Herb Caen, the revered San Francisco Chronicle journalist, knew what he was talking about while gazing at the Golden Gate bridge saying, "The mystical structure, with its perfect amalgam of delicacy and power, exerts an uncanny effect […] It is an object to be contemplated for hours." Caen noted this in one of his articles dating to 1987. Mike Freed and Peter Heinemann, best friends and operators of the acclaimed Post Ranch Inn, must agree. In 2008, Freed opened the Cavallo Point Lodge, a spectacular, charming property with unmatched views of the "copper-haired vixen." I journeyed to San Francisco to discover for myself the allure of the Golden Great Bridge and the perfect place to admire it: the Cavallo Point Lodge.
The Cavallo Point Lodge occupies an unusual parcel of ten acres within the Golden Gate National Park in Sausalito. The site, known as Fort Baker, was a former U.S. Army post that guarded the bridge and later became a site for officers' residences. A rim of the massive white wooden homes and their matching red roofs form the charming semi-circle avenue of the lodge. All along this rim, guests can pause and marvel at the bridge displayed proudly on clear days above the pine hillsides, and just to the right of is the distant shoreline of downtown San Francisco.
The view is sublime for both city-lovers and nature-seekers. The quiet of the forest envelopes the lodge and its natural residents (deer and bobcats); the city’s skyscrapers appear like shimmering gray icicles from such a distance. One early morning I sat on the porch of the lodge's cozy restaurant, sipping tea and admiring the fog that shrouded all but the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge. But any time of day, is ideal to relish the special setting of Cavallo Point Lodge.
Each of the former officers' homes have been meticulously renovated but maintain their historical charms. Wrap-around porches, shuttered windows, and fantastic wood flooring recall a sumptuous bygone era. I loved the homey touches within my room — organic towels, lavender satchels, and handmade soaps — kept the mood inviting and intimate. The spacious homes, each divided into a few separate rooms, are favored by large bridal parties and families alike. Guests can also bring their dogs that are pampered with locally made organic doggie treats and bedding by Blueblood Living.
For modern-décor aficionados, the contemporary accommodations along the hillside cannot be missed. These rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows that capture every inch of the magnificent views. Bamboo furnishings and wide fireplaces give these rooms an atmosphere of restfulness.
Guests are encouraged by the warm staff to partake in an array of resort amenities. A great one is the daily shuttle that zips guests (free of bridge fees) to Union Square or over the hillside to the quaint Sausalito area. The tea bar, part of the award-winning Healing Arts Center and Spa, must be tried as well. Sipping organic tea or a health tonic under the forest canopy of the spa is a sweet moment for reflection.
The lodge’s restaurant is usually bustling; which isn’t due just to the lodge’s guests, but to the locals who flock regularly over to Cavallo Point to savor the seasonal creations of Executive Chef Justin Everett. A Thomas Keller trained chef, Everett is a savant of the season’s harvests, crafting his menus from whatever nature gives him in abundance. The result is a short but superb menu with an impressive diversity of flavors. This is likely due to Everett’s unyielding commitment to locally-sourced, in-season ingredients.
Our delightful server entreated us to prepare for our salmon and steak entrees, and to go easy on the brown raisin bread made that day. The warm tomato soup was so fresh, the tomatoes must have been plucked from the vine that afternoon. Thank goodness we heeded her advice; the delicately poached salmon rimmed with eggplant caviar, light corn fritters, and divine corn pudding melted in our mouths. My steak, locally grown from the Five Dot Ranch was perfect. The summer squash and wheat berry dressings artfully balanced the wood-flavored meat. While the sun set on the porch deck of the restaurant, we moved onto tea and a chocolate trio.
Cavallo Point lived up to our expectations and further deepened our love of the Bay Area and it’s Golden Gate Bridge.