The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a special sort of place, tucked in a box canyon, it feels swept away from the traffic and hustle of Orange County. This is the sort of place where kids take in the otherworldy air of serenity and breathe a little easier. Parents worried about the junk food populating many kids’ menus these days can breathe easier, too. Part of that is thanks to Harvest’s Executive Chef Charles Imbelli, an exuberant father whose love and pride toward his daughter, Frankie, is as obvious as that he shows in his food.
Charles Imbelli’s love affair with food began as a child and has grown even stronger over time. The culinary journey of Imbelli, a 2014 Zagat “30 under 30” honoree, started as he scored an under-the-table apprenticeship in his native New York at the tender age of 14, before learning from some of the master of NYC, heading to the Pacific Northwest, and finally making his way to LA.
After becoming a father in 2016, Imbelli jumped at the opportunity to get out of the city as the Executive Chef at Harvest. “I’m thrilled to be leading the effort to launch Harvest,” he says, “and I’m excited to share our creative and intensely local take on seasonal comfort food.”
Families can opt for outdoor dining, or relax along a wall of glass overlooking the golfers. The freshness of the food is apparent to even the youngest of palates, with our little one digging into a massive plate of (incredible) Chicken and Waffles and betting us that was the way chicken was “supposed to taste”.
Chef respects the traditional favorites, but stepping things up a notch in flavor, quality and healthfulness. The hot dog is a kosher all beef link, while the usual “fried cheese stick” is swapped out for a similar scratch-made vegetable version the kids go crazy for. We won’t even discuss the Smoked Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese, a Kids Menu fave many an adult has been caught ordering after the aroma wafts past enroute to a hungry tot.
A visit to the Ranch at Laguna Beach reminds us of a simpler, better time. Chef Imbelli’s dishes do the same, but add a special unmistakable ingredient any kid can taste in an instant; the love.
Not-So-Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash
Serves 6 or more
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a Not-So-Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie with this sneaky-swap out recipe from Momma Chef, our newest POC blogger who bring you fab recipes with less than six ingredients and under six minutes of prep time. (Yep, she’s a mom of three!) Check out more of her recipes at www.parentingoc.com.
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 12 oz. bag cauliflower florets
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. chopped rosemary
- 1 container Trader Joe’s Mirepoix mix (contains chopped onions, carrots and celery)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Steam cauliflower florets in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.
- In a separate oven-safe skillet heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add in ground meat and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Then add in Trader Joe’s Mirepoix mix, 1 tbsp. salt and the chopped rosemary. Cook another 2 minutes, mixing everything together.
- When cauliflower is soft, mash with a fork and add in 1 tbsp. salt.
- Remove the meat from heat, spread the cauliflower mash over the mixture in the skillet and bake for 25 minutes.