Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Laguna Beach

In what's becoming a President's Day tradition, my roommates and I got away from school for the long weekend. J's grandmother lives in a beautiful house in Laguna Beach, so we headed down on Friday afternoon with a quick pit stop at In-N-Out. Tradition, right?

In the true spirit of Valentine's Day (or Galentine's Day), we headed out for a romantic dinner (ha) at Gelson's. We picked some stuff up at the deli, then headed back to eat and watch the sunset.

Embarrassingly enough, after dinner, I fell asleep on the couch right as the Olympics started, and only roused myself to wash my face and slip into bed properly for the night.

The next morning dawned bright and early, so we nabbed ourselves a spot on Aliso Beach right at the crack of 11:30 am. Since I don't really do sunbathing, I went for a jog in the sand while J and N soaked up the rays.

When I re-joined my friends, I did some thrilling assigned reading on the kuru disease in Papua New Guinea and eventually burrowed under a towel because I thought I was burning. Why I live in Southern California sometimes escapes me, I will say.

We spent the afternoon doing a spot of shopping downtown, I got in a spot of reading, the usual. I read Sun Tzu's The Art of War and got through about 75% of Dale Carnegie's influential How to Win Friends and Influence People. Don't worry, I'm still working through it before I go to bed every night!

For dinner, we drove to downtown Laguna to eat dinner at El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant. We waited for our table outside... gotta love Southern California in February!

After a twenty minute wait, we were seated and greeted with some fresh tortilla chips. Don't mind if I do!

Naturally, we ordered some guacamole to share. It was great--very simple with huge chunks of avocado. It was a huge bowl, came with extra chips, and we devoured the lot before our entrees came!

J ordered the Baja Bowl with sautéed vegetables. She thought the portion was perfect and that the vegetables were "very nicely sautéed". She says she would definitely order it again! She had no complaints about it.

N ordered the same Baja Bowl, but with Carne Asada instead of vegetables. While she did really enjoy it, she thought it was too salty. Logical reasoning led to the thought that it may have been the steak that made it that way--while I think she enjoyed it, the bowl was not finished. Interpret that as you may!

I ordered the veggie fajitas. Just as J vocalized about her vegetables, I thought mine were sautéed wonderfully. The marinade was truly excellent. Unfortunately, El Ranchito cooks their rice in chicken broth, so I went without. The black beans were fine, and the (not pictured) tortillas were pretty good. A very solid dish!

Before heading home, we stopped for a coffee at Koffee Klatch.

We all got various lattes--I ordered a Chai Tea latte, N a regular latte, and J a raspberry Chai Tea latte. While my and J's lattes were truly excellent, N's was a bit too sweet. However, it was good enough that we went back on Monday!

Similarly to Friday night, we watched the Olympics before crashing embarrassingly early. Hey, it was a vacation!

Now Sunday, J and I actually got up sort of early. We headed to the Dana Hills high school track for a bit of a run. After we drove home in the sunshine, we got ready with N, and then the three of us took J's grandmother out for lunch at Taco Surf. It's her favorite restaurant, so we treated her as a "thanks for letting three college students take over your home for the weekend" sort of thing.

Like all of the best restaurants, we were greeted with food before we even ordered. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of ordering the guacamole. It was really not that good. It tasted sweet somehow, and not like avocado. The guac had a runny, strange consistency... not ideal. It didn't even look good on camera.

Luckily, before we knew it, our food arrived. J ordered the veggie tacos, which were apparently a perfect amount of food, and very tasty.

Grams got the huge chile relleno, which she apparently gets every time she visits Taco Surf. She loves it! The inside was absolutely stuffed with cheese. I debated ordering this, I will say, and I'm kind of craving a chile relleno now. Next time!

I decided on the very colorful and delicious taco salad with sautéed vegetables in the absence of meat, with balsamic dressing on the side. I only used a tiny splash of the dressing, since the vegetables had a marinade that permeated the rest of the salad. Let me tell you, the salad was awesome. I couldn't finish it--so many vegetables, textures, tastes... I would definitely order it again.

N ordered the three tacos, one each of Baja fish, regular fish, and carnitas. While they were all allegedly good, the carnitas were apparently amazing. The carnitas are a specialty of Taco Surf, according to J and her grandmother, and N thinks deservedly so!

Happily full, we dropped Grams off at home before heading to Fashion Island for an afternoon of shopping. We stopped at Whole Foods deli to grab dinner, then went back home to begrudgingly do some homework.

As the sun set, we had an impromptu photo shoot, as well as a proper shoot for J's fashion blog.

What a wonderful place to rest for a weekend. I woke up during the night and saw the moon reflecting beautifully off the ocean. I swear this isn't real life.

On Monday, after I took a brief trot around the neighborhood, we packed up the car, grabbed coffee at Koffee Klatch, and headed back to Los Angeles.

In somewhat related news, this exact weekend and posting date marks the first birthday of a Chef in College. I've hit over six thousand page views in the past year, and it's amazing to think that there are so many people besides my parents who care about my life.

To everyone who has read a post, liked, commented, followed one of my recipes... thank you for your support. What started as a simple way to keep track of what I do and what I make has turned into something so much more.

This weekend was a magical way to celebrate my plunge into the blogging world. I'm so grateful for it all.

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