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A Taste of the Breathtaking Sonoma Coast at Timber Cove Inn

Thursday, 13. September 2012 5:25

The famous Benny Bufano obelisk that soars over the Timber Cove Inn's property

Timber Cove Inn, in the tiny town of Jenner not far from Bodega Bay, was originally opened 49 years ago, making it more than twice as old as its current chef.

Executive Chef Benjamin St. Clair of the inn’s Alexander’s restaurant is all of 22 years of age.

But he’s been working in kitchens since he was 16 and has worked with the likes of Bay Area Chef Joey Altman. He may be barely old enough to drink legally, but his prowess behind the burners is already evident.

Last month, I had a chance to experience his cooking when I was invited to be a guest of the inn, located about 90 miles north of San Francisco, just off a narrow, twisty section of Highway 1, where you’ll likely encounter cyclists precariously hugging the non-existent shoulder and cows grazing just inches from the road.

The inn sits on 25 acres of rugged cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. How gorgeous is the setting? So breathtaking that the late famed photographer Ansel Adams often captured the images of the seaside scenery.

The full totem with the inn in the foreground.

A seat with a view.

The view from an ocean-front room.

There are pathways that meander around the picturesque grounds, along with strategically placed Adirondack chairs to just take a moment to bask in the view. And fire pits so you can enjoy the outdoors even when night falls.

You can’t missed the soaring Benny Bufano Peace Obelisk that stands 93 feet tall. The totem, erected during the Cold War era, depicts the Madonna and child, with an outstretched hand at the top. You can actually pick you way up a rocky path to get to the obelisk, which technically encompasses one of California’s tiniest parks, according to Keith Hill, the inn’s general manager. Would you believe that the hand was transported to the top by helicopter — and accidentally put on backward by the sculptor’s assistants? But when Bufano saw it, Hill says, he liked it so much he didn’t complain.

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A Taste of Old and New at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg

Thursday, 23. August 2012 5:25

What a way to start the meal, but with an egg that tastes smoky and a leaf that tastes like an oyster.

You wouldn’t normally expect to find trendy, liquid nitrogen-molecular gastronomy cooking going on inside an 1881-era Victorian mansion.

But at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, that’s just what you’ll enjoy at the acclaimed Michelin one-star restaurant on the premises of this 22-room historic inn nestled in the hills above the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County.

Recently, I was invited to be a guest of the inn, which is charmingly decorated with period antiques and art pieces, including hand-painted wooden dolls and a framed Victorian lace wedding gown. The rooms feature fireplaces and claw-foot tubs. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are left by the bedside to welcome you.

The historic Madrona Manor.

Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren has cooked alongside some of the biggest names in the industry, including Jeremiah Tower and Gary Danko.

He draws inspiration from local ingredients, including the 3/4-acre organic garden on the premises, where he harvests tomatoes, herbs, greens and fruit that show up in many dishes on the menu.

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