Pret-a-Reporter

Central Coast Chic

Paul Dyer

The Pebble Beach Food & Wine fest is just one reason to sample these hot spots up north.

Ever since the 1940s, when Bing Crosby threw the first of his fabled boozy Clambake golf tournaments here, Pebble Beach, Calif., has been a magnet for Hollywood. Leslie Moonves, Ari Emanuel and Kevin Costner are among the big names who've recently swung through the area with their clubs.

But the hottest ticket this spring is Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2011, a four-day event marked by a glittery alignment of culinary stars (Pebble Beach Resorts, $100 for a single-event pass to $4,750 for a VIP four-day pass, pebblebeachfoodandwine.com). From April 28-May 1, this golfing mecca will go gourmet, with tastings and elaborate dinners by dozens of chefs, including Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, Iron Chef Morimoto and L.A. stars Nancy Silverton of Mozza, Ray Garcia of Fig at the Fairmont Miramar and David Myers of Comme Ca.

But it's only one example of the good life along the road to Pebble Beach. Here's where to indulge as you make your way to the West Coast's marquee culinary event.

PASO ROBLES

Once a tiny speck on the wine world's radar, the city has emerged as a must-stop on any tasting trip. But Tablas Creek Vineyard (9339 Adelaida Road, tablascreek.com) was making Chateauneuf du Pape-style vintages long before Paso became a destination. Its gleaming new tasting room peers inward, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the cellars, and offers refined wines extolled by the likes of Wolfgang Puck. Make sure to also visit Wine Spectator-feted Denner Vineyards (5414 Vineyard Drive, dennervineyards.com) and small luxury winery RN Estate (7986 North River Road, rnestate.com), along with Villa San-Juliette (6385 Cross Canyon Road, San Miguel, villasanjuliette.com). Owned by American Idol's Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe, it's due to open a tasting room this summer, which will feature its newly released 2009 Chorum vintages.

Great wine demands great food, and buzz has built around Il Cortile (608 12th St., ilcortileristorante.com), a rustic-chic Italian restaurant owned by TV producer Carole MacDonal (The Amazing Race). She oversees the dining room, while her husband, Santos, turns out such treasures as pork osso buco with parmesan risotto. His handmade pastas are edible artistry.

For overnighting, check into the equestrian-themed Hotel Cheval (rooms from $225; 1021 Pine St., hotelcheval.com), by the town square. And Lythgoe recommends the sulphur hot springs plunge at the Paso Robles Inn (1103 Spring St., pasoroblesinn.com): "You come out smelling like a spent match, but it's really good for the skin."

BIG SUR

This 90-mile coastal stretch of plunging rock faces wears its fame discreetly, but it's home to Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, producers Paul Junger Witt and Susan Harris and Beach Boy Al Jardine, who has a recording studio within walking distance of beaches that -- wouldn't you know it? -- are too rough to surf. (Be warned as well that Highway 1 between Big Sur and Carmel has been closed for repairs since March 16.)

Witt is an investor in the world-renowned Post Ranch Inn (rooms from $595, Highway 1, postranchinn.com), the cliff-hugging retreat where spectacular cantilevered suites and stilt cabins -- designed by revolutionary eco-minded architect Mickey Muennig -- have welcomed Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen DeGeneres. Humpback whales are in their spring migration, making splashy cameos within easy view of the resort's glass-walled Sierra Mar restaurant.

Less luxe but equally charming is the secluded and freshly renovated Glen Oaks hotel, boasting 22 cottages and cabins shaded by century-old redwoods (rooms from $225; Highway 1, glenoaksbigsur.com). Heated bathroom floors and organic bedding add a layer of earthy sophistication to the tranquil setting.

Witt recommends a stop at the Big Sur River Inn (Highway 1, bigsurriverinn.com) as well. "You can sit on the grassy slope with your feet in the water and have a drink," he says. "It's quite wonderful."

CARMEL

Here in the kingdom of Clint Eastwood, part-owner of Pebble Beach Resorts, waves crash against the coast in one of the world's most scenic meetings of land and sea. Eastwood also owns the Mission Ranch Resort (26270 Dolores St., missionranchcarmel.com), where he can be spotted at the piano bar. "He's there many nights -- until I call him home for dinner," says his wife, Dina, who is also a fan of La Bicyclette cafe (Dolores Street at 7th, labicycletterestaurant.com) for its "amazing pizza and hip, Old World charm."

A few miles inland, Hyatt heir John Pritzker has revamped the 139-room Carmel Valley Ranch (rooms from $450, One Old Ranch Road, carmelvalleyranch.com) into an upscale summer camp replete with swings that dangle from ancient oaks. Stargazing and guided nature walks are designed to bring out your inner child, and introduction to beekeeping is provided free on Saturdays in the ranch's apiary.

Time was when the secluded Stonepine Estate Resort (rooms from $300, 150 East Carmel Valley Road, stonepinecalifornia.com) in Carmel Valley was open only to VIPs, such as Tom Cruise and Rihanna. Nowadays, Stonepine avails itself to everyday travelers and boasts such new draws as the Blacksmith Shop, a Western-themed bar in what used to be the blacksmith barn.

But where do the Pebble Beach festival's renowned chefs eat when they're in town? At the top of the list, says Mozza's Silverton, is Marinus at Bernardus Lodge (415 Carmel Valley Road, bernardus.com). "Chef Cal Stamenov usually cooks for us," she says. "He did a cote de boeuf once -- and it's always a very rustic meal that's really terrific."           

FOR SALE: Rosanna Arquette's House
The actress is selling her Big Sur property, which she has owned since 1986, for $2.245 million. The private 2-acre compound, located near the Post Ranch Inn, has 2,000 square feet of wood-and-glass living space with a two-bedroom main residence and one-bedroom guest house. Meandering garden paths look out over the Pacific. Listing agent is Mike Gilson, bigsurrealestate.com.

 

 
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