As Mark Twain once said, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Substitute Monterey for San Francisco and you get the point. It is a truth that we Californians understand all too well; the best time to visit Monterey is in the Autumn months. The weather is golden. The light, the warmth, the general vibe, all golden. That’s why during the autumn months my mind turns northward.
Monterey awaited and the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa was our destination. Located on 22 acres of soaring Monterey Pines and adjacent to the Del Monte Golf Course, the Hyatt Regency is a quick drive from downtown Monterey and all the sights and attractions. It’s a calm green space with enough personality of its own to make leaving the property unnecessary.
An open airy lobby greets guests. It has many nooks and crannies to sit in and enjoy the fireplace, golf course or just the day. Rooms offer a view of the golf course with small outdoor seating areas to read a book or look out at the scenery. The grounds are impeccably maintained with flowering shrubs and meandering walkways for exploring. I couldn’t believe the many flowers I encountered on my exploration of the grounds. There were plaques along the way to identify the plants (just in case you want to get some of your own).
There are four dining choices on the property: TusCA Restaurant, Knuckles Sport Bar, The Market, and Fireplace Lounge and Patio. I had a chance to visit each of the restaurants. For lunch, we sat outside on the Patio and shared a cheeseburger. The golf course was a stretch of green in front of us and a gentle breeze played with our hair. It was warm and relaxing and the cheeseburger was delicious.
We spent some time getting acquainted with our room: cushy beds, modern décor, luxury bedding and bath amenities. After getting our computers up and running on the hotel’s high speed wifi, some patio time was in order.
For dinner that night we were dining at TusCA Restaurant, on site. TusCA boasts food from natural, local and sustainable sources. The dinning room is large with big picture windows that look out on the golf course and gardens. It is adjacent to the Fireplace Lounge so on the weekends one can enjoy the live jazz.
We started with a bowl of the soup of the day; Squash Soup. Oh my goodness it was so good. Creamy and complex, with a sweetness from the squash and a richness from coconut milk. We also shared an order of Artichoke Fritters with preserved lemon lime aioli. The fritters were crunchy with a light batter and filled with artichoke goodness. The lemon lime aioli was a great accompaniment as it combined the tastes of mayonnaise and citrus, which cut some of the richness of the dish.
I tried one the seasonal entrees for my main dish; Shaved Cured Salmon Dutch Pancake. There was a cute Dutch pancake in a miniature cast iron pan, shaved lox and a salad of asparagus, red onion, radish and pea tendril, dressed in dill crème fraiche completed the dish. I enjoyed this light, fresh entree, it was a great choice for someone who just polished off a bowl of soup and artichoke fritters.
My companion, the meat and potatoes guy, ordered the Dry Aged Tri Tip. Grilled on the outside and a perfect pink on the inside, the Tri Tip was served with an black garlic compound butter, which was a little off putting since it was dark gray, but turned out to have a mild garlic flavor with a touch of sweetness. He also ordered two sides; smoked Yukon potato and olive oil mash and cauliflower puree. The potato mash had a smoky flavor with a fruity finish from the olive oil. I found the cauliflower puree to be a bit on the sweet side. It was very thick and creamy and was touched with cinnamon and nutmeg.
After dinner we sat in the Lounge for a little while to enjoy the live jazz and then it was back to our room to get a good night’s sleep and get ready for our couple’s massage. Did I mention there’s a spa on the premises? Well there is and I was getting a massage! We strolled along the garden path to the spa building and met with our technicians. After some conversation about what hurt (EVERYTHING) and the pressure we required, It was one glorious hour of pampering with gentle, but firm pressure and stretching. We emerged, looser, relaxed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Eating was my first thought, it was lunch time after all so we headed over to the main building. Our intention was to go into the Knuckles Sports Bar, but it was full of vociferous fans. We went to our favorite table on the patio instead but still were able to order off the sports bar menu. I had been craving a chili-cheese dog since I saw it on the menu so that is what I ordered. The dog came with fries or salad but for a little extra I got onion rings…yum. That is one of my favorite, indulgent meals. The hot dog was great, it had snap and was grilled. The chili was meaty and had a bit of heat and the onion rings were crisp and full of onion flavor.
My companion went the hamburger route but with a twist. The Surf and Turf Burger was a Strauss grassfed burger topped with butter-poached crab and lobster, a real indulgence. The burger looked great but I was too busy with my dog. After my companion took a breath from eating he told me it was great.
That evening we were going off property to enjoy dinner with a view at the Beach House in Pacific Grove. It’s located in a beautiful Victorianesq house overlooking Lover’s Point Beach. The view is, spectacular with lots of windows and a heated patio for watching the waves roll in and the sun set. It’s not a fussy place, it’s casual and comfortable. I would call the food California-costal with a nice selection of fresh fish, pasta, poultry, and meat.
We started our meal with the Flash-Fried Monterey Calamari served with house-made tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. The calamari was so tender, not chewy at all. The breading was light and crispy and the cocktail sauce was really good with a bite of horseradish as was the tartar sauce.
I decided on the Scallops Pot Pie and my companion the Sand Dabs Piccata for our entrees. The Scallop Pot Pie with filled with large scallops cooked to perfection. They were in a white-wine cream sauce along with roasted cipollini, mushrooms, peas and carrots. There was also a light and flaky puff pastry topper. The sauce was luscious and complimented the scallops wonderfully. I loved the occasional bite of sweet-roasted cipollini onion and the earthy mushrooms. There is a lot of it and they don’t skimp on the scallops, so being hungry is a must unless you want lots of leftovers, which isn’t a bad thing.
My companion’s Sand Dabs were lightly dusted with panko crumbs and sauteed until just flaky. The lemon-butter sauce was filled with capers. Completing the dish was a warm asparagus-arugula salad and dried cranberry wild rice pilaf. Everything was fresh and tasty, from the delicate fish to the robust salad.
There was no room for dessert, but as sipped our wine and enjoyed the view, we decided that was sweet enough.
Monterey is a magical place and the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is a great home-base for exploration and relaxation.
The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is located at 1 Old Golf Course Road. For reservations and questions call (831) 372-1234 or visit www.hyatt.com and select the Hyatt Regency Monterey.
The Beach House at Lovers Point is located at 620 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove. For reservations and more information call (831) 375-2345 or visit www.beachhousepg.com.