Last updated 1/18/2007 at Noon
Jackson Square – it’s a little piece of paradise, this cozy courtyard where lampposts reminiscent of London are wrapped with delicate white lights. A vine-draped fountain trickles its music as diners sit in the delightful courtyard. A crowd of scents swirls around the tables: flowering vines, steaming tea and tantalizing aromas from the cafés. “I always thought it was like a secret garden,” one visitor commented.
In Jackson Square guests not only find the enchanting courtyard but an array of delightful shops including Lavender Dreams, a unique gift shop; Lemonchello’s, an upscale boutique; Yesterday’s Garden Basket, which offers Fallbrook-themed gifts and other fun items; and Wee Little Sprouts, a clothing store for the “wee little ones.”
Two restaurants make their home in the Square. One is Le Bistro, which offers flavorful works of European-inspired culinary art. In the evening the path to Le Bistro is flanked by twinkling white lights as one travels through Jackson Square to the upstairs establishment. (Le Bistro was reviewed in the 12-21-06 issue of the Village News and can be found at http://www.thevillagenews.com).
Courtyard Café Review
The Courtyard Café is also found in Jackson Square. But, not for long -- a name change is imminent! The Vanilla Orchid Café and Tearoom will soon replace Courtyard Café. It is a positive name choice because I can almost smell the fragrance!
The person responsible for this fragrant name is Yvonne Duran, who, along with her husband, David, is the new owner of the establishment. Yvonne has been working as their chef for a year. She holds an Associate of Arts degree in culinary arts from the Art Institute of California at San Diego. “I fell in love with this restaurant the first time I saw it,” Yvonne commented.
Juleen Ruttan, manager, helps to create the English tearoom atmosphere. The china cups and saucers are unique and lend charm to the atmosphere. “It is like you are being transported to Europe,” Juleen commented.
The establishment serves a variety of English-style teas. Heart-shaped white chocolate apricot and cranberry scones are served with each tea order and are made from scratch. Delicious and cloud-like Devonshire cream is also ‘homemade’ and complements the warm scones. But tea is not all you will find at this café; the menu is full of hearty luncheon choices including soups, sandwiches and salads.
Because it was a chilly day, I decided to dine inside the tearoom instead of at a courtyard table. The heater made it feel warm and cozy for my early January lunch. The Ham and Brie Sandwich caught my eye and was a delectable choice. The hot sandwich was stacked high with ham on a ciabatta roll, then layered with melted Brie cheese and topped with an apricot ginger mustard sauce. The sauce took the sandwich to a realm beyond plain ham – the ginger gave it just the kick it needed.
The sandwich was served with a Jackson Square Salad, which is a beguiling dish! The salad is served on a bed of baby greens with thinly sliced pears, apples, candied walnuts and goat cheese. The champagne vinaigrette dressing gives it a light and sweet flavor, the pears are crisp and the candied walnuts give a burst of sweet flavor. The goat cheese was creamy, mild and flavorful.
Whatever you want to name this restaurant – the word will mean delicious!
Vanilla Orchid Café & Tearoom
At Jackson Square
119 North Main
(Please call for reservations and hours)
History of Jackson Square
Jackson Square was the brainchild of Betty and Bob Jackson. The Country Cover, Betty’s store, which evolved from her home-based garden shop, was the anchor store for the Square. This building was moved to the spot on Main in 1890.
Yesterday’s Garden Basket is part of that building and was once the bedroom of Robyn Sikking’s grandmother. Robyn sold her handmade ceramics from the store in front while her family lived in the back of the building.
Jackson Square was remodeled in 1967, the buildings in the back were built and the courtyard effect was born. “We opened up the walk and built the steps down at that time,” Betty recalled. “We then decided to lease the small rooms for shops.” The buildings were fashioned from brightly painted wood and matched well with the 1890 style.
Lavender Dreams is standing on what was once part of the courtyard but was enclosed to create a store. The builders took care to form the structure around a palm tree. “The palm in the building has since fallen over,” noted James Jackson, Betty and Bob’s son. “When it fell, it destroyed the back end of the shop.” Fortunately, this happened in the middle of the night and no one was hurt.
(The Lavender Dreams portion of the Square is not owned by the Jackson family, but is still rented property.)
The back building, which has housed Le Bistro for twenty years, was first a café called The Cauldron, owned and operated by Betty. “People were ready to try unusual foods, so we took dishes from different countries and regions,” she explained. They served French-inspired crepes and New Orleans jambalaya among other dishes.
Betty initiated a unique way of keeping track of food orders. She would give patrons a plastic green poker-like chip for salads and another color for the main course. Diners would end up with two or three chips, which were placed on their tables. “I would hang the same colored chip on a pegboard so the kitchen could see it,” Betty explained. “People got a kick out of it. I don’t think anyone in the world has ever done it that way.”
After the Jacksons sold the Country Cover, the owner moved out and took the name with him. “So, we had to rename it,” said Betty. “We had just taken a trip to New Orleans and I thought Jackson Square sounded really classy.”
As far as the courtyard goes, Betty said “I keep control of the patio.” She selected the courtyard decor and makes sure that the atmosphere remains enchanting.
“I want to be sure that the patio stays the same,” she commented. “The same” means it will remain an enchanted secret garden with twinkling white lights, vines inching up the walls and a melodic fountain spouting its music for all to hear.