After a six and a half hour drive from the warmth of Orange County, we roll up, a little past 9 p.m. to a quaint Bavarian themed hotel, named the Hofsas House. We are immediately greeted by a kind woman who is eager to check us in, for we’re the last arrivals of the night. We unload the car and make our way to our room. The air is cool and crisp, filled with the smell of salt and sweet flowers, we unload the car as we make our way to our room. The air is cool and crisp, filled with the smell of salt and sweet flowers.
As we open the pink door, we walk into a dimly lit room, paintings hung on the walls, and a handmade looking quilt laid carefully across the bed. To the left is a mini kitchen with a special gift of wine and cheese placed in the center of the table. We survey the rest of the living space, I venture out to the porch and take in the ocean air and listen to the waves crashing in the distance. Other than the sound of the ocean dancing, the night is silent, a refreshing experience from that of the hum of Orange County. As Chad joins me, he wraps his arms around me and kisses me on the neck, he then holds me while we breathe in the night. We crack open the crackers and cheese, and pour us each a glass of the X pinot noir. The cheese is smelly, which is always a great sign. The smellier the better. The first we decide to try is a buttery brie, which paired well with our unsalted crackers. The second, a hard and much smellier cheese, was my favorite. It had a deep, smoky flavor which complimented the wine nicely.
We sat on the porch for hours, drinking wine, eating cheese and chuckled with laughter as our conversation grew more intense and light hearted all at the same time. We talked about everything, from our jobs, and discussed how we want to decorate our newly purchased house, to debunking myths about the opposite sex. It was relaxing and magical. We became connected in a way we hadn’t in a while because of the bustling and stress of our daily lives. Carmel allowed our stresses to melt away and steered our focus to the other’s wants, needs and dreams. Our biggest worry being where to find another bottle of wine at midnight.
Our First Morning in Carmel by the Sea
Sunlight streams through the window as I peel open my eyes, ready to explore the town. I hesitate to toss back the covers for the bed is toasty and I’m comforted in the embrace of my husband who is just stirring awake himself. We throw on clothes and head out to grab breakfast in the hotel lobby. We enter the lobby to find a young couple and their two children sitting on the couch eating muffins and guzzling fresh squeezed orange juice. An elderly man is sitting adjacent, drinking coffee and purveying the morning paper. Both parties enjoying the morning, not distracted by cell phones or other electronics. As we grab muffins of our own, the young woman asks us if this our first time in town. We exchange pleasantries and soon we are all joking about the size of the baby chairs residing in the entryway: a place where two little ones have now staked claim as their mom took their picture, documenting what was undoubtedly their first vacation as a family.
After breakfast we decide to explore the town, eager to check out all of its offerings. We quickly come to find that the majority of galleries and shops are closed until 10 a.m. This find doesn’t slow us down however, we occupy our time by taking photos of the storybook houses, chat about art in window-fronts, people watch, and try our hand at guessing the location of the heavenly smell of baking bread that slowly filled the air. Carmel by the Sea is beautiful and quaint. There’s flowers everywhere, each home is given a name instead of an address, no two homes or shops are alike, making the morning walk quite a journey, never knowing what we’d stumble upon around the corner.
As we strolled through the streets we stumbled upon Hansel and Gretel’s house. Tucked away behind some trees, lied two cottages straight out of a story book.
By this time, we had explored for a few hours and were starting to get hungry. We made a pit stop at a hole in the wall bistro, Grassings and were greeted by a gentleman of a bartender who was eager to tell us about his town of Carmel by the Sea. He recommends the blackberry brut margarita, a pomegranate mimosa and bacon wrapped prawns as a starter. Anxious to try something new, we agreed to the man’s recommendations.
A Beach Picnic
For lunch we stopped at a place called The Deli and were amazed to find an expansive menu of delicacies. Not sure what we wanted to try first we ended up ordering a smorgasbord of cuisine: curry chicken salad sandwiches, cheese tamales, carrot cake, potato salad, white bean and veggie chili, and a chicken corn dog. What can I say, we were hungry.
The aroma of cheese and curry filling the air, we made our way down to the beach, just a half mile or so away from the middle of town. We finally make our way to the beach, kick off our shoes and dig our toes in the sand. The waves roll in, children are busy building sand castles and flying kites, dogs chase each other into the water, life is peaceful. We eat our food and stare off into the sea, chat about everything and nothing. We laugh for the first time in a long time, we just enjoy each other’s company. Not preoccupied with email or text messages, we just live in the moment, soaking up the world around us.
Let’s Talk about Wine
Ok guys, Carmel by the Sea has got wine down to a science. I mean, it is delicious. We made our way to 5 different tasting rooms as part of an in own wine tour. We’re partial to red wine in particular, but Carmel certainly knows their way around some white wine as well. The wine offerings were rich, bold and unforgettable. Let’s break each tasting room down and I’ll outline some of my favorites for you.
First on the tour was a place called Figge. This tasting room was nestled in the heart of an art gallery. First we try a 2012 Chardonnay. Peppery in taste with apple undertones.
Next, up was a 2014 Rose. Now I’m not usually a fan of rose but I actually enjoyed this one. It was dry, yet light and fruity. The bartender described it as the “perfect summer wine.”
Last was a 2011 pinot. As you might expect from a good pinot, it was full bodied and smooth. It had rich hints of oak and cherry. The pinot was my favorite wine from this tasting room.
Vino Napoli was next on our list. A quaint Italian themed restaurant and bar that resided right next door to Figge. We tried four wines from this establishment, all reds. Yay!
- Pinot Noir – Fruity, fairly light in texture.
- Erupzione (Chianti blend) – Had a wonderful berry scent that leaned more towards strawberries and raspberries. Was both fruity and earthy in flavor.
- Vesuvio (Cabernet blend) – This wine was my favorite from this tasting room. It had a very distinct flowery and vanilla scent. It was full bodied with a vanilla and berry test with hints of oak. It was delicious!
Dawn’s Dream Winery
We were lucky enough to try six different wines here. After tasting all that they had to offer, Chad and I have been converted into huge Dawn’s Dream fans. We signed up for their wine club as soon as we returned home, it was that good. Seriously, you have to try their wine.
- 2012 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay – This wine had a strong scent of crisp green apple. White peach and vanilla linger on the tongue with a hint of lime and a subtle bit of sweetness.
- 2014 Carmel Valley Viognier – This wine was their premier wine for the season. The smell of ripe peaches, lemons and nectarines offer a sweet introduction to this wine. There is a strong mixture of fruits to the taste, including cherries, pineapple, lime and peaches. This wine was very bold in flavor and it was amazing that you could taste each fruit distinctly.
- 2014 SLH pinot Noir Rose – This wine also had a bold mix of fruit flavors, including: green apple, lemon, guava, grapefruit and citrus zest. This wine was very refreshing, and crisp.
- 2013 SLH “Alyssa” Pinot Noir – The scent of strawberries and coffee is overwhelming, with the taste of cranberry and passion fruit soothing the palate.
- 2013 Arroyo Seco “Rachael” Pinot Noir – Ok, now this wine was my favorite from this establishment, and probably my favorite from the entire trip. It had both a strong butterscotch flavor and scent. The butterscotch flavor was coupled with pomegranate and baking spices.
- 2013 Monterey “Nicole” Pinot Noir – This wine smelled of sweet sugar plums and stewed berries. It had hints of cherries and caramel that lingers on the tongue long after each sip.
We really liked this tasting room. It felt secluded and romantic. We tried four different wines here.
- 2008 Brut Cuvee – Had a strong scent of lemon zest and pineapple. It had an overpowering taste of lemon mixed with apple. It was strong, yet balanced and lingered on the tongue.
- 2009 Brut Rose – The scent on this one was very faint: a subtle hint of citrus and peach. Citrus, ripe apple and cantaloupe mixed together to create a pleasing flavor.
- 2011 Chardonnay – The smell of this one was probably my favorite: candied pear, pineapple, toasted almond, honey suckle and a hint of butterscotch. The flavor was unexpected, a mix of grapefruit and apricots.
- 2011 Pinot Noir – Ok, so it’s probably no surprise that this wine was my favorite of the lot. I mean it was a red after all. The scent was a mix of raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and black cherry. It had an intense taste of fruit and had a nice velvety texture.
We ended our first day in Carmel with a delicious dinner at The Grill located in the middle of town on Ocean Avenue. The wait staff were beyond friendly, they made our meal so much more enjoyable.
To start off we tried the Chefs Platter which was made up of crab cakes, artichokes, scallops and a Caesar salad. The crab cakes were our favorite part of the appetizer. The texture was pleasing and the seasoning was perfect. The artichoke was tough and chewy, so to our dismay we did not enjoy it. The scallops were light and buttery while the Caesar was rich with bold flavors. The dressing must have been made in house, for it was super fresh.
For our entrees, I ordered the jumbo prawns (I’m a sucker for prawns!) with jasmine rice and Chad ordered the Black Angus NY strip steak. Both of these dishes were superb. There’s not a single thing I would have changed about either one. The prawns were lathered in an orange citrus glaze with a hint of cinnamon. The rice was a nice compliment to the prawns and helped to clear the palate before each bite.
Chad’s steak was so good that he almost didn’t want to give up a bite for me to try. It was tender and juicy. All characteristics you want in a good steak.
At this point we were both pretty full but still wanted to get our hands on some dessert. Just about everywhere we go, we order the Crème Brule, and so it was no surprise that we ordered that at The Grill. We’ve had our fair share of Crème Brule, and The Grill’s was one of the best we’ve ever tried. The sugar was perfectly caramelized and the center was creamy.
Overall, we really enjoyed our dinner and I highly recommend you take time to visit The Grill if you’re ever in the area. The atmosphere was romantic, with dim lighting and light music, couples sat at nearly every table.
You may already know this, but Carmel by the Sea is known has being an artsy town. So it’s no surprise that it is home to many artists who love to speak their mind through poetry, paintings, sculpture and more. We took a gander in the art gallery created by the Contemporary Art Association and we instantly fell in love with one artist in particular, Will Bullas. His work is hilarious and always showcases a play on words. One of my favorite pieces by him is a piece titled “Crowbar” which is a horizontally long canvas that shows crows drinking at a bar.
There were several other artists we enjoyed, including Howard Perkins, Daria Shachmut and Andrea Johnson. Each of these artists had one thing in common, they incorporated animals throughout much of their work. Each piece told a story and begged the viewer to find their own as well. It’s pieces like these that illicit powerful feelings, which is one of the many reasons I am a lover of art. We fully enjoyed browsing the collection and are thankful to have been introduced to some amazing, local artists. I must get a Will Bullas to hang up in our living room!
Note: Photos weren’t allowed to be taken inside the art gallery.
The Best French Toast I’ve ever had
Our last day in town, we woke up and were craving a hearty breakfast. We decided to try EmLe’s, we were told it is a local favorite. The restaurant couldn’t have been cuter. It had fun-framed mirrors all over the walls, signs that bore cheeky sayings, and pastel colored chairs at each table. We walk in and the place was already pretty busy, especially for the fact that they had just opened ten minutes prior to us arriving.
I order my coffee, and Chad orders himself a cup of orange juice. Having had the French toast recommended to us, I decided that that’s what I would try. Craving something salty for himself, Chad went with the creative eggs Benedict with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, hash browns and a side of extra crispy corned beef.
I have to be honest with you guys, the French toast was beautiful. It was a giant heap of deep fried, French toast. And it was delicious. Topped off with maple syrup and powdered sugar, this French toast was perfection.
Chad’s eggs benedict and corned beef hash were delicious as well. We certainly understand why EmLe’s is a local favorite.
A Secret Garden
Before leaving Carmel, we decided to visit one last store. We went into a book store and were pleasantly surprised to find an entrance into a secret garden, in the back of the store. The garden was calming and urged visitors to take a moment to relax and meditate on a bench or by the fountain. There were wind chimes everywhere, along with exotic flowers, art work, gemstones, and a range of other interesting pieces.
We had an amazing time in Carmel by the Sea. If you’re looking for an opportunity to escape your busy life, then I recommend giving this “village in the woods” a visit.
I want to say thank you to everyone at the Hofsas House for making this trip possible. We had a lovely experience and will definitely be back.
This post has been brought to you by the Hofsas House. All opinions expressed here are my own.