meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Lunch at Sierra Mar in Big Sur, California

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lunch at Sierra Mar in Big Sur, California

It is very easy to take the breathtaking beauty of the Central Coast of California for granted when one is living here.  This last week however, with Carmel filled to the gills with Texans and Arizonians fleeing the heat, I was reminded of Steinbeck's reference to this area as the "Pastures of Heaven".  While I'm pretty sure he was referring to the more inland areas of these parts, there is just no denying that the Big Sur coastline is among the most heavenly on earth.

The dining room windows are floor to ceiling with a deck and little platforms for a 'better' look.
About 3 years ago I met this fabulous traveling chef by the name of Elizabeth Murray, an American in Paris by way of Noma in Copenhagen.  Turns out she is now the Chef de Cuisine at Sierra Mar/Post Ranch. Needless to say it didn't take much coaxing for my dear friend Kathi to be convinced we should wander on down the coast for a late and leisurely lunch. 

A little, perfectly balanced, sweet, salty and sour 'amuse bouche'... oh, and butter.
Having been to Sierra Mar last October with my Favorite Traveling Companion, on an equally beautiful day, (no, not the adorable Mr. Piddlespoons) I knew we had something magical  to look forward to. 

[Okay, this is the part where I do some head hanging and foot shuffling because I just CAN NOT believe I've been in California nearly a year (!!!) and haven't written a word on this blog in 10 months]  

Anyway... while the original, more free form 'a la carte' menu at Sierra Mar was fun, their current concept of a Prix Fixe 3 course meal is more ambitious. There is a nice selection in each course and everything is seasonal, delicious and gorgeous... which is saying something given how challenging it is to tear your eyes away from the view.

To take this photo, I needed only to lift my iPhone off the table

Ever so lightly battered Courgette Flowers with goat cheese and pignons

Wild Arugula salad with grilled ricotta, stone fruit and Marcona almonds

Of course we had some wine, a Pinot Noir for me and a Chardonnay for Kathi, as recommended by our server for the main dishes My great failure of the day was not making note (too distracted by the soaring condors) of what, exactly, those wines were... because let me tell you, delicious (and perfectly selected to compliment our respective meals) doesn't even begin to cover it...

Even fiddling with my editing mode, I can't make out the label on the Pinot Noir
After the wine came the Plat (the French name for 'main course', an Entree is the appetizer - and I'm not at all sure how this got confused)

Salmon on a beurre blanc nage with asparagus and (can you see them?) salmon eggs

Perfectly sautéed chicken breast with heirloom tomatoes and bacon on roast vegetable polenta

Then Elizabeth arrived with a treat for us... Ginger Beer floats with vanilla and plum ice cream.  Yumm

When is a float not a float?
Dessert was wonderful too... but not nearly as wonderful as the walk we took after lunch through the potager which was created just for the Sierra Mar kitchen... herbs, greens, fruit trees, stone walls, sunflowers - stunning.  Part of Elizabeth's job is to go pick herbs and what-not for the next service - in this case, dinner.

Someone has to pick the herbs....

Can you see the bee hives, wild turkeys and deer?

Elizabeth in the garden
The Post Ranch is about an hour's drive South of Carmel on highway 1.  It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon if you just want to take it easy and have a wonderful meal.  You can always stop at Nepenthe (another Big Sur classic) for the views which are also stunning (and their truly amazing gift shop) but no where in Big Sur will you find a lunch as charismatic and well done as Sierra Mar... from design to service, everything was perfect.  And those are not words (as my friends and family well know) I throw around lightly.

Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn is located on the Big Sur coast off Highway 1, 30 miles south of Carmel, 150 miles south of San Francisco and 325 miles north of Los Angeles.  Lunch is served from 11:30 am to 3pm.  Be sure to reserve:  (831) 667-2800.

A bientot (and I mean it)

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