LA JOLLA, CA - With the hang gliders silhouetted in a sky turned black and orange by the setting sun, and the last of the golfers finishing their rounds on the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course where PGA stars come to play, we begin our walk to where California drops off into the Pacific surf.
The late afternoon stroll along the golf course’s cart paths is just one of the activities guests who stay at the Lodge at Torrey Pines look forward to each day and mother nature usually rewards them with a breathtaking sunset view when they reach land’s end.
Looking back, we see the elegant Lodge at Torrey Pines sitting nestled like a crown amongst pencil straight pine trees and its rustic good looks make us think it’s been standing overlooking this jaw dropping ocean view for decades.
In fact, the Lodge is a relatively new addition to Torrey Pines State Reserve — it was completed in 2002 but it’s post and beam construction and weathered exterior make it appear more mature.
Stepping inside the lobby, which welcomed the world’s greatest golfers when they came here to play the U.S. Open in 2008 (Torrey Pines will also host the 2021 Open), we’re greeted by a high-beamed vaulted ceiling and roaring fireplace where guests sit huddled in wooden rocking chairs.
Soon we are standing in one of the Lodge’s 169 elegant rooms and quickly we see why this resort is rated among the best in the United States — holder of AAA Five Diamond status and many other international honours.
Staff has lit our in-room fireplace and when we pull back the drapes we’re astonished by the view — the golf course sits right outside our window and the fairways sweep down to the sea. Awesome!
Being just a 20 minute drive from downtown San Diego and tucked away in the enchanting Torrey Pines State Reserve, the Lodge at Torrey Pines is an oasis for those who want to escape the rigours of big city life. So, it’s not unusual to see lots of locals mingling with guests at the Lodge’s world-class spa or dining at its famed A.R. Valentien restaurant, a remarkable room whose farm-to-table philosophy touched off a revolutionary dining trend throughout Southern California.
Above: The view one gets of the Torrey Pines PGA course from the Lodge is stunning.
It’s never easy to leave the cozy confines of the Lodge’s well appointed rooms or suites — the view alone holds you hostage — but when I secure a reservation at popular A.R. Valentien, we quickly get dressed and head to a restaurant recognized by the likes of Zagat and Conde Nast magazine as one of the best on the West Coast.
The Lodge’s Executive Chef Jeff Jackson rules the kitchen at A.R. Valentien and his 30 years of culinary experience — he was trained by the world-renowned French Chef Jean LaFont — and unique cooking style have earned rave reviews for the stylish dining room, which features a lovely terrace that looks out on the magical setting that surrounds the fairytale Lodge.
Freshness is the key to A.R. Valentien’s success — ingredients supplied by local farmers or bought at nearby markets make up dishes that reflect the seasons. The spring menu, for instance, is highlighted by root soups, roasted vegetables and hearty meat dishes — the potted short ribs with tarragon vinaigrette is to die for! In fall and winter months, heavier dishes like chicken liver pate, duck and veal are showcased and lighter fare highlights the summer menu.
No matter the time of year, though, A.R. Valentien is a dining experience that must be experienced to be appreciated.
A perfect day ends at the Lodge with an after dinner visit to the property’s spa, which uses marine and botanical based products in its treatments — how California!
Treatments are themed on the purity of the La Jolla coastline that sits on the spa’s doorstep and the well trained therapists are experts at their craft.
They’ll even get your muscles ready for an early morning round on the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course, which is one of the greatest golf experiences anywhere.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines is already an American legend and it’s only going to get better with age.
To find out more about the Lodge at Torrey Pines, go to www.lodgetorreypines.com / Torrey Pines Golf Course is actually a municipal course operated by the city of San Diego but the greens fees are priced like a private club — it costs north of $200 U.S. for non residents to play the U.S. Open South Course and about $100 to play the less attractive North Course. The experience of playing the South Course is well worth the price. For information on San Diego, go to www.sandiego.org