Ever have one of those days where you just need some sun? Being raised in the Central Valley, where there is an abundance of sunshine, I have found that Monterey’s cooler coastal climate has been taken a toll on my mood. On a particularly cloudy, and moody, day I decided to ditch the mist and head for warmer weather. Carmel Valley Ranch is one place in particular where I know I can almost always get my fix of Vitamin D as well as an awesome fresh lunch. Carmel Valley Ranch Entrance to Carmel Valley Ranch The drive to Carmel Valley is always a visual treat. As I cruised east through Carmel Valley Road the clouds began to dissipate as I passed several golf courses, ranches, vineyards and wineries. After a few minutes of the lovely jaunt I veered off of the main road onto Robinson Canyon Road where I approached Carmel Valley Ranch’s main gate. Most people don’t realize that this amazing playground behind the gate is open to everyone, not just those staying at the property. I told the friendly attendant my lunch plans and continued on up Old Ranch Road. The Organic Garden at Carmel Valley Ranch Once on the stretch of scenic road I made a few twists and turns through Carmel Valley Ranch’s scenic golf course, apiary, vineyards and organic garden until reaching the main lobby and restaurant. As I reached the top my car’s weather gauge read 82 degrees, which was 21 degrees warmer than Monterey; I was in heaven! My dining companion and I traveled through the main lobby and headed towards the restaurant. The cheery hostess (most be from all of the sun) asked where we would like to be seated; outdoors of course! Outdoor Seating at the Lodge Restaurant at Carmel Valley Ranch Several tables and comfy chairs were up for grabs, including a larger seating area surrounding a fire pit. It was a bit too hot for a bonfire but I could definitely see my self coming back at night for some smores! Ultimately we opted for a nearby table beside the pool. Menu at Carmel Valley Ranch's Lodge Restaurant As I was basking in the valley sunlight I began to daydream about lounging in the neighboring infinity pool until the waitress reminded us that we needed to order. I glanced at the menu and was thrilled to see so many tasty options using primarily local and organic ingredients. The list of salads certainly jumped out at me and I couldn’t decide between the seared Ahi Niçoise salad or the grilled achiote prawn salad. After much deliberation I finally settled on the grilled achiote prawn salad and my fellow diner ordered the brioche grilled cheese sandwich with Portobello mushrooms. Fresh Potato Chips While waiting for our lunches we downed several glasses of fabulous iced tea and munched away on the complimentary homemade potato chips. The salty and crispy spuds were certainly addicting! Adam, one of the chefs even stopped by our table to share some of his expertise about the menu and its ingredients. Carmel Valley Ranch works with an artillery of local food purveyors for the freshest seafood, meats and produce in the area. He also noted that from 2pm-5pm you can usually spot one of the chef’s in the adjacent organic garden picking away at herbs, fruits and vegetables for the night’s meal, truly a farm-to-table experience. Grillled Achiote Prawn Salad My colorful salad arrived with a healthy allotment of fresh greens, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, creamy avocados and spiced prawns. I first tested the side of citrus-lime vinaigrette. The spicy and light concoction would even make a rubber boot taste delicious! I slathered on a decent amount of the dressing and was quite pleased with the burst of combined flavors. The prawns were grilled to perfection and the achiote seasoning gave it just the right amount of kick. Luckily the creamy avocados and cool greens simmered my taste buds down a bit. Brioche Grilled Cheese with Portobello Mushrooms My friend’s grilled cheese didn’t look half bad either. A hefty dose of Portobello mushrooms were embedded in the oozing layer of gruyere cheese between two slices of buttery and fluffy French bread. This was served up with a side of salad that looked as thought it was just harvested. He said it was “delightful.” We opted out of desserts since “a quick dip in the pool” was not on the menu. My afternoon trip to Carmel Valley Ranch was just what I needed. I returned back to the Monterey Peninsula rejuvenated, refueled and in a much better mood.