The table was set for gourmet summer road tripping at the 2018 Lexus Culinary Classic, held earlier this year at the spectacular Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, California. Cavallo Point is one of the automaker’s carefully curated collection of hotel partners—and one of the Bay Area’s greatest hotel secrets.
Set on the secluded, wooded grounds of historic former army base Fort Baker with spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, the Lodge features one of the Bay Area’s top rated spas, guided hikes beneath the Golden Gate Bridge (located literally across the front lawn), and shuttle transport into the city.
Along with stunning locations and five star hospitality, Cavallo Point and all of the Lexus Hotel Partners are welcoming summer travelers with some of the United States’ finest regional dining experiences. Chefs from 10 were on hand at the Culinary Classic to showcase some of their menu highlights.
If your summer drives take you to New England, make your way to Cape Cod to sample the seafood genius of Chef Anthony Cole at the Chatham Bars Inn. Among his featured dishes over the course of the three day event were a visually spectacular black bass tartare, plated with vivid green garlic and avocado puree; the subtle zing of grenada pepper and salt bursts of smoked trout roe added sublime complexity.
Southeastern sojourners can take in the visual beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains along with Chef Sarah Steffan’s inventively elevated regional cuisine at Blackberry Farm, an elegant yet rustic resort offering activities from horseback riding, to fly fishing, to archery….and of course, cooking classes. Steffans’ standout dish at the Culinary Classic was a melt-in-your-mouth braised lamb neck served with green salsa on a parsnip and crème fraiche puree.
California cruisers can blaze a gourmet trail along the entire coast, following the Lexus brand mantra—“Experience Amazing”—at five remarkably varied partner lodgings: Start out in SoCal at Rancho Palos Verdes’ Terranea resort with its private peninsula setting offering Pacific vistas with Catalina Island in the distance.
Terranea’s new executive Chef Bernard Ibarra hails from the French Basque country, but also has a way with Asian technique. His standout dish at the Classic was a surprisingly crispy preparation of lambchops, served with a lipsmacking mirin ginger sauce.
After your lamb, amble north to Big Sur and the famed Post Ranch Inn, continue to the Pebble Beach Resort for some time on the links, and, before winding down in wine country for Chef Nate Lindsay’s menu at Bardessono, highlighting fresh local produce in dishes like a new twist on beet salad featuring wild arugula mousse and the butter-braised leeks accompanying a peach-glazed porkchop.
Between those last two stops, of course is the Cavallo Point Lodge itself, where endlessly creative Bay Area native Chef Monique Feybesse applies lessons learned as part of the opening team at Paris’ Pavillion Ledoyen. Her eye-popping dessert of apple tarts in the form of rose blossoms was a showstopper. And her brilliant hors d’oeuvre of lardo draped scallops reinvented the old-school devils-on-horseback.
The Lexus Culinary Classic is an annual event, which the public can attend in full, or in an a la carte fashion, attending single programs—meals, demos, cooking classes, farmers market tours—of their choice. Ticket holders to culinary events also have the opportunity to test-drive the newest Lexus vehicles on stretches of scenic California roadway. (Current Lexus owners receive discounts on any tickets purchased.).
One not-to-be missed annual highlight is the Grand Tasting, a roaming feast at which all participating chefs serve small bites from individual stations while Napa Valley vintners pour endless tastings of some of Northern California’s finest wines.
One stellar 2018 experience was a Saturday night dinner in one of the most exclusive venues in the galaxy: George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. Chaffeured Lexus RX SUVs took guests on a winding 20 minute drive from Cavallo Point to the Star Wars lodestar, where they were required to refrain from photography and sign elaborate non-disclosure agreements, before strolling the Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced complex, stunningly decorated with a priceless collection of classic film posters dating back to the 1920s.
At PASSPORT, we’re off and rolling on summer road trips for 2018, but our appetites have already been whet for next year’s edition of the Lexus Culinary Classic.