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Weekend in St. Helena, Healdsburg, Alexander and Dry Crk Vlys - long

Sanna | May 17, 200405:20 PM

The little one was camping with the Girl Scouts this weekend, so we wandered up to Dry Creek Valley and back. Friday night at Market in St. Helena – I can now see why people tried to point us elsewhere – nothing very special. We liked the high ceilings and stone walls. I had Sea Bass, slightly over-cooked on greasy and bland pearl couscous with lovely pea shoots, green-tasting snap peas and sweet cherry tomatoes. The two (count ‘em) olives on the dish came out of nowhere – too much flavor on an otherwise mild plate. My husband had yummy, juicy mussels in wine/butter/broth, accompanied by stale, tooth-breaking toasts. Our desserts were very good, caramel brownie with caramel ice cream (ooooooohhhh) and a nicely crumbly cheesecake. We then headed for Martini House bar for a perfect, not-too-sweet lemon drop.

Saturday morning drove up to Alexander Valley, enjoyed tasting in the Hobbit-hole tasting room at Field Stone, got a simple, fantastic Brie and olive salad sandwich at Jimtown Store (which is becoming just too cute for my taste) and took it up to picnic at Jordan, where Newt Gingrich was posing for pictures. Yikes! We escaped and visited Geyser Peak and Ferrari-Carrano before we found a winery more our speed in Preston. We bought deep, peppery olive oil there and vowed to return Sunday for the jug wine.

Saturday night dinner at Ravenous in Healdsburg. We started with a salad of very fresh greens, ripe pears (from where, I wonder), pecans, soft, mild chevre and a vinaigrette that tasted like it had a hint of horseradish – surprising, but it worked. My lamb chops were exactly medium-rare with mint butter, served over chard, with a variety of well-seasoned roasted vegetables and a cheesy twice-baked potato. His skirt steak arrived cold, was sent back, came back cold again. This time he asked for the duck breast which was rare and luscious with sweet-sour kumquats and was comped, as was a wonderful banana cream pie: chocolate-lined pastry shell with sliced bananas and lightly sweetened whipped cream, surrounded by buttery caramel sauce.

Sunday returned to Preston for a jug of Guadagni and a loaf of sourdough. Then down 101 to 12 to Bennett Valley road where we stopped at Matanzas Creek. The fabulous lavender smell in the tasting room detracts from the wine, unfortunately. Bought Vella Cheddar in Glen Ellen and had our bread and cheese under the olive trees at B.R. Cohn. It was 75 and breezy, beautiful. Finally home for a good afternoon nap.

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