November 18, 2007
Mendocino Anniversary Trip: MacCallum House, Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino Cafe, Living Light Cafe and More
Lisa and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary in Mendocino, my favorite tourist destination of all time. Great scenery, great food, lots to do. This time, we stayed at the MacCallum House right in town, which turned out to be a disappointment. See my Epinions review of our stay at the MacCallum House. Read my other reviews about Mendocino:
This trip we tried Cafe Beaujolais for the first time. It doesn't try hard to cater much to vegetarians, so I wouldn't recommend it on that basis. However, the two options we found were both excellent. The bread was terrific too. We went for lunch, and I think that's a much better value than dinner. Two odd facts: (1) the floor noticeably slopes, so it's like eating in a mystery house; (2) at our lunch, we were the youngest couple there by at least a decade--at my age, this doesn't happen very often any more.
We also went back to Mendocino Cafe, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. I like it because it's casual and fun with terrific food. However, I was disappointed to learn that some of the putatively vegetarian dishes have undisclosed fish sauce in them. Ask before you order!
Finally, we were blown away to discover the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, which bills itself as "the premier organic raw vegan school in the world." Who knew that Fort Bragg could support a major raw foods cooking school? They have a cafe as part of the school, so we were thrilled to try it out. I'm usually not a big fan of raw foods restaurants; I find them overpriced and typically not very tasty. This place definitely wasn't cheap, but I thought it served the best raw food dishes I've had. I thoroughly enjoyed everything we tried. I think Fort Bragg gets unfairly overshadowed by Mendocino, but the Living Light Cafe is yet another reason to spend some time there.
November 17, 2007
Mineral Restaurant, Murphys, California
Over the years, we have found vegetarian restaurants in some wacky/unexpected places, but Mineral Restaurant ranks up there as one of our most surprising discoveries. Mineral Restaurant is a high end vegetarian restaurant designed to compete with other five-star Northern California vegetarian favorites such as Greens, Millennium and The Ravens. But instead of being located in a major metropolis like San Francisco or an eco-friendly upscale tourist town like Mendocino, Mineral is off the beaten track in downtown Murphys, a lovely but tiny town in the bucolic Gold Country about an hour from Stockton. How in the world can this small community support a vegetarian restaurant, let alone one charging top-of-the-line prices?
Mineral seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much. It celebrated its 1 year anniversary, which is probably 11 months longer than anyone expected, and every seat filled on a Friday night in late October (so make reservations). Then again, the restaurant only seats 20 (including the bar but excluding the outdoor patio). But they run a lean operation, with a staff of two—the owner-server and the owner-chef. So between low labor costs, high prices and filling to capacity on the weekends, perhaps the economics work out OK.
Mineral uses big plates to serve small portions. I suspect many meat eaters laugh when their plates arrive; this visual presentation may psychologically reinforce that they are going to go home hungry. But the three course tasting menu (which is what everyone orders) was plenty of food. At the end, we were too stuffed to contemplate dessert.
Although the restaurant isn’t fully vegan, the restaurant is an excellent choice for a vegan looking for a special meal.
Because Mineral’s menu changes constantly, I’m not going to critique each dish. Instead, to generalize the experience, most dishes had multiple and complex flavors, of which one was typically a little sweet. My wife absolutely loved the food, and she ranks it among the best she’s ever had. I was less enthusiastic. I thought the food was good but overly complicated and expensive--including the wine tasting, we ended up spending about $60/person. I would be just as happy spending $15/person at a much lower-frills but still tasty restaurant like Udupi Palace or Native Foods.
Although I’m not sure about the value proposition, I enthusiastically recommend that you check out Mineral if you’re willing to spend top dollar for a top quality culinary experience. It’s certainly competitive with Millennium as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Northern California (I think Greens is overrated and isn’t close to either). Better yet, enjoy a weekend as a tourist in Murphys. There is plenty to do, see and eat. As an added bonus, come back to Mineral a second time for lunch. Lisa and I both thought their “X-burger” made for an outstanding and affordable lunch.
UPDATE MAY 2008: Perhaps the economics weren't so great after all. Mineral has rechristened itself as the "Mineral Wine Bar and Kitchen' with a revamped, noticeably cheaper and far less vegan-friendly (but still vegetarian) menu.
November 16, 2007
Bloggership Conference Papers Finally Published
Back in April 2006, a first-rate group of law professor bloggers (and a few other bloggers) gathered for the Bloggership conference to discuss how blogs affected legal scholarship and our lives as law professors. My recap from the event. I thought the experience of meeting other bloggers face-to-face to discuss blog-related issues was so terrific that it inspired me to initiate a local variation, the Bay Area Blawger gatherings.
At the event, a number of the speakers discussed the disintermediation of law reviews by new electronic publishing tools such as SSRN, as well as the difficulty of dead trees publications to compete with the blogosphere's speed at disseminating commentary and digesting events. As if to reinforce the points, the Washington University Law Review has now published the collection of papers from the Bloggership conference, about a year-and-a-half after the event was held and the early drafts of the papers were published via SSRN. Paul Caron has helpfully posted a comprehensive index to the papers as published in the Washington University Law Review as well as links to a variety of other goodies related to the event. My paper on Co-Blogging, in its final published form, is here.