Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lights! Camera! Riviera!

It was quite the rollercoaster week at Pebble Beach, with a lot of highs and a few lows. Jimmy was pretty disappointed with his Sunday but considering how his opening nine and Spyglass Hill started, a top-10 was a great place to finish. We are beyond thrilled for our wonderful friends D.A. and Lori Points and D.A.’s first win on the PGA TOUR. Jimmy and D.A. battled it out on the Nationwide Tour in 2004 finishing 1st and 2nd on the Money List respectively, and we have been great friends ever since. Again, huge congratulations to the Points on a great win!

With Sunday in the rearview mirror we headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to our next stop, Riviera Country Club and the Northern Trust Open. Riviera is one of Jimmy’s favorite courses and with my brother being a Los Angeles resident, it is a stop we always look forward to.


Obviously with Los Angeles being one of the largest cities in America and traffic being brutal at best, I’m going to keep this week’s suggestions close to the golf course and the Santa Monica area. And because I have great suggestions for each, I am going to give you one for every meal of the day.

Breakfast. South along Ocean Avenue away from the hustle and bustle, is Cora’s Coffee Shop. (1802 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica 310-451-9562) A tiny restaurant with primarily patio seating and no view worth mentioning, but great food made from fresh ingredients and something on the menu for every breakfast lover. The orange and blueberry pancakes are the house specialty and the huevos rancheros should not be missed. Don’t blink or you may miss the place, it’s definitely worth the effort to find.

Lunch. While strolling along Montana Ave in Santa Monica, I highly suggest squeezing in to Blue Plate for lunch. (1415 Montana Ave, Santa Monica 310-260-8877) Blue Plate is the perfect charming neighborhood restaurant to pair with an afternoon on Montana Ave. The soups, salads and sandwiches are all delicious but it’s quite the happening locals spot so I suggest going either early or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.

Dinner. Sticking to Montana Ave, R&D Kitchen is a hip dinner spot with a drink list aimed to please and food to impress. Start with the dip duo appetizer and the ahi tuna burger is a best seller. Get there early, as R&D doesn’t take reservations and patrons are known to wait up to ninety minutes.


Back to Montana Avenue we go for my favorite type of shopping, boutiques! This street is perfect for those who prefer unique shops like Every Picture Tells a Story, a children’s art and bookstore specializing in rare artwork from the books we all grew up loving. Last year I found two amazing prints signed by the illustrator that make me smile every time I step foot in my son’s bedroom. A true gem of a store, I highly suggest making a point to stop if you find yourself in shopping heaven along Montana Ave.


A lot of golfers this week are huge fans of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. The Fairmont is a beautifully traditional hotel combined with contemporary touches. The grand and lush exterior make way for beautiful guest suites that feel a bit more like the Bahamas than busy Los Angeles. Located just off Ocean Avenue, guests can stroll through the luscious gardens or out the gates and across the street for a walk along the Pacific; this is a hotel you shouldn’t pass up.


Being a private club, tucked in between the mega mansions of the Brentwood area, playing is not an option for most of us but Riviera is a course everyone should experience. Time and time again this course is named as a TOUR player favorite and it boasts one of the most exciting short par-4 holes of the year. Players can go from hero to zero as attainable eagles flirt dangerously with double bogeys and the line between the two is thin. Riviera is simply golf at it’s best and this is a week you won’t want to miss.

Los Angeles is a completely overwhelming city and I hope I have given you suggestions that keep you happy and busy in one spot and off the freeways. Rain or shine, this TOUR wife plans on enjoying an amazing week in L.A.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pebble Beach ... Need I Say More?

Have you ever popped a champagne cork at 38,000 feet? Well, we did Monday! We were the lucky travel companions of the Wilson family after Mark’s second win of the year. The Wilson’s are a wonderful family, and we were excited to share in their success. With big names or the latest, greatest 350-yard bomber who usually captures fan and media attention, it is great a guy in his 30s from Wisconsin who continues to prove that you can’t discount the rest of the field. Congratulations, again, to Mark Wilson on his second PGA TOUR victory in 2011!

After a very comfy flight and a bit of celebratory champagne, we have arrived at the Monterey Peninsula. The AT&T National Pro Am at Pebble Beach is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. AT&T puts on a first-class event for the pros, amateurs and their families and with the most famous public golf course in the world as our setting it’s a recipe for a spectacular week.


Oh where do I begin? Some of my favorite places all year are located on the Monterey Peninsula. I could write and write and write about places to eat here, but for your sake, I’ll limit my suggestions and save some for next year.

Our first stop of the week is always The Cheese Shop in Carmel-By-The-Sea. (Carmel Plaza, Lower Level, Ocean & Juniper 800-282-9463) A cozy little shop located in the Carmel Plaza, this wonderful little store had been in business since 1975 and is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. With hundreds of unique cheese and hard-to-find wines, this is the place for the true connoisseur. Proprietor Kent is a master of boutique wines, and for a wine lover like Jimmy, this shop is truly heaven.

My next suggestion is Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room in Monterey. (622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey 831-655-4852) A fun restaurant with a tropical theme, Hula’s is a favorite of Brett Quigley, Rory Sabbatini and especially their kids. Fresh fish and seafood with a mix of Asian, Latin and Caribbean flavors makes Hula’s a unique dining experience perfect for a night out with the family. Amy Sabbatini highly recommends the sweet potato fries and I recommend making reservations for large groups, especially during the tournament week.

Lastly, be sure to hit Kate’s Place in Carmel before leaving the Peninsula. (Mission Street between 5th and 6th Carmel, 831-624-0199) Hands down the best eggs benedict I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. A warning – expect a long wait if you get there past 9 AM and they only accept cash. Trust me, Kate’s Place is well worth the wait and the hassle.


Since I already suggested The Cheese Shop located in the Carmel Plaza, take advantage of the location and visit the rest of the shops in the Plaza. Located on the corner of Ocean and Juniper Streets in Carmel, the Plaza is a fun center that is a mix of super posh stores like Louis Vuitton and local flavor like the Carmel Coffee and Coco Bar.


Heaven on earth has a name, and it is The Inn at Spanish Bay. An elegant and slightly contemporary lodge, The Inn is my top choice for accommodations inside the gates of Pebble Beach. The view from the north side of the Peninsula where The Inn is located is simply spectacular. Be sure to grab a glass of wine (or the most fabulous raspberry martini invented) and watch as the bagpiper serenades the setting sun. Absolutely nothing about The Inn at Spanish Bay disappoints. Yes, the rooms are expensive but well worth it for a truly amazing experience.

I completely understand how paying $600 + a night for a hotel room can make one feel ill, so I am suggesting a great alternative. Until this year, when Jimmy and I decided to give the RV lifestyle a try, one of our favorite alternatives to a hotel is the website Vacation Rentals By Owner – www.vrbo.com. VRBO is a site that offers private homes for rent across the United States and around the world. The Monterey Peninsula is a perfect spot to take advantage of the wonderful homes available on VRBO. Whether you want a cozy cottage that sleeps two or a mega mansion that sleeps 20, there is usually a home available for every size and budget.


Yes, Pebble Beach is home to quite possibly the most famous group of public golf courses in the world, but some of the best golf in the area can be played at Fort Ord’s Bayonet and Black Horse courses. The website’s affirmation of “the best 36 holes on Monterey Bay” may cause a few chuckles, considering whom they are up against, but after you play you may agree. If you ask any TOUR player what courses come to mind when asked which are the best, undoubtedly Bayonet will be high up on the list. As Jimmy says “It’s an overlooked gem in the Monterey Bay area.”

Rumor had it when Tiger Woods agreed to play in the AT&T National Pro Am again he made a big push to have Bayonet be a part of the rotation, and that says a lot about the quality of the course. With green fees under $100 for midweek play, it would be a major bogey to pass up Bayonet and The Black Horse. For more information visit www.bayonetblackhorse.com.

With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s, we are ready for a perfect week of golf at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Come out and support all the players, whether they are a -6 or a 40 handicap, and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wild Days Ahead At Waste Management Open!

First and foremost a big congratulations to Bubba and Angie Watson for a great win in San Diego. With Jimmy coming from the Nationwide Tour, it’s great seeing other Nationwide grads doing well. Torrey Pines is always a course that challenges Jimmy a bit, so despite a bit of a rough Sunday, I am proud of him for playing so well.

This week we are in Scottsdale for one of the rowdiest tournaments of the year, the Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale. For those all the folks out there in places like Buffalo, NY, who have never had a chance to experience this tournament, it truly is the “greatest show on grass”.

Scottsdale is a golfers paradise with over 150 public and private courses in the area to choose from and average sunny days are well over the 300 mark. When one comes to Scottsdale and especially the Waste Management Open, prepare for a lot of pomp and circumstance that goes along with the event. In one day driving around here, I see more vanity license plates then I do in a year in Texas and THAT my friends, is Scottsdale in a nutshell.


There are tons of good restaurants in the area; depending on what part of Scottsdale you are located. I am going to give you two good recommendations this week that are in different parts of the city.

If you are in North Scottsdale, a short jaunt up Hayden Road is the Spotted Donkey Cantina in Cave Creek, a trendy restaurant with great southwestern cuisine and hip atmosphere, including wonderful patio dining when the weather is good. (Hence my 300 days of sun reference above.) The Spotted Donkey is known for using locally sourced ingredients, including Hatch Green Chilies, in dishes like their decadent Arizona Mac n’ Cheese. (8220 North Hayden Road 480.922.1400)

Another fun restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale is Bandera. Known for their rotisserie, Bandera is a southwestern-meets-bbq in an upscale setting. The restaurant gets busy after work hours end and tables are limited, so patrons are known to wait it out, drink in hand. (3821 N Scottsdale Rd (480) 994-3524)

One can’t go wrong with either restaurant but both are on the smaller side and local favorites so reservations are strongly advised.


Taking full advantage of the sun, especially when temperatures are at a premium during the winter months, I am going to suggest you and your wallet head to Kierland Commons. A fun center with a “main street” kind of feel, Kierland Commons is perfect for an afternoon of shopping combined with lunch or dinner. With a wide variety to choose from, Kierland is a nice alternative to the average mall.


Centrally located in Scottsdale is the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. This great property is 27 acres of pool, spa, golf and luxury linen goodness. The Hyatt is perfect for a romantic getaway or for families traveling with children as it has plenty to keep everyone occupied. There is a 1.5-acre water park and Camp Hyatt Kachina to keep little kids happy, as well as the Spa Avania and a top rated golf course to keep big kids happy.

Be forewarned, the Hyatt room rates are not for the faint of heart during peak winter months. Booking a trip during the summer months will save you over half. For rates, drool worthy pictures and more information check out http://scottsdale.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/.

I hope I’ve given you some useful information for planning a trip to Scottsdale. Of course, I am completely biased and think the best week to come is during the Waste Management Open. It truly is a spectacle that should not be missed!