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A 30’ tall Christmas tree adorned with sugarplums, peppermint swirls and beach themed ornaments graces the lobby of the Hotel Del Coronado. Over 100,000 glittering lights illuminate the resort at night. Built in 1888, this Victorian style masterpiece is still the centerpiece of the Coronado peninsula.
We booked two nights at the Del to experience the Del’s signature restaurant, 1500 Ocean, and the festivities of this grand resort.
1500 Ocean Chef de Cuisine Brian Sinnott is part of a group of like-minded chefs who call themselves, Cooks Confab. They meet to exchange views or ideas, and create meals every few months with a common theme or ingredient, usually from local San Diego farms. Sinnott creates seasonal menus based on what the sustainable farms in the region are offering.
While sitting in a booth with flowing curtains tied back, it felt like we were sitting in an elegant beach cabana. Wing back chairs near the windows offered views of the newly installed ice rink on the main lawn, which we enjoyed earlier that afternoon.
Our personable waiter suggested a few of the guests’ favorite appetizers. We started with lightly battered tempura squash blossoms filled with ricotta and served in a small pool of golden tomato with basil puree. It looked prettier than it tasted and lacked the burst of flavor I expected. Next, arrived the lobster salad with three ounces of lobster on a bed of arugula, fennel, avocado, grapefruit and lentil flatbread that was shaped into a pyramid. This dish offered just the right amount of zing with the white sherry vinaigrette complementing the poached lobster nicely. My favorite appetizer was the black ink spaghetti with Dungeness crab, crisp snap peas, sea urchin butter and gremolata (lemon zest, garlic and parsley) crumbs – very satisfying.
For entrées, we ordered the Alaskan halibut with butterball potatoes and tarragon aioli with garlic, olive oil, and egg yolk. The lemon scented potatoes and fried shallots on top of the halibut gave the dish a savory and crunchy texture.
The duck arrived with a fig duck jus, served with roasted red seedless grapes, and red rice pilaf with chopped carrots and zucchini that offered an earthy and well-balanced taste.
An extensive wine list offers selections from California, South Africa, New Zealand and France. I ordered a glass of Ramey chardonnay from the Russian River, with rich oak that balanced the flavors of my meal nicely.
Many staff members have worked at the Del for over 30 years, serving such notables as Muhammad Ali, Billy Joel and Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and George W. Bush. They hope President Barack Obama will dine at the Del soon.
Still craving something sweet, we ordered the chocolate malted Bavarian cream. Tiny chocolate malt beads decorated the top of the mousse-like dessert with a rice crispy base and raspberry puree.
As we leisurely walked through the grand hotel, we stopped at a picture of Marilyn Monroe that was taken at the hotel while she filmed “Some Like It Hot” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The movie is regarded by many film critics as one of the finest American movies ever made. Debuting in 1959, it still delights audiences, just as the Hotel Del Coronado enchants guests every holiday season.
The Del is offering holiday packages from $299 through January 1. 2011.
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado (800)Hotel-Del or visit www.hoteldel.com/holidays.
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