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.