Column: Birthdays

by flaunt

Who Wants Cake When You Can Have A New Hotel?
It’s believed that the Romans were the first civilization to celebrate the birthday of your average Joe. Previously, Egyptians had celebrated the coronation of the pharaohs (AKA when they became gods) with huge city-shutting-down celebrations, and after that, the Greeks (a slightly more practical people) celebrated the lunar goddess Artemis by putting candles on a moon-shaped cake. Having three types of dies natales, “Roman men and women marked their own birthdays and the birthdays of family members and friends with gift giving and banquets.”1 While it’s hard to say whether the Romans ever considered that their little parties would ever lead to North West’s million-dollar second birthday, these days, the birthday is an institution that is widely acknowledged and accepted as an excuse to gather your friends, eat, and drink.

For it’s 100th birthday this year, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands—a 48-room luxury retreat nestled into the mountains above the quaint Californian coastal city (known for it’s laws prohibiting ice cream and high-heels, as well as for having Clint Eastwood as a mayor in the late ‘80s)—is celebrating with an extensive remodel of the guest rooms and their award-winning restaurant Pacific’s Edge. Having acquired a new executive chef (Chad Minton, formerly of the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton) and executive sous chef (Alvaro Dalmau, the celebrated Argentinian formerly of Andaz 5th Avenue), the restaurant is shifting its focus to showcasing the bounty of fresh produce and seafood that the Central Coast is known for.

Arriving on a Sunday along with a cabal of journalists, we were shuttled to the Holman Ranch estate, a former “gentleman’s retreat” which is now a private event space, and the provider of Pacific Edge’s house wines. Touring the sustainable grounds with winemaker Nick Elliott (whose wife Hunter is the property’s events coordinator and daughter of owners Thomas and Jarman Lowder) we learnt of the Ranch’s history of hosting Golden-age Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford, and Marlon Brando.

One of the charming particularities of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is that every room in the hotel has a sea view. After lunch we were shepherded through the labyrinthine grounds to our rooms, which, post-renovation, are equipped with a stadium-sized bathtub, full kitchen, balcony, and fireplace. It is a rare luxury to get any free time on a press trip, but we were allotted a couple of hours after lunch to enjoy the rooms and the property, which is perched on a gentle slope leading towards a jagged section of coastline dotted with Monterey cypress. Flipping a coin to decide whether to stay in and enjoy the facilities (i.e. take a bath) or to venture down to the coast, I lost and was forced to endure a picturesque hike down to the sea. After heaving ourselves back up to the room, we changed quickly, and headed for dinner, where an octopus Carpaccio with something resembling homemade Corn Nuts and cilantro was the most memorable course, with rest similarly tasty, though clouded by the delicious Holman Ranch wine pairings.

After dinner, cordials and cigars were offered on an outside deck, hinting at what’s to come when the renovations are complete and the dining area expands to a large deck overlooking the ocean. After having been bad and indulging in a Cuban—which, despite the embargo lift is still not technically legal—I finally had my way and sunk into the palatial tub, feeling every bit as lucky as North West—content in the knowledge that our every need was taken care of.

As Kanye West wisely stated in his verse on 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song:” “It's my birthday, I deserve to be greedy huh?”

1 K. Argetsinger. “Birthday Rituals: Friends and Patrons in Roman Poetry and Cult” (1992, Oct.) Classical Antiquity. Published by: University of California Press.

Written by Amy Marie Slocum