CULINARY EXPLORATION | Javier’s Cantina & Grill in Crystal Cove – A Culinary Exploration to Mexico by Melissa Sherman Pearl
So there we were, relaxing on the main patio with margaritas in hand and ocean breezes ruffling our hair. The warm crunchy tortilla chips partnering with fresh guacamole and roasted salsa lent themselves perfectly to Kat and me chatting it up like a couple of college chicks whose IDs were no longer a lie. But how would we make it to pick up our kids by 3 if we’re all the way in Mexico? Oh, that’s right, we’re simply enjoying an afternoon lunch at Javier’s in Crystal Cove, Newport Coast. Pomegranate Margarita for me, Tamarind Margarita for Kat (really, only one for each of us – it was lunch time, ya know), and so the fresh, fanciful feast began. We started with a halibut and octopus ceviche, so light and flavorful, citrusy and dusted with finely cut cucumber, onions, cilantro. Yum. As for main dishes, Kat can afford the calories so she ordered Carne Tampiquena – a combination of grilled aged USDA Prime center cut 6 oz. New York steak topped with strips of chiles and onions and served with a mole chicken enchilada, taquito, refritos and more of that amazing guacamole. I, on the other hand, special ordered the fish of the day prepared on the lighter side – halibut with a Veracruz sauce of tomatoes, capers, and green olives served with tender (not gushy, simply firm yet tender) grilled vegetables. I have to say, they are really good about adhering to dietary requests and believe that light doesn’t have to be boring. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t take a couple nibbles off of Kathy’s plate. Phenomenal.
The lunch crowd was composed of a fine mix of business folk, families who know their little ones will always eat rice and beans, and people like us, in search of a brief retreat. Perhaps best known for its weekend scenery (very few spots rival it for nighttime people watching, WOW), Sunday throughThursday you’ll find a more familial atmosphere. The two year-old Javier’s fuses the warmth and friendliness of the original with a Dodd Mitchell designed space large enough to allow for a major kitchen expansion (and therefore added volume and sophistication to menu and wine list) and a plethora of intimate spaces for dining and socializing. But it’s the heart and soul of what made Javier’s work in Laguna that makes it thrive in its Newport Coast locale. A love for the droves of regulars, a commitment (or shall we call it an obsession) to procuring the best, freshest ingredients and making sure that they take advantage of all seasonal offerings, and the desire to be creative with the menu. Sure, sometimes you’ve gotta wait (especially if you’ve forgotten to make an evening reservation), but that’s all right. Take in the atmosphere and enjoy. To be true to our love of travel, however, next time we should perhaps hit up their Cabo Azul resort. Now that’s a destination. Photography by Aidin Mariscal Foster
Introducing HACIENDA SAN GABRIEL de LAS PALMAS HOTEL
MUSEUM RESORT AND SPA
This property is truly magnificent! Upon entrance to what was once the property that produced the largest amount of sugar in all the Americas, guests are instantly taken to a bygone era of colonial times and Mexican hacienda life. Surrounded by lush green gardens in a tropical setting, this authentic 16th century hacienda turned hotel that was built by order of Hernan Cortes is just 30 minutes from Cuernavaca and approximately 1.5 hours from Mexico City. Renovated by a famed Mexican set designer, the grand interior spaces are filled with antiques, original artwork and contemporary amenities. Each accommodation is different but all have their charm and alluring quality such as private dipping pools and terraces, extra large bathrooms, stately living rooms, or large four-poster beds. Room Abuelita is an excellent option for families as it sleeps up to four persons. The verdant grounds include stables for horseback riding (scenic guided horseback riding excursions are available), two outdoor pools, a holistic indoor/outdoor spa, gardens, two restaurants, tennis and paddle courts and multitudes of enchanting spaces to host private dinners or events. The location of this hotel is great for day trips to Taxco, river rafting on Amacuzac, the grand archeological pyramid site of Xochicalco, and of course to Cuernavaca; a city with many museums, shops and excellent dining.
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