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A Weekend in Carmel Valley

by Sally Bernstein

Next time your travels take you to the Monterey or Carmel Valley area of central California, think country existence and stay in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is away from the more touristy areas of Carmel, Pebble Beach and Monterey. When you can look out of the fireplaced breakfast room and see horses grazing in the pasture, you know you are in the country. The Valley offers sunny landscapes of rolling, green hills, rustic farmhouses and working vineyards. Of course, sailing, scuba, mountain biking, hiking and other outdoors activities are available.

We began our weekend with Friday lunch at Peppers, our favorite Mexican restaurant in the area. Peppers is a Pacific Grove favorite and offers the basic enchiladas, tacos and tamales as well as Latin American cuisine. Artichoke and mushroom enchiladas, garlic prawns and grilled fish tacos are hits. And don't miss the coconut & macadamia nut ice cream from Lappert's in Hawaii.

The drive from Highway 1 to the Carmel Valley Lodge, which was to be our home for the weekend, is 12 miles. Turn at the corner at Ford Road and you'll find yourself nestled amidst age-old oak trees. Carmel Valley Lodge offers 30 rooms, a swimming pool, sauna, conference room where a complimentary buffet breakfast is served each morning and is "dog friendly." Did I mention the friendly personal service and Shaker furniture in the guest rooms?

Our queen-size bedded room had a fireplace stocked with lots of wood, a package of S'Mores to enjoy over the fireplace, a TV, coffee maker and yes, it was nicely decorated and clean. Don't expect an upscale hotel-these rooms are reasonable priced and comfortable but not pretentious.

We decided to venture less than a mile down the road to the Carmel Valley Village and dinner at Will's Fargo, a steak house owned by Carl Stamenov of Bernardus Lodge fame. From local farms and ranches, Will's Fargo offers classic prime and choice cuts of corn-fed and naturally raised meats, organic vegetables, plus a selection of fresh-caught fish and pasta. A jovial group was having drinks on the back patio around a large outdoor fireplace. Open for dinner only 7 nights a week.

A trip down the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach is not to be missed, even though the gate fee is now $8.25. To see the blue Pacific Ocean, the sea lions basking on their rocks, deer on world class golf courses, pristine beaches and beautiful homes make it worth the gate fee.

Also take time to park at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, walk through the Lodge to the back porch for a stunning view of the 18th hole of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course, where the National Pro Am is played each winter.

Saturday night dinner found us at Passionfish in Pacific Grove. Passionfish is dedicated to serving sustainable seafood and the food is excellent. We tried the black pepper crusted tuna appetizer with wasabi slaw and ginger vinaigrette and the Greek salad with fried olives. This novelty uses Greek olives that are fried in a thick batter…very unusual and good. Both the Farallon Islands halibut and the Caribbean style 'boulibasie' with fresh Dungeness crab and mussels in a spicy coconut milk-saffron broth were excellent. We finished dinner with bananas sautéed with rum and lime over coconut ice cream…another show stopper.

On Sunday morning we returned to Carmel-by-the-Sea for our favorite breakfast place, The Tuck Box. Although traditionally known for their homemade scones, the complete breakfasts are very good. Eggs, waffles, scones and a pot of hot tea are a must. And don't forget to take home their preserves and spreads…orange marmalade, raspberry and olallieberry. The Tuck Box is one of a kind--originally a tea room, it is now open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. The Tuck Box has been pleasing patrons for over 60 years.

We ended our weekend with a 17 mile drive from the Monterey area to Salinas, home of the National Steinbeck Center. Through the exploration of Steinbeck's work and themes, you can learn about literature, history, agriculture and the arts. Steinbeck, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature, was born in Salinas in 1902.

And so our weekend ended…with a promise to return soon.

Peppers Mexicali Cafe
170 Forest Avenue
Pacific Grove

Carmel Valley Lodge
Carmel Valley Road at Ford Road
Carmel Valley

Will's Fargo
16 East Carmel Valley Road
Carmel Valley

701 Lighthouse Avenue
Pacific Grove

The Tuck Box
Dolores Street Between Ocean and 7th Avenue

National Steinbeck Center
One Main Street

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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