Archive for March, 2012

Next Generation Jazz Festival

Friday, March 30th, 2012
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2011 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra photograph ©Robert Wade


From Frank Sinatra and Justin Timberlake to the Beatles and Snoop Dogg, every single musical act since 1950 owes their music in some way to Jazz. What started in the Deep South way back in the early 1900′s can now be seen in music the world over. While Jazz remains somewhat of a niche music in its purest form, Jazz festivals from Monterey to Newport to Rhode Island have showcased this wonderful artistic form for millions of people.

The next generation of Jazz musicians and singers will grace stages throughout Monterey during the Next Generation Jazz Festival, presented by the Monterey Jazz Festival, March 30-April 1 2012. The festival, which invites middle school, high school and college age solo artists, combos, big bands to compete in the three day competition sends the top three winners in each category to perform at the 55th Annual Jazz Festival in September. In addition, there is also a composer’s division, where the winner’s song is performed by the Next Generation Jazz Festival Orchestra at September event.

The bulk of the Next Generation Jazz Festival and festival headquarters are located in downtown Monterey at the Monterey Conference Center and the Portola Hotel & Spa, host of the event.

All the events, from the Friday night’s Kick-Off concert through the close of the competition on Sunday are free and open to the public.  So if you want to catch some cool kids, hot Jazz and some of the country’s best and brightest musicians, swing by the festival and be amazed at what these talented students can do!


To Your Health: We Make Your Stay Healthy

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
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If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, you have probably learned some tricks to try to stay healthy while on the road. Drink plenty of fluids, don’t overdo the airport food and try to get in a little exercise whenever possible are just a few tips you have heard. But have you ever stopped to think about your actual physical health and the health of the hotel itself?

Many hotels and motels are happy to provide a clean room with clean linens, but what about a healthy room? The Portola Hotel & Spa is one of the healthiest places to stay not only on the Monterey Peninsula, but throughout California’s Central Coast. With the distinction of being the local region’s first and only LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ certified hotels, comes a host of initiatives focused on the health of their guests and staff. Some of those include: 100% organic cotton mattresses that are hypoallergenic, an Ozone Laundry System that utilizes an enzyme based laundry detergent for cleaning linens and towels. They also include a green cleaning program that uses H203 system to clean and disinfect guest rooms without any harsh chemicals and guest room carpets that meet with the Carpet and Rug Institute’s plus program for low VOC material and paint that meets low VOC standards as well. This might not mean a lot to the average traveler, but to put it in terms that everyone can appreciate: when you come home from a vacation or business trip and everyone is healthy you know you have done your job and so has your hotel. Stay at the Portola Hotel & Spa and stay healthy!

World Water Day Beach Clean-Up

Friday, March 23rd, 2012
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There are a lot of ways for a company to get involved in the green movement. For some, it’s a small step, like changing out their light bulbs for a more energy efficient variety. For others, it might be starting to offer green products or utilizing green vendors. For a handful of companies, however, they have completely transformed the manner in which they do business to become better environmental stewards to their community.

We are proud to say that Portola Hotel & Spa is in this last category. Not only are they the first and only LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ certified hotel in the local region, but their staff is at the forefront of the movement and actively participating in green initiatives outside of the hotel, through what they call their Green LEEDers Program. 

During World Water Day on March 22nd, Portola Hotel & Spa staff participated in the 2012 Del Monte Beach Cleanup facilitated by local non-profit, Save Our Shores and Co-Sponsor Whole Foods Market. This annual event teams up groups of volunteers with Save Our Shores members to help clean the Pirates Cove area of Del Monte Beach near Fisherman’s Wharf. In addition to being an event sponsor, 45 Portola Hotel & Spa employees, including 25 members of the housekeeping staff, collected trash and garbage that might have otherwise ended up in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

With a commitment to environmental stewardship and working with local, regional and national entities to bring a greater awareness to everyday green practices, the Portola Hotel & Spa is looking forward to keeping our Central Coast Living fans updated with all their activities that help remind us to reduce, reuse and recycle, one step, one day at a time.

Visit World Water Day online to learn more about how you can become involved in World Water Day, every day of the year!

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
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If you are searching for a healthy and engaging activity check out the latest craze to hit the California waters and one that anyone can do – STAND-UP PADDLE BOARDING! It hits all the major muscle groups, is a total cardio workout and above all shows you the true beauty of the ocean. Its origins lie with the beach boys of Waikiki and probably go back further than that. It was adopted by the California surf set in the 1960′s and has continued to grow in popularity ever since. You still get the same feeling of gliding along the water, but it lets you enjoy the scenery without worrying that you’ll wipe out. The boards are long and wide which give you a great base with which to start from and a place to sit if you get a little tired, but maneuverable enough to navigate into smaller inlets or ride the tides into shore.

Monterey, California offers some excellent stand up paddle-boarding options including the popular water sports rental company, Adventures by the Sea. There, you can rent equipment, get instruction and guided tours in a group or for your family. It’s a great family activity and you can really explore some of the ocean wildlife while getting a great work out. It’s ok if you are not the most coordinated of people; most riders are able to get up on their first try with only their feet getting wet during the hour long maiden voyage.

Do yourself a favor and check out this wonderful activity. You’ll be hooked!

Enjoy Locally Sourced Ingredients at Jacks Restaurant

Friday, March 16th, 2012
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Jacks Restaurant & Lounge inside the Portola Hotel & Spa has recently raised the bar with an interior and menu upgrade from Executive Chef, Jason Giles. Before dinner or after checking in to your room, take a moment to relax in their cozy and comfortable lounge. With a crackling fire and thick comfortable leather chairs, you can enjoy a glass of Monterey County Chardonnay or sip on the  featured wine of the month from their impressive wine list. Giles has gone to great lengths to create a menu that is not only sustainable, but locally sourced as well.  The Sustainable movement is relatively new in the United States, but with the Salad Bowl of the World a short distance away and fresh, responsibly harvested seafood from the Monterey Bay arriving almost daily, the menu is on par with the finest local establishments.

By adhering to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® Program Giles is assured of providing the right kind of seafood. He also utilizes 100% Harris Ranch Beef as well as other hormone and chemical free meats. Portola’s attention to detail works with their emphasis on green initiatives throughout the hotel and creates an atmosphere of guilt-free, responsible dining at Jacks Restaurant. For the money, this truly is “Monterey’s Best Kept Secret”, but the secret is about to get out.

Check out this delicious recipe provided by Chef Giles:

Caramelized Fennel & Steamed Clams with Pancetta & Heirloom Tomatoes

By Chef Jason Giles


  • 2 lb fresh littleneck clams in shell washed clean of sand
  • 3 bulbs fresh D’Arrigo Bros. brand fennel julienned
  • 2 yellow onions julienned
  • ¼ lb pancetta diced
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallot
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 cup sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup Monterey County white wine
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

The trick to having great success with this recipe is to have everything done and ready to go.  Most everything can be prepared ahead of time.

In a medium sized sauté pan or heavy bottom Dutch oven (my choice) cook off the pancetta until light golden brown.  Remove the meat and leave the oil in the pan.  Add the fennel and onions and cook until golden brown.  Once cooked to your liking remove the fennel mixture and put in a bowl to reserve for later.

The pancetta and fennel mix can be prepared a day or two in advance.  Just refrigerate until you are ready to use.  It will last up to a week in the fridge.

Using a Dutch oven type pan or large sauté pan heat the pancetta over medium heat until warm.  Add the cleaned clams, garlic, shallots and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the white wine, fennel mix and clam juice.  Cover and let the mix steam until the clams pop open about 3-8 minutes depending on how high the heat.  Once the clams pop open add the parsley, basil, tomatoes and butter. Turn off the heat.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

I recommend serving the fennel clams in a large bowl with toasted sourdough and a wine of your liking.

Serves four, family style.

Enjoy and have fun!!