Sunset is a sacred time in Laguna-land, so it’s important that a gathering during this time slot lets guests pay their proper respects. A menu oriented around seafood and small bites strikes the right balance, leaving plenty of room for some fun cocktail stations (and of course, Mother Nature) to shine.
In keeping with Laguna’s casual, easy entertaining speed, we served bites that were easily assembled and complementary to a variety of beverages. Sapphire Pantry’s “Cave d’Affinage” (aka Fromage Heaven) has been inspiring and overstocking our cheese plates for years. Along with Laguna Beach’s own addictive Have’a Corn Chips and pico de gallo bursting with fresh flavor a La Sirena, you have the foolproof outline for a satisfying welcome.
Cheese Course a la Sapphire Pantry
- Kokos coconut cheese
- 1 jar of mango chutney
- 1 package of cheese crackers
Arrange crackers on a wooden cutting board. Add a teaspoon of mango chutney to each cracker, and then top each with a thin slice of coconut cheese.
Pico de Gallo a la La Sirena
- 5 plum tomatoes, diced
- 2 jalapeno peppers, deseeded and deveined, diced
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir together until well-combined. Pour into serving bowl to serve with chips as an appetizer or to add as a topping to other ingredients.
May We Suggest…
CHIPS, DIP, DONE.
SEAFOAM-TINGED CUTTING BOARDS
HAVE’A CORN CHIPS
KOKOS COCONUT CHEESE
PERFECT CHEESE CRACKERS
GATHER ‘ROUND | CALIFORNIA CUISINE
The idea behind this spread’s flavor-packed palate lineup was simple: conceptualize playful takes on our local restaurant favorites and invite them to the party. First up? The Crab Cooker, whose simple seafood classics and dense spicy mashed potato scoops are always a hit. We made a skewer-friendly version of the potatoes and served alongside simply grilled scallop and shrimp bites. Next, from Bear Flag Fish Co. to La Sirena, this neighborhood has their fish taco game mastered. We dreamt up mini versions and served them alongside a take on Zinc’s colorful southwest corn, bean and avocado salad.
Cajun-Spiced Potato Bites a la The Crab Cooker
- 2 ½ pounds potatoes (about 6 large potatoes), preferably a combination of russet (baking) potatoes and large Yukon Golds, or all Yukon Golds
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cajun spice
- 2 eggs, beaten with a splash of water
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
In a large pot, bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil over high heat. Peel and quarter potatoes and keep in cold water until ready to cook (this can be done up to 4 hours in advance). Add potatoes to boiling water and boil about 10 to 15 minutes, until soft; a knife should go in with slight resistance. You do not want to overcook the potatoes – they should remain somewhat dense so that you can later form them into balls.
In a saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of butter and milk together until butter melts and mixture steams. Drain potatoes well and return to pot. Using an extruding masher or a ricer, mash hot potatoes until smooth. Lightly mix in about half of hot butter mixture, just until blended. Add cajun spice and mix well. Taste for salt and add more butter mixture until seasoned to your liking. Let the mashed potatoes cool in the refrigerator.
Once potatoes have cooled, use a small ice cream scoop to portion out a small ball of potato. Using your palms, form into balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Line potato balls on a baking sheet until you’ve used all the mashed potato. Prepare a dredging station with the eggs and Panko bread crumbs. One by one, dip the potato balls into the egg wash and then roll them around the Panko bread crumbs until they are fully coated. Once all balls have been coated, let sit in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to set.
While the potatoes are setting, bring the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to medium heat. Remove the potato bites from the refrigerator and begin adding them to the pan in groups. Turn potato bites over until they are golden brown and crispy all around. Remove from pan onto a paper towel to cool slightly before serving.
Fish Taco Minis a la Bear Flag Fish Co. & La Sirena
- 2 pounds halibut, snapper, or other firm-flesh white fish
- 8 white corn tortillas
- Canola oil (for frying)
- Lime wedges (for garnish)
For the panko crust:
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 3 eggs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
First, fry the fish: Fill a large heavy bottomed pot about 1/3 full of canola oil. Heat to 375 degrees F. While the oil is heating, put the breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Break the eggs into another shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, and beat them with 2 tablespoons of water. Cut the fish into 1-inch wide strips. Dip them into the egg, then coat them well with the breadcrumbs. Set aside and let them rest for 10 minutes. Cook the fish a few pieces at a time until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
While the fish is cooling, heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut tortillas into smaller tortilla rounds. Once you have used all the tortillas and have only mini tortilla rounds, add them to the skillet and cook until warmed through and slightly crispy on one side.
Add a small serving of fish on top of each tortilla and serve. Guests can top them with Pico de Gallo or Southwest Corn, Bean and Avocado Salad (recipe below).
Southwest Corn, Bean & Avocado Salad
For the veggies:
- 1 3/4 cup fresh sweet corn
- 40 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (use the stems too!)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 limes, juiced (or 2 lemons)
- 1-2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Prep all the veggie ingredients and add them to a large serving bowl. Toss well to combine. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the veggies. Toss gently to coat evenly and let rest about 10 minutes.
May We Suggest…
ROUGH-EDGED SERVING BOARDS
SALT-FLAVORED CEDAR PLANKS
SLIDING SKEWERS FOR EASY GRILLING
OUTDOOR-READY SCRIMSHAW TRAY
RAISING THE BAR
A simple bite of chocolate covered Balboa Bar or coated Frozen Banana is all it takes to stir up memories of happy childhood beach day endings at Sugar ‘n Spice or Dad’s. Not only are these scaled-down versions just as delicious at home, but they’re an absolute cinch to put together.
Balboa Bars + Frozen Banana Bites a la Dad’s Frozen Banana
- 1 quart vanilla ice cream
- 6 ripe but firm bananas
- 18 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, or semisweet chocolate chips
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans and walnuts, or sprinkles
Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Take the vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and let sit while you prep the bananas. Cut the bananas in half and insert a popsicle stick into each half, as shown. Place them on the baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes. Using a silicone mold (see example below), fill each section with vanilla ice cream. Insert a popsicle stick into each section, as close the middle as possible. Place the mold in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate with the oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave (check it every 30 seconds) or in a half-full pan of simmering water (about 2 minutes). Stir until smooth.
Roll each banana half and ice cream bar in the chocolate, then quickly sprinkle with your topping (if using). Freeze until the chocolate sets, 30 minutes. Serve or freeze in an airtight container for up to a week.
May We Suggest…