Traveling north: Mendocino, Part IV
The final installment of our travel tips from the north country.
I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of memorable characters in my writing career, and a few of them have actually become friends. So it is with Pauline Zamboni. I profiled her, her late husband, Luciano, and their magnificent Inn at Victorian Gardens bed and breakfast many years ago and since then have returned many times, to cook with them and to enjoy one of the most perfect places I’ve ever stayed. Located on almost 100 acres just outside Manchester, it’s a century-old Victorian farmhouse that they painstakingly restored and crammed with a truly Italian mix of antique and modern furnishings and great art (there are signed Warhol soup can lithographs in the kitchen and a pair of Picasso ceramic plates in the dining room).
When Luciano died five years ago, Pauline put the bed-and-breakfast on hold, only taking a very few guests. She’s still not ready to kick it up full-time again, but if your schedule and hers happen to mesh, she’ll be happy to have you stay. There are four rooms, ranging from $260 to $280 a night. That’s a little pricey, but trust me –- considering the place, it’s an incredible value. Just the 20-minute walk to the road to get the morning paper is a treat -– gravel crunching underfoot, sea fog rolling in, smells of dried grass and ocean, and if you’re lucky, watching you will be her herd of pet donkeys and Dahl sheep. Watch closely and you may spot a couple of wary mule deer, heads poking above the grasses, keeping a close watch on you.
But one of my favorite things to do staying with Pauline is cook for her from her garden. Long raised beds full of lettuces, artichokes, cardoons, several kinds of zucchini, fava beans, even potatoes. In the greenhouse, next to the pens for the ducks and chickens, there are tomato plants (though given the coolness of this summer, even that help hasn’t been enough to get them ripe yet). Pick up a little locally caught salmon, roast some freshly dug potatoes, glaze some of the zucchini, adding their shredded blossoms at the last moment, and I can't remember a more pleasurable meal anywhere.
Inn at Victorian Gardens, 14409 South Highway 1, Manchester. (707) 882-3606.
-- Russ Parsons
Photo credit: Russ Parsons