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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, March 23, 2011

Stepping Back in Time: The Murphy-Smith Bungalow

On a sunny Saturday afternoon I headed to The Murphy-Smith Bungalow  to learn some of the history and stories of our art colony. The unassuming Murphy-Smith Bungalow is situated at 278 Ocean Avenue, between Wells Fargo Bank and Whole Foods. Although it may not appear to be much, once you hear its history and see some of the historical paraphernalia on the inside of the home, your appreciation grows. The Bungalow happens to also be the home of the Laguna Beach Historical Society which has volunteer docents available on weekends to speak with visitors.

It is estimated that the Murphy-Smith Bungalow was built around 1923, and the architecture was very typical of the time. Up until the 50s much of the downtown area on and around Ocean Avenue (now shopping and restaurants) was residential. The Murphy-Smith Bungalow was built for the Murphy family and at the time it was constructed, it didn’t have running water. In fact, they used a cistern for water. It was Blanch Clapp Smith who added running water to the home.

Much of the kitchen is still working.

Inside, the Bungalow is decorated in a 20s and 30s style, has hardwood flooring, and several cases of historical artifacts from Laguna Beach.

The docent on the day of my visit, Kathy Smith (no relation to the Smith family associated with the Bungalow), was a delight to talk with about the history of the Bungalow. She has a passion and love for history, art and Laguna Beach. She pointed out a photo taken in 1938, showing Franklin Roosevelt on PCH during a parade through town. I had no idea that he had ever visited Laguna Beach. Another photo was from 1928, showing the school house and all of the children gathered in front. Many of the children were barefoot, probably from running on the beach. A display case in the living room held other interesting pieces of history. There were bathing suites from the early 20s, thickly woven, nearly full body suites.

Several copper pieces from the 1930s up until the 1960s. Many were made from the copper factory that was in the canyon.

Kathy also told me the story of the Bungalow’s cellar.It is said that during the time of prohibition that the cellar was used by Mr. Murphy to store and sell bootlegged liquor. Kathy lifted up a corner of the area rug and showed me the ‘trap door’ for going below, into the cellar.  Mr. Murphy was also quite the ladies man. Below is a picture of him in the front yard of the house with two Flapper girls.

Mr. Murphy and Flapper Girls
Eventually, the Bungalow was sold to Claudia Clapp who then sold it to her daughter, Blanch Clapp Smith. During World War II, Mrs. Clapp Smith rented out one of the bedrooms of the house to service personnel and their wives who could not find housing. She was a very traditional lady and rumor has it that she requested that the husbands sleep in the living room on the couch, while the wives were to stay in the bedroom.

Guest room used for boarders during WWII.

Mrs. Smith remained living in the Bungalow until her death in 1990. She was a fixture in the community and some residents still remember her sweeping her front porch, gardening in her backyard and chatting with neighborhood folks.

The Historical Society is constantly adding new items to the Bungalow and are always happy to answer your questions. The Bungalow is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.

On your next visit to Laguna Beach be sure to schedule in a visit to The Murphy-Smith Bungalow and take a step back in time.

By: Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Private Lives'

Written in 1930 by Sir Noel Peirce Coward, ‘Private Lives,’ is one of Coward’s most well-known plays. This famous play explores the complexity of passion, anger, and love.

A divorced couple of five years unexpectedly finds themselves with their new spouses on their honeymoons, and in an uncomfortable situation. They are staying in the same city, the same hotel, with adjoining rooms and a shared balcony. As they first come to realize this awkward situation, each decides to convince their new spouses to leave. Of course the new spouses want to enjoy their honeymoon and refuse to depart. The divorcees Amanda (played by Julie Granata) and Elyot (played by Joseph Fuqua) begin to reconnect, crossing the barrier of their adjoining balconies…embracing and professing their love for one another. It is decided that they, together, will be the ones to flee.

It is in a flat in Paris that the real comedy begins. At one moment Amanda and Elyot are oogling over one another like new lovers. Then they begin verbally jabbing and skirting the edges of a major argument. They can’t keep this dance going for long and finally deteriorate into a drop-down, drag out fight. It is at that moment that the new spouses come walking in. The dialogue that ensues over the next couple of scenes had me laughing so hard. Coward’s witty use of language was spot on. A play written in the 1930s, that is just as relevant and humorous today as it was then, is a testament to a talented writer that could tap into emotion and themes that transcends time and place.

I walked out of The Playhouse at the end of ‘Private Lives’ still chuckling and wondering if in another 80 years, if this play will still have the same effect and have the audience laughing uncontrollably.

Private Lives at Laguna Playhouse 
Now playing thru April 10, 2011

By: Anne-Marie Schiefer

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Laguna Beach a La Carte

The inaugural Laguna Beach Foodie event, a La Carte has gotten off to a roaring start.

Thursday night’s kick off event at Laguna Culinary Arts featured 20 California Wineries and the cuisine of Executive Chef Laurent Brazier. Under a starry canopy in Laguna Canyon 400 guest enjoyed wine tasting and small bites while enjoying the music of Emilio. If you weren’t able to make it to this event stop by Laguna Culinary Arts’ Wine Cellar where all the wines featured that night are available for purchase. The Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau worked with Laguna Culinary Arts to create a private-labeled Chardonnay. Pick up your bottle of Laguna Beach a la Carte Chardonnay from Laguna Culinary Arts for $17.

Laguna Culinary Arts
845 Laguna Canyon Road
(949) 494-0745

Friday night featured the Rooftop Rendezvous at the Rooftop Lounge at La Casa del Camino. The gorgeous view of the Pacific from here cannot be topped. With candlelit tables and appetizers from K’ya Bistro Bar made for a perfect Friday Night in Laguna Beach. The Rooftop Lounge is open daily.

1289 South Coast Highway
(949) 497-2446

Now through Sunday visit Laguna Beach and the participating restaurants for additional culinary offers. Click HERE for special offers.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lunch at Alessa

One of the top-rated Italian restaurants in Orange County has come to Laguna Beach; Alessa! It has long been the dream of owner/chef Alessandro Pirozzi to bring Alessa to Laguna Beach and just over three months ago his dream became a reality.

In the heart of downtown, Alessa is located on Forest Avenue between Glenneyre and PCH (Pacific Coast Highway.) Patio seating directly off the sidewalk leads to an atmosphere that was elegant, yet relaxed. Sleek black tables, simple place settings and a splash of color from Gerber daisies gave the restaurant a European flare. With a collage of black framed photos of the Pirozzi family adorning the brick wall that led to the bar, which flanked the open-style kitchen, you felt as if you were sitting at the home of Chef Alessandro.

I started out with an Alessa fan favorite, Zucca.

Zucca: Homemade organic butternut squash ricotta ravioli, brown butter sage sauce.

This sweet ravioli appetizer literally melted in my mouth. The ricotta-filled ravioli was creamy and I especially loved having the crispy sage leaves to pair with each bite. I can see why so many patrons rave about this ‘Per Iniziare’ (appetizer)…it is perfection.

Burrata: Heirloom tomato carpaccio, arugula, Castelvetrano olives, fresh burrata.

If the Zucca, the Per Iniziare (appetizer) was perfection, the Burrata,  the Dal Giaradino (salad) was equivalent! Fresh arugula paired with imported Italian Castelvetrano olives and imported Italian burrata mixed to create a fresh and crunchy salad with just the right kick from the arugula. And I loved that it was plated so beautifully.

Tortelli Di Carne: Braised short ribs giant Tortelloni, walnut porcini cream sauce. 
Going off the recommendation of my waiter, I ordered the Tortelli Di Carne. Upon first look I was not sold on the dish, but the first bite changed my mind immediately. The pasta was well-stuffed with tender meat and topped with a cream sauce that brought out mushroom and walnut flavorings. (Alessa offers gluten-free pasta options for many of their dishes.)

No Italian meal is complete without dessert and an espresso. I topped my meal off with the traditional, and my favorite, Italian dessert, Tiramisu. Being a dessert lover, I inhaled my martini-Tiramisu faster than you can say, “Arrivederci.” It is one of the best I have had in a long time.

It’s easy to see why Alessa is loved by so many in Orange County. With all of the pastas being made in-house and many of the cheeses and olives imported directly from Italy, I can see why the food tasted so fantastic and authentic. The ambience was charming and the wait staff very helpful (I especially liked being called “Bella.”) And I can’t wait to go back to try samplings from their one-of-a-kind Prosciutto & Mozzarella Bar. We are so glad that Alessandro has brought Alessa to Laguna Beach!

234 Forest Avenue
Open Daily for lunch and dinner (breakfast coming soon)

By: Anne-Marie S.