Two food-filled days on the coast, part one
The bed was shaped like a boat, shiny teak surrounding the most luxurious mattress, mounded high with a pile of fluffy down pillows and crisp white sheets that were surely a zillion thread count. In fact, the whole cottage was shaped like a boat, even with portholes for windows and a deck off the bow that allowed for outrageous views of the steely water of Tomales Bay, the lush green hills of Point Reyes in the distance. The pretty, pale grey tile floor in the bathroom was heated. Heated! A heavenly warmth under our chilly feet on that blustery afternoon. The whole effect was very “Hemingway-ish,” with perfectly aged leather journals, antique fishing rods and washed out marine-themed watercolors placed strategically here and there. We were oohing and ahhing as we explored “Nicolina,” our gorgeous overnight digs on the coast, at the über fabulous, Nick’s Cove and Cottages. Local photographer extraordinaire, Megan Clouse, and I were on the coast last week for two much needed days of girl time, crisp ocean breezes, and for plenty of stellar food, of course.
Every single time I spend time out on the coast I wonder why I don’t spend more time out on the coast. Sonoma, you need to spend more time on the coast! A mere forty-five minutes from town, Tomales Bay has some of the most stunning scenery, hiking trails, ocean kayaking, not to mention plenty of just-plucked-from-the-bay seafood and coastal wines. Getting there along the winding roads is so much fun to experience with my Mini’s convertible top down, happily inhaling the scents of eucalyptus, cedar, salt and…even cow.
It is just so California to be sort of out in the middle of nowhere and utterly surrounded with stellar food and wine, and Nick’s Cove is the epitome. The historic roadside eatery, fish shack, and over-the-water cottages date back to the early 1930s where it served as a seaside spot for day trippers from surrounding areas after the War. Nick’s continues to be the ideal waterfront stop for a yummy meal, killer views or a nice glass of wine. It’s not necessary that you spend the night, but I beg you to please consider it. There are seven lovely, somewhat affordable hilltop accommodations with bay views. Although I highly recommend choosing one the five absolutely divine cottages perched right above the water. I warn you, they are not for the financially modest, but all the thoughtful, luxurious amenities, and the romance factor – not to mention the insane views – make it worth every penny, I promise.
After a sufficient amount of time was spent oggling all the wonders in our cottage, Megan and I decided to grab the cute little canning jar filled with complimentary snack mix from the room, order a bottle of wine from the restaurant’s bar, and head out to the restored fishing shack on the end of Nick’s dock for a fierce game of dominoes. The winds were extremely gusty, but the bright, shimmering sun reflected magically off of the choppy waves. It was so beautiful in every direction that after a while my eyes just hurt from staring at the view. This summer, if you can’t find me, look here, on the end of this super long dock at Nick’s. I simply could not think of a place more beautiful to hang out, lounging in an Adirondeck chair, face to the sun and a glass of Muscadet in-hand.
Games make me hungry, well honestly most anything makes me hungry, so I was thrilled that we’d opted for an early dinner. Our table snuggled right up against the large windows that looked out onto one of the prettiest views imaginable. Luckily, our glasses of bubbly arrived and we were perched there in time for a gorgeous sunset. Executive Chef, Austin Perkins’ cuisine is exactly what you would want in a coastal roadhouse. His menu is filled with cozy, simple dishes that utilize ingredients sourced from nearby farms. The service was charming, the staff all smiles, they seemed happy to also be in this beautiful place.
It would be an absolute crime to not order oysters here, especially with the cold bubbly and that amazing view. Oysters always taste yummier with bubbles and a view. Fact. Farmed right there in Tomales Bay, the briny bivalves were heavenly chilled and served with a simple mignonette and were even more delicious when grilled with a tasty, vinegar-inflected, house-made barbecue sauce. A warm salad of colorful, heirloom cauliflower was doused in a delightful, whole grain mustard dressing, an inspired combination that was easily one of our favorite courses of the evening. Megan’s obsession with anything made with pasta and hot cheese was happily satisfied when digging into an outrageous, bubbling crock of fresh Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese. Insert Megan’s swoon here. Huge diver scallops were seared quickly, with nicely caramelized edges, and accompanied by tangy marinated beets, a fabulous foil for the richness of the huge scallops. The seafood here is pristine and a special entree of Petrale Sole was no exception, tiny spring vegetables were really pretty on the side. Next time, we’ll linger near the fireplace to indulge in the homemade s’mores for two.
Our dinner was truly delightful, everything made even more delicious while enjoyed in Nick’s completely atmospheric setting. I was nearly comatose and beyond excited to climb into that boat-bed, but I couldn’t resist the oversized claw foot tub. A little dish of blissful smelling lavender salts were a thoughtful touch. As I climbed aboard the bed, I was already looking forward to the in-room breakfast that was scheduled to be delivered the next morning. A pot of dark, fresh-brewed coffee, fresh fruit, and pastries baked in-house – which included an ultra moist, lemony, glazed poppy seed muffin that I continue to think about daily – came to the door right on schedule. So, with the sounds of Tomales Bay lapping gently below the cottage and a very full belly, I slept and dreamt of the next time I might return to Nick’s Cove. For more information regarding Nick’s Cove and Cottages, including to make reservations for dining or for overnight accommodations, visit their website at nickscove.com or call 415.663.1033.
Hog Island Manila Clam Chowder
Recipe from the Hog Island Cookbook
1/2 pound high quality bacon, sliced
1/2 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme 2 Tbsp. butter
8-10 medium-size skin-on Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered into bite-size cubes.
6 pounds small, raw Hog Island Manila clams in the shell, rinsed
1 quart heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Parsley for garnish
Place clams in a colander in the kitchen sink and rinse throughly under running water. Pick through and discard clams with broken or open shells. Allow clams to drain in the sink while you prepare your stock base. In a large stock pot bring 5-6 cups of water to a boil (no salt) and cook the potatoes until al dente, or just before fork-tender. While the potatoes are boiling, in a second heavy-bottom pot melt the butter with the thyme. Render the bacon in the butter and thyme, over low heat; once bacon is rendered add leeks and celery, cook until vegetables are translucent. Add carrots and cook until bendable without breaking. Add the potatoes and 4 cups of potato water. The base can be made (up to one day) ahead and kept chilled.
Portion your clams out per single serving (3/4 lb per serving) and cook each serving individually. Working in batches, place a single serving of clams in a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Ladle one cup of the chowder base on top and cover the pan, simmer for about 5-6 minutes, or until the majority of clams open. Skim through and pick out any clams that have not opened. (Don’t skip this step — unopened clams may spoil the chowder.) Add in 1/2-cup cream per serving and bring the chowder to a simmer. If it is too thick, add in more of the potato water. When the chowder is bubbling in the middle, it is ready to serve. Pour individual servings into a large soup bowl.
Garnish with cracked pepper and chopped parsley.
On The Menu
“Tomatomania” returns to Cornerstone this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Two days of “all things tomato,” this annual event features experts who share their tomato-growing experience and tips. Visitors will also have the opportunity to purchase more than 150 varieties of the plant and to attend a variety of complimentary workshops. Make it a whole day by lingering at Cornerstone, enjoying barbecue, wine tasting, the shops and the gardens. Visit cornerstonesonoma.com for details.
• Chef Rob Larman is cooking up a yummy sounding “Prime Rib Dinner” at the Valley Wine Shack on Friday, April 20. The decadent menu starts with a chopped salad and then moves onto smoked and seared prime rib and finishes with – my favorite! – strawberry shortcake. The dinner is a bargain at $38 per person, with plenty of wines by the glass or bottle choices from the Wine Shack. Call 938.7218 for more information or to make your necessary reservations.
• Dining Club Rive Gauche returns on April 25 at 7 p.m. with “The Cuisine of Brazil” at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall. The four-course menu includes a seafood course of bolinhos de bacalhau, a sweet potato salad, spice rubbed chicken and more. Live music will be courtesy of Tudo Bem. The tasty sounding menu and music are $35 per person plus gratuity. Reservations are required by calling 996.0900.
• A cooking class entitled “An Evening with Ronda Giangreco and Lisa Lavagetto” at Ramekins that any food-loving Sonoman shouldn’t miss will be held on Wednesday, May 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The book, “The Gathering Table,” is a heartfelt recollection of how author Giangreco, after being diagnosed with MS, faces down the disease by bravely hosting 52 dinner parties in a year for over 120 guests. Chef Lisa Lavagetto will feature dishes from the book, which is sure to delight all. Join Ramekins, Ronda and Chef Lavagetto for an evening filled with food, laughter and inspiration as you learn about Ronda’s personal journey and her culinary adventures along the way. The delicious sounding menu includes homemade ricotta on crostini, a fennel and greens with blood orange, handmade fettuccini with a rabbit ragú and an orange-olive oil cake. The class and meal costs $80 per student. Call Ramekins to hold your space or for details at 933.0450.
Read Part Two of our food-filled adventure to the coast in my column next week! Megan Clouse is the talented photographer behind many of the fabulous pictures featured in my Sun Eats column. She specializes in weddings, but also does portraits and commercial photography. You can find her blogging as the Cardigan with yours truly at thecardiganandcook.com. Visit her website at mclouse.com for more information. Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Find her blogging daily as the Cook at thecardiganandcook.com or via email at email@example.com.