Minding our Business


Fashionable Food on Forest

Randy Kraft
Randy Kraft


I have a friend in Sonoma County who practices the religion of abundance. Surrounded by grape vines and fig trees, she has a voluminous backyard garden of greens and herbs and all sorts of veggies, and she even installed a chicken coop from which she extracts the most delicious eggs for breakfast, injected with nothing but respect. As one might imagine, she has a large pantry off the perfectly appointed cook’s kitchen, filled with fresh jams, multi-colored olives and mustards, and her spice rack fills an entire wall. Below the kitchen, discreetly marked by a trap door, she has a naturally cool wine cellar, of course.

The just-opened Laguna Wine, Coffee and Specialty Foods is reminiscent of that sort of country larder, but 10-fold, with several pantries and a huge assortment of unique and delectable [aka pricey] packaged goods as trendy as a wine country market. Hard to believe this new take-away gourmet store is on Forest Avenue; yes, that’s right, downtown Laguna Beach.

At the former site of Sotheby’s, which still incorporates the Visitor’s Bureau, the fair-trade Verve Coffee Bar has been installed up front. Beyond, along the perimeter of the large space, a series of pantries are entered through glass doors, as if each their own private cupboard.

Owner Daniel Huang, a Newport Beach dentist, relies on his son, Clifton, a 2007 graduate of LBHS, to manage the store. He’s kept the space almost as it was, including the wood flooring from long-ago tenant, Banana Republic, and the glass that formerly enclosed the realty’s office and meeting space. Thus, all products are visible, but separated into specialty pantries: wine, both California and foreign; a large section of local and European micro-beers; a cheese station soon to open; “O” olive oils; designer chocolates, including Chuao chocolate made in Carlsbad; jams, salts and spices, and so on, including accessories like wine infusers and glasses.

Clifton said they are hoping to secure a permit to hold wine and cheese tastings as well, and, because a shop in Laguna Beach always sells art, the works of local painter Zach Johnson and photographer Brandon Huang line a few walls.

So far, the maple bacon chocolate bar and a Swedish pancake mix are the surprising best sellers.

While Zinc Café’s market sells good wine and distinctive accessories, Laguna Culinary Arts offers diversified wines and ingredients, the Spice Merchant on Ocean Avenue has a huge selection of spices, salts and olive oils, and there is a cheese shop within Sapphire’s Pantry at the Old Pottery Place, LWCSF has everything under one roof. Though this particular roof has seen a revolving door of retailers in the past, the Huang family asked themselves, “What else do the people of Laguna want?”

If you want a one-stop gourmet food and wine shopping experience downtown, with parking in the back to make life a bit easier, check it out. Read more at: www.lagunawinecafe.com.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com.

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