Cooking mouthwatering meals at home typically starts with really, really good ingredients. The Golden Door Country Store in San Marcos is dedicated to making that easier by bringing together produce from local farms—including their own 600 acres—with other responsibly sourced groceries such as hummus, crackers, pasta, and sauces.
The Golden Door isn’t a commercial farm—rather it’s a resort. Founded by Deborah Szekely, progenitor of the modern wellness resort and spa movement, it has been named one of the world’s best destination health spas. Executive chef Greg Frey Jr. oversees garden production with a culinary eye to feed resort guests healthy meals. Frey is also the resident beekeeper, passionately tending to six hives of honeybees.
About half of the items sold at the idyllic open-air store are harvested on the property, including fruit from the orchards, herbs and vegetables from the garden, honey from the mountaintop beehives, and olive oil pressed from the olives that grow in a lakeside grove of Manzanillo trees. Nearby farms help fill in additional goods, like eggs from Ramona and artichokes from Beckstead Farms. The Golden Door kitchen also prepares packaged food products available for sale at the store, including their famed potassium broth, granola, and cookies.
The Golden Door Country Store ties the resort to the community, creating a place where the public can shop farm-fresh produce at surprisingly reasonable prices. In addition, 100% of the store’s net profits are donated to children’s charities and philanthropies, so the shop is operated more like a community organization, and the prices at the country store are intentionally set to be competitive and offer affordable groceries to surrounding families. When the cost of a carton of eggs skyrocketed to Fabergé prices earlier this year due to bird flu-related egg shortages, Golden Door Country Store was able to keep its egg prices stable.
Before the store opened in September 2021, Golden Door started as a farm stand when they began harvesting more oranges and avocados than they needed for their guests. Then, when the resort was closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the farm stand expanded in order to share the produce with the community.
Much of the Golden Door produce is picked immediately before the store opens, making it some of the least-traveled food you can buy in San Diego County. The chef’s garden yields quite a large variety of fruits and vegetables: dozens of types of tomatoes, avocados, citruses, squashes, and lettuces, with lesser-seen heirloom varietals holding court. Produce rotates seasonally, of course, and this summer and fall corn returns for the second year in a row now that marketgoers have become addicted to the vast difference in taste and texture of just-picked corn.
The farm employs biodynamic and biointensive growing methods along with a deep appreciation for the land to grow food sustainably. Golden Door recently purchased an additional 1,988 acres of neighboring land in North County to preserve and protect for future generations and has made climate action a priority across the business.
Store events like makers’ markets introduce shoppers to the goods of local artisans beyond the tasteful selection of merchandise usually sold in the shop. Yoga and classes on topics such as bokashi and home composting hosted on the back deck help make Golden Door Country Store a gathering place for the community. Chef Frey hosts free cooking classes, where he shares his techniques for making nutritious and delicious food. Frey’s focus on preserving lends well to the farm-to-kitchen approach of the resort and market, and teaching allows him to pass his deep understanding of the produce on to others.