…ridiculous to sublime
On Sep 11, 2011, I got an email from Amy Winn, a colleague from Builders Booksource back in the day when I was managing partner of the San Francisco store. Amy wrote:
Hello all, Please come see Nick’s latest work at our home as part of Mendocino Art Center’s September Open Studios tour, September 17-18 and 24-25; 10am to 5pm. We hope to see you! Cheers, Amy Wynn and Nick Taylor
Sometime around 2004, Amy and her partner, Nick, bought two barns in Ohio and had them dismantled and moved to Fort Bragg. Nick was working on “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park at the time and Amy was the book buyer for Builders Booksource Berkeley. She taught me pretty much everything I know about the book business. They started off by spending a week here and a week there re-assembling the barns on their Fort Bragg land, then moved into an Airstream there and started the reconstruction of what would become their home and studio. I don’t think I’ve seen Amy since, but we have exchanged pictures and corresponded. What a great way to revisit a friendship and go for a weekend getaway! I fired back –
On Sep 12, 2011, at 9:49 AM, Marcus Rector wrote: Amy and Nick, Thanks for the invite! We’re eager to see your place. Will let you know which day soon. Marcus
On Sep 12, 2011, at 10:17 AM, Amy wrote: That would be fantastic, Marcus. It would be great to see you both. Be forewarned: the house is finished, but the landscaping still has a bit to go. xoxo a
On Sep 21, 2011, at 2:46 PM, Marcus Rector wrote: Amy and Nick, We have Google Map directions and plan to arrive Saturday afternoon. I don’t think we’ve seen anything about your house since pictures of logs and a layout on the ground. We’re really excited about seeing you and it. Until Saturday, Marcus
Saturday morning in San Francisco was foggy and cold. I figured we could be outta here by 9:30 and by gosh, we backed out of the garage at 9:34. We polled ourselves on an over/under of when we might see the sun — C said San Rafael, I said I hoped Corte Madera — and just when we came out of the tunnel and over the hill on 101, there was the sun in our eyes. Good start. By 11am we were in Cloverdale at mile 85 of our trip, and decided to go to Boonville via 128 this time. (Normally we go on up 101 to Ukiah and take Rt. 253 to Boonville, stopping for lunch at the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland. Less curvy that way.) In any case, we arrived at Buckhorn Boonville just in time for Brunch. They have good food and local beer, not a bad combination, except their portions are agonizingly large.
As it turned out, right across the street, the Boonville Saturday Farmers Market was going on. Now, I’m a sucker for farmers markets so I just had to step in and give it a look.
12:45 we were outta Boonville and headed straight (as straight as possible) for Fort Bragg. Nick’s Open Studio was scheduled 11am to 5pm. We arrived about 2pm. We had a nice visit with Amy and Nick and checked out their house and studio and Nick’s sculpture. I found his collections of woodworking tools really interesting, as well. Our trip was worth it already. Turns out we would see more collections as our trip proceeded.
What a day; just perfectly moderate temperatures that by the time we arrived in Mendocino had formed a bell curve — about 62 in San Francisco when we left, rising to about 78 as we went over the mountains to Boonville, and now back on the Mendocino peninsula, a very pleasant 64 degrees. After checking into the Sea Gull Inn, we bopped around the Mendocino shops and scouted out a place for dinner. I had checked Mendocino restaurants on the internet in the days before leaving and made a list of three or four. My main criteria was the same as for the Bed and Breakfast we sought — IN TOWN and walkable. Mendocino is so small, of course one can walk anywhere, but many inns and restaurants are strung out along the coast, promising *fantastic views* — we didn’t want those, once parked at our B&B, no more driving. We walked up the 24 steps to MacCallum House, scoped out the menu, porch and dining room and made a reservation for 7:15. (We had made a reservation at Cafe Beaujolais for 8:45 — all they had — so I called and cancelled that.) Back at our Sea Gull Inn, we put our feet up for a while.
We decided to go to MacCallum House a bit early to sit on their big porch for a drink. Nice.
The dinner — inside — was as nice as the drinks.
I took no picture of the Raspberry Chevre Cheesecake Souffle with Warm Chocolate Fudge Sauce, we had to dig in right away, but I’m here to tell you, it was fantastic. Driving home on Monday, Carol proclaimed it her favorite dish of the trip. We’ve been to Mendocino a few times, maybe three. The first occurred a few weeks after arriving in San Francisco. We knew Mendocino was the stand-in for Cabot Cove, Maine of Murder She Wrote fame, and we just had to see “Jessica Fletcher’s house.” Since Eric and Alison lived near Belfast on the Maine coast, we had to see how it compared. Pretty close. Although charming, Mendocino is more than a day trip from San Francisco. The shops are good and stable — they know their market — but two days in Mendocino is stretching it to the limits of its offerings. Of course, one could explore the coast endlessly, but in town, it doesn’t take long to know every shop and bar and restaurant. Our B&B was as quiet and comfortable as can be. The owners boasted new mattresses and they sure slept well. My morning walk took me from Sea Gull Inn at the east end of town to Kelly Street on the west in slightly under 15 minutes. It had rained during the night and the streets were wet and I walked in a light morning fog, as I often do in SF.
Breakfast awaited my return:
I augmented that with my own V8 juice and hard boiled egg, consumed during the first quarter of the 49ers, Bengals game. No, one can’t get far enough to be away from Sunday football. And yet, we had to leave, as check-out time came at 11 o’clock with the score 49ers 0, Bengals 3. Cable TV might get the game, but our car radio didn’t. Back on Route 128, we stopped at Navarro Vineyards to sample wines from their new label, HUNGRY HOLLOW. The label is limited to Gewurztraminer, Reisling and Syrah and priced attractively. The Gewurz was a bit sweet for my taste, but we bought some of the others. When we reached the top of Pine Ridge, this time on Route 253, and started down the slope called the Russian River Valley Watershed, I tried the radio again. No soap. When we turned onto 101 at Ukiah, the game started fading in… San Francisco leading 10 to 6, but with Cincinnati driving towards their goal with about two minutes to go in the game. We were nearing Hopland and the Bluebird Cafe, our lunch destination. I was afraid we would get their too soon and the game would not yet be over — game minutes are not real minutes — when… INTERCEPTION! The 49ers have the ball and can kill the clock. It’s safe to have lunch now — although it turned out that the Bluebird had a TV with the game on. Anytime were going north on 101, we stop at the Bluebird. The food is pretty good — at least some of it — and the place has charm. I like the moose head on the wall.
Our destination today is Healdsburg, the happenin’ town of the Wine Country. Napa and Sonoma are nice, but Healdsburg is where it’s at. I think the turning point was when the Hotel Healdsburg was built on the Square in 2001. The hotel attracted Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen and lots of well-to-do folks to shop in the gift shops and bring the town to life. We love to visit Healdsburg for all its energy and swell shops you really don’t see anywhere else. Although Healdsburg often has been a day trip for us, this time we made it a special treat by booking a B&B to stay over. Again, we wanted to be *in town,* and there are plenty of rooms if you don’t mind spending $250 to $500. So I searched out a place “five blocks to downtown,” Holcomb House. It was a fine place to stay and substantially less expensive than those others, although it couldn’t have been more different from the Sea Gull Inn where we were in a separate cottage in a garden.
At Holcomb, we had a very nice room, in the house next to the kitchen. We had our own door, of course, and our room opened onto a patio, but it was hard to go out of the room without encountering Dina, our host. She was very nice and chatty, nonetheless, omnipresent. We did have the advantage of the refrigerator with ice just outside our door. And we got to admire Dina’s collections.
By staying over in Healdsburg, we were able to have dinner at Barndiva, perhaps our favorite restaurant — anywhere. As you know from reading eats, we have had lunch there many times, but never dinner, that I can recall. Tonight’s the night. I made a reservation for 8:30 on Open Table from home before we left. Would have preferred 7 or 7:30pm, but doesn’t everybody? About 5 we went into town to do our shops-walk. That was nice as we worked our way around the square. Trouble is, around six, shops started closing. So… go back to our room to kill time before dinner? We opted to get a drink and spot of food at the Hotel Healdsburg lobby bar. Eric and I had done that on one trip while Carol and Alison shopped, and it was fabulous. The lobby bar was nearly empty, but that’s OK, the food comes from Dry Creek Kitchen. There is a bar menu, but one can order from anything on the dinner menu. We ordered wine and the Charcuterie plate and repaired to the screened porch off the lobby. Nice.
I could go on and on about how great the tastes were, but just eat it with your eyes and imagine. The evening light was descending upon us as we walked out of the hotel. Still way before our dinner reservation, but there is no hustle and bustle on the street, like places are full for dinner. Let’s just walk over to Barndiva and see what happens. We could see empty tables through the window. “My name is Marcus and we’re way early for our reservation…” “No problem, come with me,” said the very attractive young hostess. She seated us at a table by the big front window looking out to the dining terrace and street. “How great is this?” I said to our hostess and Carol. Barndiva is all about food, but also about design and spirit. Their newsletter is called “eat the view.” Right now, they are displaying this fantastic wire sculpture — and of course you can buy smaller pieces at their gift shop next door.
We’re here for the food, but the ambience is part of the deal and part of why we come back every time we can.
On my walk Monday morning, I easily walked to the Square and around it in less than 15 minutes, so our B&B on a quiet street of bungalows was indeed “five blocks to downtown,” as the ad on the internet proclaimed. After our breakfast of fresh fruit and pancakes — interesting that both of our B&B breakfasts were vegetarian — we packed the car and drove to the square for Carol’s final shopping fix (an oilcloth kitchen tablecloth, a birthday gift for Brian, and blue earrings). I sat with my coffee on a bench in the square reading of 49ers and Raiders victories on Sunday. I could get used to this. It’s hard to believe we’ve been gone less than three days… we’ve seen so many kinds of places, done so many kinds of things and enjoyed eats from the ridiculous to the sublime.