News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Renovations to eatery aim to satisfy The Inn crowd

Nestled within the rolling hills and gated mansions of Rancho Santa Fe, Morada – the recently remodeled restaurant at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe – embodies the serenity and quiet beauty of the area’s natural topography.

Surrounded by distant mountains and panoramic vistas, the eatery boasts an unrivaled scene of majestic San Diego sunsets, coupled with regional and sustainable California cuisine and accompanied by a wide array of world-class wines and spirits that reflect the character of its location.

“This property is over 90 years old, with a rich and storied history of fine dining,” said Conor Ball, who as sous chef oversees the preparation of each meal. “What we do here is pretty old fashioned. It’s bold flavors, it’s farm-to-table, it’s not pretentious and it’s fresh and simple.”

Ball said that to support Chef Todd Allison’s passion for sustainability and commitment to protecting the environment, most of the citrus, herbs and vegetables are grown and sourced daily from three year-round gardens spread throughout the lush and meticulously landscaped grounds of the 21-acre resort.

Ball described Allison – formerly of music venue and supper club Anthology in Little Italy – as the hardest-working and most dedicated person he has met, and added that the chef rises early everyday to tend the gardens before heading into the kitchen to create culinary works of genius.

Allison’s masterpieces include entrees such as grilled Colorado lamb loin chops with harissa couscous, ratatouille, pistachio gremolata and spearmint; honey-glazed Chilean sea bass marinated in aged soy and served with grapefruit and bok choy; herb crusted Mary’s fried chicken plated alongside creme fraiche potatoes, broccolini and garlic, and topped with morel and sage gravy; and braised natural prime beef short ribs served with spicy garden vegetable escabeche, grilled Texas toast and port wine sauce.

“We’re all passionate and committed to the farm-to-table approach,” Ball said. “It’s something we embody and celebrate and we show it through our work. There is really something special going on here and it’s only going to get better.”

After purchasing the iconic hacienda-style, Lillian Rice-designed resort in 2012 for $28 million, JMI Realty – owned by John Moores, former Padres owner, and John Kratzer – set out to update the property while showcasing Rancho Santa Fe’s rich heritage and rustic elegance. What they came up with was a $12 million comprehensive renovation that included expanding and retooling the entire restaurant.

“It’s called an inn, but it’s designed more like a traditional California or Texan-styled ranch,” said Robert Harrah, a server with extensive knowledge of the bistro’s food and wine program, as well as its history. “The decor is designed for Rancho Santa Fe, but the food is designed for people with a worldly palate.”

Inn Food and Beverage Director Adam Martindale – formerly of Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara – has revamped the entire wine lineup with a “California-centric” approach that includes rare and unknown regional and local brands. Among them is Rancho Santa Fe-based Gen 7, produced by one of the oldest winemaking families in California.

Morada’s signature cocktail – called the Sparkling Santa Fe – is made with Gen 7’s sparkling wine, Hangar 1 vodka, a simple lavender-infused syrup and garnished with a lavender sprig. The cocktail list also includes a watermelon margarita and “The M,” featuring Woodford Reserve bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, and garnished with maraschino cherries and an orange twist.

“You’re almost transported to a different time when you come here,” said Christine Smith of Encinitas, whose search for a wedding venue brought her to the resort. “I can’t think of a more perfect restaurant for a special occasion.”

Stanley Freeman – a visitor from Piney Point Village, Texas – said that the elegance and tranquility of the location, mixed with the excellent food, wine and service, made his entire meal one he won’t soon forget.

“I didn’t have to scream across the table to be heard by my dinner guest,” he said. “The restaurant’s relaxed and casual environment inspires conversation and I hardly noticed anyone on their cell phone during my entire meal.”

More information on Morada at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe can be found at www.theinnatrsf.com or by calling 858-843-4661.

Manny Lopez is a North County freelance writer

Do you have a local eatery to suggest for North Coast Taste? Contact the North Coast Current at [email protected].

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Renovations to eatery aim to satisfy The Inn crowd