I opened the French doors of our suite and took in the fresh ocean air. From the sweeping outlook of our balcony I admired the spectacular view— palm trees surrounding the blue swimming pool as the vibrant sunset colors glowed in golden hues over the glimmering Pacific Ocean. I took a deep inhale. It felt as though we arrived at a resort on the Amalfi coast in Italy. For us, however, it was as simple as a staycation drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, just an hour from our home in Los Angeles.
It couldn’t have been any more perfect for our couples getaway for two luxurious days and one enchanted night. We have five children (in total) and that means three are mine and two are his. So when I realized that we were not only going away from Thursday to Friday, but we also had an oceanfront suite and a dinner at a private villa, well, you can imagine the cartwheels I was doing in my head.
Terranea Resort is a magical place. The hotel is majestically positioned upon 102-acres of peninsula paradise along the coast of Palos Verdes, sprawling its elegant Mediterranean-style architecture around the curve of coastal bluffs, an oasis with breathtaking views from many of its rooms and suites. This eco-friendly landscaped resort also participates in Destination Earth® environmental program. Even the local herbs and vegetables are used in many of the dishes served in Terranea’s restaurants.
During the Chef’s Table series, Terranea’s talented executive chef, Bernard Ibarra, began our first course by introducing his menu, describing the way he created each dish. Ibarra is passionate about fresh flavor that is full of life, and he emphasizes this, explaining the way he forages from the gardens on premises to create his own dried herbal blends and mixtures, including Terranea’s own signature sea salt. Chef Ibarra and his staff collect sea water from the ocean at Cielo Point and allow it to evaporate into a slush before drying and filtering it for use. This salt is used for cooking and seasoning, as well as smoked or flavored with herbs grown on the resort grounds. As Chef Ibarra describes his cooking to our table, you can feel the love for what he does and how everything he presents is done with careful attention to taste and freshness of their locally harvested California cuisine.
Ibarra is a chef that is in touch with the earth and its beauty. His hands are used to digging into the soil. Growing up on a farm in the Basque region of Northern Spain, his mother taught him how to garden, cook, jar tomatoes and other edibles. His focus on local and seasonal produce is highlighted on the menu of the Chef’s Table Series. Our first course: Smoked Spring Lamb Tartlet with Terranea-grown fennel in piperade, house-crafted goat cheese, and carrot top chimchurri paired with a serving of the Chilled First Crop Snap Pea Soup with freshly harvested apple mint and lavender from Terranea’s garden, and a dollop of house-made cumin yogurt lassi. This first course was paired with Justin Winery Chardonnay.
“The peas were harvested this morning and blanched quickly, then blended,” explains Chef Ibarra. Pink peppercorns, grown at Terranea, were also harvested off the premises. Ibarra added cumin into the yogurt, enhancing the flavor of the velvety cool pea soup with a sweet-meets-savory taste.
We missed the cocktail hour before dinner by arriving a little late, so we shared a taste of the Pepper Crusted Toro Nicoise with olive tapenade and crisp sunchokes (created by Chef David Tarrin of Catalina Kitchen). There were other appetizer dishes on the menu, but this was a taste of light delicate flavors to tease the appetite.
The wine flowed through each course, paired with Justin Vineyard wines, including their Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. The dessert wine had a fragrant oak taste that was subtle, made in the Port style. Not quite a Port per se, as it was not from Portugal, but no matter. It was perfectly balanced without that cloying sweetness that some dessert wines have. All of the Justin wines were enjoyable, however their Chardonnay was my favorite— a smooth, buttery finish. As the sunset reflected in my glass, the scenery and the food highlighted our golden California terrain.
Among the locally harvested edibles, Meyer lemons, olives, rosemary, thyme and lavender from the resort gardens were featured. Later after our dinner, we were given a gift bag of dried wild herbs (a collection of rosemary, sage, and lavender) foraged by the chefs, as well as their rosemary sea salt, Meyer lemon sea salt and olive oil, along with Terranea’s signature sea salt, and a little blue box of their handcrafted chocolates.
Dessert was lavish— Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta with candied pineapple and sea salt pistachios by Executive Pastry Chef Pierino Jermonti. The assorted chocolates sent me over the moon with pleasure. We ordered coffee and cream, sitting closer together, engaged in after dinner conversation.
Our king-sized bed, plush with many pillows, was inviting the moment we returned to our room. Yet the bathtub beckoned. The large oval tub was filled to the brim with perfectly hot water. I dipped my toes in and sank into the luscious pleasure of an overflowing bubble bath. Not one bit of regret did I have in the current drought situation of Southern California, because for just one night I could let go and forget everything. Besides, Terranea’s an eco-friendly resort. Our one decadent bathtub full of bubbles was absolutely appreciated. We recycled the water by sharing the bath together, though my 6’3″ fiancé fit snug inside the length of the bathtub as I sat on the outer edge of the tub with my feet still inside, my skin already pink and flushed from the steaming heat. It was such an indulgence we could not resist, made more romantic as our laptop speakers played jazz ballads and the dimmer switch lighting gave us that honeymoon feeling. This could very well be our honeymoon night. I couldn’t imagine anything better.
The next day we lingered in bed. We slept so deeply that neither of us had any idea what time it was when we awoke. The curtains opened to the beauty of mid-morning sunlight, though late for us, as nine o’clock is when we’ve already shuttled children off to school. Not this lazy Friday morning. At a slow and leisurely pace we made morning tea and coffee. He wrote an article while I read a magazine in bed and posted photos on Instagram. I had two cups of English breakfast tea before getting dressed, lounging in the hotel robe. I felt so relaxed and well rested.
Eventually we got dressed and walked around the grounds, exploring the pathways, wandering around the resort’s scenic views. We forgot our bathing suits and yoga attire, reminding each other, next time. The patio deck offered comfortable lounges and outdoor couches under sun umbrellas. Stairs climbed and pathways curved along the coastal beauty of Terranea. Next time, we agreed, we will stay longer and bring the kids. The swimming pools, restaurants and relaxed experience made us long for another staycation at this glorious resort.