October 15, 2019 – One of the tastiest effects of Bernardus Lodge’s extended reign in Carmel Valley is how much it has boosted the wider regional foodscape. The list of tastemakers who have emerged from Chef Cal Stamenov’s kitchen read like a who’s who of local stars and outstanding eateries, and includes Ben Spungin (Alta Bakery), Tim Wood (Carmel Valley Ranch), Matt Bolton (InterContinental Monterey), Jerry Regester (Monterey Plaza Hotel) and Jerome Viel (Jerome’s Carmel Valley Market).
All of them will join chef Cal for Bernardus’ 20th anniversary celebration Sunday, Oct. 27, which organizers are calling “a party for the palate,” which may be an understatement.
Stamenov will pair chefs with his favorite hand-picked purveyors and their specialties to round out the grand tasting-format event. Delamotte Champagne, Bernardus Winery, Newport Meats, Swank Farms, Sciabica Olive Oil, Earthbound Farms and Morro Bay Oyster Company will all be featured. Given those gifted chefs, gourmet goodies and the vast population of people personally connected to Bernardus, it’s a sure-fire sellout, even with tickets at $99.
To help celebrate, Edible Monterey Bay took the occasion of the 20th anniversary to collect 20 admittedly food-focused reasons Bernardus has changed Carmel Valley hospitality.
- Quality leadership. When Bernardus “Ben” Marinus Pon acquired the Carmel Valley Inn he set about creating a culture of unflagging standards. “He was always 100 percent quality-oriented,” says Cal Stamenov, who has served as executive chef from the start, after Pon made it a priority to hire him and give him the resources most chefs only dream of. “That was the best part. There was always quality. That’s the reason I came here in the first place.” Pon, who passed away at 82 just two weeks ago after a legendary life, is sorely missed.
- Scents of place. Bernardus Lodge is home to no fewer than 2,000 English, French and Spanish lavender plants and 200 mature fruit trees, which perfume the air and figure in to seasonal menus. Another 150 rose bushes further welcome guests nose first.
- Commitment to continuity. A full makeover in 2015 helped earn Bernardus its first appearance on Forbes’ World’s Best Rooms list in 2019, an honor reserved for only 41 properties spanning 17 countries. Speaking of Forbes, Bernardus Lodge and its restaurant (now named Lucia) have earned four stars from Forbes since 2002.
- Over-the-top treats. Stamenov’s annual Pure Decadence Event presents an annual indicator of the yumminess his team can create when it really wants to celebrate. Dec. 12’s installment marks the 20th annual, and will feature truffles, caviar, Wagyu beef, Maine lobster, Nantucket Bay scallops and locally foraged golden chanterelles.
- Magic mushrooms. Another annual indulgence runs Nov. 1 through Dec 15 with special white Alba truffle-infused menus starring the $2,000-per-pound delicacy. In related news, Chef Cal’s signature (and seasonal) wild portobello soup is a must-try that’s been on his menu for two decades.
- Bigger dreams. It would be reasonable for Bernardus to rest on its laurels. It doesn’t. The 2016 addition of 14 new villas and suites brought on new bells and whistles like al fresco showers and fire pits to further up the hospitality.
- Real buzz. The rose garden is home to 180,000 Italian honey bees, who share 150 pounds of honey annually. The liquid gold goes into award-winning craft cocktails, entrees and desserts at Lucia.
- In-you-face flavor. Bernardus kitchen helped pioneer the concept of the “chef’s table” experience, dropping diners right in Stamenov’s workshop as he conducts a symphony for the senses. Guests drawn to the feast include Julia Child, Leonardo di Caprio and Tim McGraw.
- Alderwood smoked salmon. Locals rarely tap into one of the area’s best breakfasts, but they should. The salmon is but the beginning—bring on buttermilk biscuits, heirloom apple fritters, Irish oatmeal and more.
- Organic instincts. Bernardus Lodge was one of the first regional inns to plant on-site organic gardens. Today, the garden has grown into a 2.5 acre farm.
- Fine wine. Bernardus founder Pon started Bernardus Winery 10 years before launching the lodge, where some of its grapes are grown to this day. The restaurant there boasts a wine cellar recognized by Wine Spectator for its depth and diversity, and counts some 25,000 bottles among its reserves.
- Body of work. Spa at Bernardus has earned a fleet of awards for signature treatments infused with botanical ingredients culled from the lodge’s vineyards and estate gardens.
- Eco-librium. Bernardus can count itself as the first green hotel in Carmel Valley and the first Carmel Valley hotel to introduce a composting program. Meanwhile Stamenov has been nothing if not an organic and sustainability pioneer, developing lasting relationships with conscious local farmers, foragers and fisherman.
- Fly wheels. The Lodge extends a Mercedes-Benz guest drive program to guests, with four vehicles standing ready for trips of up to four hours.
- Power ranking. Bernardus makes regular appearances on Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award winner for top resorts in northern California, and Travel + Leisure‘s “World’s Best Resorts.”
- Platinum fun. Bernardus knows how to make a celebration special—note the amount of weddings held here—and it’s unleashing a bundle of 20th anniversary promotions. Lucia Restaurant & Bar’s craft cocktail program now offers a Platinum Blonde (Beluga “Noble Russian Gold Leather” Vodka, Contratto Bianco Vermouth and caviar); a “Like It’s 1999” (WhistlePig 10-Year Rye, Vermouth Royale and Angostura bitters with a platinum leaf Luxardo Maraschino cherry); and a Little Silver (Patron Rocca Reposado Tequila, Cointreau Noir and lime with a platinum Maldon salt rim). Then there’s also the Platinum Plus Package with two nights in a 1,050-square-foot villa, pampering at the spa, 1999 Marinus wine and more.
- Games and things. Key details on property allow for athletic activity (and more drinking and eating with less guilt), and include tennis courts, a junior Olympic size swimming pool, expansive croquet and bocce court and an adults-only infinity jacuzzi.
- Delicious demo. One of the cooler culinary elements at Bernardus is also one of the least known. The Harvest Room is a demonstration kitchen stacked with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, space for up to 50, and great for exhibition dinners and wine tastings.
- Weekend brunch. It’s good enough to be on any gourmand’s bucket list. Note the lemon ricotta pancakes, steak tartare, brunch burger and roasted tomato bloody marys.
- Charitable giving. Bernardus has been relentless in its community support, particularly schools, from year one to year 20.
The Bernardus Platinum Anniversary, Grand Tasting & Craftsman Exchange happens 1-3pm Sunday, Oct. 27 ($99). (831) 658-3400 or www.bernarduslodge.com for more.
Mark C. Anderson is a freelance writer based in Seaside (and in his backpack). Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @MontereyMCA.