Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Road Trip: Mendocino

A few weeks ago the wife and I decided to explore a little more of the coast and took a weekend trip out to Mendocino, CA. A little over 3 hours north of the East Bay, the trip is somewhat long, with the last 50 mile stretch twisting and turning through small towns and giant redwoods. Basically that means you get a scenic view that you can't really enjoy if you get motion sickness: enter me and the dog. In fact, this was our first away-from-home vacation with our canine companion. Our dog Nacho is old and she has more than a few health problems, so when we started packing for the weekend, it turned out she'd need her own “doggie” bag. And by bag I mean full-sized duffel. We needed to take her treats, food, water, towels, treats, poo bags, omega supplements, doggie wipes, leash, treats, and do we need to take the medicated skin spray? Oh, we she bring it just in case. Oh my god, I thought, it's like having a child. (Mental note: reason #354 not to have children.)

So off we went with our dog and her bag of supplies to our pup-friendly bed and breakfast. We chose the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek specifically because it allow your dog to stay in the room with you. They even provide a box of pet supplies including food and water bowls and towels, and they have an off-leash dog meadow. The B&B itself consists of a number of small buildings, many of which were old mill-workers' houses from the early 20th century that were later converted into guest rooms. It's a great place to spend a weekend doing absolutely nothing.

Now if your next question is “what is there to do in Mendocino?” well it is an excellent question indeed. Not a whole lot. If you're the outdoor type, it makes for a great trip in the right weather. Hiking and kayaking are the two main activities you will not have a shortage of and there are plenty of state parks to choose from, as well as some scenic areas with decent trails. Then prepare to retire to your room and watch a VHS copy of Jurassic Park.

Downtown Mendocino is...quaint. It's a small town filled with an odd assortment of shops including a grocery store, several coffee shops, and a pub filled with lots of real-tree wearin' locals. My big question of course was, what's to eat? Most of our dinner options, aside from fine dining (which Mendocino has plenty of) were in Fort Bragg, about a 15 minute drive north. The downtown area hosts a number of shops and restaurants, including a pizza joint popular with the locals that was recommended by our host at the B&B. Aside from that (again, not including the surplus of fine dining establishments in my assessment) I found there to be a lack of food that was both reasonably priced and tasty. I think next time our plans will include picking up some chow for a picnic in the room rather than venturing out for a bite.


A local favorite, this tiny pizza joint has limited seating. On the upside, it has a pleasant, intimate atmosphere. They have an impressive selection of local beer on tap, hosting your west coast staples like Rogue, Trumer Pils, Laguanitas, and Pyramid, as well as some harder to find brews like Moonlight Brewing's Death and Taxes and Moylan's Kilt Lifter scotch ale. They've dubbed themselves home of the “adult” pizza, serving up thin crust, artisan style pies. We tried the farmer's pizza with sausage, caramelized onion, and cheese and a Cesar salad (that arrives sporting real anchovy) and it was delicious. I can see why the innkeeper goes there several times a week. Cheesy delicious pizza + strong beer = happy food coma.

A Few Stops on the Way Home

So on the drive home, I was lamenting our serious lack of culinary adventure. I was also looking to break our curvy drive back down to the main Hwy into smaller sections. As though we needed an excuse to taste wine, you can throw in the fact that we hadn't tried any wines from the region yet, and stopping at least once became mandatory. From my brief reading about Mendocino County at the B&B, it's purported to be one of the greenest wine growing areas in the country.

Husch Winery and Vineyards

We were picking a winery at random (as we almost always do), and this one caught my eye because we'd seen brochures for them at our B&B that mentioned them as a dog friendly spot. The tasting room at Husch is small, and the staff is very friendly and helpful. We tasted a selection of their wines, with our favorites being the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (my personal favorite), the Pinot Noir, and the Sauvignon Blanc. They also sell half-bottles for...get this...about half the cost of a regular bottle of wine. They earned major points for that one. The winery is family owned and operated, and like many in the region, they're also a “green” business. Their goals for sustainability:

1) reduce erosion, 2) conserve resources such as water and fuel, 3) protect the natural ecosystems that border theirproperty, and 4) use organic chemicals.

They even have sheep that meander through their vineyards helping out with the weeds and occasionally fertilizing. Environmentally friendly wine=drink more!

Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Speaking of drinking to sustainability, let's talk about beer brewed by solar power. I can't think of too many things more awesome than solar beer, although solar whiskey comes to mind. For extra awesomeness (no, not whiskey) the AVB mascot is a bear with deer antlers, a Beer, if you will, whose name is Barkley. And if you plan to stop in, you should know that the brewery is easy to miss, because even if you're on the lookout for it, you'll probably get distracted by a wee heard of pygmy goats that occupy the corner land next to the road where you turn to get there. If you see tiny goats, you're in the right place.

My favorites:

Boont Extra Special Bitter
Poleeko Gold Pale Ale (the canned version)

p.s. Barkley the beer would probably want me to advise you to get a flight at the tasting room, and maybe even try one of their new homemade sodas.

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