There’s so much to celebrate in spring! Where should you go to enjoy the occasions with the
special people in your life?
By Shelby Barone
Cel-e-brate: to observe or commemorate with ceremonies or festivities.
Spring and summer bring many reasons to celebrate. Not just lighter schedules and warmer weather but also occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations. Additionally, June is still the biggest wedding – and by extension, anniversary – month, so there are plenty of reasons to get together and spend a little time celebrating the people in your life with the people in your life.
Rejoice in your special occasions this year by creating memories together. Whether you are adding hallmarks for your young family or keeping alive cherished traditions, spring is the perfect time to raise a glass together.
Orange County has such a variety of locations to set the scene for your special day that making a choice can be difficult. To jumpstart your event planning, we’ve compiled a list of a few great local dining spots that offer the best of both fabulous food and an atmosphere fitting for those festive celebrations.
Of course everyone has different tastes as well as budgets, and we’ve taken that into account also, providing options from the simply affordable to the luxuriously simple.
Mom, Mother, Mommy, Momma or whatever endearing name you have for the woman closest to your heart, you want to treat her to a special Mother’s Day brunch. To make her day truly unforgettable, go with a unique dining experience this year.
Celebrate your love for Mom at Newport Beach landmark the Island Hotel, where brunch is served alfresco at the Palm Terrace restaurant. Celebration food stations will be paired with favorite cocktails, including sushi and sake, omelets and mimosas, and an elaborate dessert buffet paired with mini espresso martinis.
For a more casual option, head over to Brea. Treat Mom to a unique Mother’s Day brunch at Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen. This festive meal will be served with a sparkling glass of champagne or a mimosa. Dine to live music while savoring the chorizo scramble or pan-roasted mahi mahi.
Another mom’s-day favorite is Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill in South Coast Plaza, where mothers get a complimentary dessert and a photo. Dine in elegance at the Capital Grille, known for its dry aged steaks, or enjoy ocean breezes and Latin fusion cuisine at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach.
Whether your dad loves sports or fine wine, you can please him on Father’s Day while also reminiscing about those special moments you’ve shared over the years.
One way to create memories is to spend a delicious day together celebrating the return of the Taste of Orange County. After a 16-year hiatus, the five-star culinary weekend is returning to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. More than 50 restaurants and 40 wineries will serve signature tastings, cooking demonstrations, wine auctions and live music. The event is June 15 – 16.
An option for the savvy dad is trendy, sophisticated Bayside Restaurant for Father’s Day brunch. Bayside is known for its brunch, whether enjoyed on the heated wrap-around patio or in the elegant dining room.
Explore traditions old and new at Sapori Ristorante, which has been serving dads on Father’s Day for the past 24 years, or Paul Martin’s American Bistro, which has only been around a few months. The newest venture from the team behind Fleming’s, Paul Martin’s is a fresh choice for fish tacos or mouthwatering, braised short ribs.
Your students have spent the past four years staying up late, studying, hitting the books — and it all culminates in that one big day: GRADUATION! Celebrate all the hard work your high school or college grad has put into that education with a memorable dining experience. After the tassel flipping, kick off the next phase of your academic’s future with good food enjoyed in good company. Here are great places to salute the class of 2012:
How about marking the occasion with a family-style Italian meal with urban flare? Cucina Enoteca in Irvine brings a touch of home to its ambiance with two large patios perfect for parties. Start things off with the popular burrata with roasted garlic confit followed by risotto carbonara. Cucina Enoteca uses fresh, organic, local produce to create an epicurean dining experience, and most items are under $20.
You might decide instead to soak up the sun while dining on the patio of critically acclaimed Sapphire Laguna. Chef Azmin Ghahreman is famous for creating items inspired by cuisines from around the world, including his highly acclaimed Kobe beef havarti cheeseburger. Sapphire Laguna offers in one spot some of the best flavors the world has to offer, so you can give your graduate a savory trip around the world without the need of a passport.
Suppose you have a ceremonial tossing out of the Top Ramen — staple of penny-pinching students everywhere — and treat your graduate to a healthy meal off of the new spring menu at True Food Kitchen? With vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, this Newport Beach eatery has options for every tastebud.
Another authentic alternative for a classic Orange County meal is Sabatino’s Sausage Co., also in Newport Beach. Indulge in sausage freshly made in the Sicilian tradition — perhaps along with a not-so-subtle reminder to your graduate that there are finer things line than frozen pizza awaiting him in the wider world.
Who doesn’t love a special dinner on their birthday? If you’re your big day falls in late spring, make a wish before blowing out the candles and your bash might be held at one of our fun picks.
Remember the first time you went to Benihana? It is still entertaining and remains a great place to get together a group for a lively dinner. Exotic Japanese cuisine is prepared right before your eyes by skilled teppanyaki chefs for an interactive dining experience that creates the kinds of memories that no one in your crowd is likely to forget.
One of the hottest new restaurants in the region is the first U.S. location of Tamarind of London in Crystal Cove Promenade. The elegant cuisine is Indian fusion, and it is beautifully prepared, so you will have not a meal but an experience. Start your celebration with a Blissful Yogi martini (ginger, black pepper and strawberry) on the patio of the bar before moving to the dining room, which overlooks the glass-enclosed kitchen. If you’re with a group, sample and share a few things such as the spicy duck curry and the Ghost Chili Beef Vindaloo.
Ajacent to Tamarind are two stellar celebration destinations – Mastro’s Ocean Club and Javier’s Crystal Cove. Whether you’re craving a succulent steak and an ice-cold martini or jonesing for gourmet Mexican and premium tequilas, memories are sure to be made at either of these trendy-hot locations.
Sweep that special someone off his or her feet — again — at one of these romantic locales. Orange County boasts some of the most romantic settings in the world. Where else can you celebrate your love nestled in a cozy cavern, or gazing out over the city lights or enjoying a sunset over the Pacific?
The Cellar in Fullerton is a great underground escape. The craftsmen who built the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland designed this cozy location. Your romantic experience will start once you’ve descended the stone staircase into the European-inspired dining room, complete with two fireplaces and candlelit tables. Savor broiled salmon over potato-and-parsnip puree delivered under silver domes.
North County hideaway Lola Gaspar, in historic Santa Ana’s Artists Village, sets an urban scene for romance to flourish. Before or after visiting a few galleries, sip a cachaca citrus squeeze under the twinkling lights of the patio and then savor handmade flatbread or a Merguez sausage sandwich. All the Latin and European cuisine is made from scratch using local ingredients.
Enjoy a different sort of stroll, this one along a beautifully landscaped walkway toward breathtaking oceanfront views, at Studio in the Montage Resort, where you will dine on sumptuous cuisine defined as “modern French with California influences.” Toujour l’amour!
Engagements and anniversaries
Romantic views and gourmet cuisine just might be the perfect combination to get that special someone to say, “I do!” or “I’m so glad I did!” Celebrate the beginning of your life together or look toward the future while commemorating the past with a dinner that feeds all of the senses.
Andrea, the flagship restaurant at stunning Pelican Hill Resort, offers panoramic ocean views, the finest Northern Italian cuisine and impeccable service. The staff will attend to your every need to make your celebration one of the most romantic chapters in your personal love story. All of the Italian cuisine – including the pasta and gelato – is made onsite from scratch using produce from our own Irvine Ranch. Your special evening will be a memory to savor long after the final plates have been cleared.
Traditionally considered one of the most romantic locations in Orange County, hilltop Orange Hill Restaurant offers bird’s-eye views of the surroundings and a dining area with open fireplaces and twinkling, light-wrapped trees. Enjoy pan-seared scallops or Australian roasted rack of lamb paired with your choice of wines from the restaurant’s award-winning list. This fine-dining experience may also come with vistas that have been known to reach as far as Santa Catalina Island.
Anaheim White House is a historic location that is great for celebrating an engagement or anniversary and not just because reservations can be made for a private dining experience. The 1909 edifice, patterned after the actual White House, has cozy, unique theme rooms. Chef Bruno Serato’s Northern Italian menu includes Mediterranean shrimp and and ravioli arragosta.
Celebrate the big day with proper English charm while dining fireside at the Summit House in Fullerton or take your celebration in the direction of culinary indulgence at one of the tastiest places on earth, Napa Rose inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.
So much in life is worth celebrating, so many special times we’d like to hold onto. Fortunately for us in Orange County, even a fleeting moment can be captured when the experience is a memorable one.
If there is anything we know to be true in Orange County, it’s that “location, location, location” is a sound guiding priciple. Choose the setting of your next celebration carefully, and your special moment with friends and loved ones will become a charished memory you all share. You have the keys to make any celebration magical by tying it to some of the finest dining our region has to offer.