Mother of an Event
Holman Ranch evolves its game beyond weddings – with heart.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Max Elliot, 5, is good at hide-and-go-seek, except for one small strategic weakness. He likes to squeak with excitement while he’s “hiding.”
That doesn’t fit into the list of All-Time Top Hide-and-Go-Seek Techniques, but it fits with the m.o. of his folks, Nick Elliott and Hunter Lowder, who are widening the Holman Ranch (659-2640) portfolio past weddings with a still-new wine label, estate olive oils and a winery in a double-barrel cave that’s already complete (the cave, that is).
“We’re in the business of making memories,” Hunter says. So Max is a natural: Between the dandelion-hunting and dessert-delivering, he’s hard to forget.
Hunter’s motto might sound trite to the uninitiated, but it’s personal. Her parents bought the storied stone-and-oak property once owned by the Holman’s Department Store family – which settles in the hills just past Carmel Valley Village and includes a hacienda, barns, corrals, a graceful event lawn and 10 guest rooms – to carry out a dream of owning a vineyard and olive orchard. Only her mom wasn’t able to enjoy it due to early onset Alzheimer’s, so the family has come to work tightly with Alzheimer’s Association to better understand the most painful forgetfulness – while working with guests to summon precious moments of their own.
“This is a treasure,” Hunter says. “There’s no place like it in the world.”
I’ve seen its power in play: The SPCA’s rehabbed owl release is unforgettable and eye-moistening; the Carmel Valley Chili Cook-off leaves its mark across several senses. And I’ve felt the toll Alzheimer’s unloads on a family. In a wedding industry where requests and investments can feel surreal, those are two very real things.
But historically there haven’t been a ton of opportunities to make non-wedding memories. Now there’s a one-off coming for Mother’s Day which could lead to others; the new caves, which will host winemaking ops and other activities; and the tasting room in White Oak Plaza (659-2640), where the second vintage of small-batch Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and dry Pinot Rosé ($18-$33/bottle) is arriving, cold-pressed olive oils are flowing and classes are steaming ahead Thursday, May 3, with cookbook author/“queen of quince” Barbara Ghazarian ($25).
I met Max as part of a press preview for the event. Hide-and-seek came between sips of Pinot and bocce, and before Wild Thyme Deli & Cafe (884-2414) herb-roasted chicken al fresco. On Mother’s Day (May 13), expect a photo walk with rock-star photog Tom O’Neal, four courses of wine-paired food from Chef Dory Ford, s’mores by the bonfire, a stay in the private rooms, breakfast and even yoga ($800 inclusive for two). In short, an adventure for mama that’s at least as memorable as little Max.
• End of an era:Plaza Linda Restaurant (659-4229) is on the way out in Carmel Valley, though live music will continue with the new tenants, who are planning a remodel. Meanwhile, Plaza Linda seeks a new home, so send word of any inside scoops.
• More from CV: Lokal does a six-course “pop-up” with local-farms-supporting Savor on Sunday, April 29 – things like Mariquita Farms produce, spring lamb, baby root vegetables in the hands of Chef Brendan Jones paired with local wines ($100, 708-8315) – and hopes to open the following week. Chef Grady Parker and Toast Carmel Valley (659-8500) have some yummy seasonal things happening. And a jalapeño-cheddar scone ($2.50) and beet-kale-carrot-ginger-and-parsley juice ($5) ain’t a bad way to start the day at Wild Goose Café (659-5052). Check the blog for a video spotlight with Tractor Pete.
• The May 19 Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans Gala ($85) will likely sell out, so get moving to www.SantaLuciaHighlands.com.
• Life is good when you’re eating breakfast at The Restaurant at Ventana (677-2331), on the celestial patio preferably, and Chef Truman Jones just made it better, with new items like the Bailey’s Irish cream French toast with caramelized bananas, macadamia nuts, coconut, vanilla cream and maple bourbon caramel ($12) and the forager’s feast omelet with mushrooms, garlic, wild arugula, onion and Swiss ($14).
• New seasonal pizzas in the big oven at Le Bicyclette (622-9899), including house-made lamb merguez with Provencal olives, spring onions and mint ($16) and one with fava bean pesto, local oyster mushrooms, wild onion flowers and truffle pecorino ($15).
• Local coffee dynasty Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company is taking over Monterey’s Estate Coffee and Tea and adding its Arabica coffees and wholesale loose-leaf teas to CVCRC’s many choices.
•There are house parties and then there are house parties. Perry House (647-0114) just west of Fisherman’s Wharf falls into the latter (swankier) category. At a hospitality industry social the stuffed mushrooms and coconut shrimp match the views and Victorian space. Hint: they’re both quite nice.
•Small Bites for Big Hunger unites locals to boost hunger relief May 11 at All Saints’ Church (624-3883, $40 before May 1). I love the lineup: Michele Cremonese (Basil), Cy Yontz (Rio Grill), Brandon Miller (Mundaka), Lynn Wood (Patisserie Boisseiere), Jean Hubert (Le St. Tropez) and Todd Fisher (STICKS) plus Wrath, Ventana, Figge, Cima Collina and Scheid on the wines.
• You’re late to the show at Golden State Theatre in downtown Monterey (when it’s not closed from fire damage). You’re also starving. Remain calm. Step next door to Koko’s Cafe (375-3777), and order a shawarma ($7.95) or a falafel ($6.75), casually fold it into a pocket or purse, and you’re good. Now Koko’s is adding other reasons to visit beyond grub and gelatos: Mediterranean movie nights with food paired to the flick’s home country at 7pm the last Thursday of every month (tonight!); bellydancing 9pm the last Friday of every month (like tomorrow, April 27); and a new catering with off-menu specialties like stuffed artichoke hearts and masakaa.
• “If everyone’s thinking alike,” Bill Walsh once said, “no one is thinking.”