Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sapphire Laguna

Diamonds are not the only gems that sparkle, and sometimes colored gems like sapphires can glitter with surprising fire and color. Sapphire Laguna Beach is a restaurant that serves global cuisine with imagination, flavor and warmth like the gem of its' namesake. This is now one of my favorite stops in Laguna Beach, with a view of the water, a warm fire pit for cool nights, and beautiful glass light fixtures inside, the style and decor match the chef's skill in the kitchen. For lunch the sampler is a great way to try out the various dishes if you can't decide, but personally I tend to order the Barramundi (a white fish from Australia) with truffled frites (fries with bits of truffle) and haricots verts (green beans). All the ingredients are perfectly balanced for flavor and texture in a pleasing presentation.

Nightfall brings a romantic sultry vibe to the place and the menu choices reflect the atmosphere with more robust selections. Or if you are in the mood to drink and nibble, the appetizers are perfect small bites to share or satiate instead of dinner, or as a prelude if you linger at the cozy bar. Try a glass of the Chateau Musar 2004 from Lebannon, a smooth blend of Cinsault-Carignan, Cabernet and Syrah. If you love it you can buy a bottle next door at the Sapphire Pantry which also has prepared take out and specialty items for a picnic on the beach. I introduced a friend to French macaroons from the pantry, unlike the coconut ones found everywhere else, these are delicate bite-sized pastry rounds (imagine a fresh lady finger) filled with flavored cream. She loved the caramel.

The complex, called the Old Pottery Place, is located about a mile south of Forest Avenue, so it is a bit of a hike from the center of town, but there is parking in the back if you want to drive. There are several stores all connected to each other, with chocolates, shoes, books, clothes and home decorations, all waiting for exploration after your lunch or before your dinner, so stroll around and eat with your eyes if not your wallet!

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