Sara Watt

Sara Watt

The holidays are here, and you know what that means – lots of holiday fun! Holiday events are happening across Orange County - from Christmas tree lightings to holiday parades and cruises, December is packed with special seasonal events and holiday cheer! Here is a sampling to get you into the holiday spirit!

COSTA MESA

A Cirque Christmas
December 18-19
Orange County Performing Arts Center
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 556-2787
www.pacificsymphony.org/tickets/concert/Cirque_Christmas
A delightful Christmas concert for the whole family: Holiday tunes add a special sparkle to this jaw-dropping fusion of acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, dancers, jugglers and strongmen who perform their cirque acts while Pacific Symphony provides a joyous soundtrack perfect for the most wonderful time of the year.

DANA POINT

Winter Festival & Tree Lighting
December 5
12:00pm-7:00pm
La Plaza Park
Pacific Coast Highway
North of Golden Lantern
(949) 248-3530
http://www.danapoint.org
FREE holiday family event sponsored by the City of Dana Point. Santa, Snow, Reindeer, Crafts, Food, Entertainment, Petting Zoo, Pony Rides, Cookie Decorating, Holiday Movie and more!

Annual Boat Parade of Lights
December 11, 12 & 18, 19
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Dana Point Harbor
34555 Golden Lantern
949) 496-5794
www.danawharf.com
Boaters from all around Orange County decorate their boats and vie for awards. You can view the parade free from anywhere in the Harbor, or make reservations at one of our restaurants to view it from a cozy and warm spot. Come on down and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.

HUNTINGTON BEACH

Huntington Beach Cruise of Lights
December 17-23rd
Cruise times: 5:30pm/ 7:30pm/ 8:30pm
http://www.cruiseoflights.org
(714)840-7542
Shuttles to the cruise leave from the Huntington Harbor Mall parking lot- 16889 Algonquin Street Huntington Beach
The Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Cruise of Lights® offers boat tours through the waterways of Huntington Harbor in Huntington Beach, California. In December both locals and visitors share the beauty of thousands of lights and animated displays on brightly decorated homes, docks, decks and boats.

LAGUNA BEACH

Sawdust Winter Fantasy
Five Weekends:
November 21 through December 20, 2015
10am-6pm
Sawdust Art Festival
935 Laguna Canyon Rd
949-494-3030 -
This unique fair offers shoppers the opportunity to purchase unique artisan crafts from various local artists. Includes live entertainment, hands-on art projects and picture-perfect moments, the Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy will become your family’s holiday tradition.

LAGUNA NIGUEL

Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade
December 12
10 a.m.
Crown Valley Parkway
between Nueva Vista and Crown Valley Community Park.
http://www.lagunaniguelparade.com
The Theme for this year’s parade is California Dreamin’. The parade will include beautiful equestrian units, patriotic and inspirational military tributes, world-class athletes, spirit-filled youth groups, classic auto clubs, talented marching bands, and some of the biggest attractions in the nation!

Yappy Howl-iday 2015
December 6
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Santa Claus will make a special appearance for the Yappy Howl-iday Celebration. This festive gathering of canines and their companions provides Fido with the opportunity to be photographed with the “Big Dog” himself – Santa Claus. In keeping with the resort’s Season of Giving, guests are asked to bring unopened canned or dry dog food, treats or dog toys to be donated to an animal rescue organization.

LAGUNA HILLS

Orange County Christmas Lights
Thanksgiving night - New Years Eve
5pm to 9 pm
25473 Nellie Gail Road
Free event hosted nightly from from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Christmas Lights and Home Decorating show featuring over 100,000 lights dancing to festive music plus spectacular Department 56 snow village displays with hundreds of houses and giant hand sculpted mountains. Come by for some warm apple cider and holiday cheer!

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

Tree Lighting Ceremony and Downtown Festivities
December 5
4:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: Historic Town Center Park
31852 El Camino Real
(949) 493-5911
The annual Tree Lighting Celebration & Festivities are a cherished holiday tradition in San Juan Capistrano. The program begins at 4 p.m. with pre-show entertainment prior to students of the Musical Theater University taking the stage for a holiday production featuring musical and dance numbers. The official lighting of the Christmas tree takes place at 5:45 p.m. Festivities continue downtown at the Mission San Juan Capistrano and Historic District on Los Rios street.

South County locals looking for the ideal destination for fine wine, delicious cuisine and live entertainment need look no further than Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar in San Juan Capistrano. Located at 27211 Ortega Highway, Tannins is characterized by a blend of Old World charm and rustic décor artfully enhanced with a modern flair – from its strong focus on wine and food pairings to its expansive menu of Northern and Mediterranean and Southern Italian cuisine along with delectable desserts and specials prepared fresh daily.

002tanninsI personally love Tannins for a few reasons; the food is exquisite, the service always exceeds expectations and the ambiance is unforgettable. On a recent visit, my friends and I enjoyed our meal in the restaurant’s “Cave,” a dining room that make you feel as though you are sampling Italian fare in the roaming hills of Tuscany.

Fragrant fresh from the oven bread and a flavorful olive tapenade arrive within minutes of seating.

Tannins features one of the most comprehensive – and extensive - selections of wines by the glass in the region with over 40 different varietals from which to choose. And its menu showcases a vast array of signature starters and salads, seafood, poultry, lamb, beef and pasta dishes.

For starters, the Artisan Cheese Board arrives with goat, Brie, blue and cheddar cheese, grapes and berries, candied pecans and honey crostini – perfect when paired with a glass of your favorite red or white. Other popular picks include the

Braised New Zealand mussels braised in garlic and white wine sauce and the bruschetta which tops lightly toasted Italian bread with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, capers, Kalamata olives, basil and mozzarella.

003tanninsEntrees range from a lamb chops grilled to perfection and accompanied by red roasted potatoes, asparagus and lamb au jus and the risotto paella which combines fresh clams, green-lipped mussels, Tiger prawns, scallop, fresh fish and Spanish saffron rice.

With Happy Hour all night on Mondays and a menu that keeps your fork in hand long after you have had your fill, Tannins successfully pairs memorable moments, fine dining experience and friendly service.

More of a pizza person? Tannins pizza menu offers a plethora of possibilities – including gluten- and dairy-free accommodations. The Gourmet Veggie Pizza - topped with Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, spinach, goat cheese and a light pesto sauce – immediately caught our attention and didn’t disappoint.

The Butternut Squash Ravioli garnished with sage, hazelnut and truffle oil butter and the Fettuccini Toscana served with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, basil and grilled chicken are among the restaurant’s most popular pasta creations.
Whatever you do, save a little room for a sweet treat – the Chocolate Bomba Spumoni is decadent strawberry, pistachio and chocolate gelato delight coated in hard chocolate.

Tannins Restaurant and Wine Bar is located at 27211 Ortega Hwy in SJC. For reservations,
call (949) 611-8466 or visit www.tanninsrestaurant.com

Exceptional cuisine, live entertainment and unobtrusive service define this popular Dana Point restaurant

Thanks to Brio Tuscany Grille, I recently indulged in an evening filled with impeccable service, amazing Italian food and live music. If you haven’t had a chance to try this restaurant out, it will undeniably exceed your expectations.

Brios looks like halibutFrom the moment I walked in I knew I was going to have an enjoyable experience. I didn’t have a reservation, but they graciously sat our party right away. The lighting was turned down and the live music was just starting, adding to the overall ambiance. The music to made us want to get out of our chairs and dance, but wasn’t so loud that we needed to raise our voices to be heard across the table. Our server was extremely accommodating and patient with our indecisiveness over the menu (everything just sounded so good!).

CalamariWe began our dining experience with great conversation and a glass of wine. We ordered a glass of Kaiken, a Malbec, rich with blueberry and plum notes and a velvety finish. For starters, we settled on the Mare Platter which arrived with buttermilk-battered calamari fritti, seared ahi tuna and wild pacific blue shrimp scampi. Absolutely delicious and great for sharing! Another popular appetizer is the Antipasto Italiano Platter that includes a variety of flavorful cured meats (Proscuitto di Parma and artisan salame), fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan olives, grilled artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and toasted ciabatta bread.

Farfalle PrimaveraFor the main course, I went with the Penne con Salsiccia Italiana- Grilled Italian sausages, sautéed with roasted bell peppers, sweet baby peas, mushrooms and house made marinara sauce (they even offer a gluten-free pasta). The authenticity of this dish and generous portions reminded me of dinners at my Italian grandmother’s home, savoring one of her amazing home cooked meals.

Italian food is always my first choice when dining out, and I would highly recommend Brio Tuscany Grille for any occasion – it’s the perfect destination for a romantic date night or fun evening out with friends.

Brio Tuscany Grille is located 24050 Camino Del Avion in Dana Point. For reservations, call (949) 443-1476 or visit www.briorestaurant.com

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