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Revival Restaurant at the Applewood Inn

Revival Restaurant at the Applewood Inn a stunning addition to the Guerneville restaurant scene

Strawberry dessert at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Strawberry dessert at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin

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Strips of seaweed dangle like party streamers high above the industrial burners in Chef Ben Spiegel’s Guerneville kitchen. Foraged that morning in the cold coastal waters of Northern California, the green leaves have been dried to inky black by ambient heat from the stove. On the kitchen counters are dried sea beans, and beneath his knife, an entire Marin halibut that looks as if it has just jumped out of the water.

This is Revival Restaurant, the restaurant Spiegel and restaurant visionary Crista Luedtke hope will be just that, a new chapter in the life of a once-great Guerneville restaurant.

Whole fish at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Whole fish at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Kelly Puleio

A love letter to the fish, fowl and fields of West County, Revival has the potential to redefine farm-to-table and sea-to-table dining in a very real way, not only by serving the food from this unique part of Sonoma County but by weaving a story into every bite.

Revival Restaurant: Rising from the ashes

Herb Garden at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Herb Garden at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin

After nearly a year of neglect, the restaurant at Applewood Inn was in need of a makeover. The carefully planted gardens had gone to seed after the sale of the property, and the kitchen had been abandoned since the former management abruptly closed, just eight months after opening it.

“This place just had so much potential,” said Luedtke, who was tapped to manage the restaurant by the inn’s new owner, Ric Pielstick of EpiSoul hospitality group. As owner of the popular Boon Hotel, Boon Eat + Drink, El Barrio and Big Bottom Market, all in Guerneville, the 43-year-old has transformed the face of this historic river logging town, bringing a new cache and destination-worthiness.

Like her other projects, Luedtke saw the potential to bring new life to a Guerneville treasure.

“I couldn’t say no. I’m just so in love with what’s happening here,” said Luedtke, who serves as Revival’s business manager, chef, designer and bartender.

Fresh melon and lemon cucumbers at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather IrwinFresh melon and lemon cucumbers at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Fresh melon and lemon cucumbers at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin

The urgent need for a chef who shared her passion led her to Spiegel, who moved to Sebastopol in 2014 after stints in Scandinavia and at Washington’s Lummi Island Inn and the highly acclaimed NYC restaurant, Skal. Looking for a life change, the east coast native found a calling in coastal cuisine, learning to forage, preserve and seek out micro-regional products for his menu. Products like seaweed.

“It’s a narrative about what’s being harvested,” said Spiegel, with quiet intensity and an infectious earnestness. “We wouldn’t have seaweed on the menu in the Midwest,” he said. “There’s just a moral responsibility here at Revival. It’s a decadence based on the origin of the products.”

If that all sounds a bit highfalutin, it’s understandable. Too many bad restaurants have tried to co-opt the ideals of showcasing pristine local products, and too many snooty chefs have ostracized locals who want a great meal on a Wednesday night that won’t set them back a week’s wages.

Interior of Revival Restaurant in Guerneville. Photo Kelly Puleio
Interior of Revival Restaurant in Guerneville. Photo Kelly Puleio

But Spiegel and Luedtke are trying to carefully walk a line that offers many dishes under $15 (entrées are $22 and up), a forthcoming locals’ night and a bar menu. This is their backyard, after all, and Luedtke knows that locals are a key clientele. She and Spiegel also are creating food that’s profound, delicious and unique, with a focus on the craft, quality ingredients and hours of painstaking handwork in the kitchen.

“We reprint the menu daily, because some small nuance has changed,” said Luedtke. “But really, we’re just trying to make delicious food.”

And that’s what will make Revival worth making a pilgrimage.

Cocktail at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Cocktail at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin

Time to make the caviar

Three prep cooks with black plastic gloves carefully harvest salmon roe from tongue-like skeins of eggs. It’s ridiculously painstaking work using a fine mesh, salted water and the patience to tease out a few ounces of caviar. The brilliant orange eggs will be part of tonight’s menu, topping raw beef from Napa’s Five Dot Ranch, served with smoked tomato and cheese-cured egg yolks ($18).

Anchovies at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn.
Anchovies at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Kelly Puleio

Meanwhile, another prep cook eviscerates finger-length anchovies with a quick pinch and twist, their silver scales flashing in the light. Typically used as bait, these plentiful fish will get a more heroic memorial at Revival. They will be fried, tossed with slices of citrus and served with a gribiche (or cold mayonnaise-style sauce) made with seaweed, pickled plums and eggs that Spiegel calls “greenbiche.” The surprisingly mild and tender fried fish is as approachable as a puppy and much easier to dunk in the savory green sauce.

Revival isn’t just about seafood, however. There’s plenty on the menu that showcases the farmers and ranchers of the region. At the moment, slices of perfectly ripe heirloom Ha’ogen melon are paired with plentiful lemon cucumbers, mint and a bit of whey, as in “curds and whey,’ the watery by-product of cheesemaking that adds just a hint of creaminess. It’s summer in a bowl ($6).

Anchovies at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin
Anchovies at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Heather Irwin

Smoked duck or a simple flat iron steak, served off-center on a white plate, are both luxurious and simple ($29), not overcomplicated with heavy sauces or sides, just simple spigarello broccoli leaves.

As delicious as they are, each ingredient has been carefully curated as part of the story that Spiegel and Luedtke want to tell about West County.

The story of food

For all the hipster jokes about precious pickle pedigrees and heirloom hamburgers, there are those who truly care about how that beautiful piece of radish actually got on their plate.

“Food has to tell the story,” said Luedtke. “So much goes in to it, and that gets lost if we don’t tell it.”

That means hearing about the restaurant garden, which is filled with edible flowers, greens and fruit trees. Or the laying hens, the herb garden just outside the door, the cultured cream in your panna cotta, or the farmer who brought in Gravenstein apples this morning.

Spiegel frequently walks through the dining room, sharing insightful tidbits about the aspic used in the halibut crudo (made with bones that would otherwise be thrown away), or why most things on the menu include something fermented, a skill he learned in Scandinavia’s limited growing seasons.

“We have no attachment to the ingredients. When it’s done (for the season), it’s done,” he said. “Except broccoli, and that never goes away.

“This (menu) is a narrative about what’s being harvested and knowing where food comes from. Chefs can change tastes, and as we move from a protein diet to using more produce from around us, it’s so much more sustainable,” he added. “We’re trying to contextualize the food based on what’s around us.”

Halibut at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Kelly Puleio
Halibut at Revival Restaurant in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn. Photo: Kelly Puleio

Most important, though, the food has to taste good. “I’m very particular, and this food feeds my soul,” Luedtke said, eating a bowl of seascape strawberry sorbet with fig leaf vinaigrette, parsley oil and Genoise cake. “I just love to eat food that’s so beautifully done, so simply prepared, and from right here,” she said.

Revival at the Applewood Inn, 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, (707) 869-9093, eatatrevival.com. It’s open for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Comments

22 thoughts on “Revival Restaurant at the Applewood Inn

  1. I’ve finally figured out why food critics have no taste in food. They have an expense account and it costs them nothing to eat over priced swine droppings such as those at Revival. To secure a critic’s positive review isn’t all that hard to do obviously.

  2. I’ve finally figured out why food critics have no taste in food. They have an expense account and it costs them nothing to eat over priced swine droppings such as those at Revival. To secure a critic’s positive review isn’t all that hard to do obviously.

  3. If you have even the slightest clue about the culinary world this food looks great. Go back to your bag of BBQ Cheetos and stop trolling.

    1. oh only if we where all so advanced as you JP, so much for bang for your buck or feeding a family…guess we got to stick to the slop houses if we don’t meet your high standard of cuisine…see how they do over the winter not connecting with locals…

    2. nope, the plating is not good, I am not a troll but a chefy pants. WANNABE Eleven Madison Park plating needs work but nice try I guess…Lol I guess some things are subjective?

    3. How food looks is only appealing to 12 year olds. The rest of us need substance and true inspiration to fully appreciate our food. As respects to the Inn it’s still beautiful, charming and very welcoming. Revival is by far their weakest link. So weak that on their Yelp page I gave them one star and I’m thinking I was generous to do so. So let’s break this down. The restaurant itself is welcoming and relaxing. I didn’t like the fact we were seated on what was once a porch instead of the main dining room. Fun fact though, there were empty tables in there on a Friday night at 7:00. I now know why. The menu. Or rather, as we first thought, the list of appetizers. Nope, only two of those. Four “shareable” plates and four main courses (lamb, beef, salmon and veggie). Am no fan of lamb, beef or salmon so I was relegated to a plate of veggies I could not identify. Corn was listed on the menu but me thinks I got cheated. Backing up for a moment, the service was attentive despite our waitress admitting she failed to put in our order for appetizers. 30 minutes wasted. Luckily none of us were in a hurry. Over the entire meal we had two bottles of Merry Edwards Pinot (and not the one listed on the wine menu – “sorry, we’re out”). Amazingly over priced but of the 30 plus wines listed I only knew her and one other. Been in West County for 15+ years and I sort of know a little about wines (Moshin & Wild Hog rock!). Particularly Sonoma wines. As a dear friend who once owned Monte Rio’s best dinner destination said “Napa makes auto parts. Sonoma makes wine.” Honestly I don’t much care nor patronize Crista’s other eateries in Guerneville. She makes nothing that I find worth eating. And with Revival, I’m afraid, she’s made a colossal mistake.

  4. Glad too see biteclub is such a welcome open form for ideas! NOT. Mild criticisms are instantly deleted here. Have fun in your Yuppie echo chamber.

    1. I agree I left a comment this morning as to the general grossness of the pictured food, if you have crap food at least get a good photographer to try and make it look appealing.

      1. I also commented on how pathetic the pictured food was! I thought they should at least get a good photographer and food stylist rather than showing what looks like slop. My earlier comment was also deleted. Welcome to a heavily edited owner based reality Bite club readers!

    2. Amazing how you keep coming back to the site to see if your comments got deleted. Thanks for the traffic!

      Also, there’s nothing in the first amendment about trolls and ignorant commenters. Trust me, I looked. Feel free to use your copious free time to start your own blog! I’ll be thrilled to be the first commenter!

      1. Interesting how defensive we become. This is highly political as weve seen you follow folks who cannot get accolades outside of this lame distraction you call articles. Please try and look outside of the people who tend to market themselves, chefs make food and shouldn’t have time to market themselves like christa or Jamil, who seem to have quite the draw to bite club eats yet still couldn’t acquire say even a bib gourmand or a decent zagat. Food innovators and a classic respect for the craft, not douche bag custy wannabe chefs, are whom I suggest you follow. I’m almost certain nobody takes this seriously but if you’d like to I suggest finding some other chefs here in the county…

        1. Weird that your email is address is the same name as the former owner of Applewood. Whether you are or aren’t that person, I can say that there are two sides to every story, and I’ve heard a very different one from people who worked in that kitchen. Getting Michelin stars takes financial investment and time, especially after the restaurant has been off the Michelin radar. A year isn’t going to cut it, sorry. Most chefs work a lifetime for stars. This is a dining blog that covers both major and minor chefs and restaurants in the county, and yes, people do take it very seriously. People who care about local dining and who matter in the industry know that.

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