Slip Away To Newport Beach For a Weekend Getaway

Lunches at local restaurants Sage and Newport Landing with a wonderful overnight stay at the Balboa Bay Club...can you say ahhh?

Published : Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 9:56 AM

The good news this summer is that you don’t have to own a 60-meter ocean-going luxury super-yacht to put into port at the BBC (The Balboa Bay Club, as old-timers used to call it) because now under its new management the doors have been thrown open and even landlubbers can stroll inside the posh interior to have wonderful service and a wonderful weekend whether your yacht is docked outside or not.

The tony bayside club and resort founded in 1948 as a private beach club has been transformed into a 160-room resort hotel, incorporating its renowned 130-slip marina right along Newport Beach harbor. With its First Cabin Restaurant and the infamous Duke’s Place bar, the club is a very relaxing, luxurious spot to watch the sun sink down over the bay as you sip your martinis and Old Fashioneds.

You’re less likely to see Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carey the way the club used to sport so many celebrities, but still the level of service, attention to detail and food are fabulous. I spent a leisurely Sunday there and decided to make it a get-away with lunch beforehand at a local spot, Sage Restaurant, and lunch on the way home at Newport Landing.

Sage Chef/owner Rich Mead

Sage Restaurant was the perfect pitstop, just miles from the BBC. Call it New American Cookery or call it California Cuisine, but this homey spot will truly tantalize your tongue and treat your tummy to a true treasure of taste.

Sage is a neighborhood eatery located inside the East Bluff Shopping Center in Newport Beach. Chef/owner Rich Mead and his staff combine texture, color, and farm-fresh flavor, directly from local growers whenever possible, to produce a unique restaurant.

“We’ve been here 15 years,” says Chef Mead. “We’ve been using a lot of local farms. It’s kind of rustic California food.”

So what can you expect at Sage restaurant? Get ready and we’ll give you a small taste of the menu at our recent visit.

Fresh fruit plate

We started off with a plate of fresh fruit. The chef is virtually on a first name basis with every supplier he deals with and, as mention before, he buys locally. We also got a basket full of bread, scones, mini-muffins, pieces of coffee cake – all baked in-house. We also savored a delicious Mimosa; a very refreshing beverage on a Sunday afternoon.

Next, we delighted in Blue Crab Spring Rolls with green papaya salad and spicy Dijon dipping sauce. The rolls are definitely full of tasty crab, not skimpy. The Dijon is very spicy, definitely fiery. We also enjoy a Chopped Grilled Vegetable Salad: chopped mixed lettuce, balsamic grilled vegetables, feta cheese, and avocado with red wine Dijon vinaigrette.

This salad was absolutely, bar none, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It was scrumptious. Not cold, slightly warm, like the vegetables just off the grill, with a grilled, smoky taste, along with salty feta cheese. With more vegetables than lettuce, it was like eating a medley of beautiful summer vegetables. Oh, yeah, and there’s some grilled fresh sweet corn in there, too. How many ways can you say “delicious”?

Chopped Grilled Vegetable Salad

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, they delivered a plate of Salmon Hash and Eggs: salmon, melted leeks and mushrooms, crispy potato hash browns, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. Wow! The very thin hash brown was covered with melted leeks, almost caramelized. The mushrooms are not-your-average-every-day mushrooms; very savory. Squares of salmon, nicely sautéed, were topped with Hollandaise, and finished off with a white Chardonnay. Life can be very good.

The last item on the menu was Abraham’s Three-Meat Chili Omelet: cheddar cheese, red onions, crème fraiche, and home-fried potatoes. It’s a very cheesy omelet topped with a mild meaty chili. Not your traditional fried potatoes, are included, smashed potatoes, onions and green peppers, fried, turned over and crusted on the other side.

“I love food and I love to cook and how it connects people,” said Chef Mead. “For me, it’s a very creative thing and it’s fun. People come in here to be comfortable and, in the end, it’s the food and the ambiance.”

Sage is located at 2531 Eastbluff Drive in Newport Beach. For more information, call (949) 718-9650 or visit their website at www.sagerestaurant.com.

Deluxe Bay View Room, photo: BBC

After lunch and a very short drive, we arrived at the BBC. Our room was on the top floor (third) of the hotel and sported majestic views of the bay. Large windows opened onto a private balcony, beckoning us with a birds-eye view of the placid bay, bright blue sky and unending parade of boats. Big boats, little boats, motor and sailboats glided by while gentle breezes kissed us with refreshing coolness.

A walk about the property revealed a cute little beach for kids and families with a dock ending in a slide. We sat and watched while the kids slid down the slide into the cool bay and ran back down the dock to slide again. Then it was off to Duke’s Place to wet our whistle and admire pictures of the Duke himself, John Wayne.

That evening we had reservations in the Club’s fine dining restaurant, The First Cabin. A bit like boarding a ship, The First Cabin is situated right on the water with an enclosed dining room for more formal dining and a patio for informal. Either way you get a great view of the bay and the setting sun.

Patio of the First Cabin Restaurant, photo: BBC

We started our meal with Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail for the gentleman and the Classic BBC Maine Lobster Bisque for the lady. The shrimp were large, flavorful and came with a classic red cocktail sauce with just a bit of horseradish for a nice kick and a sweet Louis sauce. The Lobster Bisque was a creamy soup full of lobster flavor and believe it or not lobster! I’m so glad I put aside my prejudice against this overdone and often badly done dish. This is one Lobster Bisque worthy of the name.

Since we were eating by the water, I selected Seared Chilean Sea Bass as my entrée. It was done simply in a hot skillet with a light caramelized outside and was tender and mild inside. The sea bass was served with a Shiitake Mushroom Quinoa that was super and sundried tomato tapenade. Everything was delicious.

My companion chose his favorite entrée, Rack of Lamb. He usually smoothers the lamb in mint jelly, honestly I think that’s what he orders lamb for, but with this lamb he pushed the jelly aside. The lamb had an herb crust that he proclaimed “delicious” and he didn’t want to ruin it with crass mint jelly.

With our meal we both ordered a carafe of wine. It’s not what you’re thinking. This carafe held about two glasses of wine and was priced just slightly higher than a single glass. I don’t know about you but it seems as if one glass is just never enough. I really liked this idea; that way I could have my delicate Rose and my companion his big Cabernet.

Rack-of-Lamb, photo: BBC

For dessert I indulged in the Baked Brioche Bread Pudding which was served “a la Mode” with a Crème Anglaise. Wow, I got rich ice cream and luscious custard, I didn’t have to choose. My companion had the Crème Brulee and except for the rather thick Brulee which made it hard to eat, the crème was a dream.

The First Cabin is open for breakfast lunch and dinner seven days a week. Its Chef Josef Lageder uses only the season’s freshest ingredients for the menu, and the taste is the proof. Chef let us know that with the new ownership the menu might change but the spirit of the restaurant will remain the same.

One thing you will notice at the BBC is the attitude of the employees. We were told by our waiter that most of the employees have worked at the BBC for 30 years or more and that they love their jobs. It shows, in their attitude, attention to detail and the smiles that greet you as you walk through the hotel. You can fake the smiles but you can’t fake the vibes. The vibes we got were of happy employees who took pride in their work.

After a delicious dinner and walk around the grounds we were ready to enjoy our king-sized bed as the lights of the docked yachts sparkled off our balcony in the balmy breeze. It was a short but satisfying visit. An easy drive of around an hour (just don’t go in rush hour) and you too can enjoy the clubby atmosphere of the BBC.

The Balboa Bay Club is located at 1221 Coast Highway, Newport Beach. For more information or reservations call (888) 845-2282 or visit their website at www.balboabayclub.com.

The Big Kahuna and Shrimp and Crab Louie Salad

On our way back to Pasadena we journeyed to the other side of the bay to indulge in some fresh seafood at a favorite local restaurant, Newport Landing. Located right on the boardwalk it has great views of the bay and the ferry.

“On a clear day you can see to the Saddleback Mountains, Fashion Island, and the Lido,” said John Bullard General Manager of the restaurant.

Clear, cloudy or hazy, the view from the patio in the Oyster Bar was spectacular.

“We’re known for its oysters and fresh seafood,” remarked Bullard. “Depending on the season we have fresh halibut, trout, crab legs and opakapaka.”

Bullard started us off with a signature drink the Big Kahuna. Served in a schooner, the Big Kahuna is a blended monster of tequila, rum, brandy, orange liquor, triple sec and four fruit juices. Although Bullard claims it’s for two people I think four could share it easily. It tastes a bit like a Mai Tai and packs a whallop.

Grilled Swordfish

Fresh greens were topped with king crab legs and large shrimp in the restaurant’s Shrimp and Crab Louie. Served traditionally with hard cooked eggs, tomatoes and avocado it was a delicious, refreshing salad.

We also tasted a wonderful piece of grilled swordfish topped with a sweet tropical fruit salsa. Meaty and tender the swordfish was simply prepared and served with a side of rice and vegetables. Yummy!

We asked Bullard why Pasadenans should make the trip. “The view, the food and we are so local, we are the place to be,” he said. “Everyone comes here to get rid of their problems and not to have a problem that’s why its staff is so genuinely nice. We have the best staff around,” he continued.

Newport Landing is located at 503 E. Edgewater, Newport Beach. They are open 364 days a year (closed Christmas) for breakfast, brunch, lunch and happy hour. For reservations or more information call (949) 675-2373 or visit their website at www.newport-landing.com.

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