Portola Hotel & Spa—the first LEED® certified hotel on California’s Central Coast—has just completed a beautiful multi-million dollar renovation that includes a reimagined space in the hotel lobby with a new restaurant/bar concept and an exciting new menu from executive chef Danny Abbruzzese.
Designed by the San Francisco-based Puccini Group and unveiled at the Grand Opening on June1, the remodel creates a sophisticated yet comfortable space that reflects the palette of the local coastline.
“The coastal Monterey landscape, wildlife and local artist community had a tremendous influence on the project,” says Rob Polacek, Puccini’s chief creative officer. Complementing the open design and natural light, the decor uses crisp blues like the Pacific Ocean, subtle browns of weathered docks, and the muted greens of coastal flora. Live trees, now adorned with lanterns, remain an anchor in the atrium.
“Not only do we want visitors to feel pampered, we want locals to feel welcome,” says Portola Food and Beverage Director Brian Hein.
Two local patrons who recently chose the new space for their writers’ group meeting glanced around the lobby admiringly. “I will definitely come back,” said Undine Lauer. “It’s casual enough for something like this,” said Jennifer Fletcher, “but I can envision holding a more formal business lunch or dinner here.”
The women finished their cocktails and discussion, then strolled over to the reading nook located next to the front desk area. There, patrons can peruse novels by John Steinbeck or marvel at large format art books that showcase the area. The table in the book-lined room has hidden plugs for charging devices and comfortable chairs for reading leisurely are just steps away.
At the new restaurant and lobby bar—Jacks Monterey—chef Danny Abbruzzese debuts what he calls California Cultural Cuisine. “I’m very excited about serving our interpretation of fresh, cultural foods from this region,” says chef Danny.
‘There is no other place that has more cultures than California,” says General Manager Janine Chicourrat. “There are so many varied flavors and seasonings.” In that vein, chef Danny’s new menu embraces a multitude of flavor profiles. He spins a traditional Greek moussaka using goat meat from Pajaro Pastures in Soquel. And, in a nod to his own cultural heritage and all the Italian immigrants who settled on the Monterey Peninsula, the menu includes his mother’s secret recipe for Eggplant Parmesan.
Chef Danny’s creative interpretations present international flavors with an elegant, fun style while keeping an eye on local, sustainably conscious ingredients. Working closely with purveyors in the tri-county area—including Coke Farms, Monterey Farms, Route 1 Farms and others—chef Danny’s menu will change with the seasons. “Here, summer is long while fall and winter meld together. My menu reflects that,” he adds. Other local products featured are cheeses from Schoch Family Farmstead in Salinas, sustainable seafood from the Monterey bay, and beef from California’s famed Harris Ranch.
To encourage diners to sample a variety of dishes, the dinner menu includes an option for a solo plate or a sharing plate. But even the solo portions are sized generously enough to share, especially if you are ordering multiple dishes.
The libations also have a hyper-local focus. House wines—Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—come from 10SPAN Vineyards, which supports Ventana Wildlife Society’s mission to conserve the native wildlife and habitats of California’s Central Coast.
Beer lovers can order beers crafted onsite at Peter B’s Brewpub, Portola’s craft brewery. Head Brewer Justin Rivard—who arrived last year—has maintained the existing flagship styles of beer for which Peter B’s is known, while pushing the envelope with some exotic creations.
Some of his recent brews include Funkalunk StoutyMcFierso, a wild barrel stout that spent 3 months in bourbon barrels. The beer boasts complex aromas of chocolate-covered cherries and burnt molasses and finishes with more tart, smoky licorice flavors. His Great White Buffalo is a soft yet hefty IPA with decidedly citrus aromas, but pear-like notes for an assertive aftertaste that finishes dry.
The new bar, with its subtly curved wooden ceiling, evokes a feeling that you’re in the belly of a boat. The dark, burnished metal shelves lined with bottles add to that sense that you could be drinking in a galley. Mixologist Tuyet Vitacca often uses local ingredients in her unique cocktail offerings. Her spin on the Dark & Stormy—what she calls the Tropical Storm—features Pilar dark rum, Heering cherry liqueur, orange bitters, and ginger beer. The hotel’s namesake margarita—the Portola-Rita—is generous pouring of Avion silver tequila mixed with passion fruit, ginger honey, and Brooklyn Sriracha Bitters.
Everything from the furniture to the art and the drinks to the dishes offer a fervent sense of place with Portola Hotel & Spa’s location on the Monterey Bay. The coast and the community are evident in every detail. Additionally, these improvements—including cutting-edge energy and water conservation fixtures—reinforce the Portola’s commitment to green practices and its U.S. Building Council’s LEED® Certified Status.
Portola Hotel & Spa – Jacks Monterey
Two Portola Plaza, Monterey CA
Camilla M. Mann has crammed a lot of different jobs into four decades: florist, waitress, SCUBA divemaster, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. But, if she had to distill who she is today – tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean. Thankfully her husband and their boys clean like champs. Her current culinary goal: grow conscientious, creative kids with fearless palates! She blogs at culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com