Feast for the Senses: Fairmont Grand Del Mar Clubhouse Grill
Grub and golf aside, get down on your knees and thank the maker-of-your-choice that you’re in Del Mar, Calif. A wee hundred miles from the heat and hubbub of Los Angeles is a sea-swept oasis of posh shops, pristine beaches and the nonpareil Fairmont Grand Del Mar resort, 400 acres of rolling hills, five-star amenities and a carefully coiffed 18 holes of ingenious Tom Fazio-designed golf.
Located five miles from the cerulean Pacific shores and 20 miles from San Diego proper, this heavenly hideaway is snuggled-up adjacent to the serene Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve and a mere skip and a jump from Torrey Pines GC. Savvy SoCalers can pack the wrenches and a few sleeves of golf balls and spend a long weekend of golf, pool-posing and turning off the devil’s digital devices, with the Fairmont Grand Del Mar as their well-deserved home base.
Like most top-shelf resorts, once you’re on property and nestled into one of the Fairmont’s plush rooms, you will be hard-pressed to exit the premises to eat, drink and make merry off campus.
The good news is that the food and beverage folks at the Grand Del Mar are working hard to please the palates of their well-heeled clientele. Top of the food chain is their dinner house, Addison, a two-Michelin starred, $300-per-person prix fixe, nine-course tasting menu.
Amaya is the all-day eatery inside the main lodge, and it does a brisk business at breakfast and at its celebrated Sunday brunch. And then, adjacent to the golf course, is the generically named Clubhouse Grill. Here, they reserved the savor and flavor for the menu, which was firing on all cylinders during a recent visit.
The Grill is mostly meant for golfers and club members in search of a quick bite and a beverage, it’s only open from 11 a.m. till 4 p.m. daily. We tucked in for a mid-day lunch inside the 50,000-square-foot clubhouse, and we were more than content to sit on the shady terrace and watch other poor souls hack their way to the 18th green while we lollygagged our way through a leisurely repast. The tuna poke salad was a light and carefully prepared dish for starters, with a nicely balanced ginger-sesame dressing and a healthy portion of firm-fleshed fish. But really folks, let a veteran hacker be frank: When you enter a place called the “Clubhouse Grill” — whether at the local goat-track or a five-star Fairmont — your grumbling gut is in dire need of standard-issue, all-American protein, and yes I do mean hamburgers and hot dogs. Not to worry: Alongside the ancient grain salad (faro, quinoa, etc.) and the chicken Cobb proudly stand the aforementioned staples, gussied up nicely with some foodie-friendly accoutrements.
Thus, the humble hot dog is enhanced by a chipotle aioli, crumbled bacon, pickled red onion and cheddar cheese. Eight bucks more gets you a demi-order of their chunky short rib chili, which I heartily recommend. My better half went with the fish tacos, flavored by an achiote marinade and laden with a cilantro lime slaw and raw jalapeños. That last bit of kick was required, as the house salsa was definitely on the tourist side of the Scoville-scale.
It’s almost impossible to open a menu these days without seeing a fried chicken sandwich, and the Grill’s version was a letter-perfect, better-sourced version of the infamous Popeye’s entry that took the nation by storm a while back. And the steak sandwich might have proved a fairly anodyne choice but for the upmarket chimichurri sauce and manchego cheese, all on a nicely grilled ciabatta bun.
If you’re still able to ambulate after such a rapturous feast, get the A&W root beer float to go and hit the back nine in dire need of a sugar buzz to help find Fazio’s fairways and sink a few putts on the closely shorn putting surfaces.
No, the Clubhouse Grill may not have the most memorable name in sports, but like Shakespeare’s poor Juliet said: “That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.”