Chef Concierge Gundula Reile offers insider advice for the best things to see and do in Orange County this spring.
By Regina Merkey
Summer is the perfect time to hit the beach, boutiques and festivals. It’s the season to savor the coast and soak up the sun. Gundula Reile, chef concierge at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, will make sure you don’t miss the summer sights and sounds.
Orange County restaurants—from hot spots to hideaways— offer a bounty of ingredients crafted into amazing culinary chef-d’oeuvres that make palates pop. “Summer is a fun
time to sit outside and enjoy seasonal food made with fresh ingredients,” Reile says.
For the freshest fare, she recommends local spots such as Sapphire Laguna, where chef Azmin Ghahreman takes inspiration from cuisine around the world to create a fresh take on salads, with offerings like the Greek octopus, and rocket and heirloom tomato creations. (1200 S. Coast hwy.; Laguna Beach; 949-715-9888; sapphirellc.com)
Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales puts her philosophy of serving “clean” California cuisine front and center at Nirvana Grille, allowing veggies to shine in specialties like the Nirvana vegetable platter, featuring sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, seasonal vegetables, butternut squash-Yukon mash and French lentils. The chef also offers a seasonal vegetable and herb risotto—made with arborio rice, white wine, cream, asparagus, squash, leeks, shallots, chive, basil and parsley topped with parmesan cheese—that is equally as hearty and delicious, while maintaining the spirit of offering the freshest and most natural products she can find. (303 Broadway St., laguna Beach; 949- 497-0027; nirvanagrille.com)
However you choose to spend your day in orange County, one of the best ways to relax and unwind is to watch the sunset. “the most intriguing sunsets are from our resort, either being in the Lobby Lounge enjoying a drink or being at the Monarch Bay Club, which is exclusive to registered hotel guests,” reile explains. “the Monarch Bay Club offers lunch and dinner and, of course, beach access. Just imagine sitting on the sandy beach or on the lanai and watching the sunset.”
If you happen to be out and about, you can also hit the Rooftop Lounge in Laguna Beach for a breathtaking view of the coast (The Rooftop Lounge, 1289 S. Coast hwy., Laguna Beach; 949-497-2446; rooftoplagunabeach.com).
Out and About
Summer is the perfect time for exploring the Southern California coast. “the coastline is really stunning, especially Laguna Beach’s heisler Park and all of the romantic coves heading toward north Laguna,” reile says. “we have a terrific beach and bluff area toward dana Point, one of the areas you can see if you take our wonderful bluff hikes, which are available by simply asking the concierge.” (heisler Park, 375 Cliff dr., Laguna Beach; 949-497-3311; lagunabeachcity.net)
The St. Regis team has the OC scene down to a science so you don’t miss a thing with a day trip along the coast. the adventure starts off by heading south to the striking hillside community of San Clemente for sites like the pier, world- renowned surf breaks and friendly sidewalk cafes. the route continues back up north for views that won’t disappoint, from doheny Beach to the tide pools at the north tip of Dana Point Harbor. In Laguna Beach, enjoy coastal views and visit one of the many art galleries before heading to Crystal Cove State Park for more of the gorgeous great outdoors. Continue on to Balboa island and newport Beach, where you can simple enjoy the scenery, or step out for shopping. For a singular experience, rent an electric duffy boat and cruise the harbor. Finish with a jaunt along Main Street in Huntington Beach, where you’ll find trendy restaurants, fashion boutiques and the international Surfing Museum. (San Clemente Pier, san-clemente.org; Doheny State Beach, dohenystatebeach.org; Crystal Cove State Park, crystalcovestatepark.com; Newport Beach, visitnewportbeach.com; International Surfing Museum, surfingmuseum.org)
Art in the City
Guests can experience an array of arts at Laguna’s Sawdust Art Festival, where visitors can participate in hands-on workshops, listen to music and enjoy local cuisine. Just next door is Art-A-Fair, which features international artists and a mix of media. But Reile especially enjoys the Pageant of the Masters. “It’s the most exquisite introduction to life art on stage— tableau vivant,” she explains. “the pageant performance is very unique to Laguna Beach. I am not aware that it is duplicated anywhere else.” (Sawdust art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon rd., Laguna Beach; 949-494-3030; sawdustartfestival.org. art-a-Fair, 777 Laguna Canyon rd., Laguna Beach; 949-494-4514; art-a-fair.com. Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, 650 Laguna Canyon rd., Laguna Beach; 1-800-487-3378; foapom.com)
“Every first thursday of the month, the Laguna Beach galleries offer an art walk where guests are invited to view and discuss the art,” Reile adds. (First thursdays art walk; 949-683- 6871; firstthursdaysartwalk.com)