Travel Well

An Artsy Weekend Getaway in Costa Mesa

Published: Friday, May 27, 2016 | 2:57 PM

If the phrase ‘weekend getaway’ conjures images of hopping on a personal plane and jetting to a far-off destination filled with arts, food and relaxing afternoons, you’re not alone. Luckily, you can still spend a relaxing weekend away without owning your own plane.

Costa Mesa, in Orange County, is just a hop skip and jump away, by car – it’s even manageable by public transportation if you have the willpower. This seaside city is an unexpected destination filled with eclectic dining options, luxurious outdoor spaces and arts to rival any city. Known as the ‘City of the Arts,’ Costa Mesa has a variety of music, art and live performance to keep you entertained between meals.

I started off my stay at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel, conveniently located within walking distance of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The Segerstrom Center is an impressive concert hall that hosts the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, South Coast Repertory and American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie Ballet School. Outside the concert hall is a towering public art sculpture called Connector by Richard Serra. This 360-ton steel sculpture gives visitors the chance to walk inside the sweeping steel and experience the echoing acoustics and spot the sky through a pentagon shaped opening at the top of the sculpture. After you’re done playing in the immense steel sculpture, take a stroll around the concert hall and walk along the small lake outside the hotel.

Ture to its name, the Avenue of the Arts Hotel is a treat for travelers. From the luxuriously accommodating service to the charming musical details, this hotel is an ideal place to spend your time. From the sweeping entryway, complete with outdoor chandeliers and gallant staff, you’ll be treated like royalty from the start to the end of your stay. Lounge in the distinctive high back purple chairs in the lobby and enjoy a glass of fruit infused water in semi-private outdoor lounge. On your way to your rooms, you’ll take a stroll through a pleasantly heated glass hallway that splits through the garden before encountering the elevators filled with orchestral music.

The hotel recently underwent a makeover by Los Angeles designer, Diana Wong, and now features deep purple details and gold accents. The luxurious king bed in my room featured useful details like reading lights built into the headboard and outlets conveniently located on the night table. There was also a couch for lounging and taking in the lovely view.

During your stay, be sure to peruse the beautiful Where Guest Book of Orange County left in all the rooms and take advantage of the charming outdoor pool and indoor sauna. The sauna is the perfect treat after a swim in the pool and even offers a lakeside view.

In addition to views, the hotel also offers well-equipped fitness center, business center and restaurant called the Silver Trumpet. This stylish restaurant and bar offers brunch, lunch and dinner and happy hour specials. The stylish bar is the ideal backdrop for a pre-dinner cocktail or post-concert recap.

Even though California isn’t known for being pedestrian-friendly, the Avenue of the Arts is located within walking distance of enough restaurants to please any palate. One standout location is Vaca. This stylish Spanish-style eatery includes a full bar, extensive wine list and meat-centric menu. Try their flavorful Seafood paella which comes with clams, mussels, shrimp, octopus and saffron bomba rice or order the vegetarian version which is an smoky, flavorful dish filled with mushrooms and artichoke hearts. If you’re in the mood for something more daring, don’t shy away from the Erizos Con Huevo – fresh, Santa Barbara sea urchin filled with scrambled eggs, topped with caviar and served with miso butter toast. Finally, you can’t go wrong with a charcuterie board – don’t miss out on the housemade pickles and red pepper jam to accompany the cheese board – plus a glass of wine of bubbly.

As far as dining options go, it’s hard to beat tacos. Take your taco craving to the next level at Taco Maria this mezcado or Chicano cuisine. Chef Carlos Salgado describes the menu as a fusion of Californian and Mexican flavors and combines his Mexican heritage with his culinary training in California. Since corn is very central to Mexican cuisine, Salgado sources heirloom corn from Mexico because he feels the flavor more intense.

“If you want delicious food, you have to start with delicious ingredients,” said Salgado.

He recommends the Aguagchile ceviche with citrus and lime for lunch and any tacos, of course. Taco Maria is part of a restaurant revolution in the area.

“We’re proud to be a part of the new focus on sustainable, responsible small food businesses,” he said.

Don’t miss their seasonal menus and ever-changing specials.

In addition to Taco Maria, Costa Mesa also has two unique, pro-small business outdoor malls. The LAB and the CAMP promote small businesses with sustainable goals in beautifully laid-out, art-filled complexes. These are the only strip malls that you’ll feel good about visiting.

For brunch, you can’t beat the Old Vine Cafe in the CAMP. This wine-centric bistro offers eight tasting menus with wine pairings including an entirely vegan menu with four wines. Chef Mark suggests the Fresh Strawberry Crepe which includes decadent crepes filled with local strawberries and creamy sweet ricotta mousse plus berry coulis. This light but flavorful-filling meal pairs well with muscato. Chef Mark adds that the outdoor communal tables are an excellent post to meet for brunch.

“The [outdoor space] adds to the dining experience – you feel like you’ve escaped Orange County,” said Chef Mark.

On a more savory note, Indonesian Curry Shrimp is the perfect lunch to enjoy on the patio. The dish features large prawns, spicy curry sauce and a tower of flash fried crispy rice noodles. Pair it with Monchof Mosel Slate, Riesling, Spatlese from Mosel, Germany. Old Vine Cafe carries a world class selection of wines and has a knowledgeable staff that can help you pick the best drink to accompany your meal.

Don’t forget to take a snooze in the hammock directly outside the restaurant after your vino.

Nearly across the street, sits the Lab Just like the CAMP, this hip outdoor mall brims with quirky, fun restaurants, artisan shops and public seating. The Gypsy Den is a cafe by day and live music venue by night. This eclectic restaurant offers a vegetarian and vegan-friendly lunch menu and is beginning to include more dinner options like vegan chicken enchiladas.
Try their homemade hummus and pita plate with fresh cucumbers and tomato slices or the manager’s favorite Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad. This tasty salad comes topped with hearty chunks of goat cheese, candied pecans and tart cranberries plus a housemade dressing and sprinkling of sprouts.

“It feels like an artist community here and we get a great crowd – people dress to impress,” said Joaquin.

Finally, no trip would be complete without a stop at the beach – Laguna, Newport and Huntington are all within close proximity to Costa Mesa. Soak in the sun and bask in the sunset as the perfect end to your weekend in Costa Mesa.

The 411:

Avenue of the Arts Hotel, 3350 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa. (714) 751-5100.

Vaca, 695 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (714) 463-6060.

Taco Maria, 3313 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa. (714) 538-8444.

Old Vine Cafe, 2937 Bristol Street, A102, Costa Mesa. (714) 545-141.

Gypsy Den, 2930 Bristol Street B102, Costa Mesa. (714) 549-7012.

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