A ten day business trip in Lake Country afforded us the opportunity for a "wrap" dinner at Martini House in St. Helena and a pre flight dinner the next night in Sacramento at The Waterboy.
This was our second stop in two years at Martini House and it still dazzles as a craftsman house like fantasy environment. The detail in both the garden, the main room upstairs and the well articulated bar downstairs is extensive and beguiling. Half way through our dinner I thought that next time I might prefer the cheeseburgers I spied on most tables in the bar area.
That's not to suggest that our dinner was not worthwhile. It certainly was. But why did we walk away thinking about what we spent? That half bottle of Staglin Chardonnay was excellent for $39 as was the well recommended 2001 Dehlinger Pinot Noir for $74. The highly touted mushroom soup was familiar and lush and the wild mushroom fettucine was equally satisfying. Both the lamb and the butter basted halibut were very good and we finished with an excellent cheese plate with three selections and a black bottom cream pie with spice soaked pear; both terrific for $15 & $9 respectively. At $254 before tip, Martini House does seem to be the "uptown" stop in the valley.
A corner location with huge bay windows was the initial attraction at The Waterboy in Sacramento the next night. An obvious labor of love, the space has the dramatic sweep of high ceilings with just the right whimsical adition of drapes and eclectic accessories. We were bound for Biba's, but we needed something less formal after the previous night's dinner. The wine list is much less comprehensive but no less noteworthy. The same $74 2001 Dehlinger Pinot Noir was available here for $59. We opted for the delicious 2002 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc for $36 which had just the right weight and fruit for our rustic dinner. It included a crusty pizzetta with olives and onions, a great Caesar, a frisee salad with poached egg, a crispy roasted half chicken with panzanella, excellent leg of lamb and steak tartare. The apple crostini with ice cream was very nice as was the special pumpkin creme brulee. The dinner for three came in at $144. We can't wait to return.
As we drove to the freeway, on our way to Sacramento Airport, we passed Zocala, another corner restaurant with a spectacular design that could've been created by, well, Pat Kuleto.