“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray…”
I can’t think of a better theme or reason to head out west during the frigid, hunker-down days of winter. It’s time to pack your bags (and clubs) for plenty of sun, fresh air, regional food and golfing — I’ve recently discovered the essence of California dreams and cuisine on a winter’s day — The Lodge at Torrey Pines is the first stop on this seasonal getaway.
Modeled after the Craftsman era architecture (The Gamble House in Pasadena for example), guests are greeted by a Scottish kilted doorman positioned in front of three Tiffany-style stained glass doors and light fixtures, rich wood posts and a rustic buttress. Once inside, the sleek lines spread across the lobby ala Frank Lloyd Wright with a large fireplace surrounded by comfortable Stickley-style seating and rocking chairs. The ambiance is very inviting, very Norman Rockwell, very American. While the architecture and design are reminiscent of the end of the 19th century, the friendly staff and accommodations graciously provide all of the needs and expectations for today’s travelers.
Amidst the rare (Torrey) pine trees, jagged cliffs, So Cal morning glories and night owls, The Lodge is pitched on the hilly side of La Jolla shores with the infamous Torrey Pines Golf Course adjacent to the resort. The property floats above the Pacific offering a breathtaking vista, manicured grounds and elegantly appointed rooms and common areas. Simply put, it reminds me of a place that President Teddy Roosevelt would call home and preserve for everyone as a destination place.
This resort is the perfect escape for “snowbirds” — dishing up plenty of surf, sun, spa treatments and dining at A.R. Valentien’s — the latter elevates the entire experience with first-rate, farm-to-table cuisine.
Guest rooms come with one king-sized or two queen-sized beds, hand-painted and Tiffany-style lamps as well as artwork created by local artists. All baths have marble flooring and granite countertops with showers and bathtubs for ultimate relaxation. Several of the rooms have working fireplaces and balconies overlooking the greens and ocean — I recommend the Palisade Rooms.
Aside from the natural beauty of The Lodge alongside a sprawling nature preserve, what really sets this resort apart is A.R. Valentien Restaurant. A painter and designer, Valentien, moved to San Diego in 1908, he was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps. One of the things he is known for is the watercolors of the California flora and landscapes; several of his impressive works are on display in the dining room.
I’ve had the privilege of indulging and imbibing in some of the most celebrated, successful and Michelin rated establishments around the globe. Executive Chef, Jeff Jackson, (pictured above) raises the bar with creative menus that will nourish, satisfy and delight everyone, even the most discriminating, self-proclaimed foodies. My dinner was memorable and that is always the best guage with regards to gastronomy.
The service, selection, presentation and flavors are, in my opinion, exceptional. Expect to indulge on the chef’s inspired creations like Butter Poached Maine Lobster, Wild Alaskan Coho Salmon with roasted turnips and brussel sprouts or Seared East Coast Scallops, parsnip fondant, kabocha squash purée, green apple and blood orange. Ask manager and sommelier, Paul Kikorian, to pair your choices with a glass of California’s finest wine.
My meal began with the chef’s daily amuse bouche: cauliflower soup with caviar. Delectable. After my first taste, I had an inkling that the rest of the meal was going to be extraordinary. I started with a fresh salad including roasted walnuts, pear, assorted greens and aged cheese — the ingredients change according to seasons and what’s available at the nearby farmer’s market.
I recommend the Roman Style Liberty Duck Breast (above) and confit leg with roasted plum and fennel shortbread, caramelized fennel, watercress and verjus vinaigrette. This dish was succulent and perfectly accompanied by seasonal root vegetables. Delicious! Like nature, the menu will change throughout the year with the freshest and highest quality farm-to-table ingredients.
Note: A.R. Valentien offers an Artisan Table family-style dinner every Thursday at 6:30 pm. Join the local purveyors, professional chefs, their families and friends for a dinner with gusto.
Pros: Awesome location and nearby activities.
Cons: Prepare to dig deep into those golf pockets.
Anticipation: This resort will cater to a youthful and successful following.
If you’re California dreaming, The Lodge is the perfect escape.
This is the first submission of a 3-part series, be sure to check back for more Southern California travel coverage.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
11480 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA
Tel: (858) 453-4420
Tel: (858) 777-6635