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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friday Night Out

Summer nights in Laguna are magical. Grab a couple of girlfriends or your significant other, or even a first date, and hit these spectacular spots. I promise you are going to go home with a smile on!

Ascending the narrow staircase at Hotel La Casa del Camino you find yourself walking out onto an expansive rooftop bar. The sky is sweeping blue and the ocean crystal clear. The sound of waves hum in the background.  You are at The Rooftop Bar and Lounge. The view up here cannot be better explained with any word other than magnificent. The views are unobstructed and spectacular! The vibe is quintessential SoCal, the casual elegance of the laid-back beach town. Everyone was happily talking, singing, toasting one another…really, we were full of smiles. 

In the warm sun we settled into a corner table with our drinks. I had a perfectly mulled Mixed Berry Mojito that was a yummy balance between mint and berry, garnished with sugar cane stalks. The Rooftop Lounge is known for their Mojito’s and I recommend you try one, especially on a warm summer day.

For appetizers we opted for a new menu item, The Lobster Caesar Dip. It is a wonderful lobster dip that you can fill romaine lettuce leaves with or a great topping for their pesto crouton breads. It was that perfect light appetizer before dinner. The portions were generous for the $16 price point and it tasted delightful.

After drinks and appetizers, we headed to House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, a new establishment in Laguna (opened March 2010) but already it is off to a great start. The rustic casual atmosphere lends itself to the kind of easy-walk-in-off-the-street-dining. We had a table in the wraparound covered patio with another great view…out over PCH towards the beach as well as back into the hills of Laguna on the opposite side.

The one thing I had heard about House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer before coming was, “they know their beer,” and they did. There was no way I could pick from the over 40 beers listed on the menu. Our waiter was extremely helpful in helping us find the perfect beer to pair with our dinner. My girlfriend is on a strict gluten free diet and there was even a gluten free beer she could have, Greens Gluten-Free Amber Ale. That might scare one or two of you beer lovers out there, but actually it was a smooth amber ale that I would have NEVER known was gluten free unless I was told. Since she is on a strict diet she was worried about what to order, but she found the perfect dish, a Garden Salad (tomato, cucumber, onion, white balsamic vinaigrette, hold the croutons). It was fresh and tasty!

Now for my main course! I went for one of the house specials, Caramelized Salmon with rice and vegetables and soy mirin. The veggies included cauliflower (one of my favs) and carrots. The Salmon had a tasty and sweet outer layer that opened up to a perfectly cooked piece of salmon. Our waiter paired my Salmon with the Italian beer, Fisher Amber Swing Top. A huge beer, 650ml, and it went down easy and tasted great with my Salmon. 

Our waiter also insisted we try the Sea Dog Blueberry Beer that they have at House of Big Fish. It was so unusual sounding we decided to indulge. It was incredibly good. It’s hard to describe the taste…light, fresh, sweet, smooth, refreshing. I highly recommend taking a swig of this bottled delight next time you are at House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer.

With our bellies full, we walked over to The Laguna Playhouse to take in the current award winning musical, Life Could Be a Dream. And what a dream this production was! Immediately you are taken back to 1960 and all the charm that era’s music had to offer. The story is about two young men who decide to form a duet and enter into a talent competition. Quickly they become a group of three. Three young men wanting to find fame, still unsure of who they are and where they fit in. Trying to be men, but still holding onto the boyish ideas of love, and the quirky games of youth. Until they meet Skip (Doug Carpenter.) Skip is wise to the world and from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ trying to make a better life for himself. He is tall, they are short; he is muscular, they are not; he has the cut jaw and face of a man, the others still have the innocent face of boys. This contrast is highlighted in the wonderful doo-wop song “The Wanderer.” Of course Skip sang the lead…and he did more than girlfriend and I practically leapt out of our chairs with his Elvis gyrations and his stripped down look in a “wife beater”. Insert *swoon* here.

Skip joins them and they become a quartet. Under the direction of the porcelain skinned Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn) the group learns about love, music and life. You get to hear other wonderful songs like ’I Only Have Eyes For You,’ ‘A Sunday Kind of Love,’ and ‘Unchained Melody.’ The entire show we found ourselves singing along, clapping, tapping our toes and smiling. This is one musical you are not going to want to miss! So hurry up, it’s only here until August 29th. With the Laguna Playhouse Celebrating it's 90th year there are going to be many more shows to look forward to.

Friday night was a magical night in Laguna Beach that sent me home with a big smile on my face that lasted long into Saturday.

By Anne-Marie S.

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