Not Hard to Cope With Cabana Dining

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Pelican Hill springs forward with a leap, once again. Now through May 14, make sure to set your alarms for lavish, Private Cabana Dining at Coliseum Pool & Grill – and get there early. Eighteen ultra-luxurious private cabanas offer breathtaking ocean views and overlook the iconic Coliseum Pool, one of the largest circular pools in the world.

Appealing to locals who are looking for a staycation or quick getaway, each cabana is outfitted with every possible amenity. And what’s more, Chef Mark Kalenderian has created a special Epicurean Experience and cabana-dining menu for every discerning palate.

Intrigued by Chef Mark’s Spring Ranch to Table menu, Chris and I made haste to reserve a private cabana so we could fully experience the seasonal abundance of Orange County’s locally grown produce, prepared in the casual resort style that Pelican Hill does effortlessly.

However, much to my chagrin, ordering wasn’t going to be as simple as I initially thought.

“Chris, did you see all of the different menus and experiences that are offered here at Coliseum, in addition to the Ranch to Table menu?” I asked as we perused the list. “It’s unbelievable.”

“I did. They have all the bases covered,” he replied.

“I might as well set up base camp right here,” I said earnestly. “I want to try them all.”

“I assume you’re referring to the Girls Just Want to Have Fun cabana experience?” Chris smirked. “I can see it now—you, plus three of your girlfriends scoping the poolside social scene, sipping cosmopolitans and eating Tuscan Bruschetta, while watching “Sex and the City” on the plasma TV.”

“Wrong,” I denied. “I’m actually interested in the Sports Viewing option for me and five of my best guy-friends, thank you very much.”

“Yeah, right,” he laughed. “You probably don’t even know what season it is.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said hotly. “For $25 bucks, a pitcher of beer, appetizers and that sunset view, I’ll watch commercials!”

“You can have your pitcher,” Chris shrugged. “I’ll be at the Karl Strauss Beer-Makers Dinner on Sunday, April 17, having a five-course dinner paired with a full flight of hand-crafted drafts.”

“Then you better be prepared to see me there,” I huffed. “So there.”

“Ummm, how did we get on this track?” Chris wondered.

“Because I can’t decide what to order,” I sighed dejectedly.

“Ahhh,” he nodded. “Your usual dilemma. Honestly, I understand. With cabana-dining experiences like Mexican Madness, California Dreaming, Evening Romance, That’s Amoré, Sip & Sea, and After-Hours Private Cabana Dining featuring three-course prix fixe menus, no wonder you’re having difficulty. That doesn’t even include the festive Easter Holiday and Family Fun menus. Perhaps the chef can help you decide.”

“I hope so.”

Our server, Breanna, and Chef Amy Lebraun approached the table to enlighten us about the selections.

“Well, I’m definitely having your Ranch to Table menu,” Chris stated. “But Stasha…”

“…needs a little help ordering,” I interjected. “This particular foodie could choose any of your menus – they all look fantastic.”

“What do you like?” inquired Chef Amy.

“Everything,” I laughed. “That’s the problem.”

“Then how about I surprise you—that way you don’t have to decide,” she offered.

“That would be perfect!” I exclaimed. “That certainly takes the pressure off.”

“Then let’s get you started,” she said, whirling about and heading back to the kitchen.

Impressed with a Duckhorn wine tasting we attended recently, Chris and I agreed on a bottle of 2005 Migration, then sat back to admire the beautiful vista.

“That pool is something else,” Chris remarked.

“I read that 1.1 million hand-cut, hand-laid glass mosaic tiles create that radiant light blue hue,” I said, taking in the moon’s reflection off the water.

“It’s so quiet,” Chris glanced about. “We’re the only ones here.”

“Not quite,” I said, noticing a family taking a dip in the water. “They must be from the Midwest, because it’s supposed to snow in California tonight.”

Breanna delivered the first courses, and we began sampling the dishes.

“How is everything so far?” Breanna asked us.

“My Cauliflower Gratin is delicious,” Chris remarked.

“I’m thrilled with this smorgasbord of small bites: the Calamari, Spinach Artichoke Dip, and the Tomato Bruschetta are wonderful,” I added. “And the Beet Carpaccio has outstanding flavor in its simplicity.”

Our second courses arrived with a flourish.

“The Steamed Pacific Rockfish with Braised Local Cabbage, Pancetta and Citrus Broth,” Breanna described as she placed Chris’ plate before him. “And a sampling of Pan Seared Scallops with Mushroom Potato Hash, and Butternut Squash Purée, and the Thai Fettucine Pasta with Angus Beef, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Shitake Mushrooms in Curry Sauce.”

“This looks amazing,” Chris said admiringly.

We both finished with a single Grilled Lamb Chop over Parsnip Purée, Roasted Winter Vegetables and Port Reduction.

Our Dessert Sampler included Assorted Gelato, Chocolate Dipped Coconut Cheesecake Lollipops, Seasonal Cobbler, and Marble Strawberry Cheesecake.

“This has truly been a culinary Spring Awakening,” I said. “My tastebuds have been singing and dancing all night long, and as Rainier Marie Rilke once wrote, ‘Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.’”

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