The holidays would not be the same without glittering gifts, twinkling lights and our favorite holiday stories. One such story seems to make the heart swell with warm emotion as the main character learns of the importance of kindness that transcends monetary value and façade. Dr. Suess’s The Grinch, tells the story of an villainous curmudgeon that puts away his evil pursuit of destroying Christmas for the inhabitants of the fictitious Who-Ville as he hears their joyous voices echo into the canyon, unhinging his plans on ruining their holiday celebration.
Where did this redemptive character receive his fictcious embodiment? In a place known as La Jolla (la hoya) California where bestselling author Theodore Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Suess, resided for many years. Not only did Suess create his greeny mean Grinch here, this place also inspired his hundreds of other fantastical characters that made their way onto the printed page through his masterful rhythmical prose. The University of California at San Diego in La Jolla exhibits the most extensive collection of Geisel’s material and is must visit for the Suess obsessed. A trip to La Jolla turned into a fabulous two day adventure that gave us insider information on this famous La Jolla resident and the many lovely recreational and dining options that are available to the general public, but we are sure, were frequented by this famous resident.
La Jolla is known as the “Jewel” of San Diego and for good reason there are a myriad of natural and physical wonders that abound in this pristine destination that does conjure up creativity and inspiration. Starting with a short drive to our Balanise style boutique hotel, the Pantai Inn.We thought of Seuss’s love of exotic places and faraway mythical lands and this boutique resort would have fit right into his creative outlay.
The Pan Tai Inn embodies the perfect holiday get-away as it rests peacefully over the ocean cliffs where the echoing calls of the nearby sea lions fill the air with their mournful bellows and gliding sea gulls gawk back as though consoling the languorous mammals.
Complete with flowing fountains, bamboo fixtures and exotic art work, we felt we stepped into a Balinese paradise as our effervescent concierge escorted us to the best suite that sat directly adjacent to panoramic ocean view. Complete with rattan style furnishing, gas fireplace, and a full kitchen we felt embraced by the spirit of island hospitality. Pantai Inn has a boutique collection of rooms, suites and cottages for every travelers needs that also includes lavish complimentary breakfast, wireless internet access and parking. With a lovely gift of baked goods to welcome us, we were ready for a sweet treat and some Seuss style adventure.
Our first outing for the day was an electric bike tour at San Diego Fly Rides for a SoCal Riviera Tour of La Jolla. We were going to get an up close look at the flora and fauna while burning off the copious amounts of sugar that we just consumed. Adjusting to the bike took a few minutes of finagling, but our handsome guide made sure we all felt comfortable as these bikes don’t need much man power to take off down the road. Helmet on, wheels in place and we were off to our first stop; the coastal cliffs right below the Pantai inn.
The weather was indeed stellar, as we glided to a halt in the city park to hear our guide give us the first of many mini lectures on his beloved city. Today we were getting up close and personal with the sea lions but with their close proximity to humans, many try to get too close for a sealion selfies regardless of federal laws. We were quickly reminded us of that quandary as our guide quickly reprimanded a middle aged couple for getting to close to this seemingly relaxed animal.
Our next route took us along the gated multi-million dollar luxury homes and a look at a secluded beach that was the site of the first surfing craze. “You can see the most beautiful people sun bathing here,” quipped our guide. “And competition for the waves here is always a challenge for the surfing crowd,” he continued. “Brawls have been known to break out on this seemingly idyllic slice of coastline.” The fresh salty sea air coupled with such breathtaking scenery dispelled any picture of angry surfers as the scene before us was exuded the tranquil splashing of whitecaps.
Our final ascent was to the top of Mt. Soledad, the highest point in La Jolla that encapsulates a stunning 360 view of the area. This mountain is also where Geisel resided as he wrote many of his popular books, including “The Cat in the Hat” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” At the top is a memorial to fallen veterans where we gazed at their memorials giving silent gratitude for their service in keeping our freedoms secure in order for us to enjoy a day such as this.
After working up an appetite it was time for lunch at the award winning A.R.Valentien at the Lodge at Torrey Pine. The Torrey Pine is rare tree that grows wild along the local stretch of the San Diego coastline has become the symbol associated with the Lodge and the premier municipal golf course where many come to watch the many world class golf tournaments or a round of golf.
The original 74 room inn was built in 1961, but in 2000 the hotel was demolished and reopened as the Lodge at Torrey Pines resembling the 1900’s California craftsman movement with lots of dark wood, tiffany style lamps and a well established art collection including the work of the namesake, A.R. Valentien. Known for his California botanical water color paintings the Lodge pays homage to a man who produced hundreds of detailed paintings and exquisite pottery.
The Lodge at Torrey pines offers 170 luxury hotel rooms including two restaurants, lounges, full service spa, outdoor recreation areas, including pool and fitness center. Today we were going to lunch overlooking the 18th hole of this iconic gorgeous green space. Chef Jeff Jackson seasonally inspired menu captures the true essence of the local farmer’s, small growers, ranchers and fishermen that labor to produce some of the freshest and delectable ingredients available.
The day offered dazzling sunshine that sparkled like glittering diamonds across the swimming pool that lie just below the outdoor dining area. As we settled into our scenic seating, our appetites were primed for a meal that is lauded as one of the best of the coast. Starting out with the Ahi Tuna Crudo garnished with fresh cucumber, spring onion, radish, mint and Vadouvan yogurt harmoniously paired with the Tablas Creek Vermentino the stage was set for an exceptional culinary journey.
The specialty dish of smoked trout, roasted beets, sugar snap peas, crushed hazelnuts, pickled mustard seeds accompanied by a zip of horseradish crème fraiche was indeed another delightful dish on this dining excursion. Chef Jackson’s alchemic blend of the best ingredients has put this restaurant into the must dine category for anyone wanting a true So.Cal farm to table dining experience.
As the sun started to set over the hilly landscape, we took a stroll along the famous greens as a way to unwind and take in the scenery. The Lodge at Torrey Pines will arrange for a guided nature walk to the nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve upon request, but anyone can venture off on the many hiking trails and it’s dramatic cliff-top setting. Filling our senses with sunshine and stunning vistas, it was time to returning to the PanTai where we enquired on the local’s favorite dining spot and Georges’at the Cove situated close to the hotel was the recommendation.
La Jolla’s dining scene is a mix of long established fine dining restaurants mixed with newer venues featuring everything from California coastal to vegan. There literally is a dish for everyone to enjoy. Chef Trey Foshee is at the helm of the historical Georges at the Cove. The décor is traditional chic California accented by floor to ceiling windows overlooking the cove and Pacific Ocean. Chef Trey calls his menu California Modern; an ever-changing menu of creative regional cuisine utilizing the area’s seasonally-driven produce and proteins. George’s also features the lounge-style Level2 bar and rooftop Ocean Terrace.
We started with Beef Tartare, levain crisp, mustard-fennel kraut, horseradish, pickled shallot and fines herbs and followed that up with a very fresh Snapper Crudo with local melons, charred cucumber, coconut, lemon verbena, and jalapeño. Looking over the menu our eyes met on one delicacy that we just had to experience. Our server must have read our mind. He gleefully arrive tableside with a perfectly seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras highlighted by preserved citrus-fennel marmalade, persimmon, brioche and almond to accent this very flavorful dish.
Settling on a wine pairing we prepared for what would become an epic seaside experience as the sun began to sink below the horizon. With aromas of the pacific tantalizing our nose, a Baja Striped Bass appeared on our plates. Beautifully plated with sunchokes, wild mushroom ravioli, egg yolk, sunflower seed pesto and chevri, this gift from the sea started off our entrée courses just right. Georges at the Cove not only features delights from the Pacific Ocean but from the land as well. Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks with potato-horseradish puree, pickled cabbage, puffed beef tendon, mustard seeds, carrot and spring onion provided a rich, decadent gastronomic experience not to be soon forgotten.
For the grand FINI, Yuzu Semifreddo, Asian pear, white pomegranate, lime meringue, and white chocolate along with a sumptuous Ewenique, sheep, gouda, sweet vanilla and salted caramel from the nearby Central Coast Creamery was a magnificent way to end our evening at this renown coastal dining venue.
Great food and fresh sea air were the perfect elixir for a good night’s rest, and today we were moving into another lovely venue. When in La Jolla one must enjoy the best. Our accommodations at Hotel La Jolla-Curio Collection by Hilton were breathtaking. This beachy boutique hideaway is romantic and cosmopolitan offering many amenities to be enjoyed. With only 108 guestrooms you feel cozy in your spacious guest room or venture out the Hiatus poolside lounge, work out in their fitness center and best off all have cocktails at Cusp rooftop restaurant on the 11th floor, featuring a seasonally-inspired menu and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
Settled into our new quarters, it was now time for some sea adventure with the La Jolla Kayak Tour of La Jolla Cove. This company specializes in guided kayak and snorkeling tours that depart daily from the La Jolla Shores. The La Jolla is known for their seven sea caves and today we were going to paddle our way along the coast for a closer look at a sea cave and the teeming marine life that reside in these protected waters. We climbed aboard our bright yellow ocean kayak as sea spray and rollicking waves ushered us into the big blue ocean. We wanted to see the orange Garibaldi fish (California’s state fish) since we were told was that this unique fish was immortalized as the mischievous fish in Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat”.
Just as we approached the sea cave, the orange fish were in abundance just below our splashing paddles, looking like undulating orange dots of color in the wavy water. Along the coast sea lions basked in the sun drench craggy banks oblivious to the many gawking kayakers. We carefully made our way through the cave, our voices echoing off the narrow rocky walls as dappled sunlight filtered between the hallowed rock formations. Gingerly we made our way back out and journeyed back, enjoying the refreshing air and the splashy sea spray. Bobbing like a cork, we somehow managed to navigated back to dry land, although we were soaked and needing dry clothes, and some more great California cuisine. Today we were going to head over to another local favorite, the Marine Room.
Keeping in step with exploring San Diego landmarks, The Marine Room fit the bill for our last night in this beachy utopia. Famous for its dramatic on-the-surf location and award-winning global cuisine, the Marine room has been wowing diners for over 75 years. Executive Chef Bernard Guilla’s expertise was about to be seen as we took our seats in awe of ocean waves breaking, white froth and all against the wall to ceiling windows just feet from our table. First order of dining business this evening would be in choosing a fine from their very large and carefully crafted wine list. Their Sommelier excitedly offered to pair our meal with a variety of wines and liqueurs. That is an offer we could not refuse. We leaned back in our chairs and let him and Chef Bernard “drive culinary the bus”.
Our first course proved to be an excellent way to start off the evening. Chef presented a Fennel Pollen Roasted Maine Diver Scallop and Foie Grais that was a treat for our eyes and our palate. This dish featuring kabocha purée, kumquat confit, pain d’ épice and sortilege liqueur was impressive and creative, culminating in layers of flavors. The staring entrée, Sea Salt Crispy Skin Branzino rubbed in bacon brioche spice, crab meat, parsnip, rouille and corail sauce was prepared to perfection. Of course if Lobster in your thing, dive into the Absinthe Butter Basted Lobster Tail with cumin gouda polenta, smoked onion sausage, mint medley and pyrat xo rum sauce! To finish off this Oceanside gastronomic evening, the signature Spindrift Cobblestone Pie with espresso and vanilla ice cream, toasted hazelnuts and maker’s mark bourbon sauce adds to a nice ending to a beautiful day in La Jolla.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose,” stated Dr. Seuss and with that is mind, we suggest that everyone takes time to steer themselves in the direction of La Jolla; a place where magical memories can be experienced anytime of the year. We certainly came to that conclusion and we believe you will too.