Lifestyle

A NAPA-LIKE OASIS IN SOUTH OC

Glasspar Chef Rob Wilson offers tip and tricks on how he and wife Annique garden, grill, and entertain in their own backyard— and vineyard!

Photos by Brett Hillyard

Complete with a full outdoor kitchen, bountiful citrus trees, and even a vineyard, the backyard at Rob and Annique Wilson’s home in Laguna Niguel is like their own wine country oasis. An al fresco dining area adorned with festoon lighting hangs over a 10-foot picnic table made of reclaimed redwood, which serves as the central gathering place for the culinary couple—they own Glasspar seafood grill in Dana Point, where Rob is the executive chef and Annique oversees the wine program. 

There’s an outdoor dream kitchen complete with a four-seat chef’s counter, 48-inch grill, rotisserie oven, dual refrigerators, two-burner stovetop, plancha, kegerator, and more. That’s where Rob will grill fresh fish home brought from Glasspar Seafood Market. 

There are citrus trees in wine barrels and galvanized tubs overflowing with lavender and rosemary. 

Adjacent to the outdoor kitchen is a fire pit encircled with Adirondack chairs, and a facade enclosing a 50-inch television. “It’s the ultimate place to unwind,” Rob says. 

Blue Door Magazine enjoyed an afternoon in the beautiful backyard, sipping wine and chatting with the dynamic duo about the al fresco life. 

Not many people in Southern California can say they have a vineyard in their backyard; tell us about it. This was Annique’s passion project. Our backyard vineyard has eight Grenache vines. We decided to name it Pretty Bird Vineyard, after the vibrant-colored birds that came to visit once the grapes ripened. One year, we were able to harvest enough to produce around two cases of Rosé. 

What was the first vintage of the Rosé like?  The first batch had notes of ripe strawberry and orange blossom. The opening of the restaurant put the 2020 vintage on hold, but we are absolutely planning to harvest again next year. Now that these vines have a little more age, we anticipate next year’s vintage to be even better. 

ROB’S SEAFOOD GRILLING TIP: Make sure your grill is cleaned and well-seasoned. The best way to do this is to turn your grill up as hot as it can go for about 20 minutes. Then, scrape it with vegetable oil to remove any residue. This will prevent the fish from sticking and give it a clean taste that allows the natural flavors to shine. Then, cook the fish at 10 and 2 to achieve perfectly latched grill marks.

When designing an outdoor kitchen, what are some important things to keep in mind? Think about all the different elements you want your outdoor kitchen to have, and do the groundwork first. For example, you need to consider things like power, natural gas lines, water, and drainage and what permitting you’ll need for each. That way, when you’re ready to bring in the appliances, it’s an easy installation. If you can, create space for different elements like a pizza oven, rotisserie, or a slow-roaster like The Green Egg.

Did you have any help on the backyard oasis? In between opening my restaurant Glasspar and my previous role as Executive Chef of Montage Laguna Beach, I was a chef ambassador for Fisher & Paykel. I worked with them on our DIY backyard makeover. 

Are there any unique or sentimental elements in your backyard? The facade of our backyard bar and chef’s counter is built from reclaimed wood from the original backyard fence. A friend of mine, Christopher Schultz, a sculptor and mixed-media artist, took on the project with me.

Describe your perfect backyard get-together. We would be with close friends and family! We’re eating something seasonal, and there’s usually some seafood involved. We let the season inspire the theme of the evening, and everything evolves from there. We look at our garden and see what’s ripe and ready to be plucked, and we can build a whole menu around that. When it comes to drinks, we typically start with bubbles and move to a wine that pairs well with what we’re serving. In the summer, we enjoy a lot of Rosé or Sancerre. As fall approaches, we fire up the rotisserie and throw on some chicken with pan-roasted potatoes and root veggies. We’ll serve that alongside a roasted beet salad and open a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Has entertaining at home inspired any menu items at Glasspar? Absolutely! Our Summer Peach Salad with grilled caramelized onions, cayenne-brown sugar candied bacon, and a fresh herb-mint vinaigrette came straight onto the menu from a summer backyard barbecue. Also, the street corn that accompanies our swordfish is something we do at home all the time!


COVID-19 Check-in: During the pandemic, Glasspar pivoted from fine dining to a fresh seafood market. “Every Saturday, we displayed the freshest seafood and shellfish, offering everything from local sea bass to live Maine lobsters,” Rob says. “As demand grew, we built an online ordering platform on our website, giving customers the ability to order and pick up fresh seafood seven days a week. We plan to continue the market. We’re in the business of feeding people, and we’re happy to do our part by providing the community with fresh seafood at better-than-supermarket prices.”

Glasspar | 24961 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point | 949.240.6243 | glasspar.com

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