It’s the Holiday Season at Hotel Del’s 1500 Ocean

A 30’ tall Christmas tree adorned with sugarplums, peppermint swirls, Santa, and beach themed ornaments graces the lobby of the Hotel Del Coronado. Over 100,000 glittering lights illuminate the resort at night to give it a celebratory feel. Built in 1888, this Victorian style masterpiece is still the centerpiece of the Coronado peninsula.

Wishing to experience Chef Brian Sinnott at the Del’s signature restaurant, 1500 Ocean, we booked two nights at the Del to experience his menu and the festivities of this grand resort.

Stepping into our room on the fifth floor of the Victorian building, we were pleased with the two Queen size beds and partial ocean/garden views. The small bathroom and low ceiling is indicative of rooms from another era. Professional basketball players would prefer the Beach Village cottages and villas that we admired while strolling the grounds at sunset.

Years ago, my husband and I dined at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma and remember Brian Sinnott.  He is part of a group of like-minded chefs that call themselves, Cooks Confab. Confab means to exchange views or ideas on a familiar topic.  These well-respected chefs create meals every few months with a common theme or ingredient.  Most of the chefs are from some of the finest restaurants in San Diego. Since the San Diego County has over 7000 farms, Brian continues to create a menu based on what the sustainable farms in the region offer each season.

While sitting in a booth with flowing curtains tied back, it felt like we were sitting in an elegant beach cabana.  Wing back chairs near the windows offered views of the newly installed ice rink on the main lawn, which we enjoyed immensely earlier that afternoon. 

Our personable waiter suggested a few of the guests’ favorite appetizers.  We started with lightly tempura squash blossoms filled with ricotta and served in a small pool of golden tomato with basil puree.  It looked prettier than it tasted and lacked the burst of flavor I expected. Next, arrived the lobster salad with three ounces of lobster on a bed of arugula, fennel, avocado, grapefruit and lentil flatbread that was shaped into a pyramid.  This dish offered just the right amount of zing with the white sherry vinaigrette complimenting the poached lobster nicely.  My favorite appetizer was the black ink spaghetti with Dungeness crab, crisp snap peas, sea urchin butter and gremolata (lemon zest, garlic and parsley) crumbs.  Very satisfying.

For entrees we ordered the Alaskan halibut with butterball potatoes and tarragon aioli with garlic, olive oil, and egg yolk.  The lemon scented fingerling potatoes and fried shallots on top of the halibut gave the dish a savory and crunchy texture.

The duck arrived with a fig duck jus. Served with roasted red seedless grapes to provide an earthy sweetness to the duck. It was served with a red rice pilaf with chopped carrots and zucchini that offered a well-balanced taste.

An extensive wine list offers whites from California, South Africa, New Zealand and France. I ordered a glass of Ramey from the Russian River. It was a rich oak Chardonnay that balanced the flavors of my meal nicely.

Many of the servers have worked at the Del for over thirty years. While refilling our water glasses, Rudy shared how he enjoyed waiting on Muhammad Ali, Billy Joel and President’s Bill Clinton, George Bush and George W. Bush. He hopes President Barack Obama will dine at the Del soon.

Still craving something sweet, we ordered the chocolate malted Bavarian Cream.  Tiny chocolate malt beads decorated the top of the mousse-like dessert with a rice crispy base and raspberry puree.

As we leisurely walked through the grand hotel back to our room, we stopped at a picture of Marilyn Monroe that was taken at the hotel while she filmed Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. It’s a movie regarded by many film critics as one of the finest American movies ever made.  Debuting in 1959, it still delights audiences, just as the Hotel Del Coronado enchants guests every holiday season.

The Del is offering Holiday Escape packages from $299 that includes accommodations, a commemorative 2010 Hotel Del holiday ornament, daily breakfast buffet for two adults at Sheerwater and 50% off self-parking. Another special is the Holiday Stocking Stuffer package starting at $299 per night that includes a $75 daily resort credit to be used as you wish. Ice skate by the sea, share a Victorian tea or enjoy a lavish Victorian buffet dinner in the one-of-a-kind Crown room for Christmas dining. Taxes and a daily resort charge not included. These specials are available until January 1. 2011. 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado (800)Hotel-Del or visit www.hoteldel.com/holidays.

Published also in the Beverly Press 12/9/10 via It’s the Holiday Season at Hotel Del’s 1500 Ocean.

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