Monday, January 16, 2006

Recipe for Perfect Birthday: Overnight in Laguna Beach

Begin at Groundworks Coffee downtown location, tucked away in the arts district. You need the fuel for your drive down the 5 to Laguna Beach, where you'll check in early to the best beach bargain around, the Best Western Laguna Reef Inn, situated directly across Pacific Coast Highway from the swanky Montage Resort and Spa. To build the monster resort, the owners agreed to spiff up and maintain an extensive public park and beach, easily accessible from the Best Western. After enjoying the ocean view from the balcony of the Inn, walk down to the cliffs above the beach and enjoy sandwiches, fruit, and iced tea, picked up on the way into town from the Wild Oats Market.

View from Best Western balcony

When finished with lunch, wander down to the actual beach, spread out your blanket, think about reading, but instead curl up to sleep in the sun. A few hours later, explore the tide pools, and scramble around the rocks, closely examining shells and seaweed. Sun-soaked, head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner at the decadent bistro, French 75. Start with a champagne cocktail in the dark and cozy bar, listening to the middle-aged beach bum explaining to the silver-haired, monied Laguna Beach ladies his schemes for making money playing online poker.

Once at your table, briefly wonder why you don't yet have menus, but then get distracted by the crusty, warm, chewy bread and the black olive spread. When the menus do arrive, decide on shrimp to start, followed by peppercorn steak frites for J and duck three ways (confit, breast, and liver) for me. Marvel at the size of the dishes when they appear, but still manage to save room for port and a shared chocolate souffle, complete with candle and a discreet birthday wish (no roomful of song, thank god). Finish the evening with a nightcap at the Montage Resort's lobby lounge, a gorgeous craftsman-style room with a welcoming fireplace at one end, and an extensive scotch list. Try and guess who's really staying at the $500+/night lodge and who's just an interloper like yourself.

Crab Soup at Ha Noi Restaurant

Wake early for a freezing but invigorating walk on the beach, followed by a couple hours of the television show 24 in the hotel room (we don't have a TV at home, believe it or not). As you head back up from paradise to the noisy, busy city, have one last adventure in Westminster's Little Saigon. Slurp noodles at Ha Noi Restaurant, crab for me, duck for J, and express amazement at the best Vietnamese egg rolls you've ever had, wrapped up in crisp red lettuce leaves, stuffed with lemon-basil and pickled carrots. With a big sigh, pay your bill, and drive the last few miles home, say thank you, thank you, thank you to J for his perfect plan, and try not to think about work...quite...yet.

Groundworks Coffee Co.
811 Traction Ave. (downtown)
Los Angeles
(213) 626-8650

Best Western Laguna Reef Inn
3006 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651-4222
Phone: 949-499-2227

Wild Oats Market

283 Broadway St.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-376-7888

French 75
1464 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-494-8444

Montage Lobby Lounge

30801 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: 949-271-6953

Ha Noi Restaurant

9082-9086 Bolsa Ave.
Westminster, CA 92683
Phone: 714-901-8108


Jill said...

Happy birthday!

Jasmine said...

Hi Erin

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I've been on the receiving end of a chicken that wouldn't cook--quite frustrating.

Hope you had a great bday!

Momsa said...

Thanks for sharing. Almost as entertaining as the original, and a lot less exhausting for you-know-who. We're glad you were born.

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