A Day at the Sherman Library and Gardens

Botanical gardens continue to be one of my favorite places. I’ll certainly not see enough in my lifetime, so finding a new one is always a treat. The latest to discover? The Sherman Library and Gardens in picturesque Corona Del Mar, California.

Having spent a great amount of time in Orange County since I was young, how had I never been here?! I only just heard of it a few years back thanks to some colleagues with the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). I’m so grateful to have at last visited with some dear IFWTWA friends this past week, and cannot wait for a return visit already.

Nestled just a few miles from Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, the Sherman Library and Gardens is definitely a best-kept secret. Sitting on over two acres, visitors can enjoy breathtaking gardens, art exhibits, exquisite shopping, dining, and fascinating artifacts in their library.

The entrance alone, with dozens of flowers and plants in bloom overlooking a stunning fountain, had me in instant awe. We headed straight to lunch and catching up at Cafe Jardin, a beautiful French-inspired bistro led by Chef Pascal Olhats.

Dining at Cafe Jardin in Sherman Gardens

Hailing from France, Chef Pascal is easily the most beloved French chef in Orange County, and for great reason. He brings his years of French culinary expertise to Cafe Jardin and serves a seasonal, rotating menu of French favorites with a California twist. I was fortunate to meet Chef Pascal a few years back at the Pacific Wine and Food Classic, and have wanted to experience more of his plates ever since.

We began with a beautiful charcuterie plate of homemade patè and cured sausage, compliments of the chef. This served as the perfect starter while we girls chatted and caught up….due to our lockdown times, I hadn’t seen these friends in months! As we moved onto entrees, the orange glaze salmon was calling my name until I heard how excellent the grilled octopus is. Although I’m a seafood lover, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. I’ve had octopus before, but didn’t know if I should keep it “safe.” I decided that I rarely see octopus listed as an entree, and being gluten-free, decided it was worth the try.

Served with saffron rice and vegetables that almost looked too perfect to eat, the entire dish was phenomenal. Grilled to perfection and paired perfectly with its sides. It was also terrific to see several of the other menu items marked “GF.”

An ideal place to host a celebration, Cafe Jardin has made exceptional precautions amidst our 2020 times. All dining is outdoors on their gorgeous patio, tables are spread apart, and all staff is wearing masks. Given the perfect weather SoCal has been having, it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors and overlook the gardens while you enjoy your meal. I know I did.

Exploring the Gardens

Following our lunch, which I didn’t want to end, we decided to peruse the gardens and check out the gift shop. Bringing to mind the Huntington Library, their boutique features lovely artistic inspired home goods, kitchen decor, jewelry, and plenty of holiday gift-giving choices. As a gnome lover, you can bet their gnome gardens and statues out a smile on my face. In an era that’s so important to support local, this is an ideal place to get some holiday shopping completed.

Moving onto the gardens, dozens of plants, succulents, flowers, and roses were in bloom. I was especially excited to pay a visit to their greenhouse. Once inside, take a peek at their koi pond and you might even spot some of the adorable turtles. Cutest part? There were also baby koi floating along!

As much as I wanted to explore longer, rush hour was looming. I began to head back to Ventura County. While I adore our new home, those extra few minutes can feel like forever once past Los Angeles. I can’t wait to return and experience the Sherman Library and Gardens even more next time. They’re open daily and you can plan your visit here. Best part? Admission is just five dollars. That’s less than my matcha latte I bought for the ride home! xo