As I was flipping through my phone’s August photos this morning, I realized that if you aren’t following my social media platforms, you’re missing out on most of the food I eat all month long!
So, I’m introducing an end-of-month Diane’s Best of Laguna Beach™ round-up of some of my favorite food finds that are normally only featured in my blog or in my Insta/FB world.
Aside from one longtime favorite (Gina’s Pizza), these are all new finds that I encourage you to try as well.
Best Appetizers and Salads
When I have a few socially-distancing neighbors over to my backyard, GG’s Bistro and Lumberyard provide great new Mediterranean-style appetizers.
GG’s serves up a fabulous Hummus Trio (olive, cilantro-jalapeno and plain) with veggies, while Lumberyard offers of a mix with Marcona almonds, olives, Manchego cheese and their best-selling roasted garlic hummus.
To get the dinner started, Ristorante Rumari, Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill and GG’s Bistro (again) have become my go-to for beautifully tossed family-style green salads.
Looking for more decadence? The Drake Laguna Beach Burrata takes it down with California peaches, heirloom tomatoes and duck prosciutto. This is simply the best Burrata dish I’ve ever tasted.
When Carbs Don’t Matter
Even food columnists have to watch their carbs. Given that I rarely stock them in my house, I have to seek them out elsewhere:
Yes, I’m well aware that Starfish Laguna offers a number of fabulous dishes; I write about them often. But, when I was a kid, La Choy canned chow mein was a “special treat” meal. (I know, I know.) It ranked right up there with TV dinners whenever Mom and Dad would head out on an adult date.
When I was enjoying a particularly happy day a couple weeks ago, my childhood roots heard chow mein calling me. Happily, Starfish Laguna’s chow mein is stratospherically better than La Choy and arrived steaming hot.
On one of my busier days that extended well into evening hours, it must have been my college finals memories calling as I craved pizza for the first time in a long time. I always enjoy a quick trip to NEApolitan’s Pizzeria in my SoLag neighborhood, but this time I chose another favorite that I probably haven’t ordered in a year or more, Gina’s Pizza.
In about 30 minutes it was at my door, steamy and cheesy with piles of my favorite toppings. Gina’s simply never lets me down, and it’s time to put them back into more frequent rotation.
Finally, on a day of working seemingly endless hours in the marketing end of my company, I knew my head was about to explode. Fortunately, when I recognize these moments, I take myself to a stand-by place of peace and friendship. On that day, it was Cary Redfearn’s Lumberyard. I settled into a back table in his breezy, quiet Yard Bar and ordered something I’ve never tried before – the tuna fish sandwich.
What showed up at my table was a far cry from the bland creation I make at home. This, my friends, is treating tuna with the respect it deserves with plenty of fresh crunch melded with super-fresh fish. And, instead of the usual pita or sandwich bread, this mighty tuna arrived in a super-soft mini-loaf. I had to take half of the sandwich home with me.
Feeding the Gang
I continue to be amazed at the creative family-style menus our Laguna restaurants offer.
Thanks to Papa’s Tacos, I produced the hit of the Thursday night “Neighborhood Beach Night” last week. A mere half hour away from Beach Night’s start, I dialed up Owner Michael Skerly and asked for his 10-pack “party pack. In minutes, his team had dished up a split of 10 carne asada and mahi mahi fish tacos with healthy sides of rice, black beans, chips and their famous salsa.
Then, it was time to host one of my best friend’s birthday parties (COVID 2020 “party” being me, her and her husband). She was celebrating by taking a day’s break from her keto diet, and she had requested lasagne.mLasagne isn’t necessarily easy to find in this town. Although we have at least 10 restaurants that boast Italian food, as far as I can tell, only NEApolitan Pizzeria, Gina’s Pizza, and Ristorante Rumari are the only three that offer daily lasagne on their menus.
I called my good friend, Chef Craig, newly transplanted to Ristorante Rumari and asked for a “custom” family meal of lasagne, tossed salad and his awesome focaccia bread. He asked if I wanted it hot or cold, and I suggested cold. As usual, Chef delivered with over-the-top aplomb, even giving me heating instructions when I picked up my giant to-go bag. He had also written the same on the top of the lasagne lid.
Needless to say, the Rumari lasagne under Chef Craig’s watch is a flawless masterpiece. I’m not sure that he’s added it in as a family meal option, but I would suggest that all of you pester him for this sublime, affordably priced family meal.
There’s Always More Where This Comes From
Tomorrow night, I’m hosting another small birthday party for five people and will be ordering from Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill. Stay tuned for that next week.
I’m also beginning “back to school” menu options from our restaurants so restaurateurs and fans of various restaurants are welcome to contact me with their news at Diane@TheBestofLagunaBeach.com.
Rest assured, I am always loading new food and drink finds at my social platforms and in my blog. Check in and discover new and easy ways to support our independent restaurants in Laguna Beach!