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A Stunning Summer Setting in Laguna Beach

Written By: Marissa Wright

Photographed By: Josie Gonzales

Table & Flowers Styled By: Melinda Parker

I consider myself a girl of simple needs, but if I’m honest with myself, I am a bit spoiled. At any given moment of my usual weekly routine, I am a 15-minute drive to the beach, so I have the luxury of a love-hate relationship with sand. I love the idea of it, but I hate that it’s impossible to not get it everywhere. Driftwood Kitchen allows me to have a little bit of what I love most: good food and drinks and do it at the beach without finding sand in my car and house for the next month.

The interior of Driftwood Kitchen doesn’t try to compete with the natural beauty that’s all around. It feels more like an extension of the beach rather than a separation. The sunshine spills over everything, and the illumination is welcomed by soft, sandy tones and understated tableware. Windows surround the dining room and are almost like picture frames because it is nearly impossible to believe how perfect the beach looks. It’s as if life was photoshopped for your viewing pleasure. The view is pretty transcendent, even to a cynic like me, and coupled with the sounds of waves crashing below, I struggle to need much more.

The table itself is like a perfect day at the beach. The table linens are the color of ivory sand topped with wicker placemats arranged under rustic ceramic dinnerware in sea-foam green and off-white. Mason jars and simple stemware and silverware keep with the oceanic theme and almost blend into the wall of hydrangeas that remind me of waves crashing onto the table. The brightest pop of color is the wildflowers that sit on top of the striped napkins on each place setting. It is understated elegance at its best, and the food hasn’t even arrived yet.

The menu at Driftwood Kitchen reads like a foodie romance novel and features seafood as the headliner with local and seasonal produce as the backup singers. An impressive portion of Chilean sea bass appears in a large white bowl seared to a perfect golden with the tender white center. The bed of risotto is bright with the essence of lemon and is toothsome thanks to the farro. Joined with the eggplant and piquillo pepper salad and some bright green parsley sauce, the dish hits every button — sweet, bright and herbaceous, and tastes like summer by the beach.

An Interview With Melinda Parker, Conference Services Manager, Pacific Edge Hotel

Q: Have you been with Driftwood Kitchen since the beginning?

Melinda Parker: I actually work for the Pacific Edge Hotel as their conference services manager, so I coordinate the events here, The Deck and The Bungalows. It’s nice because we’re able to use the best of all worlds.

Q: What types of events do you host at Driftwood Kitchen?

MP: We do wine pairings and private events, but mostly, we have intimate weddings. They feel very private while still feeling like you’re part of the sea. If you have an open mind or some creative flair, you could create something really special with our customized decor packages, and they take care of everything — linens, flowers, decorations and candles.

Q: Where did the inspiration come from for the table design?

MP: I wanted to showcase some of our local and wild flowers with soft, beachy colors. And, of course, some driftwood! It’s not about competing with the natural beauty here; we like to celebrate it.

Q: Is buying locally important to Driftwood Kitchen?

MP: We love working and living here, so we want to support surrounding businesses as much as possible. We use local flower shops and vendors for all of our events when possible. The chef uses local ingredients for the menu as well.

Q: What can people expect from the food at their event?

MP: The menu changes seasonally so we can showcase fresh, California-grown produce, and the presentation is always beautiful. We can also customize the experience with tray passed hors d’oeuvres or live appetizers being prepared before guests.

Al Fresco Fare:
Summertime means open-air dining with Driftwood Kitchen’s removable roof. The dining room has been updated so that all of the side windows open now as well to capture ocean breezes. You’ll feel like you’re eating on the beach without the sand in your food.

Native Knowledge: Their Stateroom Bar has a late-night food menu that boasts stuffed squash blossoms, grilled artichoke, butcher steak and pork belly just to name a few, and serves until 11 p.m. They feature a late-night happy hour from 9 p.m. to closing Monday through Thursday with some great drink specials and $3 off the late-night appetizers.

Featured Menu Item:
Chilean Sea Bass served with lemon farro risotto, eggplant and piquillo salad, and parsley sauce

Featured Cocktail Menu:
Homage to the Fallen Restaurant Icons of Laguna Beach
Dark and Stormy Seas: Kraken Rum, ginger beer and lime sour (The Beach House 1968-2013)
High Tide: Dikel 8 rye, fresh pineapple, ginger, lemon sour and mint (The Royal Hawaiian 1947-2012)
Black and Blue: Blackberries, blueberries, Cointreau Noir and sparkling wine (French 75 1997-2010)
Knob Cobbler: Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, blackberries, lemon sour and coconut water (Boom Boom Room 1920s-2010)

Driftwood Kitchen
619 Sleepy Hollow Ln
Laguna Beach, CA 92651