Vegan in Mendocino: The Stanford Inn
VegNews' co-founder Colleen Holland explores the coast of Northern California—the perfect setting for an amazing b&b with an even more impressive restaurant.
The Stanford Inn might be the ultimate vegan getaway. Imagine breathtaking views, four-poster beds, in-room fireplaces, an afternoon wine-and-dessert buffet, organic gardens, walking paths, and greenhouse-enclosed swimming pool covered with bougainvillea. Striking a rare balance between elegance and rustic charm, the inn is also known for its companion animal hospitality: Dogs and cats are always welcome, as evidendenced by stainless steel water bowls dotted throughout the property. If vegetarians need one more reason to return time and again to this seaside oasis, it's the food. Attached to the 41-room inn is what may be one of the most innovative, yet undiscovered, vegan gems in the country—Ravens' Restaurant.
Longtime vegetarians Jeff and Joan Stanford opened the Ravens' in 1996 as a way to provide high-end veg cuisine made with locally grown produce to hotel guests and the surrounding community (the eatery's name is an ode to a pair of ravens living nearby). Views from every table in the sophisticated dining room look out onto the surrounding lush redwood grove, which stops just short of the Pacific Ocean a mere 100 meters away. As soon as I'm seated, a friendly server pours purified water with edible flowers into my glass, house-made bread and local olive oil is served, and I ponder which of the myriad organic or biodynamic libations to order from the impressive wine list. But it's what's on the menu that makes me strategize how I can make this trip on a regular basis.
I start with two of chef Kyle Evans' small plates, an Indian Crepe (roasted yams wrapped in an Indian-spiced crepe) and his signature King Trumpet Crab Cakes (pan-fried mushroom and zucchini cakes with vegan sour cream and capers). I then move on to one of the most popular dishes on the menu—the Roasted Beet Salad made with just-harvested beets from the inn's garden drizzled with a sumptuous Meyer lemon vinaigrette. The personal-size pizzetta and Caesar Salad are also popular. The Ravens' Caesar boasts a creative take on the typically anchovy-laden dressing using nori flakes to achieve a seafood flavor, sans fish.
I am usually guilty of ordering the same dish every time I visit a restaurant. This routine goes out the window at the Ravens', as I want to experience every thing on the menu. During a short weekend trip, I indulge in the Eggplant Cannelloni, a rich, herb ricotta-stuffed pasta shell with a roasted red pepper sauce, toasted walnuts, and brightly colored sautéed vegetables, and the next evening the Grilled Portabella Flatbread—grilled onions, mushrooms, and roasted potatoes with a lemon-garlic sauce sandwiched between a freshly baked folded flatbread—is devoured.
As a dessert fanatic, I am not capable of ending a fancy meal without something sweet, and the Ravens' delivers—big time. My absolute must-have finale is the Pecan Torte, a rich, gooey pecan-pie fililng in a shortbread crust served with maple ice cream. Just as good is the Ravens' Chocolate Tart (double-chocolate walnut crust filled with cocoa mousse and raspberry coulis) and the Red Bananas Foster (red bananas caramelized with rum and brown sugar with scoops of cashew-vanilla, coconut-chocolate, and strawberry ice cream). See what I mean about the perfect vacation?
The Day After
After a peaceful night's sleep, an early morning walk through the spectacular grounds, and a relaxing yoga class, it's time to experience the Ravens' breakfast. Complimentary for every guest, breakfast begins with a Champagne glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (mimosas are also available) and organic tea or coffee. Menu standouts include the Garden Scramble (braised just-picked vegetables with scrambled tofu and sweet potato hash browns) and the absolutely scrumptious Stanford Citrus Polenta (grilled polenta with sautéed greens and a cashew cream sauce). Other options include pancakes, waffles, French toast, scones, muffins, smoothies, and homemade chai. Yes, a good vacation should rejuvenate the mind and the body, but it should also feed the soul. Ravens' Restaurant leaves me wanting for nothing, ready to head back to my regular life.
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