I'm traveling from Kansas City to partake the dining pleasure at the award-winning Arterra Restaurant, which is sanctumed inside the eloquent San Diego Marriott Del Mar.  The hotel and restaurant's ideal location at 11966 El Camino Real gathers those who are traveling for business or pleasure and residents who are blessed enough to call this have-it-all city "home".

Bradley Ogden, distinguished as "The Best Chef in California " by the James Beard Foundation, launched his culinary artistry in my hometown of KC.  What a small world!  Together with Chef Carl Schroeder of sunny San Diego, the two chef/owners actualize their credence that American regional cuisine should be of the freshest ingredients and kept pure and simple. 

California is a temperate state with its varying climates and geography ranging from snow-capped mountains to sun-drenched beaches allowing for a year-around growing season, making California the place where everyone grows herbs in their backyard; the place for an unbelievable variety of fruits and vegetables.  The famous gold standard setting family-owned Chino Farms nearby provides an even broader palette of organic produce for the chefs’ creations of visionary dishes.  Fresh produce and meats are hand selected by the chefs from the local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen.  This allows what's designed on the plate to be pristine, the way nature intended, hence the name Arterra, meaning "art of the earth".

The Marriott Del Mar lobby, above;
Below: Arterra for fine cuisine.

Thirty-two foot soaring ceilings stare down at gleaming floors made of marble from three continents inside the lobby of the Marriott Del Mar, setting an airy grand entrance to the Arterra Restaurant which is nestled inside all the luxuriousness.

I gasp a near-silent "aaah" as I glance around.  Art décor and hues of gold, burgundy, and eggplant purple flaunt a modern and retro air.  Heavy drapery in red and polka dots, curvaceous lines of the furniture and décor, and a full service sushi station at the open bar are all part of the modern style.  Tiny to gargantuan bottles of wine wink at me throughout and invite me to savor.  Bradley’s signature open kitchen allows guests to peek in and view the conception of extraordinary culinary masterpieces; there is a cocktail lounge that could be mistaken for an exquisite, yet warm living room with its overstuffed furniture and inviting fireplace delivering the message of elegance.  Simple, polished white tablecloths and the soft luminescence of candlelight meld chic and sophistication, keeping in theme with California fusion.  Trying to take it all in, I smile to myself and think, “It’s all good.”

The Bar at Arterra

I gracefully make my rounds amongst the smiling guests and energetic conversations and find wonderful tables and booths and also discover three stunning rooms for private events.  The Vintage Room provides seating for 16, and a state-of-the-art plasma television for Power Point presentations.  The Living Room offers stand-up reception for 75 and comfortable seating for 25 guests.   A direct access to the Patio extends the party to the great outdoors with its rare Torrey Pines and the fireplace and grand piano will impress all.  The Patio seats 40 for dinner and offers pool access on warm days and nights and the luring fireplace and chic space heaters provide comfort should the air be a little chilly.

Fine wines are
presented quite finely.

I am cordially attended by Brian Escobar, Arterra’s Supervising Manager, and we discuss the most important factor in making a wonderful wine — climate, which is crucial to growing a great grape.  The West Coast is privileged by the tremendous quality and difference in wine producing regions, with its varying geography and climate.  The wine list at Arterra celebrates the vineyards of California, Oregon, and Washington.  They recently added Mexic an regional wines.  The all-encompassing list of sparkling, white, and red wines pleases any discerning wine aficionado.

Chef de Cuisine Carl sends from the kitchen an amusing bouche, a small something to tease the taste buds before the meal; Brian presents my daughter with a vintage grape juice, an excellent year, aaah… butofcourse!  Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley enhances the flavor of my sumptuous Ahia Cake with marinated cucumbers and lemon pepprioli, an enormous flavor packed into a tiny morsel and slipped into a delicate Oriental spoon.  I know that this is a pleaser to prepare the palate for what lies ahead but I desire four more, please.

Food Is Art!

The House Smoked Salmon arrives on a white, whimsical-shaped plate.  Each appetizer is definitely a masterpiece and every bite sparkles because of the food’s simplicity.  Very rare Osetra caviar, with its sweet, nutty flavor pairs quite well with the effortless, yet tangy flavor of dill crème fraiche.  The creamy smoothness of caviar and fraiche is balanced by the accompanying crisp chips.  The salmon is so velvety that it melts in my mouth before realization.  Micro arugula and other fresh Chino Farms bounty provide additional nutrients and garnishment.  Perfect!

Jazz accompaniment sets the ambience as I greet my main course, Seared Yellowfin Tuna.  Brian proudly presents a gorgeous glass of Gary Farrell 2001 Pinot Noir and a sampling of creamy Chardonnay.  The pairing of wines with one of the most valuable tuna in the world, with its seared-to-perfection exterior and blissful rare interior, is beyond words.  If Heaven came down to Earth in the form of fine food fare, it would to be this!  And to top it off, Arterra's General Manager, Nick Burns, entertains me with his father-in-law's "tomato" tuna story.  At this very moment, life cannot get any better!

There is no room left for dessert; however, I miraculously make room.  Food definitely is art I think to myself as towering soon-to-be signature sweet arrangements appear before me.  The sculpture is beautiful and I know not whether to delve in with fork and spoon or to take it home with me to add to my living room décor!

This dessert presentation has a name and it is called Chocolate Tasting and Passionfruit.  I joke that the chocolate creation is so tall that it needs a building permit and my daughter laughs as she says that it can receive 300 channels with its “rabbit ears”.  With out a doubt, we delight over the imaginative designs, the hard work that goes into each dish, and the rich and creamy decadence of handmade gourmet chocolate.  Passionfruit’s refreshing taste cleanses the palate and ends my heavenly meal.  This evening is one that I will put into my memory’s treasure chest of most prized possessions.

AAA Southern & Central CA WineriesArterra (www.arterrarestaurant.com), meaning “art of the earth,” is open for breakfast Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; and for dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The bar is open from 11:30 a.m. with a special bar menu available from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

Chef Tasting Menu offers guests an opportunity to experience food and wine pairing.  This also gives the general public a fantastic opportunity to learn about their favorite winemakers.

Thre is a Moonlight Sushi Happy Hour, Monday through Saturday from 9:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

By Lena Hunt, Florida Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.

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