Monday, May 3, 2010

THE LONG & WINE-ING ROAD - Day Five - Howard Station Cafe

Day Five
Howard’s Station Cafe

Bob rallied on day five and the three of us headed out in search of wonderful back roads, good food and some fine wine. The scenery was pastoral. The trees lush and full and the rolling green hills w/ cows grazing reminded me of Ireland…

...of course, I’ve never been to Ireland, but – hey – that’s what movies are for.

After touring the Sonoma landscape, we decided to stop and have lunch in the tiny town of Occidental. The “fine-dining” restaurant was closed, so we chose the Howard Station Café.

A bit of Occidental lore I got off the menu (who needs Wikipedia?): William “Dutch Bill” Howard who wasn’t Dutch, nor was he really William Howard, was, in fact, a Dane named Christopher Thomassen Folkman who was born in 1823.  He became a seaman. When he docked in San Francisco Bay in 1849, he jumped ship, stole a small boat and headed north in search of gold. Along the way he managed to acquire an unclaimed plateau that was to become the town of Occidental. When the North Pacific railroad was proposed, Howard granted it free access through his property. One of the perks of that ‘good deed’ was ole Dutch Bill’s ‘immortalization’ when the railway station was named “Howard.”

So there we were in front of this beautiful old painted lady about to enter a bit of California history.

Everything about the place was turn-of-the-century charming… the creaky floors, the station windows, the Victorian-era touches that remained… the inside reminded me of a cross between an old-style western movie restaurant/luncheonette (you know - that one restaurant in town where ‘ladies’ could go) and an old-world ice cream parlor (and there on the menu were old-fashioned malted milkshakes and a 3 scoops of ice cream super sundae). It was comfortable and homey and filled w/ patrons… hip looking, young ‘artist-types’ you might find in a Greenwich Village coffee shop (or are they all Starbucks now?), upper-middle class families in pretty pastel Polo polo shirts, and your average tourist from Anywhere, USA. I loved it.

The Café only serves breakfasts and lunches, but has a huge breakfast variety of eggs, cereals, griddle food, etc. - from biscuits & gravy to pancakes stuffed w/ toasted coconut and macadamia nuts to tofu rancheros! For lunch there’s a good selection of soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches.

Always searching for the perfect hamburger, I, of course, chose “The American Broiled beef ‘pattie’ served on a Kaiser roll” w/ melted cheddar cheese. Like every burger I had in Sonoma so far, it was love at first bite. Grilled exactly the way I ordered.

The boys decided to be more healthful and ordered egg white omelets. There were specific omelets on the menu and a “create your own” choice. Bob opted for the ‘specific’ – a vegetarian omelet w/ sautéed mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, sprouts, red onion and melted jack cheese or soy cheese (he knows jack about soy cheese so he chose the jack). Along w/ his eggs (which he praised), he ordered tea which came in its own press. Cool! I never saw tea pressed before.

Richard decided to design his own omelet w/ sautéed mushrooms and spinach (he liked it) and, since the omelets all came w/ a choice of buttermilk biscuits, toast, or grilled potatoes, my “son of North Carolina husband” had to have the biscuits (no gravy). He thought they were quite good, but so far, no one makes biscuits like his Mama did.

Lunch over, we hit the loos in the back ‘room’ and smiled when we saw a world map outside the bathrooms w/ pushpins put there by diners indicating the town, state or country they came from. NY and LA were so crammed w/ pins we couldn’t add ours (though I think Bob was able to get one in for Sacramento where he moved shortly after graduating college). But what was so surprising about the map was the many people who literally have come from all parts of the globe to eat there. Very cool! We had to take a picture.

Our appetites sated, we left… It was time to find that fine wine.

Howard Station Cafe
3611 Main Street
Occidental CA
FYI - cash only


Richard said...

What wine would someone recommend to go with biscuits? Hmmmm...
Good place... nicely captured...

bobsaari said...

The eggs were great. Maybe because they forgot about my order being "whites" and gave me real eggs. Hahaha........

Gary Young said...

Hmmmm. Very appealing, as always. Actually, I think you could make dirt appear tasty and fuzzy. I want to go there!

ilona saari said...

LOL -- thanx Gary -- that's a high compliment coming from someone who wouldn't eat a burger (tho the egg white omelet perhaps)