Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweet Indulgences in San Juan Capistrano: Part 2

Having taken the time to pamper ourselves (something The Rose and The Peach — and most people, for that matter — rarely do) and feeling especially beautified with our new makeup looks, we departed Brush Salon and headed across Camino Capistrano and down Verdugo Street to our next destination: the Los Rios Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This hidden gem includes more than 30 buildings along both sides of Los Rios Street, between Del Obispo and Mission streets, and makes up one of the oldest continuing neighborhoods in California (including three adobe homes built in the 1790s).

On the way, we spotted the newly opened Vitos Pizza & Italian Ristorante ( at the corner of Camino Capo and Verdugo Street, underneath Ruby’s Diner. The Peach ducked in to pick up a to-go menu (gluten-free menu available upon request) and was pleased to find offerings ranging from chicken parmigiana to homemade meatball sandwiches to thin-crust pizza and more.

Continuing along, we passed the new Frio Frozen Yogurt shop and the Regency Theatre (be sure to check out the VIP section, with full service from the bar, restaurant and concession stand during your entire movie).

We ended up at a dead end (where the Historic Train Depot can be found) and crossed the railroad tracks (watch out for the Amtrak and Metrolink trains that pass through daily) and entered the Historic District.

Once on Los Rios Street, we looked to the left, where we spotted the Hidden House Coffee, and then turned to the right, where we spied The Ramos House Café, The Tea House on Los Rios and several other interesting retail and dining establishments. We decided to venture to the right to see what we could unearth.
Our first stop was up the steps and into the Blue Eyed Girl (which The Rose says is one of her favorites), a small yet filled to the rim women’s boutique offering everything from jeans, T-shirts, sweaters and footwear to candles and lotions. There The Rose had her eye on a pair of pink knee-high boots with open toe and heel, while The Peach came close to owning a gray San Juan Capo sweatshirt with ragged top and the Blue Eyed Girl logo on the back ( But, with both of our billfolds managing to stay shut, we went on our way.
We passed The Ramos House Cafe (a local favorite started in an 1881 structure by chef/owner John Q. Humphreys in 1994), where people were waiting in line to partake in delicacies like scotch quail eggs, peanut butter pain perdu with roasted bananas and caramel, and mac n’ cheese with wild mushrooms and black truffle (

Next up was the Cottage Home and Garden store (, owned by Richelle Rowland and featuring a wealth of treasures for the home and garden. There it seemed as if we would never find an end to the maze of distinctive finds, including a variety of plants, metal garden art, statuary, decorative crosses, wind chimes crafted from glass plates, just to name a few.
Our stomachs beginning to grumble, we decided on one more stop before heading to lunch. Just down the street at the Nest, we both were particularly drawn in by military-style jackets in black and denim ($85).

Now, where to eat? Figuring The Ramos House was a little too crowded for our taste, we chose The Tea House (, where The Rose says visitors like to go when they want a proper English tea. I say it’s the western outpost of Atlanta’s Swan Coach House (, a charming spot for ladies — and sometimes, gents — who like to celebrate special occasions from engagements to new births and to enjoy Southern-inspired dishes like the Swan’s favorite (the restaurant’s signature chicken salad served in hand-made timbales with creamy frozen fruit salad).
After checking out the spot’s small assortment of gifts (The Peach loved the teapot night lights) and saying hello to a group of outgoing girls and gals from a local seniors home, we made our way to our table on the edge of the veranda overlooking the peaceful, shaded tree-lined street where the only noise was the occasional train warming of its approach in the background and a flowing fountain.

Settled in with our menus, I asked The Rose if she was having tea (obviously a silly question, based on the look I received), upon which she promptly ordered a pot of Queen Catharine (a more robust version of English Breakfast), while The Peach was pleased to find her favorite black currant. Both were served in delicate china pots covered with flowered tea cozies and matching china teacups, and were accompanied by heart-shaped savory and currant scones, complete with preserves and cream.
While waiting for our tea, we decided on our lunch entrees: The Peach chose The Mediterranean salad for $13.95 (a mix of wild and gathered greens, fresh tabuli, tomatoes, onion, and a tangy Greek dressing topped with feta cheese and Kalamata olives, and grilled chicken added) and The Rose selected The Los Rios Tea for $18.95, with four different types of finger sandwiches (sans crust), freshly baked currant scone with cream and preserves, and fresh fruit with cream and brown sugar.

Lost in quiet and enjoyable conversation, we were pleasantly interrupted by Melissa Hammer (a 10-year employee, pictured below, who calls herself the “docent of the Tea House,” as she is always at the ready with a history lesson of the area), who tells us how she believes that the Tea House is “a sanctuary from the rat race.” Setting down our meal selections, she said to be sure and try the edible camellia and English lavender grown in the owner’s garden and topping the salad.
Full — and having achieved a Zen state of mind — The Rose and I gathered our belongings and made our way back to the hustle and bustle of the everyday world, all the while anticipating our next adventure.

P.S. Those of you familiar with the area might have noticed that the Mission is inconspicuously missing in this particular post. We had so much on our plate during this visit that we decided it could wait. After all … tomorrow is another day (I threw that in just for you Peaches).

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