My Omnivore and I have, neither of us, ever been to Mendocino, so we decided a little time off to explore the Northern Realms might be in order.
To be honest, I know nothing of Mendocino beyond "Murder, She Wrote." So we had only a few hints of places to go and things to eat while up there. It was enough to keep us busy though.
Toulouse Vineyards -- a very cool little family place on Highway 128 in Philo. You might drive right past it if you weren't looking for the little goose signs posted on trees that warn you as you get closer to their driveway. It's the kind of place with a steep gravelly drive leading up to it -- i.e. a place where you won't find tons of tour buses in the parking lot. We're discovering we like that a lot.
Navarro Vineyards. I won't say it was entirely because they had a llama in their field, but that might have been a partial factor...
I skipped tasting to take in the views and try to catch a llama.
a little cottage run by the Alegria Inn near the edge of town.
Mendo is one of those incredibly cute places that generally are not my cup of tea, although I have to admit it was beautiful and certainly quiet.
But I digress...
Cafe Beaujolais, which offers some comforting French bistro fare in a pretty quiet setting. It's a little on the pricey side, but I have to say, the fact that you can get truly caramelized onions with tasty French brie and a genuinely beautiful duck confit makes it worth the extra.
Best of all, behind the restaurant is a bakery where they make the dense wonderful loaves that Beaujolais serves its diners.
We bought a pretty hearty multigrain loaf that was, as they say, "heavy for its size" and had to be sliced thin to enjoy.
By the way, see those gray skies? It rained nearly the whole time we were there. San Franciscans bring cheerful weather with us wherever we go...
Anyway, pushing onward. We went back to Philo to troll for more wine, Pinot Noir to be exact and found spectacular examples at Phillips Hill (yes, that's a lot of "l's" and "i's" all together).
It's a bit of our snobbery that we tend toward small, less trammeled places--they often seem to make the most surprisingly good stuff and you don't have to fight a horde of folks off a tour bus at the tasting bar. Personally, I don't even favor places that have a "tasting bar"-- I really like the "plank over two barrels" model, but there's not a lot of that anymore in California.
Phillips doesn't really have even a picnic ground, but there is a battered old table out back ("We're glad someone is getting some use out of it!") where we set up our usual lunch of cheeses and bread and sausage. In the photo from left to right are Brie de Meaux, some Jurassic d'Ete, and some Goat Gouda with Nettles. Yes, we shopped at Gourmet & More before setting out.
Yep, that and some Divine Delight petit fours and I'm good.
One more stop: Philo Apple Farm. I wanted to check it out and see if it was a good candidate for a "family-friendly" feature in the Chronicle, but really it's much more of an agriturismo, where you can buy apple cider, or stay in adorable cottages on the farm.
After careful consideration, we selected some cider vinegar and --"Hey! They have pastured eggs--from their own chickens!"
I'm a sucker for chickens, so now we have to go visit the birds, who look quite sassy in their little moveable coop.
"They look happy," I observe to my Omnivore. "Happy Chicken eggs."
Yes, we hustled back to the little honor-system farmstand and recorded our purchase of the last two dozen eggs. Just in time it seemed, as a bunch of cars pulled up into the parking lot.
"They would've taken our eggs," I remark to My Omnivore, as I fight the urge to hide them under my sweater as if they'd get taken away from me.