10 Holiday Seafood Traditions in Newport Beach
The concept of home is a big deal in the various songs and ditties that get played ad nauseum this time of year. This theme doesn’t just mean clawing through gift wrap in your living room in search of wish list fulfillment. Embracing community means taking time to cherish the unique traditions and personality traits of the surrounding area.
In Newport Beach, reveling in this sense of community is perhaps best achieved by taking advantage of the city’s numerous opportunities to indulge in fresh seafood during the season. In some cases, the sea’s bounty can be part of a bigger Newport-centric sensory feast. Other times, it can acutely symbolize your ability to host better than your neighbors (although you’d never admit this publicly). Regardless of context, the choicest local seafood experiences shine because they remind us how fortunate we are to call Newport Beach home.
New Englanders know how to do the holidays. After all, one of their standout festive dishes involves lobster stuffed with shrimp. This popular Balboa Peninsula restaurant makes it possible for you to enjoy this sumptuous treat without having to hop on a plane and fly some 3,000 miles. Bluewater Grill’s Holiday Baked Stuffed Maine Lobster captures all of the essential notes of this special dish, and builds an accompany feast with a bowl of chowder, two sides, and unlimited sourdough bread. This is a splendid replication of what you can find back east, minus the bitter cold and snow.
When The Ritz announced it was coming back, the palpable buzz it generated made sense given the restaurant’s legend. There may not be a more appropriate way to celebrate its triumphant return than by securing a table during the Newport Beach Boat Parade and indulging in the eatery’s legendary seafood tower. The two-story stack is as majestic as it ever was, loaded with plump shrimp, succulent oysters, and slightly sweet lobster claws. This tower makes the sweetness of having a bayside seat to the city’s annually epic parade even sweeter.
The Feast of Seven Fishes is one of the most indulgent dinner parties you can host. This traditional Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, which is called by La Vigilia in the Old Country, can be one of the most intimidating fetes to put together. Don’t fret. The Corona Del Mar location of this upscale cooking supply store is hosting a special cooking class on December 14th at 6:30 PM to teach you how to pull off a proper feast, from the bruschetta starter to the spumoni ice cream at meal’s end.
If you are going to offer sushi at a party, know that presentation counts just as much as flavor. Bristol Farms knows this credo, which is why their signature sushi platters are such a tremendous purchase. The store offers six special holiday sushi plates, so you’ll have options whether your partygoers prefer rolls or if they lean more toward traditional nigiri. Just as important, though, is the breathtaking arrangement. Your party may be reluctant to dive into the plate and mess up the artistry. For a few minutes, anyway.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of racing the sunrise to this legendary Peninsula spot and nabbing choice seafood that was still deep in the Pacific when you went to bed the previous night. While the predawn hours in December may be chilly, the opportunity to come down here and scoop of some spiny lobster during the height of the crustacean’s season is well worth any suffering. A word of warning: If the sun rises by the time you arrive, you’ll probably already be out of luck.
You can’t feel miserable when you hear Christmas carolers, even if the incessant drone of holiday music everywhere you go makes you want to scream. Certainly, this venerable, cottage-like Corona Del Mar eatery is the perfect place to enjoy the soothing sounds of properly rendered yuletide tunes performed by people in Victorian costume. Five Crowns also creates an ideal ambiance to enjoy Executive Chef Steve Kling’s spot-on interpretation of Mediterranean sea bass. This dish’s flavor profile is light, refreshing, and downright jolly, with fish topped with succulent shrimp, cauliflower florets, chervil, and caper brown butter.
There’s a certain sense of vintage elegance about Gelson’s take on whole poached salmon. It may be due to the fact that it’s a classic party dish. The fact that they use aspic in their recipe – a decidedly old-school ingredient if there ever was one – doesn’t exactly hurt this vibe, either. Yet these timeless principles work very well in a setting like Newport Beach – particularly when it’s crafted as well as the salmon this specialty store creates.
The commitment to freshness from this popular Balboa Peninsula joint effortlessly extends to their catering services. The beauty of their ahi poke platter is in its simplicity. There are no fancy frills to be found; all you have to focus on is luscious fish and some chips to act as a conduit for scooping. If you’ve ever been to Bear Flag before, you already know that this combo is all you need to achieve epicurean bliss.
The race to December 25th feels like a sprint, not a marathon. As such, you’re probably going to face days without a whole lot of time to devote to lunch. Should time constraints really force you to eat subpar food? Pelican Hill doesn’t think so, which is why their casual eatery Pelican Grill serves up a beautiful pot of mussels & clams as part of their Express Prix-Fixe Lunch. It’s designed to be a quick, simple bite – shellfish served with chardonnay butter, cipollini onions, parsley, and grilled bread – but in this case, simplicity is all you need to be satisfied.
The flavors of Asian cuisine pair remarkably well with a good glass of Champagne. Want proof of this? Head down to this northern Newport Beach restaurant in December and pair their brilliant salt and pepper shrimp with a glass of Louis Roederer champagne. The acidic nature of the bubbly will help subdue the spicy sting of the shellfish, creating a mellow flavor combination that is sure to soothe any nerves that the month may have frayed.