Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ukiah and Branches Restaurant, So Worth the Drive!

Last weekend, I was invited to Ukiah to try a brand new restaurant (Branches Wood Fired Chophouse), and to stay in the hotel next door to it. It was one of the most perfect getaways I have had in recent memory!

I left for Ukiah immediately after work (in Roseville) and met one of my best friends from the Bay area at Ukiah Brewing Company around 8pm. My total travel time was only about 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was an easy drive (I took the 80, to the 5, to the 20, to the 101.) The food at Ukiah was waaaay overpriced, but I did really like their darkest beer--Coops Stout?.

We stayed at The Hampton Inn Ukiah. It can be described as having a similar-to Victorian-style architecture, and it is pretty much right up against the mountains, so the backdrop is just beautiful. It is a fairly new Hampton Inn, and I have to say it is one of the nicest ones I have seen. There is a balcony attached to most, if not all of the rooms. I stayed on the bottom floor, and had a little patio area.

Here is a shot of the inside of my room. The hotel has free wi-fi with your stay, and there was a refrigerator and a microwave inside as well. Loved that!!

Below is the exercise room. It is a little bare bones (no weights or anything), but the machines (especially the treadmill) was extremely nice. I was able to put in 12 miles during my 2-day stay! (Damage control!!)

Before dinner, we visited Tierra Art Garden, a boutique tasting room featuring Mendocino County Wines and wine related merchandise as well as whimsical pieces of artwork for the home and garden. It was such a lovely store. Wine tasting is $5 and includes about 5 picks. The $5 is refunded with a purchase. I picked up some Frey Chardonnay that will probably be opened during appetizers on Thanksgiving. :)

We had dinner on Saturday night at Ukiah's newest restaurant, Branches Wood Fired Chop House.

I tried to control the drooling as I peered into the meat counter. This counter is located beside the bakery counter in the lobby of the restaurant. This is also the counter that supplies the restaurant.

We arrived at Branches a little bit early, and sat on the "pub" side (photo above) of the dining room until our table was ready. 

I started the evening with a glass of non-vintage local bubbly (Scharffenberger Brut, Mendocino), and tin addition, the drink below magically appeared in front of me. I am not sure how this happened.

The Jade Martini is made with Absolut Vanilla Vodka, Midori Melon Liqueur, fresh squeezed lime, splash of simple syrup, lemonade, lemon & cherry garnish. It was a little sweet for me (though the ingredients suggest it would be a tart drink), so I stuck to my wine for the evening.

When I saw The Philly Cheesesteak Spring Roll on the menu, I said what you probably just did, which is "OMG! I am so getting that!" Description on the menu: Prime Rib, American Cheese, Onions, and a side of Roasted Red Pepper Dip. It was super cheesy and if you are concerned about your waistline, don't worry, it comes with a little salad mix in the middle. That makes it all OK, right? :)

Below is a photo of one half of the dining area that can probably be rented out for a special event.

And below is the main dining area where I sat (I actually sat in a large booth and got to see the entire dining room being served.) As you can see, Branches is really a pretty restaurant, and there are chandeliers to match the "branches" name/theme of the place.

This is the meat presentation you get shortly after being seated. Beef at Branches is sealed and refrigerated to retain its natural juices and aged from 21 days to 35 days depending on the cut

For dinner, I ordered the Greek Salad (Romaine Hearts, Mint, Cilantro, Kalamata Olives, Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Cucumber, Red Onions, Garlic Flat Bread, Fresh Cracked Pepper, Lemon & Extra Virgin Olive Oil) I am pretty traditional with dressing and only get balsamic and olive oil on the side. The flat bread served as the croutons on the salad and there were generous amounts of all the ingredients. Very nice! I will also note that I had the 2009 St. Supery (oak-free) Chardonnay (Napa) to accompany my meal.

My friend had the 10 oz. Rotisserie Roasted Prime Rib Of Beef with Au Jus, a side of mashed potatoes. He was expecting a thinner piece, but the piece was thick and the perfect size. It was cooked perfectly, "rare" just as he ordered it. The horseradish was creamed, but we forgot to ask if fresh horseradish was an option. The beef was tender, and the two signature sides he ordered made the meal a perfect trio. The caramelized butternut squash could have been served as a dessert. It tasted like candy, very much like yams without the marshmallows on a Thanksgiving plate. The mashed potatoes were perfectly seasoned by the au jus.


Here are the ways you can order your meat at Branches:
Very Rare Cold In The Center
Rare Raw In The Middle
Medium Rare Red Throughout The Meat
Medium Pink Throughout The Meat
Medium Well Slightly Pink In The Middle
Well Done No Pink At All
Black & Blue Charred Outside - Raw In The Middle

Here's Chef Munther (white coat) on the line.

After dinner, I was invited to take a tour of the bakery/dessert side of the restaurant. Here's a peek:

Looking into the dessert window from the service side.

Joe, plating a dessert.

Dinner was wonderful and I am already thinking about going back to Ukiah, and definitely going back to Branches (they also offer lunch and brunch). Since the menus are not yet online, I will post them here for your pleasure and convenience!! Click on each image to enlarge. 

Below are some more shots outside and inside the hotel. I wanted to highlight the free breakfast each guests get at the Hampton Inn Ukiah. It's a very generous buffet style set-up, complete with 3 hot selections (that rotate depending on the day), a waffle making station, 3 choices of coffee, a cereal bar, fresh fruit and juice, and a selection of bagels, muffins, and pastries that can be reheated to your liking.

View from my patio.

One of the highlights of my trip was the hike we took at Montgomery Woods State Reserve. I can't begin to describe the beauty of the trees, so here are some pictures I took. Seriously, if you have the use of your legs, DO NOT MISS this place. Get outside and experience it for yourself. I would drive to Ukiah again just to go back here!

Ukiah, I love you and I will be back very soon!


Anonymous said...

We live in Ukiah & it was nice to read someone who likes our town & what it offers. Branches is a new restaurant for us to [ my husbands office Holiday party was held there-- in the side room with fireplace you photographed] I am just now making reservations for New Years eve & your site was the best one that gave me an idea of where we'd like to sit in the restaurant that nite... Thanks for your review
Diane G

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review!! I appreciated learning more about this area and what it offers. Beautiful pictures and review. I agree -the Montgomery Woods are a must-see. Just incredible. I've only been to Branches for coffee (totally recommend the Butterscotch Latte -YUM!) but I'll have to go back someday and get a meal. Thanks again!

Keely @ Sky Blue

Ann said...

What a great review! I love Branches. Perfect date night restaurant. Their filet mignon pizza is my favorite. It's like a delectable appetizer that leaves no room for dinner.