Friday, June 29, 2012

Dancing On Tables Along the Newport Beach Boardwalk

Monday night in Newport Beach – it was quiet at 10:30 PM. We had just finished a fantastic meal at the Cannery and went into Cabo Cantina for a nightcap. There might have been six people in the place including us. Jimmy Buffet was playing on the music system. Suddenly, eight Canadians walked in and ordered a round of shots, “red headed sluts” to be exact (that’s Jagermeister, cranberry juice and peach schnapps). Taken in by the moment, a long, lean and attractive (mid 20’s) member of the Canadian party offered to dance on our high top table for four and proceeded to climb aboard – surprisingly agile despite her four inch heels. Her performance was short lived as the bartender scooped her up and carried her out the door. He let her come back when she promised to stay off the tables.
The Beautiful Balboa Inn - nice location

Why do they have empty planters everywhere?
Newport Beach is well known for partying, but until we visited and saw the action first hand, true understanding had not been achieved. With no pre-visit scouting, we pulled into town on Sunday night at 7 PM. Sunday is “fun day” we were told, and the party goers were out in mass celebrating the end of another wild weekend.

The Balboa Inn, featuring a recently remodeled wing facing the ocean (with a huge parking lot in between) is just steps from the Balboa Pier. The beach side boardwalk runs between the old and new sides of the Balboa Inn – so you could say the hotel is in the middle of the action. Balboa Inn is not a budget hotel and it could be a fantastic place to stay, if not for an obvious lack of attention to detail. The lobby is dark and aged. Our primo room, right out of the brochure, was inundated with sand flies. “Yep" said the hotel attendant. “That seems to be a problem here.” At the same time – the design of the new wing is very cool – a Euro feeling, with walkways and multiple levels. There are countless flower pots built at key spots along the walls – but they are totally empty. Very strange. Amid the beautiful design of the new wing – right next to the best rooms - there sits an open AC unit that looks like a homemade, old time booze making device (a distillery) – complete with a smokestack. It would have been easy to cover up.

The first of two half bottles we enjoyed
Newport Beach is a great place to simply cruise around and enjoy the beachfront. Great for walking and a great town for riding beach cruiser bikes to the many Taco Tuesday offerings. We took the ferry (a five minute ride) over to Balboa Island, but after visiting the main drag, we walked over the bridge to the Bayside Restaurant for a memorable lunch on the patio. The Summer Garden Salad (we added chicken) was a superb blend of nectarines, grapes, blue cheese, onions, pistachios in a light balsamic. Along with Tuna Tartare (avocado was a nice touch), a fresh sea breeze and a half bottle of Domaine Carneros 2009 Pinot Noir – it was the perfect lunch. Actually, it turned out to be two half bottles, which can happen in such a relaxed setting.

Cannery - Great for lunch or dinner
As I mentioned earlier, the Cannery on LaFayette Road in Newport Beach is a terrific setting – lots of open air dining and fresh fish. Sushi rolls were delicious – as were the scallops and sea bass – nice citrus glaze. The nearby Bluewater Grill was impressive, a bit more rustic than Cannery, but a nice spot for fresh fish. The Eureka Sandabs, local red snapper and wild salmon – all were expertly prepared. The Pickering Pearl Petit Oysters were sweet and fresh.

We managed to find a fine nice dinner on Sunday night at il Farro Restaurant. Finding a very good meal after 9 pm on Sunday night is harder than you think. By 9 PM, many of the cool little restaurants have morphed into bars – loud and full of revelers. Sunday is after all, “fun day.”

Il Farro, near the Newport Pier, is almost hokey looking from a d├ęcor standpoint, but the food is excellent and as noted, they serve late. Farro pasta is organically grown, a non-hybrid form of wheat – healthy and flavorful. All of the pasta selections look great, but we enjoyed the Farilli Andalusa – spiral pasta with chicken, onions, peppers and a fresh tomato basil sauce. They serve a nice Gelato too.

We played golf with a Newport Beach local – a retired secret service agent – a man who looks like he knows how to eat. His absolute favorite in Newport Beach: Sabatino’s Lido Shipyard Sausage Company. This place is near Cannery and Bluewater – it gives us a very compelling reason to return, along with Cougar and Ferrari watching at Javier’s on the Newport Coast. That is another side of Newport Beach for another day.

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