Every once and a while I get a hall pass to go out with the girls. I really try to have something on the calendar at least once a month that does not involve kids or dishes and preferably revolves around copious amounts of food that I get to photograph. My dilemma lately is how do I split up what little time I have between the have to’s and the want to’s. There are some events that I need to go to no matter how much driving or how little food is served, its good to get out and connect with people in real life especially when so much of my presence is online. I try to put myself out there and I also have good friends who refuse to let me sit in my cave for too long (you know who you are). Then there are the want to’s those are the events (CA Oceanfront, Temecula Inn and Tamarind come to mind) when host and chefs really go out of their way to send you home fat and happy. I call them blogging perks. They don’t happen very often which is fine with my waistline but when they do I just want to sing their praises from the rooftop. Its amazing what a little seared scallops and pork belly will do to a girl. I was invited along our contributors over at the trend tribe to come down to the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and dine at their restaurant Raya. I decided to go down early so I could just sit in one of their cushy entryway couches and just zen out.
I took some time to walk around the grounds and down the steps to the overlook of Salt Creek beach. I grew up on that beach. Hard not to feel a little pang when I close my eyes and listen to the gulls as I inhale that dampness. My facebook status after that afternoon was the shot of seagulls gliding over the waves (top left) captioned “I miss this.”
Almost time for dinner.
I felt like going tropical with the cocktail, hanging out at an oceanfront property will do that to you. I ordered the Mojito Cuzco (rum, cucumber, lime mint and Midori (melon liqueur). With the promise of not being overly sweet and the addition of fresh mint I almost felt healthier for drinking it. So refreshing and helped cool my palette after I popped a couple crispy spicy swordfish tacos in my mouth.
Smoked Swordfish Tacos – crispy wonton shell / mango salsa / pickled jalapeno
The restaurant itself is beautiful. Floor to ceiling glass with views as far as you can see of the deep blue pacific. The decor mirrors the California coastline with its light blues and warm beige. The dining room is the perfect balance of casual elegance partitioned off from the resort by a sculpted line of steel seaweed. I would feel right at home dining here in a sundress with or without my summer blazer, there is that level of ease about this space. The staff is extremely welcoming and knowledgeable about the dishes, new to Pan Latin cuisine no worries here you are in very capable hands. I trust the wait staff implicitly when it comes to these things, I don’t pretend to know what’s best to order. I’m the kind of diner that needs a little hand holding. I want them to tell me their favorite thing on the menu and what not to miss out on for dessert. Not being a huge wine connoisseur I stumbled a bit with the list, eventually they just brought me a taste to back up their suggestion, I love that. That’s what I call taking care of your guest.
Raya was created by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval (Bon Appétit Magazine’s 2006 Restaurateur of the Year.) Chef Sandoval is probably most well known for Maya in New York City. Under the director of Restaurant Chef Marissa Gerlach, RAYA showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meats.
We were treated to an off menu item, eggplant and summer squash gazpacho with micro chives, it was out of this world. I’m hoping to get a hold of this recipe. I really loved the texture and sweetness the squash imparts.
Chef Marissa Gerlach tells us a little background about the foods we are about to try. Emphasis on sustainability and reducing the kitchens carbon footprint. She is amazing what I would give to have that level of culinary talent at that age! Oh the places you will go Marissa. Other dishes passed in front of me including Seafood Risotto and the stacked Chimichurri Jidori Chicken Breast.
We all agreed that we would have no problem throwing back multiple cups of the dulce de leche, it was so silky smooth. Make sure you at least order the Dessert Sampler – milk chocolate coconut cake / cinnamon spice churro / kahlua pudding / dulce de leche / almond tres leches / praline ice cream and if there are enough people share a Panko Crusted Banana Fritter Split – pina colada & banana ice creams / caramel rum & chocolate sauces / candied peanuts, you will not regret it. See the full menu here.
A very big thank you to the Ritz Carlton for their incredible hospitality and extending themselves to our group I can’t tell you the last time I enjoyed myself this much at a PR event. I wish all events could be this fun. Seriously you know how to make a group of ladies feel special.
For more information yopu can visit Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel on facebook.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, California 92629
Phone: +1 (949) 240-2000
Disclosure: Dinner hosted by the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. The review is not a sponsored post.