Timing is everything, so when the opportunity to share Driftwood's concept also meant that we were privy to learning it's less than a month out from opening its doors, I call it luck. I chat with Rainer about their new endeavor and his restaurant group, among other topics.
What can you tell us about Driftwood Kitchen?
It was a vision that our Director of Operations, John Nye, and I created. Colby Durnin, our new partner, literally had chills when we presented the name and concept, and it was what ultimately brought us together as a team. Driftwood Kitchen is not meant to be pretentious. It has simple, but great food, approachable service, and really embraces the Laguna Beach lifestyle.
One food you can't live without:
Is salt considered a food?
Where was your most recent meal?
Cliff's Edge in Los Angeles with Chef Vartan Abgaryan– really good. I had the Mary's chicken with roasted carrots.
Explain Sentinel Restaurant and Hospitality Group to us.
We were the natural extension to a development company that was outsourcing food and beverage management. We brought this expertise "in house" so that we could complete our "all points" approach to rehabilitating any project.
What is your beverage of choice?
I prefer a great cocktail with three or four simple, high-end ingredients mixed in balance with each other. Whiskey, gin, vodka . . .all good when in a well-crafted beverage. We work with Master Mixologist Gaston Martinez, and he understands our palates and creates amazing cocktails that folks just drink up– literally!
How did the name of your restaurant come about?
Driftwood is the wood that washes to shore after it has been stripped and cleansed by the power of the ocean. The space that we have taken over definitely needed this same transformation to become something fresh and new.
Your earliest food memory:
My earliest food memory is my grandmother's roasted chanterelle mushroom ragu. I remember it vividly to this day.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Nueske bacon . . .and maybe some eggs with it.
Favorite places to eat.
Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink and Sushi Laguna– both in Laguna Beach. Oh, and a hole-in-the-wall ramen place around the corner from my house [Editor's Note: The same ramen joint was also his best recent food find].
Do you follow any personal guidelines when pairing your dishes with wine selections?
Having worked for the Mondavi family, I like well-balanced wines that go well with food, but there are no guidelines. Good wine is good wine!
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Diversity. There are many great ethnicities represented in the cuisines across the county.
Favorite meal growing up:
That would be pork roast with rosemary new potatoes!
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?).
A guest actually wanted us to order the soup from the restaurant next door to-go and serve it to him/her in our restaurant. Did I? What do you think?
Driftwood Kitchen will be located at 619 Sleepy Hollow Ln, Laguna Beach, (949) 715-7700; www.driftwoodkitchen.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.