Yep, this is installment number three in my "Let's Eat Our Way Through The O.C." series. On Friday we drove to Corona Del Mar and walked around the neighborhoods, made up of million dollar homes that were each more amazing than the next, and then wound our way down to the beach. We spent an hour or so walking around, taking in the sights, and then decided to drive in to Laguna for dinner.
We wandered into a restaurant called Watermarc (just next door to our other favorite place, Nick's). We didn't have reservations, it was Friday night, and we scored a tiny table near the bar. Watermarc is a small plates restaurant, and upon reviewing the menu, I immediately saw SEVERAL items that I could've made out with.
The Hubs chose a flatbread pizza with roasted red peppers and kalamata olives, and a mini filet mignon pot pie, and I decided on warm blue cheese pear tarts with red wine syrup, and fois gras brulee with orange, pistachio, aged balsamic and brioche. Let me repeat that: FOIS. GRAS. BRULEE. Our waiter, who specialized in wine pairings, suggested a Tempranillo (a Spanish red wine that I had never heard of) that was PERFECTION with my dinner. What a frigging dinner it was.
The warm blue cheese pear tarts were almost more like a dessert than a savory appetizer. The blue cheese was almost mild, if that's even possible, but it was a decadent way to start a meal. The Hubs' flatbread pizza was delish, and his filet mignon pot pie was amazing (and I am not a huge red meat fan, but DANG it was good). The piece de resistance, howevs, was the fois gras brulee.
It was simply the BEST thing I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE. I am not even joking. Better than any chocolate, better than lobster, better than the best, most gorgeous cake I've ever had. Holy Moses, fois gras the exact same texture as a creamy, custardy creme brulee? It even had the sugary crust on top that you had to break through with a fork, though it wasn't super sweet like on a dessert brulee. There were four toast points drizzled with aged balsamic, and the combination of those with the buttery brulee was like nothing I've ever had. I heard angels singing. The Hubs loved it. It was so frigging good I did not want to share it, but I did, grudgingly. The only problem was that four toast points wasn't enough, so I asked for more, which they happily brought.
On our last night in Laguna (and after eating at a HORRID restaurant for dinner Saturday night when we had not made reservations so were kind of stuck at the only place we could find that could seat us) we made reservations again at Watermarc. We were seated on the "restaurant" side, right next to the window with great views of the street and lots of people-watching. The same waiter waited on us, and when he asked us what we wanted to drink, I told him I couldn't remember what he had recommended a few nights before. He didn't remember us by sight, but when I told him what I had ordered for dinner, he recalled it immediately. I ordered the fois gras again, but this time also ordered the ahi watermelon skewers with seaweed salad and ponzu, which were a light, refreshing way to start. I was saving the fois gras for last. When it was delivered, the waiter remembered that I had asked for extra toast, and brought me a larger portion of it immediately. Loved that guy. The brulee was just as good as I remembered it, and damn if I will MISS it.
I don't know what else to say - it was a pretty amazing mini-vacay for our fifth anniversary. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, we had the chance to meet Carrie and her Chef, who were gracious and lovely and treated us to lunch (which I took NO pics of, dammit, because I had the most GORGEOUS passion fruit pavlova for dessert - guh). I love looking back at all of our photos from the trip, but they make me sad at the same time (post vacation letdown?).
I have a love affair with California that has lasted for my entire life (from the first time I visited at age 9). It's interesting, I have visited a few times through the years, and it seems like I am always celebrating something special on those visits. When I was a kid, I spent my 10th birthday at Disneyland - first time I had been, so come ON - that was effing awesome. When I worked a short-term assignment there about 6 years ago, not only did I make some amazing friends, I also got that fateful e-mail from The Hubs for the first time (yep, we met online). Last year we went back to celebrate my 40th, and this year was our fifth anniversary. California is just magical to me, and it's one of the biggest regrets in my life that I did not move there at some point.
I feel ALIVE when I'm there, driving down Pacific Coast Highway, and seeing the ocean again for the first time is like seeing a lover. Maybe it's because I am from the land-locked midwest, but I get chills every time. I realized also, one night as we were driving back to the hotel, and it was dark, the vast Pacific on the driver's side of the car, even though I couldn't see it, I could FEEL it there, like a giant mouth breathing salty breath in my ear. It is a presence that is at once mystical and frightening and fantastic, and I love it.
Though I would still love to move there permanently, I don't think it's in the cards for us at this point, but wouldn't rule it out in the future, and I will happily continue to visit at least once a year if at all possible. I can't quit you, California.