Feeling no pain after their Wine Train excursion, the Chino Waynes and Heather made the short jaunt from Napa to San Rafael late Wednesday afternoon and checked in to the Sheraton Four Points hotel. Once in the room, Chino Wayne and the Mrs. decided that they had already experienced a full day (after all Chino Wayne is no longer the svelte young stud he was many years ago, but is a card carrying member of AARP, and Mrs. Chino Wayne, though she is loath to admit it, is fast approaching the time when the AARP will be coming for her) and thus decided to order in from room service.
Mrs. Chino Wayne, still recovering from the rolling wine bar, did not want to eat anything too heavy, so only ordered a slice of chocolate decadence cake and a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Chino Wayne ordered a steak sandwich. Presently the order arrived and Chino Wayne, still feeling beef deprived from the skimpy portion of beef filet he was served at lunch, immediately consumed the steak sandwich and accompanying fries. The steak was very skimpy, and about as far from Prime as Select can get, but it was beef, and did satisfy Chino Waynes carnivorous cravings. It was ordered medium rare, but was so thin it had no chance of being anything less than medium. The steak was served on a French roll with some shredded lettuce (or if one would prefer the le haute cuisine term, a lettuce chiffonade) some very thinly sliced, flavorless tomato and a garlic aioli that did not taste of garlic. Nonetheless, Chino Wayne, in his beef deprived state, made quick work of both steak sandwich and accompanying, non-descript fries.
Chino Waynes rapid dispatch of steak and fries was very fortuitous field work, in that it meant that he would be all the more ready to take on the next objective, which would be the inveigling of Mrs. Chino Waynes cake and ice cream. Mrs. Chino Wayne, having become sated, and also ever considerate of her wonderful husband, saved a final morsel of the chocolate decadence cake for her hubby and also offered up half of the remaining ice cream, which thanks to Chino Waynes impeccable timing, was soft, but still in a frozen state. Chino Wayne reported that the cake was sufficiently moist and chocolaty and melted straightaway in his maw. The ice cream also was sweet and creamy, and disappeared far too rapidly.
The room service steak sandwich with fries, one slice of chocolate decadence cake, one bowl of vanilla ice cream and one Calistoga sparkling water came in at $24.00, including tax, service charge and room service fee. Coincidentally, through some snafu of the hotels movies on demand system, Chino Wayne, while flipping through channels, came across a movie on channel 42, without having to order it up. So while the Chino Waynes enjoyed their room service repast, they also experienced a free showing of Moth Man starring Richard Gere, and the price of the movie was just right, because the Chino Waynes would never have paid anything to see this movie otherwise.
Back on the hunt Thursday morning, Chino Wayne alerted his fellow hounds on the San Francisco board that he was presently on bivouac in San Rafael and that he did not relish having to dine at Chilis, which was the only dining establishment within close proximity to the hotel. Various of Chino Waynes brother and sister hounds came through with recommendations that led Chino Wayne and Mrs. Chino Wayne to Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael that evening.
There are numerous choices for dining on Fourth Street, however, Italian was ruled out because Mrs. Chino Wayne had already experienced Italian while wining and dining business clients. Chino Wayne broached the idea, only half heartedly, because in his heart of hearts, he knew he would be shut down by the very pedestrian tastes of Mrs. Chino Wayne, that the Chino Waynes dine at a Thai establishment. Not with any surprise to Chino Wayne, Mrs. Chino Wayne immediately nixed that idea, stating that she did not eat Sushi. Chino Wayne gently reminded Mrs. Chino Wayne that Thai restaurants do not serve Sushi, that Sushi is a delicacy served in Japanese restaurants. Still in his lame attempt to sway the Mrs., Chino Wayne said that Thai food resembled Chinese food (a cuisine to which Chino Wayne had successfully introduced Mrs. Chino Wayne to many years ago, prior to her becoming Mrs. Chino Wayne), to which Mrs. Chino Wayne retorted, Oh yeah, but its spicy.
Chino Wayne then decided that the Chino Waynes would dine at San Rafael Joes restaurant, and fortuitously, there was an open parking space right in front. Chino Wayne slid Heather right in to the parking space in another one of his brilliant parallel parking maneuvers and Mr. and Mrs. Chino Wayne glided in to Joes, where they were immediately assaulted by the amplified sounds of Bobby (Tom? Dick? Harry?) Rox. Playing what else, Rock and Roll. Joes is a rather cavernous place in an old building with old brick walls, but done up with a modern, tasteful interior. Fourth Street in San Rafael, is like other similar main downtown thoroughfares in some of our older towns and cities, restored and revitalized. These streets retain the character of their early years and of the people who built these towns, and help to define the quality of life that radiates from them. They seem, in Chino Waynes mind, to bring a nostalgia and high quality of life to their residents and those travelers fortunate enough to pass through, bringing to mind an ideal of American life from another era.
Having been seated at sufficiently far remove from Bobby Rox, Chino Wayne and the Mrs. made their selections from the menu. Mrs. Chino Wayne ordered red snapper beurre blanc and a glass of, what else, the Chino Waynes old stand-by, White Zinfandel. Chino Wayne, still craving the beef that he had been deprived of in Napa, ordered the evening special, a New York Strip with pepper corns, chopped tomato and blue cheese, a Caesar salad, and a bourbon and Seven Up. Now this was a Thursday evening, and Chino Wayne had read Anthony Bourdains expose of restaurant meat practices twice (once in the New Yorker and once in the full length book), and the fact that this special might have been week old meat of suspect lineage, disguised with the rather strong flavor of the blue cheese, did not pass unnoticed by Chino Wayne. However, that ever present craving for beef was simply too overpowering to Chino Wayne, and he went with his gut.
Two bourbon and Sevens later, Chino Wayne was less worried about the provenance of his impending steak, and was thoroughly enjoying his Caesar salad and hunks of sourdough flute with sweet butter, that the waiter very generously kept re-supplying to the Chino Waynes. As is her modus operandi, Mrs. Chino Wayne did monopolize the bread basket, but on this evening Chino Wayne held his own in the bread department. This bread, while by the uniformly pebbled bottom surface had obviously come from a commercial bakery, was far and away superior to the inferior product served on the Wine Train the previous day. This bread had a crust that while not as crusty as the artesinal breads Chino Wayne had acquired in Napa, was indeed much crustier than the mushy bread on the Wine Train, and was deeply and overindulgently appreciated by Chino Wayne and the Mrs.
Chino Waynes Caesar salad also was decidedly superior to the ersatz Caesar served by the Silverado room service operation. The dressing on this salad much more closely resembled a classic Caesar dressing, the croutons were homemade, and the salad was garnished with a couple of anchovy filets. At $7.95, a far better value than the Silverado concoction. Chino Wayne also enjoyed seeing how far he could go towards making the waiters arm cramp up as he was grinding pepper over the salad.
The snapper was grilled and napped in beurre blanc and had a very subtle flavor. Subtlety of flavors and overall product presentation was a recurring theme in the San Rafael dining establishments for the Chino Waynes and was much appreciated. Chino Waynes personal experience preparing snapper is that by the time he gets around to cooking it, it has been languishing in the refrigerator so long, that it has a decidedly fishy taste and smell, which of course adds to the totality of the fragrance experience upon opening the Chino Waynes refrigerator at any give point in the time-space continuum. So Chino Wayne was very impressed with these two pieces of fish.
The steak was decidedly not of Prime lineage, but that was not expected. Although ordered medium rare, it was in actuality medium well to medium in various parts, most likely because of its relatively insubstantial thickness. It also was a bit chewy. Chino Wayne does not recollect tasting any pepper, whatsoever, with this steak (but that may be his own fault, as he has probably dulled his taste buds ability to discern pepper through his well known rampant use of ground pepper). Both entrees were accompanied by braised baby carrots, and baby string beans (another recurring theme on this road trip) and zucchini spears. Mrs. Chino Wayne ordered rice as her starch, but the kitchen was out of rice, so, after seeing Chino Waynes garlic mashed potatoes, ordered the same. Subtlety again came in to play with the potatoes. They were not overpoweringly garlicky, and they were finished on a griddle so that they had a slightly brown and crusty exterior. This proved to be a very nice contrast between the crust and the soft, creamy interior. Chino Wayne cleaned his plate totally, Mrs. Chino Wayne, as is usual, ate her carrots and left the other, green objects. She did, of course, share some of her snapper bounty with Chino Wayne, but none of her potatoes.
Although the steak was nothing particularly noteworthy, that was never expected, this was good, honest, simple food, and ultimately proved very satisfying. Total tab for one Caesar salad, one red snapper, one New York Strip, one glass of wine, two mixed drinks and one coffee was $64.00.
Barcelo Hotel (Sheraton Four Points)
1010 Northgate Dr
San Rafael, CA 94903-2502
San Rafael Joe's
931 4th St
San Rafael, CA 94901-3103