Thursday, April 27, 2023

Mendocino Virtual Office

Trip date: October 2022

The last time I went to Mendocino with my friend Aaron, it was during a pandemic, I had to drive 818 miles, and we ate outside on the deck at Michelin-starred Harbor House.

This time I flew down to Santa Rosa, had a house rental with friends Aaron and Albert, and ate inside at the Harbor House... twice!

I started off in the Alaska Lounge, which is so great for breakfast and a mimosa before flying out of SeaTac. I had checked my bag because I was bringing some cocktail makings so I didn't even realize until I was onboard that this wasn't the small prop plane I was used to for the flight to STS. This time I was on on new Max 737-800 and was even upgraded to Premium! 

STS airport is going through some major renovations and at the time I was there baggage claim was outside under a tent! Aaron and Albert met me to wait for my bag to come off a small truck and then we headed to Unti Vineyard for a tasting.

I've been a big fan of Unti for years but I hadn't visited in a long time. They have a lovely new-to-me tasting room; no more sipping in the warehouse! We grabbed a picnic table outside, as the guys had picked up sandwiches from Loveski Deli for our lunch, and had a delicious time eating, drinking, and catching up.  

It was a 2-hour drive from Sonoma to our Airbnb in tiny town of Manchester. But most of it is through gorgeous redwoods! Once the redwoods end, the road twists and turns along the stunning Mendocino County coastline. It's truly such a beautiful drive!

We had a big 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, right on the cliffs overlooking the sea, with a full length deck and a hot tub. The house had a real 70s vibe (think paneling and bronze fixtures) but the views made up for the lack of modern decor. 

Dinner that night was in the small town of Arena at Izakaya Gama, which is owned by some friend's of Aarons. Albert's and Aaron's friends from LA, Amy and Lena, met us and we basically ordered the entire menu. The food here is fantastic! If you are in the area, I'd say it is a do-not-miss. Trout sashimi, chawanmushi with the sweetest uni, karaage, and this amazing strawberry "shaved ice" dessert were highlights for me. But really, everything was awesome!

Back out the house we tried out the hot tub and took in the incredible sky full of stars. It had been a great first day!

The next morning was Monday and as this was a working trip we were all on our laptops for a while. Just before lunch, Aaron, Amy, Lena, and I went for a great walk on Irish Beach. It's a beautiful stretch of sand and no one else was there, except for a sea lion!

We all then had lunch at Harbor House! Except for Aaron and me it was everyone's first time and it was so fun to see their reactions to the beautiful location. 

It was a very good 4+ course lunch with my favorite dish being the black cod with fermented cucumber. It was so simple looking but the flavors were just perfect, relying on the quality of the fish which was exceptional. 

After lunch we had our garden infusion (tea) on the deck and went for a nice walk around the grounds and down to the beach. It was a super fun and beautiful lunch!
That evening I made us all cocktails for happy hour which we had outside on our deck. Aaron grilled up sausages for dinner and we had a big salad to go with. And the cherry on top was the most dramatic sunset! Such a fun day with everyone!

Amy and Lena were leaving the next day so I got up early (for me), took Aaron's car (with permission of course) and met them for a morning beach hike. This time we went to check out Bowling Ball Beach which I had seen lots of photos of. Unfortunately I hadn't read that you can only see these rocks at low tide. And it wasn't!

We climbed down the hill and had a nice walk on Schooner Gulch State Beach instead. I wouldn't go out of my way to walk here, as it's pretty short, but it was great to see the girls again before they took off. 
Before I headed back to my office, aka the Airbnb, I stopped at the Point Arena Lighthouse. There's a small entry fee and luckily they took tap-to-pay as I only had my phone on me!

While waiting for my tour to start I went through the very interesting museum. I learned that this lighthouse was powered by a first order Fresnel Lens; the largest of its kind at over six feet in diameter and more than six tons in weight. It's not used anymore but it's still there to see.

The museum has lots of info on shipwrecks in the area as well as destruction caused by earthquakes. If you aren't doing the tour you can still go through the museum and gift shop.

It's 145 steps up to the top of the lighthouse; the tallest on the west coast. The views from up here are gorgeous and the gentleman who was working at the top pointed out the site of the last shipwreck as well as the erosion of the ground that the lighthouse is on. 

The rest of the week went pretty much the same; morning coffee in the hottub followed by work and then afternoon hikes and outings. We cooked at home in the evenings and enjoyed the views.

One afternoon Albert, Aaron, and I did a short hike out to Manchester Beach. The trail starts at the campground there and leads straight out on a dirt trail that turns into a sand trail. It was late in the day when we went and we were the only ones there! Stunning!
One afternoon we headed to the town of Mendocino; my first time! It was about a 45 minute drive up the gorgeous coast. 

We started with delicious smash burgers in the garden of The Brickery This is such a pretty spot! I hear good things about their dinner options too. Highly recommend a stop here.

We wandered around town a bit and then did a short hike on the Headlands. It was such a gorgeous day and the views were awesome!
We made it a loop by walking back through town and past the "Angela Lansbury" house. Just as we were heading back to the car thick fog started rolling in. Within an hour there was zero visibility! 

Before heading home we drove out to visit our friend and talented potter, Cliff Glover. We had a lovely visit over some tea in his garden and then did a bit of shopping!  
The next day we woke up to complete, white-out foggy conditions so after our morning work we visited Sanny Ceramics and met Jason who is another very talented potter. No one's wallet was safe!!

We stopped at the Elk Store for sandwiches and while eating outside in the chilly foggy weather we decided to head inland and go for a hike in the redwoods at Big Hendy Grove in Anderson Valley. This ended up being a wonderful plan as there was no fog and it was sunny and warm!

Hiking amongst towering trees is one of my very favorite things. The smell of the forest, the way the tops sway, the silent majesty... I absolutely love it! 

Afterwards, we stopped in for a wine tasting at Navarro Winery which has been producing wine since 1974. It was a lovely setting and there was no tasting fee!

Finally, the reason for the trip! Dinner at Michelin 2-star Harbor House! Unfortunately the fog was still laying low on the coast completely hiding the lovely view. Fortunately dinner was so very good that we almost forgot about it. We were seated in the gorgeous wood paneled dining room, right in front of the fireplace. Absolutely perfect for the cool evening.

The tasting menu was 9 or so courses and Aaron and I did the alcohol pairings (wine, beer, saki) while Albert did the non-alcoholic pairing (juice and tea). 

Service and dishes here are both wonderful. Most courses were assembled tableside which was a great touch, and we saw some Cliff Glover pottery in use!
It had been a fantastic week on the coast, even if we couldn't see it for the last two days, and this was a great way to end it. 

The next morning we packed up the car and checked out. As Albert was putting out the garbage he found a (live) racoon in the bin! YIKES! We left the lid open and called the property owners to make sure they would send someone over to release it!

The guys were driving me back to the airport before heading to LA. We stopped in Healdsburg and did a little shopping around before having lunch at Little Saint. The setting is super cute (it's in the old Shed space) but I wasn't overly excited for lunch as the resto is vegan. 

But I have to say everything was very good! 

After we shared some ice cream from Noble Folk and then I did a quick wine tasting at Lioco

And then the lovely week was over; time to say goodbye to Aaron, Albert, and CA. While I was doing a bit of work at the airport I was notified that I had been upgraded to First Class! A perfect ending.

All photos from this trip here

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