One of Fallbrook’s crown jewels has just added two more gems to its impressive collection. The Grand Tradition now offers self-guided tours of its lush, colorful public gardens and has opened The Veranda Restaurant to provide a magnificent lunchtime experience.
“It is rewarding to be able to offer something this unique in Fallbrook,” said Mark McDougal, grandson of founders Beverly and Earl McDougal. “I’m very excited about our growth and how much we’ve been able to accomplish this past year. In essence, we have gone from a private event facility to a public estate.”
Mark, his grandparents, and parents, Don and Pat McDougal, should be pleased; the additions to the popular 25-acre wedding and special event compound are a dynamic step to support Fallbrook tourism. The pristine grounds and lush landscaping have served bridal couples and organizations well and earned notable mention industry-wide, but now that the gardens have been expanded and connected to enable public access, it provides a new destination for enjoyment for those near and far.
“Pat and I have visited many public gardens,” explained Don. “What I have found satisfying is that our first visitors to the gardens are saying ‘Wow! I didn’t know it was so magnificent here.’ People have validated for us that we have created something that is worth coming to see.”
Many locals, who have family and friends come from out of town for a visit, have said the opportunity to bring them to the new public gardens is not only convenient, but gives them a source of pride in their community.
“For those who like to stay in town but feel there isn’t a lot to do here, it provides a good choice,” Mark said.
“We definitely feel we have the beginning of a destination here,” Don added. “We are already getting visitors from all over Southern California.”
Don explained that the international desire for public gardens continues to grow.
“Garden tourism is a fast growing thing; it is amazing how popular it is and we think it is an ideal fit for us,” he said.
Mark explained that the gardens will change with the seasons so that visitors can look forward to coming back and viewing new plantings throughout the year.
“We will feature themes unique to fall, winter, spring and summer,” Mark said. “There will constantly be new varieties of plants to look at. It’s like an art project in the garden.”
With the complexities and volume of plant material used, Mark explained that an elaborate numbering system is in place so growers can prepare plantings for specific locations. In addition, all plantings are mapped and soil samples are kept in a data base. It now takes 12 full time landscape workers to maintain the grounds.
“We are currently using Proven Winners for our plant material because they are outstanding for signature gardens,” Mark explained. “As a matter of fact, in the spring we will have some of their new 2014 varieties on display that other [facility operators] will be coming in to see.”
Walking maps are provided to visitors in order to guide them through the meandering collection of gardens, waterfalls, ponds, and special installations that provide beautiful vistas to view throughout the property.
On the heels of opening the public gardens, the McDougal family officially launched The Veranda Restaurant on Sept. 17, which has set a new standard for Fallbrook.
The lunchtime dining atmosphere boasts a magnificent view in that all dining is alfresco on the long, covered veranda that looks out on the pristine, picturesque lake. Extensive renovations were made to the veranda to insure an optimal setting.
“We wanted to really capture the best atmosphere we could and the veranda was the best choice,” said Kristine Gottsch, director of marketing. “We wanted to provide a relaxing environment, where people can take their time.”
“We were originally thinking about having the restaurant inside one of the garden areas, but we realized the veranda featured a view you can’t match anywhere,” Don added. However, for those who wish to dine picnic-style in one of the gardens, the restaurant offers boxed lunches for that purpose.
The menu, featuring garden fresh and deliciously wholesome fare is coupled with carefully attentive service, and a peaceful environ. Undoubtedly the recipe for success is in place.
As many respected restaurants have started doing, The Veranda has its own bountiful produce garden on the property in order to provide the freshest local vegetables and fruits in their cuisine.
A charming European touch is the presentation of a complementary crisp crudite tray to welcome diners as they take their time perusing the menu.
The menu features four or five different salad choices and the same number of sandwich options. Side dish choices include: fresh pea salad, house-made potato chips, fresh cut French fries, fresh fruit, potato salad, and more. Entrées are priced from $9 to $12 and customers are welcome to celebrate special occasions at lunch.
“We knew we wanted to offer a light menu,” Don said.
Given the amount of effort that has gone into the new offerings, many may assume the McDougals will relax now that another milestone has been met, but that would be incorrect.
“We will be adding even more gardens and a weekend brunch to the restaurant,” Don said. “I am very pleased with how everything has come together and am excited to take it further.”
For public garden tour hours and more general information, visit www.grandtraditiongardens.com. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Veranda Restaurant; reservations are recommended. Call (760) 728-6466.