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Chef’s Inspirations for Fall Menu Favorites

October 21, 2013

It’s  a month into autumn, and our local restaurants have added fall seasonal dishes to their menus with the abundance of vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients available this time of year.

We’ve been sampling seasonal menus that range from sensational seafood dishes to perfectly prepared pastas and fine filets. Here are a few of our favorites.

Beachcomber Cafe

It’s not easy to find the first time, but Beachcomber Cafe is well worth seeking out for its cuisine, and the ocean view–the restaurant is just feet from the sand in the Crystal Cove Historic District, a collection of classic cottages including one that was the set for the movie “Beaches.”

Park in the Crystal Cove parking lot on Coast Highway across from the entrance to Crystal Cove and take a short shuttle bus ride that drops you off in the middle of the Historic District. It’s a short stroll from there to Beachcomber, which combines a casual ambiance with upscale cuisine.

Beachcomber chef Carlos Olivera has launched a fall menu that includes seasame crusted seared Ahi with a soy chili sauce on bed of brocolini and mashed potatoes, and

crab stuffed Scottish salmon with sauteed rainbow Swiss, potato puree, and caper beurre blanc.

Every day at 5 pm, Beachcomber raises the martini flag, which means it’s time for creative cocktails. Two featured this fall: A classic Hurricane with light and dark rums, passion fruit rum, galliano, rock candy syrup, bitters, fresh juices, and grenadine, and the big bad bloody Mary with homemade bloody mary mix, Tito’s vodka, crab claw, jumbo shrimp, and vegetable garden.

For more information, visit

The Resort at Pelican Hill

We always look forward to dining at The Resort at Pelican Hill, whether it’s at the noted Andrea Ristorante, the more relaxed (yet no less noteworthy) Coliseum Pool & Grill, or the casual ambiance of Pelican Grill..

Coliseum chef Marc Osier recently introduced several seasonal dishes perfectly suited for OC’s version of autumn, which he told us is different than other climates.

“My challenge is that the season here is a micro climate,” explained Osier. “Our autumn menu, which is available through mid January, really is based on what the Irvine Ranch provides. Whatever vegetables are becoming available, that’s how we write our menu.”

Osier said that around 85 percent of the vegetables used at the resort’s restaurants come from the Irvine Ranch. At the moment, Osier is sourcing such items as squash, avocados, strawberries, zucchini, blue lake beans, beets, heirloom tomatoes, and other seasonal staples.

“It’s still gorgeous weather, so you want to eat light and healthy, you’re not bundled up under a blanket,” noted Osier. “It’s a unique challenge to come up with light wintertime food.”

Leave it to Osier to find a solution to that challenge, starting with his Irvine Ranch Beet Salad, a gorgeous dish with two different beets, arugula, apples, goat cheese and balsamic reduction.

He’s also created a tasty shrimp and crab wrap with roasted corn pico de gallo and lemongrass, but his shining example of autumn is the grilled Meyer lemon and vanilla marinated Chilean seabass with seasonal vegetables, roasted tomatoes and herb mashed potatoes. The fish was tried was tender and mild, with the lemon and vanilla providing a delicious marinade.

Another winner is the Thai fettuccine pasta with angus beef, oven-dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and curry sauce. Again, mild flavors and surprisingly light yet very satisfying.

For dessert, the resort’s pastry chef has concocted petite desserts that come in ornate shot glasses, including pumpkin cake, black forest cake and key lime pie.

We also learned that chef Luigi Fineo has just introduced a seasonal white truffle menu at Andrea Ristorante, which features white truffles personally presented tableside by chef Luigi, who we’re told selects each truffle from a family business. Last year, Andrea purchased more white truffles than any other restaurant in Southern California.

The white truffle dishes available at Andrea this month include Bucatini carbonara, soft-poached egg and prosciutto, and port-braised veal ossobuco, smoked mozzarella cheese polenta, Oregon mushroom, and veal jus.

For more information, visit

SOL Cocina

SOL Cocina recently won a Golden Foodie Award for Best Taco, and we heartily agree with that choice. Executive Chef Deborah Schneider’s menu of authentic coastal Mexican cuisine with a fresh modern interpretation is fun, creative and bursting with flavors.

Chef Schneider has introduced new fall items to both the lunch and dinner menus that use seasonal ingredients and warmer tropical fruits. This new menu includes beet & watermelon salad with salted Pepita brittle, chorizo & rajas taco, garlic-chile lamb chops with chimichurri sauce and roasted sweet potato, and “la guera” – a blonde brownie made with white chocolate and native pecans, served warm with ice cream.

“My menu revolves around the philosophy that the freshest ingredients ensure the best tasting, most flavorful dishes, so I like to change things up seasonally,” said Chef Deb, whose menu also boasts more than 20 fresh salsas made daily. “SOL’s menu stays true to the simple and fresh Baja style of cooking, while playing up some of its most exciting flavors.”

Catherine is looking forward to trying the seasonal guacamole with fresh pineapple, minced serrano chiles, onions, cilantro, and warm, crisp bacon, while Christopher has his palate set on the chorizo and rajas tacos with melted queso fresco, spicy chorizo and strips of roasted poblano chiles, then topped with raw tomatillo salsa, diced onions & cilantro, and cotixa cheese.

For more information and full menus, visit


Written by Visit Newport Beach

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