Restaurants & Bars

Mendocino/Calistoga Trip report (kind of long)

Syre | Jan 21, 200209:57 PM     4

Thanks to everyone for the advice on my query. Here's where I went and what I ate:

On the way up, we stopped at the Oakville Grocery, off the square in Healdsburg for lunch. I had a salad of Arugala (and a few other mixed greens), duck confit, slivered almonds and parmigiano cheese, with a lemon vinaigrette dressing ($8.95). It was served on a warm round soft flatbred, reminiscent of a nan, which had slivers of cheese (perhaps asagio) melted into it. It was excellent (particularly the flatbread). Highly recommended.

For dinner in Mendocino, we went to the Moosse Cafe, mainly because we were tired and it was a block from where we were staying. I had a caesar salad ($8.95), which was fine if a bit over-garlicy. This was followed by a "crispy chicken with mashed potatoes and snap peas" ($17.95). The chicken was not crispy (I hate soggy skin), the mashed potatoes were ok, if uninspired, and the sauce was completely bland and uninteresting. The snap peas were fine, but there's little one can do to mess up good snap peas other than cooking them for too long. For dessert, we had a slice of chocolate torte ($6.50) which was rather lackluster and gummy, and house-made pomegranate and tangerine sorbets ($5.50) which tasted like those over-sweet fruit drinks which have only 2% fruit. Not recommended.

Lunch the next day was at the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland. The Bluebird is a classic american style cafe with friendly (if a bit harried) staff. I had an ostrich burger with fries and an iced tea. The tea was very nice, but the burger was overdone and dry. Ostrich is one of those bird meats which, like duck breast, is best served rare to medium rare. The fries were well prepared.

But for dessert, we had a slice of blackberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was the best slice of pie I have ever had (the ice cream was pretty good too). It was at least two inches of solid fresh fruit -- whole blackberries mixed in with puree. The crust was fairly thin (but not too thin)and was perfectly soft and flaky. It was so good that I tried to buy a whole pie ($16.87) to take home, but they were out of whole blackberry pies so I had to settle for raspberry. I plan to have a pie party this week. By the way, the Bluebird does take pie orders, so if you plan to drive through Hopland and want to pick one up, best call ahead and let them know to have it waiting for you. I bet they do a great breakfast, but I can only recommend them for pie. But what a pie!

For dinner, we went to Terra in St. Helena. I decided to order two appetizers instead of an entree. They were: foie gras pate with fuji apple and string bean salad ($17), and fried rock shrimp with mixed greens salad ($12). The foie gras pate was a generous serving, but was extremely bland and over-fatted (I would prefer more foie gras and less extra gras). The salad of fuji apples and string beans was ok, if a bit odd. The fried rock shrimp were perfectly done little shrimp, lightly breaded and deep fried. It reminded me of bar food done well. The accompanying salad was heavily over-dressed. For dessert, I had a cheese plate ($10) which consisted of three tiny slivers of cheese: a blue, a dry jack, and a semi-soft goat cheese. These were served with thin slices of apple and pear. All were nice, but I fear I've been spoiled by buying all my cheeses at Rainbow -- they were no better or more interesting than what I eat every day. Although I haven't tried their main dishes, I will not be going back to Terra. I thought that in general the food seemed quite mediocre.

For lunch the next day, we went to what is now perhaps my favorite restaurant in the bay area, Bistro Jeanty (and I say this having been to French Laundry, et al). The staff at Jeanty were uniformly friendly. There was only a short wait for our reserved table, (though we would have been seated more quickly had we taken places at the communal table!), and nearly everything was amazingly great. The menu itself is one of the more interesting I've read in a long time. How often do you see a salad of lambs tongues, or kidneys, or rabbit pate on a menu? Around here... not very often.

We had a potato-leek soup which was stunningly good. It was a bright green color, and was full of fresh leek flavor ($6?). Then there were pike
quenelles with lobster sauce ($12). There were two of them, quite a good size, oven browned, served in an oval ramekin, sitting in lobster sauce. They were just about perfect -- the light texture and flavor of the quenelles perfectly complemented by the stronger flavor of the lobster sauce. This was followed by a pasta with wild mushrooms ($16.50), which consisted of shell pasta with three kinds of wild mushrooms, lots of garlic in a little light cream sauce, with a bit of creme fraiche drizzled over it. The shells had been sauteed with the other ingredients, and were a lovely brown color. The flavors of this dish were intense and wonderful, and the kitchen did not stint on the mushrooms: I would estimate that the weight of mushrooms was almost equivalent to the weight of pasta in this dish (which was a very generous serving to boot)! By this point I was nearly ecstatic (heh), and had to find room for dessert, which was a tarte tatin ($8.50?). Unfortunately, this was the one failure of the meal. This "tarte tatin" was an individual pastry and was not really a tarte tatin at all. It had a flaky puff pastry crust, and a thick caramel topping which almost instantly solidified into an unchewable (literally!) mass. The flavors were still quite nice, but the dish was not a success. So enthusiastic am I about the rest of the meal, however, that I still say this is one of the true culinary treasures of the bay area! I cannot wait til he opens his place in SF.

Hmm... now what's for dinner tonight? :)

Want to stay up to date with this post? Sign Up Now ›

More from Chowhound

Christmas Cookie HQ: The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Cookie Baking

Christmas Cookie HQ: The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Cookie Baking

by Jen Wheeler | Holiday baking season means lots of cookies, and we have plenty of great Christmas cookie recipes...

Christmas Cheesecake: The Most Wonderful Dessert of the Year

Christmas Cheesecake: The Most Wonderful Dessert of the Year

by Jen Wheeler | At Christmas time, there are cookies galore, but true dessert lovers still crave something more substantial...

Christmas Crack: The Easiest and Most Addictive Holiday Gift
How To

Christmas Crack: The Easiest and Most Addictive Holiday Gift

by Mijon Zulu | Want some crack? I mean, crackle? People who have had it love it and it takes less than an hour to...

15 Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes: You Be the Judge
Recipe Round-Ups

15 Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes: You Be the Judge

by Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy | Since August 4 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, we rounded up the very best chocolate chip cookie...

Get fresh food news delivered to your inbox

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest tips, tricks, recipes and more, sent twice a week.