Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Richard Skipper's Wednesday Night Cabaret at the Iguana, N.Y.C., Christmas Special, December 23rd, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The Post Ranch Inn -Ultimate Big Sur Luxury
The Post Ranch Inn, Route 1, Big Sur, California
Review by E. Joyce Glasgow
Photo credits/copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow, except the four with Post Ranch labeling, courtesy of Post Ranch Inn. My visit was at the end of September, so the photos of landscapes reflect what nature was doing and what the land looks like during Indian summer. www.postranchinn.com
When I arrived at the Post Ranch Inn, I was greeted with a glass of champagne, warmth and hospitality, by general manager, Dan Priano and his staff, including a sixth generation member of the Post family, for whom the Inn is named. This land has so much history. For at least 10,000 years, the ancient, peaceful, indigenous Esselen people lived on about 750 square miles of the Big Sur and Ventana Wilderness area. In more recent times, pioneer, William Brainard Post, headed west from Connecticut in 1848 at the age of 18 and at the age of 30, took out a claim on 160 acres of land in Big Sur and became one of the first to homestead this stunning, wild land on the edge of the continent. The Post family worked the land as a ranch for decades, passed from generation to generation. In the early 1990’s a plan emerged to create an intimate, spectacular, distinctive, luxury get away on the property and the multiple award-winning Post Ranch Inn was born.
The visionary and highly esthetic architecture undulates naturally, organically following the curves of the land and sea. There are cozy, womb like tree houses on stilts, overlooking the trees, sea and Ventana Wilderness peaks and sleek and sophisticated suites, completely open to the horizon, with floor to ceiling windows and glass doors, which hug the cliffside, dramatically perched over the expansive, endless Pacific. Some of the roofs are “green”, with soft hued plants growing on them, giving them the appearance of Hobbit houses. The Inn is off the grid and generates ninety percent of its energy from banks of solar panels on the ranch. It has been lauded internationally for its “green” operations. An organic garden is maintained, providing luscious, sweet, heirloom tomatoes, basil and other herbs and vegetables for use in the restaurant, Sierra Mar.
Everywhere one walks, the air is permeated by the intoxicating, heady scents of rosemary, lavender, sage and redwood. The effects on the nervous system are very calming and the scents are refreshing and pleasurable.
What makes the Post Ranch so unique and special is in the way guests are treated and the attention to detail. The staff is incredibly gracious, helpful, professional and sincere and it was amazing to be around a group of people who were so totally present and alert and who loved their jobs and seemed to get great joy from serving. I feel like I’ve been completely spoiled! As I reflected, I thought that this is the way all people everywhere should treat each other at all times, with presence, kindness, good nature, respect, alertness, joy at making others happy, attention to detail, steadfastness and follow through. We’d have a much happier world!
I was delighted when I was told that I would be staying in a room called “Peace”. How lovely, I thought. I found out that all the rooms were named after people associated with the Post family and that the new rooms on my end were all named after women of the family, at Bill Post’s wishes, to honor them for all that they had done. My room was named after Ellen Peace, one of the family descendants and the family historian in her day. My room turned out to be a glorious suite, hugging the cliff, many hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean. It was beautifully appointed, very contemporary and looked like it came out of the pages of Architectural Digest. The dynamic and colorful artwork of Greg Hawthorne and other artists featured at the popular, local Hawthorne Gallery, a little ways down Route 1, graced my suite and my patio, over the sea, had a sensuously designed, artistic stainless steel hot tub. All of the Inn’s elegantly designed furniture is made on the property. My suite had comfy leather chairs, radiant flooring, a complimentary bar, stocked with fresh fruit, camembert cheese, crackers, fair trade dark chocolate, gourmet chocolate chip cookies, organic juices, half bottles of red and white wines and a bottle of champagne, being chilled on ice waiting for me along with a lovely embossed note welcoming me and wishing me a happy birthday- a very nice touch! My king sized bed was made with very fine, soft cottons and pillows and I just melted into the incredibly comfortable mattress at bedtime. There was a wood burning fireplace with a glass front, near my bed, completely stocked with dried, fragrant redwood logs, kindling and neatly arranged torn newspaper as a fire starter. My bathtub had Jacuzzi jets and overlooked the ocean. All three of my suite’s rooms overlooked the ocean. It was just spectacular! My patio had two lounge chairs with cushions and a table and two upright wood chairs. In my bedroom there was a desk and chair and complete Wi Fi Internet access, as well as a CD player and piped in music available and blissfully, no televisions. If my corner of Heaven was to be anything like this, I would be perfectly happy!
Because of the attention to detail and the high quality of everything here, one experiences a super-heightened, rich sensual experience, almost an altered reality that makes one feel, even in only a short time of being here as if one has experienced quite a lot. Just simply touching and admiring the smoothly and deftly sculpted wooden desk chair in my suite was an amazing, heightened experience.
On the 100 acre property there are two hot infinity pools on the cliffs to lounge about in, one mosaiced with pieces of Big Sur jade. There is a swimming pool down the hill, long enough for lap swimming and gentle walking paths through stands of old growth redwood trees. Small wild rabbits hop in and out of the bushes suddenly and a large horned buck of about 250 lbs. made an appearance at dusk down by the pond. There are large, bold abstract and figurative statues positioned strategically around the property. I was blessed to witness the sky dance of two giant California Condors, soaring powerfully over the cliffs and sea, not a common sight.
My stay included hearty breakfasts, buffet style, in the Sierra Mar restaurant, which is suspended in air over the coastline. From the floor to ceiling walls of windows here you have a perfectly un-obstructed view of the Big Sur coast, north and south and the fabulous sunsets. Breakfasts included fluffy moist vegetable frittatas, eggs Benedict made with avocado or ham, roasted potatoes with red pepper, some of the best Belgian Waffles (made to order) that I have ever tasted, homemade heirloom tomato salsa, a variety of sliced fruits, including pineapple, cantaloupe and papaya, exotic homemade jams, including Vanilla fig, fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice and a number of fresh breads and house baked muffins and pastries. The breakfasts were satisfying and delicious and current copies of daily papers are provided for guests’ breakfast reading enjoyment.
The atmosphere is quiet and restful and there are only forty guest rooms, so there are never very many people around. One always feels like they have plenty of space for contemplation, moving slowly and being peaceful and alone or spending quality time with that special someone. There is a comfortable library for quiet reading time. At times I didn’t see anyone else around the property save for the occasional staff member going about his or her work.
There are no cars allowed past the reception area and parking lot below, except for staff workers’ golf carts and quiet Lexus hybrid SUV’s, which transport guests and their belongings to and from their rooms and around the large property and to the swimming pool and back, whenever desired. The absence of vehicles helps to maintain the tranquil, natural atmosphere.
I had a relaxing spa treatment at the simple, peaceful spa building, set in the trees. First, a hot bath was drawn for me, infused with a soothing milk and herb concoction, in which I soaked for about twenty minutes. Then, the massage therapist massaged me with special, therapeutic Hungarian mud, which had cinnamon and other spices in it. The cinnamon and the massage warmed up the mud on my skin, helping to heat and relax my muscles. Then, after rinsing off all the mud, I was given another massage and finished with a short rest on the massage table and sipping a soothing hot cup of herbal tea, while sitting outside in my robe on the small deck, with a picture perfect view of the Ventana Peaks to meditate on. The next day, I did a shamanic “renewal” ritual with a shamanic practitioner who has studied with a Peruvian shaman. This ritual shamanic journey served to lift un-necessary cares, fears and anxieties off of me that have been passed down in my DNA through generations of ancestors, which may have been necessary for them in their lifetimes, but do not have anything to do with me in this lifetime. I found the ritual surprisingly uplifting and freeing.
There are complimentary morning classes held in the yurt by the pool, which vary day to day, including Feldenkreis and yoga, guided nature walks and stargazing in the evenings through a powerful telescope. Bill Post, the patriarch of Post Ranch, led guests on nature walks, sharing interesting information and anecdotes about the land until his death at 89, only this last August.
Anyone may dine at the award-winning Sierra Mar Restaurant for lunch or dinner, whether a guest of the Inn or not and this is a wonderful way to have a little bit of the Post Ranch experience when visiting Big Sur. Reservations are advised. I had a lovely chat with the delightful Executive Chef, Craig von Foerster. He is charming, outspoken and down to earth and is dedicated to serving fresh and organic, seasonal and regional food, making regular trips up winding Route 1 to the Monterey farmer’s market, Earthbound Farms, in Carmel Valley and other quality suppliers, whose relationships he’s cultivated over the years, including local fishermen. Chef Craig’s schedule is ambitious and intense- the dinner menu changes nightly. Keep in mind, The Post Ranch Inn is about 35 miles from any food shops, so creating ever changing elaborate and complex dishes is no small feat and demands lots of preparation and forethought. I asked the accolade-winning chef about his background in cooking and was surprised to hear that his cooking career started in his teens cooking at a fast food burger place. From there he studied recipes and cooked in top restaurants and has evolved into the excellent chef he is today. He told me that he grew up in a large family with a single mom and that they didn’t have much. Food was scarce and this gave him a life long appreciation for food and its preciousness. He said he always finds ways to use fruits and vegetables in creative ways when they are too ripe to use in particular dinner recipes. The exotic vanilla fig jam and heirloom tomato salsa from breakfast were two delicious examples of these spontaneous, creative, food conserving concoctions. His four-course pre-fixe dinners ($105.00) feature innovative uses of ingredients and flavors. My four-course dinner was luscious, meticulously elaborate, artistic, really fresh, delicious and highly imaginative. It consisted of the following, mouth-watering dishes: Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Parsnip Puree, Red Wine Reduction and Apple-Chanterelle Mushroom Salad; Bourride with Maine Diver Scallop and Red Pepper; Line Caught Local White Sea Bass with Braised Fennel, Bloomsdale Spinach, Dungeness Crab and Meyer Lemon Sabayon and for dessert, Grand Marnier with Vanilla Crème Anglaise and Farmers’ Market Berries, with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce on the plate surrounding my dessert. I really enjoyed my dinner as I watched the sun set into the west and disappear below the ocean’s horizon.
Wine director, Dominique Da Cruz, is very knowledgeable and passionate about wines and understands the most sophisticated details about each individual wine served at the restaurant, its flavors and the most perfect pairings with food. I allowed him to choose my wines for each of the four courses and the wines he chose were fabulous and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Sierra Mar has an extensive, award-winning wine list and features unusual, hard to find wines.
Room and suite rates at the Post Ranch Inn range from $500.00- $2,185.00 nightly, obviously on the very high end of things, yet this intimate resort is very casual, down to earth and unpretentious. There are also several houses, with views, on the property available for two to four night minimums, accommodating up to four, six, or eight adults, which are a bit more economical at $1,685.00-$2,800.00 nightly. You may be surprised and reeling right now at the cost of staying here, thinking that this place must be frequented primarily by wealthy Hollywood celebrities, rich executives, or oil tycoons, but, in reality, although it is a relaxing escape for some well known Hollywood folks, many of the people who stay here are not necessarily wealthy or celebrities and have saved up to stay in this spectacular location for a very special occasion. When I was there, there was a couple celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary and another young couple from New York celebrating their engagement. People come here for honeymoons, birthdays, romantic getaways, a peaceful retreat alone or family and friend reunions. Many weddings and commitment ceremonies for straight and gay couples are held at the Post Ranch Inn and the Inn’s historian, Soaring Starkey, is available to preside as minister over ceremonies.
For more information and to make reservations for the Post Ranch Inn and Sierra Mar Restaurant visit: www.postranchinn.com.