I am lucky that my job includes indulging in a special event sometimes. Even luckier that many celebrity chefs love to come and whip up dinner for 125 people because of our proximity to quality proteins and farm cuisine. My latest adventure happened as part of the Morro Bay Oyster Festival with celebrity Chef Bradley Ogden who came to prepare a meal featuring abalone from our own Abalone Farm. Our magical meeting began at the Inn at Morro Bay, where a luxury shuttle transported us to the beautiful Abalone Farm in Cayucos for sunset cocktail hour. The feast was Morro Bay Oyster Company’s Raw Oyster Bar and Castro sparkling wine, my idea of a perfect sunset meal. I heard the magic words, “take as many as you want” and proceeded to slurp six delightful oysters. A squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of a mignonette sauce complemented these gems of the ocean. I would have been happy with only this first course and could have filled up on freshly shucked oysters, but we had more magic coming from the Inn at Morro Bay.
With a private tour of the abalone farm where Brad Buckley told us how they grow this blossom of the sea, we watched the sunset over the water. We hopped back on our magic bus that transported to the Inn at Morro Bay where an elegant dining experience awaited us with chic table settings and the full moon rising over the picturesque bay. Our eyes drank in the beautiful ocean views and the famous Morro Rock as we sat down anticipating our four-course meal and wine pairing created exclusively by Star Chef Bradley Ogden.
We had Bradley the Abalone Cultivator , Neil the Oyster Officer, Eric the Wine Wrangler, a teacher, a bakery and yours truly, scary food reviewer at our long elegant table. We had a lively table with iridescent conversation that was food centric but enlivened with funny antidotes. We started with the Bodegas M- 2011 Albarino-Querida wine, and the wine maker explained how God and soil made this an outstanding selection.
Chef came out of the kitchen, was introduced and the meal began. Abalone Bisque with an arugula puree offered pure essences of the ocean served in an espresso cup it was high on richness. The salad that accompanied it featured charred abalone salad with persimmons and Asian Pears, a dusting of almonds, and a spicy roasted dacron sliced thinly. This was a complex salad, with multi layers of flavor, all surprising and prepared impeccably.
Between courses we toured the Inn at Morro Bay and talked with General Manager, Anna Olson, who specializes in fixing up special properties like this one. With its lush gardens, fantastical views of the bay and ocean, this has always been a favorite spot of mine. New owners, Pacifica Host Hotels are remodeling and updating the property to include more sea views and fireplaces for warmth on those dew point heavy nights. We walked out to the expansive patio and took in one of the lovely rooms. The restaurant (when not taking over by celebrity chefs and foodies) is an elegant affair that offers fine coastal dining and local wines.
Our next course to enjoy was a Cioppino style abalone stew with corn soufflé stuffed baked cannelloni. The broth was light with a spice on the end and the seafood inside was impeccably cooked scallops, shrimp, octopus, with a fried and pounded abalone steak resting on top. Swimming in the stew was Andouille sausage and red kale. This was my favorite dish. The wine pairing of Wild Horse Pinot Noir brought the strong, subtle flavors to the palate.
Our next course to savor was the Braised Beef Short Rib with roasted butternut squash puree, roasted brussels sprouts, heirloom carrots and quince jam. The meat was bursting with flavor and fell off the bones, the combination of sweet and savory went dreamily with the wine pairing a Hearst Ranch Winery 2011 Three Sisters Cuvee. Our last plate came with the instructions to indulge and we did on a four-layered Devil’s Food chocolate cake with hot fudge drizzles and vanilla crème anglaise . This was flawless, not too sweet and brilliant with the Roxo Port Cellars 2008 Magia Preta.
Chef Ogden came out to a standing ovation and we toasted a miraculous meal in a stunning facility and planned to come back and eat again. The Bay View Restaurant at Inn at Morro Bay overlooks the panoramic setting of the bay as well as ancient Morro rock. This is a restaurant and property you can always count on, just across from the golf course and looking out on the back bay estuary. The dining room features the freshest seafood directly from Morro Bay’s fishing boats, Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef and the best produce from local growers all prepared with California Cuisine flair. They are open for special events like weddings, Christmas and celebratory parties. Dinner is served Friday and Saturday only. Full Breakfast is served daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The Inn at Morro Bay is located at 60 State Park Road in Morro Bay or call 805-772-5651 for reservations.