A few years ago, when I was newly vegan, I quickly realized I had no idea how to be a vegan cook and there is not one vegan restaurant in our community. You can only have so many stir fry dinners in a week. I had a few soup and pasta recipes but other than that I was clueless and frustrated in my attempts at vegan cooking. I will admit I am a foodie: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE food. I love good food and I like variety. After having a mini meltdown, I started searching for vegan cooking classes and came across The Stanford Inn in Mendocino, California. I am so glad I did because it is a treasure!
Their onsite restaurant, The Ravens has an all vegan menu. I had never even heard of a vegan restaurant! Plus, they offer vegan cooking classes! Are you kidding me?! Vegan cooking classes AND a vacation in a beautiful place! I'm in! Let me share with you my experience of The Stanford Inn.
Stanford Inn is located next to Big River Estuary where it flows into the Pacific Ocean in beautiful Mendocino. It has a very woodsy, rustic feel but the rooms are cozy with fireplaces and puffy comforters and daily deliveries of fresh vegan cookies. The toiletries and TP are eco friendly and the rooms have a lovely view of the organic garden and Pacific Ocean. Everything about this place makes you feel relaxed from the moment you arrive.
The room rates include a full breakfast and did I mention it's a pet friendly resort? And I don't mean just little dogs. I saw a few big dogs like Labs and Great Danes in the lobby with their owners. They have a separate dining area for people that want to bring their dog with them for breakfast or dinner. The owner's dog, Ellie was often seen hanging out in the lobby.
The lobby is huge with comfortable sofas and chairs in front of a giant 2 sided fireplace. Perfect for relaxing and reading a good book and I took advantage of that. Miss Ellie joined me and we quickly became friends. Speaking of books, there is gift shop in the lobby with a great selection of books for sale including The Stanford Inn's cookbook.
Catch A Canoe and Bicycles Too is located on the property and rent outrigger canoes, kayaks and bikes. We rented a canoe and went upriver for several miles. You can paddle as far as 8 miles one way. There was lots of wildlife to see in a beautiful setting. Adjacent to the estuary is part of the Mendocino Headlands State Park that includes a bike trail that follows the river for about 10 miles. You can easily ride a short distance into the town of Mendocino for lunch and some shopping. The bikes are complimentary if you're staying at Stanford Inn.
There are plenty of other activities on the resort grounds to keep you busy. Stanford Inn offers Yoga and Tai Chi, gardening classes, nutrition classes, nature tours, counseling, meditation and creative playshop. They also offer special retreat packages for hiking, running, cooking and gardening. Many of the activities are led but the wellness director, Sid Garza-Hillman who is a nutritionist, an ultra runner and a published author.
We went for a hike along the nearby Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park. Beautiful woodsy, quiet trail and well maintained.
Afterwards we treated ourselves to a relaxing massage at the onsite spa called Massage in the Forest. It's located in a cute little cottage nestled among the trees. They offer a full menu of massage and facial services. We also took advantage of the pool and spa every night.
But the very best part of this trip was the food and cooking classes! Don't forget: everything on the menu is VEGAN. The Ravens is open for breakfast and dinner. A lot of the produce they use is from their own beautiful garden.
The breakfast menu is quite extensive and includes fresh carrot or orange juice. They offer over 20 breakfast entrees as well as some a la carte items and smoothies. We were only there four days so I couldn't try everything but I had a wheat free waffle that was amazing and also a garden scramble, Raven's potatoes, and braised vegetables with a homemade muffin. I wanted to eat as many meals as I could at The Ravens to experience different vegan options. So we ate all but one dinner there and I made my husband order something different than what I had so I could sample as much as possible.
The food was as delicious as it was beautiful including the desserts! I think we tried every single dessert.
I loved everything we ate and was so inspired to learn how to prepare vegan meals. I had no idea vegan food could be so tasty and interesting with so much variety. Eager to learn, we took two cooking classes. We were the only guests that wanted cooking classes the days we were there so we were so fortunate to have a private class with the instructor, Sadhana. What a fun experience!
We learned how to make vegan cheese, cashew cream, kale sauce and mushroom bisque. Handouts were given to us with all the recipes we made as well as some others. We also purchased a copy of The Ravens Cookbook that has many of the recipes for the dishes served at The Ravens including the chocolate chip cookies that were delivered to our room.
I learned so much and came home feeling way more confident and excited about preparing my own vegan meals. Since then I would say I have become a pretty good vegan cook and often am asked for my favorite recipes. My experience at The Stanford Inn was so memorable and such a lovely experience I hope I am able to return and I hope you get the opportunity to visit. Even if you aren't vegan, the food at The Ravens is amazing and you will not be disappointed.