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Inside Enchanting Madrona Manor in Healdsburg

By Virginia Miller
July 30, 2014
Photo by: Virginia Miller

If you haven't been to Madrona — or you haven't been back in years — it's time to return. Whether or not you're staying overnight, the restaurant downstairs, helmed by talented executive chef Jesse Mallgren, is one of the best in all of Sonoma County. Chef Mallgren has been working his magic at Madrona faithfully since 1999, and his cooking is more dialed in than ever: fresh, exciting and in the company of other great fine dining experiences in the US.

While we love the bright corn, tomato and rhubarb notes of summer, fall is our favorite time to visit — when the air is ripe with harvest from countless surrounding wineries and the garden overflows with fall produce. The restaurant serves a "carte blanche," allowing you to compose your own six-course meal from the six sections of the menu ($130 plus $95 for wine pairings; service included). There's also the "Grande Dame" tasting menu ($155 per person, also including gratuity, $126 wine pairings or split wine pairing for $45), peppered with amuse bouche, which is an ideal way to experience the range of Mallgren's cooking. Flip through the slideshow below for a window into the enchantment. 1001 Westside Rd, Healdsburg; 800-258-4003

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    The address may read Healdsburg, but Madrona Manor isn't situated near the square that Chalkboard, Spoonbar and Bravas Bar de Tapas call home. It's actually tucked away at the end of a long driveway off of winding, winery-lined Westside Road. Surrounded by oaks, palm trees and edible gardens which the chefs and bartender use, the restaurant sits in a historically preserved Victorian inn with wrap-around porch, gazing out over vineyard-filled valleys and mountains.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    A standout course from Chef Mallgren's current menu is this ode to Brentwood corn (pictured). The plate is marked by notes of eucalyptus, hazelnut and maiche, beautifully paired with a crisp 2012 Lucien Albrecht Riesling from Alsace, France. Another tasting menu highlight is "a gift from the chef": a wonderful surprise of foie gras wrapped in beet and rhubarb shell paired with a MV Eric Bordelet Poire Granit Pear Cider from Normandy, France. We love when sommeliers throw sake, cider and beer in the mix with wine pairings.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Cocktails ($15 each, service included) are crafted by the charming Pam Bushling, who, in the past year, began heavily experimenting with spirits, herbs and produce from the estate, working on a classic clarified milk punch as we arrived one recent afternoon, or mixing a lively Lola (pictured) of San Juan Del Rio Mezcal, watermelon, balsamic vinegar and lime with a volcanic sea salt rim — its smoky, bright and summery. Her drinks, like Chef Mallgren's dishes, reflect the bounty of the estate garden and the region, while showing off base spirits ranging from Calvados to whiskey.
     

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Madrona's idyllic front porch, the ideal spot from which to enjoy a cocktail pre-dinner gazing out over vineyards in the mountains in the distance.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Like stepping into another time and world — drinks in the bar at Madrona are a romantic experience. In the winter, there's cozy chairs by the fireplace. In summer, take the cocktails out the front porch.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Bushling is working magic utilizing produce and herbs from the estate garden in her cocktails. Her Gimlet is lovely purplish-pink drink (pictured left), tasting like a fresh summer garden. She uses Wisconsin's top notch Death's Door Gin, mixing it with Meyer lemon and estate opal basil, which produces the purple-pink hue. Another winning drink is the Lemon Meringue, which tastes like a tart lemon meringue pie of Blackwoods Gin and vanilla paste with a frothy egg white making a meringue top.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    A standout amuse from the Grand Dame tasting menu is this unassuming egg shell filled with smoked sabayon (egg yolk cream) that is mixed with prosciutto, Sherry, watercress and diced potato. It's a stunner. Other amuse include fresh radishes dipped in olive oil and fresh komba, a single spoon with a scoop of savory pop rocks and jasmine rice crackers.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    With gardens surrounding the house, there are splashes of color everywhere from flowers to a hillside covered with herbs, vegetables and fruits used in the kitchen and the cocktails.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Post-amuse bouche, the tasting menu starts with a bang: a generous scoop of Oestra caviar (pictured) over a squash blossom "cake" and creme fraiche paired with Champagne (MV Pol Roger Brut), followed by silky, raw scallop crudo served on a scallop half shell. As the courses move on, other highlights include carnaroli risotto with a smattering of Australian black truffles on top, juicy miso-cooked squab partnered with Santa Rosa plums and a beautifully balanced 2012 Red Car Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, or a study in steak perfection: 36 day dry-aged beef dotted with pickled mustard seeds.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Madrona Manor rooms are dreamily decorated with vintage furniture and Victorian-era treasures — this 2nd floor room is graced with a writing desk, a trunk, a Victorian couch and a fireplace. Silky drapes are so thick, the room stays dark and cool, even in the heat of summer. Pulled back, they open onto a spacious deck with lounge chairs, a small couch and inspiring views over the valley and mountains (pictured above).

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Dessert comes in three courses: it might be a a savory, melt-in-the-mouth goat cheese macaron, or this whimsical "peas in a pod" plate of strawberries, peas and white chocolate looking like a snapshot out of an Alice in Wonderland tea party, paired with luxuriously sweet-yet-balanced 2007 Szt. Tamas Royal Tokaji from Hungary.

     

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Tasting menu finish: cart a glace — a cart of liquid nitrogen ice cream prepared tableside at the end of the night, paired with silky 2008 Taylor Fladgate LBV Port.
     

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Places Mentioned

Madrona Manor Restaurant

American • Healdsburg

Food27 Decor26 Service27 Cost$105
 
 
 
 
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