Celebrating a century of excellence in food and wine, Pebble Beach is gearing up for a very special year
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARGAUX GIBBONS
It all began with food in Pebble Beach…and even today, with golf and glamour grabbing much of the attention, the Monterey Peninsula’s most luxurious enclave still offers some of the finest culinary experiences on the West Coast.
This year, Pebble Beach celebrates its 100th anniversary in a big way, hosting one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, the U.S. Open Championship on June 10–16. To mark its centennial year and welcome guests, a brand new Visitor Center was built and is open to the public from 8am–5pm daily. It brings the story of the resort’s past century to life through attractive displays, a huge interactive relief map of 17-Mile Drive and a glitzy floor-to-ceiling video board.
But Pebble Beach, as a destination, began in the simplest of ways: as a pleasant place to take a Sunday drive and to enjoy a meal at a simple lodge built of logs.
The original 17-Mile Drive opened in 1881 and soon became a popular route for horse-drawn carriage rides beginning and ending at the Hotel Del Monte. The drive attracted even more visitors with the advent of the automobile, and in 1909, the original Pebble Beach Lodge opened overlooking Stillwater Cove.
“It had wonderful food and was the site of banquets and parties in the large dining room,” says longtime Pebble Beach historian Neal Hotelling. “In fact, most of the lodge was the dining room.”
Fire destroyed the original lodge in 1917, but it was rebuilt and reopened 100 years ago in 1919 (along with Pebble Beach Golf Links) by developer Samuel F.B. Morse, an East Coast transplant who had fallen head over heels in love with the Monterey Peninsula. Morse acquired both the Hotel Del Monte and Pebble Beach properties from the Pacific Improvement Company, and immediately protected green belt areas and prioritized the preservation of the area’s natural beauty.
The lure of Pebble Beach grew stronger when it became a soughtafter location for filming movies, from Greta Garbo’s Anna Karenina in 1934 to dozens more, including National Velvet, Captain January, Edge of Darkness and Forever Amber. It soon became a retreat for the rich and famous, and a honeymoon spot for actress Ginger Rogers, aviator Charles Lindbergh and other luminaries.
All those visitors needed to be fed and watered. The Monkeyshines Room at The Lodge was its original bar, “with murals of comical monkeys all over the walls,” says Hotelling. The jungle décor was phased out in 1949, but the bar, now The Tap Room, is still there with a treasure trove of photos and memorabilia dating from the 1920s on. Pictures of Bing Crosby and his pals are displayed prominently here, from Crosby’s Clambake golf tournament now known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Crosby, who for much of the mid-20th century was one of the biggest stars in the world, was convinced to relocate the tournament there from Southern California in 1947, and its A-list Hollywood lineup further burnished the glamorous image of Pebble Beach. In 1950, yet another classic Pebble Beach event was added: the Concours d’Elegance, a salute to automotive beauty and style.
Many restaurants have come and gone over the years at Pebble Beach, but insiders shared a few highlights with EMB. The resort’s reputation for fine dining began with the Cypress Room at The Lodge, now Stillwater Bar & Grill. Club XIX was added in the 1970s, and for decades was the Monterey Peninsula’s go-to place for French cuisine.
In 2012, Club XIX closed and was replaced by The Bench, sporting a New American menu, with wood-fired pizza and a casual dress code. At The Inn at Spanish Bay, which opened in 1987, the original restaurant was the Bay Club, now the Italian restaurant Pèppoli. Pèppoli opened with three-star Michelin chef Gualtiero Marchesi at the helm, recalls Spanish Bay director of food and beverage Pascal Rifflart.
“It was our most avant garde restaurant at the time,” says Rifflart, who still speaks in awed terms of working with Marchesi. “He did a saffron risotto with gold leaf on top—he really elevated Italian cuisine to the next level of creativity. Beautiful, but extremely simple.”
However, Pèppoli’s menu was slightly ahead of its time. After several years, it was adjusted to include more familiar Italian dishes, but not long after the culinary world flocked again to Spanish Bay with the addition of Roy’s at Pebble Beach.
Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s unique Hawaiian-Asian fusion was an immediate hit—something completely new at the time. “People were waiting for two to three hours before being seated there, even with a reservation,” recalls Rifflart. “And they’re still doing great business.” Just as big a draw as the food was the innovative open kitchen design: “People were mesmerized to see how much craziness and hard work goes on.”
In addition to the restaurants, special annual events such as the Pebble Beach Culinary Getaway, held in January, and Pebble Beach Food & Wine continue to enhance the resort’s reputation as a foodie paradise. This year’s 12th annual Food & Wine event on April 11–14 will include 100 celebrity chefs and 250 renowned wineries in some of the most intriguing and exclusive dining opportunities anywhere.
Pebble Beach continues to make history where food and drink are concerned, recently coming out with a special private label wine for the centennial. “It’s a custom project we’re really excited about,” says Pebble Beach director of wine and spirits Wendy Heilmann, especially because 2016 “turned out to be an exceptional year” for the grape harvest.
Called One Hundred Pebble Beach, the red blend includes Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, created by winemaker Andy Erickson and bottled this past June after a lengthy process of selection and barrel aging. Hand-numbered bottles are available at Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay, and the wine will also be poured at special events. Heilmann says she’s also working on enhancing the resort’s cocktail program with mixologist Meg Nielson. “Everyone’s ramping up for an extremely busy year.”