Making WavesAuthor:Anh-Minh Le
With fairytale-like cottages and white-sand beaches, not to mention world-class golfing and scenic 17-Mile Drive in the vicinity, Carmel is a singular destination. Complementing its long-standing charms is a spate of fresh places that are enlivening the region’s shopping, eating and drinking scene.
While Ocean Avenue—the commercial district’s thoroughfare—is populated with stores and art galleries, the side streets are buzzing as well. For mementos such as cozy sweatshirts and cool mugs with area- specific graphics, stop by Somewhere in Carmel. In addition to clothing and home goods, pick up books and stationery.
The sporty and stylish crowd, take note: Carmel Surf Shop and Malbon Golf opened last year, across the street from each other. (Malbon is expanding into an adjacent storefront in early 2024.) Close by is interior designer Alexis Smith’s Shop Shoshin, which also debuted in 2022, purveying beautiful home-related things from the likes of Ortigia Sicilia, Schumacher and the Lacquer Company, plus antique and vintage discoveries. Japanese brand Visvim chose a spot a few doors down for its latest shop—only its third in the U.S.
At Carmel Plaza, House of Cardoon proprietor (and former Pottery Barn buyer) Nora Lee Cavallaro curates a colorful array of decorative items, with far-flung finds in the mix (think: napkin rings handwoven in Colombia in fun motifs like flamingos and rainbows). In the same shopping center, Arhaus Studio—proffering design services and furniture—launched a few years ago.
To combat cooler temps, pop into Tejido, which specializes in textiles woven in Peru; the alpaca shag bomber and fisherwoman coat are among its bestsellers. Jewelry, ceramics and myriad artful items are stocked. “In 2020, Tejido Collective was created in an effort to showcase craftspeople and artisan, small-batch creations,” says co-owner Shanti Rackley, who opened her first store in Carmel Valley that year with Taira Hustedt, and then a Carmel-by-the-Sea sequel in 2021.
SIP AND SAVOR
Carmel now has a pair of one-Michelin-starred restaurants. Recently joining Aubergine in achieving that honor is Jonny and Monique Black’s Chez Noir, which turned one in October and offers a four-course coastal-inflected tasting menu.
Other noteworthy husband-and-wife ventures: Michael Chang and Caroline Singer’s year-old Foray, a fine-dining restaurant that serves modern American cuisine with an emphasis on West Coast ingredients; and, on the more casual front, Anthony and Alissa Carnazzo’s Stationæry, which has a take-away window and a wine shop next door, too.
Although there are plenty of tasting rooms in Carmel, consider a trip to nearby Carmel Valley to sample Pelio Estate’s award-winning wines. Sisters Lindsey and Shelby Pelio enlisted the Backen & Backen architectural firm and Hawkins Interiors for the refined yet rustic venue that debuted this past spring. “The space is super special,” says Shelby.
Indeed, details include buttons in the “rosé pergolas” that allow guests to order glasses at will. It’s also worth the short drive to downtown Monterey for Ben Spungin’s neighboring establishments, housed in historic adobes: Alta Bakery & Cafe and Cella Restaurant & Bar. Earlier this year, celebrated toque Cal Stamenov was named executive chef of the latter.
Avi Brosh and Kirsten Leigh Pratt, the couple behind Palisociety, introduced their Le Petit Pali brand in July with two outposts in Carmel, two blocks apart. In founding Palisociety in Los Angeles in 1998, Brosh recalls, the intent was “highly personalized, creative and comfortable” boutique hotels.
Le Petit Pali, he adds, is “a deeper dive into detail, luxury touches and a really personal interpretation of the signature aesthetic and style we’ve become known for.” It operates more like a bed and breakfast, with locations planned outside of the company’s typical city center sites. The concept revolves around a “vacation-focused getaway appeal, so we have our eye on some of the state’s most stunning destinations,” Brosh says. Next up: Laguna Beach and L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood.
Elsewhere in Carmel, the new 26-room Carmel Beach Hotel boasts proximity to the Pacific, along with a spa and fitness studio. The culinary program is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Justin Cogley, who also helms Aubergine, at L’Auberge Carmel (both the restaurant and the hotel underwent a refresh at the start of 2023).
Not far from Carmel Beach Hotel are two remarkable residences: a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed dwelling (on Scenic Road) and Robinson Jeffers’ stone Tor House (which is open for tours). Upon arriving in the area in 1914, the poet wrote that as he and his wife, Una, “looked down through pines and sea fogs on Carmel Bay, it was evident that we had come without knowing it to our inevitable place.” Spend any amount of time here and it’s easy to understand why Jeffers was so inspired by Carmel.