Monday, September 7, 2009


When we woke up the next morning, I couldn’t wait to explore this cozy coastal town while the guys played 18 holes. My cousin and I meandered through lovely shops and galleries on Main St. that ran along the ocean front. After golf and meandering, we all drove a little north of Ft. Bragg (a neighboring town) to visit the Pacific Star Winery high on a bluff with a spectacular view of the Pacific. The tasting room was “warehouse” funky and our wine pourer knowledgeable and very charming. If only the wine we sipped had lived up to the view or his charm.

That evening before the sun set we drove up the winding cliffs to the casually elegant Albion River Inn & Restaurant with more breathtaking views of the ocean and rocky shoreline in hopes of seeing a magnificent sunset from one of the window tables. Unfortunately, the sky was dark and cloudy and the fog never lifted.

Before going to our table, we decided to have a drink at the bar and take in the dramatic foggy view and the restaurant’s romantic atmosphere… fire place ablaze, white table cloths, Windsor chairs, hurricane lamps I half expected Heathcliff to come dashing in from the moors. Though Richard had a single malt and I had a vodka martini, Laura, the bartender poured all of us a mini-tasting of various wines from her cellar, our favorite being Chante Perdrix’s Cotes du Rhone from the Rhone Valley.

At our table our wait staff (Tamara and Anthony), like Laura, were attentive and friendly. It was obvious that they enjoyed working at the restaurant. My cousin’s husband and I had the chef’s choice two-course dinner with wine. The lst course was a lovely feta cheese salad which I paired with the Husch chardonnay that I had liked from the night before. The entrée was roasted boneless breast of chicken with a Marsala wine, mushroom, Dijon mustard & cream sauce, served with garlic-mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and a mix of steamed vegetables. Just writing about this meal makes my mouth water.

Richard had the oven-roasted quail (two – they are tiny) wrapped with honey cured bacon, marinated with burgundy vinegar, soy, garlic & fresh rosemary as a sort of barbeque sauce, served with maple-whipped sweet potatoes and sautéed snow peas. I tasted. I salivated.

My cousin chose the grilled fresh Pacific swordfish with lime & soy, served with stir-fried Nappa Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, sweet peppers, snow peas & coconut jasmine rice, topped with a chili-garlic glaze & marinated cucumbers. A definite winner.

Steve Smith is the executive chef and though the dishes sound complicated and fussy, they weren’t. They were presented simply and the tastes all complemented each other beautifully.

To end our last night in Mendocino we decided to have a nightcap at our hotel’s bar with its stunning, domed stained-glass ceiling. As we sipped our after dinner drinks we shared a deliciously sinful chocolate cake and a cheese platter of brie, blue cheese, manchego, apricots, apple slices and some nuts. The perfect end for a perfect day.

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