POINT REYES, CALIF., Sept 23, 2013 — Margaret Grade and Daniel DeLong have re-emerged into the culinary limelight with their latest landmark destination restaurant, Sir and Star, in the tiny West Marin County crossroads of Olema.
The proprietors of Manka’s Inverness Lodge have purchased the historic Olema Inn, given it a charcoal grey coat of paint, and proceeded to create a wholly distinctive restaurant with the idiosyncratic style they are famous for. From unique starter plates to exquisite main course selections to eclectic menu item descriptions, Sir and Star redefines what makes a restaurant so inspirational that people will clamor for the chance to experience it.
Olema is barely a spit in the road, situated along Route 1 in the beautiful rolling grasslands almost equally between the remote hippie haven of Bolinas and the glorious wonders of Point Reyes. The Olema Inn opened originally on July 4, 1876, miraculously survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and was completely renovated as a restaurant in 1998, along with the addition of a century old pine floor from a Virginia tobacco warehouse.
After the dining lodge at Manka’s burned down 6 years ago, the resurrection by Margaret and Daniel of the Olema Inn last year as their new showcase restaurant represents a complete triumph for them, a return to form where he is the “Sir”, and she is clearly the “Star”.
The interior of Sir and Star retains its historic charm, with simple, almost colonial furniture, polished wood floors, and beautifully restored rooms that ooze classic 19th century sophistication. Margaret Grade is the matre d’ extraordinaire, greeting guests tonight in an almost Mennonite linen dress and knitted beret, drifting from table to table and onto the expansive patio, speaking to diners and orchestrating the evening with flair and panache.
Chef Daniel DeLong mans the wildly busy kitchen, using local ingredients to turn out unique creations that have captured the imaginations of patrons and critics for more than a decade.
The menu changes daily, with plate descriptions that are as ephemeral as they are amusing. Thus “a trio of Drakes Bay oysters served as shots under a cloud of their essence with a baton of coastal kohlrabi” is a light and delicately perfect starter.
“Jesse’s flowering spinach sprigs slightly sautéed and draped over a puree of primarily walnuts” is a mere sprite of an appetizer but a genuinely tasty mouthful.
“Marrow in the bone with a jam of local onions and tale that once wagged nearby” is a brilliant revelation, an otherworldly osso bucco. “The belly AKA bacon of local pork served with fennel and figs on a mission” delivers a sumptuous mission accomplished, like a divine roast Kahlua pork.
“Faux Gras of local duck livers so delicious it should be illegal” is exactly that, and worth being arrested for.
“Slow braised shank of goat last seen grazing on local grasses, now amidst Bolinas pea greens and agretti foraged from within reach” simply astonishes with its beautiful complexity. “A neighbors quail plumped with kale now nested in leaves of local wild rocket and a bird sauce accented with apricot” is an irresistible delight.
“Crisped Bolinas rock cod fit for two with fennel fronds, charred lemon and a buerre blanc” is a wonderful climax, served whole, and whose delicate meat pares from the fish in tender strips.
Starters are $10, appetizers run $12, and entrée courses are an extremely reasonable $20. Most portions are medium sized, a generous enthralling taste of cuisine that makes its mark, while leaving the desire for more.
Order a variety of dishes and entrees with the idea of sharing, and be sure to explore the all Marin County wine list, although they would do well to have included more profound selections from neighboring Sonoma.
Staying at Manka’s Boathouse nearby is an extraordinary experience, an actual converted boathouse on Tomales Bay right next to the Inverness Yacht Club with its own 200 foot dock. With a sprawling interior, high ceilings, stunning bedroom chamber, distinctive charming décor, and complete privacy, it is easy to understand how it became the favorite secret retreat of celebrities like Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston.
A full kitchen, massive dining room, and soaring fireplace in the living room give way to a multi-tiered back deck with astonishing views leading to the lichen covered dock extending well into the bay.
This hidden wonder is the perfect romantic getaway, a grand rustic retreat, a place where its magnificent uniqueness is only exceeded by the splendor of its unquenchable charm. Sunset on the back porch with a fine bottle of wine is a transformative moment as fiery orange rays gleam off of Tomales Bay and streak through the windows of a neighbor’s cabin suspended over the water.
Rise in the morning and walk to the end of the dock with a steaming mug of fresh Kona coffee, feeling the cool breeze off the water and the mist in the air.
Take in the joy of each moment spent in this spectacular hideaway, and reminisce with a broad smile about the unforgettable culinary wonders of an exhilarating dinner the night before at the truly distinctive Sir and Star.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer who lives in Los Angeles.
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