Last month was my birthday month, and it seems my friends know only one thing to do with me – take me to a restaurant. It proved a delightful, busy and caloric month, as those of you who follow my social media can attest. For today’s column, I just had to share a few fun, new finds I enjoyed along the way.

Beautiful Burrata

Chef Erik’s Oliver’s Osteria has become one of my favorites these last several months. With plenty of elbow room on his temporary patio, you can focus on what matters most here: his incredible food.
It’s singularly impossible to choose Chef Erik’s “best” menu item for representation here as every menu item I’ve tasted is the “best.” Pictured here is his Burrata Due Pesti with heirloom tomatoes, flawless buffalo burrata (yes, derived from grass-fed buffalo milk), and a swath of freshly made basil pesto.

Oliver’s Osteria’s Burrata Due Pesti

Oliver’s Osteria is next to the Sawdust Festival in “The Hive.” Its new autumn hours are Brunch/Lunch on Saturday and Sunday, 11 am – 3 pm;  Aperitivo Hour on Saturday and Sunday, 2:30 – 4:30 pm; and Dinner Monday through Friday, 5 pm – 10 pm. with Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 4 pm.

Best Export from Balboa Island

I don’t know how long ago the Lost Pier Café began featuring the Balboa Ice Cream Bar. I’m not quite sure how I’ve lived a happy and fulfilled life until this discovery a few weeks ago.
The Balboa Bar claims its rightful beginnings at the Fun Zone in Balboa Island. The hand-dipped chocolate wonder has found a home in a handful of shops in Balboa, but this is the first time I’ve seen an escapee to the south.

Yes, they do the hand dipping while you wait. And, yes, they double check on the chopped nuts and peanuts roll just in case you have an allergy.

Insert Balboa Bar



Lost Pier Cafe’s Decadent Balboa Bar

Frankly, I missed out on the whole Balboa Island craze as a Colorado native kid as I didn’t even know the island existed. But the Balboa Bar brings back happy memories of vanilla Dairy Queen swirls hand-dipped in chocolate; they were the special treat we would order after a night of family putt-putt golf.

The Balboa Bar at Lost Pier Cafe

The Lost Pier’s Balboa Bar, though, is way better. It’s absolute joyful decadence. At Aliso Creek Beach, Lost Pier is owned and operated by the lovely folks at The Ranch Laguna Beach. (You’ll love their breakfast burrito, too.) Current hours for Lost Pier are 9 am to 5 pm daily.

So Much in This Machaca Burrito

Michael Skerly, Owner of Papa’s Tacos, tells me he’s had one of the busiest summers on record, even with reduced hours (daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). He continues to offer his breakfast menu all day long, a blessed relief to those of us who love eating breakfast.

Papa’s Tacos Beef Machaca Burrito

A few weeks ago, he suggested I try his favorite breakfast burrito – the Machaca Beef Breakfast Burrito with three eggs. I prefer “wet” burritos, so he suggested his best-selling ranchero sauce. Five minutes later, he handed me a bag that weighed like a bowling ball.
Although I live less than a block’s walking distance from Papa’s Tacos, it felt like I’d had a full workout bringing that burrito home. It settled onto my dinner plate like an elephant in a living room.
There’s absolutely no skimping here on the machaca beef, which is fabulously seasoned and slow-cooked daily. While I usually prefer green salsa for my breakfast burritos, Michael’s ranchero sauce was a perfect pairing to the beef.
Priced at just $9.49, this burrito was three full breakfasts for me.
Papa’s Tacos is in South Laguna next to the Community Garden. Hours, as noted, are daily, 11 am to 7 pm.

A Birthday Candle For This Cobbler

A couple months ago, I ordered a fantastic “BBQ Rib Dinner” from Cary Redfearn’s Lumberyard. I was hosting a small dinner party and decided to throw in a couple apple cobblers for dessert. While these cobblers are neatly tucked into what appear to be individual servings, each cobbler can easily feed two to three people. These are generous giants with nothing but love for you.

I’ve never been much of a birthday cake person, so when it was time to light the annual candle and make a wish, I chose Lumberyard’s Apple Cobbler

from one of my two favorite desserts in town (the other being Starfish’s Banana in Fillo Dough). Filled to its flaky pastry walls with nothing but love, I’m sure this cobbler has seen to it that my wish comes true.

Lumberyard is downtown on Forest (with its adjacent Yard Bar outdoor dining, too). Current hours are Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 am to 8:00 pm; Thursday, 11:30 am to 8:30 pm; Friday, 11:30 am to 9 pm; Saturday 11 am to 9 pm and Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm. Live music plays in the Yard Bar Thursday through Saturday.

After All That, It Was Time for Salad

A trio of salads from Active Culture

As Di’s birthday month waned, I wisely began opting for salads. Active Culture serves up some great creativity in their salads.
Pictured here, my three options from left, Heaven’s Blend (carrot, beet, red onion, fennel, cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese), my favorite, the Eastern Trade Winds (quinoa, garbanzo beans, fine chop kale, red pepper, cucumber, dates, peanuts and walnuts), and Rustic Kale Salad (cranberries, grapes, walnuts, almonds, and parmigiano reggiano cheese).

For me, each salad easily served two separate meals. Dressing always comes on the side, too, to ensure your salad stays super crisp.
Active Culture sits at the corner of Anita and Coast Highway. To go pickup and parking is in the back. Current hours are 8 am to 9 pm daily.

And For the Month of October …

Stay tuned to future StuNews columns, my Best of Laguna Beach blog, sign up for my weekly emails or nose through my social media channels for news on GG’s Bistro’s new cheeseburger meals to go for Game Day fans; a visit to the refreshed Las Brisas; Coyote Grill’s blessed return of Baja-style grilled local lobster; Royal Hawaiian’s recent “to go” meal with Seared Fiji Ahi Tuna starring in the lead role; my Harvest Restaurant breakfast, and a review of the pumpkin desserts that seem to be sprouting up around town.

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