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Birthday weekend in Pt Reyes: The Olema Inn and various misc eating and other notes (long)


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Birthday weekend in Pt Reyes: The Olema Inn and various misc eating and other notes (long)

susancinsf | Mar 4, 2006 02:07 PM

Hubby took me to Pt Reyes for a birthday getaway last weekend… We stayed at Olema Druids Hall Inn, in their Cottage. I have to start with an enthusiastic thumbs up for this as an upscale choice in the area: lovely people, even more lovely accommodations, and the Cottage kitchen, with high quality appliances, including a Bosch gas stove and oven, was probably as well equipped as any vacation rental I’ve stayed at. The fridge is stocked with breakfast items, including fresh eggs, dairy products from Strauss Dairy, and each morning they knocked on our door with a pastry basket and fresh squeezed orange juice. So, that was breakfast, eaten in front of our fire.

As for the rest of the Chow:

For my birthday dinner, I chose the Olema Inn. The Olema Inn has gotten lots of positive reports on Chowhound, and it was a block from our cottage, meaning no need to limit the wine consumption before driving on narrow and often wet roadways, so that was an easy choice. With a few exceptions, it was an excellent choice as well.

The Olema Inn has a welcoming series of rooms in an older, redone building. Tables are quite comfortable and nicely spaced; we were seated immediately (with a reservation; the place was completely full on a Saturday night, although it did seem to thin out as the evening wore on. I'd guess folks who had to drive back to the city prefer to dine early). There is soft music, nice artwork on the walls, and conversation was easy despite the full house. They've got the relaxed but elegant ambiance of a country inn down, I'd say.

Bread was brought quickly: I am fairly sure it was the same delicious sourdough loaf I bought the next day at Bovine Bakery (more in a bit on that), and a raisin loaf. I’d guess the butter was also Strauss; the restaurant advertises that it uses local, organic, and sustainable ingredients.

We spend some time looking over the wine list, which is heavy on smaller California producers, and reasonably priced. There are also some soju cocktails (no full bar). We ordered two half bottles of wine, the Navarro dry Gewurtz (always nice to see one of my favorites on the list, especially on my birthday), and a half bottle of Merrie Edwards Pinot Noir.

I started with oysters on the half shell. Per the menu, they were Hog Islands. The menu lists them as a small plate, $16 for 8, and one doesn’t have the option of ordering individually. Warning bells went off when the server was surprised that I wanted them all raw, not oven roasted with one of the hot toppings advertised on the menu, and wasn’t interested in taking full advantage of the toppings by getting an assortment. I told her I would stick to mignonette on the side, and she answered, ‘are you sure you don’t want the topping on the oysters’? Warning bells were getting louder: sure enough, the oysters tasted very salty, not at all sweet, and just past their prime. Given that Hog Island is what, maybe ten miles up the road?, if that, this was a huge disappointment.

Fortunately, the meal went considerably uphill from there, food wise, though we did have a few service glitches. We had asked to have both bottles of wine brought and opened at the same time, and the server more or less did so, but was slowed by having to wait for glassware to be washed. Nonetheless, we were very glad we had asked for both bottles sooner rather than later, as out server disappeared after bringing the oysters and opening the wine, and we didn’t see her again until we were almost done with dessert. I’m not convinced that the second bottle of wine would have shown up in a timely way if we had waited. The runners brought dishes when they were ready, so pacing was more or less ok, although the wait between apps and mains seemed a bit on the long side, but no one made any move to fill wine glasses for us, and no one asked us how anything was. Water refills were also in very short supply, and when my main came, I had to flag down a busboy to ask for a fork in order to eat it. I did notice that the other server in our room was much more present than ours, but she completely ignored us. Still, her tables definitely got the better service. (actually, she seemed to have all of the tables in our room except ours, which was perhaps part of the problem).

Oh well, as hubby pointed out, this is the coast, not San Francisco. It certainly didn’t ruin dinner, it just made us feel a little bit left to our own devices, which was sort of the theme of our weekend anyway (given how rural the Pt Reyes area is and how the weather turned bad Sunday, forcing us to find mostly indoor forms of entertainment…)

Ok, I really digress. Again, back to the food:

For apps, hubby had the soup of the evening: a delicious Dungeness bisque. Creamy, but not overly so, and so the crab flavor shone through. I had a scallop salad from the ‘small plates’ menu, served with small bits of roasted butternut squash, arugula, pomegranates seeds, and croutons in a vinaigrette. The dish looked a little busy, but it was delicious: the scallops were perfectly fresh and perfectly cooked with nice carmelization, and all of the flavors melded beautifully.

Mains were also a hit: I had duck breast with bacon, chanterelles, and roasted beets. Again, perfectly cooked, and despite lots of different flavors on the plate, everything melded very nicely. Hubby had grilled prawns and Kajiki, I only had a small bite but it was excellent. No problems with freshness for that seafood, and the fish was cooked rare as requested.

All of the portions were generous, perhaps even overly so.

Since it was my birthday, cake seemed to be in order, and we split an order of the double chocolate cake, with a chocolate sauce. The serving including two very large slices, drizzled with sauce, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. While the sauce and ice cream were delicious, unfortunately the cake itself, while certainly full of chocolate flavor, was dry. I’d have been much happier with one slice of cake and two scoops of the ice cream, or even with just ice cream and chocolate sauce (again, I’d bet it was Strauss).

Good espresso ended the meal. Since it was my birthday, I didn’t see the bill, but I would estimate the total cost for oysters, two half bottles of wine, two apps, two mains, one dessert and coffee at approximately $170 with tax and tip. When I go back, and I am sure I will, I’d know better than to waste any money on the oysters, and might skip dessert as well, so it is certainly possible to spend quite a bit less. This is also a spot where splitting some portions makes sense for all but the biggest eaters.

So as for the rest of the weekend: we did a lot of hiking, some of it in the rain, which was quite an adventure, and a lot of hanging out in our cottage, so I don’t have a lot else to report, food wise. Never made it up to Hog Island, but then hubby isn’t an oyster fan, so I figured I’d just indulge next time I was at the ferry building.

A few food notes: we did stop in the Pine Cone Diner on Sunday, hoping to have lunch, but given that it was pouring rain and there wasn’t much else to do but eat, the place was absolutely slammed, and we decided not to wait since we were soaked and cold from one of those hikes. Instead, we went to the Bovine Bakery, the Cowgirl Creamery store, and the Palace Grocery (all in Pt. Reyes Station), and stocked up on supplies for a ‘picnic’ in front of our own fire…and ended up also having our dinner there, taking advantage of the oven (mine is STILL broken after well over a month: don’t ask), to roast every vegetable in sight and a really nice chicken…

By the way, I think there have been posts here that the Bread from Bovine is Brickmaiden, made locally, but the bag on the sourdough loaf said 'Breadline' Bakery, so I am not sure if that is a change in baker, or just in name, but it was delicious. We also had some excellent lemon cookies and a small cinnamon bun. I think our morning pastries were also from here: I recognized some of the items on the shelf...Great place, which I had read about on CH!

Two other notes for picnickers: the Palace Grocery has a nice deli selection and a good cheese selection, if the hours or choices at Cowgirl don’t work. Decent booze and wine selection too, although I’d do as we did and pick up most of the produce at Andronico’s in San Anselmo on the way in…

Finally, the Olema Farmhouse Inn has a big sign that they are under new ownership, so while we never made it there, would be interested in any updates on it (previous reports on CH haven’t been that positive, but hey, maybe the oysters are better than at the Olema Inn across the street).

Footnote: we came back into the City just before the Monday storm closed a few roads in and out of Pt Reyes. I had wanted to cap off the weekend with lunch at A16, but alas they are closed worries, we headed for Chinatown and stuffed ourselves on dim sum at Gold Mountain, diet ignored for the birthday, a perfect way to bring ourselves back into city life, and fortuitous, since soon after we got home the power went out and stayed out all night. Lots of leftovers and yet another fire to entertain us!

So, thanks so much to the board for helping me to celebrate in style!


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