California

The Beautiful Carmel Valley

September 8, 2014

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Here is the continuation of our big California trip… Make sure you are ready for just like most of my travel posts, there are a lot of stories and photos here! But if you want to backtrack a bit to read the previous part of this adventure, click here.

From Big Sur we headed up north to the beautiful Carmel Valley, one of the finest wine growing regions this side of California. Here we stayed at the gorgeous Bernadus Lodge and Spa, which is a close drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a city in Monterey county, known for its beautiful natural landscape and rich artistic history.

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This is a resort hotel that has its own vineyard and winery, which produces some of the best Bordeaux-style red wines in the region, thanks to the cool coastal climate all around. Bernadus Lodge and Spa has also received several recognitions, including “Rated 6TH Best Hotel in the US” by Reader’s Choice Awards of Conde Nast Traveler and as one of the “Greatest 500 Hotels in the World” by Travel + Leisure.

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We set aside the next day to finally explore the beautiful city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a place I have heard so much about for its natural beauty, but have never really gotten the chance to visit until now.  Carmel, as it is more popularly called, is a little town and home to a lot of quaint shops & art galleries. Aside from its artistic charm, this is also where some of the best and widely known golf courses in the world are located. (The US Open Championships and PGA Tours are held here.)

In this pretty town, we met up with some friends and their kids who are also visiting from Manila. We had a great lunch at the Stillwater Bar and Grill, which is located inside The Lodge at Pebble Beach. We had lots of fresh seafood!

Collage 3From top to bottom : Fresh Atlantic and Pacific oysters. Dungeness crab cake with quinoa, avocado and corn salad and cilantro slaw.

Collage 4Open-faced Maine lobster salad with local watercress, endive salad and celery root. Seafood paella with mixed fish and shellfish, saffron rice, Spanish chorizo, fresh peas, peppers and smoked paprika.

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And of course, I chose the Strawberry and Rhubarb crumble with Tahitian vanilla ice cream as the perfect way to end that hearty seafood lunch!

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This was surely one of the most beautiful lunches we had in this trip since not only was the food good, consisting mainly of fresh seafood and organic produce, but more so, because we dined with good friends at the terrace, under huge white huge umbrellas, al fresco style with a spectacular view of the serene Carmel Bay and the famous 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Links right in front of us.

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We went around the 17-mile Drive, which is one of the most scenic roads you can go through in this side of California. It passes through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, the world-class golf courses, beautiful mansions and other scenic attractions.  This road is made even more picturesque by the sight of these huge cypress trees!

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Afterwards, we drove around some more to see more beautiful sights around this little charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is the historical Point Pinos Lighthouse. 

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And the beautiful Carmel Beach.

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The next day, we drove again to take the kids to the huge Monterey Bay Aquarium, located on Cannery Row, located on the site of a former sardine cannery.

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Here the kids saw hundreds of species of different plants and animals – their favorite being the : stingrays, jellyfish and sea otters. I highly recommend this place if you are travelling with kids because this aquarium has a lot of interactive and very interesting exhibits inside.

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Back to our Bernadus Lodge and Spa again in time for our dinner. After having given the kids their playtime, it was now our turn to have some fun! (Because we deserve to be spoiled too!) That night, we decided to go to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Marinus, which was given by Wine Spectator the “Grand Award” for its wine cellar that boasts of 25,000 premium bottles, and 10,000 bottles of which are from the hotel’s own Bernadus Winery and Vineyard. At this special dinner, we were joined by another couple, my best friend from grade school (and her hubby), who have been based in the Bay Area for some time now and who I haven’t seen for more than a decade or so!

We had a fantastic dinner and a lovely time reminiscing about our grade school years. You can just imagine the endless chatter and jokes flying around the table!

The menu that night of celebrated chef, Cal Stamenov, focused a lot on California-natural cuisine.  Marinus is well known for using local and seasonal produce as well as the best regional seafood and artisan-farmed meats. We enjoyed every single dish and as expected from a highly rated wine restaurant, service was superb!

Collage 1Big Eye Tuna sashimi with avocado, Meyer lemon and Carmel Valley olive oil. Maryland Softshell Crab with sweet corn puree, leeks and asparagus.

Collage 2Colorado Lamb Ribeye with potato-fennel puree, morels, English peas and perigord sauce. Good Thunder Alemar cheese company, mankato and cow’s milk cheese.

Collage 3Pre-dessert sorbet of : Strawberries and raspberries with fresh yogurt cream.  Followed by the main dessert of : Chocolate-Coffee bean cremeaux with hazelnut financier, toasted meringue, chocolate malt ice cream.

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To end that very good meal, our very nice and efficient server (proving that he could read my mind) served us these freshly made dark chocolate truffles and strawberry marshmallows! He of course received a double thumbs up sign from me and a huge applause from our table after that! 🙂

Up next…a quick pit stop in an island filled with “treasure”!

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