Anderson Valley was one of the original craft breweries and I visited it in 1994 as I traveled around the western US for the first time. It has remained a staple with their old line-up and have only recently begun to expand into bigger beers. It was not on our list of places to stop but it was more or less on our way from Lake Mendocino to the coast and it worked out well with it being lunch.
It had very much expanded since my first visit when it was housed in a little pub right in town. The new facility was on the outskirts and they had a big tasting room. The only problem was they didn't serve food. The bartender said we were free to order food for delivery but we noticed a great little seating area outside so we brought our beers out there and I fetched some cheese, salami, and bread from the car.
Favorite Dish: The food being self-chosen was great and the beers of Anderson Valley were a great accompaniment. I had the cask ESB which was a deep golden with a fluffy white head and soft mouthfeel. It was a beautiful mix of floral hops and bready malt with a dry bitter finish. It was worth stopping for this beer alone which was not around on my first visit. Doreen had Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, served nitro which made for a dense full body. It's chocolate malt palate had some coffee notes which began sweet by dried out a bit in the bittersweet finish. There were two new Belgian style beers so I got small tasting portions of them. Brother David's Abbey Double (9%) was a dark brown ale that was not dry enough for the style and bordered on being a dunkleweizen with a clove element going on. The Brother David's Abbey Tripple (10%) fared much better. This deep amber brew had a big malty palate which dried considerably in the fruity but oak finish. It was a nice interpretation of the style though lacking in carbonation.
North Coast Brewing was not on our list of places to hit while traveling up the California coast. I had been there in 1994 and while their beers were excellent, it had become a somewhat pricey place to eat. Sometimes, money is unfortunately a factor in what you can and cannot do. But while camping with my cousin at Van Damme State Park, he insisted on taking us to dinner and knowing me well, he suggested the brewery as our destination. Sometimes, people make an offer you cannot refuse.
The pub is a great old wooden place with a nautical touch and honestly looks like it would be an inexpensive place to eat and in no way is stuffy. It's not actually that pricey considering its location but still in a range I would normally pass by.
Favorite Dish: I ordered a burger ($12.95) and Doreen the Pork Tenderloin Dijon ($17.95) with garlic mashed potatoes as we knew they were paying and wanted to get the most reasonable things on the menu. They were both ample size meals and quite filling and tasty. Doreen had their Old Rasputin (9% alcohol, 75 IBU), a coal black Russian Imperial Stout with a dense tan head, huge hop and roast malts in the palate and a dry bitter finish. I had their Brother Thelonius (9.4%, 32 IBU), a rich malty interpretation of a Belgian strong ale.
Part of the fun of traveling is meeting others doing the same thing and often they are of a very different demographic, especially when doing a road trip.
We were driving up the California coast, stopping to see big redwoods and views of the incredible bluffs and beaches. We met a couple of elderly sisters who had been to this particular lookout many times in their long lives. It was one of their favorites and they said they tried to come out there at least once a year. While doing so they also had lunch at the Chart Room in nearby Crescent City. A local tip on food, especially when you're hungry and it's lunch time is invaluable so we headed right over there and found it easily. It was a classic seafood restaurant on the wharf kind of place with lots of locals and tourist alike, and waitresses that seemed to have worked there for as long as our friends had been eating there. Service was quick and friendly.
Favorite Dish: We had one order of Fish & Chips and one of Scallops & Chips. Both were a reasonable $9.95 and were battered and cooked to perfection. Chips were unspectacular but nice. I personally like a bit less batter but this is pretty much the classic version of the meal and certainly no qualms about the food or certainly the very local flavor of the place. The only thing missing was the sisters. I guess we were a bit quicker getting over here. ;)
Russian River Brewing has been on my radar for quite some time. When we were in San Francisco in 2005 we did an overnight trip to the Sonoma Valley with good friends we were traveling with. They wanted to check out some vineyards and we were only too happy to tag along. I had read about a few breweries in the region and though my friend was into beer as well, I didn't want to appear too pushy to his new wife who had already seen this in me during our San Francisco stay. So, we just did whatever they wanted to do, hoping one day to return on our own. This extended US trip was our chance and though we were being selective in the breweries we were visiting, Russian River was a must do.
We arrived downtown in Santa Rosa after dark, having to pry ourselves from our first room in a couple weeks. It looked nice but as we approached the brewpub, it got a bit more seedy or maybe it was just that the people outside the bar were less than desirable. We had parked up the street but I noticed a spot closer to the bar and sent Doreen in while I moved the car for an easier getaway. Entering, it had a cavernous industrial vibe. It was a Friday night AND the 4th of July so no surprise that it was very busy. I wanted to sit at the bar and was happy to see a very long one running the length of the establishment with a few seats at the far end. There was a huge draft list on a blackboard overheard and a biker couple making out next to us. We weren't in the mood to linger but with such an impressive line-up of beers to sample, we settled in for the night. I was glad they had taster size glasses as there was no way I could make my way through that many pints.
We ordered a Columbus Calzone which was filled with Mozzarella, ricotta, pesto, spinach, mushrooms & herbs. It was very tasty but not overly big, especially since were were sharing it. When there are so many beers on the menu, we like to share meals to spread them out over the evening. We started off with a Dead Leaf Green at 5.75% alcohol and 31 IBU (International Bittering Units). Touted as an authentic English style session beer, it was a well-balanced copper brew with a floral hop nose that tasted more American than anything I've ever had across the pond. Doreen likes dark beers and went right for the O.V.L. Stout at 4.62% alcohol and 46 IBU. It was black with a thin lasting tan head, a sourish bitter palate, and dry finish. I had been rushed into my initial choice so then backtracked to the lower end of the IBU spectrum and chose Little White Lie at 5.28% and 17 IBU which was a nice light golden ale with a spicy flavor and while a nice beer, not truly a witbier as described. Next up was Fleurette at 4.88% and 12 IBU which was a light golden ale with an herbal spicy quality. Redemption at 5.48% and 23 IBU was a nice light colored dryish ale seeming to get closer to its Belgian roots than its predecessors. Perdition at 7% and 27 IBU was getting even closer to the mark with its low carbonation amber malty presence that avoided being overly sweet with a strong roast bitter finish. Finally, with Damnation at 7% and 27 IBU we found their best Belgian interpretation. Light golden with strong malt, great balancing hops and a clean dry finish.
Favorite Dish: We opted for a meatball sandwich covered in mozzarella for some sustenance and got ready for the meat of their beer menu. Russian River made their initial mark making hoppy beers which is typical of the region. Once a hophead myself, I have lost my love of overly bitter beers but can still appreciate one that is truly well made and balanced. Blind Pig IPA at 6% and 73 IBU was deep golden with a citrusy floral hop nose and a decided bitter palate made more refreshing with a grapefruit element. I felt it could use a bit more malt but if you love hoppy beers, this is one for you. Next up was Russian River IPA at 6.75% and 62 IBU, another deep golden beauty with a creamy dense head. This very full-bodied beer had a lighter citrus aroma and more balanced palate. Big malt, big hop and long dry bitter finish. It was probably my favorite beer of the night but one could not come so far and not drink their most renowned beer, Pliny The Elder. At 8% and 93 IBU, this is one big beer. Deep amber with a thin lasting head and big citrus nose, this thick brew starts out bitter but the ample malt in the mash battles valiantly only to lose in the long dry bitter finish. If you are looking for a double IPA, look no further, this is one of the originals.
About this time, my wife started to look at me like it was way beyond time to leave and despite the Stones' “Wild Horses” playing on the jukebox I asked for the bill. Wild Horses couldn't drag me away but my wife sure could. ;)
It came to $55 with tip for the two meals and ten beers, some of which were full sized pints and others, fair-sized tasters big enough for two to get an idea of the beer.
Bear Republic is fast becoming California's best craft brewery and was high on my list of places to visit on my 2008 tour of the US. It had opened the year after my first trip around the States in 1994 and after trying one of their beers while in LA a few weeks prior to being in the area, it was a definite stop. Located in Healdsburg, a charming Northern Californian town well established on the wine trail, this place specializing in great beer paired with food was not much of a stretch for success.
The pub itself has a nice enough atmosphere and on the Sunday we visited, it was quite busy as was the town in general. Knowing there would be a big line-up of beers, I wanted to sit at the bar and was happy to find two seats waiting for us as soon as we walked in. I was also glad they had tasting size glasses in addition to pints or it would be impossible to try their many great beers.
We ordered their Polenta Montain ($13.95) which was not exactly mountainous in size but certainly in flavor. The polenta was laced with portabella mushrooms and served on top of sauteed garden vegetables. There was a choice of sauces and we opted for bolognese. It came with some nice garlic bread and was very tasty. It was so good in fact, rather the try something else later in our beer tasting session, we ordered another one of these!
The first beer on the agenda was Pete Brown Tribute Ale which was dark brown with a thin tan head and great balance of roast malt and hop bitterness. Very easy drinking at 6.3% alcohol. Their 5% Wit was a light bodied thirst quencher but lacked the coriander spiciness expected in the style. Racer XP Pale Ale was light golden with low carbonation. This full flavored 5.4% easy drinker had a citrusy nose and well balanced hop palate. Jack London ESB was copper with a more pronounced malt flavor that finished dry. Red Wheat Ale was a real surprise. Deep amber w/ a creamy head & fruity palate that bitters in the long dry finish, excellent at 5.4%. Hop Rod Rye Ale was a more intensely hoppy beer that retained some fruitiness through the ample grain and packed a wallop at 7.5%. Red Rocket Ale was a bit more one-dimensional, hoppy and bitter but sure to please the hopheads at 6.8%.
Favorite Dish: Racer 5 is their signature brew. Light bodied and fiercely hopped, yet somehow managing to not be overly bitter due to a great malt presence. Truly a great beer and one of the first double IPAs at 7.1%. . Racer X is 5's bigger brother, a triple IPA at 7.8%. Flowers & hops intermingle with dense malt to form a virtual garden of a beer showing that hoppy beers do not have to be bitter. Even lovelier than 5 if possible.
Doreen was being the great wife, having small tastes of my tasters while nursing her Raven Porter which was served via nitro tap. It was a great roasty session beer ala the “good craic” Emerald Island. This segued me nicely into their dark beers. Black Mamba was a soft dark wheat with obvious Belgian yeast notes which remained roasty enough to wrap my tongue around at 6.1%. I opted for a full tulip glass of their Oak Aged Black Mamba which was the same beer but aged for two years in a cognac barrel: an incredible, soft, sourish whiskey laced cocktail. Sublime. We probably should have finished right there but the Black Bear was calling. Their Russian Imperial Stout was more a porter in body but in intensity of flavor and alcohol (8.1%) very much in line with the style. Big hops balanced well with equally big roast malt.
The bartender was the best of the whole six month US trip. Quick and quick witted, making you remember why you don't just drink at home all the time. We bought a big box of beer for the cooler and while some were not quite as good as their tap counterparts, many were. Ah, too bad they couldn't bottle the Oak Aged Black Mamba. Even with the to go box, our bill with a generous tip came to $108.
Truly does give you a bay view. Head to the upstairs porch area and soak in the sun and surf. Affordable but good which seemed rare for this town (the affordable part).
Favorite Dish: Standard diner menu with Californian twist.
The Mendocino Hotel was established in 1878. Although still a working hotel, the old Victorian building hosts an elegant restaurant. The interior decor keeps in tune with the era of the building and is very well done and maintained. The food and service were also fantastic. It is an excellent choice for dinner for anyone in the mood for fine dining. It is by far one of the best restaurants in the area. We liked it so much after our first visit that we returned the following night.
This is a small place we stopped in for some ice cream and they were open late (for the area). They advertise gluten-free pizza but we didn't try it. I had Frankie's version of an ice cream sandwich. A huge amount of chocolate ice cream between two very large chocolate chip cookies. Very good! I couldn't finish it which says a lot on it's size.
We went here New Year's eve dinner. There was a special menu, which was wonderful; if the regular meals are of the same quality, then I don't think you can go wrong here. Everything was fresh and well prepared. The menu was creative but not eccentric. There is a good wine list featuring good regional wines from the nearby Anderson Valley. Mendocino has several good dining options, and I wouldn't rule this one out.
This is such a special little place located in a nook in the heart of Mendocino next to the health food store, back in some foliage with tables all around. Inside the small kitchen, Lu cooks up a variety of organic vegetarian food, mostly things with beans, rice, and vegetables, like burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. There are several kinds of Tazo tea you can get at the window, too. Seating is all outside. I've lived in this area all my life and my brother is friends with Lu's son, and I wondered why I had never been here. It was a foggy, cool day (as is typical of Mendo) and my boyfriend and I sat wearing fleece sweatshirts digging into warm, delicious food. A true Mendocino experience! Lu is so friendly, too!
Favorite Dish: I had the Mediterranean Quesadilla. It was FABULOUS!!! Spinach, feta, kalamata olives, and a whole wheat tortilla with rice and beans.
The view is spectacular, but that is not the end of the story. The "coastal cuisine" here is no less than superb. The menu is prepared with local produce in mind. Although the dinner is elegant, its not stuffy. The server we had was wonderful and knowledgeable and really made our evening special. If you have a special occasion or one night to splurge on a fantastic dinner in a awesome setting, this is the place.
Favorite Dish: This is from their menu: "The Roast Tenderloin of Pork: moist boneless pork, thinly sliced & sauced with wild mushrooms, Balsamic vinegar & Pinot Noir wine, served with yukon gold potatoes." It was my favorite. YUM! It was moist and the reduction sauce, well, I kinda wanted to lick the plate. How gauche!
Mendicino's Blue Heron Inn and Moosse Cafe
The Moosse Cafe is on the ground floor with the Blue Heron Inn on the upper level. They have a spectular garden to the side of the main building. Many of my Mendicino garden photos came from this location.
Favorite Dish: Pink Peppercorn Crusted Salmon and for dessert, Blueberry Zabablione.
Nothing real special with this place. It was convenient for a quick snack. We had some chicken fajita wraps that were very basic and tasty. Best part was they were only $3.95 each.