Jody Robinson - Sorbet
Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Surf City’s Newest, Elevated Dining Experience

Surf-fare isn’t necessarily a new term, but it is certainly taking on new meaning at Henry’s Coastal Cuisine. Located in the Waterfront Beach Resort, Huntington Beach’s most elegant and inspired oceanside dining experience, Henry’s takes endless waterfront views to the next level with an open-air patio, a carefully selected French and Californian wine selection and specialty craft cocktails.

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Dishes showcase regional flavors from the Southern California shores with an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. Executive Chef Lewis Butler pairs rich French traditions with an expansive, airy venue that put a delicious spin on farm-to-table fare.

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Popular starters include grilled octopus with sauteed spinach, confit Yukon potato and blistered sweet cherry tomatoes and the Nori (seaweed) infused fettuccini accompanied by summer squash and lobster dashi.

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I love, love, love pan seared Diver scallops and the dish here doesn’t disappoint - super flavorful and perfectly prepared enhanced with mirin stewed shishito peppers for just a touch of kick atop a miso carrot purée and baby squash ribbons. Our family’s meat eater, my husband Tim knows his way around a good filet. He says the grilled entree here was tender and delicious, while diners at the next table raved about their roasted rack of lamb with eggplant purée and the local roasted black cod with San Marzano tomato sauce and saffron whipped potatoes (both dishes Tim and I decided were “must-try” on a future date night).

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A sweet treat to share to end the evening? The blueberry croustade was a delectable dessert I haven’t seen on any menu elsewhere - made with farm fresh blueberries, almond streusel, vanilla ice cream and creme Anglaise.

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Seafood is a must here, as well as an elegant weekend brunch. Wind up for the day or wind down in surf country with fresh and sophisticated culinary delights and spectacular ocean views.


21100 Pacific Coast Highway | Huntington Beach | (714) 845-8000 | WaterfrontResort.com

There’s something so satisfying about seeing an iced tray of gorgeous Eastern or Pacific oysters on the half shell appear at the table, served with fresh horseradish, mignonette, cocktail sauce and habanero-lime relish. Or the truly great Maryland Blue Crab - straight from the softshell crab capital of the world - where they are packed and flown alive and kicking direct from the Chesapeake to the restaurant several days a week.

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I am the unabashed seafood aficionado in our family so I am always particularly thrilled when ocean fare is on the menu. My husband, on the other hand, is a strictly meat-and-potatoes man who will never eschew a perfectly grilled prime cut of beef.

With a lineup of exquisite seafood offerings (wild-caught and served fresh) and charcoal-grilled Harris Ranch steaks, Water Grill can’t be beat when it comes to crafting truly delectable memories. From the tall-backed leather chairs to the robust craft cocktail menu, every occasion is begging for the chance to be celebrated with such style and substance so we were confident both our culinary leanings would be handily satisfied when we made a reservation for our recent wedding anniversary.

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Starting at the raw bar, dive into the aforementioned oysters or chilled shellfish like wild littleneck clams, jumbo Mexican shrimp, farmed Peruvian Bay scallops or large Channel Islands Red Sea Urchin. Can’t decide? Order an iced platter that arrives with a sampling of everything.

An all-time must-have on any self-respecting seafood connoisseur’s wish list is the California Spiny Lobster - now in season. Their counterparts from Maine are delicious, but this special crustacean boasts a sweeter flavor profile and more meat (generally around 25% more per pound). Caught off the California coast in the waters from Baja to Morro Bay, these beauties were incredibly succulent and didn’t need anything other than drawn butter to enhance the flavor.

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If charcoal-grilled or oven roasted wild-caught fish is more to your liking, popular picks include the melt-in-your-mouth wild Alaskan black cod served with soba noodles or the flavorful togarashi seared local bluefin tuna.

Then for land lovers like my beau, Water Grill serves up Harris Ranch filets, prime New York Strip steak, prime split-bone “cowboy” ribeye or charcoal grilled “Mary’s” organic chicken paired with the favorite side of your choice: braised kale, Mexican street corn, grilled broccolini or seven-cheese mac & cheese.

Start with the wild Spanish octopus (charcoal grilled with fingerling potatoes) and wade through the raw bar until your tastebuds are begging for a break. Save room for their chocolate espresso ganache cake, or finish out your night with a French pressed espresso and homemade sorbet. Any are certain to be just as appealing as that first round of oysters.


Water Grill
3300 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa
(714) 208-7060
WaterGrill.com

Known as one-half of the “Twin Cities,” Minneapolis is one of the most welcoming, culturally rich places to visit as a family in the country. With growing numbers of gorgeous parks, beautiful lakes, hiking trails, bike paths and verdant green spaces, this city is also home to a vibrant arts scene (think world-class museums and progressive galleries), inspired dining, destination shopping and the “Minnesota Nicest” people.

Walker Art Center + Sculpture Garden

Tour the Walker Art Center and get your fill of edgy contemporary works, or stroll through the Sculpture Garden - home to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Bruggen’s iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry installation - and take in more than 40 different works from artists around the world. Prince fans can take a pilgrimage to Paisley Park, a half hour from city center.

Lowry Avenue Bridge CREDIT Photo by Lane Pelovsky Courtesy of MeetMinneapolis large

Where to stay

One of the most recognized names in luxury hotel brands, Loews properties across North America operate with the philosophy that “hospitality comes from the heart.” Situated near the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown, Loews Minneapolis (LoewsHotels.com) is no exception - this chic, modern 22-story hotel features 251 elegantly appointed, newly renovated guest rooms and suites, abundant family-friendly signature services and amenities, innovative dining and a location that literally can’t be beat (Target Field is just 1,500 feet away - a quick walk to watch baseball in a gorgeous open-air stadium). This property proved to be the perfect “home base” from which to experience the city and its recreation and attractions.

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Staff here has thoughtfully compiled a local line-up of family activities whether you’re looking to explore the environs or staying comfy indoors - they even offer assorted games for all ages which was particularly great from a parent perspective to keep our teens engaged and off their electronics.

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My husband and I consider ourselves to be fledgling foodies so we were thrilled to sample the fare at Cosmos - New American cuisine inspired by the Pacific Regions. My Yellow Thai curry with shrimp and fragrant jasmine rice was super flavorful, while his Gerber Amish roasted half chicken was equally delicious, enhanced with lemon tyme pan jus and accompanied by mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Apothecary Bar & Lounge

The Apothecary Bar & Lounge is a sophisticated space showcasing a restaurant of its own, 20-seat Library and chef’s table and specializes in small shareable plates, handcrafted cocktails, local microbrews and a Build Your Own Old Fashioned.

Cosmos - New American cuisine

What to do

If you’re seeking a thrill, take a spin around Minnehaha Falls: summer or winter, and gape at the iced majesty even Queen Elsa would be jealous of. For our part, our teens couldn’t wait for our much-anticipated visit to the Mall of America (MallofAmerica.com). Mind you, an entire day spent in a shopping mall wasn’t my first thought when planning this weekend away, but for a truly unique, most memorable vacation - this ginormous space offers endless entertainment, dining, attraction and retail experiences.

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Nickelodeon Universe is a seven-acre indoor amusement park featuring over two dozen rides with something for everyone. Purchase an unlimited ride wristband for all-day access to carousels and crazy cars for junior enthusiasts to twisting, turning rollercoasters for our thrill-seeking teens. We were already fans of the animated series so another favorite was the Avatar Airbender - where the kids rode a “wave of air” rocking back and forth to reach heights of 70 feet as air and fire forces raged around them.

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The state’s largest aquarium is also housed under roof here - explore 1.3 million gallons of awesome - sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and even a 14-foot-long sawfish. For an immersive adventure - the Escape Game allows you crack codes, uncover clues, solve puzzles and complete a mission as a family.

Underwater Ocean Tunnel

A stunning skyline, delectable food, and more Midwest charm than you can shake a stick at round out the long list of reasons why it should be the next place on your list.

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The nature of gift purchasing has changed greatly since the advent of the internet. How has Absolutely Fabulous stayed above the fray and blossomed while the rest of the gift industry flounders? “That’s easy,” responds Diane Silverstein, owner of the iconic Huntington Beach-based Absolutely Fabulous gift boutique, “quality, selection, price range, and ease of shopping.” After many visits to her “absolutely fabulous” gift and décor shop, I would have to agree. “Plus – we ship world-wide, so you can mail your stuff right from here!”

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While the internet excels at making home shopping the easiest experience, when you know exactly what you’re looking for, much of holiday gift-giving starts with “who is this for, and how much do I want to spend on them?” Absolutely Fabulous makes this type of shopping easy with their “you know the personality, we know the product” approach to holiday gift-giving. “You see,” Diane explains in her charming English accent, “we spend hours and hours searching for the best new products offered in the gift industry. When our customers come in with their lists, we walk them around and point out options that our customers would never have found in an internet search.”

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Diane is not kidding on that last point. The variety and uniqueness of products at Absolutely Fabulous is astounding: hand-made jewelry, Miche Bag purses (the ones where you just drop the “insides” of your purse into a new shell, rather than having to dump all of your stuff out!), $10 silk scarves, old-school shaving kits for men, a “Daddy’s Tool Bag” that includes diaper changing equipment, and instructional DVD, face mask and other funny items, rare paintings by successful artists, large crystal chandeliers, crystal perfume bottles, stuffed animal baby bottle covers, piggy banks for kids, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles, holiday-themed decor and gifts, Christmas decorations that range from very inexpensive bottle stoppers and tree decorations to 6-foot high collectible Santa dolls. Ab Fab really does cover the gamut of gifts for anyone: “from birth to death and everything in-between is our moniker” Diane proudly states. I tend to agree.

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This holiday season, find out why Absolutely Fabulous is so appropriately-named. Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenuein Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit
www.absolutelyfabulous1.com

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The last time I visited Orange Hill Restaurant was pre-pandemic for a friend’s bon voyage party. Though I am certain that the menu has changed here and there since that time, the quality of its culinary offerings, absolutely breathtaking views and stellar service have not changed one iota.

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Perched on the hills of Orange County, the restaurant offers panoramic views of Catalina Island, downtown Los Angeles, Disneyland’s nightly pyrotechnic extravaganza and the gorgeous SoCal coastline. Pair the views with a glass of wine from the award-winning house list, or partake in a hand-crafted cocktail.

A contemporary California steakhouse, Orange Hill features aged butcher-cut steaks (including a new menu item - the Steak Progressive showcasing four different cuts of premium beef) and the freshest of seafood (think miso-marinated Chilean sea bass, coconut shrimp and lobster and shrimp risotto).

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If you’re searching for a wonderful weekend brunch, this is where Orange Hill truly shines. Start out with a bottomless mimosa mixed and matched with your choice of unique flavor pairings - dragonfruit and watermelon, fresh cucumber mint, lavender-activated charcoal lemonade or pineapple jalapeno.

Raw bar offerings include chilled oysters on the half shell, salmon tartare (miso soy, citrus edamame smash, pickled Fresno peppers), Alaskan king crab legs and citrus poached shrimp cocktail.

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A la carte entrees range from traditional favorites like fluffy thick-cut brioche French toast topped with cognac roasted golden apples and three-egg omelets. The “Brunchy Smash Burger” arrives as a cooked-to-your-liking double patty with Tabasco aioli, fried egg and applewood smoked bacon while the Hangover Hash is made from mouthwatering braised prime rib accompanied by roasted potatoes, poached egg and signature Hollandaise.

Love bennys? Orange Hill’s serves up several delicious signature benedicts - Classic, Crab Cake, Smoked Salmon and a trio of beef specialties: the Cape Grim Filet, Prime Zabuton and Dry-Aged Ribeye - all accompanied by Hollandaise, blistered tomatoes and my personal favorite ... chimichurri (an incredibly flavorful traditional Argentine sauce made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic and olive oil that I can literally consume by the spoonful).

Whether you’re celebrating with friends, gathering with family or out for a romantic date night - come to relax, refresh, or reimagine - the possibilities here are lined up like the sights from the patio. All you have to do is drive up the Hill.


The Orange Hill Restaurant
6410 E. Chapman
Orange
(714) 997-2910
TheOrangeHillRestaurant.com

With the change of seasons always comes an exciting time in food - especially at your favorite restaurants. My new go-to in Orange is O SEA, located in the historic heart of Orange on the circle. Open since June 2021, this innovative eatery features a refreshingly modern, upbeat atmosphere and excellent seafood offerings which shine with the passionate personalities of its founder and general manager Mike Flynn and his team.

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Mike’s dream “for a decade” came to fruition after a restaurant journey that took this clearly talented concept creator to popular seafood establishments across the country and back home to his native Orange County. O SEA is the perfect embodiment of his personal and professional passions: great fish, funky wines and catchy songs in a 112-year-old building.

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In the few short months since opening its doors, O SEA has already established itself as community favorite for delicious seasonal fare: responsibly sourced seafood complemented by the seasonality and diversity of Southern California cooking so you get the freshest entrees and sides imaginable.

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A high energy, yet refined menu marries bold global flavor profiles with high quality, affordable seafood. On a recent night out, my husband and I invited a couple who live in Old Town to join us for dinner at O SEA, thinking we’d be introducing them to its offerings.

Turns out, our foodie friends were already regulars who raved about the menu, service and the carefully curated wine list that mirrors the same philosophy as the menu. Each varietal, by the glass or bottle, is approachable and fun - a Hungarian white “goes with spicy food,” while the ‘Love You Bunches’ sangiovese is “best served chilled.”

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To give you an idea of the fun to be had here ... there is no corkage fee here, the only caveat is that you must pour a tasting glass from the bottle you bring and send it to another table. The concept sparks conversation, reciprocal samplings and laughter that lends itself to a true sense of community.

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Literally everything we tried was uber flavorful - from the wild British Columbian salmon ceviche served Peruvian style with coconut leche de tigre and habanero oil and the grilled wild Spanish octopus enhanced with creamy adobo and grilled summer sweet corn to the crispy Oaxacan hot shrimp.

Just thinking of the melt-in-your-mouth wild Eastern sea scallops and oysters on the half shell served with Thai red curry cocktail sauce, yuzu mignonette and tajin’d lime are enough to get my tastebuds watering. But what a treat to experience the incredible food and energetic atmosphere at once – O SEA is a standout for every season.


O SEA
109 S. Glassell St.
Orange
(714) 363-3309
EatOSEA.com

Savory is one of those words that gets tossed around indiscriminately. I suppose the synonyms are a bit lackluster (appetizing, toothsome), but none of the adjectives really do an unforgettable meal justice.

At North Italia, it doesn’t matter how you describe the food, as long as you know you’re always in for something special. Every day there are new items waiting to be devoured, like the Chef’s daily pizzas or their house-made cocktails.

Squid Ink Mafaldine Courtesy of North Italia

On a recent date night, my husband and I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the menu, trying to decide between dishes made with house-made pasta or pizza dough or one of the steak or seafood specialties.

While mulling over options, we noshed on yummy grilled bread and "good olive oil," seasoned with grana padano and herbs and a tuna crudo that quite frankly could have been an entree onto itself enhanced with castelvetrano olive, caper, orange, pine nut, mint, avocado, agrumato and espelette pepper - the latter beautifully presented and as flavorful as it sounds.

Bolognese House Specialty Courtesy of North Italia

Since we couldn't narrow the choices to only two, we ordered three entrees thinking whatever we didn't finish would allow us to revisit our culinary adventure the next night. Each dish more than met our expectations - the bolognese is a house specialty with traditional meat sauce, tagliatelle noodle and grana padano cheese while "The Pig" pizza arrived topped with spicy pepperoni, soppressata and Italian sausage.

The braised short rib with roasted fennel, heirloom carrot, grilled asparagus, marscapone polenta and short rib jus was worth writing home about - mouth-wateringly tender and uber delicious. Other popular picks on our list to try on our next foray into North Italia?

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The Diver Scallops with parmesan risotto, roasted corn, asparagus pancetta, crispy shallot and Calabrian agrodolce and the Roasted Salmon with pesto farro, caramelized cauliflower and lemon gremolata.

Impossible to imagine we had enough room for dessert, but we couldn't pass up our server's recommendation of the Bombolini (Italian donuts with Meyer lemon curd and vanilla marscapone) that were deliciously reminiscent of the sugar dusted malasadas (Portuguese donuts) I grew up eating in my native Honolulu.

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The standout service and creative Italian cuisine here is enough to craft a novel about, but between the roasted pine nuts, torn basil, house-made pasta and creative cocktails like the ginger blossom margarita, you might just end up muttering the word “savory” under your breath to your friends across the table in between bites.


North Italia
2657 Michelson Drive
Irvine
(949) 629-7060
NorthItalia.com

I’m not going to lie. I just tried mezcal for the first time this year. It reminded me of bonfires on camping trips with family friends. The second sip was akin to the Santa Ana winds that blow through around Halloween each year: mysterious, moody. I’ve always had a fondness for fall in Southern California - it can certainly be hot and blustery for a few days, but it's also the best beach weather we get all year.

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In San Diego County, cities like Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Carlsbad absolutely shine. The days are barely shorter than high summer, but all of the tourists are back at school or work, far from the verdant links, rugged trails, and luxurious accommodations of the Park Hyatt Aviara.

Tucked away on 200 lush, private acres in Carlsbad, this AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star luxury resort is ideally located within easy reach of all of San Diego's offerings, but feels like a private, secluded retreat. While there are abundant attractions off site, there are so many world-class opportunities for recreation and relaxation on property that our family saw no reason to leave on recent weekend stay-cation.

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Fresh from a $50 million resort-wide transformation, guests are transported from the moment they step into the gorgeous Mediterranean-style lobby with its open-air design. A one-of-a-kind sculpted chandelier floating down from the ceiling showcases the migration of birds taking refuge in the neighboring Batiquitos Lagoon. A coastal wetland between the glittering Pacific Coast and the Park Hyatt, Batiquitos offers tremendous bird-watching opportunities if you just can’t figure out what to do amidst the multitude of offerings on site.

The luxury coastal-chic accommodations here feature private balconies, stylish artwork, deep marble baths, teak furnishing, uber-comfortable beds and fabulous courtyard, lagoon, golf course or pool views.

With regard to the latter, our kids couldn't wait to spend the afternoon upon arrival at the Splash Pool Deck with its brand-new two-story waterslide (for swimmers 4-feet tall and above), zero-grade entry and splash pad. My husband and I were equally excited to watch them frolic, while sipping a craft cocktail happily ensconced in one of the spacious private cabanas.

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From our vantage point on the Ocean View Pool Deck, we reviewed our options. Indulge in a massage or body treatment in the lavish 15,000-square-foot Aviara Spa? Hit the links at the only Arnold Palmer signature designed golf course in coastal California? Try our hand at one of six lit tennis courts (including two Har-Tru clay courts) set against a backdrop of lush botanicals and greenery?

A given was to embark on a locally inspired culinary adventure (or two). Happy hour at Pacific Point Restaurant is defined by craft cocktails, sushi and spectacular sunsets.

For a fine dining experience in the newest of Park Aviara's signature restaurants, Ponto Lago serves up locally sourced coastal cuisine in a refined modern setting. An added attraction for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of where the magic happens? A show kitchen where you can watch the restaurant team in action bringing Chef's creations to center stage.

Park Hyatt Aviara Ponto Lago Chef Table

I fancy myself a fledgling foodie so I was particularly thrilled to learn of the Chef's Corner - a multi-sensory culinary offering where our epicurean journey began with a phone call from Chef. He asked about our dining desires and flavor preferences before crafting a personalized menu that proved to be unbelievably decadent and delicious. He asked about our dining desires and flavor preferences before crafting a personalized menu that proved to be unbelievably decadent and delicious.

Park Hyatt Aviara Ponto Lago Dining Room

Chef de Cuisine Chris Carriker crafted a series of culinary creations, each paired with the perfect wine accompaniment per our server Udi’s suggestion. Local albacore was enhanced with farm fresh melons, watermelon aguachile and speck ham while the octopus taco with saffron potato crema pickled red onions (for me) and the pork belly taco paired with chiccarones, salsa macha and serrano crema (for Tim) were equally flavorful options. Other courses incorporated perfectly grilled ribeye with mole negro and charred onions, wood-fired salmon and roasted duck.

By itself, Ponto Lago is an incredibly refined setting for any of their Baja-inspired dishes, or craft cocktails. But a tequila or mezcal pairing is sure to set things into a different orbit alongside Chef’s Corner. Explore over 50 different tequila and mezcal selections - indulge in a sweet. floral-inspired agave from the Highlands of Jalisco or savor in the spicy, earthy and herbaceous flavors produced in the Lowlands. You might not find the flavors of a bonfire, sharp and smoky, but you’ll certainly have a taste for fall in San Diego for years to come.


Park Hyatt Aviara
7100 Aviara Resort Drive
Carlsbad
(760) 448-1234
ParkHyattAviara.com

I’ve always had a case of wanderlust and my husband, Tim, was a seasoned traveler long before I met him, so we’ll use any excuse to explore new environs or revisit favorite vacation destinations. We love traveling so much that we have over the years made a conscious effort to impart in our children a similar desire to trek across the country or traipse around the globe.

In the 15 years since our son was born, we’ve happily traveled far and wide whether for weekend stay-cations within easy driving distance or longer trips that involved a fair number of planes, trains and automobiles. We even embarked on an ambitious plan to visit all 50 states as a family by the time he graduates high school (we have 15 more to go). But what we haven’t done in all that time is leave the kids home for a few adults-only days away - mostly because they were either too little or because we were actively crossing states off the list together.

Casa Velas Entrance

But as summer was winding down and our now-teenagers were gearing back up for school, my husband and I decided to head south for a sans-kids sojourn to Casa Velas in Puerta Vallarta.

Our idea of a refuge for relaxation involves gourmet food, fine wine, a good book, a sun-soaked beach, snorkeling, swimming, sumptuous spa treatments and ... nowhere particular to be at any specific time. Other guests we met on property said they prefer active daytime endeavors like playing tennis and golf (Casa Velas is nestled in an upscale residential neighborhood overlooking Marina Vallarta, one of the region’s best courses). Luckily for all of us, this gorgeous oceanside oasis offers all of the above and then some. Casa Velas’ specialty? An unforgettable, all-inclusive, adults-only resort experience crafted to your specific desires and tastes.

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We already felt worlds away upon arrival - the entrance and lobby reminiscent of a sprawling Spanish hacienda opens out onto canopied gardens characterized by abundant, colorful flora and fauna, picturesque reflecting pools, koi ponds, towering palms, an array of gorgeous fountains and arched terraces.

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A luxury spa and salon, world-class championship golf, access to the beautiful Táu Beach Club, and decadent suites furnished with traditional Mexican charm are just a few of the reasons Casa Velas is the top-rated all-inclusive and one of the most celebrated all-inclusives in Puerto Vallarta. Steps from the beach and minutes from downtown, this boutique hotel boasts an estate-like ambiance amidst lush tropical gardens where peacocks roam.

Casa Velas Pool View of Hotel

The tranquil coastal ambiance carries through to each of its villa-style accommodations (think private immersion pools, jacuzzi hot tubs, scenic golf course and garden views). Choose from 80 plush suites, each exquisitely furnished and adorned with textures and colors inspired by traditional Mexican design, many including pieces by acclaimed Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamente.

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Swim, sip, splurge

Dining is a highlight of Casa Velas with a choice of Emiliano Restaurant, and Táu Beach Club (with complimentary transportation to and from Casa Velas) for enjoying the famous Mexican Pacific sunsets in all their glory, and the four specialty restaurants of the nearby Five Diamond-rated sister resort Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.

Emiliano Restaurant Terrace

Casually elegant, the property’s signature award-winning AAA Four-Diamond restaurant, Emiliano showcases gourmet Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in an intimate and relaxed setting of your choice indoors or on the romantic outdoor terrace surrounded by koi ponds.

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I’m the seafood aficionado in our family while my husband leans more toward beef and chicken entrees so we were delighted to discover a plethora of gourmet options in which to partake. My pastor-style salmon accompanied with pineapple puree and avocado mousse was simply divine, as was his grilled-to-perfection ribeye with baked potato and sauteed asparagus. Other indulgent dishes range from a Diabla-style octopus, shrimp served with asparagus risotto and the Veracruz-style catch of the day to the flavorful, falling-off-the-bone tender barbecue pork ribs.

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In addition to its regular menu, Emiliano rotates through customized five-course offerings - a different one each night - masterminded by the head chefs at Casa Velas’s sister property Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Drawing inspiration from each of the three on-site award-winning restaurants Frida (Mexican), Piaf (French) and Lucca (Italian), features a dynamic tasting menu paired with tequila, martini and fine wine, respectively. Prefer authentic street food? Emiliano’s also serves up tantalizing takes on favorites found in Mexico’s colorful markets in diverse regions of the country.

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For my part, lounging by the stunning free-form, cobalt-blue pool for the better part of each afternoon translated to the copious consumption of a trio of delicious ceviche offerings - shrimp (with tomato, onion, cucumber, coriander and serrano chili), white fish or tuna tartare with avocado, sesame oil and ponzu sauce - on the Aqua Bar menu. Tim says he still daydreams about the chicken burrito that he claims is the best he’s ever tasted with gourmet flavor unlike any preparation he’s sampled before.

An exclusive retreat on the ocean’s edge, Tau Beach Club serves a refreshing menu of spirited cocktails. Enjoy beachfront dining on the charming covered terrace and take in beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. During the day, guests can settle into Bali beds or sun loungers and nosh on sushi to their heart’s content. In the evenings, Táu Beach Club transforms into the perfect place for a romantic sunset dinner at The Ocean Club defined by an innovative menu of Mexican-inspired and Asian cuisine - my personal culinary preferences. The elevated gourmet food and beverage program extends to its extensive list of refreshing craft cocktails, fine wine and premium liquors at the restaurant, 24/7 in suite or served poolside in your own personal cabana or at the swim-up palapa Aqua Bar. Also included are events like wine pairings, tequila, mescal and martini tastings - which gives guests an opportunity to get acquainted with one another.

Relax + Revitalize

Needless to say - given the days (and nights) of (over) indulgence, I was especially thankful for the professionally equipped fitness center - complete with an array of cardio and weight machines - and the opportunity to expend a few extra calories. But for the height of relaxation, the full-service ABJA Spa was a most desired destination.

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Featuring spa treatments and therapies inspired by local Mexican tradition and international wellness trends, guests can choose from signature treatments, therapeutic massages, beauty services, and holistic rituals using herbs and ingredients harvested in Casa Velas’ own botanical garden and performed by experienced spa specialists who work with each guest to customize services to their specific needs whether the goal is to relieve stress or revitalize your soul.

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All of the aforementioned luxurious accommodation, amenity-rich ambiance, epicurean exploits and stunning scenery aside, I would be seriously amiss if I neglected to mention the stellar personalized service extended by every member of the staff here. From check in to departure, each member of the Casa Velas team is clearly dedicated to ensuring a warm, wonderful experience for each of its guests. If you are searching for an immersive, relaxing retreat in the most tranquil of settings and distinguished by exemplary, over-the-top service, trust me ... you need look no further than Casa Velas, Puerta Vallarta.

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www.HotelCasaVelas.com

One of the perks of my job as a magazine editor is being able to interview entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries - an opportunity for a bit of education on businesses I might not otherwise have had exposure to.

In today's market, I've read my share of articles about the importance of hedging against inflation, but it wasn't until I chatted with Ali Soltani, owner of the Dana Point-based Royal Gold Group that I learned about options and benefits in investing in gold and silver.

It doesn't hurt that Ali waxes poetic about all kinds of currency like he was Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure character talking about the George Washington campaign buttons. Before I met him, the concept of investing in coins and precious metals seemed as fantastic as someone attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence.

The more I learned though, its ties to true financial finesse are difficult to ignore.

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Following in his father's footsteps, Ali has been a personal collector of coins and currency since he was a child and it's clear that educating clients or the lay public in general about currency is absolutely a passion for him. Much more than a hobby, Ali makes it a specialty rather than a simple customer service transaction. For the last five years, Royal Gold Group has been operating in South Orange County. Part of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, Royal Gold originally started as a small shop in Old Town Tustin and has recently expanded to Dana Point in a much larger space. But why coins? Why currency?

“It isn’t about the formal business for us," says Ali. "I didn’t want to have just another old dirty coin shop. I enjoy the blend of customer service and sales in this specific arena - educating my customers and exchanging knowledge with seasoned collectors.”

Ali and his team at the Royal Gold Group cater to investors of all ages and abilities. If you are a novice investor, they can create an offering based on your specific goals. Are you looking to collect for pleasure, buy and sell for quick profit, or buy and sell for a long-term investment?

Offering private appointments for those clients who might need a little more time or privacy to look at products, “or go over valuable estate items they are looking to sell," jewelry repair, and coin appraisals mean less time out on the market, liquidating the responsibility for a single customer to travel distance for multiple appointments. Easily booked over the phone and offered free of charge, private appointments take the pressure off for clients who need extra time to catch up in a clean, well-organized, stress-free and accessible environment.

“Coins and bullion are not for just a specific type of collector or investor anymore," says Ali. "We see patrons ranging in age from 6 to 76 years old: parents with their kiddos, seasoned collectors who have been in the marketplace for a generation. We welcome all.”


Owner Ali SoltaniRoyal Gold Group
34291 Doheny Park Road
(next to the post office)
Dana Point
(949) 426-0901
RoyalGoldGroup.com

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