San Martin

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

After 48 hours in fash­ion-for­ward, full-throt­tle San Fran­cisco, our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion is Rose­wood Cordevalle, a ru­ral re­treat deep in the heart of the San Martin coun­try­side 40 kilo­me­tres south­east of San Jose. We’re wel­comed by ex­ec­u­tive chef Vic­tor Palma, the mas­ter­mind be­hind tonight’s farewell din­ner, which will show­case the best of lo­cal pro­duce. I’m in­vited to join his search for in­gre­di­ents and in­spi­ra­tion at neigh­bour­ing farms.

After a tast­ing ses­sion at Fran­toio Grove, a fam­ily-run 12-hectare es­tate of olive groves, Vic­tor se­lects an ex­tra vir­gin blend with a tangy green-grass flavour and notes of al­mond and pear. “The sweet yet slightly bit­ter fruiti­ness has given me an idea for a salad,” he says while scrib­bling down the recipe— heir­loom toma­toes with pump­kin seed pesto and black gar­lic con­fit.

Next we head to the sleepy Mon­terey Bay har­bour town of Moss Land­ing to visit Phil’s Fish Mar­ket, which, de­spite be­ing off the beaten track, is packed to the rafters. The rea­son, we dis­cover, is owner Phil Digiro­lamo’s fa­mous ciop­pino, a seafood stew made with the catch of the day. We or­der a bowl, mop up the rich to­mato sauce with hunks of but­tered bread and wash it down with a pint of Big Sur Golden beer, be­fore load­ing up on oys­ters, mus­sels, Dun­geness crab and Cal­i­for­nian sea bass.

Our dessert this evening comes from Nita Gizdich, a fit, fast-talk­ing farmer in her 70s who grows ap­ples and berries on her epony­mous ranch and who is fa­mous coun­ty­wide for her fruit pies. We walk away with a box of golden pas­try domes filled with granny smiths and black­ber­ries, which Vic­tor will serve pip­ing hot with mescal ice cream.

Back at the ho­tel we dine un­der the stars on the pri­vate open-air ter­race of a sprawl­ing four-bed­room villa over­look­ing the fair­way. Vic­tor has erected a bar­be­cue and is shrouded in smoke as he grills our haul from Phil’s mar­ket. It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of north­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s finest and a feast for the soul, but as a proud Mex­i­cano, Vic­tor leaves us with a taste of his home­land too— shots of his favourite tequi­las: Clase Azul Re­posado, Don Julio 1942 and Reserva de la Fa­milia Jose Cuervo. The diet starts to­mor­row, I think, along with the hang­over, no doubt.

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