On Jan. 1, why not do what the Japanese do and spare Mom the drudgery of having to prepare meals for the family. Most Orange County restaurants will be closed until the dinner hour, but a few open early--and some even ring in the new year with a special brunch menu.
The following list is for those who find their refrigerators empty after the big bash or those who are bored with all the parades and endless bowl games. Expect to find comfort, bounty and continued celebration at these places, not to mention good food. Happy 1988, everybody.
The most logical place to be open Jan. 1 is a hotel, and should you want to start the year off posh, then the brunch at the Ritz-Carlton is de rigeur . The dining room at the Ritz is a plush, 18th-Century drawing room, and there you'll find Orange County's most expensive, elaborate New Year's brunch. Bring your wallet and feast on a spread featuring three types of caviar, smoked ham, goose, duck, albacore, eel and a variety of salads, pastas and carved entrees. Desserts are fabulous. Service is attentive and civilized. And if you're thinking of more holiday cheer, don't expect any bargains on the wine list.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 33533 Shoreline Drive, Laguna Niguel (714) 240-2000. Brunch buffet served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. $30 per person.
Anthony's Pier Two in Anaheim offers the low-end brunch in price, but not in quality. This charming, Disneyland-adjacent family restaurant is run by Charles Rivezzo, a product of New York's Fulton Fish Market, and the restaurant is full of little Italian touches and a spunky panache. Tablecloths are removed for a New Year's buffet of pancakes, eggs, French toast, cereals, turkey, roast beef, scungilli pasta, homemade muffins, fried calamari and salads. At these prices, you can't afford to stay home.
Anthony's Pier Two, 1640 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim (714) 774-0332. Buffet from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. $3.95 for adults; $2.50 for children.
Peppers, despite the name, has a pretty low-pepper quotient. It's basically a slick, Yankee-Mexican-type place with waterproofed plastic menus. Peppers offers a champagne brunch complete with an omelette and sweets bar, where you can build your own ice cream sundaes. Enjoy carved roast beef and ham, assorted pastas, eggs Benedict, Mexican fiesta entrees and fresh fruits. And don't worry, it's all-you-can-eat, and you can watch the bowl games. This is a lively place, so beware if you haven't quite recovered from the night before.
Peppers, 12361 Chapman Ave. at Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove (714) 740-1333. Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. $12.95; $5.95 for children under 10.
The Ancient Mariner in Newport has undergone a facelift and is now more handsome than ever. This local favorite serves a more traditional brunch, the multicourse, non-buffet affair that we're all familiar with by now. Champagne is included with all entrees, such as seafood croissant, huevos rancheros, grilled fish and eggs Benedict. Also offered is a fresh fruit cup with sorbet and a delectable basket of banana, date-nut, and carrot breads. All main dishes are garnished with potatoes. The Santa Ana restaurant will also be open.
The Ancient Mariner, 2607 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach (714) 646-0201, and 301 N. Tustin Ave., Santa Ana (714) 542-1488. Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entrees from $5.95 to $12.50.
Back to a hotel and a spectacular harbor view--the stunning Watercolors at the Dana Point Resort. The hotel offers a brunch buffet on Sundays only but will remain open New Year's Day for a special lunch. Imaginative chef Peter Striffolino, formerly of the Princess Alicante, brings you one of the area's most interesting menus, with appetizers like gulf shrimp with avocado and grapefruit, sandwiches like fried steamers with capered mayonnaise, and entrees like fresh salmon baked in phyllo. Light eaters can try the special spa cuisine. Elegant and semi-dressy.
Watercolors, Dana Point Resort, 25135 Park Lantern (714) 661-5000. Open New Year's Day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lunch for two (food only) $30-$50.
Want to try something different to start the new year? How about Japanese? Seafood Show in La Palma will be open all day and has a wide variety of fresh seafoods. Cajun prawns are about the best around, and there is special chakin sushi, a sweetened rice ball wrapped in egg, that Japanese love to eat at New Year's. The menu is divided into American and Japanese fish dishes, and quality is uniformly high. It's a kind of international version of the Seafood Broiler, and the environment is interesting and a refreshing change from the familiar. Desserts aren't bad either, especially a fine cheesecake, and a light, tangy sour cream mousse.
Seafood Show, 50 Centerpointe Drive, La Palma (714) 670-0137. Open 11:30 a.m. Lunch for two about $25.