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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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shop and Stroll

The holiday season is upon us and the rush to find gifts has begun. I personally steer clear of chain stores and am in favor of boutique stores and shopping local.  Like you I have a few loved ones on my list that are a true challenge to buy for, but this year, instead of spending weeks in search of the perfect gift, I found them all in one day. Where and how did I do this you ask? I went to Laguna Beach!

Sawdust Winter Fantasy
Mr. S, my husband, and I started at the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy, similar to the summer festival, but with a jolly twist of holiday cheer.

Santa's Chair

While strolling through the aisles lined with 170 artists’ booths, we enjoyed some hot cocoa and chai tea.  Holiday carolers provided the motivating theme music we needed to find those gifts we were searching for. An artist that I fell in love with was Lisa Toland. She makes beautiful jewelry and accessories all crocheted out of metal. Her work looks like delicate Victorian lace.

Scott Sporleder’s captivating photography caught the eye of Mr. S. Much of Sporleder’s photos are taken while he is in the ocean swimming or on his surfboard, allowing him to capture a totally unique perspective that is  unbelievably beautiful.

Next Mr. S and I meandered downtown to Forest Avenue, in the heart of the Laguna Beach village.

Stephen Frank Garden & Home
Stephen Frank Table & Pantry

Once on Forest Avenue, we were lured into Stephen Frank Garden & Home by the aroma that was wafting out of their doors. The wonderful smell was coming from Agraria 100% oil diffusers, a great gift for those tough to please relatives on your list.  Also inside, we discovered an oasis of unexpected home goods. Exquisite Julia Knight bowls in hues that would bring a sparkle to any table.

Local artist Theresa Seidel’s decorative bottles.

And countless other items perfect for the inside and outside of your home.

Across Forest Avenue at Stephen Frank’s sister store, we discovered the perfect place for the culinary lover on your holiday list. All Clad cookware, Le Jacquard Francais table linens, and walls lined with dressings, spices, olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Also featured in the store, are chocolates by local chocolatier, Christopher Michael,as well as imported and hard-to-find beers and wines.

Be sure to drop in on December 4th from 5-9pm for a reception, featuring artist Theresa Seidel.

Fawn Memories

Since 1974, Fawn Memories has been a fixture on Forest Avenue. They carry tropical gifts, resort ware, and souvenirs.

Mr. S and I enjoyed wandering around the store, finding treasures for our children and out of town family and friends. I especially loved the wide selection of hats to choose from.

Laguna Colony Company

Only a few doors down Mr. S and I went to Laguna Colony Company. This eclectic store had cases of interesting hand-made jewelry (some by local artists’), racks of beautiful greeting cards, and a great children’s toy and book section.

Among their décor items, we came across 100% recycled homewares by Mariposa. The pieces were simple, yet very elegant.

Green Cube

We ended our shopping stroll on Forest Avenue at Green Cube. This bold store is not your traditional retail space. Upon walking in, you might think that you are in an art gallery rather than a retail store. Each item in the store is made from sustainable materials, recycled, or is repurposed. Decorative items for the home, artwork for your walls, and even fashion. The clothing is free-trade and made from organic and sustainable materials.

What a great way to give two fold; once to the receiver with a truly unique present, and once to the environment.
Drop in on December 2nd from 6pm to 9pm for the Tag Bag trunk show. Tag Bags are made from recycled South African license plates and inner tubes.

Mr. S and I found the gift buying experience in Laguna Beach to be unparalleled to anywhere else in Southern California. Right in our backyard, we were able to support local business and artists’. So this season, when you’re heading out into the hustle and bustle to find the ideal gift on your list, don’t forget about Laguna Beach!

Signed Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Indie Coffee

Known for their gourmet and specialty coffee, Laguna Coffee Co. has become the coffee connoisseur’s heaven on earth. They use only the best beans that are selected from all over the world, and the beans are slow-roasted right in the store! I asked for a one of their most popular and raved about blends, the Black Pearl. It was phenomenal! A dark blend that had a deep flavor you could taste until the last drop. I chose to pull up a seat outside in the alley-like patio. It had that European café feel but with the cool ocean breeze to keep me company. For those that want to brew their own cup of Laguna Coffee Co., they sell bags of beans you can purchase for use at home.  Every Saturday morning 10am to 1pm you can enjoy LIVE jazz while you have your cup of Joe. And in true Laguna Beach fashion, the café highlights a different local artist’s work that is available for purchase. Come to Laguna Coffee Co. for that hand-roasted coffee that you are craving!

Open Monday-Friday 5am-5pm
Saturday 6:30am-5pm
Sunday 7am-3pm

As you are walking into Koffee Klatch, you are transported into some other world. You may spot a treasure any where you look……purple and jewel-toned tapestries, leather stools nestled among potted plants, amber chandeliers reflecting light, tables and chairs tucked away in a quiet corner. It makes for a great, bohemian hideaway. Outside, they offer patio seating where you can access  Wi-Fi . And every night they play free movies at sunset. The coffee is great.  I ordered the Mayan Mocha, served hot, with lots of whip, and it was like a vacation for my mouth. Smooth and sweet with a touch of cinnamon that tickled my taste buds into a frenzy of delight. Koffee Klatch has a nice selection of teas, sweet treats, breakfast and lunch choices, and everything can be prepared to go! Stop by to experience a bit of their bohemian flare.

Open Sunday-Thursday 7am to 11pm
Friday and Saturday 7am to 1am

If you’re not already familiar with where Coffee Pub is located, it is hidden away on Forest Avenue next to the Post Office. I love that Coffee Pub feels like a hidden-locals-only-know-where-it-is kind of place. When you walk in, the café opens up to a spacious seating area and back patio.  I decided to order the White Mocha, trying to quench my NEVER satisfied sweet tooth. I fell in love with this creamy, sweet delight and will be returning to have it again. Coffee Pub also has quite a selection of food, including frozen yogurt, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, garden burgers and soup. If you’re going to be meeting up with some friends for some downtown shopping, the Coffee Pub is the perfect spot to grab a snack and a cub of Joe to give you some fuel for your shopping adventures.

Open Monday-Saturday 6:30am to 5pm
Sunday 8am to 4pm
Free Wi-f 

By Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Las Brisas

Nestled in Heisler Park and overlooking the Laguna Beach coastline, Las Brisas has been a Laguna Beach staple for more than 30 years.  In fact, travelers come from all over the world to taste the authentic Mexican Riviera seafood cuisine that Las Brisas has become famous for.

Whenever I have Mexican food, I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to start my meal with a margarita. Las Brisas has a variety to choose from, all aptly named after Laguna Beach spots; Main Beach, Crystal Cove, Thousand Steps, Diver’s Cove and Emerald Bay Margaritas, just to name a few. I chose the ‘Thousand Steps Margarita,’ the secret spot. It was a blend of Sauza Hornitos, Triple Sec, lime and orange juice.  It was a refreshing way to start my meal. My husband opted for his favorite, an Arnold Palmer. He was delighted when our waiter, Dante, brought a craft of iced tea and a bottle of lemonade with a cup of ice so "he could blend his own drink and control the ph (acidity) as he wished."

To go with our drinks, we ordered the ‘Coctel de Mariscos’ as an appetizer. It had fresh Mexican Shrimp, Caribbean Lobster medallions, and Canadian crab claws with tequila cocktail sauce. What a wonderful plate of seafood! My husband and I loved every bite and our 5-year-old twins might have even loved it more, especially the crab claws.

Las Brisas is known for how they combine seafood with the flavors of the Mexican coast and I was interested to see how those flavors blended together. I ordered the ‘La Marquesa,’ which is a beef or chicken tamale, a seafood mushroom enchilada, beans with cotija cheese and Mexican-style rice. I was not disappointed! The tamale and enchilada were tasty with just the right amount of Mexican spices, simmered with perfectly cooked seafood and chicken.

My husband chose one of the daily specials, the Sea Bass. I was barely able to snap this picture before he inhaled his lunch. He LOVED every bite! He liked the way they used a light cilantro flavoring for the fish and a tangy green sauce, which didn’t let the sauce overwhelm the fresh fish flavor.

With a magnificent view from the windows near our table, we could enjoy our meal while looking as far south as Dana Point, out over Bird Rock, and north into Heisler Park. This area of Laguna Beach is no doubt one of the more beautiful lookouts in town! Las Brisas allows you to enjoy this amazing view while dining on five-star food and getting top-notch service. Next time you’re in Laguna Beach, look for the blue-striped awnings of Las Brisas and stop in for a meal that will keep you asking for more.


Las Brisas also offers group reservations, special events, spacious patio seating, bar service, and valet parking.

By Anne-Marie S.