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Inverness—Quiet Coastal Getaway

By Alexa Chipman Mar. 12, 2017

At the heart of a network of hiking trails ranging through Point Reyes National Seashore, the tiny town of Inverness has a relaxed atmosphere of rustic buildings and docks overlooking the tranquil Tomales Bay. There are plenty of cabins or bed & breakfasts to stay at if you are comfortable with roughing it, such as Dancing Coyote Beach cottages that are feet from the water with a private beach.

Inverness Tomales Bay

The easiest route to Inverness is on Petaluma’s D Street—follow it through rolling green hills, over a winding pass of spectacular vistas, and a few easy turns will bring you onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard that meanders along the bay.

During the summer, head to a forest enclosed beach for a lazy swim or sunbathing. Local haunts include Heart’s Desire Beach, which is linked by short trails to a network of smaller sandy inlets to spread your blanket, or Chicken Ranch Beach, a great place to bring your kayak and paddle through the sheltered bay. Keep in mind that it is a tidal estuary, so beaches will change size during the day.

Saltwater Oyster Depot
Website: www.saltwateroysterdepot.com
Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location: 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness

Saltwater Oyster Depot Inverness

Slide into a seat at the outdoor bar, basking in coastal breezes, or enjoy the sleek modern design of the interior with a casual, yet trendy atmosphere. It can get busy, so either reserve ahead or be ready for a brief wait on their comfortable outdoor couches with a bay view.

Breakfast is served until 11:30 a.m. with a brief pause until lunch through 3:00 p.m. with delicious filling sandwiches like the locally sourced free range chicken using poultry from Petaluma. From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. the bar menu is limited, but excellent, offering a variety of oysters, both from Tomales Bay and imported, along with a carefully curated list of accompanying recommended wines.

inverness-california-saltwater-oysters-wine

I went for the sparkling Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsache with Hog Island Sweetwater oysters and the best bread pudding I have ever tasted. It was creamy, with caramel sauce oozing inside the cake, covered in fluffy whipped cream and edible violets. After 5:00 p.m. the menu is refreshed for dinner with soups and salads that are delectable and healthy.

Inverness may be a tiny town that barely registers on your GPS, but it can be a tranquil weekend excursion of strolling along beaches or through the woods followed by sharing an oyster tasting with loved ones.

Sonoma County Ocean View Restaurants

By Alexa Chipman Feb. 18, 2017

The Sonoma County coast is a rugged rock garden of pluming surf, tidal estuaries, and sea life such as gray whales, elephant seals, and birds. Wind blown trees create unique sculptural formations that range across grassy knolls and pockets of sandy beaches nestle at the bottom of steep cliffs.

After a day of exploration, feeling the chill and sting of salt, or perhaps to enjoy the rough coastline from a sheltered perspective, there are countless restaurants offering spectacular views and fresh seafood. When I am having a rough day, I often drive out to an oasis of relaxing dining on the Northern California coast.

The Tides Wharf Restaurant
Website: www.innatthetides.com
Hours: Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location: 835 Bay Highway, Bodega Bay

The Tides Restaurant & Wharf

If you have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s terrifying film The Birds, you may be familiar with this location. Although it has since been renovated, The Tides retains a charm and timeless elegance that makes it a favorite lunch destination from around the county. There is outdoor seating for picnics using their well stocked snacks, wine, and seafood shop, a small bar, and the main wharf restaurant with open views of the water.

They have a wide array of daily specials and a menu that ranges from elaborate dishes to variations on traditional fare like their Bodega Bay chowder. For seafood with a breakfast twist, come early in the day on a weekend for brunch. Best of all, their range of deserts is to die for—stop by their bakery for sumptuous mini cakes, éclaires, tarts, and pies.

The Tides Gift Shop

I always stop by The Tides gift shop for ocean inspired home décor, seashells, books, and more. Last year I slowly collected ornaments until I had enough to entirely deck my Christmas Tree in a blue-green array of fishing boats, shells, and sea creatures. I am particularly fond of a small Bodega Bay model ship with sparkling lights running up and down its mast that I hung near the top. If you know someone who enjoys the ocean and need a quick gift, I recommend taking a look.

River’s End
Website: www.ilovesunsets.com
Hours: Daily (Closed Wednesday) from 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. for Lunch
and 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for Dinner.
Location: 11048 Highway 1, Jenner

rivers-end-2-2017-new

Drive farther North up the coast for a truly delicious treat at River’s End. Even on stormy days, their small parking lot is overflowing. If it is full, there are several overlooks a leisurely stroll away. Their menu is limited and everything on it is mouthwatering with exquisite presentation. The staff is attentive and cheerful, eager to help and explain what is offered. For a tiny, busy restaurant they have efficient service. I have never gone wrong with a dish here—their sauces are perfectly balanced and decadent.

River's End Jenner

Despite amazing food, the real reason I go to River’s End is their talented mixologist, who has gathered onto a searchable iPad an assortment of difficult to find cocktails, such as “Aviation”. Your server will bring the tablet to your table to search through, making you want to stay all day and drink through the menu to try them all. In addition they have local wine choices and a lovely pairing for couples of oysters with the airy white wine gewürztraminer. This is my go to restaurant when I visit the coast.

Cafe Aquatica Jenner

Café Aquatica
Website: Facebook
Hours: Daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 10439 Highway 1, Jenner

For the adventurous, experience the local Jenner scene in the cozy Café Aquatica with casual outdoor or indoor seating, often serenaded by live guitar music. Its rustic décor is reminiscent of the Sonoma County coast’s fishing community origins, and their menu is straight forward comfort food with a seafood twist like their salmon melt sandwich. If your shoes are still sandy from the beach and you aren’t up to a formal atmosphere or fine dining, they are the place to go for a laid-back lunch with a view of Russian River flowing into the sea.

Tea Rooms in Sonoma County

By Alexa Chipman    Feb. 1, 2017

Muir's Tea Room Sebastapol
Muir’s Tea Room in Sebastopol

Treat your friends to a relaxing lunch in a quaint Victorian tea room with these two scrumptious options in Sonoma County.

Tudor Rose Tea Room – Traditional English Tea in Santa Rosa

Muir’s Tea Room – California Cuisine in Sebastopol

Ambience & Location

Both tea rooms have a sweet elegance about them and welcoming staff who are attentive and ready to answer any questions you have about the menu. Muir’s includes outdoor seating on the porch and a comfortable rustic feel. Tudor Rose is decorated like the parlor inside a Jane Austen novel. Parking for both is challenging, but there are public lots within a few blocks, and the new train should make arriving in downtown Santa Rosa easier.

Tudor Rose Tea Room Santa Rosa
Tudor Rose Tea Room in Santa Rosa

Luncheon

Muir’s fare includes tantalizing salads and classic Sonoma County cuisine, with a delicate attention to detail and thoughtful presentation. If I want a mouth watering shepherd’s pie, Tudor Rose is where I trace my steps for hearty English “pub grub”.

The Tea

Both offer an intriguing selection of teas which are excellent and worth working down the menu to try, and include endless pots of tea to enjoy or share with friends.

Scones

This is the benchmark of a good tea room. The scone itself is superior at Muir’s, however their tiny bit of jam and butter is not sufficient to spread on it. Tudor Rose gives you heaps of jam and clotted cream, and when you request crumpets, there is also lemon curd.

Sandwiches & Sweets

Sandwiches at Tudor Rose are simple and delicious in relatively large portions for tea sandwiches. Muir’s edges toward presentation over taste, and is better for a light snack. Where they shine is in the sweets, which arrive in seasonal varieties and are worth purchasing on their own.

If you are near Sebastopol or Santa Rosa, consider the tradition of afternoon tea for a delightful dining experience. Both offer reservations for larger groups, and Tudor Rose has an event room for parties.