Carmel is probably one of the most beautiful areas in California. I’m definitely biased since I’m nearly a local and can drive there in under an hour any time I feel the desire. There’s so much to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, shopping, wine tasting, fine dining, and strolling through many art galleries. Then there’s Carmel’s white sand beaches that look toward the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course and the picturesque 17-Mile Drive. Carmel Valley boasts all the aforementioned luxuries plus world-class resorts, 4000 acres of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails all while being nestled between the Santa Lucia mountain range. Holman Ranch is a property I’ve gotten the pleasure to frequent these last few years and the owners have now expanded their properties in the Carmel Valley to include Will’s Fargo Restaurant and Jarman Wine Lounge. On a recent visit to the ranch, we were thrilled it included an outdoor tasting and palate pleasing dinner that have us eager for a return trip.
Jarman Lowder and her husband Thomas purchased and retired to Holman Ranch in 2006 to live their dream of making wine and olive oil. Tragically, Jarman passed away in 2011 to early onset Alzheimer’s disease but has her legacy proudly living on through her family’s involvement on the ranch. To honor her memory, the family has vowed to take the best hand-selected estate grapes and create two premium varietals: Jarman Chardonnay and Jarman Pinot Noir, offered at the tasting lounge and Will’s Fargo Restaurant on Carmel Valley Rd. Take note, that is Jarman’s actual signature that her family preserved in the signage, makes my heart sing!The lounge has both indoor and outdoor seating and we enjoyed the Jarman Chardonnay on the patio one beautiful spring evening. I don’t tend to drink too much white wine anymore, but I loved this cool drink and their description cannot be beat: The 2014 Jarman Chardonnay features floral notes reminiscent of walking by a parfumerie in France — subtle and pleasant with a hint of earthiness. When serving this wine lightly chilled, rich notes of under-ripe berries and raw honey will waltz across your palate. Typically you can enjoy a tasting alone or with a variety of cheese, antipasti, or charcuterie plates. Enhance your experience with a picnic menu of salads and sandwiches, or even an ATV tour of the Estate vineyard.
After some lovely conversation we headed into the restaurant for dinner. Formally a tea room in the late 1920’s, Will’s Fargo once served as a road house located on the “milk run” between Monterey and Tassajara. Will Fay established Will’s Fargo Restaurant in 1959; his namesake plus the “dressed up saloon” interior that included antiques and collectibles, merged the gracious aura of a Victorian parlor with a western “Fargo” way station. Owned and managed by the Lowder family, the restaurant’s acclaimed Chef Greg Karjala greeted us at the beginning of our meal served family style. The amuse was brought out to us, a lovely yet petite chilled potato-leek soup. It can be taken like a shot of soup, but I enjoyed it’s flavor and the slight tang of the olive oil drizzle, so I savored it more and took my time. Definitely a soup I’d order a full size of for lunch or dinner.Our first course came out together, salads and an egg for the 1st wave. Beautifully plated, a 6 minute egg sat upon a sourdough crouton with paprika, white anchovy, and arugula. After I quickly passed the anchovy to my husband, a lover of salty foods, I enjoyed this appetizer immensely. The yolk had moisture to it and the crouton was a perfect crunchy contrast. A plate-ful would make a great brunch item.Next I went ahead and tried the grilled kale salad. I don’t usually like kale, I find it bitter but with the old college try I sampled it with it’s lemon vinaigrette, shaved fennel, radish, toasted bread crumbs, and ricotta. Not bad, but not my favorite though my husband really enjoyed it. More up my personal alley was the mini wedge salad 3 ways. Well with three different dressings, classic blue cheese, blue cheese vinaigrette, green goddess (my favorite). Classic dish for a steakhouse and one I’d enjoy again, the green goddess is like gold!
Second course had surf, turf, and pasta starting with rainbow trout. This was my husband’s favorite meal of the night. Beautifully plated with orange fruit, braised fennel, white wine, and chili flake. Cooked perfectly with a crispy skin, I think we may be venturing into more fish at home!
My favorite was the Pinot Noir braised short ribs that just melted in your mouth! Paired with goat cheese polenta and pickled green tomatoes, I ate my portion and went for seconds to my dismay, it was a popular dish. I happily scooped the asparagus and asiago raviolis onto my plate and the flavor was divine. Light and not too filling, the greens were perfectly al dente and brought a freshness to the plate.Our sides didn’t get photographed properly but consisted of:
-roasted mushrooms, tarragon butter, lemon
-charred brocolini, garlic, chili, vinegar
-sweet corn with cilantro and lime
The corn was the best, again when I went for seconds, the dish was gone. The combination of the sweet corn and tart lime was perfection and a perfect dish I’m going to attempt to duplicate all summer! What else is there to love? The website and I’m sure the servers and the chef can tell you right where some of the food is sourced, most recently I noticed their cauliflower from Swank Farms in nearby Hollister, how’s that for farm fresh!
On to the dessert round of the evening.
Clouds of white chocolate mousse sat on top of hazelnuts, brown butter, and pineapple. Simply delicious. I prefer milk, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate to white, but this dessert changed my thinking for the evening. It could have been all the delicious Jarman Pinot Noir they served us changing my mind, but I won’t turn my head to white chocolate much anymore.Finally, roasted strawberries and pernod poached rhubarb in a balsamic glaze with sweet cream to end the evening. I’m going to say this was just okay, I’m a strawberry lover but these weren’t as sweet as I enjoy them fresh. Rhubarb texture turns me off, so I would have preferred the butterscotch cheesecake I saw on their dessert menu. Now I really have to get back there!
If you’re in the Carmel Valley, check out both Will’s Fargo Restaurant and Jarman Wine Lounge for a lovely afternoon or evening! The restaurant is completely family-friendly with a great kid’s menu, and in true Carmel fashion, your dog will have a fabulous meal as well, visit http://wfrestaurant.com/ for more information and menus! Also, the Holman Ranch has some great promotions you have to check out, great opportunities to pair all the wonderful properties in one fabulous adventure!
Our meal was hosted as part of a FAM trip. All opinions are 100% our own.