The Hidden Gem of Southern California

By Kelly Mayerick

It is highly unlikely that one would chance upon this beautiful resort just driving through San Diego. Just off the beaten path from the frequently toured Del Mar Fairgrounds sits an old-world palace atop the hills about five miles from the coast. Opened in the fall of 2007, The Grand Del Mar transcends the ordinary and delivers a world-class Southern California resort experience, ideal for escaping, gathering or celebrating.

The Grand Del Mar is set amidst San Diego’s serene Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. This luxury resort masterpiece captures the elegance and comfort of a classical Mediterranean estate and is par excellence. It serves as an oasis for guests seeking tranquility and solitude among a truly remarkable setting with its spacious 249 elegantly appointed guestrooms. The attention to detail is stunning with graceful archways, bold wrought iron and ornate stone accents; wood-beamed ceilings and decorative columns surround you. This sanctuary is inspired by the exotic architectural style of Addison Mizner, who pioneered the look of the resort communities of Boca Raton and Palm Beach in the 1920. The grounds feature whimsical stone walkways, manicured courtyards, hidden gardens, tinkling fountains, all complemented by commanding golf course views. The lush grounds create an atmosphere perfectly balanced between heavenly opulence and natural beauty.

As you enter the resort through huge mahogany and iron double doors, guests feel as if they have entered a lavish Renaissance palace complete with plush sofas and chairs, thick Turkish rugs, tall French windows, a wood-burning fireplace, and the fragrance of fresh flowers permeating the air. It is a grand reception, those first few steps into the resort, and one that captures the splendor of The Grand Del Mar experience.

Our first night stay, my husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary (child-less) by indulging at the award-winning Addison restaurant. Addison is a contemporary French restaurant located within The Grand Del Mar Clubhouse and is the only San Diegan restaurant to be awarded the coveted Five Diamond award from the AAA (November 2008), Five Star award from Mobil Travel Guide (January 2009) and the most recent Grand Award from Wine Spectator (July 2009). Chef William Bradley suggested Addison Carte Blanche table service, an epicure’s fantasy that puts the element of surprise as the first ingredient. The chef chose each of the seven courses for us (nine if you include the amuse bouche, or pre-course, which was chilled Cavallion Melon Veloute with a hint of basil crémeux soup to cleanse our palette and the Parisian Macarons , the third after-dinner dessert) using all fresh local ingredients. WOW, were we blown away. Each course was perfectly paired by head sommelier and Wine Director, Jesse Rodriguez, with wines from all over the world. Yes, this means seven full glasses of wine during dinner, plus a glass of champagne that set the tone for the entire meal. Talk about needing to pace yourself!

The two courses that stood out the most for the both of us were the third and fourth courses. A beautifully decorated bowl filled with Parmigiano Reggiano Risotto with pistachios, crispy shallots and garlic, paired with a 2006 Pinot Noir from Martinborough, New Zealand. Followed by renowned Braised Short Rib with smoked potato purée, horseradish crémeux drizzled with port wine paired with a 2000 Syrah from Rhône, France. As each course arrived, a detailed description was given of what we were about to taste, and the same went for the wine selection. We found the staff at Addison to be extremely educated, respectfully polite and extremely personable and professional.

At the end of our incredible dining experience came an elegantly embossed, brown envelope. It contained a customized list of each Carte Blanche item we were served along with the wine selection for each pairing signed by Chef William Bradley himself. This was an extraordinary anniversary celebration and I highly recommend Addison to even the pickiest A-list celebrity. You will not be disappointed.

We stayed two nights in a spacious 1,010-square-foot Executive Suite with large French doors that opened to a small veranda overlooking the emerald green golf course. While described as a one-bedroom suite, it included a guest bathroom, living room with comfortable queen-sleeper sofa, kitchen, two 40-inch flat screen LCD TVs with HDTV and two additional 13-inch LCD TVs – one in each bathroom. I suppose with the hefty $270 million price tag, the resort is one of the highest priced new builds in California, averaging more than $1 million per room of invested luxury.

Things to Do At The Grand Del Mar

Guide Hike through Nearby Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
Unlike any other resort I have visited, The Grand Del Mar employs an onsite naturalist, Dylan Jones and team, who leads guests on guided nature hikes and mountain bike excursions through the nearby 4,100-acre canyon. Intrigued, I opted for the guided nature hike as I was very interested in learning more about San Diego’s natural history. My guide, Robert Butterfield, spoke of the unique geology of the region, the types of plants that have flourished for thousands of years, and the recent footprints left in the sand from a furry, four-legged friend. He knew everything about the area and was very pleasant guide. On our hike, we explored a montage of different color schemes created by elevation changes punctuated by a peacefully flowing waterfall. Natural lovers will surely find this outdoor recreational activity inspirational.

The Spa at The Grand Del Mar
Embracing the creative and rejuvenating spirit of the Renaissance, The Spa at The Grand Del Mar in décor, design, practice, and philosophy, epitomizes that golden era. Utilizing an eco-friendly, holistic approach with a homemade, organic product line consisting of wild herbs, mineral-rich clays, and a plethora of local elements each spa service will invigorate and replenish the spirit. Overwhelmed by the rich menu of  spa treatment from which to choose, I eventually selected the Renaissance Touch Therapy. During this signature body ritual, mineral-rich mud combined with warmed aromatic oils were applied to my body then I was embraced in a warm body wrap before resting in a relaxing free-floating bed. It was unlike any other spa treatment I have ever experienced. An exhilarating Swiss shower followed, along with a relaxing, stretching massage. The whole experience was a heavenly 90 minutes, proceeded by the hour and half I spent taking full advantage of The Spa’s luxurious lounge facilities, which include European-style wet rooms; indoor whirlpools; complimentary water, hot tea and other organic refreshments; top quality spa products; and lavishly appointed relaxation rooms.

The Grand Golf Club
While I was hiking and getting pampered, my husband and his friend, teed up to play one of the regions most dramatic and challenging 18-hole golf courses. Designed by Tom Fazio, the 7,160-yard, par-72 Grand Golf Club spans 380 spectacular acres and accommodates all levels of play. The eager two-some, accompanied by a professional forecaddie, hit the links. The stark, white sand traps, undulating greens and lush canyons challenged their game. The most memorable was Hole 17, a long par-3 into the wind, with a lake that surrounds most of the green giving the impression you are hitting to an island.  On their first attempt, both players donated their ball to the lake, but with the assistance from the forecaddie who provided tips all day on yardage, breaks in the greens, and club selection, both my husband and his buddy, corrected their mishap and completed a very enjoyable golf experience.

Bring the Kids
The second night, we chose to experience a completely different side of the resort; the kid-friendly side by including our two-year old daughter. The concierge sent a real crib with fitted-sheets and bumper, accent pillows, a few toys and a bag of infant toiletries to accommodate the additional guest. We spend the remainder of the day splashing in the heated kid-friendly pool area with underwater speakers, while sipping strawberry daiquiris. We ordered dinner from the 24-hour in-room dining service and ate a delicious meal at our dining table with eight captain’s chairs. If you have had the joyous experience of eating with a toddler, you know that dining in the privacy of your own space is much more relaxing for all.  What a wonderful way to conclude an amazing stay.
The whole experience while staying at The Grand Del Mar made it a destination unto itself with no feature overlooked. The Grand Del Mar is truly grand.

Upcoming Events at Addison
Once-a-Month Classes Taught by The Pros Throughout 2009
Monthly series offerings taught by the culinary team at The Grand Del Mar highlight holiday celebrations as well as seasonal ingredients and wines. Each session is conducted on designated weeknights from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Classes are limited. For reservations and more information, please call 858-314-2000.
Inventive New Golf Program for Kids Underway
The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) has joined forces with The Grand Del Mar to launch the TPI Junior Performance Center – a groundbreaking 38-week program designed to maximize the potential of junior golfers of all ages, from kindergarten through ninth grade. Combining unique physical and mental challenges, the program – the first of its kind – began Monday, August 31, on a 22,000-square-foot space on The Grand Del Mar’s elevated driving range tee box. Each session is $40. For more information on the program or to sign-up for a session or a series, please visit ww.thegranddelmar.com.

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