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newport beach, california: the perfect weekend getaway
There is nothing more beautiful than a drive along the California coast, where one can enjoy the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As the years pass, many towns have developed close to the ocean. Newport Beach is one of those towns. Newport Beach sits in Orange County in Southern California, about 55 miles southwest of Los Angeles. This affluent city has a total area of 53 square miles and is well known for having the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast of the U.S. Water sports include fishing, swimming, surfing, rowing, canoeing, and kayaking. And if it is shopping you desire, look no further than Fashion Island open-air retail center, which is home to Orange County's only Neiman Marcus, as well as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Elie Tahari, Trina Turk, Kate Spade, Jonathan Adler and Juicy Couture, to name just a few. Fashion Island has 150 shops and 36 dining options in a beautiful setting, including True Food Kitchen, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, R+D Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine and, coming in 2013, Fig & Olive and Lark Creek Newport Beach.
Our adventure began with lunch at Seasons 52 South Coast Plaza. It is the concept that I appreciate here. Nothing on their seasonally inspired menu is over 475 calories and this includes flatbreads, appetizers, salads, fish, poultry, and meats as well as mini-desserts. This national chain restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. I like knowing that there is no fryer here and that the evolving menu changes four times a year, celebrating the harvest of each season. Seasons 52 features wood-fire grilling and brick-oven cooking. I began my meal with one of their signature items, a flatbread. The Black Mission Fig and Chevre with applewood smoked bacon and arugula fig was cut into 8 pieces, perfect for sharing, and with a very thin crust. I moved on to the Chilled Lobster and Shrimp Spring Roll, which was served with 3 tasty sauces from mild to spicy. The Dungeness Crab, Roasted Shrimp & Spinach Mushrooms were served hot under a Parmesan-panko crust—quite good. Seasons 52 calls their desserts “Mini Indulgences” as they are served in small shot glasses or individual servings of classic desserts such as Blueberry Cheesecake, Meyer Lemon Pound Cake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse. And yes, each is no more than 475 calories. Appetizers are priced from $4.95 to $15.95 and entrees range from $12.75 to $26.95.
After lunch we checked in at the award-winning and very upscale Resort at Pelican Hill. Pelican Hill, with its Northern Italian architecture, was recently voted the "#1 Resort in the United States" by the readers of leading luxury travel magazine, Condè Nast Traveler and now I know why. This 504-acre "Italian Seaside Village" will be 4 years old in November of 2012 but it looks like an old Italian piazza with its established olive trees and elaborate landscaping. Pelican Hill is a feast for the eyes.
The resort offers two 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, a Forbes Five-Star Spa, four ocean-view restaurants, the largest 360 degrees circular pool (my favorite place to relax), special events services, bungalows and villas, off-premise catering and access to picturesque beaches.
Besides being a world-class golf resort, Pelican Hill hosts annual events such as FESTA DELL’AUTUNNO, which is November 2nd through 4th, 2012. From live entertainment and art to authentic Italian fare and olive-inspired spa indulgences, the traditions of Italy will come alive this harvest season. Inspired by 750 mature olive trees across the 504-acre resort, Pelican Hill’s three-day autumn festival includes entertainment and epicurean experiences open to resort guests and locals.
The resort offers 204 bungalow guest rooms and 128 villas. None of these rooms are adjacent to the mail lobby area but located around the grounds. Bungalows offer fireplaces, high wood-beam ceilings, Italian bed linens, marble bathrooms and a private outdoor terrace with lounge chairs. The 2, 3 or 4 bedroom villas also include an outfitted gourmet kitchen, a private garage and washer and dryer. Bungalow prices start at $395/night and villas at $695/night. If you plan to go and enjoy an activity such as golf or the beach, it is best to buy a package. There are packages for specific occasions, best of the coast, golf and seasonal packages. Pelican Hill has no resort fees, complimentary parking, use of the fitness center, pools and spa facilities and complimentary Internet. There is also Camp Pelican for ages 4-12, Fall Etiquette Program for adults and children…the list goes on and on.
Dinner that night was at Andrea Ristorante where we sat on the terrace with a view of Catalina Island in the distance. This Northern Italian restaurant has its own 68 degrees temperature-controlled pasta room, 12 daily flavors of homemade artisan-style gelato and 400 bottles of wine. Head Chef Luigi Fineo and his staff make dining at Andrea a pleasure. We began our meal with the excellent Barrata, Tropea Onion Compote and Tomato Bruschetta. Burrata (“buttered” in Italian) is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The pasta course followed and we tried two offerings. The Spinach Tortelli with Buffalo Ricotta and Butter Sage Sauce and the Rigatoni, served with Bolognese Sauce. All pasta are made fresh daily in the Cucina Della Pasta. There is one special dish that is made tableside: Porcini Mushroom Risotto. A large wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano is wheeled to your table. The cooked mushroom risotto is ladled into the carved out wheel and mixed with cheese from the wheel. It is quite a popular treat. Entrees consist of fish and meat and the meat is Greg Norman Wagyu Grade 9, either Filet or Rib Eye. I have not been offered this beef at any other restaurant and this is an example of how Pelican Hill strives for quality. Although I didn’t think I could eat any more food, the Hand Cured Resort Made Gelato choices just sounded too good to pass up. We left Andrea satiated and happy.
And the next day found us checking out of the hotel. But before we left the valet brought 2 gelatos to the car for a good-bye treat. And what a treat it was!
Next we checked into Island Hotel Newport Beach, located amid the finance, insurance, law and healthcare companies of Newport Center. Fashion Island shopping center is directly across the street and an easy walk from the hotel. So whatever your reason for staying in Newport Beach, Island Hotel can accommodate, with its 295 rooms and suites. At 83, suites make up nearly 30% of Island Hotel’s 295 guestrooms, which feature marble bathrooms, lighted makeup mirrors, 100% cotton towels, plush terry bathrobes, luxurious bed linens, goose down pillows, 42-inch Sony plasma HD televisions, Bose 3-2-1 DVD/CD audio system, refrigerated private mini bar, in-room safes, dual line telephones with message alert, voice mail and modem hook-up and iron and ironing board.
The AAA Five Diamond hotel is used for both business and pleasure. The event facilities of Island Hotel are expanding by adding 5,000 square feet of additional space. When completed in November 2012, there will be a total of 25,000 square feet of meetings space, including a unique indoor-outdoor Cabana Room for weddings as well as the largest luxury ballroom in Newport Beach.
Lunch was at their Palm Terrace Restaurant where Executive Chef David Man offers California Coastal Cuisine at breakfast, lunch and dinner by way of farm-to-table foods, small bites or large bites, whatever you desire. There is 24-hour room service, bar food, afternoon snacks and the Palm Terrace Lounge weekday buffet. Monday through Friday (holidays excluded) enjoy a $10 per person buffet with soup of the day, sandwiches, beef sliders, salads, chicken and tuna wraps, dessert and iced tea.
For pleasure I tried both the outdoor swimming pool and the serene spa, located a level below the lobby, which allows it to have its own elevator entrance. Yuki gave my relaxing hour Swedish massage, but there are nine treatment rooms and many treatment options including facials, manicures, pedicures, scrubs, and body treatments. A final treat before I left was frozen grapes.
Dinner found us traveling about 10 miles south to Laguna Beach to sample a new gastropub (opened October, 2011) named Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink. Open for dinner only, the name comes from their address at 370 Glenneyre Street. Chef/owner Ryan Adams’ upbeat farm-to-table locally sourced fare is offered both downstairs and on the balcony. Open kitchen counter seating provides a perch for “culinary voyeurs.” Adams uses galvanized metal French bistro chairs, wooden schoolhouse chairs, solid butcher-block tables and traditional machinist barstools, which further the restaurant’s earthy, urban appeal.
The food is chef driven comfort food. We began with an amuse-bouche of 2-inch soft pretzels topped with sea salt and served with hot mustard. These hot from the oven treats were a good start. The menu encourages sharing with small, medium and large plates. We ordered a platter of Jidori Chicken Liver + Tarragon Pate confit, Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Big Rock Blue, a buttery blue cheese. Cherry, fig and apricot confit and toasted breads accompanied the meats and cheeses. A small plate of Broccolini included prosciutto and a fried egg topped with breadcrumbs. A medium plate of Pork Belly had greens, almonds, burnt honey and stone fruits. Our large plate was their spicy 10 Napkin Hamburger that included green chile, cheddar, arugula, onion, mushrooms, bacon and a fried egg. It was accompanied by fries…this is one big burger. For dessert we dug into the Black Forest Milkshake and Grandma B’s Chocolate Cake, each reminiscent of the comfort food theme. And yes, Grandma B was Ryan’s grandmother. Look for nightly promotions on their website.
After a morning swim in Island Hotel pool, our time had come to an end. But a return trip to Newport Beach is definitely in our future.
South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol Avenue Suite #2802
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: (714) 437-5252
Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 South Pelican Hill Road
Newport Coast, CA 92657
Phone: (800) 820-6800
Island Hotel Newport Beach
690 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Phone: (949) 759-0808
Three Seventy Common Kitchen+Drink
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: (949) 494-8686