a mendocino weekend (part ii: the goods)

Following a stopover at Gowan’s Oak Tree - a fruit stand along 128 that sells local and seasonal produce - we continued toward Mendocino, admiring the scaling redwoods through wine-colored glasses. The trees huddled together, silently, like brooding philosophers; and as we approached the Mendocino coastline, they began to clear out.

A slew of Google searches in preparation for our weekend jaunt made it clear that Laura Ashley might just have a cult following in Mendocino.  I could smell Grandma through my computer screen, as many of the B&B websites featured images of rooms awash in stale colors and country-style prints…

…until we stumbled upon Packard House. Here, Anne of Green Gables’ interior designer was nowhere to be found. 

The front exterior:

Upon arrival, we were warmly received by the innkeepers and shown to “Chapman Point,” one of four rooms on the property.

Pictured below is the view from the one tiny window in our cozy-to-the-point-of-cramped room… C’est bien, though; the canary walls were a natural mood enhancer, the bed was plush and pillowy, and the hot tub (not pictured) provided the perfect soak after our resveratol binge. (You know, that wonderful magical property in red wine that’s said to possess anti-aging effects?)

Breakfast in bed was never so beautifully presented. Our morning bounty consisted of creamy yogurt with apricot fruit, savory berry scones, flaky croissants, and freshly squeezed OJ…not to mention an entire carafe of coffee waiting outside the door. Being the caffeine fiend that I am, I went to town with that, and I’m sure J. wanted to shoot me down with an elephant tranquilizer. 

The next morning we opted to have a two-course warm breakfast in the dining room downstairs..by sheer luck.  We scored the warm breakfast when another couple decided, at the last minute, to switch to the basket.  No photos of that unfortunately…but the cinnamon poached pears and the strawberry topped waffles, accompanied by sun-dried tomato chicken sausages, were excellent.   Apparently, the owners (who prepare the breakfast and are so sweet by the way!) go out each morning to fetch fresh ingredients. 

Now onto the town itself: Mendocino can definitely be explored by foot in a day (or in a couple hours).  Like something straight out of The Truman Show, white picket fences encircle adorable Hansel and Gretel-esque cottages that showcase elaborate, blooming gardens.

 

The views of the coastline are indeed marvel-worthy.  At one end of Main Street (which as the name suggests is the primary artery in this little town), a lightly treaded path takes you through tall, willowy grasses and other interesting vegetation to the cliffs that dramatically drop into the Pacific Ocean. Cool coastal breezes pick up scents of lavender, while solitary hawks circle the empty skies, waiting for any slight movements of prey below.  

The heart-lifting thing about Mendocino is that its restaurants are stocked with quality wine options from local wineries and vineyards.  No mass-produced Yellow Tail here! Since we were only in town for a couple nights, we weaved through a burger joint for lunch one day and some neighborhood favorites for dinner on two nights. Again, I lament the lack of photos as well as the unrefined quality of the ones below. Damn flash! How does one take a palatable photo in a dark restaurant?

• Mendo Burgers offers made-to-order burgers, sandwiches, fries, and milkshakes in an unassuming, casual environment.  After waiting for what seemed to be eons, we threw back natural beef burgers and cajun fries in the outdoor seating area (an extra strawberry milkshake was offered as a condolence gift). The food was decent (I think?) though my present difficulty in recalling our meal suggests that it was probably less than memorable. 

• If Cafe Beaujolais were a person, I’d zealously pinch her cheeks until they fell off. This restaurant is really just that cute, and that’s why I really wanted to like it.  Housed in a charming little house with you guessed it - a white picket fence -  Cafe Beaujolais prides itself on serving up organic ingredients, humanely raised and hormone-free meat, and sustainable seafood.  We had a reservation in the fully-covered garden seating area, which lacked the luster of the main dining room inside.  With the heat lamps on full blast outside, we were frying to a crisp, and we soon wished we could transfer some of our mounting heat to some of the lukewarm dishes that arrived at our table.  

To start, we ordered the Seared Foie Gras with Panisse, Spring Cherries, and Wildflower Honeycomb (I’m not a huge foie gras fan, but I enjoyed the sweetness of the wildflower honeycomb and its unexpected pairing with the more gamey flavors of the liver), as well as the Local Dungeness Crab Cakes with Asian Slaw, Crispy Noodles, and Scallion Vinaigrette (Being from Maryland where crabcakes reign, I was a bit disappointed that Beaujolais skimped on the crabmeat here but the slaw had a nice palate-cleansing bite).  

For entrees, I went with the Niman Ranch Filet Mignon with Truffle Mashed Potatoes, Broccolini, Cabernet Butter and Point Reye’s Bleu Reduction, while J. had the Petaluma Duck Two Ways (Crispy Skin Breast and Leg de Confit) with Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Spätezle, Wilted Kale, and a Spring Cherry Sauce. Liked my dish though the meat was a tad overcooked, and let’s just say J. left most of his duck behind like the discarded remains of a failed dissection.  

Presented here is one of the desserts we ordered, an olive oil waffle topped with strawberry sorbet, mascarpone cheese, and reduced balsamic vinegar. Sounded so irresistible on paper with the creative combination of ingredients, but the heaviness of the waffle wasn’t really an ideal way to end a heavy meal. I have enough dough around my waist as it is!

• MacCallum House Restaurant sits in the MacCallum House Inn, once a Victorian estate built in 1882 when Mendocino was a booming logging town.  After much indecision and Yelping, we showed up here without reservations and didn’t have to wait too long to be seated.  I was perplexed to find myself at what struck me as an old country club with Southern flair in northern California… We washed down a dozen Pacific Rim Oysters with tangerine and jalapeno granita before moving onto a Roasted Beet Salad with Humboldt Fog chèvre, red onions, candied pecans, frisée and Meyer lemon olive oil.  Both starters were clean and refreshing, fueling my optimism for the dishes ahead. My Bouillabaisse, however, was all saffron and no substance. While I *love* the spice, the chef seemed to have gone saffron-happy, forgetting to let the other flavors of the dish buoy to the stew’s surface.




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