One of the true hidden gems in Southern California, Rancho Valencia somehow slips by many people who truly think they know each and every luxury resort along our wonderful coastline. I know this because it happened to me. How could I have missed this luxury resort with so many accolades? Conde Nast ranks them as the #7 resort in the United States, U.S News and World Report ranked them as the #1 resort in California, Travel and Leisure added them to the Best 500 Hotels list and Tennis Magazine ranked them the #1 Tennis Resort in the United States. How could this slip by me?
Well as soon as I found this hidden gem I had to book a reservation; stunning grounds, beautiful villas, excellent cuisine and top ranked tennis courts? I’m in…
We checked in and not to our surprise the villa (or shall I say Casita) was breathtaking. We immediately felt like we were in the south of Italy with a Mediterranean flare you feel immediately right at home. We brought our four-legged children (the toughest critics in our family) and they ran right outside to sniff out the private patio. Before we knew it they had each claimed their own lounge chair in the sun. I started to think; do we really need to go anywhere tonight? The answer was simple, no.
My other half decided to hit the spa while the boys and I lounged on the patio. After a few hours of relaxing in the sun, we showered and got ready for dinner. We chose to dine that evening at Veladora; the resort’s highly acclaimed restaurant. Instantly, we were seated and began to relax. We started off with a highly recommended Chilled Wild Octopus Carpaccio paired with Roasted Peppers, Smoked Parisienne Potatoes, Butter Olive Pesto, Lemon Preserve, EVOO and Petite Herbs. We followed that starter with a Slow Poached Maine Lobster Salad mixed with Rancho Valencia Citrus, Pickled & Roasted Beets, Avocado Burrata Cheese and Lemon Vinaigrette.
For entrees we ordered Maine Lobster Risotto with Mascarpone, Truffle Butter Tarragon (yes, we love Maine Lobster if you couldn’t tell) and the Slow Pan Roasted Filet Mignon with Creamed Summer Spinach and Bacon Bordelaise. For dessert we went with the Bittersweet Dark Chocolate Soufflé for two with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise and Valencia Citrus. Each item was cooked beautifully and we savored every bite.
After dinner, we meandered out to the fire pits at the outer seating area to enjoy a nightcap. The dogs joined us and laid down near the warmth of the fire clearly intent. After we finished our drinks it was time to head back to our Casita where we enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep.
We awoke on day two ready to enjoy another beautiful day in Del Mar. We made plans to experience the spa, play a few games of tennis and check out the scene downtown. The dogs were excited as they somehow knew they were going somewhere good today. We planned to give them some quality beach time and I swear they knew it was coming.
We started off with breakfast at Pacifica Breeze Café which is smack dab in the heart of downtown Del Mar central to all the shops and local restaurants. Once thought of as one of San Diego’s best kept secrets, Pacifica Breeze Café has now become a local hot spot for those who live in the area. Located on the mid level of Del mar Plaza PBC it is a great spot to grab a light breakfast before heading to the beach for the day. Feel like people watching? You have a bird’s eye view of the main downtown district as well as stunning views of the Pacific Ocean while you enjoy your breakfast, brunch or lunch. For our breakfast we chose the Breakfast Burrito with Scrambled Eggs, Chipotle-Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Bacon and Roasted Tomato Sauce. For a little lighter fare we also shared the Fresh Fruit Acai Bowl with Fresh Melon, Pineapple, Strawberries, Acai Pulp, Yogurt and Granola. It was the perfect way to start our morning off and kept us energized for the rest of the day.
We were so close to the resort that we decided to head back and enjoy the grounds as much as we could before check-out. We grabbed our tennis rackets and made our way over to the tennis club. There is no way we were leaving without a game of tennis at one of the Top Tennis Resorts in the country. We immediately see why they are ranked this way and sit down court-side to watch some of the great matches already going on. What caught our eyes instantly is the serene setting of bougainvillea and citrus groves that surround the 18 plexi-pave championship courts. It is very peaceful here but watching the intensity of the match taking place before us made us ready to get a game of our own started.
After a great match; we headed over to the pool for a much needed swim. The pool was nice and refreshing and after an hour we were ready for lunch. We were referred to a great little spot downtown called Sbicca and off we went, dogs in tow.
We were told to reserve a spot on the patio to enjoy the downtown ambiance and were happy we took the advice. We looked over the menu and instantly have some questions for our server, everything looked amazing and we were starving! The menu is quite catching to the eye as we examined food combinations that peaked our interest right away. After being briefed by our server we decided to go with the Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps with Strawberry, Cucumber & Mint and the Watermelon Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Currants, Baby Arugula, Feta & Pomegranate Vinaigrette. To go along with these tantalizing appetizers we ordered a few cocktails that were just as refreshing. To start the Cucumber Crush with Effen Black Cherry Vodka, St Germaine Liqueur, Fresh Lemon, Muddled Cucumber, Grapefruit Juice and Simple Syrup. It was fantastic! Next was the Strawberry Fields created with Stoli Strasberri Vodka, Muddled Strawberries & Fresh Lemon, Muddled Mint; wow we have a winner folks! Now this has become more of a foodie experience than we had ever expected to encounter, all with the dogs lying by our feet.
For our entrees we went with the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Roasted Peppers, Fontina & Balsamic Onions on Cibatta and the 8oz. Sbicca Bistro Burger with Grass Fed Beef served with White Cheddar, Balsamic Onions, Sautéed Mushrooms, Bibb Lettuce & Tomato. Again, we were pleasantly surprised by each item!
After lunch we took the dogs down to dog beach for an afternoon filled with running and catching waves; they had been waiting for this the entire weekend. We spent hours watching them prance through the water, fetching tennis balls left and right until they were wiped out. As the day was winding down our appetites started to return and we knew just where to go.
After a fun filled weekend in Del mar we were ready to hit the road but we had one last stop to make before heading out of town. We had been hearing from multiple sources that there is a new burger joint around that we had to try called Smashburger.
What makes Smashburger different from all the other burgers? Of course that’s the first question that came to our mind. The answer from the General Manager is the theory behind how each Smashburger is prepared. Each burger is literally smashed from a large “meatball” and instantly covered to keep all the juices and taste inside. The burger is lightly “caramelized” and they like to refer to it as “meat candy’. We tried multiple items on the menu as there were so many great options. The dogs were each served their own “Fido burger “which at the ratio of 80/20 is perfect for their taste buds! They were in heaven! A visit to Dog Beach and burgers in the same day?
We went with the Classic Smash, American Cheese, Smash Sauce, Ketchup, Lettuce, Tomato and Pickles on an Egg Bun. Another prize winner was the Truffle Mushroom Swiss Truffle Mayo, Sautéed Baby Portabella Mushrooms and Aged Swiss on an Egg Bun. Now we were in heaven! We ordered the famous Smashfries which are tossed in Rosemary, Olive Oil and Garlic and we couldn’t say no the PB and J Milkshake either which happened to be the special of the day!
At this point we were extremely satisfied with our Del Mar getaway and ready to get back and hit the gym after a calorie filled weekend away from home!