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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Roxie also approved of the dog friendly patio, with direct access to the beach!
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!
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.
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.
We were able to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous sunset while relaxing with a glass of wine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roxie also loved the nearby Salt Creek Beach Park where she ran through the grass and people watched!
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.
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!
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!
Overall, our trip to Southern California was one of our favorite vacations, and I cannot wait to return again very soon!