The VIC goes off this weekend

The VIC 1

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Photo by Scott Brashier

The Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding 2019, better known as The Vic, takes place this weekend at Aliso Beach, August 17-18

The VIC 2

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Hundreds will attend this weekend’s main event, featuring the world’s best skimboarders

The VIC 3

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Skimboarding legend Bill Bryan, 2014 VIC

Harley’s Sunday “Grill” is a Perfect Ode to Summer

Story and photos by Diane Armitage

In yet another ode to the happy, growing-up years of our childhood, Harley’s Chef Greg Daniels has created a Sunday family-style “backyard BBQ” from 5 to 9 p.m.

If you’ve been around long enough to remember Three Seventy Common’s “Fried Chicken Sundays,” you will enjoy Harley’s similar take on family-style lovin’. 

When Chef Ryan Adams was in the space (that is now Harley’s), he created his Sunday family-style meals around memories of his grandmother. That spirit still remains intact, it seems, as Chef Greg notes special memories around his grandfather’s backyard barbecues.

Priced at $60 per person inclusive with tax and service, the “Grill and Get Together” menu claims three courses, but it’s really seven very hearty dishes. 

Several cocktails (including a “Painkiller Kombucha”) are offered as perfect pairs, but on Chef’s recommendations, my friend and I opted for the chilled Cabernet Franc “Lo-Fi,” which is expressly designed for chillin’.

Harley's Sunday Chef Daniels

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Chef Greg Daniels

A Table Loaded with Sunday Supper

Chef Greg says the items may change and shift as the weeks roll by, but this should give you a general idea of what I waded through this past Sunday evening:   

I could have stopped at the starter, Chef Greg’s house-baked buttery brioche roll. The food, however, just kept coming. 

After a bright watermelon and arugula salad, the Chef arrived at our table with a sheet pan nearly as large as the table. It was fully loaded with two sets of baby back ribs, a jumble of grilled chicken, and sides of baked beans and mac and cheese served up in their own cast iron skillets. 

While we came nowhere close to finishing our meal for two, we still managed to work our way through the entirety of dessert – warm summer berry rumble with a dollop of créme fraîche. 

Harley's Sunday Main Course

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Harley’s Sunday “Grill” is a perfect backyard BBQ without all the bugs

“We thought we would just test this out, but I’ve already got some new ideas for next week,” says Chef Greg. “I think it’s a great way to celebrate the end of summer and the start of our autumn months here in Laguna.”

If barbecue just isn’t your thing, Chef Greg will cook up another entrée item for you. The Sunday theme, though, was certainly the most popular guest at our fellow Harley tables. Chef says he will likely run the Sunday affair through September. Go to to purchase tickets. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at

SoLag’s new AHBA: An unexpected, happily welcomed arrival

Story and photos by Diane Armitage

After a rare U-turn last Thursday in South Laguna, something strange caught my eye – actual people moving around in the former Eva’s Caribbean Cafe. There were tables out front and people were sitting at them. What the heck was going on? 

I called the City. Yep, they confirmed: A new restaurant by the name of AHBA had just received its business license and was in full operation. 

Right there, under my nose. 

SoLags new interior

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The minute you walk in AHBA, you feel charmed

Easy Like Sunday Morning

AHBA is our town’s newest restaurant, thanks to Chef/Owner Nick Bennett. 

Growing up, his best friend always called his dad “ahba,” the Hebrew word for “father.” The word stuck with Nick and, when it came time to create a relaxed, easy, warm environment in his new restaurant, he knew it had to be called the same. 

AHBA’s culinary roots are primarily Mediterranean with an “angle” toward Isreali casual fare. The team is initially serving breakfast and lunch, with plans to eventually expand to dinner, too. 

The minute you walk in this place, you feel charmed. AHBA is built for community and friends, whether you’re grabbing a coffee at the bar that looks into the open kitchen or sitting at the long community table. The few patio tables are a mish-mosh of style and colors; it feels like an impromptu party in a friend’s backyard. 

The menu is written by hand on scraps of parchment paper. It reminds me of a long-ago visit to Silver Lake’s famed Mh Zh, an Israeli café that still has people queued in waiting lines that snake down the block. To this day, they still write their menus on random slices of butcher paper.    

L.A. meets SoLag

Born and raised in L.A., Nick says he grew up in the restaurant industry. He’s a self-taught chef, having started cooking in his mom’s kitchen as a kid.

He hadn’t necessarily planned on ducking under the “Orange Curtain” to take up shop in South Laguna, but he fell in love with the building. And, when you fall in love with anything, everything changes. 

At this point, Nick surprises me once again by mentioning that he developed his menu with his Chef de Cuisine, Jayro Martinez.

“Jayro is here?” I ask, completely bowled over.

Sure enough, here comes Jayro with a big grin and a hug for me. 

SoLags new chefs

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Chef Owner Nick Bennett with Chef de Cuisine Jayro Martinez

I first met Jayro Martinez when he was the Executive Chef of the uber-popular Social restaurant in Costa Mesa. At the time, Chef Jayro and his Social culinary team were participating in my favorite nonprofit event of the year – Illumination Foundation’s OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland. The event gathers more than 40 celebrity and ballyhooed chefs for a phenomenal night of foodie feasting. When Chef Jayro asked to be a part of the event, it was a very happy moment for all of us – he’s one extreme talent. 

Prior to Social, Jayro (pronounced “Hi-row”) cut his culinary chops in the catering world before opening the afore-mentioned restaurant phenom, Mh Zh, with a friend. 

Now, it all makes sense – the menus, the cool, relaxed feel, and the wonderful tastes that begin to emerge from the kitchen. 

SoLags new Harissa Toast

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ABHA’s spicy Harissa Toast 

Taste Explosion

First, it’s Harissa Toast. Harissa is a spicy red pepper paste that normally includes ancho and chipotle chiles to amp up the heat. In AHBA’s version, the paste is slathered on the toast with crisp bacon, caramelized onions, and two eggs ladled above. It’s sprinkled with cilantro and mint leaves, a lovely, fresh-bite balancing act to the hearty fare. 

Then, Chef Jayro trots out with Japanese Sweet Potatoes, initially soaked in a secret world of spices before being baked and ladled onto a swirl of sweet onion purée. The plate is sprinkled lightly in coffee dust.

A third dish arrives – Cauliflower Hash with cauliflower, peppers, leeks, and house-made hot sauce gently folded together. Two eggs crown the creation. 

SoLags new Shakshuka

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ABHA’s ode to a heartier egg dish

My favorite is the Shakshuka. It’s another large dish that lays down a tomato-based sauce absolutely plucky with coriander, cumin, fennel, and cardamom. The sauce is swirled with labneh (strained Greek yogurt) and then topped with crispy prosciutto and eggs.

“We wanted to create a menu that felt more intimate, like we were making this food in our own homes for friends,” says Chef Jayro.

Adds Chef Nick,  “This place is a gathering place for friends and family, and we want everyone to feel like they’re part of our family. We want people to feel welcomed into our home.”

AHBA is at 31732 Coast Highway.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at

Discovery Cube Innovators host free Science of Golf event on Aug 22

Discovery Cube Orange County is hosting its first Laguna Beach community event on Thursday, Aug 22 at the Ranch Laguna Beach from 4 to 7 p.m. All are invited to join in for celebration and learning.

Laguna Beach citizens have a long history supporting the Cube. The Innovators, led by Chair Janet Ray, is celebrating its 10th year. The group’s lifetime founding members from Laguna Beach include Shelly and Steve Hupp. 

Other community leaders in the collective include Donnie Crevier, Ellen and Michael Fine, Jane and Joe Hanauer, and Barbara and Greg MacGillivray.

Discovery Cube CEO

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Discovery Cube CEO Joe Adams with Greg MacGillivray

Innovators enjoy quarterly “Science of” events as well as exclusive opportunities at the museum. The group is comprised of lifelong learners who value how the nonprofit creates a growth mindset and a love of learning. In line with the Cube’s mission to Inspire, Educate and Impact the community, each Innovator gathering leaves guests feeling enlightened. 

According to Laguna Beach donor Michael Ray, “I have found that kids like the Cube as much as they like Disneyland. It is simply an amazing place and experience for children and their families.”

Discovery Cube’s mission is to inspire and educate young minds through engaging science-based programs and exhibits to create a meaningful impact on the communities it serves.

Discovery Cube astronaut

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Discovery Cube CEO Joe Adams with Innovator Leadership Chair Janet M. Ray and NASA astronaut Yvonne D. Cagel

The museum values the importance of providing access to STEM education for all pre-K to 12th grade students, regardless of ability to pay, through exhibits and program services. Program offerings are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to foster science-based discovery through four core initiatives:

1. STEM Proficiency – Increasing students’ and teachers’ proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math, in order to prepare students to successfully enter the workforce with 21st century skills. 

2. Environmental Stewardship – Encouraging positive behaviors that result in eco-friendly living and in making educated decisions that will result in the extension of our natural resources. 

3. Healthy Living – Educating families about healthy living and the interconnectivity of body systems, mental health, and nutrition to increase their physical and psychological wellness. 

4. Early Learning – Providing parents and guardians with knowledge and training to teach children how to read, understand numbers and complex language, and achieve STEM proficiency in school readiness skills. 

Discovery Cube Elizabeth

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Dr. Elizabeth Van E  of UCI and Rick Ferre from Eon Reality

To learn more about Discovery Cube, visit or contact Laguna Beach resident and Director of Development Michelle Highberg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for any questions about the event or Innovators.

Congressman Rouda to attend LB Congressional Communities meeting on Aug 24

Congressman Harley Rouda will be the featured guest at the Laguna Beach Congressional Communities meeting at the Neighborhood Congregational Church on Saturday, Aug 24 from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. 

The focus of the meeting will be tariffs. Following an in-depth presentation on the subject – particularly how Congress has given the executive branch increased authority over tariffs – Mr. Rouda will join the meeting to give an update on his work in Congress. He will finish with a Q&A with the audience.

Congressman Harley Rouda

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Congressman Harley Rouda will be the featured guest at upcoming Congressional Communities meeting 

Congressional Communities was formed in 2018 to create communities similar in size to the very first districts, find out what issue areas are most important to the community, and make in-depth presentations on those subjects with a focus on Congress’ role on the issue. 

Along the way, the group works to develop an ongoing relationship with local Congress members and their local staff, including having them attend meetings to give updates on what Congress is doing. Meetings are monthly and the group is non-partisan. Its focus is on Congress and Laguna Beach is its charter member.

This will be the group’s first meeting with Congressman Rouda. The Congressional Communities’ goal is to work to build long-term, respectful dialogue with members of Congress and their staff, with the belief that these smaller units of organization will lead to a more responsive and successful Congress.

To help create a culture conducive to these goals, attendees to the meeting are encouraged to abide by the group’s guidelines: be respectful to each other, welcome opposing viewpoints, let others finish speaking, be brief, avoid profanity, focus your comments on Congress, and don’t identify by party.   

Importantly, this is not a Town Hall meeting, it is a private event. Turnout is expected to be strong. 

This is a free event, although registration and check-in are required.

To RSVP, email your name, city, and zip to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To learn more, visit

Neighborhood Congregational Church is located at 340 St. Ann’s Dr.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship welcomes Matthew P. Taylor on Sunday

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laguna Beach is pleased to welcome Mathew P. Taylor back to its pulpit on Sunday, Aug 18 at 10:30 a.m. The title of Mr. Taylor’s presentation is “Love is Our Liberation.” 

We often find ourselves caught in a problem trying to decide which movement deserves our investment, in money or time. As a faith that seeks to help others find liberation, Unitarian Universalists (UUs) continuously question, what does liberation look like? Do UUs have the resources to help create that liberation? 

The community is invited to join the members and friends of the UUFLB as Mathew Taylor explains how love could be the answer to finding liberation for us all.

Unitarian Universalist Taylor

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Matthew P. Taylor will join the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Aug 18

Mathew P. Taylor is a California native with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is a community organizer, author, and a pagan high priest. Taylor is a founding member of the Inland Empire Chapter (#3) of the Coven Sub Rosa.

He is currently a student at Starr King School for the Ministry and will be seeking ordination in Parish Ministry. He is a former Board of Trustees President at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside. He believes that his brand of Mystical Ministry is meant to help give voice to the voiceless and to help find a home for the spiritually homeless.

For more information, contact Pamela Flodman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 654-2526.

Dennis’ Tidbits 


August 16, 2019

Farewell to summer swells 

Dennis 5Well, Stu, yet another year of futility for our Los Angeles Angels as once again their 2019 season can be summed up in six words: One step forward, two steps back. They’re mired in fourth place and five games under .500. I wish Mike Trout had signed with a team that knows how to win. He’s having his best season ever with 38 home runs and will probably end up with 50 but it’s all for naught. Just think what his already amazing stats would be if he played for the Yankees, Dodgers, or Astros, whose entire lineup is loaded with talent and a tremendous supporting cast. One can only wonder.

On this date in 1958, a spectacular thunderstorm went on for hours that night here in Laguna and surrounding areas. Earlier that evening I knew something was up as it was unusually warm, humid, and very still with absolutely no breeze whatsoever. That afternoon, clusters of cauliflower shaped cumulonimbus towers with their accompanying anvil shaped tops appeared to be much closer to the coast than normal. Sure enough at about 1 a.m. the light show began as the house shook from ear piercing thunder about every 45-60 seconds. Then the hour-long cloudburst that dropped almost an inch and a half in that short span. I remember it like it was yesterday. McWeather didn’t get much sleep that night, it was so exciting! Storms like that are few and far between around here so I was ready.

Our eighth tropical system of the season has come and gone with only a whisper. Tropical storm Henriette didn’t last very long and had winds of only 40 mph and, of course, we didn’t get even a ripple, so the Baja swell drought continues.

Meanwhile the Atlantic Basin remains very dormant, but that’s what they like to hear from Texas to Maine and points east. However, that can change in a heartbeat. Our summer is ticking on and the ocean is still in pretty much of a coma. Did somebody build a giant breakwater off our coast? August and September around here are supposed to be the optimum months for significant south swell activity. If it’s going to happen at all, then these two months are prime time, yet so far, the ocean has more resembled Lake Laguna. 

As each week passes without a ripple, the report card for summer 2019 drops to a D and that’s five consecutive summers now with poor grades. It’s like our summers had to repeat preschool three times. Presently there are no new tropical systems forecast in the Eastern Pacific Tropics, and Southern Hemisphere swell action is not in the equation either at least for the foreseeable future. 

Our last decent summer was in 2014 when we were delivered three major Southern Hemis and a host of Baja swells including named hurricanes Elida, Fausto, Lowell, Rachel, Simon and, of course, the Big Mama Marie. She was a monster Category 5 with winds up to 165 mph with a central pressure down to 909 millibars. Marie was the perfect storm, so to speak, as she entered our swell window early on Sunday, Aug 25, 2014, already a Category 5 and moving to the NW. By Tuesday afternoon, her giant swells began to march ashore at Brooks Street and then 15th Street (Newport Point) with triple overhead bombs that every bit resembled Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline. Marie’s swell was definitely one of the top five swells of all time. A swell like that only happens around once or twice a decade. We’re due! 

Have a great weekend, ALOHA!

Blood orange sky   

Blood orange trees

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Photo by Scott Brashier

The sun ignites the trees and they blaze like incandescent candles

Community loses Toni Leech, an icon who defined the character and allure of Laguna Beach


Longtime Laguna Beach local Toni Leech sadly passed away on Monday, Aug 12. Toni was an integral part of the rich tapestry of local icons who made Laguna what it is today. Her absence leaves a void in the community that can never be filled.

For 24 years, Toni, along with her husband Michael, owned and ran (her in front, him as the chef) Café Zoolu on Glenneyre Street and delivered culinary delights and a feeling of family to everyone who dined there. Patrons of Café Zoolu remember Leech’s gregarious personality as much as the fantastic food. 

Toni was a colorful local woman, to say the least. On Monday, Laguna Beach got a little paler,” said Michael Byrne, owner of Roux and The Saloon, and friend of Toni and Michael for almost two decades.

Together they were the original proprietors of The Quiet Woman restaurants from Corona Del Mar to Dana Point, culminating in over 45 years together in the restaurant business. It’s not easy to stay in business for that long if people don’t like you.

Byrne says, “I absolutely loved Toni as a person, and I don’t know of anyone like her. She was amazing. She held her ground, but once you broke through, and proved yourself, she was an incredible friend, and there was no one more loyal and funny. She was an classic example of our local color, and she’s irreplaceable.”

Local Cathy Bosko remembers, “Toni was a very special person who loved animals and loved talking with you about them. Zoolu kept a private stash of leftover goodies like swordfish or steak to share with your dog when you walked by. Never happened to me, but if your dog got out and you lived by Zoolu, that’s where it would found! RIP Toni.” 

The accolades and humorous stories are varied and plentiful.

Community loses Toni

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Michael and Toni Leech

Christopher Kling details his history with Toni: “Although I had dined at Café Zoolu before I met Michael and Toni, I finally got to know her when she was in need of transportation to/from the airport, so that she could visit her mother and best friend, from time to time, both of whom had lived in the Bay Area. On one of her jaunts to the airport (she was going to surprise her mother for her 90th birthday), Toni told me the story of Barbra Streisand showing up to Café Zoolu on Valentine’s Day. Of course all the tables were booked, and it was a well-known fact, throughout town, that Toni detested walk-ins at the restaurant. Well, in walks Babs, on Valentine’s Day, with no reservation. Toni didn’t care who you were, being a walk-in was not going to get you on her good list! And she had no tables available because it was Valentine’s Day, so Toni asks Barbra Streisand to wait outside until she can turn a table. I laughed for days! 

“Needless to say, Toni was a quintessential tipper, she was the real deal, she was crazy fun, and I will miss her so much. My sincere condolences go out to Michael, during this time of grief. We’ve sadly lost another Laguna Legend.”

The memories continue.

Bill Ramsey says, “My wife Nancy and I have known Toni (and Michael) for around 20 years. Once you got to know her, she would do anything for you. She let you know where you stood, and that was a good thing. I loved every second I was with her. She’ll be missed.”

Barry Simons, who knew Toni for 35 years, relates the following story: “I met Toni and Michael when they owned the Quiet Woman in CDM. I took my (now) wife there for her first legal drink. Thirty years later, they recreated our wedding dinner, and had it delivered to our house. Toni was the best of the best, always so gracious, and she was sarcastically funny with a great wit.”

Last night Bill and Meredith Carol had a memorial at their home for Toni and cooked swordfish the way they cooked it at Café Zoolu.

The community is saddened by the loss of this truly authentic legend and as Michael Byrne says, without her, “It’s a little less Laguna.”

FBI warns of scammers spoofing FBI phone numbers in SoCal to trick victims using threats

 The FBI Los Angeles Division is warning the public about a phone scam that spoofs, or fraudulently displays, the FBI’s real telephone number on the victim’s caller ID. 

The scammer impersonates a government official and uses intimidation tactics to demand payment of money purportedly owed to the government, according to the scheme.

Scammers have spoofed the phone numbers of FBI offices in California, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

The FBI has seen its main number (310-477-6565) spoofed in this manner, as well as the numbers of the division’s Resident Agencies, most recently, Santa Maria (805-346-2728) and West Covina (626-919-3434).

Residents nationwide have been targeted. Recent cases include a number of victims in California. The intended target may be told there is a federal warrant for their arrest, which would be dismissed by the court in exchange for immediate payment.

The caller often knows the name, background, and personal cell phone number of the intended victim.

Unsuspecting victims may also be told the following:

--That their social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering.

 --That their social security number has been used to open bank accounts and that the government would seize those accounts.

 --To protect their money, funds should be transferred to accounts specifically set up by the government which would be protected until the situation is resolved, at which point the money would then be returned.

 --Failure to transfer money could lead to loss of funds and possible arrest.

 --To meet with a Social Security Administration Agent to verify identity; once complete, a new SSN would be issued so that a new bank account could be opened.

The public is reminded that the FBI does call private citizens to request money or threaten arrest. There are a number of ways individuals with criminal intentions can obtain a victim’s name, phone number, or email address. The FBI reminds the public to limit the amount of personal information provided online, including on social media sites.

To avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

--Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.

--Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.

--Before signing up for a contest or email distribution list, make sure the business has a policy not to share your information or sell it to a third party.

--Scammers count on your lack of knowledge, so take the time to educate yourself about any offer you receive.

--Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.

The FBI strongly encourages anyone contacted by a caller who says they are with the FBI to verify the information with their local FBI Field Office. 

Contact information for all 56 FBI field offices can be found at

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

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