A Visit To The Newly Refurbished Sea Ranch Lodge
Sea Ranch, CA — For those in the Bay Area longing for a serene staycation, look no further than the newly refurbished Sea Ranch Lodge.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Sonoma Coast just 100 miles north of San Francisco, this 53-acre property is the perfect place to unplug, unwind, unravel and thoroughly revel in the beauty of nature.
That’s just what I experienced when I was invited as a guest overnight recently.
The look of the property is all Scandinavian chic, punctuated by clean lines and exteriors the calming color of driftwood.
Pomo Native Americans once gathered kelp and shells from the shores. Early settlers established sheep ranching in the 1800s, which is reflected in the eye-catching ram logo of the property.
In 1964, a master plan was forged for the community that would preserve its natural beauty while allowing for the construction of 2,200 homes. Walk the trail above the beach and you’ll spot markers with more information about the community, including how the homes were built around a central meadow so that each one is afforded an unobstructed view. Some of the houses still sport the original Scandinavian-inspired sod roofs, too, with native grasses sprouting from them.
Sea Ranch Lodge, built in 1968, is one of the oldest buildings, which originally served as a community hub with post office, general store, and later a hotel.
The footprint was kept, but everything within refreshed. That means there’s still a post office there, as well as a store, which sells items with the ram logo, as well as locally made gourmet food products. The bar also got an update.
A new order-at-the-counter cafe was added, which is a good place to stop in for coffee, breakfast treats, and snacks.
The 17 rooms have no TVs, but do have Bang & Olufsen waterproof speakers to listen to music. The soothing interiors have nice touches, including binoculars to get a closer look at shorebirds, pour-over coffee kettle, sturdy recycled cardboard hangers in the closet, and sprigs of dried lavender and bay hanging from the shower that infuse the bathroom with a lovely scent when steam hits them.
Sea Ranch Lodge leases land a few miles south, where sheep, cattle, and chickens make their home. The sheep mostly mow down the local vegetation. The eggs from the chickens are used in the cafe. And from time to time, the beef is spotlighted on the restaurant’s menu.
Executive Chef Eric Piacentine, formerly of Big Sur Bakery, came on board in 2021 to oversee the culinary operations at the ocean-view restaurant.
Admittedly, I’ve often found restaurants at secluded hotels often more serviceable than inspiring. Unless they are chasing Michelin stars, they often have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not so here.
My first indication of just how top-notch the food is came when the starter of tempura black cod ($21) arrived on the table. Hot out of the fryer, the fish had an expert light and crisp battered exterior. The flesh was deliciously moist. A dipping sauce of yuzu, ginger, and sesame ponzu gave it a delicious Asian flair.
“Bread & Olives” ($14) featured house-made focaccia cut into novel big cubes that were crisp on the sides like giant croutons. Arranged in a shallow pool of roasted garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with meaty Castelvetrano olives, they just begged to be dragged through it all to soak up the Mediterranean flavors.
Local halibut ceviche ($21) is a perfect plate for sharing, with its dice of raw ceviche seasoned with plenty of lime juice, red onion, cilantro, basil, and jalapeno. Pile a tortilla chip with some ceviche, along with mashed avocado and pico de gallo for a crunchy and zingy bite.
Steak frites ($54) arrived with the prime NY cut nicely medium-rare and juicy, along with a pile of incredibly crisp thin fries. Also on the plate was a mini wedge salad, made with Little Gem instead of iceberg for more flavor and texture, that was finished with blue cheese dressing, bacon bits, and cherry tomatoes.
The locale petrale sole ($46) arrived with impressive crisp skin. It was afloat, peeking out over the top of a pool of fish bone broth (perhaps a little too much broth) with a nice assortment of vegetables including fingerling potatoes, kale, and snap peas and blue lake beans that were beautifully al dente tender.
For dessert, we went with the carrot cake ($12) studded with golden raisins and topped with candied walnut. The cake was moist but bordering on a little gummy. The cream cheese ice cream was a nice touch with its tangy flavor. I only wish it hadn’t been served rock-hard, but a little softer to better enjoy with the cake.
The next morning, go for a long, leisurely walk past soaring cypress trees and picturesque bluffs to descend the staircase down to Black Point Beach below. Enjoy the sounds and spectacle of crashing waves, and breathe in the vitality of this special spot that’s now welcoming guests back in apt style.