Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “vacation

Luxury for Less at Scottsdale’s Gainey Suites Hotel

Back in June, I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend a conference. Instead of staying at the big-ticket host hotel, I looked for a less expensive option that was still within walking distance to the event I was attending, and after a brief internet search, I found The Gainey Suites Hotel.

After a giant airline delay in my trip, and missing the first afternoon session of the conference, I finally got settled in my hotel room. Suite 320:

Inside the room was modern, well-furnished, impeccably clean, and well-lit. It reminded me of a small apartment. I remember being very impressed, because the room looked as good or better than it did online, and I was already pretty glad I skipped paying extra just to stay at the conference hotel.


The beds at Gainey Suites Hotel are covered in 300 thread-count linens on a plush, allergy-free featherbed with down pillows, and a duo of cute Gainey Bears for guests to take home. It’s one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept, even more comfy the one I sleep on at home. OK, definitely might move into this place. 🙂

My one bedroom suite was also equipped with a full kitchen (minus an oven). For dinner during my first evening’s stay, I walked over to the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store next door and picked up groceries to stock the full-sized refrigerator in my room, and made dinner for myself on the stove top and microwave. The room had everything I needed to eat in my room, too, such as bowls, plates, cups, and silverware.

The hotel is walking distance to The Shops-Gainey Village (also where Sprouts Farmers Market is located) a collection of unique shops and restaurants. The shops feature everything from apparel to lifestyle items, and the restaurants offer several different cuisines to suite whatever you might be craving. There is also a nail salon, a day spa, and a salon located in the village in case you need a little polishing up!

Every morning at Gainey Suites Hotel, there is a complimentary hot breakfast buffet, featuring eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, oatmeal, bagels, pastries, and cereals, along with orange juice, milk, tea and coffee. If you’re on a budget, your first meal of the day is completely covered in your room stay.


Every evening, the hotel has a reception with hot and cold appetizers, beer, wine, and soft drinks. It is unbelievably included in the price of your room. This is to say you could technically get by on breakfast in the morning and appetizers in the evening and not spend any more on food or dining except for a few snacks to store in your full-sized refrigerator!

I really appreciated the HDTV with Chromecast feature in each room, because I was able to watch Parts Unknown on demand during my dinner.


In between sessions at the conference I had some down time, so I decided I would head out to the pool and get some sun. The pool is clean, spacious, and surrounded with plenty of chairs with umbrellas in which to lounge.


Other hotel amenities include: No resort fees • Free Wi-Fi • 24/7 fitness center • Desktop power/charging stations • In-suite coffee makers with complimentary coffee & tea • In-suite hair dryers • Iron & ironing board • In-room safe (lap top size) • Cordless phone/voicemail service • Valet laundry service • Guest laundry facilities • Courtesy shuttle service (within a 5-mile radius, 7am-6pm daily) • Evening room service from The Village Tavern (restaurant next to the hotel, 5-10pm) • Complete business center services with free-to-guest PC and internet services • Daily and weekly passes available for the exclusive Health Club at Gainey Village

You can find Gainey Suites Hotel on Facebook here, on Instagram here, on Twitter here, and read reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor here. If you’re ever in Scottsdale, definitely make a stay at Gainey Suites Hotel part of your travel plans!

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A Majestic Ocean View Getaway Awaits at Hyatt Carmel Highlands

Have you ever just wanted to escape? I mean, just ditch everything and all of your responsibilities?
I was so ready to do that this past weekend!

carmel highlands view
Lucky for me, Andy and I got the chance to travel to Carmel Highlands and were hosted for an evening at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. It’s a destination hotel heavy on amenities and a sensory overload of picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur coast.

hyatt carmel highlands lobby
We were invited to stay there along with a few other writers–including L.A-based bloggers Kat and Kelly of Edible Skinny–and over the course of the weekend (which also included a stay at another Hyatt property) we were treated to dinners, massages, wine tastings and other fun things. For this chronicle, I’ll focus on the sheer excellence of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and the meals we enjoyed at the restaurants located there. PS: Color me blessed and lucky for sure!

When we arrived at the hotel, we immediately joined up with the hotel tour already in progress. Sacramento is about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Carmel Highlands. We were welcomed by the hotel staff and a woman from Holman Ranch Vineyards. She poured us a refreshing Chardonnay to sip during the tour. I asked the woman’s name because I thought she just might be “Hunter” for whom one of Holman Ranch’s wines is named, because I had spoken with her before on twitter. She confirmed her name and I laughed saying, “I thought that was you, you’re my favorite wine!” I have written about them before here.

holman ranch wines
The tour of all the meeting facilities was very interesting. The hotel is equipped with all different sized meeting/banquet rooms to fit different needs (4,945 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces). Although the hotel can support any sort of indoor or outdoor business meeting you can think of and offers full service catering, as well as controlled heat, lighting and audio/visual systems, Hyatt Carmel Highlands is an even more ideal wedding and romantic getaway spot. Below is a picture of the gazebo (the setting for many nuptials).

balcony views gazabo
One of highlights of the hotel for me was the gym/fitness center, which many hotels in Carmel and Carmel Valley do not have. It is small, but adequate for a property of 48 rooms. From the elliptical machines, you can actually see the ocean. I spent a lot of time in that room during my stay! 🙂

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After our property tour, we gathered by the lounge and enjoyed some appetizers and Holman Ranch wine. Hunter told us a little more about Holman Ranch and their wines as well as the estate-grown olive oils.

appetizer 1 appetizer 2
After a few rounds of appetizers and the fabulous Holman Ranch wines, our group relocated to the restaurant, just a few feet away from the lounge. The restaurant at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is called Pacific’s Edge, and oddly enough, Andy and I almost went there for my birthday in June, but we were staying in Carmel-By-the-Sea, and opted to eat somewhere within walking distance of our hotel. I was thrilled to learn we would be enjoying dinner at Pacific’s Edge with other travel writers that evening at the only restaurant in Carmel with a view of the ocean!

table view
I sat at the head of the table in an effort to shield others from my left-handedness, so the above photo is my view of the rest of the table as well as the below photo my view to the left.

another view
I felt so blessed to be with the person I love so much at what must be one of the most splendid settings in the world.

andy
dinner companions
Soon, we were served two new wines: a 2012 Chardonnay by Domaine Eden and a 2004 Austrian wine: Brundlmayer Cabernet Franc, “Vincent’s Cuvée”. Below is a picture of the Chardonnay. Andy and I had more of it with our dinner, as it was a better pairing with our food.

chardonnay

Everyone in our group was given a menu crafted just for us, just for that evening. We were told to choose one appetizer and one main course. For my appetizer, I chose the Zucchini Carpaccio with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, picked mushrooms and lemon olive oil vinaigrette.

zucchini carpaccio

Andy went with the Octopus “Confit” with fingerling potatoes, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt. Since octopus doesn’t have it’s own fat to be a confit, the olive oil was used to slowly cook it, hence the name.

octopus confit

Then for our main course, Andy and I both ordered the same meal. We usually try to order something different, but this time we couldn’t resist the special being offered for the evening:

chilean sea bass
It was a line-caught Chilean Sea Bass with grapes and crispy sunchokes. It was one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. There were several layers of flavor and textures going on within the plate: flakey, creamy, crispy, savory, sweet, umami. It was everything I want in a bite of food. Comforting, but not too heavy. And so perfect I had to show you another picture:

chilean sea bass 2

We also happened to capture a picture of one of the other journalist’s dinners:

scallops dish
Maine Dayboat Scallops with asparagus, romesco sauce, shishito peppers and crispy basil.

Then came dessert: I chose the fromage plate and a glass of 2005 Château Guiraud Sauternes.

cheese plate
chocolate dessert
One of our fellow writers picked this chocolate creation (pictured above).

The next day, after a few hours in the gym at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for myself—Andy opted to go on a 5 mile run—we were treated to lunch at another one of the hotel’s restaurants (open for breakfast and lunch): California Market.

view california market
It was bubbles for me (Domaine Carneros Brut) as I decided what I should order for lunch. The patio of California Market features space heaters to keep you warm when the sun is busy hiding behind the clouds, and gorgeous views of the ocean and the beautiful landscaping of the property. I took the picture below from my table at the restaurant.

Pool
After snapping a few photos from above, I decided on the Cobb Salad and Andy ordered the Cioppino.

cobb saladCioppino
I order Cobb Salad a lot in restaurants because it has the trifecta of love: avocado, bacon and blue cheese! 🙂 I ordered the dressing on the side (which was actually a very good Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette). It was the perfect low carb lunch after a long workout! The Cioppino was fragrant of mussels, clams, shrimp and cod with a spicy tomato broth. Andy jumped ship on the gluten free boat (momentarily) to enjoy the crusty garlic bread as a mop, catching every drop of the soup. What a satisfying lunch and sure to keep us full until dinner.

Following our meal, we said goodbye (reluctantly) to the staff at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands–one of the nicest stays I have had in recent memory. I think for me it was really all about the views and the cozy fireplace in our room. And OK, someone DID leave a bottle of my current favorite red wine in my room (how did they know about my love for Talbott Kali Hart??) accompanied by a cheese plate. 🙂

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our room
Indeed it was hard to leave, but incredibly excited to tour and stay at the next Hyatt property on our agenda for the weekend: The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, which I will be writing about in the upcoming week!

You can find Hyatt Carmel Highlands on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here. You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Thanks to Hyatt Carmel Highlands for their generosity and hospitality.


A Fairytale Destination in Carmel Valley: Stonepine Estate Resort

Chateau Noel
OK pinch me, because I must have been dreaming.

But, it wasn’t a dream. It was real…

The latest cavegrrl.com getaway was to the idyllic Stonepine Estate Resort, located in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is twelve miles inland from Carmel, (its more celebrated sibling). To be honest, I preferred Carmel Valley because of the sunshine and warmer temperatures.

The Estate boasts 330 secluded acres of gently rolling oak-studded hills, an affiliation with the Historic Hotels of America (formerly Relais & Chateaux). The Mediterranean-style Chateau (pictured above) is framed by 12 formal gardens. Chateau Noel includes eight luxuriously appointed suites, each lavishly named and decorated (with namesakes’ approval) after the Hentschels’ (the current owners of the Estate) favorite designers, champagne, china, jewelry, honeymoon location, philosopher and artist. There are also four cottages on the property: the Briar Rose, the Paddock House, the Gate House and the Hermes House.

foyer
Inside the Chateau… The Magnificent Foyer

Our visit was tailored to one of the packages now offered at Stonepine called the Carmel Valley Wine Discovery, which included:

  • 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations
  • Welcome Amenity Upon Arrival
  • Full European Breakfast Each Morning
  • Romantic Fireside Dinner for Two in the Chateau Noel
  • Chauffeured Carmel Valley Wine Tour in the Stonepine Rolls Royce (optional upgrades to Cachagua Vineyards are available)
  • Wine, Cheese and fruit at One of Stonepine’s Picturesque Venues

We were treated to a stay in the Don Quixote suite, which is actually hidden behind the wall of the library on the first floor of the Chateau Noel. The suite features a separate sitting room with fireplace, king bed, two bathrooms and French doors leading to a secluded garden and patio.

secret passage closedThe Don Quixote suite is hidden behind this wall.

secret passage open
doorway to our room
The doorway to the Don Quixote Suite.

donquixotedoor

welcome goodies
Our welcome amenities: a few snacks and a bottle of wine, a Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon.

thankyoucard
The card pictured above was a note from the owners of the Estate, Gordon and Noel Hentschel. They purchased the Estate in 1983 and restored it in 1987.

Andy and I already felt welcome and knew we were in for one of the best hosted trips I have ever experienced.

backyard
This is the private backyard outside the Don Quixote Suite.

Our room boasted  2 bathrooms (a his and hers).

kristybathroomI just love bubble baths, so this bathroom was perfect for me.

andybathroom
Andy’s bathroom had one of the nicest shower stalls I have seen in a hotel setting.

After rubbing our eyes and giggling in delight about the state of our room, we got ready for dinner. Typically, dinners are held in the dining room, but the staff at Stonepine had something more special in mind for us. Here’s a shot of the dining room, which is the setting for the Estate dinners.

dining room

There is another dining table alongside this one that is identical to it. There are wine bottles of everything (Palmaz, Far Niente for example)
randomly decorating the room… just waiting to be opened… 🙂

We were led into the great room which has a beautiful fireplace and a piano, to enjoy a glass of wine and some appetizers before our dinner.

fireplace_greatroom
We sat on the couch and were served a plate of melon and prosciutto, and some salmon bruschetta.

appetizers
Then after a while, we were lead into our private dining room for the evening. It was the library adjacent to our room! The setting was stunning/dreamy. I felt like I was on a movie set. 🙂

library_dining
andy_dining_libraryHere’s Andy at the table, and that is the same wall that opens and leads to our room.

us
As you can imagine, we were more than happy with the romantic dinner setting.

soupThe first course was a butternut squash soup with crème fraîche.

watermelonsalad
The second course was a salad made of organic baby arugula with watermelon and feta cheese served with a dijon vinaigrette.

For his entrée, Andy chose the salmon:
salmon dinner
It was served with a blend of harvest semoule, edamame and Red Bell Peppers. Look at what a happy diner! 🙂

salmon_andy_dinner_full
I ordered the pan seared filet mignon with mushrooms and merlot reduction served with a potato-parsnip mash, sautéed broccoli and grilled zucchini.

steak
And I was very pleased with my meal as well!

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Dessert was a chocolate mousse (Andy polished off both of them, and I didn’t get any photos, because dessert just isn’t my thing (anymore) 😉 However, I did enjoy another glass of wine and time together in front of the fireplace with Andy. The whole setting was just unbelievable/surreal, and you have to experience it someday yourself.

The next day, we worked out and ran around the Estate. It was some of the hardest running I have done in a while… basically like a cross country course. Here’s the map:

run1Then it was off to breakfast. I loved the buffet spread. Plenty of Paleo options!! My favorite was the fruit salad. It had the best raspberries I have ever tasted, so I am pretty sure they were local and probably picked within a day of serving them.

breakfast buffet
Andy and I also ordered two poached eggs each, which I have found is the safest way to order eggs so that they don’t come cooked in butter or some strange oil. 🙂 They were served with a sautéed spinach and onion mix and some tomatoes.

poached eggs bfast day1
We chose to sit outside that day. I can’t say it enough, but the weather cooperated so much that weekend. It was just nice to sit out in it as much as possible.

breakfastpatio
Then a few hours later, our concierge Jordan took us wine tasting in downtown Carmel Valley. That’s him on the right. 🙂 He’s from France and pretty familiar with the grape! Our first stop was Mercy Vineyards Tasting Room located at 40 W Carmel Valley Road, Unit A, Carmel Valley. All the wines at Mercy showcase the Monterey County Arroyo Seco AVA and are sourced from three contiguous vineyards, all located in a specific part of the appellation – the dried riverbed.

mercy tasting room2
mercy wine glass
mercy sauv blanc
The partners at Mercy come from Foley Estates. The vintners Mark and Mike have known each other over ten years and combined have been in the wine industry for over 45 years. They specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir, but also make a sauvignon blanc and a syrah. They are open for wine sales and tasting Thursday-Sunday, 11:30am-4pm.

Our next stop was Talbott Vineyards. (25 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley Village) Their tasting room is decorated with a menagerie of bikes and things with wheels, all lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling!

talbott tasting room
Talbott Vineyards is an estate winery that grows & produces Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: their Diamond T Vineyard in Carmel Valley & the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott, and the wines are crafted by Dan Karlsen.

talbott motorcycles
The tasting menu at Talbott has two columns. One for Chardonnay and the other for Pinot Noir. The wines from Talbott were really something to experience. Especially the Pinot Noirs. My favorite was the RFT Pinot Noir, while Andy favored the Sarah Case Pinot. $75 per bottle. Yowza! Thanks 30% industry discount. Like a boss, Andy bought a bottle of each of them plus whatever else I liked. Thanks, Andy. 😉

Our third (and final) stop was Cima Collina. Their tasting room was also impressive, but in a different way. It looked very country-rustic. The wines were impressive as well. The winemaker at Cima is Annette Hoff and she specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet blends. Andy and I also found some really nice wines to buy there, too. One of our favorites was their Chalone Pinot Blanc, and I really liked their Non-Vintage “Howlin’ Good Red (of which 25% of the profits from the sale of this wine goes to the local SPCA), so again, I made Andy buy some. 😉

cima collina tasting room
The folks at Cima really made an impression on me, and I wanted to let you know about their event on October 12th. It’s a fundraiser for the Monterey County SPCA, so if you are in the area and are an animal lover, this is the event for you! See the poster in the photo below for details!

event poster cima collina
After all that tasting, I was ready to relax. Jordan drove Andy and I back to the chateau at Stonepine. We relaxed in our room for a little while ;), then shortly after, we walked across the lawn to the Waterfall Pavilion and were treated to an afternoon happy hour wine and cheese presentation. Jordan prepared several cheeses for us to sample along with a bottle of local Chardonnay by Heller. #magic #ilovecheese #jordanhowdidyouknow??

cheese plate with wine
Here’s a shot of the majestic Waterfall Pavilion:

Waterfall Pavillion
You know those moments in life you wish you could just freeze and live in forever? The afternoon at the Waterfall Pavilion was just like that. 🙂 Here’s a picture from my view sitting in the Pavilion:

back facade of stonepine
This was a book I stumbled upon in the collection of books at the Waterfall Pavilion. It was a great read! I got a kick out of reading some of the passages to Andy because he already practiced them (like a good gentleman) 😉

how to be a gentleman
After our time at the Waterfall Pavilion, we decided to head out to dinner. We ended up at a place recommended by Jordan called Cafe Rustica. I will recommend the restaurant, too. We sat outside on the patio and were warmed by a little heat lamp. The food was good and my company was even better. It was a charming European bistro. I can’t wait to come back to Carmel Valley and try another one of many dining establishments. I also hear Corkscrew Cafe is a great lunch place. 🙂

The next morning we went on another run, this time a little longer. Here’s the map of that run:

run2
Not the fastest run of my life, but at least it was a workout. 🙂 After we cleaned up, we headed for breakfast number two. I was feeling a little sad because it was almost time to leave Stonepine, and this is not a place one is eager to leave! This time for breakfast Andy and I ordered an omelet and two bowls of fruit. OK, I eat like a truck driver sometimes. Don’t judge. 😉 I gave Andy my croissant (he needed it more than I did, although I did take one bite of it). It was superb, but my omelet was even better, and once again, the fruit was so good: a mixture of 3 kinds of melon, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. And bottomless coffee. We were spoiled!

omelet bfast2
Here are a few more shots I took of the property, as well as some pictures supplied by the PR company who promotes Stonepine Estate:

rollsroyce
One of two Rolls Royce owned by Stonepine Estate.

View from Taittinger SuiteView from the Tattinger Suite.

groundsThe grounds view from the back of the house.

barinroomThe bar that was adjacent to our room.

Stonepine Night-3The incomparable Stonepine Estate at night…

Andy and I have agreed we will come back to Stonepine (annually, perhaps), as we love Carmel Valley so much. It’s funny because I didn’t know such a place existed even a year ago, yet so many celebrities ( Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Diane Sawyer, Brooke Shields, Bill Gates, Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Warren Buffet, The Rolling Stones, Shakira and Joe Montana) have made Stonepine their destination. Now I know why. It’s a very special and private place. Once you are past those gates (and believe me, it’s a high security place for people who don’t want to be seen), it’s like stepping back in time, even into another country.

I can’t say enough about the kindness of the staff at Stonepine. They are all people I hope to see year after year. Thank you to Relevance PR for arranging my visit and a huge thank you to Gordon and Noel Hentschel for accommodating us. Stonepine Estate is one of the most lovely places we have ever experienced and I look forward to our return.

You can find Stonepine Estate on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. For more information on accommodations and room rates, click here or call 831.659.2245.