Monterey Plaza Hotel: Between Moontinis and Moon Jellies
By Emma Krasov
The full moon over Monterey Bay in California is a fascinating view to behold, especially with a themed moonlight cocktail in hand while sitting on the heated patio of Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar at the Monterey Plaza Hotel. Located in the oceanfront section of Monterey known as Cannery Row, which was immortalized by John Steinbeck, the majestic hotel was built on a footprint of the historical cannery and occupies four-and-a-half acres of land, almost an entire city block. These nights, during the full moon, hotel guests and Monterey Peninsula locals congregate on its expansive open deck over the water to celebrate Moonlight on the Bay.
Designed for chilly autumn nights, the Moonlight on the Bay promotion includes specialty cocktails, such as the Blue Moontini made of Pearl plum vodka, lavender elixir, and plum bitters, and Harvest Moon Coffee with Tuaca liquer, spiced rum, Frangelico liquer, coffee, whipped cream, and nutmeg. Valley of the Moon wines and gourmet pizza are also a part of the popular deck-side reveries of the lunar cycle.
In fact, Schooners’ Caprese pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomato, fragrant basil, and a sprinkle of balsamic is offered in honor of the classic Dean Martin song, with its famous funny lyrics, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza-pie, that’s amore.” Wrapped in warm blankets provided by the restaurant’s attentive staff and overcome by amore, Schooners’ patrons tend to linger on the patio, which is suspended over the waters of Monterey Bay.
The newly remodeled restaurant, led by executive chef James Waller, is known for its California-fresh contemporary American cuisine and sustainable seafood. Local seasonal Dungeness crab is the star of the roasted corn and crab chowder, found on the Holiday Specials menu. Troll-caught in Washington state, the restaurant’s King salmon is pan-seared and served on a bed of beans and shrimp in a wonderful mildly spiced Peruvian mole sauce. All desserts are made in-house, and a warm Schooners’ brownie with vanilla ice cream and shaved dark chocolate is sure to warm anyone’s heart.
A good night of sleep is guaranteed in a hotel room where the only sound that comes through the open balcony door is that of waves splashing from the ocean below. The Monterey Plaza has 290 deluxe guestrooms decorated with classic Biedermeier-style furniture and fabrics. Rooms are even equipped with sea binoculars; it is easy to spend hours on the cozy balcony overlooking the bay, contemplating leisurely kayakers surrounded by sea otters, seals, dolphins, seagulls, and pelicans.
These sights are also on display outside the floor-to-ceiling windows in Schooners’ main dining room. Some of the immensely popular breakfast treats here are California crab cake Benedict with grilled Portobello mushroom and Béarnaise sauce, and cinnamon blueberry french toast with maple syrup and blueberry compote.
After breakfast, a nice short walk along Cannery Row takes hotel guests to all area attractions and activities. Bicycling, kayaking, sailing, whale watching, and scuba diving in the protected marine sanctuary of Monterey Bay and golf at 19 local championship courses are readily available. The world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is just three blocks away from the hotel. Its enormous well-appointed space is dedicated to all forms of marine life on the ocean’s edge and at the open sea.
From jewel-like coral reef fish to giant octopi, the aquarium’s open sea exhibits are teeming with wondrous creatures. Touch pools bring to the surface bat rays, sea stars, and sea slugs, while leopard sharks with bright cat eyes swim through the kelp forest in Monterey Bay Habitats. Graceful multi-colored seahorses, sea dragons, and pipefish populate the mind-boggling show the Secret Lives of Seahorses.
In the Jellies exhibit, there are giant violet Crown jellyfish, on display for the first time anywhere in the world; Blue Blubber jellyfish in colors ranging from baby blue to deep purple; and—suitable for the occasion—pale Moon jellyfish, which are very much in tune with the full moon and all things moonlight.
The “Moonlight on the Bay” promotion on the Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar’s patio will be over with new crescent in the sky, but the holiday season in Monterey goes way beyond the full moon phase.
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is located at 400 Cannery Row in Monterey, California. For information and reservations call (831) 646-1700 or (800) 334-3999.