Edible Monterey Bay

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Beyond the gates: Discover the highest rated restaurant in Pebble Beach


With sweeping views of the fairways at Poppy Hills Golf Course, Porter’s in the Forest is the hidden gem of Pebble Beach. “It’s the number one rated restaurant in Pebble Beach on Yelp,” says Brad Shupe, general manager of the Poppy Hills Golf Association.

“People often think everything inside the gates is owned by the Pebble Beach Corporation, but we’re not,” he adds. “We’re a not-for-profit organization and Porter’s is an affordable, value-driven restaurant featuring the wonderful food of chef Johnny de Vivo.”

Porters has a special deal for people who may be put off by paying the entry fees to Pebble Beach or afraid of getting lost in Del Monte Forest, they will pay your Uber fare or taxi fare to and from the restaurant up to $20. That’s enough to cover almost all of the Monterey Peninsula and Shupe is intent on getting the local community to come out and discover chef Johnny’s new summer dinner menu.

52A5963-940x1334Named in honor of the late Paul Porter, who was once chief executive of the Northern California Golf Association, the restaurant’s new menus are focused on California artisanal cuisine, based on local and regional products, prepared in house, reflecting the passions of its talented chef.

“It’s very rare for a chef to be able to do exactly what he loves, and give diners what they love,” says chef Johnny, former executive chef for Casanova and La Bicyclette in Carmel. “We want to take ordinary golf food and spin it upside down. We want to make what golfers and others like to eat, with a twist. Everything will be made with love.

Completing Porter’s dynamic duo is general manager Joe Valencia, formerly GM at the Rio Grill, and it’s a team that really understands what locals want.

As the sun sets upon the sea, reserve your dinner table in an atmosphere of understated elegance created with mustard-leather chairs, dark wood tables and, over the bar, a dropped ceiling with tiny recessed lights.

Start with a beverage, perhaps a craft beer, glass of local wine or a fresh cocktail, prepared by mixologist Carlos Colimodio and presented by lead server Nikolas Kalin, whose intimate understanding of what he is serving will entertain and inform you throughout the evening.

You are welcome to order a plated meal, but if you’re feeling slightly adventuresome, go for a little “freestyling,” which involves a tasting menu of five to seven courses, selected for your palate. Let Kalin know your likes and dislikes, your allergies and affinities, and he will set chef De Vivo in motion.

“This is a really fun way to experience fine dining in a fun atmosphere, and see what Chef De Vivo can do,” says Kalin. “Some people like to call in advance, which gives Chef time to get ingredients he can play with. Freestyling keeps Chef on his toes, and gives diners a diverse dining experience.”

12642663_760321380764865_2144342282497494150_nConsider an appetizer, very cool and lightly chilled ceviche sea scallops on the half shell, served with dashi jelly under coconut foam, with a sprig of cilantro and a slice of jalapeño. No one else is serving that. Not here.

Continue with roasted cauliflower over herbed garlic with golden raisins, sprinkled with Moroccan oregano, sesame seeds, crushed hazelnuts and a few fennel fronds. Take small bites, savored slowly.

Course three might be fresh halibut pulled from the Monterey Bay and oven-poached in egg whites to keep it moist and tender. Sprinkled with a pinch of sea salt and served with a dollop of butternut squash puree and a drop of extra virgin olive oil, it melts in the mouth.

Frequent diners call it fine dining they can recognize, appreciate and eat. “It looks so appetizing,” says one local diner, “and the marriage of flavors is both subtle and exquisite.”

1914009_775821172548219_5226463663411018993_nWhen your presentation appeals to your diners, you are 75% of the way there, says Kalin. You want it to look good—good enough to eat. Many of his guests photograph their food before taking a fork to it, he says.

The fourth course might be a serving of Jidori chicken. De Vivo pan sears this especially fresh, free range, organic poultry and serves it with ricotta blini, sautéed spinach, house-made potato chips and a swipe of black garlic sauce.

Perhaps the pièce de résistance is the blueberry-apricot bread pudding, more bread than pudding, served warm in its own skillet, under Chantilly cream, with a drizzle of organic honey and passionfruit caramel. Certainly you could share one, but why?

So hail a ride to Porter’s, eat and drink to your heart’s content. and show your server your Uber or taxi receipt. For those who already use Uber, Porter’s will deduct up to $20 from your restaurant bill.

Porter’s also has a loyal breakfast and lunch following. Those in-the-know collect the morning paper, step out onto the sun-drenched deck, sip something from a steaming mug, and pore over the new breakfast menu at Porter’s in the Forest at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach. Consider steel-cut oatmeal, eggs benedict, or ricotta and blueberry pancakes with lemon crème, maple syrup and house-churned butter as you gaze across 60 verdant acres framed by a blue Pacific backdrop.

Before or after a game of golf, sit out on the deck for lunch and dig into a Forest Burger on a brioche roll, Korean Philly Cheesesteak with shaved tri tip and kimchi, or a California Club sandwich with roast turkey, house-made bacon and avocado on country toast, with a side of Monterey Bay calamari or fried local artichoke hearts.

Porter’s is a truly unique part of the local restaurant scene, discover it for yourself.

Porter’s in the Forest • 3200 Lopez Road, Pebble Beach • 831.622.8237 • poppyhillsgolf.com/porters

About the author

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A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.