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North Coast Winds - September 2015

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North Coast Winds - September 2015

by Robin Joy Wellman

Wait! Summer is not over! Word on the street is that summer is over with the start of school and college. But wait! Blackberries are ripe, it’s still hot outside in our coastal hills, the swimming hole is calling, the days are still long, and summer doesn’t officially end till September 23. The ‘Keep Summer Alive’ campaign is here! 

The coast is calling you. If you are visiting you are in for a treat. From amazing food, great places to stay, coffee houses that are welcoming, and kind people, you will love the coast. And for those of us who live here please remember to count your blessings. Who remembers the old days at the Gualala Hotel and Bar with hometown entertainment every Friday and Saturday night in the local bar? A fight or two was normal. You could count on it. This historic building first opened in 1903 and remains a Gualala Historic Site, a stand out in our community.  Well, I am pleased to highlight the new ‘Gualala Hotel, Restaurant, and Saloon’ now owned by Coastal Hospitality Partners and also highlight the new Executive Chef, Christian Anderson. While you won’t find the ‘bar fight’ anymore you will find a pleasant family atmosphere in the restaurant and the relaxing feel in the saloon. 

Executive Chef Christian is 32 years old and has been in the kitchen or cooking for close to 20 years starting as a dishwasher at a camp in Occidental. Later he hired on as a cook at the Bohemian Club in the summers, Cape Fear in Graton, worked at Hilton, River’s End, Sea Ranch Lodge, Applewood, Catahoula in Calistoga, Pinot Blanc, The Ritz in San Francisco, and several other locations over the years, not necessarily in that order. In his late teens he moved to Gualala and worked with Rene Fuge, a well-known French Chef, and now after 14 years of moving around gaining life experiences in the kitchen, Chef Christian said he is finally ‘home’. 

Executive Chef Christian spoke about his focus and comfort here being grounded and with a strong support team with his goal of making sure each and every guest is pleased. Chef Christian has brought all his favorite foods and experience from the last 20 years to turn the Gualala Hotel in a family friendly, affordable dining experience. He plans on giving back to the community with a youth chef program which will start next year. They are also offering the Comfort Menu for $16 a person Monday through Thursday which includes 4 courses. 

Local People and Coastal Visitors – this is a great price for the quality of service and food. The wine selection includes many local Sonoma Coast wines along with well-known names and the prices are right. They also have a full bar so any cocktail you might want is available. The music is soft in the background, the décor is simple yet updated and pleasing with local art work as a nice touch, and the welcoming staff was great. On Thursday night I was treated to an amazing night of tasting by Executive Chef Christian Anderson. I am not a food writer nor do I pretend to be a ‘foodie’, but I do know good food when I taste it. ALL the food is made in house including the sauces, the breads, the jams, etc. My first appetizer was Burrata Cheese (which happens to be the chef’s favorite appetizer) served with baby greens, pesto crostini’s and a tomato jam with a touch of sea salt. Wow! My second dish was ‘pork belly’. OMG!!! This too is one of the Chef’s favorite. I had no idea I would love this so much. My next dish was baby wild greens with grilled scallops, seedless grapes served with blue cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, a combo that was surprisingly nice. The scallops were not overcooked served with a nice seared edge for some texture. Next was the fresh wild salmon caught right here off Anchor Bay was superb. It was served over fresh homemade polenta with fresh corn, smoked baby potatoes served with olive oil and lemon. I had never had polenta like this and am hooked. Next was the duck breast with homemade apricot sauce, chard cooked in the duck fat (not salty), wild rice with a nice creamy texture, and a cranberry sauce. I generally don’t order duck but this has brought me around. The dessert was the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. One of the ladies sitting near me said that she is from New York, but this cheesecake beats all cheesecakes she has ever eaten. The guests around me all made wonderful comments about the food. They kept talking about the food, the chef and what he has brought to the restaurant. I asked them to describe their meal in one word: Excellent, Wonderful, Flavorful, Absolutely delicious is what I heard. The server knew the locals and was relaxed with her guests. I overheard her say to a few folks after they commented on what great food, “I would never work at a place where I have to apologize’. 

The hotel portion of the Gualala Hotel will open next year. They are remodeling the rooms to be larger and with personal bathrooms. Chef Anderson lives on 40 acres with his wife Nicole (his rock), and two children, Calista and Emmitt. His favorite foods at home are chicken dishes either fried or roasted, mashed potatoes, and corn. His favorite get-aways are the Cliff House in San Francisco, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant, and a Saloon next door. 

When you come out for a great meal at Gualala Hotel, Restaurant, and Saloon please also visit our other local attractions. For events on our coast visit the websites of these fine venues: Gualala Arts where they always have events on the calendar with fine art exhibits, excellent concerts, contests, and theater, the Lighthouse in Point Arena, and the Stornetta Lands with wonderful coastal walks and access. For a pretty complete listing of places to stay and eat visit the Redwood Coast Chamber of Commerce. Think about joining our Chamber so they can support you in return. 

Friends, again if you would like to be highlighted please contact me. The Sonoma County Gazette is a free news magazine that is well distributed. Over 34,000 copies of our print edition are distributed to almost 1,000 Sonoma County locations and now some Mendocino Coast (thanks to yours truly) locations reaching an estimated 130,000 readers monthly – in print and on-line. The Gazette is a fabulous outreach tool. It could be you with a huge draw potential from not only our local community but the wider Sonoma County as well as our visitors to our coast that are now picking up the Gazette for this very information (we can’t keep the newsstands full, they are disappearing so fast). Send me your newsletters, or email me personally with a specific event. Blessings to you all!