Splashes at the Surf and Sand Resort
1555 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
This summer overall has not been crazy hot, except for the last month or so. The last few weeks have become unbearable. I really shouldn't complain, with all the flooding that has gone on in Colorado, and the tornadoes that have touched down in the Midwest, we in California have had it pretty easy. Only a few weeks of 90 degree weather, as compared to what the rest of the nation goes through all year round, we got it easy. Even though I should be thankful we don't have to go through what the rest of the US goes through, I was still excited when we were invited to come down to the Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna to meet their new chef, get a sneak peek at their new Fall menu, and of course escape the blistering heat inland.
You could not ask for a more beautiful setting than the Surf and Sand. When we got out of the car, I told Katie it instantly felt like we were on vacation in a tropical paradise, instead of just being fifteen miles from home. We were ushered to the pool area, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Wow, what a view. Chef David and his team were busy preparing last minute details on the food we were going to be having, so we made a beeline for the bar, to try the two new cocktails at the Surf And Sand.
The first cocktail I tried was the oxymoron named, New Old Fashioned. This take on the old standard drink of are elders, got new life at the Surf and Sand. This version uses Hudson Bourbon and Koval Honey Chrysanthemum Liqueur, which is aged in an oak barrel for 2 to 3 months, then is combined with muddled sugar, bitters, orange, cherry, lemon, and soda water. The result is a not too sweet cocktail, which is refreshing, but not too strong. I am not much of a bourbon drinker, but all the fruit helped to neutralize the bourbon taste for me in this drink. A very solid drink for the bourbon drinkers out there.
As much as I liked the New Old Fashioned, this Pamplemousse Fizz was more to my liking. This drink started with a base of Hendricks Gin and Pamplemousse liqueur, which is also aged in a barrel for two months. It is then muddled with mint and grapefruit, then topped with soda and a lemon twist. This is a drink that could get me in some trouble. It went down way too easily. I could easily imagine having a couple of these by the pool at the Surf and Sand.
As I quickly downed my second drink, Chef David Fune was just about ready with everything. Chef David recently came aboard at the Surf and Sand Resort as their new Executive Chef of the property, including the critically acclaimed Splashes Restaurant. Chef David comes from San Diego, where he worked at the Hotel Del Coronado. He also had stints at Pechanga, as well as his latest gig before the move to Splashes, as Executive Chef at the Temecula Creek Inn. As if that was not enough of a resume, Chef David has also appeared on the TV show, "Chopped", one of Katie's favorite shows. The show aired in June, and I do not want to give anything away, but he did do pretty well. He welcomed us, and told us a little about what he is trying to do at Splashes. He really loves local flavors, and describes his food as simple and fresh coastal cuisine. After getting to know Chef David, I was very excited to see what he had planned for us.
As soon as Chef David was done talking, it seemed like everyone headed straight to this Wild Mushroom Flatbread. This was definitely a favorite of almost everyone in attendance. This flatbread was topped with tallaggio cheese, mushroom duxelle, and an onion veloute. I learned two things about this dish when I got home, and found the answers on Google. Duxelle is finely chopped mushrooms, and the onion veloute was the cream sauce on this flatbread. I acted like I knew what I was eating, but I really had no idea until I looked it up later. Hopefully I acted like I knew what I was doing on this night. I know my secret will stay safe, since none of my fellow food loggers ever read my blog. This was a very good flatbread. Very crispy, the mushrooms provided an earthiness, and the toppings were very subtle and fresh.
Since it has been so hot lately, the last thing I expected to enjoy was soup. That was until I tried this Charred Eggplant Bisque. This was topped playfully with a crumble made from everything bagels. I am not a big eggplant lover, but this had a very comforting smokiness that really brought to mind the fall season. Not too salty, and a very smooth taste. This was another favorite of all in attendance.
It seems like everywhere we have been lately, there has been ahi on the menu. This was also the case here, with this Ahi Mi Cuit. Of course this had me rushing to Google as well, and I learned that mi cuit means semi cooked. I guess I should have took French in high school. This ahi was joined on the plate with pickled pear, onion, and a quail egg. The ahi was very fresh, and the accompaniments did not get in the way of the flavor of the tuna. For me, the other items on the plate were really just about textures, adding some crunch to this. I was also a fan of the presentation with this one, a lot of attention to detail.
My absolute favorite item of the night was this Pork Osso Bucco. I could not contain my glee with this plate, as I had three helpings of these. The pork was fall off the bone tender, with an almost pot roast type flavor. The sauce was a very rich Parmesan broth, and the pork was paired nicely with giant white beans, spinach, and pinenuts. Comfort food for the coming cooler weather. I will definitely be back for this item, so good.
As much as I loved the pork, I was not so enthralled with Chef David's version of Lasagna. Maybe because when I hear the word lasagna, I expect red sauce, pasta and meat. Chef David's interpretation was a little different. He started with Belgian endive as maybe the pasta, then used walnut butter and white bean chevre mousse as the sauce, and finished it with langoustine as the meat. I guess all the components are there, but I expected a little more from this dish. The flavors were way too subtle for me, and when I heard there was lobster in this, I could not recall tasting it. This was definitely not the dish for me.
Desserts are not to be missed at Splashes, as evident from this Maple Cheesecake. This is not just your standard, run of the mill cheesecake. This had a lot going on with it. The cheesecake starts with a base of graham cracker crust, then includes an apple bacon confit, a bourbon apple puree, and is finished with a walnut Parmesan tuille, which is a small curved cookie, (I had to look that one up too). I am pretty picky with cheesecake, because some can be dry and chalky. This was not the case here. The cheesecake portion was smooth and moist, while the maple definitely shined through. The bacon added just enough saltiness to balance out this dessert. I also was a fan of the torched top of this cheesecake.
As the sun set into the Pacific, it was nearing time to leave the Surf and Sand Resort. Our three hour vacation in paradise was wrapping up. It would soon be back to the real world; battling traffic down PCH, getting ready for work the next day, and of course, living with the 90 plus degree temperatures again. It was great meeting Chef David, as he has appeared to bring new life into the food at Splashes and the Surf and Sand Resort. I talked with a few of the people helping prepare the food on this night, and they all really love working with him, and like the direction that the kitchen is going. If this little taste of their new fall menu is any indication, I would say that I am very happy with it as well. Can't wait to come back to Splashes and the Surf and Sand Resort, and have another vacation for a few hours soon.
We would like to thank everyone at the Surf and Sand Resort for the wonderful service that they provided us on this night. Even though we were only miles from home, you guys made us feel like we were on vacation, without a care in the world. We can not thank you enough for that. We would also like to thank Chef David Fune, for taking the time to answer all of my questions, and share his passion for what he does. Lastly, we would like to thank Lindsay Weightman, and the entire J Public Relations team for thinking of inviting us to this great event. We really had a great time.
For more information about the Surf and Sand Resort or Splashes Restaurant, go to their web site here: http://www.surfandsandresort.com/