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Watermarc – A Lunch Outing

September 18, 2015

A couple of years ago, my husband and I made plans to take a trip down to a luxury hotel in Southern Orange County to celebrate his birthday.  We’d normally never do anything so crazy since we leave only about a 30-minute drive from the hotel, but it was a special occasion and my husband got an amazing deal for a hotel that’s usually way beyond any price range I’d ever agree to pay for.  We had such a great time on that trip that we’ve talked for a while about going back again.  A week or so before a long weekend we had coming up, my husband came to me with the idea of doing another one night stay at this particular hotel.  We had enough “points” that we could stay a night for free so that alleviated my concern about the ultra-expensive hotel.  How can you argue with free?

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I suggested to my husband that we stop by Watermarc on our way down to the hotel since I know it’s a restaurant we both like.  We had eaten at Watermarc in Laguna Beach once before for dinner before going to the Pageant of the Masters, and I knew that Watermarc was on the way to the hotel, in fact, just a few miles north of the hotel, so I thought this would be perfect.  A beautiful late spring day dining at a restaurant where you could see the ocean, what could be more perfect.  When we arrived at Watermarc, they even sat us at the table next to the big window looking out towards the ocean.  It was gorgeous, the restaurant, the setting and the atmosphere.

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What’s the classic summertime drink?  Lemonade of course.  Tart and tangy and just a hint of sweetness, a perfect, refreshing lemonade on a nice early summer day with the ocean breezes from the Pacific coming through the open window we were seated at.  Just lovely.

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To start, my husband wanted to order the fried goat cheese appetizer.  I’m not huge on goat cheese, but these were supposed to be small bites, and I figured if I didn’t like it, my husband could finish it off.  Served in ceramic soup spoons atop a bed of finely minced apples with honey, the little rounds of fried goat cheese are a perfect one- or two-bite appetizer.  The apples and honey created a terrific sweet balance to the tang of the goat cheese.  The crunch of frying the goat cheese balls lightly added crunch to the crispness of the apples.  I see why apples pair so well with goat cheese.  While this wasn’t the best appetizer I’ve ever had, I didn’t dislike it as much as I thought I would.  It actually wasn’t too bad, which in this case is quite a compliment.

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My choice for a starter was sizzling garlic shrimp.  Served in a small, piping hot, well sizzling really, skillet was shrimp with sweet onion, fennel and citrus.  To me, this was absolutely delicious.  All the different elements in the skillet complimented the other.  The tartness of the citrus which was orange and grapefruit slices.  The bite of the licorice-flavored fennel.  The sweetness of the sautéed sweet onions.  And of course the tender, juicy sweetness of the shrimp.  Sautee the whole thing together and it was sweet and tangy and a little tart and absolutely perfect and delicious for a starter.  As a larger size, it would have been an amazing entrée as well.  Just a terrific flavor combination.

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For lunch, my husband opted to order the braised bacon burger topped with Gruyere cheese and served with shoestring fries.  the burger itself came with braised bacon, or pork belly, really, a grilled pineapple slice and fig jam atop a melted-gruyere beef burger on a Brioche bun.  The bacon was phenomenal.  Most times, I see pork belly this rich and thick either roasted or grilled, but this technique of braising it was different, and I really liked it.  It wasn’t all fat, but a good chunk of meat as well, and because it was braised it was juicy, and flavorful and tender.  Overall, my husband enjoyed his burger.  The bun was really good and stayed together so that you could enjoy the whole burger without everything falling apart, as can happen sometimes when burgers are loaded with a bunch of ingredients.  The flavors of the burger were also really good.  The fig jam complimented the nutty cheese, and paired well with the sweetness of the grilled pineapple and the tender bacon.  Just a delicious burger.

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I chose to go with the short rib hoagie sandwich served with a side caesar salad for lunch.  The caesar salad was terrific, with nice large chunks of shaved parmesan.  But no one cares about the salad.  The sandwich was delicious, if not huge, for lunch.  Stuffed in a hoagie role with shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado, aioli and of course, shot rib meat, I could barely finish the whole thing.  I thought that the roll was fantastic.  It was crusty and crunchy on the outside, but yet still soft on the inside.  The aioli was really flavorful and brought the whole sandwich together by bringing in the flavors of the meat and the avocado and other vegetables.  The star of the sandwich was the short rib.  There was so much meat, and it was flavorful and incredibly tender.  A little added bonus in the sandwich was a few onion rings which added flavor, and crunch to the sandwich, which gave a great textural difference between the tender vegetables and meat and the crunchy onion rings and crunchy crust of the hoagie roll.  All in all, a terrific sandwich.

If not for the fact that we had plans for dessert, we surely would have ordered dessert at the Watermarc.  Our lunch meal this second time around at Watermarc was everything we were hoping it would be and much more.  It’s no wonder that this is such a popular restaurant in Laguna Beach.  It deserves all of the accolades it receives.  The food is always well prepared, well thought out, and incredibly flavorful.  It’s too bad that I don’t live closer to Watermarc, or we’d probably dine here much more often.  Great food, great atmosphere in a great setting.  What more could you ask for?  This is the beginning of a wonderful quick weekend getaway.

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