Last weekend I headed to the coast to check out a secret watercress pool fed by a springtime creek for some end-of-season foraging. But the patch had subsided and I decided it looked too much like real work for a lazy Sunday. Instead I headed north to the hamlet of Jenner to find Café Aquatica. I’d heard about it from a friend who joined me at Bodega Bay’s Chowder Day. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/888863 After trying some excellent clam chowders in the competition, she said, “the café in Jenner makes even better chowder, expensive though”.
Jenner’s basically a wide spot in the road, so the unnamed cafe was not hard to locate. It’s on the waterfront, next to the state park rest stop and parking lot, and across the street from the gas station. The view of the mouth of the Russian River was stunning on this sunny day. A duo was playing smooth jazz on a stage platform by the water. This may be one of the few places where I paused to look at the scenery first before studying the menu.
The simple chalkboard menu’s posted inside.
Organic produce, veggie and vegan options, house-baked breads and pastries. The from scratch self-sufficiency applies to the coffee as well. Aquatica is a micro-roaster using organic beans from Finca El Petan (http://www.fincajava.com/) in Nicaragua.
I ordered a pour-over coffee. The mild verging on medium level roast produced a light and fruity coffee with bright acidity. A spot of Clover organic half-and-half rounded it out for me.
The New England clam chowder, $7.50 for a bowl, listed as “gluten-free” on the menuboard, was classic. Without gums or floury thickeners, the milky chowder was packed with coarsely chopped tender clams, chunks of potato, celery and carrot, and a flourish of chopped parsley. I nodded “yes” when offered the topping of housemade croutons (not gluten-free), but I would prefer the chowder bare next time. Very pure and clean flavors, enriched with a little butter, this simple rendition is definitely a contender for top chowder honors on the Sonoma Coast.
The Dungeness crab sandwich on focaccia, $13.50, also called to me. I tried to get a half-order, but the counter guy just chuckled, “Everyone eats the whole thing. You will too.”
Not the soft, cake-like focaccia, the housebaked, pesto flat breat here is coarser and more open-knit in crumb texture. The toasting made the top crust a little tough. But other than that, this was a fine crab sandwich with fresh juicy crab filling and spritely greens. I took half of it home with me for later, and the garlic-tomato aioli spread on the bottom did keep the bread from getting soaked.
The chocolate, chocolate chip cookies in the case looked really good, but I forgot to buy one on the way out. Someone else will need to report on dessert here.
Nick Otis (son of Johnny Otis and his long-time drummer) performs with his duo on Sundays. Other Café Aquatica attractions might be a tarot card reading in the parlor or the outdoor Chair massage for $1 per minute. After reading “pane’s” North Bay road report, concluding with “Hippies: I love you, never go away”, I want her to know that the new Age of Aquarius is alive and well in Jenner.
10439 Hwy 1
Jenner, CA 95450
Daily 8am to 5pm