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Sunday, September 10, 2017

28 August, 2017 - Postcard from the Edge: A Journey to Big Sur's Post Ranch Inn

Slow Living radio journeys to the iconic Post Ranch Inn on Big Sur's breathtaking coastline, a spectacular sanctuary to slow down and revive, be inspired and reflect. General Manager Kevin Geanides shares the ethos and essence of the property before we are joined by Executive Chef Elizabeth Murray and Pastry Chef Ben Spungin, who give us a taste of Big Sur cuisine from the inn's acclaimed restaurant, Sierra Mar.

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Perched on the clifftops 1200 above the Pacific Ocean
(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

General Manager Kevin Geanides

Elizabeth Murray
Executive Chef

(photo: Sherman Chu)
Elizabeth Murray is the executive chef at the highly acclaimed Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn Big Sur, Calif. Chef Elizabeth Murray’s cooking style inspires palettes with Big Sur refined dining infused with a mosaic of cultural influences, informed by her extensive background melding country craftsmanship and European technique.

Chef Murray’s unique culinary philosophy originated with her country upbringing in a small community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where she learned to embrace the authenticity of home-style cooking techniques that emphasize the true essence of ingredients’ natural flavors.

After completing her coursework, Chef Murray enhanced her skills by working as a sous chef at Josephines in Flagstaff, Arizona and then George’s at the Cove in San Diego, Calif. From there, Chef Murray took her training overseas, where she had the opportunity to fine-tune her preparation techniques working at Michelin-star restaurants throughout Europe, including Hedone in London, England, Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark and Pappacarbone in Cava di Tierreni, Italy.
Before she became Sierra Mar’s executive chef, Chef Murray’s rich passion for Post Ranch Inn and Big Sur began during her position as Sierra Mar’s Chef de Cuisine, a role she held for three years.
Chef Murray’s recipes embody flavor profiles of the Big Sur Coast combined with her high-end Michelin status preparation. With one foot in Sierra Mar’s organic garden and one foot in the kitchen, Chef Elizabeth delivers new takes on classic dishes, sourcing seasonal ingredients and enhancing the true essence of each flavor. By evoking all five senses during her guests’ culinary experience, Chef Murray aspires to do her part in creating a lasting memory of their time at Post Ranch Inn.

Sierra Mar Restaurant
(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Ben Spungin
Pastry Chef 

(photo: Sherman Chu)
Ben Spungin is the pastry chef at the highly acclaimed Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn.  

While training at the New England Culinary Institute, where he earned his Associates degree, Chef Spungin participated in an internship at the Magnolia Grill in Durham under James Beard award-winning Chefs Ben and Karen Barker. After completing school, Chef Spungin worked at the highly acclaimed French Laundry under Pastry Chef Stephen Durfee and Pastry Sous Shuna Lydon. 

Having worked at Post Ranch Inn previously in 2000, where he quickly developed a keen interest in working with wild and foraged ingredients, Chef Ben Spungin then moved on to become the Pastry Chef at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, Calif. followed by a position at Coastal Luxury Management as the Corporate Executive Pastry Chef. During his eight years at the Bernardus Lodge, Chef Spungin worked alongside highly esteemed Chef Cal Stamenov to develop pastry creations that complemented the region’s signature coastal cuisine. This opportunity helped him build relationships with many local foragers and farmers to create dishes that reflect the region’s
bold, seasonal flavors.  

Now, using vast expertise and local focus, Chef Spungin comes back full circle by rejoining the Sierra Mar culinary team at Post Ranch Inn.  

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

About Post Ranch Inn
High atop the cliffs of Big Sur, 1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, sits Post Ranch Inn, a sanctuary for the soul. Located along California’s Highway One, known as one of the world’s most scenic drives, Post Ranch is set amongst majestic state parks, beaches and waterfalls. Recognized as one of the top luxury resorts in the country and the only hotel in Big Sur able to offer an ocean view, Post Ranch offers the ultimate destination for romance, relaxation and rejuvenation.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Post Ranch Inn has 40 architecturally innovative guest rooms and suites placed along the ridge that parallels the Pacific Ocean. Each guest accommodation offers a unique, luxurious experience with views of either ocean or mountain scenery. Room designs use earth tones with an emphasis on natural and sustainable materials, with custom furniture, rugs hand-woven by indigenous weavers and reclaimed wood, including old- growth redwood from wine casks, re-milled to create rich wood wall panels. The organic hues, textures, and extensive collection of original art inside the rooms blend seamlessly with the scenic beauty of the outdoors.

With a deck suspended over the western edge of the ridge, the vast ocean views of the extraordinary Cliff Houses can be fully appreciated from the outdoor spa tub and large terrace, the indoor bath and the secluded glass-walled bedroom. The spacious curved interiors of the Pacific Suites open to an astonishing ocean view seen from the terrace, living room, bedroom and bath. Each suite is 960 square feet, with two suites in each two- story building. The location of the Peak Houses display an expansive view of the Santa Lucia Range. Guests enter through an enclosed courtyard to the secluded bedroom designed with custom-built furniture and a hot tub on the private terrace.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

The Ocean Houses boast a curved, beamed roof covered with a soft carpet of grass, with private ocean views enjoyed from the terrace, bath and bedroom. Each circular-shaped Coast House provides a comfortable seating area in front of the replace and glorious ocean views. The Tree Houses, triangular in shape, are elevated 9 feet off the ground on stilts, with stairway entrances. The Mountain House rooms are circular in design and o er views of dramatic mountain peaks. The Butterfly rooms are housed in a building designed to look like a butter y with outstretched wings. Each room has a king- sized bed, wood-burning replace, indoor spa tub and deluxe shower, private deck, stereo and digital music system and complimentary wireless Internet access. Guest rooms are generously stocked with a complimentary mini bar offering snacks, spring water from the property on-site in reusable glass bottles, and non-alcoholic drinks as well as a half bottle of both red and white wine. 

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Providing pristine coastal views and elegant amenities, Post Ranch Inn unveiled the Post House in 2015. The 1,800 square foot open-concept interior features a kitchen with designer appliances and skylight, a dining room with custom-designed formal dining table and chairs, a media room, master bedroom and master bathroom, and living room. The master bedroom features clear coastal views and the master bathroom offers tranquility featuring radiant heated slate flooring, a large rain shower with stone flooring and an oversized bathtub. The living room and master bedroom feature sliding glass doors to the 1300 square foot back yard and patio area that offers expansive coastal views, complete with a multi-person hot tub.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Sierra Mar Restaurant

Guests experience the vast Pacific sunset from the renowned Sierra Mar Restaurant. A complimentary gourmet buffet breakfast is served exclusively for overnight guests, with lunch and dinner available to the public by reservation. Under Executive Chef Elizabeth Murray, Sierra Mar presents guests with an unconventional new dining experience, showcasing unique and inquisitive food creations. Her dishes feature bold, primal flavors along with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Sierra Mar offers a nine-course Taste of Big Sur tasting menu, with optional wine pairing, as well as the more traditional four-course prix fixe menu which changes nightly.

Sierra Mar boasts one of the largest wine selections in North America, with over 14,000 bottles. Having earned Wine Spectator’s prestigious Grand Award the past four years, the wine director places strong emphasis on both Old and New World wines from Europe to Australia and from California to Washington, as well as classic to small artisan producers.

Complimentary activities include yoga and meditation classes, guided nature hikes and garden tours and nightly star gazing on the deck at Sierra Mar using a computerized 12-inch Meade telescope. Post Ranch has one of the largest hotel telescopes in the U.S., and Big Sur offers some of the clearest atmospheric conditions for viewing the stars, nebulas, and even the rings of Saturn.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Swimming and Basking Pools
Two therapeutically heated basking pools, each with an infinity edge overlooking the Pacific, offer spectacular places to soak and take in the magnificent seascape. The swimming pool is located on a sunny knoll in a meadow with mountain views and is perfect for a refreshing plunge, swimming laps or relaxing poolside.

Award-winning spa treatments are designed to relax and rejuvenate using the healing properties of nature. Treatments are done in guest rooms or in the spa, which includes two couple’s spa suites, one with a replace, the other with a walk-in shower. Among the wide range of nurturing treatments available at the spa, there is the very unique Shaman Journey session. In the sacred and safe space of the medicine wheel, a shaman engages the forces of nature and the ancient wisdom of the ancestors to help create lasting changes for physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Couples Suite at The Spa
(photo: Kodiak Greenewood)

The Post Gallery
Located next to the Chef’s Garden, The Post Gallery showcases a range of new art including photography, sculptures, jewelry and more. Exhibits change throughout the year, providing the chance to display the art of talented artists in and around the Big Sur community while offering fresh and interesting perspectives of the world around us.

Green Design & Architecture
The hotel’s organic architecture embraces the striking beauty of the coastline. Each structure on the 100-acre property reflects dramatic lines and contemporary styling while blending into the landscape naturally. In addition to their distinctive look, the dwellings themselves represent an innovative green building approach, featuring bio-structure architecture and using natural materials of glass, wood, stone and COR-TEN steel, and, when possible, passive solar heat. The architects’ design was intended to make onlookers feel like a part of nature, not just observers of it. Every environmental aspect was carefully considered: for example, the earth-sheltered guesthouses capture passive heating and cooling, and the small footprint of the stilts which support the tree houses protects the fragile roots of the ancient redwood and oak trees.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Other green initiatives include using hybrid Lexus vehicles to transport guests around the property; water is pumped on- site and bottled into renewable glass bottles; landscaping uses native plants and is drought-resistant. In addition, the grounds provide a habitat for the endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly, California Red-Legged Frog, Western Pond Turtle and California Condor.

Solar Array
In 2009, the hotel switched on a 990-panel solar array, the largest hotel solar project in California and one of the largest in the U.S. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the system is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 611,000 pounds annually. That is equivalent to removing over 50 vehicles from the road or serving nearly 39 U.S. households’ electricity needs.

(photo: Kodiak Greenwood)

Post Ranch’s history reaches back generations. The inn opened in 1992 on the site of the Post family’s cattle ranch, which was homesteaded in the 1860s by William Brainard Post and his Native American wife, Anselma. The inn was built with the assistance of Bill Post, great-grandson of the original homesteaders, and his partners.

The late Bill Post
(photo: Holger Leue)
Post Ranch Inn is located along the Big Sur coast, between San Luis Obispo and Monterey - off of Highway 1, just 30 miles south of Carmel, Calif. Located 330 miles north of Los Angeles and 150 miles south of San Francisco, the nearest airport is in Monterey (about 1 hour driving).

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