We had the opportunity last night—along with a number of representatives from Laguna-area hotels—to get our first look at Tabu’s new expansion, and sample some of their great wine and Hors d'œuvres. The new room is absolutely beautiful as you can see from the rather soft cell-phone picture I took. The wine selection was perfect, and the food was excellent, as always. Congratulations Tabu.
It’s an exciting time here at Casa Laguna. With the 2009 Holiday season behind us we are looking forward to the summer of 2010. But, first let’s not overlook the all-important Valentines holiday. We are cooking up some special treats for our guests – and we are developing a new “Partner’s Massage” package that will teach you how to make that special someone feel even more special. In response to requests for some added warmth on our Palm Court breakfast area, we have discovered and installed a number of “umbrella heaters”. These clever electric heaters mount directly on our umbrellas and provide incandescent heat to almost every seat. Plus, our great little heaters provide a romantic amber glow during evening wine & cheese reception. These heaters were a perfect inexpensive solution – and we found them online at Home Depot. Finally, it’s true – we have created an area just for our four legged friends – a nice grassy retreat, complete with a decorative fire hydrant and water bowls. We hope this “Pet Place” will offer some convenience for our guests who travel with their pets, by providing a much shorter walk to a relief spot. Just remember to be a courteous pet owner, and pick up and dispose of droppings.
Casa Laguna is home to a wide selection of exotic plants. Our guests enjoy discovering the many nooks & crannies filled with flowers and greenery throughout the inn’s lush grounds. One of our favorite and most unique groups of plants is our Staggs Horns. We are the proud owners of both a full grown cow and bull plant. Experts tell us these are some of the largest examples they have seen in the area. Both of these intriguing plants along with two new “calves,” reside on our Palm Court Patio, near our beautiful new Castilian fountain. Other plants that grace the grounds include a number of Queen Palms, Birds of Paradise, and Papyrus. Our beautiful red and white Magnolias are just starting to bloom along the Capistrano Suite walkway. Geraniums have become Casa Laguna’s signature flower, as they do so well here in South Central Laguna’s microclimate. We are always looking for unique specimens that add a colorful touch to the grounds. With no watering system on the property we have our gardener, Juan, to thank for the tender loving care given to our gardens. Juan feeds, waters, trims, and cultivates by hand across the property every week. Many of the plants you see as you wander through the grounds have been grown by Juan from seedlings and cuttings. Landscaping here at Casa Laguna would not be complete without the gentle soothing sound of our fountains. We currently boast six lovely water features. My favorite is our “Fish Fountain” which graces the walkway to the Courtyard Rooms. This fountain was originally in the Palm Court, but was relocated to its current location when we expanded the breakfast seating area. Our most recent addition is our Castilian fountain, nestled among the plants and flowers just off the Palm Court.
We were very disappointed to learn that Select Registry will not be hosting its annual Inn-Credible Egg Competition this year. (Especially since our chef’s took silver and gold, respectively, at the past two events.) Downturns in the economy prompted Select Registry to postpone this event well into 2010, or possibly even until 2011. Being “competitive types,” here at Casa Laguna, we just can’t wait that long to get back in the battle. So we will be presenting our own gastronomic showdown in February. The Casa Culinary Competition will pit our current breakfast guru, Chef Josh Roberts, against his award winning predecessors, Chef Peter O’Keefe who won the silver medal in 2007, and Chef Cale Falk who brought home the gold in 2008. These three talented young chefs will face off poolside at Casa Laguna on February 18, 2010. Each will prepare and present a recipe created specifically for this event, and crafted to meet the expectations of our discerning guests. Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, only registered guests will have the opportunity to watch as the three battle it out in front of a prestigious panel of judges. Nancy Wilhelm, owner of Laguna’s top Zagat rated Tabu Gril, will sit on our judging panel, along side Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, and Food Writer FiFi Chao of the Orange County Business Journal. Additional judges are expected to commit within the next week – including a chef from a local five star restaurant, and two lucky returning guests who have enjoyed the food styling of all three competitors during their past visits to Casa Laguna. Watch this blog, or go to our FaceBook event page to keep abreast of developments and discover who will become Casa Laguna’s top breakfast chef.
Casa Laguna has a proud history of bringing a “fine dining” experience to breakfast. After a decade of change and development, we are now known for our award winning gourmet breakfasts. It hasn’t been easy, searching out talented young chefs and then convincing them that they can do something special with breakfast, but we’ve been fortunate over the past few years to have had three outstanding and creative chefs lead our food and beverage department. Each one brought their own style and voice to the popular breakfast dishes produced at Casa Laguna. In November 2006, we heard about a young man who was working as a line chef at one of Laguna Beach’s foremost restaurants, Tabu Grill. After some discreet inquiries, we decided to see for ourselves, so my husband and I went to dinner at Tabu. (It’s tough work, but someone has to do it!) We sat at Tabu’s wonderful “Chef’s Counter,” practically in the kitchen, and sampled the young man’s cooking, and interacted with him to get a sense of his personality and style. It was quickly apparent that he was just what we needed to help take our breakfasts up a notch or two on the culinary scale. We hired Chef Peter O’Keefe and gave him the task of turning us into a “Foodie” destination. Peter was more than up to the task. His innovative food, along with his charming personality, made breakfast an experience for our guests. In 2007 Peter competed in the first Inn-Credible Egg Competition, hosted by Select Registry. He pitted his skills against chefs from across the nation to see who could conceive, prepare, and present the best breakfast. Chef O’Keefe came home with the Silver Medal, despite running in to some adversities on location (the refrigerator assigned to him froze all of his ingredients). The silver medal recipe was a Smoked Salmon Crepe Purse. Shortly after winning the award Chef O’Keefe was given the opportunity to work with one of the top restaurants in Paso Robles, and we sadly said goodbye to our first award-winning chef. We were fortunate that Chef O’Keefe had brought an amazing young chef on board as his “second” in November of 2007. When Peter moved on, Chef Cale Falk stepped up and took the helm of the Casa Laguna kitchen. Cale had several years of experience in fine dining at one of our local resort hotels. Again our gourmet breakfasts were in the hands of a young, ambitious chef, whose talent and vision brought our food to a new level of sophistication. With a firm but gentle hand, he put together a strong culinary team who prepared and presented his creations with care and consistency. Previous guests were excited by the new direction our breakfasts were going, and first-time guests were amazed and delighted to experience this level of food--and “restaurant style service”--at a bed & breakfast inn. In 2008, Cale followed in Peter’s footsteps and was selected from over 200 chefs to compete in Select Registry’s Inn-Credible Egg Competition. We were ecstatic when he brought home the Gold Medal for his Crab Rosti Benedict. Alas, great chefs are always in demand, and in June 2009, Chef Falk was offered a position of line chef at the prestigious Splash’s Restaurant at Laguna’s Surf and Sand Resort. As one door closes, another opens, and once again our departing chef left us in good hands, as his “second,” Chef Joshua Roberts took up the challenge of keeping Casa Laguna’s breakfast high on the gourmet scale. Chef Roberts brings a very different style and vision to Casa’s breakfast offerings. Under the tutelage of Chef Falk, Josh had honed the skills he had garnered from years on the front lines and was ready and willing to take up the task of guiding us to the next level. Chef Roberts is a creative force to be reckoned with, and is constantly searching for new and unique seasonal ingredients from local purveyors. He keeps us true to our Slow Food’s Movement roots, and brings a rustic but elegant flair to his menus. His unique versions of “The Benedict” have quickly become high on the list of breakfast favorites for our new and returning guests. We can’t wait to see and experience the new and creative menus that Josh will pull out of his toque blanche in the coming seasons.