These have been a busy couple of weeks for me. Delightfully so! I have been lucky enough to enjoy overnight stays at four terrific properties, all of which should be on the list of anyone planning meetings in Southern California. My short forays included Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach, W Hollywood HotelIsland Hotel Newport Beach and The Resort at Pelican Beach.

You’ll be hearing more about these outstanding hotels in future issues of the magazine. For now, I just wanted to share a few of the extraordinary amenities I enjoyed at each.
 

  • The Poolside Bloody Mary Bar and the do-it-your-way Pancake Bar on the 15FiftyFive patio at Surf & Sand Resort was a wonderful way to begin a Sunday. Fortunately, there’s an experienced bartender to mix your cocktail if you make it, let’s say, a tad too spicy on your own. The hotel has a relaxed, though luxurious, beachside vibe that makes it a huge attraction for meeting groups as well as locals.
  • Chocolate "caviar" was a witty and tasty in-room amenity from the W’s "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" menu. A sweet interpretation of the traditional presentation of caviar, it included caviar beads made out of chocolate, pound cake triangles in place of toast points and whipped cream subbing for crème fraiche, along with a perfectly chilled bottle of Prosecco.
  • The tour of the pastry kitchen at Island Hotel included bites of just-baked macarons, lollipop cakes, mini cupcakes and the most delicious almond confection I’ve ever tasted. Along with several other meetings editors, I was presented with a personalized apron, which just might inspire me to try my own hand at baking.
     
  • I could easily rave about the strawberry soufflé with crème anglaise that Chef Derek Brooks prepared for us at the Pelican Grill or, later that day, the pleasures of enjoying pappardelle that’s housemade in the temperature-controlled pasta room at Pelican Hills’s Northern Italian restaurant Andrea. But I recognize that there’s more to life than food. So, I’ll mention instead that the Amber Gold Signature Massage that I enjoyed at the resort’s gorgeous spa (voted #1 spa in California by Conde Nast Traveler ) was an absolutely dreamy antidote to the minor fender bender I’d suffered while driving down to Newport Beach on the 405.

What wonderful places have you visited lately?

Shelley Levitt
Editor
California Meetings + Events

Green salad, chicken, two veggies and a starch—that might have been a reasonable meal to serve group attendees in the last century, but it won’t cut it in 2020. Today, guests expect that a growing range of dietary needs will be accommodated, whether they’re eating keto, vegan, paleo, gluten free or some combination of all four. And, in a time when tech employees enjoy gourmet in-house commissaries on the job, it takes some serious culinary pyrotechnics to impress them.

 

Lots of folks claim to be adventurous eaters, but are the epicureans in your group ready for … toasted grasshoppers? If they are, send them to Cultura Comidas y Bebida, a year-old Carmel restaurant specializing in light, inventive and almost-too-pretty-to-eat traditional Mexican dishes tweaked to appeal to a California palate. Chapulines, a common bar snack in Mexico City and the southern state of Oaxaca, from where they’re imported, are salty/spicy/crunchy and taste a lot better than they sound.

 

An acclaimed chef is cooking at a new indoor-outdoor spot.