The restaurant's chef and owner, John Randall, employs more than 30 years of experience to grill up a wide variety of fresh seafood, certified Angus steak, and hearty sandwiches. Rev up digestion engines with one of John's starters, which include such Neptunian delights as fried calamari and smoked salmon pizza ($3.50–$9.50). Hearty entrees, such as prime rib, a swordfish sandwich, and scallop scampi, muscle out hunger ($9.95–$18.95), while a bevy of soups and salads stand on the sidelines, waiting to be tagged in if the bacon cheeseburger sprains its condiments ($4.50–$10.50). At the full bar, 15 different beers and more than 20 wines, several from California, supplement rising salivary floodwaters.
Aqua Restaurant & Lounge, located within Holiday Inn Irvine Spectrum, serves up classic American cuisine as well as gourmet specialties. In the morning, breakfast platters and cups of RainForest Alliance coffee give diners enough energy to race a taxi on foot on the way to work. Later on, chefs prepare heirloom salads and signature dishes such as the Philly West, a gourmet riff on the philly cheesesteak that pairs shaved filet mignon with housemade Jack Daniels au jus and melted provolone. A full bar, 50-inch plasma TV, and sleek decor round out the hotel-lounge experience.
Bartenders mix more than 30 specialty martinis at Lounge 33, a riverside bar that owes its sophistication to owners Angela and George Tavaglione. The owners’ extensive menu of mixed drinks includes nods to highbrow entertainment, including The Godfather, a drink that fuses Johnnie Walker Green Label and Disaronno amaretto, or the Dirt and Spice martini, an avant-garde combination of Absolut Peppar and olive juice, Tapatio hot sauce, and lemon. Though the focus is on mixed drinks, the Tavagliones also stock wine and beer, while their skilled cooks prepare flatbread pizzas and italian meatball sandwiches guaranteed not to pop a meatball out and send it rolling to the top of Mount Smokey.
It would be easy to devote weeks to exploring the Renaissance ClubSport's 75,000-square-foot facility—spending afternoons lounging poolside beneath the brilliant Orange County sun and taking meals at the sleek onsite restaurant. The club is an innovative fusion of fitness center, spa, and boutique hotel, complete with luxury suites, a 12,000-square-foot fitness center, and kids' club. Fitness seekers of all squares inhabit the athletic facilities, bustling away on ellipticals or playing rounds of racquetball. Others come for the more than 100 weekly fitness classes, which include yoga, Zumba, and extreme conditioning—a high-intensity combination of weight, cardio, and plyometric exercises. The fitness center is staffed by a team of expert trainers and nutrition coaches, who can advise clients on the best routes for reaching their health and wellness goals.
After workouts, guests unwind with a soak in the whirlpool before visiting the spa for a hot-stone massage or detoxifying mud body wrap. Then, it's on to the Citrus Fresh Grill for cocktails and a light dinner of Thai chicken lettuce wraps and grilled salmon. The club even offers a camp, which provides kids with recreational and educational activities while keeping them away from less constructive pursuits, such as watching TV or trying to convince their stuffed animals to do their chores.
Boasting Michelin stars and three decades of culinary experience, executive chef Patrick Ponsaty pilots a team that creates upscale seafood and contemporary gourmet fare. Ponsaty’s colleagues include young chefs Gianina Dicicco and Mike Reidy, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and the New England Culinary Institute. Dishes with modern, imaginative flavors include squid-ink risotto, veal cheeks with orange-blossom mousse, and hibiscus-pomegranate consommé. Each creation is a work of visual art, too, with colorful spices, marbleized sauces, and carefully stacked ingredients arranged to resemble Rodin’s The Thinker.
History is full of illustrious matches: Antony and Cleopatra, Woody and Mia Farrow, Romeo and Master P. Today’s Groupon brings you the successor in this historic pairing lineage: wine and grilling. For $30, you’ll get $65 worth of food and drink at Firefly Grill & Wine Bar, an Encinitas eatery where grilled fare and great bottles live happily ever after in a charming fantasyland where everyone is best friends with their stomachs. Follow @Groupon_Says on Twitter.