Weekend: Dinner At The Clifton Inn

March 31, 2014

I have had some truly memorable dinners in my life that I think about often: a tasting dinner at Cyrus in Sonoma on the last night of our honeymoon {pre-blog} // Kendall Jackson Food + Wine Pairing // Jefferson Vineyards Worldly Blind Tasting // Jefferson Vineyards Winemaker Barrel Selection Dinner // Hill & Holler Dinner with Pollak & Dean Maupin // Forage: The Clever’s Cookout

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And add to the list: 15+ courses at The Clifton Inn!

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This is Karen’s good friend Julie from Spartanburg. She was up visiting for a pediatric conference and Karen wanted to take her somewhere very special for dinner. She chose The Clifton Inn and reserved a spot at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen. They invited Matt and me along because food is always more fun when you have company : ) We discussed flavors and textures and ingredients all night. We were so thankful for the experience!

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Our table was literally IN the kitchen – a gorgeous marble bar lit from below.

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This was our view:

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Shelby, one of the prep chefs, was right in front of us to tell us about the ingredients she incorporated.

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There were several tasting menu options, but we went with the whole shebang – the Chef’s Seasonal Tasting – because it was 50% off this month! What a deal. The Chef’s tasting is typically 10 courses (plus a few surprises) but since we shared a few of the courses we ended up with 18 different tastes.

A buttery chardonnay – cheers!

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Our amuse-bouche was a scallop with juniper oil and hazelnut. I had never heard of juniper oil before!

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Next we were served roasted golden beets with black cocoa powder and kale pesto. The black cocoa powder was like crushed Oreo (they make it in house) and was definitely the highlight! Such an interesting pairing.

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It was great to meet Executive Chef Tucker Yoder in person, as I have heard a lot about him over the years. I was completely flattered when upon introducing myself he already knew who I was! His restaurant and menu did not disappoint.

Chef Yoder brought us this hunk of semi-whole wheat bread they are testing along with a basket of their classic sourdough. Both were great!

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Next we tasted mushroom truffles with quinoa and beet ketchup! I love the idea of anything in “truffle” form.

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Unlike some of the other tastings I have done, this one was very heavy on seasonal veggies and the food tasted light and as fresh as the ingredients inside. Case in point: the seasonal salad was a platter of root vegetables thinly sliced and presented with complimentary purees and cheeses. I loved the crunchy dehydrated mushrooms!

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Matt and I shared the above salad and this carrot soup with carrot “bacon” and hens & chicks, a small edible succulent.

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Our next two courses were also shared (each couple shared them) –

Grilled baby romaine with konbu brown butter, sourdough, herbed egg yolk.

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And maitake mushroom with charred fava greens, shaved chestnut, juniper and mushroom vinaigrette. Mushrooms, beets and roots were the theme of the evening!

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I loved how different these foods were from the usual appetizers found in restaurants – so many of the ingredients I had never heard of or tried! There wasn’t anything I didn’t like.

This dish was salt-roasted celery root with crispy shitake, pickled root vegetables, olive emulsion and herbs. I loved the punch of flavor the olive emulsion added to the simple root vegetables.

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One of the dishes I had hoped we would get to try from the menu was the house-made tofu. Unlike most tofus, this one was soft – like a burrata cheese or thick Greek yogurt – but it had the subtle taste of soy milk. I loved it along with the crunchy ham tucked inside, shaved beets and baby kale.

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Watching a commercial kitchen like this was really neat – at one point they were preparing the same dish for a table of 15. Despite the rush, the whole kitchen was calm!

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Our more full-bodied dishes of the evening began next – seared sea scallops with golden beets, mustard greens and whey. I love the crispy sear on a perfectly cooked scallop.

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Next we had poached oysters with crispy potatoes, lion’s mane mushrooms, preserved lemon and celery root persillade, which we learned was like a pesto with more acidity.

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I loved the seared rockfish with parsnip dashi, celery root, rutabaga and crispy kale. This might have been my favorite savory dish!

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We enjoyed some tastes of red wine with our “entrée” courses

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Next we had pork with beet catsup and sorrel – char-delicious!

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And our final savory dish was dry-aged beef rib eye served with grits and a slow cooked egg

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We moved from there to a cheese course – Everona Dairy’s earthquake sheep cheese with apple and celery root. Such a fun twist on the traditional cheese plate.

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And finally, desserts!

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A taste of each of the desserts on the menu – {clockwise from upper left}

The Clifton Inn’s famous sticky toffee pudding with butter pecan ice cream, candied pecans and dates // spiced genoise with sautéed apples, bourbon ice cream and brown sugar pecan crumble {I think!?} // flourless chocolate torte with poached pear, macadamia, mulled wine and burnt sugar // peanut butter mousse with beet jellies, angel cake and brittle

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Holy moly was that a fabulous dinner – I left completely filled with new knowledge of food and said food itself! I hope we can do this again, perhaps in the fall season for different ingredient highlights. Thanks to Karen + Julie for the fabulous night!

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The following morning you can guess what kind of breakfast I was in the mood for –

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Green smoothie with spinach, oats, milk, yogurt and banana and some coffee

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We had a low key Saturday due to rain and chilly weather, but I did spend some time preparing the porch for the upcoming spring weather the meteorologists are promising!

I wiped down every single ledge on the porch (which was filthy!)

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And even vacuumed, swept and mopped the floors

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Saturday night Karen + Julie returned for homemade pizzas at our place

Egg on top of Matt’s homemade crust 

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And mushroom and smoked gouda.

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We also had salad and ended the night with Karen’s classic cheesecake topped with strawberries and mango

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It was a food-filled weekend, and I’m hoping for a sun-filled week ahead!!

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie March 31, 2014 at 7:32 am

Those pizzas look amazing! I definitely want to try an egg on one!

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2 Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio March 31, 2014 at 7:39 am

Wow! What an amazing dinner! What a fun experience!

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3 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! March 31, 2014 at 7:41 am

Wow what beautiful food! I love being able to watch chefs prepare and plate the food! Adds such different level of fun to a dining experience!

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4 Amy in Toronto March 31, 2014 at 7:47 am

One of my favourite posts ever (and that’s saying something!)–thanks for taking us along with you for this experience. That mushroom and gouda pizza looks as good as the fancy food!

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5 Katie March 31, 2014 at 7:48 am

Looks like a fun fabulous food weekend with wonderful company. I would love to enjoy a food experience like that sometime. Of course, the pizza and cheesecake look delicious as well. Hope you get some sun there this week, it doesn’t look like we are going to get much here in Nebraska. Where did you get your dress? Love the pattern and colors – looks great on you!

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6 KathEats March 31, 2014 at 9:43 am

Thanks it was from Loehmann’s – which has since closed!! SO sad.

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7 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh March 31, 2014 at 8:13 am

What a great dinner experience! Love it. Pizzas too!

Have a great week.

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8 Amelia March 31, 2014 at 8:31 am

I love going out for tasting menu style dinners. So much fun, especially when you can watch the kitchen rock and roll while eating!
Matt’s pizza’s always look delicious and I bet that cheesecake was such a delicious cap on the evening! Here’s to hoping your weather is lovely this week. The weather man predicts temps in the high 70′s here this week. :)

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9 robin March 31, 2014 at 8:36 am

WOW!!!! That was some meal, and Matts pizzas, yum! Karen sure looks good:) Loved your dress.

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10 Julie Rosene March 31, 2014 at 8:52 am

Wow! What a dining experience! Everything looked beautiful and delicious.

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11 Hannah @ eat, drink and save money March 31, 2014 at 8:53 am

I’ve never thought of kale pesto. What a great idea. Looks like y’all had a wonderful time.

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12 jen March 31, 2014 at 8:55 am

Fun! Clifton is amazing. Would love your homemade pizza recipes if willing to share!

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13 KathEats March 31, 2014 at 9:42 am
14 Katy March 31, 2014 at 9:38 am

What did you use to mop your porch with? I live in MA and its going to be a while until SPRING. But my porch is nasty right now and I’m already planning my attack…..

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15 KathEats March 31, 2014 at 9:42 am

First just water. Then the Method Wood floor cleaner. Then a second pass with the cleaner! It was so dirty

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16 Liz March 31, 2014 at 9:40 am

What a nice feeling that must have been to find that the chef you admired knew who you are!

I really would like to taste the roasted golden beets with black cocoa powder and kale pesto. Many of the dishes you had sound interesting, but that one intrigues me the most.

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17 Rebekah {aCricketSang} March 31, 2014 at 9:51 am

Looks like an amazing dinner!!

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18 Simply Life (@SimplyLifeBlog) March 31, 2014 at 10:05 am

wow! I love that the table was IN the kitchen – what a fun meal!

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19 kiki March 31, 2014 at 10:28 am

The Clifton Inn is on my list…One day.

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20 KathEats March 31, 2014 at 10:30 am

One day together!

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21 Leah @ goodnightcheese March 31, 2014 at 10:41 am

Wow, that dinner looks out of this world! So generous of Karen and her friend to invite you guys

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22 Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog March 31, 2014 at 11:14 am

Wow! That’s quite the meal and what a wonderful experience eating in the kitchen. I love the seasonality of everything as well. I think my favorite part would have been all the desserts!

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23 Cheri Armour March 31, 2014 at 11:56 am

Omg that Sea Scallop looks INCREDIBLE!

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24 Eileen March 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Wow, I love how many vegetables went into the tasting menu! Usually I avoid prix fixe stuff like this because it’s just way too much meat, but I could definitely sink my teeth into some of this. Now if only I didn’t live on the opposite side of the country… :)

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25 Lindsey @ The Next Course March 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm

What fun! Del and I did the Chef’s Tasting menu at Clifton Inn for our anniversary last November (it was 50% then, too!) and wow, was it ever good! We had TWO dessert courses, on top of everything else… It’s cool to see how yours was similar (we had some of that crispy cocoa and a similar veggie plate, a similar progression of courses) but different (we had duck, not steak). Tuker Yoder is fabulous!

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26 Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} March 31, 2014 at 12:37 pm

My mouth was watering the whole time reading this post. It looks like a fabulous weekend!

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27 Jessica March 31, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Gorgeous meal!

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28 Alex @ Kenzie Life March 31, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Sounds like an amazing weekend filled with great food! And what treat to spend time in the kitchen and watch them prepare it! I love your porch–it’s so bright and airy! I really want one when I have a house. For now, I’ll settle for spending time on my balcony as the weather warms up :) I’m so excited for summer!

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29 Shel@PeachyPalate March 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Quite the foodie weekend!!! The food all looks outstanding…pricey? I’d love to try more fish now that I’ve tried salmon (wild and smoked!)…not sure what to try next! The scallop looks beautiful!

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30 simple green moms March 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Gorgeous! Looks like such a fun memorable weekend =)

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31 seana March 31, 2014 at 3:58 pm

What a nice dinner. I didn’t know hens and chicks were edible. We have them by the pool in the backyard. Interesting. I can’t believe they can even grow in the northeast where I live. We too had a restaurant by us where you could watch them cook, but sadly it closed. The experience makes it that much better!

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32 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs March 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm

A food filled weekend indeed — everything looks AMAZING! :)

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33 Jeanie March 31, 2014 at 5:25 pm

What a feast!

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34 Lisa @bitesforbabies March 31, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Sounds like a great time…good times and good food!

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35 Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) April 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

HOLY cow! That dinner looks AMAZING.

I can’t believe Cyrus closed in Healdsburg but now there is a new tapas style restaurant there called Chalkboard. Next time you come back you’ll have to check it out.

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36 KathEats April 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I heard it closed – SO SAD!! We are coming this fall!

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37 Julie April 4, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Great photos and summary of an absolutely fantastic weekend of food!!

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38 Emily @ Life on Food April 5, 2014 at 5:39 am

So much fun!! I love special evenings like this. Of course they don’t happen too often but when they do it is very memorable.

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