Ok..so I had a hard time with the acronym....but we, once again, had such a pleasurable dining experience at this little gem that I had to call attention to it.
AVA is really the abbreviation for American Viticultural Area. The Bakers (chef/owners) also own March Aux Fleurs in Ross. Their philosophy is to work with small organic farms and wineries within a small radius." All meats and fish are sustainably raised and caught, and much of the produce is purchased directly from local farmers at the Marin County Farmers' Market."
We arrived to find Holly Baker us at the desk with her 3 week old baby in her sling. She, even as a brand new mother was relaxed and content and it felt as if she was welcoming us to her "other baby"... the restaurant. It's a small, simple decor location which has a lovely outdoor patio when the weather is good. We've visited 6 or 7 different times and have never been disappointed with a single menu item.
Sometimes when we dine out, I enjoy ordering items that excite me enough that I take notes on the ingredients and preparation to try it out at home. This particular evening's menu was exciting for the opposite reason. There wasn't anything I would think of preparing on my own considered every bite as a showcase of someone else's talent.
I love to start with the Cheese stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon while we peruse the menu. This, as do many of the menu items, has just the right balance of sweet and salty. I never understand why the offer 3 however. Most of the tables are groups of 2 or 4 which means we have to fight over the odd one or challenge ourselves to portion it evenly.
For a salad, we chose to share the Crisp Sonoma duck confit and frisee salad with kumquat and smoked almond vinaigrette Again, the nice balance of salt and sweet. Everything was chopped small and the frisee held the ingredients tight in it's "tentacles" so each bite contained a little taste of each componet. Between the comquat and the duck, this is not a salad I would ever attempt at home.
We often can't decide on entree choices so we usually order 2 and switch mid- meal. Great idea! One of us started with the Roast beef loin with garlic and parsley bearnaise, black pepper,ancho cress. The beef was med-rare and sliced small.The blend of the parsley Bearnaise (not over sauced) and spicy black pepper was perfect. The side recommended was a sautee of thinly sliced sunchoke and other root veg. (I can't remember the name) was perfect for this entree.
It was a cold evening and the hearty Braised pork shoulder with cotechino sausage, ceci beans, green ciucco olives and coarse polenta proved to be a perfect stew for our mood. Salt and mildly sweet again but this time, every bite was different. Yummy! The side I often make at home is Roasted brussels sprouts with house-smoked bacon and it's always a favorite of mine. Their bacon is better than mine, of course.
We finished the evening with ricotta/apple fritters with honey ice cream. The last offering of salty and sweet to close the palate. It was a dish that brought up memories of High School Home Ec and it made me feel good although I would have loved something more chocolaty on the menu (besides an ice cream sundae). I am a chocolate fiend however so don't mind me.
When all the seating is inside, the staff of Holly (making rounds and filling water glasses with baby asleep in tow), the hostess (who is often making the rounds in the room) and 2 wait staff is sufficient. They seem to all help each other out without a care as to whose table is whose. We really enjoy the personable and efficient staff so the service matches the experience with the food.
All I can say is that the attention to detail shows!! We'll be back!