I usually make a few trips a year to Northern California to visit family and wine country. This year has been more hectic than usual and I haven’t made it at all, so as soon as I had the chance, I was ready to visit some two of my favorite Marin eateries before heading off to Napa and Sonoma.
The weekend actually started with a wine country preview, but not my usual kind. I had my first taste of kayaking on the Russian River in Healdsburg thanks to my friend Tracy. I had lots of fun and wish I could have stayed out there as long as my niece and nephew, both of whom are quite the adventurous athletes.
I realized just how beautiful this area of Sonoma was and I had just driven by it all for years on my way to wineries. I vowed to do some more exploration in the future of more than just the grapes along the Russian River.
While I did discover something new in Sonoma, I was perfectly happy returning to the old while spending the weekend in Marin.
I first visited the Panama Hotel in San Rafael back in 2010, when Christine Bohlke of the MarinCounty Convention and Visitors Bureau took me there for dinner. I loved the quaint restaurant with the piano player crooning on the weekends.
While this “hotel” only has a handful of rooms, the restaurant offers an array of surprises. This is especially true when it comes to brunch. I’ve never been disappointed and this time was no different.
We started passing around the Trio of Housemade Scones, accompanied with mascarpone, strawberry jam and orange jam. I started with a little piece dipped in mascarpone and didn’t want to stop. They were much lighter than most scones and flavorful even without the jam.
Most of the family went for the seafood dishes they were always happy with. The Panama Restaurant offers three eggs benedict varieties that are very popular, the standard with Canadian bacon, Eggs Florentine with smoked salmon and spinach and Eggs San Francisco, with the poached eggs on top of Dungeness crab cakes.
I enjoyed the Mediterranean Scramble, three eggs with garlic, sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese and basil, served with tasty Panama Potatoes.
To make sure everything goes down, I recommend ordering “Make Your Own Mimosas” for the table. You’ll get a bottle of sparkling wine with a half-liter of fresh squeezed orange juice ($40).
Those sales have continued to increase over the years thanks to interesting beers on tap (have you ever tried Oyster or Oatmeal Stout?), which can be delivered by the Ambrewlance. You can also pick up bottles at local stores and Whole Foods throughout Northern California.
Of course, the Iron Springs beers are available at the pub and we had a couple of samplers on the table, including the Golden Blonde Ale, winner of a bronze medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. It went well with a table favorite, the Fish Tacos.
I went for the Dark Ale Braised Pulled Pork Sandwich this time, a tough choice over another pork favorite here, Miguel’s Famous Poc Chuc (grilled marinated boneless pork loin with red onions, tomato salsa, Mexican rice, guacamole and black beans, served with corn tortillas).
I wished I had a few more days to explore Marin, but I was off to Napa and Sonoma with my first stay at Vintner’s Inn.