Your Holiday Guide

Looking for holiday events and dining options? Thinking of shopping local, or need help choosing a champagne? We’ve got your back this holiday season.

Bright and Beautiful

The annual boutique at Roger’s Gardens is not to be missed.

What do you get when you combine a winter wonderland with Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? The Christmas Boutique at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. Every year, the lavish holiday event lets guests pick scrumptious ornaments and other festive treats right off the trees. No golden ticket needed.

“As you walk into our boutique, you get a sense of tradition and togetherness,” says Nava Rezvan, director of marketing and public relations. “I think that’s what brings a lot of people back here throughout the years—all the memories they have of prior family visits. They love to bring their children and immerse themselves in the spirit of Christmas.” 

The annual boutique offers holiday shoppers unique decor procured from artisans around the world. Storyboards describing the items and their makers are peppered throughout the space. “When you’re shopping for ornaments or tabletop items, there’s a story that goes right next to it for our guests to read,” Rezvan says. “It makes them fall in love with their selections even more.”

Photograph Courtesy of Roger’s Gardens

This year’s theme is Bright and Beautiful. Shoppers can expect to see 17 decorated trees plus wreaths and greens grouped by color themes and dressed in a thousand styles of handmade items. For those who want something a little more on-trend, the venue offers modern motifs as well as traditional holiday decor. “We have a wide assortment of different items in stock,” Rezvan says. “That makes it really fun to shop and to see the displays.”

 Food, drink, and respite are found at Farmhouse restaurant, known for its farm-to-table cuisine. The eatery also has a Disney connection: In the mid-1970s, Roger’s Gardens acquired Disneyland’s original Magnolia Park Bandstand and used it for Christmas shows, Santa visits, and more. Now it serves as a special place to dine within the restaurant. 

Rezvan says it’s all about the senses: “We’ve got sights, sounds … the scent of fir trees in the air. We’ve got music with Lil’ Dickens Carolers strolling around the store. It’s just a very sensory, magical experience.”

Other Outdoor O.C. Holiday Events

Nights of 1000 Lights

  • Sherman Library & Gardens
  • 2647 E. Coast Highway
  • Corona del Mar
  • thesherman.org
  • 949-673-2261

Holidayz at the Park

Photograph Courtesy of Casa Romantica Cultural Center

Casa Lumina Holiday Walk

  • Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens
  • 415 Avenida Granada
  • San Clemente
  • casaromantica.org
  • 949-498-2139

 


Shop Local

Gifts unique to O.C.

Photographs by Emily J. Davis
  1. Lumberjack thermal hat
    $89, Melin, Laguna Beach, 949-549-4634 
  2. Custom Vans Roller Skates at Surf City Skates
    Starting at $399, Surf City Skates, Huntington Beach, 714-655-2266 
  3. Coutellerie Goyon-Chazeau knife set
    $500, Moulin Boutique, Newport Beach, 949-418-7633
  4. Lauren’s robe and slipper set
    $119, Business & Pleasure Co., Laguna Beach, 949-324-2939 
  5. Blueberry and Stonefruit jams and Walnut Honey
    $12 to $14, The Ecology Center, San Juan Capistrano, 949-443-4223 
  6. Christmas city music box
    $90, Odin Parker, Rancho Mission Viejo

Holiday Dining

Celebrate the season at these Orange County restaurants. The best part? No cleanup!

Photograph Courtesy of Harvest at the Ranch

Harvest at the Ranch

Laguna Beach
Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Holiday dining includes a la carte seasonal dishes. For New Year’s Eve, the menu will include caviar, fresh local lobster, homemade truffle pasta, and a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight. 

Bonus: Harvest is also offering Pancakes with Santa on Dec. 18. Enjoy a sweet and savory breakfast menu, arts and crafts activities, ornament decorating, and pictures with Santa. $60 for adults, $25 for children 

Balboa Bay Resort

Newport Beach
Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day buffet brunches are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. $145 for adults and $75 for children. On New Year’s Eve, guests can partake of a four-course dinner with wine pairings for $325 per person. Afterward, there’s a Studio 54-themed party ($195).

Las Brisas

Laguna Beach
Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Enjoy a coursed dinner on either holiday at Las Brisas. 

The Mayor’s Table

Newport Beach
Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Chef Riley Huddleston has composed a four-course menu with wine pairings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. $110 per person plus $60 for wine pairing, $55 for children. On New Year’s Eve, there will also be a four-course meal. The 5 p.m. seating is $110 per person, $55 for wine pairing. The 8 p.m. seating is $125 per person, $60 for wine pairing. 

Topside

Newport Beach
New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Guests can enjoy cocktails, music from a DJ, and a midnight brunch buffet. $75 for general admission (includes one beverage) and VIP tables starting at $600.

Cafe Sevilla

Costa Mesa
Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Three-course dinners: $65 per person on Christmas Eve and Day; $85 per person on New Year’s Eve

RAYA

Laguna Niguel
Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Raya will offer dinners with festive selections that fit each holiday. 

Bayside Restaurant

Newport Beach
Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Bayside will have live music, a prix fixe menu, and a la carte items.
Bonus: With free valet and self-parking, join Bayside before the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. 

Photograph Courtesy of Bistango

Bistango

Irvine
Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve
Good to Know: Both holidays will have prix fixe menus, a la carte items, and live music.

Selanne Steak Tavern

Laguna Beach
Christmas Eve
Good to Know: The restaurant will have special hours on Christmas Eve: 4 to 8 p.m. The traditional menu will be available as well as holiday specials such as prime rib and holiday eggnog—homemade eggnog, rum, and bourbon. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

Dana Point
Christmas Day
Good to Know: A Christmas buffet features prime rib and tandoori lamb, a caviar and raw bar, sushi station, and more. $250 per adult, $125 per child ages 3 to 9


Cheers to Champagne

Todd Johnston, the Champagne and sparkling wine buyer at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, offers insight on a variety of bubbles.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Crowd-pleasers …

“We call those Goldilocks Champagnes. There’s blanc de blanc versus blanc de noir, and a lot of them are the blends of the two. The Roederer Brut Collection 242 is their newest multivintage blend, and it’s their 242nd vintage. Another one I really like is the Bruno Paillard (Brut Premiére). The price point for both is around $50.”

Unique flavor profiles …

“We’re starting to see some Champagnes aged in unorthodox barrels. I do have one that’s aged in Sauternes barrels, a wine from Bordeaux. So you get all these tropical fruit things going on that you normally wouldn’t get. Even texturally, it is really rich—it’s dark in color, and that’s pretty unique. That is the André Clouet 1911, which a couple of years ago was my top wine of the year.”

Aging …

“There is kind of a misconception that Champagne does not age well. It actually ages very, very well, because of the high acidity. Dom P2 is a plenitude, and it’s a cycle of I think 12 years. And they age it with the lees (leftover yeast particles) in the bottle. The longer it ages, the more the yeast breaks down inside the Champagne and starts adding flavor. You get some of those older profiles and they’re nutty and they’re dark in color and really full-bodied.”

Hard to find … 

“There’s a legendary bottle of wine made by Krug: Les Mesnil. And I can get it, but not very many people buy it. If I get it in, I move it right away.”

What to serve with Champagne …

“Fried chicken and Champagne is definitely a thing. I just read Dave Grohl’s book, and that’s a (Foo Fighters) tradition either after or before concerts to have Champagne and fried chicken. For me, I’m a really big fan of goat cheese. Mushrooms are very good with Champagne. And just about anything with puff pastry. Potato chips! Just plain potato chips. That’s kind of a thing, too.”

10 Unique Champagnes

  1. Diebolt-Vallois Brut Rosé
  2. Michel Turgy Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Grand Cru
  3. Jean Vesselle Brut Oeil de Perdrix
  4. Louis Roederer Vintage 2014 Brut La Montagne
  5. Drappier Quattuor
  6. Pascal Doquet 2008 XBT Coeur de Terroir Premier Cru
  7. Doyard 2008 Extra Brut Les Lumiéres Grand Cru
  8. Laurent-Perrier 2012 Brut Millésimé
  9. Pol Roger 2015 Brut Millésimé
  10. Vilmart & Cie 2016 Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru

Catering Pet Peeves

Local caterers share what irks them during their busiest time of year. 

Photograph Courtesy of Sapphire Catering

“(When people don’t) have a budget. It’s very frustrating for a chef or owner when we spend four hours on a proposal, hand it to someone, and they say it’s too expensive. So it’s best to make sure you have all your bullet points … because those people take the time to work on your event.”
Louis Manginelli, chef-owner of Saltwater Catering

“A time-consuming but necessary step is triple-checking every detail. Timing is everything, so making sure the food and plate temperatures are exactly where they need to be when being served is also important.”
Azmin Ghahreman, chef and CEO of Sapphire Catering

“You’re always going to have customers with different taste buds, but you just have to make sure you accommodate them at the end of the day, even when they tell you something’s not right. That’s how the kitchen is. You have a lot of critics. It’s part of the job, and part of the excitement. That’s how I see it.”
Leo Najera, executive chef at Canyon Catering

Photograph Courtesy of Gold Coast Catering

“When we’re super busy with a lot of food going out during a large party, and there are guests in the kitchen surrounding us while we’re trying to work. It’s best to have the caterer in the garage where they can’t be seen, and it’s not as messy in the kitchen. That way, your guests feel free to move around.”
Shahen Mouradyan, executive chef and founder of Gold Coast Catering

“There seems to be an uptick of dietary restrictions for guests. Clients will have a menu and then a couple days before the event, they get information from some of their guests that they have dietary restrictions. We want to make sure we can accommodate and that everyone gets a good meal.”
Brandon Harris, director of food and beverage at Jay’s Catering 

“Truly last-minute changes. We like to ask our clients to have everything ready by a week before. We understand life happens, but to call us an hour before the event … it happens almost every weekend.”
Rico Revilla, co-owner of Soho Taco


No So Silent Night

T.J. Dawson, cofounder and director of Anaheim-based WestBeat, provides caroling entertainment for every kind of venue, from private house parties to the Disneyland Resort.

Photograph Courtesy of WestBeat

Tell us about your caroling group.

We actually have two holiday groups under the umbrella of WestBeat. Holiday Harmony is a six-piece group with a lot of variety in our repertoire. We do traditional, pop, jazz, gospel, rock, Pentatonix covers, Mariah Carey. And we have the largest costume collection so that we can cater to any event—’50s glam cocktail attire, ugly sweaters, even custom things like dressing up like Whoville characters. On the other hand, Elite Holiday Entertainment is a traditional holiday quartet with just a little sprinkling of contemporary music.

Who have you performed for?

We perform all over Orange County and beyond—Disneyland hotels, Downtown Disney, special events inside the parks. Also South Coast Plaza, Dana Point’s Holidays at the Harbor, Pelican Hill, as well as corporate parties for local companies such as Taco Bell and Voluspa, and, of course, private parties in homes.

Do you have a favorite carol?

That’s tough because between our two groups, and if you include medleys, we have about 90 songs in our repertoire. If I had to choose, we do one called “This Is My Wish” and it’s mixed with “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” which really makes me feel like we’re carrying forward a positive spirit into the new year. But really my favorite thing is what our expansive repertoire allows us to do, which is connect with the people listening. If we’re at a party and we see a little girl in an Elsa dress, we can just start singing “Let It Go” and watch her eyes light up. Sometimes people request something like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and they start weeping. And then we’re crying too because you don’t know, maybe they’ve recently lost someone. Music just has that ability to … touch someone in the heart.

How about your least-favorite song?

(Laugh) I absolutely hate singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” The tenor part is really boring. If I have to sing that song one more time … but I understand it’s a necessary evil because it’s one of the classics, and it is a fantastic song. When introducing that song, I say, “Here’s a lesser-known song, you’ve probably never heard it before,” and then we go into that, and people always laugh. On the outside I’m smiling, but on the inside I’m definitely dying a little bit.