Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Come One & Come All to the Fourth Annual Whalefest

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
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If you are like me, you love the ocean. Whether it’s walking along the beach, visiting an aquarium or experiencing some nautically inspired art, the ocean and specifically the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary give each and every one of us so much to be thankful for. That’s why I’m calling all marine-life enthusiasts, from near and far to swim on over to Monterey’s Historic Fisherman’s Wharf for the Fourth Annual Whalefest. This free, family-friendly event takes place this weekend, January 25-26, 2014 from 10am to 5pm.

The event is a celebration of the whale, its environment and the many organizations that protect the Monterey Bay. Not only does Whalefest offer music, lectures, exhibits and films, but there are live art demonstrations and a 60 foot model gray whale that attendees can explore. And since it is migration season, now is the time to observe these beautiful creatures. So, if an up close view of these huge mammals is more your speed, whale watching trips are available throughout the day as are tours on a 29 foot Coast Guard Transportable Response Boat.

Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a site rich in Monterey’s iconic history and this event will be buzzing with vibrant sights and exciting exhibits in every nook and cranny. There’s a world of deep-sea adventure to be had right here in Monterey. Whalefest promises to be a weekend of inspiring, educational and empowering exploration of the majestic Monterey Bay. With the mission of protecting the beautiful Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Whalefest is a weekend of fun, for a cause.  Don’t miss out on a moment of the excitement.

Visit www.montereywharf.com for additional info plus a schedule of performers and events.  Don’t miss out on this “whale” of a good time!

Looking to book a whale-themed getaway – check out the Portola Hotel & Spa’s Whale Watching package, it includes two tickets for a whale watching tour, plus 15% off the regular nightly rate.

Best Bets for 2014

Friday, January 3rd, 2014
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The NEW YEAR is finally upon us and 2014 promises to be jam-packed with excitement.  With all of the fun you’ll be having, the year is sure to fly by, so don’t waste a moment. Here are some of your best bets for spending the New Year on the Monterey Peninsula and beyond.  From wine tastings to outdoor adventures, the Monterey Bay has something for everyone and is the perfect getaway for the whole family.

Family friendly and fun, the breathtaking 17-Mile Drive is regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world.  Running from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, this drive features awe-inspiring landscapes and legendary sites, including the Lone Cypress, Spanish Bay, and Stillwater Cove.  17-Mile Drive is perfect for a day of exploration, afternoon drive or a brisk morning jog.  Just don’t forget to bring your camera.

Beloved by Peninsula locals is the Old Monterey Farmers’ Market taking over three and a half blocks of Historic Downtown Monterey every Tuesday afternoon/evening.  Established in 1991 and attracting both locals and tourists, the Old Monterey’s Farmers Market lets you take a spin around the globe in just three blocks, sampling arts and crafts, handmade jewelry, furniture, clothing, food, organic produce, flowers and pastries from local artisans and growers. Rain or shine, you can be certain to find some good food and entertainment.

A prime location for wine enthusiasts from near and far and recently named as a Top 10 Destination by Wine Enthusiast, the Monterey County is home to many vineyards, wine-tasting rooms and festivals.  Year round, you can be sure to find a place to sip delectable samples of some of Monterey’s award-winning varietals. Explore the region’s numerous tasting rooms, experience a guided tour of a vineyard or simply visit one of the many specialty stores, you can experience the rich diversity of tastes available from our local wineries. Check Portola’s very own Wine Trolley Package!

The local region offers plenty of fun for the younger crowd too.  Home to the Monterey Zoo, nothing could be better than a day exploring the animal kingdom on a 51-acre ranch located just off of the Monterey-Salinas Highway.  Home to over 100 wild, exotic, and domestic birds and animals, “Wild Things” promises an afternoon of excitement for the whole family including special rooms available for overnight guests and special events.

For folks who fancy the outdoors, Monterey’s Adventures by the Sea is the perfect way to take advantage of all that the natural beauty the Peninsula has to offer.  Providing options to explore by land or by sea; discover beautiful Monterey Peninsula by bicycle, kayak, or guided tour.  Nothing completes a stay on the Monterey Bay like taking in the majestic sights and historic landmarks of the Peninsula with Adventures by the Sea.

One of the most famous events on the Monterey Peninsula is the internationally renowned Big Sur International Marathon. Whether you’re keen to participate or just enjoy cheering on the runners, this celebrated marathon, taking place on April 27, 2014 is one of the running world’s iconic events. The course traces 26 miles of breathtaking views from Big Sur to Carmel.  Visit the website www.bsim.org for further details and to register online and learn about other races and events throughout the year!

Each year the month of January brings the promise of new adventure and experiences and there is no place better to enjoy them all than right here on the Monterey Bay.

Cheers to a wonderful New Year!

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving at Jacks Restaurant (Leftovers Included!)

Friday, November 8th, 2013
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When the autumn leaves start falling and all the turkeys go into hiding, Americans across the country starts to tingle with anticipation because we all know that the most widely celebrated, and undoubtedly the coziest, holiday is right around the corner.  With all of the fuss and preparation, though, Thanksgiving can become a time of stress and exhaustion (and we’re not just talking about the unavoidable post-feast food coma), leaving little room or care to meditate on the real meaning of the holiday, to consider what we’re all truly thankful for.

This year, Jacks Restaurant at the Portola Hotel & Spa wants to help put the “Thanks” back in Thanksgiving!  Why not escape the stress of the holiday season and get away to beautiful Monterey?  A perfect backdrop to appreciate the blessings in life, press pause and enjoy the exhilarating winter chill and the majestic Monterey coastline with your family to help you put things back into perspective and really get into the holiday spirit.  And as for your Thanksgiving feast, our acclaimed restaurant Jacks has it covered.

Featuring a mouth-watering four-course menu, you can enjoy all of your favorites dishes with a new gourmet twist, like our luxurious sourdough stuffing, fluffy whipped potatoes, and our perfectly seasoned green beans with crispy shallots, not to mention a wonderful selection of holiday inspired desserts from our decedent dessert display.  You won’t have to lift a finger to enjoy all of the fun, food, and feelings that this holiday has to offer – plus the staff at Jacks will pack up your leftovers so you can continue your feast on Friday!

Leave it all to the team at the Portola and Jacks and enjoy the holiday the way it was meant to be spent, basking in the love of family and appreciating life’s bounty.

Visit Jacks website to tantalize your taste buds with a preview of our full menu and to get all of the details for this offer to be truly thankful for.

8 Attractions Not to be Missed on the Monterey Peninsula

Friday, September 27th, 2013
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 Head Concierge, Anne Roberts

Guest Post!

8 Attractions Not to be Missed on the Monterey Peninsula

By Anne Roberts, Portola Hotel & Spa, Head Concierge & Member of Les Clefs d’Or USA

Nearly four million people visit the Monterey Peninsula every year and whether they are traveling for business or pleasure, visitors are all are faced with the same problem – how to fit everything into one trip.

As Head Concierge at the Portola Hotel & Spa, I have the pleasure of playing tourist, visiting all the amazing destinations throughout the local region.  I love receiving recommendations and feedback from both locals and tourists alike, and along with my personal experiences, am excited to share my list of the top eight activities not to be missed when exploring the Monterey Peninsula.

1.  Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium should be at the top of everyone’s “to do” list when visiting the Monterey Peninsula, it truly is the best aquarium in the world! Located on historical Cannery Row (right off the Coastal Recreation Trail) at the site of an actual former sardine cannery, the Aquarium is not only home to thousands of plants and animals (more than 600 species are on display), but it also serves as a non-profit to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans. Visitors to the aquarium will be wowed by its giant live kelp forest and the popular sea life found in its many exhibits including stingrays, jellyfish, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, penguins, seahorses, blue fin tuna, yellow fin tuna and, if you are lucky, great white sharks that are temporarily housed at the aquarium from time to time. There are interactive exhibits for children and the adults can take part in special evening events that include wine and live music during the summer.

If you go…there are less  people there in the afternoon. Buy your tickets at our Front Desk and you won’t have to wait in line.

 

2.  Whale Watching

Attracting permanent marine residence and passerbies, the Monterey Bay is home to an underwater canyon that is actually much deeper than the Grand Canyon and creates a super highway for both creatures or the sea and sky. Some of the most famous visitors include a number of whale species that migrate through the area throughout the year including killer whales, humpbacks, blue whales and grey whales. There are many whale watching tours offered around the Monterey Bay, including one that is a five-minute walk from the Portola, located on Fisherman’s Wharf. Tourists and locals flock to these tours to see not only whales, but also catch a glimpse of dolphins, rare birds, seals, sea otters, pelicans, sharks and other creatures that are cruising through or have made their home in the Monterey Bay.

If you go… dress warmly with lots of layers including a waterproof option. Also, book a morning trip, as it is the best time to spot sea life.

 

3. Carmel-By-The-Sea

Located about 10 minutes south of Portola is the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This charming town provides visitors with shops, art galleries, restaurants and wine tasting all within one-square mile. Home to Clint Eastwood, who was once the Mayor, Carmel’s unique European-style village attracts fans from all over the world. The food choices range from superior French cuisine to American hamburgers and fries. Shopaholics will be welcomed by familiar brand names and one-of-a kind boutiques and art lovers can spend hours roaming the galleries that contain both modern and contemporary art along with everything in between. The Monterey Peninsula is lush with wineries and many of the most famous have tasting rooms located right in downtown Carmel. Wine fans should not miss the new Wine Walk By-the-Sea Passport, which guides visitors through seven Carmel tasting rooms.

If you go…don’t miss out on talking a stroll or packing a picnic to enjoy at the famous Carmel Beach, with its teal waters, white sand and views of the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, it is quintessential California!

 

4.  Big Sur for Lunch

The world famous beauty of Big Sur is located about 45 minutes from Portola and offers spectacular scenery that can be easily viewed through the car window.  Highway 1 provides its visitors with views of jagged cliffs, lush green pastures, waterfalls and gorgeous redwoods. Take a drive down Highway 1 and fuel up at one of Big Sur’s five-star restaurants or local watering hole. Many of the restaurants themselves offer unique views, friendly staff and spectacular, farm to table offerings.

If you go… due to its rugged terrain, the weather in Big Sur can be unpredictable so be sure to dress in layers.

 

5.  Hike Point Lobos

Known for its breathtaking views, easy to manage hiking trails and abundant sea life, Point Lobos is a great place to spend a few hours or an entire day. There are a number of hiking trails that start from the parking lot with the majority of them being perfect for beginners. The wildlife is spectacular – humpback whales migrate through the area from April until December and gray whales can be seen during their migration mid-December until mid-April. During low tide, explore the tide pools to view starfish and sand dollars and often times there is a sea otter to spot amongst seals and sea birds.

If you go… pick up a trail map at the entrance kiosk to navigate the park and beware of waves crashing on the rocks – if you get to close you will get wet!

 

6.  Carmel Valley Wine Tasting

Head down Highway 1 toward Carmel and go inland about 20 miles and you will be right in the middle of Carmel Valley, home to approximately 20 tasting rooms, restaurants, shops and galleries. Located far enough inland to avoid coastal fog and nestled next to the Santa Lucia Range, Carmel Valley provides a warm environment that is favorable to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other red varietals. The Valley is also known to produce exceptionally good Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandels. From elegant French-style tasting rooms at the Chateau Julien Winery to the laid-back walk-able environment of Carmel Valley Village, wine and food enthusiasts alike will delight in a day the taste buds are sure to enjoy.

If you go… be sure to bring clothes appropriate for warm weather especially during the summer and fall months, as it can be 20-30 degrees warmer than along the coast.

 

7.  Carmel Mission

A great stop during a day visit to Carmel is the Carmel Mission, one of the most famous missions in California. Known formally as the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, this Roman Catholic mission church dates back to 1770 when Father Junipero Serra served until his death in 1784. Today, it is one of the most authentically restored mission churches in all of California and is still an active parish church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey. Visitors can tour the property and its museum’s that take visitors on a journey through the Mission’s history and restoration efforts. The grounds are completely breathtaking with ancient structures and sculptures, lush gardens and beautiful stained glass windows.

If you go… remember it is still an active parish so there may be weddings, funerals and other activities that prevent you from seeing everything on the grounds.

 

8.  Walking Tour of Monterey State Historical Park

Did you know that Monterey was the first state Capital of California? The Monterey State Historical Park, located just outside the doors of Portola, is rich in history providing a collection of significant historical houses and buildings with colorful gardens and overall beautiful scenery. The historical park stands to preserve places and objects that are of historical significance including 12 buildings and several residences. Among the attractions stands the spot where the Spanish explorers first landed in Monterey in 1602, the oldest building in California known as the Custom House and one of the nation’s last remaining whalebone sidewalks.

If you go…be sure and stop by the Pacific House Museum for more information on the buildings and their viewing options, as many of the historic adobes can only be viewed with a State Park Guide. Stop by my desk for a self guided walking map.

 

Visit one or all on your next trip to Monterey and stop by my desk at the Portola to say “hi”! I look forward to your impressions and receiving YOUR insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Monterey Bay vacation. Every day I look forward to learning something new!

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

Summertime Chillin’ & Grillin’

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
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Nothing says summertime like a backyard BBQ. From the first sizzle of a perfectly seasoned steak on the grill, everyone enjoys one of the most revered of summer pastimes. Chef Jason Giles, Executive Chef at the Portola Hotel & Spa and the brains behind the menus for Jacks Restaurant & Lounge and Peter B’s Brewpub, loves backyard BBQ’s and has graciously shared his favorite summertime recipe with Central Coast Living.

All great recipes share one core aspect, which is the quality of ingredients. According to Chef Giles, meats that are a bit higher in fat will cook better on the grill because the marbling in the meat keeps it moist and full of flavor, he personally recommends the following cuts:

  • Rib-Eye
  • New York Strip Loin
  • Skirt Steak
  • Tri Tip
  • Flank Steak

Chef Giles has a few tips that he always follows when preparing the meat.  He recommends that the meat be seasoned/marinated for a few hours before cooking to allow it to soak up the flavor of the marinade.  For a little extra zip and pizzazz, try his famous Season Salt:

  • ½ cup Kosher Flake Salt
  • 3 Tbsp. Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1Tbsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1Tbsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

This seasoning is great for beef, chicken or pork. Once the ingredients are mixed together, they need to be stored in a clean, dry glass jar.

Now that the seasoning is taken care of, it is important to focus on the best way to grill the meat. Make sure that the grill is nice and hot – if it is too cold, the meat will just steam. When the grill is warmed up pull the meat out of the refrigerator and let it start to come up to room temperature to ensure an even cooking time. Always be prepared to season the meat with salt and pepper, even if the marinade has a ton of flavor the meat will most likely benefit from a sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper.  Once the grill is nice and hot, cook the meat to about 10-15 degrees below how it is usually grilled and let it rest for 15-20 minutes after cooking.

When the perfect steak is cooked, Chef Giles recommends adding the popular Argentinean sauce, Chimichurri as a side condiment:

  • 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 leaves fresh basil chopped fine
  • 3 mint leaves chopped fine
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 garlic cloves minced ( or grated on a micro planer)
  • 1 ½  cup Olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To create the sauce, mix all the ingredients in a bowl EXCEPT the lemon juice.  Let it sit in a bowl for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry together.  Just before serving add the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. It is important to add the lemon juice last, as it will discolor the herbs if added at the beginning. 

Your friends and family will think you’ve been a master of the grill with this simple recipe and cooking tips from your secret summertime BBQ hero, Chef Jason Giles.