For nearly 80 years, Gemmell's Garden Centre has fortified and ornamented lawns with plants, garden decor, and accessories. Undernourished noses can feast on the fruits of Gemmell's 24 lush greenhouses, where more than 48 combinations of colourful, fragrant Victorian hanging baskets ($39.95) originate. Customers can conceal a lawn’s bald spots with photosynthesizing toupees such as vegetable plants, including more than 30 varieties of plump tomatoes ($1.99–$4.29). Trees and shrubs ($10+), meanwhile, lavish lawns with a leafy canopy in the summer and shelter for hibernating garden gnomes in the winter. The nursery’s friendly, knowledgeable staff provides helpful advice on gardening and landscape design, gladly assisting customers in selecting plants for filling flower beds, pots, or piñatas.
Simply Fondue's intimate, chandelier-lit dining room plays host to tabletop pots that bubble with warm imported cheeses, oils, and broths. The restaurant's cheese fondues from Switzerland, the Mediterranean, and England allow diners to taste the world's flavors without having to lick every country's flag. The eatery also simmers traditional canola and broth fondue using individual "fondue grills," which sear each morsel for lighter munching. For each entree, chefs pair simmering helpings with platters of meat, seafood, or veggies, all of which can be altered upon request.
Many meals conclude with chocolate fondue, which features an impressive coterie of sweets such as pound cake, triple-chunk brownies, peanut-butter balls, and fresh pineapple chunks plucked from the hats of local conga dancers. The dining experience stays casual throughout with plush red booths and upholstered bar stools set against textured stone walls.
Executive Chef Eddy Rocq, educated at the Mederic Culinary School of Paris, now serves up French sandwiches and sweets at Rocq Café. His macarons, a variety of light French sandwich cookie, have been featured in Oprah's O magazine and added to the shelves of the Laguna Niguel Whole Foods and Tustin Whole Foods. He sells hundreds of these airy treats each week, in flavors such as fruit, chocolate, and moon rock. He changes up the lunch menu every week to keep fresh flavors in the spotlight, often showcasing panini and croissant sandwiches, quiches, and homemade soups.
A light breeze ruffles the umbrellas shading Cafe Beau Soleil's patio as diners nibble on shrimp salad crepes and sip glasses of French wine. The primarily French staff of servers delivers a sweet and savory crepes, croque madames, and vanilla coffee; the Maryland-crab-cake omelet with avocado adds a twist of California flair to Southern France's cuisine. Pairing with lamb-shank entrees and flourless-chocolate-cake desserts, the extensive wine list features more than 60 selections hailing from France and California, in addition to a list of champagne cocktails. Meanwhile, a takeout window supplies customers with coffees, soups, salads and entrees to dine on at home, on the go, or on the lam.
Sitting pretty in the Saddleback Mountains, Ayres Hotel & Spa Mission Viejo indulges its patrons with modern suites and lavish amenities. Free high-speed Internet and a complimentary cooked-to-order American breakfast prevent the need to pilfer passwords and thrust eggs and bagels into barren coat pockets. Sink into the soothing arms of a king-size Ayres Dream Sleeper bed to enhance your REM cycle’s productivity. A bottle of sparkling wine and an appetizer from the hotel’s restaurant ($10 value) stand at the ready to keep neglected hunger pangs from consorting with troublemaking hunger gangs. With a late 2 p.m. checkout, customers can ease into the day or get a head start on the coming night’s slumber.