Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Escape to Southern California – Part 2: Orange County

Yesterday, I highlighted parts of my recent trip to Southern California, and, specifically, San Diego. While I have visited San Diego on a number of previous occasions, I was never able to explore the areas north of San Diego, or, specifically, Orange County.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Monarch Beach

Following my work conference, my husband and our new puppy, Roxie, joined me in California, and we drove up to Dana Point, located near Monarch Beach, a popular local destination for surfing.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Monarch Beach

On the way, we stopped for lunch at Pacific Coast Grill, a fantastic restaurant situated right on the Pacific Ocean serving fresh seafood with a gorgeous view.

San Diego, Pacific Ocean

Photo: Chritiques at Pacific Coast Grill

The Shrimp Dumplings were highly recommend by our friendly server, and they melted in our mouths, with the help of a decadent port wine sauce that we ended up sopping up with the complimentary sourdough bread.

San Diego, Pacific Ocean

Photo: Chritiques at Pacific Coast Grill

I then enjoyed some delicious Baja Fish Tacos, with freshly caught white fish, salsa fresca, black beans, guacamole, and soft corn tortillas.  The food was almost as impressive as the view!

San Diego, Pacific Ocean

Photo: Chritiques at Pacific Coast Grill

Roxie also approved of the dog friendly patio, with direct access to the beach!

San Diego, Pacific Ocean

Photo: Chritiques at Pacific Coast Grill

We then made our way to the exquisite St. Regis Monarch Beach, where we stayed for the next few days. I loved everything about this hotel, from the friendly staff, to the lush and comfortable rooms, to the views of the Pacific Ocean. I would gladly move in to this hotel any day!

Dana Point, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at The St. Regis Monarch Beach

Monarch Beach is located about a quarter mile from the hotel, and a golf cart is available to take guests to the private Monarch Bay Beach Club that supplies beach towels, chairs, umbrellas, and beach and water activities. We enjoyed taking a leisurely walk to the beach and watching the surfers do their thing.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Monarch Beach

 

I have always wanted to dine at a Michael Mina restaurant, and I finally had my chance at Stonehill Tavern, located within The St. Regis. Stonehill Tavern features modern-American cuisine using seasonal ingredients and contemporary twists on classic tavern dishes.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

We were able to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous sunset while relaxing with a glass of wine.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

We began with some fresh Kumamoto oysters, as well as the Two Peas In a Pod –  handmade tortellini, petite pois, and morel mushrooms, all immersed in a coconut-garlic cloud. The flavors were divine.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

For my entree, I thoroughly enjoyed the special fish of the evening, a perfectly cooked Halibut, while my husband opted for the Morro Bay Black Cod, prepared with miso, Laughing Bird shrimp, chop suey vegetables, mustard, and a mushroom essence. We were both equally pleased with our selections.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

Dessert was a ridiculously decadent and delicious Cinnamon Bark Souffle, with a warm apple confit and maple butter ice cream. I was in culinary heaven.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Stonehill Tavern at St. Regis Monarch Beach

We also took a few strolls to the neighboring resort, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Situated atop a 150 food oceanfront bluff, the views from this Mediteranean-style hotel are unparalleled. We grabbed a late breakfast to-go from the coffee shop, and sat outside to take it all in.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Roxie also loved the nearby Salt Creek Beach Park where she ran through the grass and people watched!

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Monarch Beach

The golf club at The St. Regis Monarch Beach also boasted an outdoor restaurant – Club 19 – with great food and views. The Mediterranean-inspired quinoa salad with grilled shrimp was perfect on a warm and sunny day.

Dana Point, Orange County, Monarch Beach

Photo: Chritiques at Club 19 at the St. Regis Monarch Beach

Before heading back home, we enjoyed a healthy al fresco lunch at Claire’s on Cedros in Solana Beach, a cafe and bakery specializing in fresh, homemade, California-style comfort food, which is also dog friendly!

Solana Beach, San Diego

Photo: Chritiques at Claire’s on Cedros

I absolutely loved the spinach, lentils, quinoa, and apple salad that I had topped with grilled whitefish; I wish I could eat this every day!

Solana Beach, San Diego

Photo: Chritiques at Claire’s on Cedros

Overall, our trip to Southern California was one of our favorite vacations, and I cannot wait to return again very soon!

Tastefully,

Christina