The OCWino went on a two day road trip with her friend Lori Bassler Hayes up to Sun Valley. Below is a little photo journal of all the shenanigans and misdemeanors that occurred in the Mojave desert. Initially we planned to spend one night in Lake Tahoe, but due to a wrong turn on interstate 6, we ended up in the lovely town of Ely with only one hotel room to spare. It didn't have the glitz, but it was waay more adventurous with many laughs along the way.
This past Tuesday, I took my tech girl Shelby out on the town to check out some of the best spots for happy hour in Laguna Beach. We went to some great new places, judged some pours, and even bought a bottle of wine!
We started our late afternoon jaunt at Laguna Wine, Coffee, and Specialty Foods. We first got distracted with their amazing selection of wine glasses, olive oils, and gifts. This OCWino got excited over their collection of Riedel Wine Glasses, and overjoyed when I found a beer stein with a wine glass inside.
After checking out the shop, we moved over to their wine tasting section. The store has something that could only be described as a wine tasting vending machine. First you can purchase a $10, $20, or $50 card. You enter the card into either the white or red side of the machine, and make a selection of which wine within the case you would like to sample. Place a glass underneath a spout, press your chosen button, and have a perfect amount of wine to taste dispensed. Each wine varied in price slightly, but we were able to sample about 6 wines for $20. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, quick to offer suggestions based on our palette preferences and show us their estate wines.
Our favorites included Butter, a nice chardonnay, Meomi, a pinot noir, and Neyers, an aromatic merlot. I decided to purchase a bottle of the Neyers since the bouquet and taste were both incredible.
Next stop was the newly opened Tortilla Republic and Margarita Bar, located on South Coast Hwy. The restaurant has two other locations in West Hollywood and Hawaii. We first came to the bar with the expectation for Happy Hour pricing. However we learned their happy hour menu was still getting developed and would be released in the coming month. However we were content ordering their wonderful margaritas and appetizers despite the extra dinero.
The friendly bartenders made a whole range of margarita specialties for us ranging from our favorite Sweet Chile Margarita, a spicy Jalapeño, the "Perfect", Cucumber Lavender, Spicy Pomegranate, and Hydration, which blended in coconut water. We got all our margs made skinny to cut back on sugar and calories. These drinks were not strong, so we were able to try a lot and save room for the great food.
To counter the tequila, we ordered many reinforcements. First, we started with a salsa tasting, which included a salsa mesa, salsa de tomatillo fresca, and salsa de payaya habenero. Armed with a basket of freshly baked chips, we finished the colorful and flavor packed dips easily.
Next came the Flautas de Pollo. Our bartender recommended them and we were not disappointed. Initially, I remarked how they were too beautiful to eat. However after our first bite, we dove in and demolished the delicious and savory treat.
We ended our mexican feast with a Queso Fundito. We weren't exactly sure what the dish would be, but since it had the words cheese and fun in it, we assumed it would be awesome. The ramekin filled with hot spiced cheese and fresh tortillas did not disappoint.
It was hard for us to leave to catch the sunset since our bartenders were so fun, especially Mark who gave us free drinks!
Disaster struck as we hit The Deck for sunset. Just as we sat down at the bar, an overhead seagull left a present on my freshly blown out do! People say it is a sign of good luck, but that unexpected surprise could have come a day earlier!
The Deck wasn't too crowded as it can be on the weekends, but it was a great place to watch the sunset, drink a final cocktail, and make new friends at the bar with Laguna locals. An OC musician, Kevin Miso, serenaded the patrons with the sounds of Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and some other beach-y classics. Overall, a great bar for a beach town.
As we finished our night, we headed back to Shelby's home in North Laguna, and enjoyed a slice of Gina's pizza, a final pour, and great conversation with her family.
Some things are so close, yet they feel so far away. I love to venture out a little bit. Off the 405 freeway and Harbor Blvd, there is The OC Mix. My friend and I went up there on Friday to tool around up there and see what exciting things we could encounter. It's like a giant warehouse filled with stores consisting of spice stores, cheese stores, olive oil and wine stores.
My favorite is The Mixing Glass, a mixologist haven. It supplies curated cocktail ware and knowhow according to their business cards. Owner Gabrielle Dion has set up many bar and cocktail menus around the OC for many years. Her store is a little slice of heaven. She carries some very unique, old, and new bar accessories.
When I did my radio show on Cinco de Mayo, I decided it would be really fun to do a tequila tasting. So I went to the professional. She introduced me to my favorite tequila, Siembra Azul, which is made in small batches. Everything she carries is very specialized and from small unique distilleries. I dropped in to buy a bottle and say hello from the OC Wino. I can't wait to take one of her monthly cocktail classes.
From there, we went and caffeined out at Portola Coffee, which is known for their decorative latte art.
We then decided to go across the street and explore Surfas, which is an industrial kitchen/gourmet store. They carry everything to decorate cakes, delicious organic meats, pastas, olive oils, and vinegars. Much to our surprise, they had a cheese bar. We enjoyed a sample of La Tour, a creamy goat cheese, Truffle Hard Cheese, and an aged Gouda. We washed it all down with a nice Sauvignon Blanc. It's one of those stores that inspires you to throw a party, cook, and stock your kitchen. A must to check out.
Our bellies were semi-full, but going to ARC restaurant across from The OC Mix was next on my agenda. What's unique about ARC is almost everything is cooked in a wood burning oven.
We sat down to two delicious cocktails. One called Cigarettes and Coffee and the other was called Ethel, a tequila-grapefruit compari and champagne mix.
Here it goes... the OC Wino's top menu picks at this meat lover's paradise:
Start with the Sautéed Calamari with shishito peppers and new potatoes and the Whiskey and Garlic Meatballs in a delicious marinara sauce served with toast points.
Unfortunately, you can't skip the Wedge salad with the bacon slab. It really is a palette cleanser before you order your burger.
The Duck, Beef, Bacon Burger is cooked in duck fat. Good luck getting your mouth around it for your first bite. It is sinful and must be split between 2-4 people. But it is worth it to sample.
At this stage of the game, dessert is not in my sights. Since tequila is a stomach settler, I decided to have one more Ethel to silence my digestive system.
Diego was our waiter, a Costa Rican who is as nice as can be. All the staff is friendly, encouraging, and gives you a big smile as you sit down at the counter. Eating at the counter is a MUST.
Try it for dinner sometime. They actually serve large pieces of meat to groups of six or more. And do they know how to prepare it.
Beware, they do not take reservations, so going at an off-time is suggested. If there is a wait and you have to put your name in, go have an oyster or two at his sister restaurant, Shuck. The hostess will call you on your cell when your table is ready. Just an added bonus.
From Mexican dives to truffle hunting to navigating LA