It’s always a surprise when an epicurean experience goes beyond one’s expectations and leaves you wanting more. Dining at Pelican Hill’s Andrea Restaurant was one of those rare instances when all the elements come together harmoniously—the perfect marriage.
Pelican Hill Resort leaves no architectural stone unturned in creating the perfect marriage of 16th century architecture, interior design and landscaping; but the resort’s aesthetics go beyond that. There is an ease here that immediately envelops you in its soft caress. From the art collection to the music, menus, wine and service — everything has been deliberately chosen to heighten the guests’ five senses.
And my senses were reeling by the time — as I call it — my mini-vacation to Pelican Hill Resort ended.
My guest and I were greeted warmly by Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray and Andrea’s Chef Luca Cesarini, who led us on a grand tour of the kitchen.
“We source most of our produce locally from The Irvine Ranch,” explained Dubray. “This year in particular, we are proud of our first olive oil harvest from trees on the resort. We pressed a small batch and the quality is outstanding. We are preparing to harvest over 400 trees next year. This means our guests will be treated to something special that no other resort can offer.”
We were guided toward a small room where one of Andrea’s staff was busy mixing ingredients and pressing colorful sheets of pasta.
“You have a pasta room?” I gasped.
“Andrea’s dedication to bringing guests the finest ingredients is reflected in both the climate-controlled pasta and gelato rooms,” Chef Cesarini smiled at me. “We spend over 50 hours a week making six different pastas. You’ll be trying some.”
“I’m ready and at your disposal,” I said eagerly.
“Paolo, rather than order a full glass of wine, would you be so kind as to pair really small tastings with each course?”
“Absolutely, ” he replied as our first course, San Daniele Prosciutto Riserva and Figs Vincotto, arrived.
“To begin, I will pour a taste of the Livio Felluga, a Merlot-Cab blend, that’s bold in style and will complement the next courses,” offered Paolo. “Here we have two pastas: Ricotta and Spinach stuffed Ravioli with Sage Butter, and this dish, called Pope’s Hat, is a big tradition in Italy. It’s stuffed with pumpkin, coated with bread crumbs and bitter almond.”
Paolo returned with a different wine to accompany our next course.
“Now I’m going to take you to the Piedmont area of Italy with a Barbaresco. The Santo Stefano is a great palate cleanser and will pair well with the Porcini Mushroom Risotto, so try it now before we bring out the Parmesan wheel.”
Upon learning that my guest had never experienced risotto prepared table-side before, Paolo immediately engaged us in the process.
“Why is this special?” he asked, gently pouring the hot pasta into the center of the Parmesan wheel. “As we toss the risotto the cheese melts, the consistency becomes creamy, and then shaved black truffles are added; this makes a wonderful marriage of flavors.”
“A spoiled marriage,” I said, taking a bite.
“You like it?” asked Paolo.
“I’m…speechless. Absolutely speechless.”
“Now that’s a rare occurrence,” my guest chuckled.
“Seriously,” I said. “Every course so far has been more surprising then the next. I am thoroughly impressed by the attention to detail.”
“I’m glad. But now, we switch to a Chardonnay made by Antinori, Cervara Della Salla. No oak, very clean — perfect with the Sea bass, eggplant, red pepper, squash and braised tomato,” Paola stated. “The ash oil drizzled around the plate is made from burnt onions.”
I admired the warm, harvest colors of the Sea Bass, took a bite, then sighed contentedly.
“The flavors in this entrée — please tell your guests if they want to order something that tastes like Fall, this would be the dish,” I hummed unabashedly.
“I love the decorations on the plate. They’re delicious,” my guest commented.
“I love it! The decorations taste good,” Paolo laughed.
“I have to admit, the Chardonnay is spectacular, too. Paolo, you really have turned my world upside down,” I accused outright.
“How so?” he asked.
“Because you taught me it’s okay to work backwards,” I smiled.
“Excuse me?” Paolo looked at me utterly perplexed.
“You can do that, but you have to have the food that complements it. The perfect pairing of bold and subtle flavors–one highlights the other. The wine complements the food and the food complements the wine. There are some rules, but…”
“You can take liberties on occasion?” I interjected with a laugh. “Honestly, this is not only one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had, but it has been extremely educational. I’m delighted to take what I’ve learned here and share it with others.”
“We get what we put in. No?” said Paolo.
“Absolutely,” I smiled. “The perfect marriage. No?”
For information on Andrea Restaurant, visit http://www.PelicanHill.com.
Thanks for reading! ~Stasha