Pelican Hill – Andrea Restaurant and the Villas

Pelican Hill – Andrea Restaurant and the Villas

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As various resorts jockey for the myriad ‘best of’ lists, Pelican Hill quietly reaches the top of various rankings. A prestigious accomplishment is the “#1 Resort in the United States” by the readers Condé Nast Traveler, a slot Pelican Hill now holds. In addition, Forbes awarded the Spa at Pelican Hill Five Stars, and golfers noticed when Golf Tips Magazine selected the Golf Academy at Pelican Hill’s Glenn Deck as one of the Top 25 U.S. Instructors.

Attempting to quantify that which is ultimately a qualitative judgment is a classic conundrum, so it was important to have a firsthand visit to gauge for ourselves.  We wanted to judge the family experience in the Villas at Pelican Hill, as well as the renowned Andrea Restaurant.  Both exceeded expectations, and Pelican Hill has consequently risen to the top of our list.

The Villas are situated in an enclave adjoining the expansive resort, allowing access to the full Pelican Hill experience while ensuring a greater sense of privacy.  The two, three and four bedroom suites provide a luxurious home away from home setting.  For us it was more like a dream home, but I expect for many visitors it is a pleasant extension of their posh quotidian surroundings.  The staff devoted to the Villas provides a welcome level of attention to all the details, extended to well before the guests’ arrival.  Any particular pre-stocking of the kitchen or other nuances of housekeeping can be arranged.  We could have made fuller use of the Sub-Zero refrigerator and the Wolf oven, had we stayed longer. But the well-equipped kitchen is an inviting setting for preparing some home cooking.

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The 2 car garage adjoining our villa included a washer and dryer, had we been longer in residence.  The lush foliage between the villas provided us a sense of seclusion. The spacious bedrooms offered high-quality linens on the huge beds.  The similarly huge (42”) flat panel TVs almost seemed small compared to the 50” screen in the living room.  But the best views were certainly out the broad windows, over the golf course to the Pacific Ocean beyond.  We spent a lovely sunset on the patio, with an array of cheeses, fruits and wine.  The calmness of the surroundings led to a very pleasant feeling of losing track of the clock.

The now-requisite complimentary wi-fi is part of the package, as is a range of audio-visual accoutrements.   It was difficult to leave our Villa to explore the rest of the resort, but initially we only got as far as the pool reserved for guests of the Villas.  Overlooking the ocean, the saltwater pool has an intriguing polygon shape. We found a spot under one of the vast adjustable umbrellas, and began our traditional round of travel games (Quirkle, backgammon and poker).  My wife and I later needed a bit more of an aerobic session, and we slipped into the clubhouse for a nice workout on the state-of-the-art equipment.

The workout segued nicely to a stroll back to the Villa, and a luxurious bath in the spacious master bathroom.  The huge towels and fluffy bathrobes made it hard to dress and leave for dinner, but a meal at Andrea is not to be missed.

Executive chef Jean Pierre Dubray draws on classic Northern Italian cuisine to provide a bounty of flavorful dishes. The exquisite Andrea menu, overseen by Chef Luca Cesarini, ranges across many dishes, each prepared with obvious attention to detail. Fortunately, we were a party of four and we were able to taste many of the preparations.  The roasted Colorado lamb rack was delightfully prepared with Swiss chard, caramelized cipollini and thyme jus. Truffles were laced into many dishes for a lovely flavor. Andrea moves through the seasons with its menu, and January will feature a Tuscan wine and food festival. The traditions of northern Italy will be paired with southern California’s locally grown ingredients, providing tastes of central Maremma’s meats and Viareggio’s seafoods.

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There was little question that this was one of the best meals we have had, leaving aside my grandmother’s marinara sauce of course. The accomplishment of the experience at Andrea was heightened by a special tour of the kitchen.  The climate-controlled room devoted exclusively to pasta making was remarkable.  The olive oil made from the fruits of trees on the Resort grounds gave us a sense of the local combined with the reach of the global.

The service at Andrea was impeccable; the staff was attentive but not intrusive. The suggestions of wine and food were spot on, and we were left with a sense of participating in something nearing the artistic.

Upon returning to our villa, the staff (was it our butler or the chambermaid?) had arranged for some nice sweets for the family.  We sat on the patio, in the quiet of the evening and pondered how we could stay forever in that magical place.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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