Dana Point is on a sun-blessed stretch of coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, bathed in a golden light year round that makes it one of Southern California’s most beautiful spots. This light has inspired California’s plein air painters, lures visitors and residents out of doors, and, of special interest to traveling gourmets, ensures a rich bounty of fruits and vegetables. Monarch Beach Resort, sitting on a hilltop overlooking the endless Pacific, makes the most of its position in paradise.
And what would paradise be without a veritable cornucopia of food? Monarch Beach’s coastal charms are no doubt enhanced when you consider the bounty of the sea that’s on offer here. Local fisherman ply the Pacific for everything from black cod to halibut. Meanwhile farmers and other producers of the Inland Empire supply local, seasonal produce to the resort’s signature restaurants and eateries.
Seed to Table, and Sea to Table
At AVEO Table + Bar, Chef de Cuisine Donald Lockhart brings Mediterranean flavors to life while reimagining them for a modern California palate. The menu changes frequently, so only the freshest and most seasonal items make it to the plate. “California has some of the most amazing farmers and producers in the country,” says Collin Thornton, the executive chef of the resort. “We are truly lucky to have everything a chef could want or need in such a small radius. We get olive oil and vinegars from Temecula, and from the Pacific, halibut, rockfish, Pacific king salmon, shrimp, and lobster.” Coastal California cuisine is also served at 33°North, where shared plates made with locally sourced and organic produce, seafood, and meats are served in the lounge or alfresco on the outdoor patio. At the bar, guests will find rare Japanese and single-malt whiskeys, as well as French champagne and cognac.
Chef Michael Mina brings his talents to Monarch Beach with the new Bourbon Steak Orange County, a refined take on a steakhouse with panoramic views of the Pacific. Here guests will find regional and seasonal ingredients on the menu, along with Mina’s signature butter-poached lobsters and dry-aged prime steaks. Tableside service, including a Martini Cart, provides interactivity and drama to the dining experience.
The weekend brunch at AVEO Table + Bar is another opportunity for the resort’s culinary team to show off the best ingredients from the region and what the chefs can do with them at the seafood bar, carvery, and omelet station, as well as fresh pastas, made to order. “We have long-standing relationships with growers around the country,” Thornton explains. “And we do it all with style.” Guests can also choose from 30 different champagnes and the house-made macarons to round out the feast.
Afternoon tea gets a California spin at the special Miraval Tea at the Miraval Spa Café. The culinary team under the direction of Executive Chef Collin Thornton has created lighter items such as a California lobster roll made with tarragon yogurt and cucumber and cress sandwiches made with whipped lemon dill ricotta, to go along with more traditional scones and other favorites. Guests sip on custom blends such the resort’s SoCal citrus tea, jasmine green tea, and prickly pear black tea.
Beyond the resort
Foodies will love the culinary adventures available in and around Orange Country, including the weekly farmers market held in La Plaza Park in Dana Point Harbor where than 25 vendors sell California fruits, as well as jams and honeys—perhaps better suited as souvenirs. In Newport Beach, the fishermen at the Historic Dory Fleet Fish Market, which opened in 1891, start selling the day’s catch of mako shark, Channel cod, rockfish, black gill, stone crabs, and sea urchin at dawn. The rolling hills around the Temecula Valley are dotted with wineries, ideal for excursions to sample the grenache and syrah varieties grown here, or you can stop and sample a flight at one of the growing number of craft breweries in the area.