Burt Wolf's Menu: Boyes Springs and Carmel - #120

Northern California has some of the most beautiful resorts in the United States.  Just south of San Francisco, in Carmel, is the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club.  Just north of San Francisco, at Boyes Springs, is the Sonoma Mission Inn. We’ll see how they use the extraordinary produce of the area to create some great dishes. So join me in Boyes Springs and Carmel for BURT WOLF’S MENU.

Beneath the surface of California’s Sonoma Valley are a series of hot springs that have been boiling to the surface for thousands of years. The Native American tribes who lived here were well aware of the springs and considered them to be sacred ground. They came to them to practice their religious rites, to heal themselves, and because no conflicts were allowed in these special locations, they could rest in a safe place. Because the water was over one hundred degrees as it hit the surface, it was also used for cooking.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  The first European colonists into the area were shown to the hot springs by the local natives.  They immediately realized the value of the springs and joined in for the cure. During the 1880s, going to a hot springs for a little rest and relaxation became the thing to do.  The visits worked for the guests for a number of reasons.  First of all, most hot springs are in rural areas.  Very quiet, very relaxed, very laid-back.  Just to get away from the city, the stress and hustle-and-bustle of their environment, the one they normally worked in, was really good for the guests.  Many of the hot springs had a mineral water program.  A doctors would be in attendance and he would listen to the problems of the guests, both mental and physical, and prescribe the proper amount of mineral water. Whether the mineral water had any real medicinal value is definitely up to question... but it made everybody feel better.  And we know how important a good mental set is to good health.  The most famous of the classical spas is The Sonoma Mission Inn, just north of San Francisco.

The Sonoma Mission Inn originated at the turn of the century as the Boyes Hot Springs Hotel.  The who's who of San Francisco, always interested in what's where, came up to "take the waters" at what had become the finest hot mineral water resort in California. It boasted the largest mineral water swimming tank in the world. Their advertisements recommended the waters as a cure for rheumatism, stomach trouble, and nerve problems.  Which was a pretty nervy claim.  The original hotel was destroyed by fire in 1923. But in 1927 the current Sonoma Mission Inn was built on the same spot.  The building is an architecturally accurate replica of a California mission, and it became even more popular than the earlier hotel.  Ferries and trains connected San Francisco to the area and people considered it an easy trip.

Today the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is a Four-Star, Four Diamond luxury resort. When guests arrive at the Inn, the staff gently recommends that they stop for a "Stress Reducer" massage in order to get into the proper Sonoma state of mind. Remember, Northern California is the land of the laid-back.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  I like that attitude. Some spas remind me of my first week in the Army at Fort Dix.  Now, I didn't enjoy basic training that much when the government paid me to go through it. But to have the same experience again and then get a bill at the end?  NO!!!  The Sonoma Mission Inn is much more my approach.

Without anyone pushing you in any direction, you can choose from a selection of aerobic classes... indoor and outdoor exercise pools... the outdoor pool is kept at a nice warm 85 degrees.  There are tennis courts... and all kinds of spa treatments including hydrotherapy... and a famous herbal body wrap.  Sometimes they do the wrap with seaweed, which gives you a great insight into what it must feel like to be a sushi.  Lots of exercise equipment and good instructors.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  I've been pretty good about my cardio-vascular program; I walk four times a week for forty-five minutes each time, and I cover 3 miles.  Then a while ago I started a free weight program, and that’s been pretty good to build up the upper portion of my body, but I’m really weak in my abdominal muscles.  Arnold Schwarzenegger says "It all starts in ze abs, you know," so I figured I’d better have a program for that and I asked Yvonne, who’s a top trainer here, “what should I be doing?”

YVONNE ESQUER:  Well, you should be doing a number of things, mostly focusing on that area, since you’re taking care of your cardio-vascular.  So, one exercise that you can do to flatten the area is an abdominal curl, commonly known as “crunches.”  So what you do is, you place your hands behind your head, and you form a cradle behind your head and just let your head rest back in your hands.  Now, as you breathe in, you just relax; as you exhale is when you drop the whole abdominal area down toward your spine... raise your shoulders and head off the mat, inhale as you lower.  And continuously, exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower.  Exhale as you lift, and as you lower.  Another exercise that you can do that concentrates a little lower in the abdominal area, just getting at more lower fibers -- as you bring your thighs up toward your chest, you can cradle your head again, breath in, as you exhale, think of curling your tailbone off of the mat.  You exhale and curl the tailbone up and off; at the same time you think of drawing your navel down toward your spine as you do this curl.  And as you get stronger and more advanced, you can take the legs up and curl up even higher.  So there are a lot of variations you can do.

BURT WOLF:  But those three should do the trick for me. 

YVONNE ESQUER:  Those three are very, very straight-forward basic exercises; you don’t need any equipment to do this, you can do them in the comfort of your own home.  I’m glad you’re watching your fat intake too, ‘cause that plays a really good part.

BURT WOLF:   Yeah, I’m watching my fat intake meal after meal after meal.  You know, one of the nice things about this place is they’re not only famous for tightening your tummy, but they’re equally famous for filling it.

The Grille at Sonoma Mission Inn is considered one of the finest restaurants in the area.  The room has two menus... standard and spa.  The spa menu has recipes that are lower in calories... lower in sodium and lower in saturated fats.  But they are not lower in taste. The chef is Mark Vann and he specializes in working with foods that are locally produced.  Which is great when you’re cooking in Sonoma Valley.

One of the most important rice-growing areas in the U.S. is just to the east of here, and Mark is using that rice to prepare a lemon rice soup.  A little oil is heated in a sauce pan.  A chopped onion is added and cooked for about five minutes.

MARK VANN:  Actually, I prefer shallots.  They’re a little bit more dependable from the standpoint of flavor.  Onions kind of -- they’re like tomatoes, you know, they kind of go up and down in flavor.  Sometimes they can be very, very mild, and sometimes you cut into them and they can make everyone in the kitchen cry.  Shallots and leeks... for us, they’re a little bit more subtle in flavor and they just work.  Sonoma is noted for its onions, though, so we do use a lot of onions in cookery here.  A lot of times what we’ll do when we’re cooking vegetables is we’ll cook them very, very slowly, add a lot less oil to the pan.  The natural juices of the, through slow cooking, of the vegetables will come out into the pan, and you use a lot less oil to cook them.  It’s sort of called “sweating” the vegetables, more or less, rather than adding a lot more oil.

BURT WOLF:   Good idea -- lower heat with vegetables --

MARK VANN:  (over)  Exactly.

BURT WOLF:   -- brings out moisture, use less fat.


BURT WOLF:   Easy.

A cup of short grain rice goes in. 

MARK VANN:  We’re using the rice -- normally what would happen here, is we’re gonna -- this is sort of based on a Greek soup called avga lemona.  And what the Greeks do is bind the soup with egg yolks, a lemon egg soup.  But what we’re gonna do here is we’re gonna utilize rice as the thickening agent and not add any eggs to it.  So we’re gonna lower the amount of fat and cholesterol in the dish effectively.

BURT WOLF:   Fabulous technique.

MARK VANN:  Okay.  All right.  Next we want to add a little bit of turmeric.  That’ll give it the yellow coloring that the eggs would traditionally give to the dish.  If you want to use saffron and spend a little bit more money, you can use saffron.  ...  Lemon juice... and the lemon zest.

All that gets cooked and stirred for a few minutes.  A cup of white wine is poured in.  Followed by three quarts of chicken stock. 

BURT WOLF:  That’s the ladle that ate New Jersey!

MARK VANN:  It’s a... it’s -- that’s a ladle!  That’s an Italian mother’s ladle right there.  Just a little bowl of soup...

The ingredients simmer for about 20 minutes at which point everything is fully cooked.  Then the soup is pureed in a blender, a little bit at a time. 

MARK VANN:  Now the rice is completely cooked.  You want to -- you know, normally we have... the rice has a little bit of bite to it, or a little bit more texture.  We want to cook it actually until it’s a little bit mushy.  It’ll release all of its starch for you then.

Using a blender for a hot liquid must be done very carefully and only a little of the liquid should be blended as a batch.  The pureed soup goes into a bowl.  A little garnish and it’s ready to serve.

Mark’s preparing a whole menu with a loin of lamb as the center, but he starts with a vegetable gratin.  A few cloves of garlic are chopped.  A few shallots are chopped.  Some basil is sliced into small strips.  A little oil goes into a rectangular baking pan.  Then the shallots go in.  And the garlic goes in.  Yellow squash is cut into thin slices.  Same with a few zucchini and some tomatoes. Then the sliced vegetables get stacked into the pan.  Squash.  Zucchini.  Tomatoes.  Squash.  Zucchini.  Tomatoes.  Squash.  Zucchini.  Tomatoes.  (Is there an echo in here?)

MARK VANN:  We’re gonna use just a little bit of salt and a little bit of pepper.  The roasting is gonna yield a lot more of the vegetable juices out and concentrate the flavors, so there’s not so much need for seasoning.  So we’re gonna add a little bit of local Sonoma dry jack cheese; it’s produced right here in Sonoma.  We use it instead of reggiano parmesan because it’s a little bit lower in sodium and it has a little bit creamier texture and flavor.  Also -- normally you’d have a lot of cheese; if you think about a gratin dauphinoir or something like that, it’s gonna really be... a lot of cream, a lot of cheese.  Here we’re just gonna sprinkle a little bit of cheese over the top and then we’ll just cover it with some breadcrumbs, and that will help hold it together.  The juices will come up, bind with the breadcrumbs and the cheese, and that’ll hold it together.  It’ll also keep the fat down, but it’ll also give you a little bit of the cheese that you want in your gratin.

Into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and that dish will be ready to serve.  The lamb comes along with an eggplant puree.  Eggplants are sliced in half, placed cut side down on a baking sheet, and baked for twenty minutes in a four hundred degree Fahrenheit oven.  Then the meat is scooped out of the eggplant and into a bowl. Ten cloves of garlic that have been roasted in a four hundred degree oven for forty-five minutes are pureed and added to the eggplant. A tablespoon of chopped basil is added.  A boiled potato cut into pieces is mixed in, plus a little salt and pepper.  When everything is thoroughly blended, that dish is ready.  Finally, the lamb.

MARK VANN:  You know, we’ve marinated it in some herbs and a little bit of garlic to add flavor, and then we’re just gonna use a little bit of salt.  The reason that we use a lot of lamb here, “a,” Sonoma’s known for its lamb, but also because a loin of lamb is very, very lean, very low in fat. ... You know, we don’t use meat thermometers when we’re cooking a lot of things, a lot of professionals don’t, and what we do is, we generally -- you see this a lot, you know, people touching the meat.  And by the texture and the resistance that you feel when you touch it tells you about how far along it’s done.

BURT WOLF:   The more resistance, the harder it is, the more it’s cooked.

MARK VANN:  Exactly.  The more resistance when you touch it, the more done the meat is.  And that’s it!  We’ll take a little bit of the eggplant puree...

Then the vegetable gratin goes on... and the lamb.

Well, I hate to eat and run, but it is time to leave Sonoma and head down the coast of California to the lovely town of Carmel-By-The-Sea.

In 1602 three Carmelite missionaries stood on these hills, about a hundred and twenty miles south of what was to become San Francisco.  They looked out on the magnificent coast in front of them.  The rolling surf... the white sand of the beaches... the deep green tree-covered landscape. A river near them ran to the sea and they named it Rio Carmelo after their Carmelite Order.  Then... they moved on.  Not much else happened in the neighborhood for the next three hundred years or so... and when it did happen it didn't actually happen here.  It happened up the coast in 1906, in San Francisco.

NEWSREEL REPORTER:  One of the world’s greatest disasters -- a city torn and burned by nature’s most ugly attack, over which man has no control.  But, phoenix-like from the seeming hopeless mass of twisted steel and piles of stone, from these broken streets and tottering ruins, there rose a greater city, to become a monument to the courage and faith of the undaunted Americans of the west.”

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  A few years before the quake a man by the name of Frank Dievendorf filed a map for the development of the town of Carmel.  The earthquake proved to be the perfect excuse for him to bring that plan to the attention of the people of San Francisco, many of whom suddenly found themselves living in tents.  A number of the earliest residents to Carmel were artists and writers who had moved there from San Francisco.  After the quake they contacted their fellow artists and writers in San Francisco and suggested that they move to this quiet, beautiful and safe seaside community.  Since then, musicians, writers, and painters have moved to the area.  In recent years, however, most of the creative talent to move to Carmel has come from the movie industry.  Clint Eastwood lives here and so does Doris Day.

Just in front of Doris's home is the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club. The land that makes up the lodge’s property was once a dairy farm owned by the brother-in-law of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  During the 1930s, a local insurance salesman took the day off from work and accompanied his son on a class trip to the dairy farm.  He wanted to see how ice cream and milk were made.  The salesman's name was Ed Haber and he fell in love with the property.  As he was leaving the farm he told the owner, Dwight Morrow, that if Morrow ever wanted to sell the place he’d be interested in buying.  Well, Haber was certainly interested in buying, but paying for the property at the time would have been a different story.  Morrow and Haber didn’t run into each other for ten years... and then one day Morrow walked into Haber’s office.

Morrow wanted to know if Haber’s offer to buy the property still stood.  It did, and Haber was able to find four partners who helped him put up the money.  He turned the farm into the Quail Lodge, an 850 acre property and home to the Carmel Valley Golf Club.

ED HABER:  I got a phone call from a fellow in San Francisco I knew, and he said “Do you have three rooms available for the Bing Crosby Tournament,” which is held here at Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula and around, and it was a very famous tournament.  And I said, “Yes, we have three rooms,” and he said “Well, Arnold Palmer (who was the absolute king of the business) wants to stay there on my recommendation.”  And I started to hesitate, because we had twenty-five rooms, and three rooms is more than ten percent of our rooms, and usually the celebrities... they don’t pay!  And I was thinking, there goes three rooms... dollars gone for a week!  And I was hesitating and he said, “Would you like a deposit?”  And, not knowing any better, I said, “That would be nice.”  And so Arnold Palmer came, and he really liked it, and he came for seven or eight -- he still comes once in a while -- he came for quite a while.  And then one day he was late getting to the first tee in this tournament at nearby Pebble Beach, so somebody said “Why don’t you get a helicopter?”  So anyway, we got a helicopter, we borrowed one, low-budget, didn’t cost us anything, and flew him back and forth.  And then it made all the newspapers and TV stations all over the country, including in Europe.  And to this day, we’re the famous place that Arnold Palmer stayed -- not only stayed here, but had a helicopter.  And of course, when I hesitated about giving him free rooms -- which I didn’t -- I didn’t realize it was worth an awful lot to have him here!  [laughter]

Today the Carmel Valley Club is the home course for Clint Eastwood, who lives just down the road.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  While I was looking through the club files I came across a photograph of Clint playing golf, and it was somewhat unnerving.  To the best of my memory, every single Clint Eastwood movie I have seen had him involved in some kind of physical combat.  And then to see him totally relaxed, holding a golf club instead of a .44 Magnum... well, quite frankly, it just unmade my day.  But Clint would never come here in his movie persona, because Quail Lodge is a wildlife sanctuary and no hunting is allowed.  “Feel lucky?  Was that five putts... or six?”

There are eleven lakes on the property and they are a regular stopping point for the migratory fowl moving along the west coast flyways. Over eighty different species of birds come in for a rest.  Which is very much in keeping with the overall attraction of the Lodge. For years humans have been coming here for a rest.  It's the outstanding resort in the area south of San Francisco.

BURT WOLF:   But you’re not only famous for golf these days; you just got five stars.

ED HABER:  Well, we have the Mobil Five-Star Award, which is a very prestigious award, and when we first got it, I didn’t know about that either, any more than I knew about Arnold Palmer.  And it turns out that we -- there are 60,000 hotels in the United States, and Mobil Travel Guide rates about 20,000 that they think are worthy of stars, from one to five, and we got five.  And at the time I didn’t know what it meant; I sure do now!  And we are one of twenty-three in the whole United States.  There’s not even one per state.  But I didn’t know that either, so it’s just as well I didn’t know these things.

BURT WOLF:   There were some problems to... displaying it when you got it.

ED HABER:  Well... [laughing]  yes, because the plaque, which is a beautiful bronze plaque, was on a blue background, like your jeans, and my wife, who does the decor for the Quail Lodge, wouldn’t allow it in the lobby until we changed the background to tan!

The Quail Lodge is also the home of The Covey Restaurant, which is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the San Francisco area. It has a great location overlooking a quiet pond. The executive chef, Bob Williamson, is a native of England who has cooked in top restaurants throughout Europe, Canada and the United States.  Bob’s going to begin with a recipe for ratatouille, which is stuffed into an artichoke.  But first, he’s going to explain how he selected that artichoke.

BOB WILLIAMSON:  You look for one that has, what you might say, a fresh look about it, not too open, fairly tight; then you want to take, if you can, just take it and snap the leaf.  And that lovely crisp sound tells you, this is, this is a good artichoke.  It’s, it’s -- it hasn’t dried out, been stored a long time, it’s very fresh, been well-taken-care-of, and it’s in prime condition.  Okay, next we’re gonna cook this.  We’re gonna take the classic approach, which is to trim the points off the leaves -- a pair of kitchen shears is the ideal instrument for this job -- and then just cut the top off.  Now -- isn’t that beautiful?  Now, we have a pot of water going here.  When you cook artichokes, you need to salt the water well, because they will then cook at a higher temperature.  You put a little lemon in, a little garlic for flavor, and then, when your water is nicely boiling again, you put in your artichoke.  You need to push them down in the water so they’ll get down there where they’ll cook, and then we’re gonna put a lid on here, just so we can get a -- so we can bring our temperature back up, and they will cook now nicely, and they’ll be ready in about thirty minutes.

While the artichokes are cooking, some ratatouille is made. Ratatouille is a short vegetable stew with a long French name.  The recipe starts by heating a little oil in a saute pan and then cooking together a chopped onion and some chopped garlic.  Then a chopped red bell pepper, and a chopped green bell pepper are added.

BOB WILLIAMSON:  It’s important when you make ratatouille to cook things... you can either do it separately --

BURT WOLF:   Right --

BOB WILLIAMSON:  -- or you can just time them as they go into the pan.  Now, you want your onions and garlic to be well done.  You don’t really -- you want them to kind of disappear in it.  But the peppers and the squash, you want them to be not so well-cooked.

BURT WOLF:   I’m from the “All-In-One-Pan-But-Evenly-Timed” school; how about you?

BOB WILLIAMSON:  Yeah. Normally. If I’m making a lot --

BURT WOLF:   Right.

BOB WILLIAMSON:  -- I will cook things separately.  Okay, let’s discuss herbs in ratatouille.

BURT WOLF:   You got it!

BOB WILLIAMSON:  Now, at this point, you’ve got onions and peppers, a little oil.  And the flavoring can go whichever way you desire.  You could put rosemary, you could put oregano, you could put a little lemon thyme, for example.  But today, we’re using basil.  Also at this point, you’ve got many choices about what you can put in.  Because ratatouille, it’s -- kind of varies from village to village and cook to cook.  But I saw these lovely little organic squash that were grown just down the valley here, and I thought, well, that’ll be a nice choice for our ratatouille today.

Then Bob adds a few tablespoons of tomato paste and a chopped tomato.  A touch of white wine is added for moisture, then a half cup of black olives.  Finally, the juice of half a lemon.  When the artichokes are cooked, they come out of the water and tongs are used to remove the core.

BOB WILLIAMSON:  See, now I’ve pulled out those inside leaves there, okay?  But if you look down inside, you see that’s where the choke is; this also has to come out.  These little leaves in the middle, they’re insignificant.  But this thing down in here is very unpleasant to eat.  And these are... this is actually the seeds of the flower, if you will.

Once the bitter tasting core is removed, the hole is filled with ratatouille. Excellent first course or a vegetable dish.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Quail Lodge is an interesting blend of elements. It's very relaxed and laid-back... but it's also very sophisticated.  Ed Haber hit the nail on the head when he was talking about what he liked in the morning at a resort:  "A good cup of coffee, the newspaper, a nice bar of soap... and soft towels."  Simple stuff -- but at the right quality, it’ll make your day.

Well, that’s our report from two of the nicest resorts in Northern California.  Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for good things to eat and the reasons why people eat them.  I’m Burt Wolf.