Unique Food + Drink Finds in NB Hotels
Hotels are often overlooked when it comes to dining options, when in fact, they are the first place one should look to for a memorable and unique experience. Not only do they have the ability to procure the best top quality ingredients, but they also hire the crème de la crème of chefs and mixologists from the world over. Newport Beach is home to some of the finest hotels in the country, and here, you’ll find hidden gems and creative wonders from the culinary talent that bring a wealth of palate teasers to diners whether they are hotel guests, or local residents alike. Here are some top picks in the area.
What better spot to relax after a long day at work than the patio at A&O Kitchen + Bar. The casual restaurant located within The Balboa Bay Resort is the perfect place to unwind amidst the serenity of the waterfront watching the sun set under the horizon. While you are there, indulge in a childhood treat strictly created for those 21 and over. Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom has drawn inspiration from the nostalgia of root beer floats with Guinness Stout and Salted Caramel Ice Cream, to unleash the inner child in you. A generous scoop of salted caramel ice cream sits in a tall frosty glass and is presented with a bottle of icy cold Guinness Stout. Or, feel free to create your own float with the ice cream and beer selections available.
The Resort at Pelican Hill’s Andrea Ristorante offers a seasonal risotto which is presented tableside from inside a wheel of imported Italian parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Hot risotto is brought out on a cart to your table, where a chef or server will prepare it by pouring the risotto into the center hole carved in the parmigiano-reggiano wheel. The cheese is slowly shaved and melts into the risotto as it is being stirred. The risotto becomes a rich, creamy consistency and perfectly savory, infused with the distinctive flavors of parmigiano-reggiano. The risotto, which usually includes seasonal ingredients such as asparagus, mushrooms or truffles, is poured from the wheel into a shiny silver staub, before it is placed on the table in front of you. An epicurean experience designed to stimulate all five senses, from sight and smell to hearing and touch, and finally taste.
The Island Hotel’s Aqua Lounge is a hot spot especially on the weekends when the who’s who of Orange County come out to play. Party a little too hard? Had a little too much to drink? No worries, here’s something for you to take the edge off those delectable cocktails you find hard to resist. Chef Marc Johnson operated Moki’s Open Kitchen out of his apartment, making breakfast for people on campus, while studying at University of Arizona. His specialty? Burritos! Aqua Lounge’s Moki’s Breakfast Burrito pays homage to the original burrito Chef Marc created and served throughout his college years and is only offered on the late-night menu. This deliciously simple creation is stuffed with eggs, bacon, cheese and potatoes and served only at Aqua Lounge between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
The Fairmont Hotel is the first luxury hotel brand to develop onsite bee programming and has long been an advocate for the Bee Sustainable program, which features over 20 honeybee apiaries and 18 wild bee hotels at Fairmont locations around the world. Locally in Newport Beach, The Fairmont Hotel’s Citrus restaurant has built a menu around the honey harvested from the “bee hotel” on its rooftop. One of the best examples of putting the honey to good use is the Californian Date and Banana Smoothie with Bee Pollen and Fairmont Hive Honey. This smoothie blends together bananas, dates, strawberries, Greek yogurt, freshly squeezed orange juice, and two heaping tablespoons of honey fresh from the rooftop, and a tablespoon of bee pollen to garnish.
Relax in the casual resort lifestyle at The Resort at Pelican Hill with gorgeous Pacific Ocean vistas, in a private cabana around the world’s largest circular pool. Dine at the Coliseum Pool & Grill, overlooking the iconic Coliseum Pool with its radian blue bottom created by hand-setting 1.1 million hand-cut glass mosaic tiles. The choices are aplenty, but nothing comes close to the Thai Fettuccine Pasta combining the best of East and West flavors. The pasta is tossed with tender seared Angus beef, plump luscious oven-dried tomatoes, umami-filled shiitake mushrooms, in a mild, but fragrant curry sauce — a true embodiment of California and the abundance of diverse ingredients available at any time of year. A customer favorite!
The restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is unique to hotel dining because it doesn’t specialize in just one type of cuisine or clientele. SHOR American Seafood Grill is a freestanding restaurant on the hotel’s property featuring farm fresh, house-created dishes. Everything is made from scratch including salad dressings as well as cheeses! The restaurant is privy to two chefs. Leo Gianulis who specializes in dishes from Mediterranean to Asian influences, and Sean Leone who is more Midwest meet Carolinas. A standout this summer is Kale & Watermelon Salad which not only takes advantage of peak season produce, but has included an ingredient ordinarily discarded in other kitchens. The chefs have pickled watermelon rind and added it to the salad along with a house-made ricotta, bacon shortbread, tossed in a pecan vinaigrette. Creative and delicious on one plate.
At Sam and Harry’s Steakhouse, you’ll be transported back in time to the days when Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber first introduced this drink. The 1944 Mai Tai is created by the Marriot Hotel and Spa’s Director of Restaurants, Mark Sladky. Through the years, bars have been offering mai tais but have strayed so far from the original drink to be truly called a mai tai. The 1944 Mai Tai stays loyal and true to its roots and the history of the drink, using both French and Jamaican rum, high end orange liqueur (the original calls for Cointreau), organic Orgeat, freshly squeezed lime juice, and garnished with a tropical edible orchid. The ingredients are shaken with shaved ice to infuse just the right amount of water into this cocktail. If you’re looking for the real thing, then look no further than Sam and Harry’s Steakhouse.
At The Balboa Bay Resort’s refined and refreshed restaurant, Waterline, expect to be dazzled by the scenic harbor views as you dine on a menu of innovative creations by the resort’s Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom. One of Waterline’s most creative standout items is Foie Gras Ice Cream, prepared with sauterne wine and garnished with a huckleberry compote, then scooped into a miniature house-made cone. This tongue teaser is an unctuously creamy mixture of salty sweet with the cone adding a textural crunch to the finish. For special events and wine dinners, a foie gras macaron may be exchanged for the foie gras ice cream. A simply decadent dessert you won’t get enough of.