(Editor’s Note: This is the final segment of a feature entitled “Marlins and Martinis on Santa Catalina Island.  Click here to go to the beginning.)

A historical photo of the Courtyard.
The complex was renovated in 1997.

My quest for Marlins and Martinis ends at the Catalina Country Club Restaurant. I may or I may not have found blue Marlin on some of the finest dining venues on the island, it all depends on the “Catch of the Day.”

You know you are in gourmet dining country while dining at the Catalina Country Club Restaurant, which was the former Clubhouse for the Chicago Cubs during their spring training on the island.

During his lifetime William Wrigley Jr. had two great passions: the Chicago Cubs baseball team and Santa Catalina Island.  He was able to intertwine the two by bringing the Cubs to Catalina Island for spring training. For 30 years (usually between mid-February and mid-March) with only a brief break during the war years, the Cub’s yearly return to Avalon was welcomed by all. The Catalina field was built to match the dimensions of Wrigley Field in Chicago and a clubhouse was built to house the players’ lockers and provide a sociable setting. The weeks were spent playing inter-squad games, the Pacific Coast League Angels, a variety of Hollywood celebrity games, and on two occasions, the New York Giants. The games were free and became a huge Catalina Island attraction.

In 1927 William Wrigley Jr. commissioned the firm Webber & Spaulding (which would later also create plans for the Casino Building) to design a new, multi-purpose Golf Course Clubhouse that was built between 1927-28. The new clubhouse was a beautiful adaptation of Moorish architecture, built entirely of Catalina brick.  It included Catalina roof tile and a patio decorated with Catalina tile (Wrigley owned the local Catalina tile factory.). The facility featured a main dining salon, outdoor eating areas, lounges and quaint outdoor gardens. In the portion built for the Chicago Cubs’ use during their years of spring training on Santa Catalina Island were Turkish baths, fresh and salt water tubs, lockers and rub rooms.

Shortly after its opening, the Clubhouse, and as a part of Mr. Wrigley’s plan, a newly expanded 18-hole golf course, hosted the annual Bobby Jones Amateur Golf Tournament. This became an annual event in Avalon until 1955.

In 1997 the Santa Catalina Island Company re-opened the Catalina Country Club after a six year closure. It was earthquake retrofitted and extensively remolded, while preserving the architectural uniqueness and ambience of the original facility. The Cubs’ locker and shower facilities were made into modern conference rooms. Throughout the facility are examples of Catalina tile and pottery, memorabilia from the Cubs, and Bobby Jones Amateur Golf Tournament perpetual trophy.

The Catalina Country Club was redecorated in 2003. Designer Tom Stringer of Chicago, Illinois added a fine dining ambience to the dining room, bar and patio area. The remodel included upgraded interiors, wrought iron chandeliers, rich mahogany doors and scenes of Catalina depicted by Plein Air artists adorn the walls.

Today the Catalina Country Club is Avalon’s premier dining facility. Executive chef, Brady Koehler infuses New American cuisine with creative influences from around the world, using only the finest free-range, organic meats, fresh produce, and seafood from environmentally sustainable fisheries. The diverse menu features inventive appetizers, fresh soups and salads, select steaks and seafood, and deliciously decadent desserts. An extensive wine list offers a selection of Old World and New World wines.

So after a tour of the number one tee box with its beautiful views of the grounds, I am seated by the gas fired fireplace in the airy Country Club Restaurant.

There is also a smaller patio area off to the south side of the restaurant, but it is apparent that the main entrance Courtyard, with the shading umbrellas is the spot for al fresco lunchtime dining. But it is evening and I am here to see if Marlin is on the menu. After a glass or two of merlot under the cathedral ceiling and wrought iron chandeliers, I feel the crispness of the white linen tablecloths.  The restaurant interior is dark because of the woods but plenty of light spews in during the late evening through the corbelled windows.

Golf carts are driven
on the streets, too.

If you live on Avalon, it is very difficult to get a permit to own or drive a car, all vehicles are regulated, and often taking years to get the rights to even drive a golf cart. Forget about renting a car in Avalon, you can only drive it around town and they are not permitted past a gated ridge road a few miles out on a narrow lane into the interior. So the best way to get around town is by taxi.  There is only one taxi stand in town located at Island Plaza along Summer Avenue and Crescent Street. If you take a shuttle to the Country Club Restaurant after 6:30 p.m. the $7 fare for the six block ride is deducted from your entrée price. This is valid only on weekends.

Dine al fresco on the Courtyard.

I settle in and peruse the continental style menu. I have to admit, I was feeling a little clubby after three red wines.  You can order off the same dinner menu during a sunny Courtyard lunch, with a few alterations. After digging into the sourdough bowl I am ready to order and it is a tough choice because I always enjoy wild game meats and fish such as their Wild Boar and the exceptional Wild Salmon, but the tamer New Zealand Lamb announced itself with a fierce fusion of piquant mango-mint chutney, cioppino and pad Thai.

But first an appetizer is in order, such as Gravlax and Asparagus, made with Nova Scotia Gravlax, wrapped around crisp roasted asparagus, laced with rosemary hollandaise. ($10); or Wild Mushroom and Scallop Gratin, seasonal mushrooms and tender sea scallops, topped with melted Gruyere, ($13); the Duck Confit is served with sweet and sour red cabbage and gooseberries ($12); my choice for the evening were the Fried Macadamia and Coconut Shrimp which are butterflied jumbo shrimp battered and deep fried and served with sweet and sour sauce ($12).

Organic dining, Catalina Country Club style.

Other starter choices included these unique taste bud treats: Steamed Littleneck Clams which is a whopping one pound order served with court bouillon ($11); Saffron Risotto which is Arborio rice cooked au dente in a rich saffron broth with roasted tomatoes and marinated asparagus. This is a vegetarian selection, served as an entrée upon request. ($11); The Sautéed Pappardelle Pasta with Ratatouille is also a vegan selection, combining roasted summer vegetables tossed with velvety ribbons of pasta ($12).

The Lobster Bisque Citronelle Soup was superb, laced with cognac and served with seuruga caviar ($10); other soup choices include: French Onion / Green Apple au Gratin, served with toasted baguette and melted provolone, ($6) or the Santa Fe Chowder made with Chorizo sausage, black beans, roasted corn, and pepper ($6); ask about the Soup du Jour ($6).

The Clubhouse Pub

The Catalina Country Club Pub
offers a full array of Martinis,
& Restaurant menu items.

The restaurant is as environmentally green as their salads.  All the salads are made from organically grown fruits and vegetables.  The Ruby Red Spinach Salad comes with slices of Jicama, grapefruit segments, and splashed with pancetta vinaigrette ($7); the Baby Field Greens are accompanied by Maytag blue cheese, candied walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette ($7); The Caesar Salad is a tangle of crispy baby romaine tossed with caesar dressing and asiago cheese ($8, add $4 for shrimp or chicken).

y Marlin Menu Mania continues with a search through the entrée selections.

Whoops, those darned Sand Dabs showed up again, but gourmet style, because at the Clubhouse they are called Sand Dabs Paupiette. I found out that the California Sand Dabs are flaky white fish, served with scallop mousse and lemon-scented couscous, finished with rosemary hollandaise ($27). The dabs will have to wait another time.

Cilantro Seared Ahi Tuna could have been a close second choice to the Marlin because it is beautifully prepared with roasted taro root, wasabi aioli, pickled ginger vinaigrette, and crispy nori ($29).

I wasn’t sure if the salmon here is truly wild, because in some places in the world it is considered a threatened species.  But I am sure if it was pond grown, it was organic; it is accompanied by tomato confit, fava beans, and crispy horseradish ($29).

The Black Cod was also a top choice for me because it comes sautéed with saffron butter and set atop a sweet corn puree served alongside wilted arugula ($34). Okay, no Marlin on the Country Club menu, but I asked my waitress, Margarite, about special selections but she didn’t recall any recent Marlin on the menu, either.

What really caught my eye were the Free Range Selections because they are all natural and hormone free, such as the Seared Muscovy Duck Breast glazed with blood orange reduction and set over sautéed fingerling  potatoes ($26).

The  wild pigs have all been trapped or shot on the island because they were not an indigenous species, so I wondered where the Wild Boar Tenderloin came from; it comes accompanied with homemade spaetzle, wilted spinach, and juniper butter ($30).

For steak lovers there were two choices: Grilled Porterhouse presented with St. Andre Brie and spicy tomato onions ($32), and  the Filet Mignon, which was dry aged with a chipotle demi-glace, Monterey Jack polenta, and cilantro cucumber salad ($32).

The Half Chicken roasted to perfection is presented with lemon-scented couscous and ratatouille ($28).

It was a coin toss between the Wild Boar and The New Zealand Lamb, and after Margarite’s suggestion, the panseared sheep landed on my table wrapped in pancetta and served with fingerling potatoes and drizzled with truffle oil ($35). The perfect choice for the evening.

I wasn’t much up for dessert because of the guaranteed dining fulfillment of the lamb, but Margarite bounced through the restaurant and slapped down the Baked Apple Dumplings because it was her favorite, served with vanilla ice cream and praline sauce, and it was my favorite, too ($9). Other dessert choices include: Personal Cheesecake for Two ($10); Country Bread Pudding drizzled with warm bourbon-caramel sauce ($8); fresh seasonal berries and fruit served with whipped cream ($7); or the Spicy Upside Down cake ($8).

Okay, I did find a mix of margaritas on the Country Club’s bar menu, so everyone in town has a portion of my quest fulfilled.  I guess I need to do what Zane Grey did, charter a boat and catch my own Marlin.  Here’s how to do it:

In August is the Annual Church Mouse Marlin Invitational with over $500,000 given away as prizes over the years. For details call 310/820-4434. The Zane Grey Invitational Marlin Tournament is held in September, with $60,000 in first place prize money.  For details call 714/258-0445. Also in September is the Catalina Classic Marlin Tournament, with a $50,000 first prize. For details call 714/258-0445.
The Annual Tin Cup tournament is also in September, which is an off shore fundraiser for youths.  Call 310/510-1471.

To Book Special Events
for entire property

11:00 a.m. - 10 p.m. Nov. thru June
11:00 a.m. - 4 p.m. July thru Oct.

For scheduling events contact:
310/510-7428 or 310/510-7400 x29
Fax: 310/510-2450

Catalina Country Club Restaurant
1 Country Club Dr ive
Avalon, CA 90704
Cross Street is Tremont Street

The Catalina Country Club provides many options for group functions. Both casual and formal seating areas are capable of accommodating 25-100 guests. Suited for private committee or board meetings, the Boardroom features an inviting fireplace and historic artwork.  Located off the main Courtyard is the Avalon Bay Room, ideal for conferences or group lectures utilizing a classroom-style or u-shaped configuration.  Each meeting room can be tailored to suit your needs. Take advantage of the property’s private location situated steps away from the golf course so your company can take the meeting out to the green.  Their first-class catering department can satisfy your appetite with menus ranging from light hors d’oeuvres to plated cuisine.

The Clubhouse Bar has TVs (watch the Cubs, now owned by a media company), and historic Chicago Cubs memorabilia. The Bar serves the restaurant's full lunch and dinner menus. The bar can be reserved for private parties, meetings or wedding receptions of up to 150 people, serving the full lunch and dinner menus mentioned above. Just don’t ask for Marlin!

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.

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