Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Days of Wine and Otters

We began our second morning in Carmel with breakfast in the Barnyard. I know it sounds like we should have been dining with chickens and cows, but the Barnyard is actually a shopping center - no cows and chickens in sight.

Breakfast was at From Scratch.

Thatboy ordered 2 eggs and bacon. How boring. I don't think you could convince me to order something so blah sounding.

Instead, I ordered the huevos rancheros which as billed as "best on the peninsula." I can't speak to that. but Thatboy decided it was the best huevos ranchero he'd ever had. I won the ordering game!

After breakfast we headed to Point Lobos Reserve.

We started at whaler's cove, which, given the name should be obvious, was where the whaling center was once located. Where we parked our car is where the whales were hauled, stripped of blubber, and then the blubber was melted into oil. Both fascinating and disturbing. Currently it is where all the divers enter the underwater portion of Point Lobos.

We walked up to Whaler's Cabin. Unlike the description, this cabin was not built by whalers, but rather a Chinese fishing family. The cabin currently hosts a historical museum depicting the many industries that once took place in Point Lobos; fishing, whaling, dairy and ranching, abalone farming, coal, military, and the movie industry.

Because of the whaling history of the area though, next door to the cabin are the bones of many whales that have beached on the shores as well as the tools used during the whaling period. Gruesome.

I had read that sea otters were abundant on the reserve, so I was determined to find one. I have seen sea otters at the zoo, but never in their native environment. We hiked to the top of Whalers Cove, giving us a gorgeous view of the area and coves as well as several harbor seals, sunning themselves on the rocks, but no sea otters. We also got to see some sharks swimming around right where the divers are. Another thing that will keep me from learning to scuba.

Then we were off to another hike,taking us up to sea lion point, although we saw far more seals than sea lions. The sea lions were obvious by ear, but not so easy to see. The seals were silent, but on almost every rock in every cove we passed. Still no sea otters.

We headed to Bird island trail where I FINALLY got to see a sea otter.

We hiked past China Cove which is one of the most gorgeous places I've ever seen until we came to Bird Island Lookout. Thatboy described Bird Island as a piece of the moon that had landed in Carmel.

We headed back downtown for lunch at Cantinetta Luca. It was the perfect place for lunch and I knew I would enjoy it the moment we saw the hanging salami, made in house.

Both of us ordered the most fantastic paninis. Thatboy ordered a panini with housemade salami, I ordered one with buratta.

Both were fabulous, but we decided mine won the ordering competition. After lunch we headed to Carmel Valley for some wine tasting:

Bernardus - we weren't impressed by either the tasting room or the wines. It was crowded, hurried, and the guy who was pouring didn't have a winning personality.

Parsonage - This tasting room was unique in that it was also an art gallery. If you look at the wine labels, you'll notice they look like quilts. And that's because the labels are prints of the quilts made by the vintner's wife. Similar prints hang throughout the gallery. The intricate quiltwork is beautiful. Parsonage is known for their reds, and we were able to taste a good sample. Torn between their Syrah and Cabernet, we ended up bringing a bottle of the Cab back to the hotel with us.

Georis - We ventured here on the recommendation of someone in Bernardus. She did not steer us wrong. The tasting took place in a garden at a table, beneath trees and beside parrots. Thatboy chose a seat in the gazebo and our tasting of 5 reds and their new pinot noir, along with cheese and crackers were brought out to us. We enjoyed both the pinot as well as their 2004 estate cabernet, but this time we chose to get a bottle of the pinot since we were already all cabbed up.

Talbotts - In general, in case you haven't noticed, we're more fans of red wines than white. So when we find a good white producer, it's kind of a big deal. We started out here with the Kali Hart Chardonnay. I raved about it SO much that even Thatboy decided he'd taste it. He enjoyed it so much, we convinced the woman next to us, who didn't like whites, to taste it to. She was hooked. We both bought a bottle. Next came the Logan Chardonnay, which I liked even better - it was so sweet! Too sweet for Thatboy who preferred the Cuvee Carlotta. We weren't nearly as impressed with the reds.

Heller - Our final stop. Thatboy was interested in the concept of "organic wine," which is their specialty. We found the MOST perfect wine for Thatmom - a Chenin Blanc that contains reisling, her favorite wine. The reisling gave the wine an added sweetness we knew she'd love. Thatboy enjoyed the 2003 Cabernet Sauvingon.

Our next stop was dinner, at Pacific's Edge in the Highland Inn. I knew the moment we entered this would be a far more romantic dinner. It began with the dramatic view over Point Lobos. The entire front and sides of the restaurant are plate glass windows with every seat turned to face outward so there are no bad seats.

The hostess gave us a prime seat, under a skylight, so no matter where we looked, it was almost like being outside. We were soon greeted by two sommeliers who helped us pick out a beautiful viogner. Well I liked it, it didn't break through Thatboy's "I don't like whites" barrier.

After our morning at Point Lobos, Thatboy began with some abalone which he really enjoyed.

I went with goat cheese fritters which were heavenly, but what's not to like? It's goat cheese - fried! Like taking the best thing and making it better!

Next came dinner. Thatboy stuck with his shellfish theme and had some scallops, which he thought were cooked perfectly. He told me scallops are as close to steak as you can get with seafood.

At the recommendation of the waiter, I had the lamb. Perfectly cooked and much closer to steak than Thatboy's scallops.

We chose to forgo dessert, but when our waiter found out it was our anniversary, he brought out one of the best dessert wines we had ever had. It was a sauvignon blanc, which I don't usually consider a dessert wine, but this was very very sweet. Overall I couldn't have asked for a better day!


  1. Black and white food pics? I cry.

  2. holy cow, those are beautiful photographs.

  3. Wanna learn more about sea otters? We are a small non-profit based in Monterey CA dealing with the recovery of the Southern Sea Otter. Visit us on the web at www.otterproject.org, our facebook cause and page (The Otter Project), on twitter (@the otterproject), or on our blog- Sea Otter Scoop. Gald you got to see your otter. There are about 60 or so of them that hang out in the moss landing harbor (about 20 minutes from monterey)

  4. Wow what beautiful pictures. What kind of camera do you use?

  5. What a great day! Beautiful photos and you won 2 out of 3 in the ordering meals category :)

  6. Ooooh China Cove looks so pretty!

  7. I love what you are doing with your camera--such fun!

  8. What a fun day! I'm glad you got to see an otter in its natural environs. :)