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Applewood Inn Restaurant near Guerneville closed; owner plans new eatery in 2016

The iconic Applewood Inn Restaurant in Guerneville has closed, at least temporarily.

In a letter posted on the restaurant's website, owner Carlos Pippa said he decided to shutter the restaurant Saturday for renovations until next May and plans to reopen it as a Mediterranean taverna. The inn and spa remain open.

Current chef Jamil Peden said yesterday he will be leaving his position at the restaurant's helm.

In the letter, Pippa noted that the restaurant received a Michelin star in 2011 and 2012 and praised Peden for bringing the restaurant 'culinary acclaim to new heights.' The letter did not explain why Pippa is changing the cuisine, nor did it say that the chef is departing.

'I would like to thank your patronage of the Restaurant at Applewood and share with you the news that it will be closed for refurbishing and will reopen in the spring with a new face, ambiance and theme,' the letter stated.

'The informal atmosphere will be warm and welcoming, a place where friends congregate. The ambiance will be convivial, lively, rustic, warm, casually chic, colorful, vivacious. You could get a fast bite or linger as long as you want.'

The news came as a surprise to many in the food world as the restaurant received high critical praise under the direction of the 38-year-old Peden, who took over the kitchen last April. Peden is an alumnus of several of Wine Country's high-end restaurants, including Michelin-starred Scopa in Healdsburg, Chef Josh Silvers' now-closed Santa Rosa restaurant Petite Syrah and the brewpub Woodfour Brewing at the Barlow center in Sebastopol, where he cultivated a distinctly non-tavern-like approach by serving luxurious, sophisticated dishes.

Calling his cuisine 'interpretive American,' Peden utilized the inn's extensive gardens and sourced heavily from local farmers and producers.

'We brought the restaurant to a great point over the last few months on our own, and without any marketing. I really love what I did there,' he said. 'I was really surprised, but it is a decision that had to be made.' He said there was little warning before the announcement to close.

In an interview last spring, Peden said he hoped to recapture some of the restaurant's former glory as a west county dining destination. He was working to surmount several years of chef shuffles and sagging reviews prior to his arrival.

The quiet, west county destination restaurant was awarded a Michelin star twice, in 2011 and 2012. It had been an incubator for a number of talented young chefs, including Brian Gerritsen, David Frakes of Lynmar, Brian Anderson of Bistro 29 and Bruce Frieseke of Bella Vineyards. Frieseke captured the Michelin stars for the restaurant, but it lost the distinction soon after his departure.

A guidebook darling since the mid-1980s, the inn and eatery showcased the best of Sonoma County produce, meats and upscale California cuisine and created a tourist buzz from 2000, when Gerritsen put it on the map, to around 2013.

Pippa purchased the 6-acre property in 2009 from longtime owners Jim Caron and Darryl Notter, who owned it for nearly 25 years. At the time, he planned to create a Tuscan-style retreat. The property dates back to 1922, when it was built as a luxurious 11-bedroom private home.

Peden said he plans to begin work on his own restaurant concept, which he's calling Medjool. He also plans to keep busy doing pop-ups and other gigs.

In recent years, Guerneville has seen an upswing in restaurant openings, including Boon Eat + Drink, Dick Blomster's Korean Diner, Big Bottom Market and Seaside Metal Oyster Bar, among others.

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