I’ve been to more than a few super swanky golf courses and never been all that impressed with the food. At Porter’s in the Forest, Executive Chef Johnny De Vivo has changed that, and raised the bar – utilizing locally sourced ingredients in Monterey, and with the salad bowl of the world, Salinas Valley, just an hour away, he creates some amazing new dishes that will have even the most discerning foodie salivating.
What I remember about Porter’s in the Forest: the service was friendly and casual, sitting outside under a a clear blue California sky, being surrounded by the green of the golf course and the forest, and the waiter bringing me dish after dish of food so colorful, fresh and flavorful, I can still close my eyes and visual every vibrant detail.
Golf and gourmet dining may seem like an improbable duo, but at Porter’s in the Forest, the newly remodeled restaurant at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, they are perfectly in sync.
Let me get straight to the food.
The first dish I tried was a simple pasta – fettuccine with olive oil, fresh basil, garlic, and tomatoes. If you’ve been following my blog at all, I know you probably think I love anything Italian. I do (almost), but I wouldn’t lie to you (and I’m picky). Chef De Vivo’s pasta was molto buono. It was fresh, light, and the perfect Italian-sized serving.
Next I tried the arugula salad: pears, pomegranates, almonds, Midnight Moon goat cheese, and pear vinaigrette. It was as pleasing to look at as it was to eat.
The charred cauliflower with pine nuts was just the right amount of crunch. I often think cruciferous veggies are either over- or under-cooked. In my opinion, both distract from the flavors. This was perfect.
Finally, Chef wanted me to try the seafood soup with the house-made kimchi. I admit I was skeptical. I was afraid it would be too spicy for me. Turned out, that soup is the dish that I remember the most. Filled with fresh seafood, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams, baby bok choy, fennel, and the kimchi, it was very subtle, and had a big punch of flavor but no serious heat.
Formerly the chef at world-reknowned Casanova in Carmel, when asked why he left for the restaurant at Poppy Hills, De Vivo said, “I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m ready for the challenge, to create something new, farm-to-table. Casanova and La Biciclette already had phenomenal names. To come in and create something on my own is very exciting. “Chef De Vivo plans to make it” the top restaurant on a golf course anywhere.”
De Vivo calls his new cuisine “California Artisanal,” and uses local and regional products and makes everything in-house. De Vivo takes that philosophy to heart, producing fresh bacon by smoking whole pork bellies, churning heavy cream into butter to slather on fresh-baked bread, and making his own kimchi, his own ketchup, and his own pickles.
Never fear if your idea of a great lunch is a burger and a beer, that’s on the menu too, but elevated, with house-made bacon and local craft beers on tap.
There’s also an extensive and original wine and cocktail menu.
The outdoor seating has a lovely view of the golf course and the Del Monte forest – Porter’s in the Forest is aptly named. Cozy seating around space heaters keeps it comfortable on chilly days. Indoors, the dining room seems larger than it really is due to the vaulted ceiling, but the professional staff keeps it from feeling impersonal.
Porter’s in the Forest is located just off of the famous 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. It costs ten dollars for non-residents to enter, but you can redeem your receipt for a cocktail or glass of wine at the restaurant. If you’re just visiting, it’s easy enough to take a tour of 17 Mile Drive and eat at Porter’s on the same day.
Visit Porter’s in the Forest for breakfast, lunch, or a special twilight menu served until 7:00 pm. For now at least, Porter’s in the Forest is not open for dinner. Go early, have a drink, hang out and enjoy Chef Johnny De Vivo’s “made with love” gastronomic creations.
For reservations, menus, and directions visit Porter’s in the Forest.
Poppy Hills Golf Course
3200 Lopez Rd.
Pebble Beach, California
My meal at Porter’s in the Forest was sponsored by See Monterey, however this content is strictly editorial. If I don’t like it, you won’t read about it.