It’s a special occasion when my husband and I can dine out alone, especially since that hasn’t happened after our daughter was born a year and a half ago.   So for my birthday, we made good use of the the gift card I got for Christmas from my lovely husband.  Knowing how I die for a good massage, his gift to me originally was for a massage at the Montage in Laguna Beach.  I’ve been overdue for a spa day for some time but I thought we could get more bang for our buck if we could both experience and enjoy it.  So the babysitter was called, the reservation was made and the mommy and daddy were off to The Loft restaurant at the Montage.

We got there before sunset and it was a beautiful evening to dine outside.  We had a table overlooking the resort grounds with a perfect view of the water.  When I called ahead, the reservation staff assured me that the restaurant offers gluten-free options and that the wait staff and chef would be informed of our needs.  That was again confirmed when we arrived and were seated.  So I was a little surprised when a server brought a bread basket – a bread basket full of regular bread and GLUTEN.  Not really a big problem since my husband was happy to indulge and I wasn’t planning on eating bread anyways.  A few minutes later, though, this arrived.

The server realized that we got the wrong bread basket and switched it out for a gluten-free one.  The GF bread assortment looked like GF sandwich bread with the crust removed and sliced into strips.  I had a bite of each and thought it was a bite too many.  The taste was bland and the bread was chewy but not in a good way.  My husband enjoyed several more pieces while I tried to cleanse my palate with my drink – a Ciroc martini, up, no olives.  Pretty in the candlelight, n’est-ce pas?

Next up was the steamed mussels and clams with cipollini onions in a chardonnay butter sauce.  Yes, that was a regular crouton on the same plate but it was quickly removed.  The mussels and clams were so fresh and the sauce was crazy good, I could have ladled it in my mouth.

For the next course, I had a stone fruit salad with nectarine, plum, arugala, and goat milk ricotta.  The fruit and greens were great and very lightly dressed but I’m not a big fan of ricotta and this didn’t change my mind.

I then had the coriander-crusted duck breast.  When ordering, it was between this and the restaurant’s signature dish of coffee-crusted New York strip.  I was so tempted to order the steak but really wanted to taste something I don’t normally have.  I love duck and this was a delicious dish.  The duck was cooked to medium-rare and paired really well with the cherry mustard.  It was served with grilled peaches and tiny little potatoes.  Hubby had the halibut with port wine sauce and cleaned his plate.

For the dessert course, I chose a honey and cheese plate over my favorite and stand-by choice of creme brulee.  I’m glad I did, if only for the chance to say that the resident fromagier came to meet us personally and explain the tasting and cheese choices.  I decided on a blue, a sharp cheddar and a sheep’s milk cheese, which were paired with a local wildflower honey, a buckwheat honey and an acacia honey, respectively.  My favorite of the pairs were by far the sheep’s milk cheese and the acacia honey.  The cheese was semi-soft and creamy and the honey was very light in color and had a yummy floral flavor.  Served with some fruit and nuts, it was a tasty alternative to a heavy dessert, like the apple pain perdu my husband had with maple ice cream.  I may or may not have tried a spoonful of ice cream.

It was such a good meal, and mostly primal at that, that we left feeling very satisfied and so happy to have had a few hours off of parenting duty.  We actually had time to speak to each other like adults, without interruption, about grown-up topics.  Mom and dad definitely need to do this again.  Maybe next time, I’ll get the massage first.

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