Kitchen Talk

Dream homes start with dream kitchens.

Carol Lee is a foodie who knows that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where family comes together for Mickey Mouse pancakes on Sunday morning and margartias on Friday night. It’s where Lee’s family gathers for her signature eggplant parmesan (check out her recipe below.) Lee is one of Orange County’s leading luxury real estate agents, and she has a knack for connecting families to the homes (and kitchens) of their dreams. She has a local’s insight to some of the most desirable neighborhoods in coastal Orange County, and that insight includes where to eat. We caught up with Lee to chat about kitchen design, what the modern home buyer looks for in a kitchen and where to dine once you’ve planted your roots in Newport Coast.

As a long-time Newport Coast resident, where do you recommend dining for: Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Cocktails with a view?
In Newport Coast I love Zov’s anytime (breakfast is served only on the weekends.) Coliseum Pool and Grill at The Resort at Pelican Hill is great for lunch or cocktails with a view. Babette’s in Crystal Cove is fun when you want a special ambiance and I go to Javier’s for Mexican food. In Crystal Cove you’ll also find the best fish tacos at Bear Flag Fish Co. as well as one of the best restaurants in Orange County and my long-time favorite place for dinner: Marche Moderne.

When looking for a home, what type of kitchen design do your clients value most?
My clients like a kitchen with a large single level island for food prep, serving and storage, and bar stools for eating and entertaining.

Speaking of eating and entertaining, your listing, 18 Via Burrone in Newport Coast, is designed to host a great party. What makes this gourmet kitchen a home entertainer’s dream kitchen?
Style! This kitchen is the center of this home. It has a beautiful island, butler’s pantry, formal dining room, and extra refrigerator and prep area. I love that it is open to the family room and near the backyard kitchen for barbecuing!

In your book, what is the one non-negotiable kitchen feature that every kitchen must have?
A great gas cooktop with lots of power. 18 Via Buronne features a four burner Viking Range with grill and griddle.

Any kitchen design trends that you would like to see in 2020?
I’d love to see darker cabinets and color come back into the kitchen this year.

If a client needs to revive an outdated kitchen space, what type of colors/patterns/textures/materials do you advise complement each other best?
Something that is in the same style as the rest of your house. Continuity helps a home feel more pulled together.

Care to share your favorite recipe with our readers? Here’s my eggplant parmesan recipe. It’s very easy, but time consuming to prepare. It’s worth the effort.

Carol’s Eggplant Parmesan

Note: This recipe can be expanded to fit any size or number of eggplants.

You’ll Need:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 1 to 2 cups flour
  • 2 to 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 large jar marina sauce
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup olive oil


  • Large frying pan
  • Slotted spoon
  • 13″ x 9″ baking pan


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut eggplant into 1/4″ by 2″ strips.
  • Dredge eggplant in eggs and coat in flour. Transfer eggplant to a cookie sheet.
  • Heat olive oil. Once sizzling hot, fry eggplant strips until golden brown on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan.
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove eggplant. Drain on a sheet pan covered with a paper towel.
  • Pour 1/2 of marinara sauce into a 9″ x 13 ” baking pan. Alternate layers of eggplant strips, marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella, finishing with sauce and cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.

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