California’s north coast is one of the most ruggedly beautiful coastlines in the world. Hugging this coast, ninety miles north of San Francisco, on a rocky shelf overlooking the sea, is the Timber Cove Inn.
A local landmark for fifty years, the Timber Cove Inn is in the midst of an architectural and culinary revival. Always a favorite with locals and weekenders, the property is evolving into a luxury resort and dining destination.
In 2008, when the Timber Cove property became available, Robert Olson had been in the construction or property development business for almost 30 years - first at the helm of his own construction company and then as CEO of R.D. Olson Development, the Irving, California based firm he founded in 1997. The firm owns and develops hotels, as well as retail, mix-use residential, and other commercial properties, so adding another hotel to the portfolio was not unusual.
This property however was special; years earlier, Bob Olson celebrated his 21st birthday at the bar of the Timber Cove Inn, and he never forgot the view. Timber Cove was not only a logical addition to his company’s portfolio; it had a unique memory associated with it.
To oversee the property’s operations (and renovations) Olson hired Keith Hill as general manager. Hill came to the job with an extensive background in F&B management, including stints with luxury properties such as The Ahwahnee, The Hermitage Hotel, and Twin Farms resort in Vermont.
In addition to physical renovations, Hill is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Inn, including upgrading the Inn's culinary program. To help him with this he brought on Benjamin St. Clair as executive chef. Young, talented, and innovative St. Clair relishes the chance to develop a true "farm to table" menu.
The word “diversity” tends to be overused, but in Sonoma County, it is no overstatement. Gravenstein apple orchards, mom & pop vineyards, and low rent Russian River ‘resorts’ may still exist, but over the past 40 years the county has blossomed with, well – diversity - especially the culinary kind. World-class charcuterie, artisan cheeses, organic produce, seafood, meats, fruits, row crops, fowl, dairy, breads, and pastries are just some of the things Sonoma County does, really, really well. And then there’s the wine, some of those ‘mom & pop” vineyards are now wineries producing 98 point pinot noirs.
It is from this area that chef St. Clair sources virtually all menu items for the property’s restaurant, Alexander’s at the Timber Cove Inn. Wild Pacific salmon, cod, oysters, and mussels are menu favorites, as are the roasted Cornish game hen in truffle sauce, the braised short ribs with 5-spice Hoisin glaze, and the sous vide lamb sirloin in sauce Bordelaise. The menu is seasonal and simple, with locally sourced items prepared perfectly. The portions are generous, the view from the dining room stunning, and the atmosphere relaxed.
The wine list at Alexander’s is virtually 100% Sonoma County (there are a few Ports on the list), with Sonoma Coast wines making up about 30%. As Hill stated, “there was no reason to look elsewhere”. Indeed, St. Clair’s menu and the wines of Sonoma pair wonderfully. F&B manager Jason Gibson, along with Hill and St. Clair, keeps the menu, wine list, and cocktail choices current, exciting, and affordable.
The view from the bar hasn’t changed in 30 years; it’s stunning, regardless of the weather or time of day and Bob Olson and his team are well on their way to creating a luxury property that mirrors that view.