With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI) has compiled a list of nine inns with some of the best restaurants in the state for combining a romantic getaway with an extraordinary dining experience.
Nestled among the redwoods and vineyards of the idyllic Russian River Valley of Sonoma County’s wine country, the on-site restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn serves up seasonal and local cuisine that changes nightly. Executive Chef Steve Litke has been with the Farmhouse for 15 years and has maintained a Michelin star since 2007. Classic Farmhouse dishes on the menu include Rabbit Three Ways: apple wood smoked bacon wrapped loin, a roasted rack, and a confit of leg, all served with Yukon potato and whole grain mustard cream sauce. The setting is intimate, romantic and elegant without being stuffy. White linens, candlelight and a wood-burning fire are all complemented by Chef Litke’s fine food and the carefully-crafted wine list.
Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar and Cottages
Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Oyster Bar and Cottages is a nostalgic gathering place that showcases the bounty of local farm- and sea-to-table, sustainable California cuisine with waterfront dining and accommodations on Tomales Bay. Originally a fish shack and roadhouse, Nick’s Cove has been a local institution for more than 80 years. The beautifully renovated restaurant features a glassed-in deck, restored mahogany bar, large wood-burning fireplace and outside deck for enjoying views of the bay. Led by Executive Chef Austin Perkins, Nick’s Cove sources its cuisine from local farms and fisheries, including Tomales Bay oysters. Last summer, the restaurant unveiled The Croft, an onsite farm and garden which supplies all of the restaurant’s greens, herbs, honey and eggs.
Villa Royale Inn
A romantic hideaway in Palm Springs, Villa Royale Inn’s award-winning Europa Restaurant offers an enchanting dining experience swathed in firelight, trickling fountains, and cascading bougainvillea. The restaurant serves modern, continental dishes such as Salmon in Parchment and Double Crown Rack of Lamb, inspired by the flavors of France, Italy, Spain and Greece. The superb cuisine is accompanied by an extensive list of fine imported and domestic wines. AAA, Wine Spectator and Zagat have all bestowed the restaurant with their highest honors. This winter, the restaurant will debut its seasonal three-course dinner menu with appetizers, entrees and dessert starting at only $48 per person.
Reflecting Applewood Inn’s commitment to sustainability, the Restaurant at Applewood cultivates a rich farm-to-table dining experience in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. The restaurant’s wine country cuisine features organic fruits, vegetables and herbs harvested straight from the inn’s own gardens, as well as honey from the inn’s own apiary and eggs collected each day from the inn’s chicken coops. Chef Annie Hongkham’s menu is seasonally driven and reflects her passion for gardening: watching the herbs and vegetable she grows turn into something on a plate. The restaurant offers a Russian River-centric wine list and gracious service in a rustic, romantic setting built in the style of a French country barn.
The MacCallum House set the standard with organics long ago with Executive Chef Alan Kantor’s long-time focus on sustainable farming. Absolutely everything on the menu is prepared in-house, using only the freshest, seasonal ingredients featuring local and regional organic and wild-crafted products. In the romantic, fire-lit dining rooms, guests may select a first course of Pacific Rim oysters, Liberty Farm duck leg confit or roasted gnocchi and chanterelle salad. Second courses may include wild king salmon, bouillabaisse, roasted Rosie organic chicken, grilled Niman Ranch chops and steaks, or one of the evening’s exciting specials. House made ice creams, cheesecake soufflés, bread puddings and crème brulées make for a sweet ending. The restaurant also offers an outstanding wine selection with a focus on local vintages.
Carter House Inns
On California’s redwood coast, Carter House Inns’ Restaurant 301 is considered a destination restaurant by many. The cuisine showcases herbs, greens and vegetables from the inn’s own gardens as well as the region’s finest seasonal delicacies, such as Humboldt Bay’s Kumamoto oysters and fresh salmon from the Pacific. The chefs source fresh, local produce daily to craft artful dishes pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. In the dining room, guests may order a la carte, or enjoy the chef’s prix fixe menu: a memorable five-course feast complete with wine pairings. A Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 1998, the restaurant’s wine list offers several thousand selections, including wines from Carter Cellars and Envy Wines, Carters’ own winery in Napa Valley.
1859 Historic National Hotel & Restaurant
In California Gold Country, the historic 1859 Historic National Hotel & Restaurant is among the oldest hotels in continuous operation in the state and its restaurant has been serving diners for over 40 years. Led by Executive Chef Thomas Callahan, who has been with the restaurant for 18 years, the restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine with top-quality ingredients including USDA Choice beef, fresh fish, house-made pastas and breads, and fresh herbs, picked daily from the restaurant’s own herb garden. The restaurant has the largest wine list of Sierra Foothills appellation wines, with more than 100 selections. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch, and creates special menus for holidays, including Valentine’s Day.
The elegant VI Restaurant at the Victorian Inn in Ferndale overlooks the quaint Victorian streets of town and provides a memorable dining experience with a historic redwood bar dating to the 1890s and a baby grand piano. Under the direction of Chef Jason Wentz, the kitchen serves creative, skillfully-prepared dishes using local and organic provisions whenever possible. Specialties include fresh fish and tender steaks. The wine list offers some of the finest wines from Napa, Sonoma and Oregon, as well as some local vintages including Frog Alley Wines, which is located within Ferndale’s city limits. The restaurant’s tavern is an inviting spot for enjoying a drink with friends and features a long list of specialty, one-of-a-kind cocktails.
Benbow Historic Inn
At the Benbow Historic Inn in Garberville, rising star Executive Chef Dustin Vallance and his wife, Sous Chef/Pastry Chef Jennifer Vallance, showcase their vast culinary skills through the creation of seasonal, farm-to-table menus. The husband and wife duo source fresh ingredients from local producers and harvest herbs and seasonal vegetables from the resort’s extensive garden. With a wine list of over 450 selections of new and old world wines, the restaurant has received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 15 consecutive years. The restaurant is open 365 days a year for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the summer months, the restaurant offers outdoor dining under the stars ringed by a canopy of towering redwoods.