By Rachelle Cano
Looking for a great Laguna restaurant where you can spoil a special mother or grandmother? Here are some ideas for Sunday, May 14, on the OC coast.
Since President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914, we have seen the English influences of the holiday adapt to become an American tradition. The day is no longer associated with a particular religion, but looked at through a universal lens of appreciation for the strength and love we associate with mother, the pillar of strength in the family, and the one who is always there when we need her — unconditionally. We’ve seen carnations turn to roses, and a simple tea and crumpet turn into elaborate daytime feasts in the way of Sunday brunches with plenty of Mimosas. There is one other convenient twist gladly welcomed by most all mothers; it has become the one, single day in the year that mothers will definitely not be in the kitchen. In fact, most are given strict orders to “Stay out of the kitchen!” We happen to live in one of the most beautiful and bountiful coastal communities in Southern California, on a coastline filled with wonderful restaurants to visit to get your mother out of the kitchen and shower her with a new kind of culinary affection. I’m all for taking her out of the home and into the colorful world of some of the best chefs in California. Laguna Beach has become the Beverly Hills of Orange County with its boutique restaurants. Orange County’s diversity is blooming, and the flavors are fascinating.
My mother’s German-French heritage comes complete with a vibrant sweet tooth and love for good food and drink. Next Sunday I look forward to showering her with even more love and appreciation for a job well done by taking her to one of her favorite restaurants. The restaurant industry is preparing to celebrate one of the busiest days of the year and takes pride in designing the kinds of menus that honor mothers. The magical ambiance of Laguna Beach attracts people from near and far. Taking mom out for a scrumptious meal will certainly get her off her feet, and have her smiling ear to ear with all the delicious entrees and desserts to choose from– and of the course the pampering will remind her of how much she is loved.
In the past few weeks, I’ve asked each of her favorite Laguna restaurants if they would be preparing any special dishes for Mother’s Day, and if there is a particular food that each chef or owner grew up with at home that reminds him or her of their mother or grandmother, so I’d be sure to know that they’d be pouring their heart and soul into it. Here is what they had to say:
CARMELITA’S MEXICAN KITCHEN de MEXICO
I spoke with Daniel Osorio, General Manager: “We will be featuring the top-selling Cilantro –Cucumber Margarita made with real cucumbers, and 100% Blue Agave Tequila made in-house; the Mezcalito is made with artisanal Mezcal de Agave Espadín that is 100% organic and produced in small batches using the ‘Tahona method to crush the roasted hearts of the agave. At Carmelita’s we’re proud to share this unique Mezcal that reflects the tradition, heritage and flavors of Mexico. For those of you who don’t know artisan Mezcal, it’s about time for you to try it!” Of course many moms prefer a Strawberry–Jalapeño Margaritas that is sweet and refreshing for mothers on Mother’s Day. Those are the top three and then we’ll serve a Partida Blanco– a skinny Margarita made with a select white premium Tequila.” My personal favorite is the Pineapple– Jalapeño with chunks of freshly grilled pineapple with a rim that is finished with a powdery red chile to enhance the experience.
Daniel’s high energy, enthusiasm, and love of food is evident when he asks, “You know
what dish people really love? The Parrillada! It comes in a big skillet and serves a little bit of everything from Carmelita’s. It’s a mix of Barbacoa Chicken, Skirt-Steak, Wild Mexican Prawns and Carnitas, and comes with an amazingly delicious Queso Fundido, which is a delectable fusion of sour cream and cheese garnished with chorizo, bacon guacamole and cilantro. It’s served with tortillas, beans and rice. It’s a really great dish to share, especially for Mother’s Day. For vegetarians our most popular menu item would be Veggie Poblanos~ a Pasilla chile pepper stuffed with vegetables, zucchini and yellow squash, spinach and Queso Oaxaca.” Everything that comes out of the kitchen is both artistic, and delicious and is definitely the right-place if your mother prefers a peppier atmosphere and a spicier drink!
“The dish on our menu that reminds me of my mother would be the Marisco Trio. She loves making seafood and with this dish you get a combination of the Seafood Enchilada, Lobster Relleno, and a Wild Prawn Mexican Taco, which is delicious. It’s a great combination and once you try it there’s no going back, you’re not going to order enchiladas, or one single taco.”
After his food and drink monologue, all I could say was that “I was glad they never built that wall.”
OPEN: Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
949-715-7829 | http://www.carmelitaskdm.com/
I spoke with Andrea, Director of Marketing: Andrea is always on top of her menu and was quick to reply, “We are offering a 3-course prix fixe menu for brunch and dinner on Mother’s Day. We’ll also be serving Laura’s Lemon Pie! It’s a family recipe from Chef’s wife, Laura. We are also serving an amazing spring dish; actually it’s a combination of spring and summer… many in between seasonal vegetables are featured on our menus.” I love their wild mushroom gnocchi when available.
Featured dishes will be: Eggs Benedict, Pan-roasted Scottish Isle Salmon with Wilted Greens, Stewed Legumes, Soft Boiled Egg, Lemon Essence, and Grated Bottarga; Shrimp Louis Salad, Shaved Baby Carrot Salad, Arugula, Frisée, Crispy Quinoa, Goat Cheese, Lemon Olive Oil and Colorado Lamb Sirloin with Baby Artichokes.
I absolutely love all the choices at Sapphire and never get tired of trying their eclectic dishes. Chef Azmin Ghahreman has lived all around the world, and his education and life experiences are reflected in his global cuisine. If it’s a warm day, there is plenty of seating outside so you can take in the sights and sounds of Laguna. There are several art galleries nearby as well. This is the right place if you’re looking for both great American choices, or if your Mother is a bit more sophisticated, with an adventurous palate.
OPEN: Brunch and Dinner
949-715-9888 | http://www.sapphirelaguna.com/mothersdaybrunch-menu/
I spoke with Vince Crivello, chef proprietor: I was there in person chatting with him at the bar nibbling on fresh-baked focaccia that reminded me of my time living in Italy. We started talking about bread and how many Californians are taking it out of their diets. He said, “Not me! I grew up with freshly baked focaccia in Italy. I remember waking up to the scent of fresh bread baking in the oven. The delicate smell of the rosemary would reach my nose, and would linger over my bed, sweetening my dreams. I’d wake up to the whole house filled with the aroma of warm herbed bread coming out of the oven. It is a beautiful memory… (Italians can be so poetic!) We serve our warm homemade focaccia on every table.”
Chef Vince definitely has a deep connection to his culture and Italian cuisine. His mother Bina was instrumental in raising the children to develop their love for food, and for business. She still prepares her homemade Sicilian-style cannoli, which there will be plenty of for moms to indulge in sweets and espresso after dinner. The menu is very solid and hasn’t changed much through the years, to the locals delight. “For Mother’s Day dinner, many people order the lighter dishes with shrimp or seafood and pair them with Italian Prosecco or white wine from our CA and Italian wine list. But, we have our share of regulars and locals who have been coming in for almost 30 years who order the same thing; usually the Black Linguine with Seafood, the hearty Chicken Parmigiano, tender Veal Scaloppine with Prosciutto and Sage, or our buttery Filetto di Manzo con Porcini in a creamy Brandy sauce. We always tell them to leave room for dessert. The Semifreddo is our signature dessert made with white chocolate gelato and chocolate chips covered with espresso, dark fudge and Amaretto cookies.” (I knew exactly which ice cream he was talking about having shared it with a group in the not so distant past.) He quipped, “Make your reservations early because we are filling up fast!” With a personality like his, I can see why he’s been in business for so long. He’s definitely into making people happy with his Italian Soul Food. The staff is very professional and the food and ambiance reminds me of my time living in New York City for its warm, neighborhood feel.
OPEN: FOR DINNER ONLY
949-494-0400 | www.rumari.net
I spoke with Anna Driggs, co-founder: “We are offering brunch 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Our menu will feature classic dishes that all mothers love. Many of the dishes on our menu are inspired by my mother’s recipes, which were handed down by my grandmother. Her mother was French and Spanish, so our flavors are varied and international. Our beet salad is to die for and is made with local roasted beats topped with caramelized walnuts, and fresh berries on a bed of baby arugula. It totally shouts spring!”
Anna is tall and beautiful and if you don’t know she’s the owner you’ll think she is a fashion model with extra-special culinary talents. She knows food and is a real people person who caters to her clientele with a delicate touch. Her website states, “Our cuisine is the result of experience, fusion and our genuine hospitality, of the satisfaction of witnessing how visitors enjoy good cooking.” If you’re attracted to fusion cooking in a contemporary, yet rustic environment Central is a refreshing choice. They have a small balcony across from the main entry with a view over Forest Avenue. It’s quite charming if you like to dine al fresco. This restaurant truly is a family concept as Anna, her sister Ingrid, and mother, Ana Montoya work side by side to please their regular crowds of mostly 20 and 30-something food explorers. And, you will note the quality of food and service as a result of the family’s devotion to their business and clientele. While there I recommend you try their signature ceviche and a specialty cocktail made with the finest ingredients like an El Dorado made with Woodford Reserve, fresh lemon juice, and a vanilla honey syrup, or my mom’s favorite, a Mojito made with Flor de Caña Rum and mint, lime juice, and light simple syrup. We usually order the grilled avocado and empanadas as well. Everything you’ll try at Central is divine! If you want to show your mother an establishment ran by two generations of talented women as a tribute to the special day, this mother and daughters team reflect love and harmony at its best.
Featured dishes: Salmon Omelet, French toast with whipped cream, and caramelized walnuts, Eggs Laguna, Poached eggs with toast, avocado, arugula and truffle oil, Steak & Eggs, Petite fillet mignon with cage free eggs, Creamy Polenta & shrimp, Sausage a la Espanola, and Eggs a la Tu.
OPEN: Brunch and Dinner
949) 715-0801 | http://centrallagunabeach.com/
A few memorable and historical statements made in reference to mothers:
President Lincoln once said, “All that I am/or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
In the Jewish faith there is an old saying that, “ God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers’ has been passed on for centuries.
The English poet, Longfellow spoke of Jesus’ mindfulness of his mother while dying on the cross reference in John 19:25-27 after he saw His mother standing by disciple John. In the hour of His death he uttered the words to his dear mother, “Woman, behold your son! Then he said to his disciple, “Behold your mother!” Longfellow thought that His words were meant to teach us “that this holy love should be our last worldly thought, the last point of earth, from which the soul should take its flight for heaven.”
Author Rachelle Cano works for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Laguna Beach. The California native comes from an entertainment background having as a professional singer-songwriter and recording artist. She is best known for her work in television cartoon and anime series. She organizes an annual holiday fundraiser that benefits shelter animals at Irvine Animal Care Center and OC Animal Care and raises awareness about pet adoption. In her spare time she enjoys writing articles on a wide range of topics from the arts and culture, to music, food, and politics.