Monday, April 30, 2018

Majestic Mendocino

I discovered the beauty of January travel just last year and love not only how you can get great rates on accommodations but destinations are less crowded lending to a more enjoyable experience.  With January already coming to an end, I had to take my own advice and planned a last minute getaway.  Since it has been over 5 years since we have been to Mendocino, we decided to revisit an old favorite.  Although less than a 4 hour drive away, it almost feels like a different world. 

Winding through 128 out of Andersen Valley, you find yourself driving through Navarro State Park where having a sunroof is a feast for the passengers eyes to just lean back, look up and watch the miles of majestic Redwood trees whiz by. 

Before long, you are catching your first glimpse of the Pacific, shortly followed by the city of Mendocino itself.  Mendocino Village is only a 2-3 block radius with Main Street right along the water and the beautiful Mendocino Headlands walking distance or a short 5 minute drive away.  

Due to its compact size, summers or festival weekends in Mendocino can be quite crowded but during off season, you practically have it all to yourself. 

Mendocino County is mushroom county so whenever we find ourselves in the area, Cowlick's Candy Cap Mushroom ice cream is a must.  Although the actual Cowlick ice cream parlor is in Fort Bragg, you can find it at Frankie's in Mendocino which was our first stop after exploring the Headlands. 

Unlike garlic ice cream which actually does taste like garlic, the candy cap mushroom exudes a sweet maple flavor so is often used in desserts vs. its earthy versions that we are more familiar with in savory items.  Since we were aiming for more exotic and hard to find flavors, we split a triple scoop between the two of us with the candy cap mushroom, ginger and kulfi (cardamom, pistachio, and almond).  Make sure to sample the flavors before committing as the ginger was more creamy and milky than pungent, just the way I like it since it was just freshly made (but does get stronger as it sets) and the kulfi had a generous amount of nuts with a hint of cardamom making it a favorite among adults.

With cozy upstairs seating and breezy outdoor seating perfect on a warm clear day, you are sure to feel the charm of this coastal town.    

Mendocino is one of those destinations that just begs you to stay at a B&B.  Sea Gull Inn, the quintessential B&B was perfectly located, within a block or two of some of the best restaurants, a block away from the trailhead to head down to the beach 

or the top of the seacliffs for a beautiful sunset or early morning walk.  

With 4 rooms upstairs and 3 downstairs as part of the house, there is also the Barn

and the Shed which is next to but detached from the main inn in different sizes so there is bound to be a room perfect for everyone.  I loved how they allowed you to peak into the other unoccupied rooms so you can see which ones you would like to return to stay in the future. 

We stayed in the beautiful Driftwood Room which is the largest one upstairs, although one of the priciest, that comes with a tub/shower combo and complete with a small fireplace that acts as the heater as well to keep you cozy on a cold night. 

Upon peaking at the other rooms, I also fell in love with the Sand Dollar, one of the smaller rooms upstairs that faces the front so therefore has a small oceanview and wonderful lighting.       

There is no common indoor area but you do have full access to their outside garden with lots of seating to unwind with a good book since there is no TV or radio in the rooms with the exception of the Barn. 

The front desk hours are limited to the morning through check out at 11AM, with a break in between and then return again from check in at 3PM to about 7PM.  Because there is no common area, breakfast is delivered to your room often by owner Jim directly with orange juice, a choice of hot beverage like coffee or hot chocolate, a serving of fruit, a baked item like a huge muffin and yogurt leaving you wanting more than the couple of spoonful that is served in an egg coddler.  This filling breakfast is as close as you will come to breakfast in bed, perfect to enjoy in the comfort of your own room or in our case in front of the fireplace.

I was debating between 3 spots for dinner all walking distance from the Sea Gull Inn but remembering how much I love the quaintness of the MacCallum House and the food at its café, I decided it was worth a return.  Unfortunately the café portion was not open that night but the coziness of the lounge beckoned to us on a cooling January evening after a beautiful sunset.  The menu at the lounge seems to mirror that of the café which has a few extra items not found on the main dining room offerings. 

Although the bar/lounge is casual, having the warm fireplace created such a romantic ambiance that I commented this feels like Valentine's Day which was just a few weeks away. 

We started with an elderflower martini and the non-alcoholic Zida special (blood orange and pineapple juice with soda water)

and an appetizer of duck pate.  The duck pate was rich and decadent that I could not resist swiping up every drop with the fresh baked bread after we finished the crostini.  

For entrees, we had the Niman Ranch pork chop which was perfectly cooked and juicy and the noodle of the day which happened to be steak fettuccini with blue cheese sauce. 

Overall, the warm fireplace, the beautiful drinks, and the rich food made me want to lean back on that couch and take a nap, it was so relaxing. 

But eventually I had to peel myself off that couch and take that leisurely stroll where we did not encounter a single person the two blocks back to our cozy room where without the distraction of a TV, we only had their last night of twinkling holiday lights to keep us company.  

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