Seriously Sustainable

Seriously Sustainable The Stanford Inn

From garden to plate, The Ravens Restaurant at The Stanford Inn by the Sea

excels in organic, creative and conscientiously prepared cuisine.

By Stef Schwalb

Sustainability is serious business at The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino, Calif. This historic farm and eco-resort is the only vegan hospitality property in the U.S. and has been practicing sustainable agriculture since 1985, when innkeepers/owners Jeff and Joan Stanford took over and converted all 10 acres of the property. Although some B&B’s offer guests eco-friendly options, The Stanford Inn has been a pioneer in the industry and continues to add new amenities to reinforce its mission.

"There were no precedents," reveals Jeff. "Our mindset was to find or develop the lightest impact in products and methods for the work we do. The underlying idea is to be conscious. We want to be able to make the best compromise, if there are issues. Where we draw the line is not wanting to be the cause of damaging other life."

Renowned for its locally harvested products (from seaweed to chanterelles), sustainable and organic ingredients, and produce from regional growers, as well as its own USDA-certified organic farm (Big River Nurseries), the inn sources these items to feature in dishes at their award-winning restaurant onsite. Serving diners a 100 percent plant-based and vegan culinary experience for breakfast, dinner, dessert, and lunch on the go, The Ravens' co-creative kitchen is led by Sid Garza-Hillman, author, certified nutritionist, and long-time vegan, who works in close contact with chef team Sadhana Berkow, Ubaldo Salazar, and Big River Nurseries gardener Clayton Houghland.

The restaurant also features a full bar, complete with classic drinks and a happy hour. The wine list is comprised primarily of selections produced from certified organic or biodynamic vineyards or those using sustainable, traditional farming practices, and is guided by The Ravens' wine director, who is an expert in Mendocino County wines. In addition to the delicious day-to-day options, guests can indulge in Wednesday Ethnic Inspirations tasting menus, which feature dishes that celebrate numerous cultures of cuisine, as well as afternoon tea times with desserts.

Conscious Cuisine

All food and organic wastes are composted and used for the inn's garden beds, virtually eliminating the use of outside fertilizer. Everything that can be recycled is, including all glass, papers, and cardboards. All aspects of the cooking process adhere to providing guests with exceptional cuisine while developing it in the context of what is healthy and sustainable both environmentally and ethically.

Seriously Sustainable Portobello Benedict"We have a varied and interesting menu punctuated with special weekly menus featuring our take on various ethnic cuisines," Stanford explains. "First, we began with creating food that emulated that of the finest restaurants in California; for example, Eggs Benedict. We created Portobello Benedict, which simply replaced the egg with scrambled tofu (with turmeric which we later learned was a super-food), the ham with grilled or roasted Portobello slices, and the Hollandaise with a choice of house-made vegan Hollandaise or a Lemon Tahini sauce.

“We also make a shredded barbecued Trumpet Royale, which we serve in a taco or in a sandwich that we create for boxed lunches,” he continues. “In the sandwich, it tastes like barbecued pulled pork. It is the sauce and sweated onion with the Julienne mushroom that creates the flavor and textures associated with the pork version. People are surprised. Some don't notice that it isn't made with animal products."

A Loyal Following

Regardless of whether or not people are aware of the ingredients making up The Ravens' cuisine, the restaurant has received rave reviews and hundreds of testimonials. Stanford reports that 97 to 98 percent of the inn's guests are not plant-based and not even ova-lacto-vegetarian. "Many are surprised, and we have a higher bar to meet than most restaurants," he says. "So many diners expect to be underwhelmed and hungry when they leave." Of course that hasn't been the case. In fact, The Ravens' success has even spawned the recent release of a cookbook that showcases over 150 vegan recipes.

Seriously Sustinable RavensRestaurant"Joan gets to hear our guests' reactions far more than I do, but now that the cookbook is out, more of our guests recognize me, will introduce themselves, and relate their experiences here," he notes. "I thank them - always a bit embarrassed. I like to hear their accolades, but I have the sense that we should be doing more. And when I talk with them, I remember other dishes, flavors that we should be developing, and putting on the menu."

It's important to note that The Stanford Inn is doing more - a lot more. As this holistic experience in hospitality doesn't just take place at The Ravens. The inn also offers guests a variety of classes including Sustainable Gardening, Cooking from the Garden, and Whole Plant and Nutrition Cooking at the Mendocino Center for Living Well, also located on the property. "The classes were inspired by our advocacy. They are an aspect of it,” Stanford says. “We have been teaching classes for many years, beginning in the late 1980s with gardening, composting, propagation, and other aspects of gardening. Cooking classes started in the late 1990s."

Additionally, The Stanford Inn helps protect Big River from environmental degradation; maintains Mendocino Land Trust access to the bluffs overlooking Mendocino Bay; and provides kayaks, traditional canoes, and locally designed and constructed redwood canoes for low-impact exploration of Big River. There are mountain bikes to explore Mendocino's trails, and energy conservation programs have been developed (beginning in 1980) for heating, lighting, and laundry.

The inn offers a nurturing work experience for students and sponsors community, arts, theatre, and athletic events and programs. It's also a space for local artists to display and sell their work and a place where the community and its nonprofit institutions can meet at no charge. Vaska nontoxic environmentally safe cleaning and laundry supplies and sulfate-free Naturally Kind Forest Essentials amenities round out the list. "What we seek here is to demonstrate growth ? acting from an awareness that we are more than our bodies and minds ? and manifesting and honoring that awareness through action," Stanford says.

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