Tasting Our Way through Monterey

May 2012


It had been many years since I had been to Monterey, California, a favorite destination when I traveled with my family as a child. This trip, however, was strictly a grown up one. After a few days of traveling around with a representative from the tourist board, I had my friend Tracy join me in Carmel-by-the-Sea for what would turn out to be a fun and unusual weekend getaway.

Tracy picked me up at L’Auberge, a beautiful property downtown, and we dropped our things off at the Lamp Lighter Inn, an adorable set of rooms and cottages closer to the beach. We had the Blue Bird Cottage for the next two days. It was cozy and cute, with a loft upstairs that had twin beds and a king bed downstairs near the electric fireplace.

After we got settled, we headed downtown for the Carmel-by-the-Sea Pet Parade. This city is by far the most pet-friendly I had ever seen in my life and the parade was a testament to that (there were also dogs staying at our hotel, water bowls on every corner, restaurants welcoming dogs and plenty of pet shopping downtown). We watched the parade a bit before going down the block at one of the many winery tasting rooms in the city, Wrath Wines.

I enjoyed their rendition of my favorite grape, sauvignon blanc, but was also surprised to find out how much I liked the 2009 Wrath Syrah Doctor’s Vineyard, made from one of my least favorite grapes, syrah. We bid the tasting room goodbye and did a little shopping before hitting the road for lunch at a property that is known all over the world.

Check any list of the most beautiful golf courses in the world and the chances are Pebble Beach is on there. We had a lunch at Stillwater Bar & Grill at the The Lodge at Pebble Beach, which showed off both the Pacific Ocean and this scenic course. While Tracy enjoyed some of the seafood, I had a great burger and fries before we share a scrumptious peanut butter dessert. It was certainly a place I was glad to experience and recommend a trip to for lunch with a view.

17 Mile Drive MontereyAfter we got the car back from the valet we decided to hit the road to get a glimpse of this part of Monterey. There was no doubt where we were going as 17-Mile Drive is one of the most famous – and most breathtaking – drives in the world. We took our time and made many stops to check out the scenery and take lots of pictures.

We went back to the Lamp Lighter Inn to change our clothes and then headed down to the Cypress Inn. While “Yappy Hour” was taking place in the front lounge, we headed to the back where we could see all the movie posters from owner Doris Day’s films, as well as the drinks and menu items named after her co-stars and fellow actors.

The cocktail menu opens with the Humphrey Bogart quote, “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” We didn’t let that happen to us and started with a Mary Pickford (Leblon, Bacardi Superior, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur and grenadine). It was actually created for the actress at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in the 1920s and I agreed with Mary that it was a great drink. Before we left the bar area for our dinner table we also tried the French 75 (champagne, lemon juice and sugar), made in honor of Harry’s Bar in Paris – a hangout to the stars.

Creme Brulee We enjoyed the food at the Cypress Inn as much as the drinks. We started with a roasted vegetable soup. I had the Penne Sicilian with pasta, sausage and onions in a tomato sauce, while Tracy loved the scallops. Other menu choices that caught our eye were the Moroccan Chicken, Lamp Lollipops and Braised Short Ribs. The choice of dessert was an easy one, though, and the crème brulee was wonderful.

We called it a night after dinner and got a good night’s sleep before enjoying breakfast in the Lamp Lighter’s courtyard. We were actually the only ones without dogs with us, but they were all very well behaved and we enjoyed a conversation with visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada. The Lamp Lighter also has an evening wine and cheese hour so it’s a good place to get to know other people (and pets).

Before leaving the area, Tracy and I enjoyed a long walk along Carmel Beach. While the towns in Monterey may have changed a bit over the years, I still felt like I was on a childhood visit when I looked out at the Pacific Ocean.

After many years as one of the top tennis writers in the country, Marcia Frost now devoting most of her time to travel writing, with a focus on food, wine and spirits. She has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com and does weekly columns for Inspirato on Sonoma and Paris (two locations she visits often). Marcia also freelances for many other outlets, including Yahoo!; AOL; Michigan Avenue; Rum Bum; Los Angeles Confidential; Travel, Food & Drink; and Air Tran’s Go! Magazine. She has been contributing to Girls’ Getaway since 2010. For more information on Marcia, visit her website MarciaFrost.com.

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