Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Taste of California

Aoife, Cambridge

I have so much to tell you about our recent trip to California. Before I get to anything else I just have to tell you about the best meal we had. It was quite unexpected. A long drive down from the northern Redwood coast meant we needed to stop somewhere and we decided to take the chance to explore the relatively quiet and isolated Anderson Valley. We had booked into The Boonville Hotel for one night and also reserved dinner as we knew there wasn't many other options in the small town. However, I knew nothing about the restaurant and I was a little apprehensive.

Checking into the beautiful hotel and sitting out in the restful gardens with a local beer (the brewery is just half a mile down the road) put my mind at rest.  As we sat in the garden one of the women from the kitchen came and harvested fresh herbs and vegetables for the dinner. I was starting to get very excited.

I think what I loved most about this place, apart from the food, was how relaxed and friendly everyone was. It's a small hotel so there aren't huge numbers of staff and we almost felt we got to know them all. They encouraged us to sit where ever we felt comfortable, it had to be outside for us, and looked after us all night (including bringing around cosy blankets once the sun went down). And then there was the food. A simple set menu and great, good value, local wine; I really was in heaven.

I'm going to give you The Husband's reaction to each course as I think it's the most telling. Soup to start with, pea soup. He doesn't like pea soup ever since I made an admittedly disgusting batch about 8 years ago.  Well he loved this one. It was fresh and delicate. This was followed by a simple salad dressed with a plate-lickingly good blood orange reduction. Now, I don't know if it's a man thing or a west of Ireland man thing but The Husband is really not that big on rocket usually. Well he took second helpings of this salad. 

The hanger steak on crushed potatoes was up next. Ever since an incident involving a steak dinner and a tummy bug, steak has been off the menu at our house but this was wolfed down. A chilli cream sauce accompaniment was the just the kind of thing I have dreams about. I'm not sure what there is to say about desert other than, look at the picture. A giant profiterole filled with locally made blackberry ice cream. I licked my plate clean.

The only down side to this wondrous meal and amazing location was that it made us think it was a good idea to sit out for hours and get another bottle of wine. Fantastic fun at that time. Not so good for the head in the morning. The long and the short of it is, if you find yourself in the Anderson Valley get yourself to Table 128 at The Boonville Hotel. It has beautiful surroundings, delicious and good value food, a wonderful local drinks selection and very friendly staff; you really shouldn't miss it.

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