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Thursday, February 21, 2013

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By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Staying at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, California, is like having a friend at the Bolshoi, or camping at the Louvre. How else can I convey a feeling of being so incredibly close to one of the beloved international landmarks – San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge? 

I am not talking about the usual 15-minute touristy reverence paid to the icon by riding a car or a bike, or lingering at a designated observation terrace. Consider an overnight stay at Fort Baker in the Marin headlands by the north end of the Bridge. Historically a military base guarding the gateway to the port of San Francisco, now an upscale retreat at the national park, Cavallo Point  
Lodge is sure to awe you with the unparalleled views of the Bridge and the city skyline; luxurious accommodations; healing spa services, and culinary delights.
Barely five years in existence, this unique hotel is set within Golden Gate National Parks, and occupies several charming white-walled red-roofed Colonial Revival cottages standing in a horseshoe around a manicured green lawn – formerly the parade ground.

Those are the officers’ quarters from 1901-1915, now lovingly restored with their wide wooden staircases, patterned tin ceilings, and spacious front porches.   
The newest guest buildings, climbing up a hillside beyond the lawn, offer the most magnificent views of the Bridge through their glass walls. 

These contemporary rooms and suites are beautifully appointed in sunny hues of golden-yellow and burnt orange. Their main feature and a sure sign of the new century is sustainability in design and construction, what with solar power, radiant heat floors, bamboo wall panels and furniture, and organic cotton bedding.
After a short walk to a nearby pier or the cement remnants of the fort battery, swept clean with the salty Pacific wind, nothing can be as pleasing as a visit to the Lodge’s Healing Arts Center & Spa, designed to blend various relaxation techniques with the indoor-outdoor concept pertinent to California living. Even though it was windy and chilly on the night my husband and I stayed at Cavallo Point, I thoroughly enjoyed an outdoor hot tub under a fragrant eucalyptus tree, followed by a cup of lavender-lemon tea by a fireplace at the spa Tea Bar.
Then it was time for dinner, which presented us with yet another opportunity to be awed and amazed. Murray Circle, occupying first floor and a front porch in one of the historic buildings of its namesake road, is a signature restaurant of Cavallo Point – well worth a drive even from San Francisco – the undisputed culinary capital of the West. Luckily, the drive is rather short – just across the Bridge, illuminated like a dream against the silhouettes of the city’s tall buildings at night.
After a pair of skillfully made cocktails (Salty Dog and Mary Pickford) our amuse bouche of a plump petite Kumamoto oyster in Champagne mignonette was followed by an array of wondrous dishes, one tastier than the next, created by the Executive Chef Justin Everett and his talented team.
Awarded a Michelin star for three consecutive years, Murray Circle combines French cuisine sophistication with California’s seasonal bounty. Sausalito Dungeness crab, coming from the ocean steps away from the restaurant, is served with sunflower salad, a shot of bisque, and espelette aioli, and makes a memorable appetizer as well as grilled meaty trumpet mushrooms with roasted kabocha squash, Bellwether Farms carmody cheese and arugula.   
Chef Justin puts on the menu complex plates comprised of locally sourced ingredients, like house-smoked pork shank garnished with California wild rice, sweet and tender broccoli di ciccio, leafy Treviso, and crispy gremolata made with fresh dark-green parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.
Another main course masterpiece is pink and succulent duck breast a la plancha, served with fried-edge spaetzle, miniature duck liver meatballs, shavings of fresh apple, arugula, and whole-grain mustard.
Delicate desserts by pastry chef Ethan Howardinclude Red Velvet “roulade” made with beet caramel and served with butter macadamia nut ice cream; house-made chocolate-covered hazelnuts, caramel popcorn, and chocolate caramels.
In addition to exquisite meat, seafood, and veggie selections, the restaurant provides specialized meals, accommodating guests’ dietary requests. More than a quarter of the menu is dairy and gluten-free, and all of it is excitingly delicious.
Whatever the reason might be your visit to Cavallo Point is sure to grant plenty of nourishment for the body and soul.      
Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate is located at 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, CA. Call for information: 415-339-4700; for reservations: 415-339-4750, or visit  


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