A total facelift for the former Duke’s Place at Balboa Bay Resort has livened things up at one of Newport Beach’s favorite Gold Coast hangouts. The acclaimed jazz lounge and restaurant, bearing the beloved nickname for John Wayne – Orange County’s most iconic figure, has morphed into a modern beach-side gastropub offering craft beers, specialty cocktails, and inventive comfort food, all with the same breathtaking views.
Earlier this month a group of Orange County’s social media twitterati were invited to the resort to get a taste of A & O’s creative bar food and libations. The menu is an amalgamation of small plates meant to be shared and enjoyed in the casually comfortable nautical-themed open-air restaurant and stylish patio with seating to sink into invites romance and conversation with fire pits for warmth from cooling sea breezes after dusk.
But beware – paper menus burn, as Matt Prince discovered! The mini bonfire temporarily drew attention away from the crispy-skinned, spiced Chicken Wings (above) and added a little excitement to our twitter social – and fodder for entertaining tweets.
Reggie Escalante (L), Matt Prince (TR), Kathy Klingaman, Carol Hink and Debbie Miller
We’re a social bunch online and offline and had a blast striking a pose in front of the flamboyant mega yachts docked in front and catching up with friends as we tweeted and posted pics to Instagram and Facebook between bites and sips and photo ops.
Executive chef Vincent Lesage leads the culinary operation at A & O as well as the resort’s fine dining restaurant, Waterline, with chef de cuisine Rachel Haggstrom at his side and pastry chef Brooke Martin rounding out the creative A-team.
Rachel Haggstrom, Vincent Lesage, and Brooke Martin
Our group noshed from the appropriately named “Social & Unique” offerings of starters and share plates: the “Popcorn and Pig” (lead photo) was addictive, as were the fried Shishito peppers, Chicken Wings with Indian raita dipping sauce, and Bacon Wrapped Dates. Standout menu items at A & O include the “Nice Rack” (Baby Back Ribs) from the “Social + Unique” portion of the menu, “Birthday Suit” (Beef Tartar, Raw Beef and French Fries) from the “Softer Side” of the menu, and “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” (Beer Marinated Fried Chicken, Biscuit & Gravy) from the “Meat + Entrees” portion of the menu. Pastry chef Brooke Martin creates all the innovative desserts showcased on the menu and include Nutella Pot De Crème, Key Lime Pie, Tobacco & Whiskey Brulee, and a selection of “Hangover Beer Floats.” The full menu is available at anchorsandoceans.com.
“Birthday Suit” | Beef Tartar, Raw Beef and French Fries
We heard the burger was phenomenal, and Jim and Maryanne Wendt couldn’t resist. Looks like a juicy mouthful to me, distinguished by a thick slice of yellow heirloom tomato, I plan on making it back to A & O to give it a go myself.
“Sweet Light” is what photographers refer to as the “Blue Hour” – the period of twilight each evening when the sun is a significant distance below the horizon and indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue, while red light passes straight into space and blue light is scattered in the atmosphere. A & O Kitchen + Bar is washed in the “Sweet Light” every evening…and its beauty is undeniable.
A & O’s specialty cocktail, part of Riviera magazine’s Cocktail Tour, embodies the magical “sweet light” experienced at the coast – glowing with warm hues of a summer sunset, the melon-infused vodka with fresh cantaloupe juice and basil is a must-try.
Now that you know what the sweet light is, come in to A & O Kitchen and try this refreshing vodka/melon/basil cocktail.
Vote for the Riviera Sweet Light in Riviera’s Cocktail Tour here.
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