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Restaurant Review: Orchard Hill Country Inn

 

By Norman Greene

Norman Greene

Norman Greene

JULIAN, California– If you are fond of dining on a less traveled road in a romantic country inn with an excellent dining room, I have a great suggestion for you.  Visit this mountain city east of San Diego.

The restaurant at Orchard Hill Country Inn in Julian was a delightful, well priced surprise.  We spent a marvelous evening there and enjoyed the excellent cuisine  prepared by the Inn’s Chef Doris Busk, who has directed the kitchen for the last ten years.  Remarkably self-taught, she uses only fresh, organic and locally grown produce for her inventive menu.

As we entered the Inn’s lobby filled with the music of a player piano, we were greeted by its owners Pat and Darrell Straube.  We had missed the hors d’oeuvres served nightly in the lobby Great Room (4-5:30 p.m.), but not the  complimentary glasses of wine.  Pat was taken with my wife’s “Grandma” handbag, a conversation piece, that features a portrait on both sides of our two grandsons, four year old Spencer and one year old William Matorin.  The bag was a Mother’s Day gift from our daughter Dana who is a professional photographer.  She captured the two happy, almost angelic looking youngsters.

At their invitation, we sat with Pat and Darrell, refugees from Los Angeles, and enjoyed a glass of wine as they told us about how they happened to build the Inn and its adjoining cabins–all beautifully appointed and carefully supervised by its owners.  Great attention has been given to the stylish decor, the artwork and the items that decorate the Inn and each room. While we understand that each of the 12 cabins is different, our “Yellow Bellflower” cabin came complete with an indoor Jacuzzi, propane burning fireplace and all the electronic devices and conveniences you might like.  It was terrific.

Once in the restaurant, we started our meal with a Rough Country Tomato soup that had a unique taste with tiny, tiny bits of fresh tomato and subtle hint of scallions.  It was neither sweet, nor tart, nor was the portion oversized.

This was followed with Orchard Hill’s signature salad composed of mixed organic spring greens, diced cranberries, Gorgonzola cheese crumbs and a freshly made herb vinaigrette dressing.  While quite good, in retrospect, this was probably the weakest course of my meal.  I thought the dressing could have had a little more zip.

My wife ordered Dover Sole Veronica, which comes with lemon rice.  She opted for more fresh vegetables instead of the rice. Our amiable waiter, Jonathan (a former New York and Hollywood actor),  said it would be no problem.  The Dover sole had a thin crunchy crust with a slight taste of white wine.  My wife proclaimed it to be delicious and let me have just one bite.

I ordered grilled Colorado prime lamb which had a garlic rosemary rub, according to the menu, plus creamy mashed potatoes, and a delicious mix of fresh vegetables.  My lamb was not fatty and remarkably more than adequately filling.  It was served exactly the way I like it with a rosy pink interior.  I am  salivating as I recall it.

The dinner was completed with a light Julian apple pastry dessert topped by a dollop of some type of freshly whipped cream.  Sitting on the stylish glassed in terrace with views of Julian greenery and flowering trees, we were very satisfied.

We each had a glass of pleasant red wine at $5 per that kept the price of the meal in the low to moderate range.  The meal cost us $86, plus tax and tip.

For us, it was a surprise to find such quality dining in the eastern reaches of San Diego County.

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Greene is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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