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Monday, September 8, 2008

River's End Restaurant & Inn, Jenner, CA

Carolyn Horan takes on a culinary journey to Sonoma County restaurants she just plain enjoys. Her reviews are more than about food, they are about our community and the people who choose to feed us with their food, their time and their lives.

RIVER’S END Restaurant & Inn at 11048 Highway 1 on the coast in Jenner provides a quality experience with good food, presentation and service. The drive to Jenner on Highway 116 West takes you along the Russian River to the River’s End restaurant which sits on the cliff overlooking the ocean. The evening sunset adds to the romantic feeling of the restaurant. You might start with a special artisan cocktail. The chef (yes, Patrick Keane’s title is Cocktail Chef) creates classic cocktails with flavors and ingredients that will expand your conception of the pre-dinner cocktail. He trained at the French Culinary Institute but always had an appreciation for the bar. He wants to contribute to a whole new level of contemporary dining. As example you might try a Kaffir Lime Drop made with Hanger One Kaffir Lime vodka and fresh lime juice served in a citrus sugar rimmed glass, or a Cucumber Gimlet made with Hendricks Gin, fresh cucumber water and lime. If you want something more traditional I recommend Patrick’s Old Fashioned made with Maker’s Mark Whiskey or try his Rasberry Mojito or Cadillac Margarita. If you don’t want alcohol you can try one of five different non-alcoholic specialties. All alcoholic cocktails are $11 and non-alcoholic are $5.

You can select from several appetizers followed by soup or salad. I tried the Crispy Duck Confit Rolls - $12. The presentation of this dish adds to the pleasure of the taste and 4 people could share this appetizer. If you are a fan of beets I suggest the Technicolor beet salad which consists of roasted multi-colored beets layered with mascarpone and goat cheese, macadamia nuts and fresh basil with an orange balsamic vinaigrette for $14

Along with the daily special main courses include Fish, Pork, Filet Mignon, Duck, Elk or vegetarian with prices ranging from $18 to $49. There is a special Dungeness Crab Tasting Menu at a price fixe. I suggest you go to to check this out. As a diner, you can see the chef at work through a glass enclosed kitchen and marvel at the presentation of all these meals. The Executive Chef is David Dahlquist , a young man who has literally spent half his life working in Sonoma County restaurant kitchens and loves the influences of all kinds of tastes: Asian, Mexican, Thai, Latin as example which he integrates into the flavors of California with local fresh products.

So how did these talented chefs end up in a restaurant on the coast? Bert Rangel and his wife, Stephanie, visited River’s End, staying in one of the cottages on a vacation in 1992. Bert fell in love with the setting and told Stephanie he wanted to live there- some day. In 1998 Bert was flying to San Francisco from Mexico City to meet Stephanie and some of their friends to spend a few days in Sonoma County. When Bert settled into his seat on the plane he opened the Wall Street Journal and ‘lo and behold’ there was a for sale ad for River’s End Restaurant and Inn. To make a long story short a few months later the deal was closed and Bert changed his profession from working on developing high tech facility projects to working the “front of the house” at River’s End, a job he loves. Stephanie continues with her profession scheduling construction projects which take her all over the world. They live in Jenner with their two children but find time to travel and visit restaurants to see what their friends and others are achieving with their culinary pursuits. Bert says, “I want River’s End to be a great value and experience. It’s too easy to be average, we want to be spectacular.” Bert has created a culture for the restaurant based on six guidelines: 1) what is the feeling (for the customer)upon walking in the door, 2) a music style that is pleasing for diners, 3) how does the staff approach and communicate with customers, 4) the quality of the food, 5) the presentation of the entire dining experience, and 6) the ambiance.

The restaurant received an ‘Award of Excellence’ in 2002 and has wine by the half bottles plus 17 options for wine by the glass. There is an extensive menu for your ‘Night Cap’ including cordials, ports, muscat, Riesling, brandy & congnac and single malt scotch. If you prefer to end the meal with dessert you could try chocolate mousse, old English Trifle, Mascarpone filled poached pear, creme brulee or house made ice cream.