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Posted April 2006

Eat, Sip, Stay: Ft. Bragg

Rendezvous Inn, Mendocino Bistro are Draws for Those Traveling on Their Stomachs

FT. BRAGG, CA—For diners, the small coastal town of Fort Bragg is known as something of a culinary hotspot, hosting two of the region's highest rated restaurants, a handful of excellent local eateries, as well as an internationally recognized cooking school. So if you're planning a visit, pack a fork along with a warm sweater and a good book (for those cozy fireside evenings)—or at least a hearty appetite.

Most recently, the Rendezvous Inn (647 North Main Street
Ft. Bragg, CA, 707-964-8142), a cozy bed and breakfast and restaurant in Mendocino's coastal village of Fort Bragg, has been named top Mendocino County restaurant in the 2006 Zagat guide. The guide is a well-regarded guide to some of the best restaurants in the country, identifying great chefs and food in each region.

According to the recently released guide, the Rendezvous is, "…the best bet for a dining experience in Fort Bragg, offering imaginative, seasonally-driven New French dinners of the first rank (the locally focused wine list is tops, too).  Supporters say personable chef-owner Kim Badenhop (who trained under Georges Blanc) is an excellent technician who deserves a better appointed venue (if this were in Mendocino (ed. note: the nearby popular tourist town, which shares its name with the county) it would be packing them in)."

Wine Pairing:

A recent sampling from the menu from the Rendezvous Inn (Keep in mind that the menu changes often, keeping with seasons and availability of local ingredients.)

House made apricot aperitif

Inspired by a smoked goat cheese salad at a restaurant in Pouilly-sur-Loire featuring the local Crottin de Chavignol, Rendezvous serves fresh Laura Chenel goat cheese smoked lightly over grapevine cuttings, served warm with toasted walnuts on greens dressed with mustard-herb vinaigrette. Suggested wine: 2004 Cole Bailey Sauvignon Blanc.

Grains of Paradise is a rare spice harvested in the wilds of Ghana, with a complex flavor profile reminiscent of pepper, ginger and cardamom. Rendezvous crusts a filet of Pacific halibut with the grains, pan-roasts it, and serves it on a bed of braised fennel with a sprinkling of rose-colored Hawaiian sea salt. Suggested wine: 2002 Handley Sauvignon Blanc

Popular last summer, the lemon-raspberry dessert gives an encore performance. A bracing lemon sorbet is molded together with raspberry ice cream, surrounded with a lemon custard sauce and topped with fresh raspberries.

Co-owned by Chef Kim and wife Janice, the restaurant is located inside the inn, and has sometimes remained something of an insider's destination because of its rather remote location 15 minutes drive north from the town of Mendocino. In addition, the tiny dining room only seats 35.

Menu items like a torchon of foie gras with cherry chutney and white port gelee, rack of lamb or intricately prepared Middle Eastern inspired dishes feature Badenhop's keen eye for detail. The former researcher for Merrill Lynch describes each item on the menu in mouth-watering detail, pairing each dish with local wines.

If you go: Rendezvous is a place you settle in for the weekend, take off your watch and just let the world go by for a few days. Don't plan to rush through dinner, this is an elegant experience that deserves to be savored. The romance factor is high, with an intimate, quiet setting that all but guarantees at least half your fellow diners are celebrating a special birthday, anniversary or simply a romantic getaway. Do everyone a favor and leave the kids at home—this just isn't something they'll enjoy. Expect to spend about $40-45 per person (without wine).

The Rendezvous isn't the only highly rated restaurant in town, however. Here are other fork-worthy restaurants nearby:

Mendo Bistro:

Chef/owner Nicholas Petti's seasonal menu includes local seafood, produce, beer and wine and house-made fresh pastas at reasonable prices. Recent menu items included prize-winning crab cakes, Hog Island oysters, chicken made-to-order, sweet potato gnocchi with gorgonzola cream, and seared scallops with pork confit and carrot risotto.

The atmosphere: Casual and inviting, the restaurant is an open-layout, and can be a bit noisy if you're looking to whisper sweet nothings in your lovers' ear. If you're traveling with kids, the bistro is a perfect choice for great "grown up" food in an environment that can handle kids. Expect to spend about $30-35 per person (without wine).
Mendo Bistro, 301 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA, 707.964.4974

Sharon's By the Sea:

A well-loved local Italian Bistro in Noyo Harbor, with nice harborside side views. Menu items include crab cakes, linguine, and steak. A separate children's menu is available.The atmosphere: For those of you who want dinner with a view, this is the place. Expect to spend about $25 per person (without wine).

Sharon's: 32096 N. Harbor Drive , Ft. Bragg, CA, 707.962.0680

Silver's At the Wharf:

Seafood-focused restaurant featuring plenty of local catches of the day. Menu items include crab cakes (sensing a theme here?), halibut, scallops, lamb, crab and more. The atmosphere: Great views with large windows looking out onto Noyo harbor. Elegant upscale, a restaurant that's trying working hard to be in the upper tiers of Mendocino's dining choices, and often succeeding. Expect to spend about $40-45 per person (without wine).
Silver's: 32260 NO. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA, 707.964.4283

Living Light To Go:

One of the only raw-foods culinary schools around, Living Light is focused on elevating the art of raw cuisine—a trend of creating highly evolved dishes with food that is never heated over 180 degrees. Advocates say this way of eating promotes a healthier way of eating. The school runs a "To go" restaurant that features a lot of salads and raw greens as well as a handful of imaginative dishes like "raw burritos". Expect to spend $8 to $10. 301 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA,  707.964.1841,Ext. 22


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