Mar’sel, at Terranea Resort

What was to be a somewhat ordinary Thursday turned right around into something not-so-ordinary-after-all! I was happy enough to excuse myself from work an hour early, and drove north to San Pedro for the ribbon cutting ceremony on a high school Mike had helped build. Not an ordinary high school, mind you. This $60 million behemoth is perched on a sea-side cliff, boasting pristine amenities that left me begging to go back to high school. I could pass for 17, right? Not.

Yet as stunning as the campus was, Mike surprised me with something even better: reservations at one of Terranea Resort’s restaurants, Mar’sel. I had never been to the resort, but Mike had previously given rave reviews of the golf course and generally spectacular location. As we drove along a winding road, leading out to the cliff, I watched Terranea stretch out in front of us, settling on the coastline like a blanket laid out for a picnic. We parked, and decided to take a meandering walk before dinner. The sun was just beginning its descent, and the brisk saline breeze was picking up. We spotted the perfect future picnic site, and fantasized about ditching our apartments and moving in to a resort penthouse.

Soon the chill on the air shooed us into the restaurant for a pre-dinner cocktail at the bar. As I settled in to an oversized leather bar-chair, I took in the ambience. The bar itself is separate from the dining room, and gives off the vibe of a dark mahogany library or smoking room. The yellow backlight of the bar, the coffered ceiling and paneled walls, the thick wood-and-granite bar. It was classic. I fancied a manhattan, and Mike asked for a vodka martini (blue cheese stuffed olives for this man). I struck up a chat with a man who turned out to be the sommelier and beverage director for the resort. Steven Ashworth shared an incredible wealth of information about mixology, infusing spirits at home, and pairing. He then stepped behind the bar and told us he was going to make us the best margarita we’ve ever tasted. He was right. He made his own creation of a salt-infused foam with hints of lemongrass, then poured a citrus tequila concoction right over. It was divine.

The effects of our cocktails warmed me as we scooted on off to our table for dinner. Every table in this restaurant has an ocean view, provided by the oversized wrap-around windows. You dine with a view of the water, with a crackling fireplace at your back. Very sea-side lodge.

For starters, Mike chose a little plate of Wagyu meatballs with tomato sauce and a roasted-garlic and parmesan aioli. I ordered the slow-braised pork cheek with wild mushroom barley risotto, soft cooked egg, and black truffle. As a wee surprise, our waitress also brought us a little heap of tender chicken oysters, cleverly drizzled in a take on buffalo sauce, with a home-made buttermilk blue cheese dip! Not to forget the basket of hot-out-of-the-oven english muffins they bring to each table!

(Pardon the dark photos – the ambience didn’t quite suit the clearest photography)

We ordered our entrees next, my belly already swelling after the onslaught of appetizers. I asked for the roasted California duck breast with black grapes, wild arugula, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and kendall farms creme fraiche. Mike decided upon the brandt farms prime hangar steak with brussel sprouts, fuji apples, crispy potato cake, and horseradish cream!

Sipping on the last few drops of our red wine, and nibbling on just one more english muffin, we decided to throw in the white flag. I could not fit one more morsel in my very happy tummy. It had been an incredible evening, and I left feeling so blessed to have been able to share the night with Mike, and so fortunate.

I can’t praise Mar’sel enough, and if you ever find yourself in Palos Verdes, stop in. If nothing else, have a drink at the bar, and ask if Steve Ashworth is around to regale you with tales of mixology.

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