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Barndiva in Healdsburg Report (Long)

Absonot | May 23, 200507:08 PM

Two friends and I arrived for an early dinner Saturday around 6:30. We were taken to an outside table in their lovely backyard garden, evocative of a charming Parisian park. But the tables (while widely-spaced apart), are small round wrought iron folding tables- difficult to move and uncomfortable to sit at, as you can't put your legs under the table if you're sitting on the side where the hinges are. So they're fine for two people, but more than that won't fit. And since they're round, it would be difficult to join two or more tables together for socializing. Also, the textured surface is pretty, but impractical- silverware slides off, stemware teeters. Bottom line: if you're planning on eating more than a charcuterie plate, eat inside. Outside seems strictly drinks and nibbles.

The menu is set up in a grid that I will not try to explain here. Suffice it to say, it's very confusing and a bit "precious". I tried guessing on portion size by looking at prices, but I didn't quite know what to make of things. Which are the appetizers? Are they all tapas? Of course, the waitress (who could NOT have been nicer-- all the service was great) was anticipating this, and was happy to walk us through it, adding her insight. But why put up a barrier between the food and the eater? I don't get this. It felt pretentious and exclusionary.

Also, the wine list was a disappointment. My companions are not drinkers, so I was hoping to order a half bottle. No such luck-- they offer none. Ok, so on to the by the glass. They had a few Sonoma wines, but if my memory serves, it seemed like half the list was imported. There's nothing wrong with a few imported wines, but I'm in Sonoma- how come I get only three local wines to choose from? Prices are fair, though.

The food was interesting, but not rave-worthy with two exceptions: The seared scallop skewers were excellent and the addition of dried figs was really a wonderful idea. Also, my halibut entree (wrapped in proscuitto and roasted - $26), was divine.

The $10 goat cheese croquettes were perfectly prepared, but there were only four of them and they were bite-sized. My friends both ordered the chicken beast stuffed with a mushroom cheese filling, mashed potatoes and asparagus for around $20. Their chicken breasts were HUGE and perfectly prepared, but the filling was practically nonexistent. Three small, skinny asparagus spears adorned the sparse plates, looking more like garnish than food.

Desserts did not tempt us, nor did the $5.95 coffee. In fairness, it was a small French press pot, so I'm sure it was worth it. But I just wanted one cup of coffee, so I was out of luck.

If I lived near there, I might pop in for late afternoon drink and a snack from time to time, but I certainly would not call this a foodie destination spot.

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