fun craft that’s also a super comfortable ride for up to 10 passengers - while boaters stay within the bay, our experience alternated between a leisurely cruise in the channels and an exhilarating ride at speeds topping 40 mph. We worked off lunch with a bike ride around Mission Bay and ended the day curled up on the patio’s lounge chairs to enjoy the picturesque views.
Home to all of California’s iconic palms, amazing annuals, and even a rescue seal and duck pond, you don’t have to step far away from your room to stroll the sand at sunset or sip your favorite drink du jour from Tangier Bar’s delicious list of offerings. No wonder TripAdvisor named it a Best Value Hotel. Don’t believe me? Take your own trip to the bay.
998 W. Mission Bay Drive
Our tween and teen are always clamoring for theme park experiences with friends. Rather than carnival rides, I was hoping for a more active experience that would not only allow for a bit of independence, but also a good deal of exercise and warm weather fun outdoors. I ticked all the boxes off on a recent trip to Aquatica San Diego - open now for its last season ever - through Labor Day weekend. And bonus! Aquatica delivers all day fun at a fraction of the cost of a traditional SoCal theme park ticket.
I loaded up the minivan with my 14-year-old son, 13-year-old daughter and their friends to spend a full day at this whimsical water park where the kids literally ran amuck between the
extreme water slides like the Whanau Way where they whooshed down one of six 60-foot paths to a splash-filled destination and WooHoo Falls where thrill seekers choose from three different slides, including one in the dark. For my part, I braved Walhalla Wave with the girls aboard a family-sized raft to splash down a 78-foot ride before spending the subsequent 30 minutes floating serenely along the 1,250-foot lazy river.
A favorite for my son and his friends was the Taumata Racer - a high-speed water slide where they must have raced each other no less than 10 times that day, while the girls loved Tassie’s Twister - a four-person cloverleaf ride. There’s even an entire area perfect for the littles - Walkabout Waters is loads of hands-on fun with slides, hoses, jets, geysers and more, while Slippity Dippity offers the younger set a children’s slide and waterfall.
Guests can treat themselves to a private cabana rental or rent a shaded “wave lounger” in a semi-private area to serve as “home base” while the kids explore all the rides and slides in the waterpark.
Once the waterpark closes after Labor Day, construction will begin its transformation into Sesame Place, a family-friendly waterpark featuring the beloved characters from Sesame Street. Until the summer season ends, California residents enjoy tickets starting at $35.99 with required reservations made online.
Aquatica San Diego
2052 Entertainment Circle
When I was younger, my Mom loved to read me the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” The plot essentially revolves around an ever-growing list of to-do’s that had to be accomplished, all set into motion by the simple act of giving a mouse a cookie. This tale came back to me recently when I purchased a new television at Best Buy.
What was a simple shopping trip ended up being an adult’s version of that circular tale. If you give a grownup a television, they’ll have to measure their wall. When they measure the wall, they’ll realize they may actually have room for a bigger television. When they buy the bigger television, they’ll find out they have no idea how to mount it to the wall. When they start mounting it to the wall, they’ll see that the power outlets are all in the wrong places. When they realize the outlets need to be moved, they’ll call an electrician. (This could go on forever.)
Luckily for clients who have been on the receiving end of ReelTime’s patient, intelligent, and personalized service, the rabbit hole of home automation doesn’t have to swallow you entirely. With the help of their independent certified Control4 dealer, it’s easy to update your home without upending your entire life. After all, the true luxury of an integrated entertainment system is really dependent on its ability to deliver seamless entertainment. By placing every control at your fingertips, the team at ReelTime helps homeowners manage everything from how brightly lit your family room is, to your streaming devices - all with a single remote. And best yet? You can control your whole home from the comfort of your couch- even seeing who is at the front door, without ever leaving your seat. Simple, clean, and uncluttered.
And on the home entertainment front … when you started planning for your ultimate home theater set-up and sound system, could you find the right media cabinetry for your particular space – cabinetry that wouldn’t catch on fire from the heat of the equipment, or that would simply look good in the room? Did you understand half of what the televisions, receivers and other devices could do, and did you have anyone to hold your hand to make sure you weren’t overspending for what you wanted?
Big box retailers, the professed champions of value, are happy to sell you any home theater and sound equipment you think you might like, and send you off to figure it out at home. That’s what they do. And that’s all they do.
If you want the home theater system that you envision, seek the services of Skip Myers and his team of experienced professionals at ReelTime to take you from start to finish for the home theater or sound system of your dreams.
“Usually there is a part of the job that you find you just can’t do by yourself,” says Skip, who has overseen the design and installation of thousands of home theater and sound systems over the course of 40-plus years in the business. “You get your brand new television home, you’re so excited, then you realize you need to move an outlet or none of the cabinets you can find will fit your space. We’re here to make sure you get the equipment that will give you what you want and the system that will work with that equipment, without leaving you to fend for yourself.”
Skip opened the doors at ReelTime in 1983. Today, the technicians and designers that Skip assigns to clients are all ReelTime employees, knowledgeable in all home theater and sound technologies. First, they work closely with you to determine what you’re looking for. Then they custom design every aspect of the project, from wiring to custom-built cabinets, frames, or built-in wall designs. Finally, licensed, in-house contractors install your entertainment system with care and precision.
There are a couple of things that people may not think about when they embark upon the road to their own home entertainment system.
We’re here to make sure you get the equipment that will give you what you want and the system that will work with that equipment, without leaving you to fend for yourself.
“You need to think about your home theater goals,” says Skip. “You don’t have to do everything at once – you can do it bit by bit – but if you know where you’re going, you’ll save money and when it’s all said and done, you’ll have exactly what you want and what you will actually use. We’re here to help you determine your goals.”
Skip is also an advocate for getting what you’ll use, which is part of the design and planning process.
“You can buy everything you want to, but if you can’t operate it, what’s the point?” he says. “There’s the television, DVD and Blue-ray; there’s the receiver, there’s Apple TV… it’s all great, but how do you get them to work together? We’re big advocates of the universal remote. Not everyone knows how to get the most out of their systems with one powerful remote – they’re not expensive, but the best ones are computer-based. We’ll set that up for you so you’re getting the most out of your custom system.”
It’s easy to assume that personal service is expensive, but a conversation with Skip and the experts at ReelTime is free. Ultimately, in planning your purchases for the right outcome, you’re likely to save money while avoiding chilling setbacks. The only chilling you want to be doing is in front of your fantasy home theater system.
Connect with Skip Myers and ReelTime by calling (949) 240-0555, stop by their beautiful new showroom at 26381 Via De Anza in San Juan Capistrano or visit www.reeltimeav.com
I was at a bookstore the other day, best sellers dotting the front shelves. In the back, over by the kids books were a series of board games, dolls, and puzzles. A surprising number of the puzzles depicted scenes from California: cities and beaches, redwoods and wineries. A great many I recognized were from Napa Valley, famous for its picturesque wineries (grand scale, boutique and everything in between) and renowned varietals, and yet equally famous for its dramatic views, world-class resorts and restaurants.
My husband and I are lucky to have family who live in the region so pre-Covid weekend getaways were super easy and required little excuse or forward planning. About an hour from the Sacramento Airport, early summer is an ideal time to visit when the sun’s latitude slants just so across the rolling hills of fertile soil. Like many visitors and locals alike, we love to explore the offerings of both well-established and up-and-coming wineries; some to drink, some just to stroll the grounds. Understated and unbelievable, Napa Valley a must-experience destination for any and all.
To celebrate my husband’s mid-May birthday, we dropped the kids with family and indulged in an adults-only weekend away that combined unforgettable accommodations and amenity, unsurpassed destination dining and of course, copious consumption of outstanding vintages.
Meritage Resort and Spa & Villa Collina Resort
In 1988, the word “Meritage” was born. Blended together from the words “merit” and “heritage,” it was meant to umbrella one-of-a-kind California varietals that didn’t quite hit the Bordeaux-style checklist. So a new list was invented. One that bred a generation of classic vintages. It’s no wonder that the Meritage Collection crafted a Napa resort installment reflective of the local sunshine-soaked vines with a uniquely laid-back approach to luxury.
Each property in the collection offers an exceptional experience with an iconic locale, perhaps none more stunning than the Meritage Resort and Spa and Napa’s newest lifestyle resort Vista Collina (meritagecollection.com): sister plots tucked into acres of rolling sun-soaked hillside vineyards. Undoubtedly, just dangling the idea of effortless bliss like a dewy grape would be enough reason to escape the traffic-clogged streets of LA. But pair it with lavish accommodations, spa treatments in an underground Estate Cave, delicious cuisine at Olive + Hay, nine tasting rooms, artisan grocer and culinary center and you suddenly have a full package set before you, like a decadent charcuterie plate.
Since its opening, Vista Collina Resort has further elevated the Napa Valley experience with its gorgeous Tuscan-styled architecture, spacious accommodations and a luxurious pool flanked by private cabanas. With a focus on culinary and tasting experiences, perhaps the property’s most unique feature - separate tasting rooms encircling a beautiful community lawn representing nine distinct wineries. We selected Trinitas Cellars (trinitascellars.com), widely considered one of the region’s benchmark wineries. The experience here more than delivered on the winemaker’s stated mission to craft varietals that are “so compellingly delicious, that the joy it brings creates a window in time where worries are melted away, virtues are celebrated, and life is savored.”
The two resorts’ indulgent amenities list is daunting at first glance, but there is much to be said for a full day on the vineyard followed by a relaxing solo fitness session or room service to your suite. Try Trinitas Cellars’ tasting room or even a virtual experience en suite. Either way: Meritage and Vista Collina deliver a deliciously aged, one-of-a-kind vintage you won’t soon forget.
St. Helena is home to some of the most storied wineries in Napa Valley, which translates to being considered a destination of choice for serious oenophiles. But St. Helena is about much more than its world-class producers. When traveling, we always attempt to seek out the restaurants popular with locals - a practice that hasn’t yet disappointed. This trip, we discovered Cook St. Helena (cooksthelena.com) - a petite eatery defined by Chef/Owner Jude Wilmoth’s delicious locally sourced Italian cuisine, excellent service and an elegant atmosphere.
For starters, the burrata, toast, extra virgin olive oil, castelvetrano olive tapenade was a flavorful flavor combination as were the mussels, housemade sausage, spicy sausage broth and grilled bread. There’s something for everyone on the menu - from housemade pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads and a daily soup to heartier entrees such as the roasted chicken chop (with vegetables from their own garden), petrale sole picatta paired with whipped potatoes and garden green beans and a tender, falling-off-the-bone braised shortrib accompanied by a soft parmesan polenta, mushroom and cipollini jus. Did I mention housemade pasta? There simply is nothing better to serve as the base for a variety of succulent preparations like the cavatelli all’arrabbiata enhanced with housemade sausage, sliced garlic, tomato and basil. And the gnocchi here was simply divine - richly enhanced with gorgonzola and cracked pepper.
My husband and I love, love, love Italian cuisine so we kept the weekend theme going by joining local friends for the bold flavors and fine dining experience of Chef and Owner Michael Chiarello’s Bottega (botegganapavalley.com) in Yountville - another Napa Valley region recognized for its highly sought-after culinary offerings. Housed in a building that was originally a winery, the ambiance juxtaposes its architectural origins of rustic brick walls and timber beam ceiling with refined design elements (think Murano glass chandeliers and rich upholstered furnishings), but the true star of the show is in its inventive menu offerings such as the Monterey squid crusted with crispy arborio rice or the wood-grilled octopus over smoky paprika braised potatoes with salsa verde arugula and red onions.
Our friend claims she’s not generally a fan of gnocchi, but adores Bottega’s rendition of ricotta “pillows” with old hen tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano where there was nary a pillow left on her plate at meal’s end. The herb-crusted Branzino (a European sea bass) was amazing, flavored with brown butter, preserved lemon and capers while the Pollo alla Diavola was also a big hit - Calabrian marinated chicken with roasted cippolini onions, cherry tomatoes and peppers in chicken jus.
You simply can’t go wrong dining out in Napa Valley - this foodie haven features Michelin-starred dining, celebrity chef establishments and beloved farm-to-table eateries and this pair of destination restaurants are high on our list for a repeat visit the next time we trek to wine country.