California Dreaming In San Clemente

by Paulina Farro


 with spicy grilled pineapple pina coladas...


      For a lot of flight crew, summer vacation means staying home. Airports are crowded, and planes are hot with every seat filled with irritated people.  Sticky,  screaming children have been released from school in hordes (nothing against kids it just reminds me of when I used to work summer camp in high school). So for the past few years, when the crazy summer travel season rolls around and the terminal turns into an insane asylum, I take a few weeks off and stay far away from the insanity to enjoy actually being home. It's so rare that I get to do so, that I often compare my job to camping. Actually camping is probably better, since you have a way to store and cook food. At work I am either at the mercy of airplane ovens with 2 temperatures (1. dry out your chicken and 2. burn your chicken), mythical microwaves, and ice packs. That sure gets gross after several days, so it's nice to get a break from that kind of lifestyle every now and then.

     I'm lucky enough to live in a place in which people vacation; sometimes I take it for granted and forget how amazing it is, because I usually equate glamorous destinations with  long airplane rides. When tourist season rolls around I realize someone likely took a long airplane ride to get to where I live.  Seems so obvious, right? 


       Getting to eat at home for once means fulfilling all California food stereotypes by eating lots of seafood, poke nearly every day, seasonal produce, avocados avocados and more avocados, pressed juices, kombucha, overpriced cocktails, straying away from deep-fried things, and yes- kale. If I can bring it to the beach, even better. That right there might be the snobbiest sentence I've ever typed. I'm sorry.


 San Clemente still has a small beach town feel in many ways, with most restaurants being family-owned as opposed to chains. Here are some of my favorite places around town:

  • I eat poke at least three times a week when I'm in town, and  Kawamata Seafood has THE best poke in all of southern California. Despite being a cash only hole-in-the-wall spot, it has the most fresh ahi, salmon, and octopus poke and a good variety of toppings. Also they give you more than a few tiny pieces of fish, which some poke places are definitely guilty of doing. 
  • Pierside for creative cocktails and oysters.  
  • South of Nick' s for authentic Mexican food in old town.
  • Southswell Ice Cream Co. for hand dipped frozen bananas and ice cream bars. 
  • Bear Coast Coffee for iced coffee on the beach.
  • Hapa J's for Hawaiian food and kalua pork nachos. 
  • The Fresh Shave for  hawaiian shaved ice with syrups and toppings that are all-natural and free off all the weird extra stuff that usually makes syrup neon.

       Last weekend, I had a sort of "elevated" pina colada at a beach bar, which inspired this recipe. To me, pina coladas have always been a slightly embarrassing drink that only your grandma can get away with ordering.  Speaking of grandma, I'm lucky enough to have a set of her vintage ombre gold rimmed glasses from the seventies, and there couldn't have been a more perfect vessel for these kitschy drinks. 

       I grilled the Pineapple, added a spicy kick to the pineapple simple syrup, squeezed some lime juice in there,  and used crushed ice instead of making it a blended drink because I'm lazy like that. Nobody wants to be on blender duty while having people over anyway- that's almost as bad as being on grill duty. The smoky flavor of the grilled pineapple, the sour lime juice, and the spicy cayenne pepper really help add balance to what is so typically a sickly sweet drink.




 For the spicy pineapple syrup: 

2 c. pressed pineapple juice  

2 c. water

1.5  c. pure cane sugar

1/2 c. grilled pineapple puree

1/2  lime juice 

1 pinch cayenne pepper  


For the piña colada:

2 ounces white rum *(I used Batiste Rhum Agricole and it was dangerously good. As in I could only taste the "good parts" of it. Perfectly sweet and floral and no gross rubbing alcohol taste whatsoever)

1 oz. coconut cream 

2 oz. pressed pineapple juice

1 oz. spicy pineapple syrup 

Pineapple leaf and grilled pineapple spear, for garnish

Crushed ice  




For the syrup: 

  1. Grill 8 pineapple spears, and while still warm, puree 4 of them to a medium pulp. Set others aside for garnish. 
  2. In a sauce pot over medium heat, simmer water with pinch of cayenne pepper. Add sugar, grilled pineapple puree, and bring to a boil. Once sugar has dissolved allow mixture to cool and add lime juice and pineapple juice.


For the pina colada:

1.   Dry shake all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. 

2.   Pour in tall glass filled with crushed ice, stir cocktail, and top with additional crushed Ice.

3.   Garnish with pineapple leaf and pineapple spears.