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Morada: Capturing Californias Edible Glory


A first-class restaurant is a major draw for a lodging establishment. As such, those operations see fit to funnel a great deal of financial resources into creating a dining experience that will set them apart in the eyes and stomachs of hungry travelers, while also luring in local clientele. The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe recently revamped its longtime nameless restaurant, giving it a new, more contemporary look, feel, and ethos. In doing so, it not only drew on monetary resources, but the vastness and fertility of its real estate. And it works. The luxury venue has created a farm-to-table standout aptly located in the hub of Rancho Santa Fe’s small town core.


Chef Todd Allison, who has been at The Inn for the past year-and-a-half personally overseeing his kitchen’s transition after coming over from Anthology in Little Italy, has employed a thoughtful approach to celebrating a bounty that is not only local to California, but local to Rancho Santa Fe. The Inn’s expansive grounds are home to three separate gardens, from which Allison and his kitchen staff harvest herbs, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The remainder of the edible stock used to create Morada’s upscale yet approachable cuisine comes from very small producers including the likes of Tutti Frutti Farms in Lompoc and Los Angeles’ Underwood Family Farms.


With such consistent sourcing and adherence to the seasons, Allison incorporates singular fresh ingredients into multiple dishes. The summer menu was rife with lemons grown on-premise, which serve as an assertively tart and perky counterpoint for a spicy jam made from roasted piquillos, bells, and peppadews (the latter imparts a lasting tingle on the palate). That condiment marries with soft oven-roasted baby octopus that is tender without being the least bit mealy. The juice of those bright yellow orbs brings summer-friendly refreshingness to a Domaine Carneros sparkling wine-based cocktail made with Hangar One vodka and lavender simple syrup. It should be noted that the words “house-made” have been left off of the syrup description because everything at Morada is house-made, often with sterling results.


Light, warming ricotta gnudi are served in herbal brown butter with meaty halved trumpet mushrooms made intriguingly acidic with a touch of lemongrass. Perfectly grilled lamb loin chops pair beautifully with rustic yet refined accoutrements — toothsome ratatouille, pistachio gremolata, cous cous lightly accented with African-style harissa, and, of course, a touch of mint. But the entrée that jumps off the page and the plate is Chilean sea bass marinated in mixed citrus juice, glazed in local honey and dotted with aged soy, and served atop kaffir lime-accented polenta. The dish seamlessly melds elements of Asia, the Mediterranean, and California, and makes for something special.


Other options at Morada include sides ranging from the traditional (Parmesan-truffle risotto and grilled asparagus) to the playful (duck fat fries with cotija cheese and buttermilk onion rings) and a la carte steaks, chops, and seafood. On the beverage side, a well-selected wine list composed solely of vintages plucked from Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast, and Temecula (though they will be adding hard-to-find wines from around the globe in the near future), and San Diego craft beer help convey the magnificent and delectable manner in which Morada is representing the Golden State. (858.756.1131, www.theinnatrsf.com)   BRANDON HERNANDEZ


Photography by Vincent Knakal


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