California: Hotel Casa Del Mar
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Address1910 Ocean Way 33139 Santa Monica, CA 90405 , United States 310/581-5533 hotelcasadelmar.com
The spa's signature HydraFacial, which uses nutrient-rich hydrating formulas for a kinder, gentler, exfoliating treatment.
Carefully curated collections of seaside reads available in each room, which include Lost Fish, a collection of gorgeously colored 19th-century aquatic illustrations; Anne Morrow Lindbergh's charming journal, A Gift from the Sea; and Poems of the Sea, a selection of odes, elegies, shanties, and such from the likes of Dickinson, Coleridge, and Plath.
The roving Cocktail cart: There's no need to leave your cushy seat on an overstuffed lobby couch by the fire, or to flag down a busy cocktail waitress. Here, the drinks, and the mixologist, come to you. Order a fresh-market cocktail (this is Santa Monica, after all — home to an excellent farmers' market) and relax.
- 129 rooms and suites
- Catch Restaurant and Wine Bar
- The Palm Terrace (pool and garden deck)
- Wireless and T1 internet
I resisted the spirit of indulgence—at first. I had hit the hotel at the end of a vacation in which I had been recovering—you might say reforming—from the over-indulgence that I'm prone to as food magazine editor. I'd been eating well. I had taken up jogging. So, when I first arrived at this sumptuous beachside property, I took a quick peek around, then headed out on a long run. Trouble started when I returned, where the mini bar, an ample jet tub and a glass box of a shower started eating away at my virtuous resolve. My room, a study in ocean blues and whites, was soothing and airy. My four-poster bed had a view of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier. A white divan at the foot of my bed made me feel like a starlet. (I quite liked the feeling.)
Dinner at Catch, the hotel's restaurant, a study in American seafood, was a joyful indulgence. The oysters were bracingly fresh and briskly Pacific. A minimalist hamachi crudo, seasoned with just a dash of California olive oil and a scattering of pink peppercorns, showcased silky slabs of fish. The grilled octopus with capers, chili, roasted tomatoes, and oregano was a swarthy Cal-Mediterranean composition. While there are plenty of locavore offerings on the menu—snapper pulled from nearby waters in the bouillabaisse; Dungeness crab salad, with avocados, natch; Carlsbad mussels—the best thing I ate that night was lobster, flown in from my East Coast and then subject to a delicious California treatment: Butter-poaching, a technique made famous by Thomas Keller. The preparation makes for the most tender of crustaceans, and, when eaten in view of the restaurant's breathtaking seaside vistas, drove home for me how beautiful things can be when the left and right hands work in concert. — Betsy Andrews
In the Area
- Santa Monica Farmers Market: This legendary market is Southern California's largest gathering of small, sustainable farmers, whose growing practices are helpfully detailed on the market's website. It's a great place to spot area chefs, browsing the stands for choice produce like red kohlrabi, Rainier cherries, limequats, red ogo seaweed, pecans, and more. Wednesday mornings at Second Street and Arizona Avenue; see smgov.net for locations on other days.
- Chez Jay: A Naugahyde-boothed, red-lit, fifty-something gem that recall Los Angeles's noir-ish past, this nautically themed, neighborhood joint serves up hollandaise-sauced seafood omelets for breakfast, steamed clams and patty melts at lunch, and an excellent herb butter–sauced steak and precision martinis at dinner. 1657 Ocean Avenue; tel: 310/395-1741; chezjays.com
- Father's Office: The craft beer selection and hand-cut fries are great, but the dry-aged Office Burger, on a bun loaded with caramelized onion, applewood bacon, gruyere, maytag blue cheese, and arugula, is the real reason to visit. 1018 Montana Avenue; tel: 310/736-2224; fathersoffice.com
- Copa d'Oro: It's a short distance from the Santa Monica Farmers Market to the airy boîte where custom drinks are created on the spot using a patron's choice of fresh produce, plus a list of creative specialty tipples like the potent but beautifully balanced Desmosedici: grappa, campari, mint, and fresh lemon and peach juices. 217 Broadway; tel: 310/576-3030; copadoro.com
- Border Grill: After 22 years, this flagship restaurant from the "Two Hot Tamales," chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feninger, continues to turn out creative, sustainable, and wholly delicious "modern Mexican" plates. Try the achiote-, citrus-, and cinnamon-marinated, slow-roasted pork, a dish known as cochinita pibil in its native Yucatan; or go meatless with an asparagus, artichoke, and fava bean riff on chilaquiles, the torn-tortilla dish. 1445 4th Street; tel: 310/451-1655; bordergrill.com