Perched high atop a bluff in its namesake village, the Mendocino Hotel enjoys unhindered panoramas of the Pacific Ocean. In the 1870s, the quiet coastal town bustled with loggers who harvested the area’s towering redwoods and enlivened its saloons, pools, and fast houses. Although the village has since eschewed its rowdy reputation, the redwoods continue to thrive. Along the bluff, the giant trees shadow traces of old buildings and old anchor lines set into rock. Briny air permeates the town, carrying all the way to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where meticulously manicured formal gardens contrast with untouched landscapes. Guests can stroll through thick pine forests, peer into fern-fringed canyons, and frolic on flower-covered bluffs. After getting their fill of local flora and fauna, sojourners can peruse manmade creations at the Mendocino Art Center. Displays of visual and performing arts celebrate still and moving forms, and various studios invite budding Botticellis to fine-tune their own brushstrokes. For those interested in learning more about the area, the Kelley House Museum, set amid an acre of gardens, recounts Mendocino’s history with artifacts, exhibits, and photographs of yesteryear.
Situated at the Vintners Inn beside 92 acres of vineyard, John Ash & Co. takes pride in its ability to marry a meal's delicate flavors with the most complementary wine varietals. The upscale eatery, a 2010 Open Table Diner's Choice winner, features homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs from on-site gardens, as well as a long list of locally sourced ingredients that, much like the four cardinal directions, change from season to season. The dinner menu offers delectable main courses, such as kabocha pumpkin ravioli spiked with pickled mushrooms and parmesan ($16) or pan-seared sturgeon served with roasted red beets ($34), and lunchers can snack on pizza margherita ($13) or fill their emptiest stomach with nine ounces of New York steak ($21).
Within the inviting milieu of a family-owned eatery, Pizza Gourmet's disc forgers bake hand-tossed pizzas topped with such epicurean ingredients as gruyere and whole roasted garlic cloves. The Five Star pizza ($15.50−$21.75) mixes it up with a blend of five cheeses including fontina, feta, and parmesan, and the elegant Barcelona pizza ($17.75−$23.95) evokes Spain’s cultural capital with seasoned chicken and artichoke hearts, brought to the table by stampeding bulls. Patrons can garnish a plain New York–style pizza ($11.50−$15.50) with a slew of sauces ($2−$3) including barbecue, ranch, or salsa; herbs and vegetables ($1−$1.50) such as cilantro, basil, and zucchini; meats ($1−$1.50); and 23 specialty toppings such as yellow squash and bleu cheese ($2−$3). Pies are available in 12-inch or 16-inch varieties and can be ordered without cheese.
Ellington Hall instructors David and Cirkl lead would-be jitterbuggers through the simple steps necessary for an evening of on-tempo fun. The rug-cuttery begins with a class aimed at beginners and more advanced dancers alike, who can arrive partnered or fly solo to join the crowd of two-steppers. Students arrive dressed in whatever makes them feel comfortable; after the one-hour seminar in fancy footwork, the evening's dance begins. Swing students spin, jump, and twirl on the expansive hardwood dance floor, pausing for breaths and Great Gatsby impersonations on the garden terrace. An all-brick fireplace dominates the dance space, adding a note of elegance and an easy place to store extra left feet.
As parties rage on in the background, up to eight guests can slip into one of Hot Shot Photo Booth’s booths to have a high-resolution camera document the celebratory mood in the air. A professional attendant stays on hand to make sure everybody is properly huddled into the frame and perfectly lit by the booth's defused strobe lighting. In addition to unlimited photo sessions, customers opting for a standard rental receive prints marked with a custom inscription, a DVD of all photos, and a password-protected online image gallery. Extras can include props, a custom booth banner, and a personalized guestbook with custom decorations, such as stickers and decorative paper. Event hosts can also hire Hot Shots' flesh-and-blood photographer to take entrance shots, arrange group shots, and capture candid shots of partygoers grooving on the dance floor or attempting to bob for fruit in the punch bowl.
On top of a table, a 32-inch touchscreen system leans on a stand, waiting for party guests to enter their names. Alone or in groups, people step forward, add their names on the touchscreen, and unlock the purpose of this high-tech gadget: it’s an open-air photo booth. Using its intuitive touchscreen, guests can snap goofy pictures with an array of props and type messages to the party’s hosts. A printer stands at the ready to deliver high-quality photos on demand. Friendly staffers chaperone their device at weddings, birthdays, block parties, or any type of event ready to answer questions and cast a deciding vote in a debate over who has the whitest whites of their eyes.