Timber Cove Resort Serves Seaside Seafood Worth the Trip to Jenner

There are two main ways to get to Timber Cove Resort from the Santa Rosa area, and neither is particularly easy.

You can take Highway 116 through Guerneville, west to Highway 1 along thin, winding asphalt, often along the very edge of coastal cliffs. Or you can take the Cazadero Highway for an even longer stretch of skinny, very winding asphalt that occasionally turns to gravel, often along the very edge of the forested mountain.

Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the journey to the Jenner estate perched along a breathtaking coastal bluff, but I always pack saltines and ginger ale for my passengers. For me, the destination is worth any discomfort or white driving. Once there, I can relax in the stylish hostel that feels like its own private world.

This fall, the resort’s Coast Kitchen restaurant hired a new executive chef, which reminded me that it’s been way too long since I’ve been here. By the time I arrived last month, this chef had moved. But that’s life in this remote area, where the population is 120, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Staffing is a constant challenge, especially now, with restaurants everywhere struggling to attract workers.

Yet longtime chef and partner Seadon House takes things a step further – and satisfyingly – with his seafood-focused menu. Take a deep breath and you can smell the salty air from the patio with fire pit overlooking the ‘ocean. Or get cozy inside, amid the nautical decor of polished wood, blue throw pillows, and a stone wall that looks like part of the surrounding cliffs.

It’s worth the trip for the salmon wings alone. These rare finds are often overlooked (unfortunately, discarded) cuts available from fishmongers if you know to ask for the inexpensive and relatively boneless fin appendages. They look prehistoric, with their wavy fins sticking out of pieces of salmon belly. They are meaty and coated in succulent fat and a deep umami flavor.

At Coast, the kitchen staff rubs them in dry barbecue spices, grills them down to a lightly smoky char, then lays them on a wooden board with grilled lemon ($16). When I removed the moist meat from their frames, it reminded me of the joys of yellowtail collar or halibut cheeks.

You’ll also want to get the coast’s signature trout chowder. Clams usually play in chowder, but I’d say trout can be even better, as it doesn’t have that brackish chew that not everyone likes. Coast stocks its soup with lots of flaky fish, potato chunks, micro-celery, fennel, and what must be an insane amount of cream ($14). It’s really rich, but I devoured every drop.

Fresh coastal cod is another signature dish; the sweet fish is smoked and shaped into rillettes ($16). Spicy Fresno chili sauce and crunchy radishes cut through the fat, making this a nice bite on toasted ciabatta.

More trout await, with rainbow trout from the Columbia River flowing through British Columbia (local rainbow trout are increasingly threatened or endangered, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife). The fish ($32) is meaty and the sides are robust – roasted zucchini, Cipollini onions, citrus sauce and grilled Sardinian couscous.

You can also get earthy dishes here, like a New York strip loin with fingerling potatoes confit and black garlic butter ($58) or Mary’s smoked chicken with marbled potatoes, green beans, cauliflower and salsa verde ($28). The pork chop is a rounded monster cut with toasted grains, mustard greens, bacon and apple compote, and pepper-smoked carrot and ginger mash ($44). On the foggy, windy evenings that Jenner is known for, the hearty plates are pure comfort.

The cavatelli are good too. The chewy pasta is made with ricotta and tossed with sweet corn, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, a healthy touch of black pepper and parmesan breadcrumbs ($32).

Still, with the ocean just steps away, I still prefer the Corvina, with its hearty, thick flesh and luxurious mouthfeel. The chef dresses the South American fish in a vibrant, citrus-coconut broth and delicately spiced Espelette oil, then adds sides of crunchy peas and bok choy for the crunch ($32).

For more casual dining, Timber Cove has a large, comfortable room that shares space with the lobby and bar. Visitors gather in front of the huge stone fireplace to play retro board games, snack and sip wines showcasing Sonoma, Napa and Montecito counties.

Go for the deviled eggs, topped with duck confit, tangy pickled mustard seeds and fennel ($8), or a big sloppy burger, made simply with butter lettuce, tomato, onions and aioli smoked chipotle with steak fries ($16).

Then go up to your room and slip into your plush bed for a perfect night’s sleep. The return home can wait until tomorrow.

Carey Sweet is a food and restaurant writer based in Sevastopol. Read his restaurant reviews every two weeks in Sonoma Life. Contact her at [email protected]

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