Last week I drove up to the Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, (way up in Sonoma County) to check out a tasting menu of their new pastry chef’s creations with cocktail pairings. The drive is pretty long (83 miles each way), which makes the trip well suited for a weekend visit, especially if you are going wine tasting or to indulge in chef’s menus with pairings… I drove up the shaded driveway to the elegant manor house which is surrounded by 8 acres of lush green gardens.
The interior of the Victorian inn abounds with traditional ornate antiques and period decorations of exquisite detail, but the menu of the Michelin-starred restaurant features modernist cuisine with innovative dishes that are prepared using the latest techniques and equipment. Molecular gastronomy served in a Victorian Inn? Carolyn Jung aka Foodgal, visited the inn and restaurant recently and describes the various tasting menus that you can read about here. Here is a link to view some spectacular shots of the rooms available at the inn. If you don’t have time for a 4 hour meal, you can enjoy individual dishes and desserts from the Lounge Menu which is served Wednesday through Sunday from 6pm to 9pm (cocktails start at 4pm).
We sat out on the verandah overlooking elegant tranquil gardens under a cloth pavilion which was warm and cozy on a summer afternoon. The master gardener Geno Ceccato cultivates an on-site organic garden that supplies the restaurant with herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit.
Here is Madrona’s executive chef Jesse Mallgren who has been with the restaurant since 1999 and Pastry Chef Emmanuel (Manny) Fimbrez who joined in July. We also met Pam Bushling, the mixologist who created the cocktail pairings and Drea White, the Wine/Beverage director. They came out to chat with us and were charming and enthusiastic about the collaboration going on in the kitchen as well as the bar and how the menu changes depending on what is ripe in the garden. Chef Manny was most recently lead the pastry team at Saison in San Francisco where he learned techniques like using a clay oven to bake bread as well as to smoke ice cream.
We began with cocktails, this is the Lola, made from watermelon, Herradura silver tequila, Don Miguel Mezcal, lime, a dash of rosewater and balsamic vinegar, the glass was rimmed with Hiwa Kai lava salt. It was an captivating twist on a margarita, each sip was aglow with delectable flavors. The following photos with the Lytro logo are living pictures that you can click around on to change the focus.
The refreshing flavors of the Lola were paired with Cheese Please, buttery layers of laminated brioche filled with a creamy cheese made from sheep’s milk, enclosed with sheets of shattered milk glass sprinkled with tiny edible sweet Elysium and crunchy chunks of almond streusel in a clear puddle of sweet local honey.
The next cocktail was a tall and stately Pearsuasion, made from estate grown pears, ginger infused Junipero gin, lemon, Tempus Fugit violet liquor, garnished with edible borage flowers. Very sweet and very strong…
Milk and Cookies, a fun play on words. The glass was filled with frozen crumbles made from cookie infused milk.
What looked like cookies were actually macaron shaped dehydrated milk foam filled with a delectable chocolate sable. A whimsical dish, refreshing and delicious.
Snap, Crackle Pop: jasmine infused white chocolate, toasted puffed wild rice, sticky mounds of meringue flavored with orange blossom, rice ice cream. This was the most fun I’ve had eating dessert in while, such incredible flavors and textures
The Basil Gimlet, made from hard slapped basil from the garden, the herbaceous flavors are enhanced by the Junipero gin, lime and the beautiful green was augmented by the purple basil leaf garnish.
Chocolate, mounds of chocolate cremeux, basil meringue, almonds, crispy gossamer thin sheets of dehydrated chocolate mousse, crunchy nuggets of dehydrated devil’s food cake served on wood bark that was collected from Chef Manny’s backyard. He soaks then scrubs them and dries them in the sun three times before they are allowed on the table.
Served with Casagrandes, a masculine appearing cocktail of house-made limoncello, Maker’s Mark, ginger infused simple syrup, kunda ginger beer from Australia, bitters, and garnished with lemon zest. After sampling so many cocktails, looking down at the tableau I could almost see little faeries fluttering around in this miniature chocolate landscape…
Afterwards we walked around the well tended gardens, where we could pluck cherry tomatoes from the vine, sampled a tiny piece from an oyster plant leaf that tastes like you just slurped an oyster, all the while admiring the buildings and gorgeous views.
A large section is devoted to herbs, flowers and vegetables that are used in the restaurant and inn. There are mature fruit trees on the property as well.
After this refreshing trudge, we made our departures and received gift bags with a small bottle of the house-made limoncello, a bag of caramel corn and another bag filled with cherry pistachio bark. A treat, truly! More sugar for the ride home…
Hmm Sonoma you intrigue me, it’s been too long since I last visited and now I must come back to sample more of your bounty!