Road Trip to the Monterey Peninsula: Big Sur foraging and Pacific Grove beach dining – Day 2

After a long drive, you’ll want to sleep in. Don’t sleep in too long as Hofsas House starts continental breakfast service at 8am. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee will lead you to the lobby. The fireplace is ablaze as you fill your basket with goodies from a selection of fresh baked sweet & savory pastries, danishes, and sliced coffeecakes. Chilled yogurts of different varieties will fill your dairy fancy. Fresh fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas are artfully arranged in a basket on the coffee table. Orange juice and coffee are poured fresh by the morning staff. While you’re enjoying your breakfast, Hofsas House has a nice collection of area restaurant menus available for your perusal if you need dining ideas. The morning paper is available for your reading pleasure along with books on the Monterey Peninsula’s flora and fauna that residing in the area, like iconic redwood trees and sea otters.

After breakfast, consider taking a morning walk down to Carmel Beach. The morning air is refreshing and the sun will warm your body up as you make your way downhill on Ocean Avenue. You’ll notice from San Carlos Street, the street is lined mainly with shops and restaurants. The aroma of Lush Cosmetics will first catch your olfactory centers and then the beautiful whimsical colors will entice you from the window. Halfway to the beach, the shops taper off to quaint residential homes. As Ocean Avenue ends at the beach, you will experience the scent of the ocean and the welcoming sea breeze. There is a well-maintained lookout where you can get panoramic views (and photographs) of the breathtaking Carmel Beach. The one thing that you’ll see like nowhere else is the off-leash fun that all of the dogs on the beach are having. From running into the water to play or fetch to finding other fur-babies to play with and chase, this beach is a dog-day heaven. You know that they are having so much fun as the pups almost seem to pout as they walk back to the car to leave. You can just see it in their eyes – “Just five more minutes, please!” 

Walking back to Hofsas House is a whole different story. It’s uphill all the way back, but walking back up on the other side of the street will give you the opportunity to stop and check out more shops, restaurants and beautifully quaint cottages. The picturesque PortaBella Restaurant looks like a fairytale house during the daytime. The beautiful and colorful landscaping in front is reminiscent of another place and time. Next door is the Cottage of Sweets where you can find candy that you may have seen on your last trip to Europe like Cadbury Crunchie and Twirl. You’ll have “The Candy Man Can” song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) playing in your head. You might even want to purchase a candy bar and see if you won a “Golden Ticket”.

If you are in the Monterey Peninsula for Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the Big Sur Foragers Festival will be in full swing. Events span from Friday to Sunday with chef dinners, foraging hikes, and the grand “Fungus Face-off” where area chefs present their most creative “fungi” dishes and local wineries present their fine wines for sipping and pairing. Big Sur is about an hour drive south from Carmel with scenic and breathtaking views. Here’s a look at this year’s competition:

  • Montrio and Bakers Bacon presented a Black Trumpet Mushroom Tart with dock candy cap jelly and topped with foie gras parfait, Bakers Bacon, and pine needle syrup. Winner: Judges Pick for Best Overall
  • Fernwood presented a Pork and Chanterelle Meatloaf with chanterelle butter gravy, and a lemon microgreen salad. The meatloaf was made with 4 kinds of pork and Fernwood house made bacon. Winner: Best Cooking Technique
  • Carmel ValleyRanch presented Chanterelle, black trumpet, hedgehog mushrooms with short ribs on a garlic crostini with sea salt and red radishes. Winner: Best Dish Using Wine, People’s Choice Award Winner
  • Quail and Olive showcased their flavored oils like Lemon, Rosemary, and more. They would be great to saute with or toss with a salad.
  • Beach House presented a Mushroom and Pork Sui Gow with shiitake, oyster, porcini and portabella mushrooms with a truffle soy butter. Winner: Dish Most Easily Adapted to Home Cooking
  • Big Sur Roadhouse presented Wood Sorrel Ale; Huckleberry Fizz with Big Sur Spring Water and Pine Needle Bay Laurel and Spearmint Tea with Big Sur Honey. Winner: Most Nutritious and Healthy
  • Big Sur Bakery presented Mushpuppies Pâte à Choux Puffs with black trumpets, wild rice + a hint of umeboshi. Winner: Best Table Display
  • Restaurant atVentana Inn presented Candy Cap Mushroom Ravioli filled with chanterelle mushrooms, black trumpet puree, chanterelle mushroom broth, and pickled chanterelles. Winner: Best Use of Local Ingredients
  • Porter’s in theForest presented Mushroom 5 Ways with pine nut aioli, fried lentils, and burnt meringue. Winner: Most Inventive Use of Ingredients
  • Esalen Institute presented Big Sur Chanterelle Arancini with wild fennel salad with Esalen Garden herbs, puree of Coke Farm celery root, and pickled chanterelles. Winner: Vegetarian Dish
  • TusCA Ristorante presented Sea Scallop with coconut carrot broth, roasted shitake mushrooms, fresh Enoki mushrooms, lime caviar as well as a Thai basil leaf. Winner: Dish with Most Complex Flavors

The Big Sur Foragers Festival is also a fundraiser for the Big Sur Health Center. Proceeds from the event sales and silent auction garnered more than $30,000 this year!

Being surrounded by the ocean is amazing! Keep the theme going with dinner at Beach House in Pacific Grove. Overlooking Lovers Point Beach, the Beach House is surrounded by picturesque windows to view the beach and ocean by day and city lights at night. Here’s a glimpse of the menu items you might experience:

  • Slow-Braised Lamb Poutine is shoestring fries, lamb, green peppercorn gravy, melted cheese curds, and fried sage. The fries are perfectly fried to a golden brown - crispy outside and tender inside. The braised lamb is delicate, tender, and so flavorful. Green peppercorn gravy is onolicious and adds depth to the dish. Fried sage on top is a nice touch. Rating: 5/5
  • Pan-Roasted Duck Breast Jubilee is served with brandy persimmon wild rice, broccolini, cherry gastrique, frisse, and vanilla bean oil. The dish has a beautiful presentation. The duck meat has a great flavor and cooked to a perfect medium rare, but unfortunately the skin was chewy, fatty, and inedible. The duck needs to be seared skin-side down in order to render the fat layer between the meat and the skin. The crispy skin is the best part of the duck so this was a disappointment. On the other hand, the broccolini was cooked to perfection with fresh green flavor intact. Rating: 4.3/5
  • Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf is served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion gravy, house made ketchup, and frizzled onions. The frizzled onions add a textural accent to the soft meatloaf. This dish is hearty and a generous portion as well. The mashed potatoes have a creamy texture with nice flavor. Vegetables are cooked al dente, not soggy at all. Sautéed mushrooms give it a light earthy flavor. The meatloaf is great with or without the house made ketchup. Rating: 4.8/5
  • Chocolate Pot de Crème is decadent with rich, dark chocolate flavor and velvety texture. Chocolate worked well with the orange flavored syrup, reminiscent of Terry’sChocolate Orange candy. Rating: 5/5
  • Key Lime Pie is beautifully presented in a glass ramekin. The creamy texture is accentuated by the lime zest for the perfect lime flavor, not too sweet and not too sour. It is the perfect ending for a beach dining experience. Rating: 5/5

A sense of natural experience from land and sea will fill your dreams as another day in the Monterey Peninsula is only a few hours away.

For more information:

On San Carlos St between 3rd and 4th Ave
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
+1.800.221.2548 or +1.831.624.2745

Make plans to attend in 2016

620 Ocean View Blvd
Pacific Grove, CA