Pre-Pageant Dining

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By Christopher Trela & Catherine Del Casale | NB Indy

Pageant of the Masters is an experience that nearly defies description: People dressed and posed as tableaux vivants (“living pictures”) that recreate larger-than-life versions of classic and contemporary works of art.

This unique show has been drawing thousands of people to Laguna Beach each summer for more than eight decades. The Pageant has become more sophisticated each year, and more creative in how it combines still life, real life, and even movement.

We attend the Pageant of the Masters every year, and always marvel at its endless creativity. We also enjoy going to dinner before attending the show.

We’ve been to most restaurants in downtown Laguna Beach, so when we attended a special preview performance of Pageant of the Masters last week, we opted to dine just south of downtown at Sapphire Laguna.

Chef Azmin Ghahreman opened Sapphire in 2007, yet we previously only dined there for lunch and breakfast. So we thought it was time to give them a try.

Known for serving global cuisine, we found many interesting dishes on the Sapphire menu that sounded intriguing, but before food comes libations.

Catherine ordered the specialty blood orange mojito ($14) with Ketel One oranje, blood orange, and mint. She dubbed it “light and fun for summer with an orange twist.”

Christopher opted to stick with the bottle of wine he brought for dinner—a syrah-cabernet blend from Epiphany Cellars that matched this year’s Pageant theme, “Partners.”

Sapphire’s home-fried potato chips.
Sapphire’ Jidori chicken and mac ‘n cheese.

We were surprised at the $25 corkage fee, which we thought was a little excessive, but have noticed recently that corkage fees are indeed creeping up. Even restaurants that previously had no corkage fees have been adding them.

We ordered the home fried potato chips with sage-rosemary sea salt ($4.75) to start, followed by buttermilk fried half Jidori chicken ($29) with ham hock braised collard greens, mac ‘n cheese, and rosemary jus, and a vegetarian four-way tasting ($27), as we were curious to see what a Mediterranean-influenced vegetarian plate might contain.

“The Jidori chicken was awesome,” proclaimed Catherine. “The chicken was juicy with a crisp outside, and the amount of chicken was surprisingly large; plenty for two people.”

“I’m loving these potato chips—very addicting,” said Christopher as he stuffed a handful into his mouth. “But the vegetarian plate is very nice, too. I like the presentation and the combination of flavors. The charred cauliflower was particularly flavorful.”

Because we were on a timetable, we paid our bill and drove downtown. Parking can be a nightmare in Laguna during the summer, but we found a parking garage down the street from the Pageant with plenty of space that charged $5. We quickly strolled to the Pageant and made it to our seats a few minutes before 8:30 p.m.

We’ve been attending the Pageant for several years and have never been disappointed. This year, they raised the bar higher than ever with the “Partners” concept and execution.

For information on Sapphire, visit Sapphire Pantry adjoins the restaurant, where you can order sandwiches, salads and cheeses to go (and yes, picnicking is allowed on the Festival of Arts grounds).

For tickets to Pageant of the Masters, visit


Dining Trend Washes Up in Dana Point

The sort of dishes turned out by Tuna Block Poke.
The sort of dishes turned out by Tuna Block Poke.

Los Angeles chef Steven Maybeno teamed up with San Diego restauranteur Greg Provance to bring the poke phenomenon to Dana Point.

The pair’s new restaurant, Tuna Block Poke, aims to offer high-quality poke bowls and natural juice beverages for eat-in or take-out at 34085 Pacific Coast Highway, #109.

“Our aim is to create amazing, simple, healthy food that everyone can enjoy, but more importantly to show our guests a level of hospitality often only found in the finest restaurants,” Maybeno said in a statement.


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