(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.)
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
In 1927 William Wrigley Jr. commissioned the firm Webber & Spaulding (which would later also create plans for the
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,
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
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.
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).
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).
My 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.
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!