We took the back roads through the Napa/Sonoma countryside via Highways 12/121 and 116 heading toward Santa Rosa, Calif., on our way to the Mendocino coast. We are very familiar with the area and were shocked and saddened by the results of the devastating fires that only weeks before had blackened and destroyed farmlands, vineyards, wineries, businesses and whole residential neighborhoods, such as Coffey Park in Santa Rosa. The news reports had been horrible, but all of the destruction was even more heartbreaking to see in real life.
We had lunch at the new Bear Republic brewpub in Rohnert Park, situated on a small lake. Bear Republic’s version of Sonoma Pride, a special beer being brewed by many breweries as a fundraiser for victims of the fires, was our first call. More on this bright spot in the devastated Sonoma/Napa region elsewhere in this issue.
The seven-course dinner featured barrel-aged and artisan beers from Russian River Brewing Company
We made it to the coast for a spectacular sunset as we arrived in the bucolic Victorian collection of buildings that are the Little River Inn, which began life as a home built by Silas Coombs in 1863 and is now the crown jewel in the collection of buildings making up the inn, restaurant, golf course, tennis courts and outbuildings along the coastal bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The inn has been family-owned for five generations and has been under the care of Cally Dym and her chef husband, Marc Dym, for many years. In addition to fine food and hospitality, the dynamic Dym duo have a love of indigenous foods and beverages, including the amazing craft beers so well known in the area. The couple has been doing beer dinners for many years, and their embrace of the area’s Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival has resulted in a beer-themed dinner that is now in its 10th iteration.
The seven-course dinner featured barrel-aged and artisan beers from Russian River Brewing Company, presented by Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, along with the now-classic Saison 75, created by Marc Dym and Fal Allen of Anderson Valley Brewing Company to celebrate the inn’s 75th anniversary a few years ago. Made with candy cap mushrooms, the beer is unique and was a standout in the evening’s proceedings.
The dinner began with a passed appetizer of Mushroom Bugles (a wafer cone) with Goat Cheese accompanied by Russian River’s Belgian-style Scratching Post blonde ale at 4.75% abv. Delightful.
Made with candy cap mushrooms, Saison 75 is a unique beer and was a standout in the evening’s proceedings
We found our seats and were treated to a Golden Chanterelle Mushroom Tart served with the aforementioned stunning Saison 75. The candy cap mushrooms have a subtle maple syrup flavor that paired nicely with the tart.
Marc’s signature Mushroom Consommé with quenelles is always a standout. The story of how Marc won Cally’s heart with this creation is now the stuff of legend.
The Porchetta, Porcini & Pig course brought the “wow” factor up a few notches. Pork belly roast done sous vide (under vacuum) stuffed with porcini mushrooms with potato pancake and IPA cabbage was rich and wonderful. The Russian River Blind Pig IPA was the perfect pairing.
The entrée was Beer Braised Brisket with trumpet mushrooms, also cooked sous vide so that each slice was perfectly done. The spätzle was a nice touch and very filling.
The evening groaned to a close with a delightfully rich but not sweet Truffle Tremor Cheesecake with toasted pistachio crust. Oh my. Our final beer was the one-off T-30th Anniversary Domesticated Wild Ale created by Russian River for the famed San Francisco craft beer bar Toronado’s 30th anniversary. Toronado owners Dave Keene and wife Jennifer were in attendance to enjoy the pairing.