Thursday, August 9, 2012

Watermarc Makes Laguna Melt in my Mouth for a Change

I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me when I say this, but I am usually hard-pressed to find much about Laguna Beach that I like. To each his own right? Some cities fit you like a second skin (San Francisco in my case) and some cities leave you kind of dry and itchy. That’s Laguna for me. It’s usually crowded, you can’t find parking at any of the coffee shops and the *art and food scenes are a bit spotty for my personal palate.  I know I am just generalizing but every time I have been there in the past decade for work or for play, I have come away kind of feeling the same way.

But recently the Cute Gardener and I took a daylong trek to eat at a restaurant called Watermarc presided over by Chef Marc Cohen and touting an impressive array on the lunch menu of 26 grazing plates. It was the best meal I have eaten in the city and my salad made it onto my mental list of memorable lamb dishes. It also helped that the free shuttles were running frequently due to the summer season and three simultaneous art festivals taking place so that we didn’t have to bear the traffic but could park at the top of the canyon and ride anywhere we wanted to go within the packed downtown district.

I am a sucker for lamb and was taught to cook a bevy of the eccentric meat’s dishes by the Greek orthodox aunt of an old friend. Helen and I used to stand around in her kitchen on Sundays drinking wine and making things like lamb stuffed artichokes steamed on a bone bed in a tomato sauce bath, lemon chicken squares and ground lamb stuffed dolmades just to name a few. It’s hard to find a chef who can live up to Helen’s cooking but this one did.

These were the most tender and flavorful bites of lamb chop I’ve had to date. Only bad thing was that the salad was served with all the ingredients separately. It took me a good five minutes to cut the grilled romaine, mix in the slaw and slice the meat from the chops to blend the salad together and I was salivating the entire time having already had a taste of the lamb.

We shared this adorable filet mignon potpie for a starter. Small and manageable with sweet and fork-able nuggets of great meat, it was delicious but more like a rustic, thick brown and savory soup than a creamy potpie.

The CG had a grilled chicken cordon bleu sandwich topped with shaved, honey smoked ham, asparagus, brie and cranberry marmalade. He’s super picky about his sandwiches and he liked this one which was a good sign for the restaurant overall.

I would come back to this restaurant if I were in Laguna again to try some of the other grazing plate items such as the ahi and watermelon skewers, the homemade ricotta with raisins, honeycomb and almonds or simply to sample some more of their creative, artisan cocktails.

*Even though the art scene in Laguna is not my favorite, I do have to send a shout out to my good friend and artist Micha VonDoring whose wood pieces are true works of exquisitely crafted art.

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