We were in Mendocino last week during a glorious weather period and the beginning of The Mushroom Festival. It was early for steelhead, but we did try some new restaurants…two of note and one a disappointment. Little River Inn has rested on its laurels too long. We ducked in our first night for touted bar food. An $18 flat iron steak sandwich was overcooked and stingy with the meat that was slapped on a cheap hamburger bun. My wife’s calamari salad had too much breading on the squid and was dredged in a sweet salad dressing. Much better fare at Django’s Rough Bar & Cafe in Noyo Harbour. New owners have cleaned up this warfy, funky eating place and made it very inviting. I could envision an afternoon on the deck with live music. We shared a small bowl of New England Clam Chowder and an order of crab cakes after a hike on the coast bluffs. Tried to get the recipe for these light and buttery appetizers. Chef won numerous awards so wouldn’t give recipe out. Excellent accompanying slaw was made with peppers, white and red cabbage and a subtle dressing that didn’t overpower the flavor of the crab cakes. Also loved the chowder. Flavorful, but not overly creamy and lots of clams. Will return and mention in my California Fly Fisher Foraging Angler column.
Food highlight was a late dinner at Wild Fish across from LRI. Would have stellar ocean view in daytime. Reservations a must. Special appetizer celebrating beginning of the Mushroom Festival included lobster, golden chanterelle and cauliflower wild mushrooms. They were first sauteed in a delicate olive oil and finished with butter and a dash of white wine. Plate was dressed with a celery pure and a small mound of pea sprouts as a counterpoint to the richness of the dish. We sopped up what was left of the sauce with their delicious foccacio bread. Karen’s entree was petrale sole in pappilote on bed of sage, thyme and rosemary; mine a12 hours-out-of-the-sea ling cod with crispy skin on one side and a meringue brown crust on the other. It was plated on a stir fry of potato, chard and more mushrooms. Hadn’t had lingcod this fresh since I fished the coast many years ago. Both entrees were perfectly cooked with delicate spicing. We finished with a cinnamon flavored apple tart and French press coffee. Wine pairings excellent and local with good choices by-the-glass. It’s next to impossible to find fresh fish of this quality prepared by someone who knows their stuff in the kitchen. Wild Fish’s owner, wait staff and kitchen friendly and attentive. Expensive.
Another highlight was a visit to The Mendocino Art Center. Famous water colorist Dale Laitinen showed four breathtaking sea scenes. He’s know for Tahoe and mountain subjects. We repacked our vehicle and headed home with a treasure. Sadly his home and studio, along with many paintings, burned in the Valley Fire. We saw mile after mile of devastation on our Highway 20 drive home. We’re grateful for today’s rain.