One of the things I love about being in the Bay Area is that there are tons of vacation spots within just a couple hours of home. Monterey is one of those hidden gems that is just south of the Bay Area, but feels like you’re in a destination far away.
It’s a sleepy little town, with tons of outdoorsy activities, great wine, and sights to see.
So when the Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort contacted me with a complementary offer to stay at their accommodations in Monterey for a weekend, the husband and I couldn’t resist. We had been to Monterey for a weekend trip once before: when we were still dating and the husband surprised me with the trip for my birthday.
The last time we visited, we took a glider ride over the mountains (which is definitely something you can’t miss), visited the aquarium, cannery row, Fisherman’s wharf, downtown and went on a few hikes.
This time, we just relaxed. The resort was big enough that we could enjoy ourselves for a weekend without really having to do much at all! They had 3 restaurants, each with great vegetarian options (more on how much we ate, and how I got back on track later), an amazing spa and gym, and a beautiful golf course that our room overlooked. They even had running / hiking trails near the hotel for a relaxing walk or more intense hike.
Our first dinner was at Tusca, their flagship restaurant where we met Chef Mike, and the rest of the staff. They have an awesome open kitchen which made it feel like an upscale restaurant (not a typical resort restaurant).
Chef Mike just started bringing out dishes, one after the other. It was amazing. We started with some olive oil, balsamic, fresh (warm) ciabatta bread, and roasted garlic.
We enjoyed our pre-appetizer while looking at this peaceful view from our table:
Next was the Baked Eggplant Cannelloni, which I was a little skeptical about because neither the husband or I love eggplant. But when it came out I was amazed. There was no pasta in this dish! The eggplant was so thinly sliced, it resembled pasta (and definitely did not resemble eggplant). It was stuffed with a meaty, roasted mushroom blend, topped with fresh marinara, parmesan and arugula. It was inventive, light and delicious.
Next came the freshly baked, wood-fired pizza. But this was no ordinary pizza. It had: fresh tomato sauce, a super light layer of cheese, swiss chard, roasted carrots, basil, cauliflower (yes, cauliflower), and roasted red peppers. It wasn’t super oily or heavy, and the flavors were great.
After we were done with our pizza, we received the Grilled Seitan Bastilla. Tusca makes their Seitan from scratch, in their restaurants. It has zero preservatives or artificial ingredients, so even though I’m not a fan of fake meat, I had to try it. It was mixed with apricots and spices, and rolled into a light puff pasty. Underneath were pureed lentils (yum) and roasted chard.
We were pretty full by this point, but we had to try the Gnocchi. Served with leeks, marcona almonds, whole cloves of roasted garlic, and yes, lots of butter. This was definitely the most indulgent dish we had on the menu! Everything else was on the healthier side.
Somehow we had room for dessert. An apple galette, Pistachio gelato, and a Dark chocolate vanilla bean lava cake with spiced pear compote rounded out our meal.
We left incredibly full, but very very happy!
The next morning, we started our day with a light and healthy breakfast, courtesy of room service.
Steel cut oats, fresh fruit, and milk – I felt pretty good about it. And it was a nice change from our super decadent dinner the night before!
After breakfast we headed to the spa, where I literally had the best facial I’ve ever had in my life. The husband really enjoyed his Trager Method relaxing massage. From the spa, I decided to check out the gym, which I have to say was pretty impressive for a hotel/resort gym! It had great machines, weights, pretty much anything you’d want.
That was one way I balanced out the eating, by working out for 30 minutes on Saturday & Sunday
But of course, we had to try the food at the Hyatt’s second restaurant: Knuckles Sports Bar. Keep in mind, the food I’m about to share was specially made for us by Chef Bryan. Most of it wasn’t on their traditional menu. But it was such fantastic vegetarian food, I think they should make it an option for vegetarians who visit!
The customized menu was a really cool experience. Chef Bryan came to talk to us about our food and flavor preferences, and then created menu items in the kitchen from scratch. While we were waiting for our dinner, we got to munch on fresh peanuts and popcorn – which was kind of a fun treat.
When our first two appetizers came out, I was surprised! We were served chaat (at a sports bar!) – and I have to say I was really impressed with the flavors.
We also got to try this hearty vegetable soup – full of squashes, carrots, and other root veggies.
For our entrees, I had the tofu tacos, topped with shredded cabbage, a small amount of cheese and fresh salsa. It was served with a jicama, grapefruit and avocado salad on the side – which was delicious!
The husband had a “burger and fries” – which was a double decker black bean veggie burger, served with grilled asparagus with dates and hazelnuts. The asparagus was so good I kept eating it off my hubby’s plate.
And of course, dessert. Do you see a theme here?
Two cheesecakes: a mango cheesecake with fresh berries, and a snickers cheesecake which kind of reminded me of the kind you get at Cheesecake Factory. The mango cheesecake was my favorite: it wasn’t super mango-y, it was airy, fluffy and just melted in your mouth. And when paired with the blueberries – wow.
We stumbled back to our room, watched a couple movies, and went to sleep. It was an extremely relaxing day.
The next morning we had a similar light breakfast, went to the gym and then headed home. Even though our weekend trip was only 48 hours long, it felt so much longer! The staff at the Hyatt was incredibly nice to us in every interaction we had, and they even sent up treats to our room each evening (a fruit and cheese plate one evening, salad + crackers the next). If we had stayed a couple more days, we would have driven to Big Sur and hiked around there for a while, and probably would have visited some wineries too. But there’s always next time!
(Full disclosure: the trip and the food were complimentary, but all of the opinions in this post are my own – we really did have a wonderful experience!)
So, as you can tell, we definitely indulged on this trip. But for me, it was completely worth it, because I knew I could get back on track as soon as we got home.
And here’s how (it’s only 3 simple steps!)
1) I didn’t feel guilty about indulging. I planned to indulge for 2 days, and I planned to get back to my healthy eating ways when we got home. So I just enjoyed every bit of it, and when it was over I was ready to eat light and healthy again! I know it’s easy to feel guilty or freak out after “falling off the wagon,” but if you end up doing what I did, try not to beat yourself up about it. Eating unhealthy for 2 days won’t make you gain tons of weight. It will likely be mostly water weight which will fall away as soon as you get back to your healthy eating plan.
2) I ate super clean on Sunday when we got home, and for the rest of the week. That meant drinking tons of water and green tea, eating lots of leafy greens and other fruits/veggies, easing up on the sugar intake, eating high fiber whole grains, and going on my standard daily run.
3) I got 8 hours of sleep on Sunday night. Sleep is important for helping you detox, and if you’re going to be exercising you need your rest as well.
I hope this helps you start eating clean after your next vacation or night of over-indulgence! Happy Friday everyone!