Restaurants & Bars 2

Lake County: a few Chowish bright spots

Ruby Louise | May 22, 200805:17 PM

My husband & I spent last weekend in Lake County for a retreat. It’s a beautiful place, but depressed and slightly depressing with a few Chowish bright spots.

Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa
We stayed at Konocti which provided exceptional people watching. Our weekend included two buffet breakfasts and one buffet lunch. Lunch had a predictable but nicely executed salad bar (veggies were very fresh) and sandwich making bar. Breakfast was hit (scrambled eggs garnished with diced scallions, tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, nicely sliced and arranged fresh fruit that tasted good, thick cut bacon and large sausage links) and miss (waffles that got chewy when they cooled, room temperature milk for cereal, watery coffee, scrambled eggs leaned toward the dry side). Friends who ate dinner in the restaurant said it was very bad.

Other friends ate at the new Watercolor, which is just minutes away, and said their seafood was perfectly cooked. It’s located right on the lake between Konocti & Kelseyville.

Historic downtown Kelseyville is pretty sleepy. Shops close at 4 or 5PM. The local dive bar seemed active, the tiny market was open (a sign indicated a tacqueria inside but we didn’t venture in), the winery tasting room had 2 other customers and the restaurant where we ate dinner had a few locals inside.

Rosa di Oro Winery Tasting Room
With a few minutes to kill before our dinner reservation, we walked in to look around since they’re open till 6:30. Focused on Italian varietals, you can taste 5 wines for free. Located in a restored bank, the feeling is airy and open. We tried the not quite dry Moscato (less than 1% residual sugar so think spicy food, not dessert), the Nebbiolo rose (vibrant acidity); the ’04 Barbera (smoky with a zingy acidity), Primitive (very dry and chewy) and the Dolcetto (deeply pigmented but high volatile acidity). Very friendly and very reasonably priced.

Saw Shop Gallery Bistro
Located in a renovated Craftsman home, the white walls are filled with a wide array of interesting local art. The menu features appetizers, small plates and entrees, with a mostly Cal-Ital feel but a few Asian inspired dishes. The hits of the meal were my mixed green salad and my husband’s leek & mushroom lasagna. The salad had dried pears, pecans and mild goat cheese and makes me wonder why I don’t see more dried pears, because this was delicious. My husband’s lasagna tasted fresh, with distinct flavors. The downside of the meal were the crab cakes (tasted old) and pot stickers (from a bag, I mean come on; I’m as white as they get and I can make pot stickers from scratch!). The crab cakes came with a side of “dragon slaw”, which was simply coleslaw with Sriracha in the dressing. Simple, but good. Service was attentive but relaxed, and the glass pour of local Sauvignon Blanc was generous. I’d go back but I think the trick is to avoid the Asian inspired dishes and order from the specials.

Marcie’s Brick Grill
On our way out of town Sunday we stopped in for some pear spice cake to go and they were genuinely friendly. They heated our cake and topped it with whipped cream and even gave us plastic forks. It was dense, rich, cinnamony and on the sweet side with chunks of pear. I’d go back to check out breakfast or lunch (the only 2 meals they offer).

Upper Lake
Tiny little Upper Lake is pretty bleak, with only a the beautifully restored Tallman Hotel and the Blue Wing Saloon offering bright spots. That and the locals sitting at the bus stop singing “All my exes live in Upper Lake.” Ok, maybe not a bright spot, but definitely funny.

Blue Wing Saloon
In a beautifully restored old building with amazing wood paneling and a gorgeous old bar this looks more like Sonoma or Napa. We sat on the porch, which runs down the side of the building and overlooks the garden they share with the equally lovely historic Tallman Hotel. They had a very talented local musician playing creative covers of Paul Simon and Neal Young tunes. They were only offering their brunch menu, with a couple of eggs benedict variations, and pubish fare like fish & chips, burgers and other grilled sandwiches. Each entrée came with a choice of orange juice, bubbly or a Mimosa. We had the latter and the juice was fresh squeezed. Husband’s burger tasted like good local beef, served on a ciabatta roll. His garlic fries were one of the best interpretations I’ve had, tossed in garlic butter. They do offer 3 variations of fries; plain, fire and garlic. I had the po’ boy, which isn’t something I’d usually order. The crust on the fried oysters had a bit of thyme in it, which was nice, but the ciabatta roll. It was good, but I doctored it with a bit of jalapeno Tabasco and a few spoonfuls of coleslaw. I’d return to check out their lunch and dinner menu.

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