Monday, February 06, 2006

PRADE's Valentine's Day Advice: Dinner With A View

In honor of next week's overcommercialized yet mandatory occasion for spoiling your loved one, PRADE offers a foolproof plan for impressing your special someone. Take them for a drive along the coast of California to a memorable spot tucked away in the heart of Big Sur called Nepenthe.

Perched on a hilltop in Big Sur, high above the crashing surf of the Pacific ocean is Nepenthe, a restaurant that is as breathtaking as it is romantic, and as historically compelling as it is warm and inviting.

Interior of Nepenthe (image via JRabold.net)

Nepenthe has been serving delicious dinner with a view for over 50 years. The property was purchased in 1947 from Hollywood legends Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, who originally bought the property as a romantic getaway but never spent a single night there. The vision of the new owners, Bill and Lolly Fassett, was to transform the site into a unique, open air venue for dining and dancing under the stars. Taking cues from Frank Lloyd Wright's popular style, the pavilion-shaped restaurant was erected from local redwoods and handmade adobe bricks. However, the most important feature of the building was not what lay within the walls, but what surrounded Nepenthe from without . . . a sweeping panoramic view of the Pacific coast surrounded by Big Sur's towering forests and crisp sea air.

And Nepenthe knows how to make the most of the views, with the majority of the dining space located on wooden decks that skirt the exterior of the building and face the never-ending blue of the Pacific ocean. It also features a large, outdoor fire pit surrounded by comfortable cushions from which to soak up the expansive night sky.

View from the exterior deck.

The restaurant has attracted a variety of visitors, from writers and artists to Hollywood types. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton danced on the open air stone patio in their 1963 film The Sandpiper, and writer Henry Miller was known to take a ping pong lashing from owner Bill Fassett. But in the case of Nepenthe, it isn't the big names or the storied history that are the draw, it is the instant atmosphere created by watching a Californian sunset while perched high among the trees, with the sound of the waves below and a cozy fire to keep you warm.

Filming The Sandpiper in 1963.

Nepenthe is located along Highway 1, a half hour drive south of Monterey. You can check out the view from the deck at all times with Nepethe's webcam, and find dining information on their site.

PRADE's Valentine's Advice: If dinner at Nepenthe doesn't impress your loved one . . . nothing will. Dump 'em and move on.

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