California’s Iconic Highway 1 Reopens After 19 Months

Our reporters cruise the coastal road to find a thriving community despite the forced isolation

Beautiful Big Sur

Early the next day the fog burned away, and we were ready to visit two more iconic resorts along the coastal highway. Twelve-hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean sits Post Ranch Inn, a sanctuary for the soul. The resort is ideal for romance, relaxation, or rejuvenation. These 39 rooms provide rustic elegance, comfort, and privacy with unmatched views of the ocean and mountains.

The Post family was among Big Sur’s first pioneers, and this world-renowned landscape has been intertwined with the family for generations. Under their stewardship, the 100-acre Post Ranch has evolved from a working ranch into one of the most acclaimed luxury resorts in the world.

The coast-side rooms seem to be built into the mountain with houses curving around old-growth trees. Some are built on nine-foot stilts to protect the delicate roots beneath. Parts of the resort are made of reclaimed wood, glass, steel and stone to show a sense of harmony with nature.

The architectural visionary was C.K. (Mickey) Muennig. At the University of Oklahoma, he was drawn to the principles of “organic architecture” and captivated by the wild beauty of Big Sur during a visit in 1971. He became the area’s leading architect. His vision for Post Ranch Inn embraced luxury, sustainability and the natural beauty.

The fresh Pacific sea breeze awaked our palate. We set off to the Wine Spectator Grand award-winning Sierra Mar restaurant, which offered fine dining with a daily changing menu and with endless ocean views. Taking our seats, we kept a lookout for whales as our first course arrived. Chef Elizabeth Murray’s salad of heirloom lettuce mix, a garden harvest and microgreens showcased fresh sustainable ingredients. Next, she combined local grilled prawns with quinoa, avocado, roasted bell pepper, red onions and herbs – all from local purveyors. We finished her main tasting menu with eggplant cannelloni with white beans, Alfonzo olives, garden-cultivated mushrooms, and fresh basil.

Elaine and Scott Harris

The prawn dish

Just across the street from the Post Ranch Inn is another Big Sur classic: the Ventana Inn. Shut by the long forced isolation, many workers were reassigned to its sister property, Carmel Valley Ranch, yet many choose to hike the two-mile foot path to the keep the operation running. Today the Ventana is reimagined. Our first stop was the brand-new large deck with the ocean and canyon in the distance. We enjoyed cocktails as the sun set over the Pacific and the moon rose above the mountains. We moved into The Sur House restaurant where we met up with executive chef Paul Corsentino. Before Big Sur, Corsentino was executive chef of The National at The Benjamin Hotel in New York City, where celebrated chef and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian mentored him in the philosophies and techniques behind his signature cuisine. He assisted Zakarian in winning the fourth season of Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs” in 2011 and made multiple appearances alongside Zakarian on “Iron Chef America.”

“After bringing more than a decade of cosmopolitan city experience to the serene landscape of Ventana Big Sur, I take pride in working closely with Big Sur’s local fisherman, foragers and farms to craft coastal American cuisine that showcases the vibrant, seasonal bounty of California’s Central Coast,” he said.

After choosing a vibrant Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, we settled in to watch the chef’s culinary artistry. We started off with a tuna crudo with crushed smoked pineapple, yuzu and ginger sesame vinaigrette. To our delight, a perfectly prepared foie gras and chicken liver mousse accompanied by concord grapes, croissant, endive and grape confit had our senses dancing with gastronomic pleasure. Arriving next to our fireside table was the chef’s squid ink fettuccine. This extraordinary red wine-braised octopus with arugula and puttanesca sauce was executed with precision. Ora King salmon is also a must try with roasted salsify, spätzle, yellow pepper sauce, and red cabbage puree that had to be a favorite of the evening. For the fini, a lemon tart topped with huckleberry sauce, featuring yogurt cake, meringue, and a rich streusel cream concluded our day of culinary bliss. We reclined on our suite’s spacious king-size bed and get cozy in front of the wood-burning fireplace to relax and enjoy the stunning views.

We had heard about a special camping experience, so the next day, we just had to explore. Ventana Big Sur offers an elegant twist on outdoor living: a brand-new glamping Bath House. It offers teak-enclosed showers, heated floors, full hotel amenities, marble vanities, and even gleaming restroom facilities. This isn’t camping; it’s glamping. Guests sleep on a custom-designed glamping mattress and premium linens in a safari-style canvas tent. Enjoy the views of a 20-acre canyon, light up the firepit, make s’mores and tell stories, or just let the landscape do all the talking. Experience the full splendor of Big Sur, while still relishing all the amenities and services of this world-class resort.

We made our way back north via Highway 1, where the sky, the sea, the mountains, and the Redwoods converge. Untamed and rugged, the region offers a space of solitude and a reminder that our planet is precious and we should treat it likewise. For those who maintain this special part of the universe, we extend our thanks, and going forward we hope others will find a renewed sense reverence and respect for the venerable Big Sur. As Jack Kerouac, author of the novel Big Sur, states, “Something good will come out of all things yet – And it will be golden and eternal just like that – There’s no need to say another word.”


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