Part of the fun of driving along California’s Hwy 1 involved staying overnight in many of the state’s breathtakingly beautiful towns and getting our fill of rollicking sea views, amazing food and the raw beauty of the natural environment. Going for a daily hike was a common occurrence and we even – at the behest of a friend who’s a true Californian through and through (I mean, who else thinks that surfing with no wetsuit when the air temperature is 15°C is normal?) – went snorkelling and diving in some of Monterey’s stunning inlets.
In case you were wondering, there wasn’t much to see: plenty of murky water and lots of ridiculously sized kelp. Mind you a small pod of curious and extremely friendly seals made the outing worth every bone chilling minute.
Sightseeing aside, the bustling town of Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts plenty of foodie-worthy restaurants. The kind of places where you’d be thrilled to spend, spend and…spend just a little bit more. Holing up for three nights in Carmel with the aim of hiking, diving and eat our faces off, this Intolerant and her entourage found themselves indulging in all manner of food. Some of it good, some of it bad and some of it downright unpleasant.
Yet since there’s no time to focus on either the bad or the ugly, the best food experience by far was at Clint Eastwood‘s Mission Ranch, located on the outskirts of Carmel. On the grounds of the ranch sit a hotel and a restaurant, with the restaurant possibly being the best place in the entire Monterey Peninsula to grab a bite to eat.
Yes, the entire peninsula.
I have no idea what the hotel rooms are like, but when it comes to the restaurant and enjoying a meal on the back patio (heat lamps included), the experience is phenomenal. Open from 16:00 until 23:30, the best time to saddle up to the ranch is just before sunset when you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Santa Lucia Mountains and take stock of grazing sheep in the emerald green meadow that’s – quite literally – on the other side of the fence. Having been at the ranch twice during our stay in Carmel we had the chance to experience the restaurant on a wildly sunny day and a soggy and grey evening. Let me tell you, when that heavy northern California fog rolls in you could almost swear you were thousands of kilometres away, like in the northern expanses of England or Scotland kind of far.
It’s that good.
Mission Ranch serves contemporary American food that is, for the most part, local, organic and sustainable and anything your heart could desire is available. The starters include grilled artichoke, crab cakes, almond coated goat cheese and (you guessed it) oysters. Mains consist of slow roasted prime rib, pork tenderloin, chicken in a sun-dried tomato sauce, lemon butter sea scallops and roasted maple leaf duck. If you’re not all that hungry there are sandwiches and soups to indulge in, and the kitchen is fantastic about accommodating people with allergies.
In addition to the food, live piano music is “an institution” at Mission Ranch, and the tunes start playing from 20:30 onwards. It’s actually quite enjoyable to mosey on over to the bar after a hearty meal, and spend the late hours of the evening boozing and laughing away as rag time melodies play in the backdrop.
It’s good. That good. So good, in fact, that it was worth visiting twice. In three days.
How’s that for a solid performance?
26270 Dolores Street
Tel: +1 (831) 625-9040
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 16:00 – 23:30.