Board Shorts, First Look at the Library at Chalkboard’s Tasting Menu: Can a perfectly seared day boat scallop capped with gently melting Iberico lardo make you weep? Would a gently poached 63-degree quail egg make you swoon with that slack-jawed, flushed-cheek feeling that’s, well, usually experienced behind closed doors? We’re a strange breed, we gastronomes, seeking out that one perfect meal, that one perfect ingredient that alights every sense simultaneously. Ephemerally. Seductively. Suffice to say, you’ve either been bitten…or you’re just as happy scarfing down a PB&J as a plate of baby favas still warm from the summer sun.
Though not for every eater, Chalkboard chef Shane McAnelly’s Library menu ($95) at the Les Mars Hotel is most definitely for the “I post every meal I eat on Instagram #noms” crowd. Six painstakingly curated courses spanning several hours are now being served each weekend in the cozy library room, with seating for just 16. For each course, there are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian selections, equally intriguing in every way. Beet “bubbles” smother paper-thin slices of kampachi with a surf-meets-earth quality; bacon consommé is drizzled over a tiny stack of pork belly, quail egg, and nasturtium, each flavor parading over the palate; smoked maitake mushroom is shaped into a faux bone marrow; a puffed soufflé of spring strawberries is gently deflated with a quenelle of mascarpone ice cream (by pastry chef BIll Woodward); and a ribbon of dark chocolate ganache is punctuated by banana ice cream, bacon crumbles, and peanut butter dust. Beverage pairings (an additional $70) are curious and clever, with sake and sour beer pairings as carefully chosen as the wines.
Luxury dining isn’t always worth the hefty price tag, but with Michelin-worthy courses and exacting service, it isn’t just the recycled dishware (yes, we remember those signature bowls) that hark back to the hotel’s earlier multicourse, multistarred Cyrus. It’s the wink and nod to the gastronome, ever pursuing that perfect meal, that makes the LIBRARY AT CHALKBOARD one of our favorite new Wine Country dining experiences. Open Fri-Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm. 29 North St., Healdsburg. Reservations required; call 707-473-8030. (See pictures online at BiteClubEats.com.)
Love at first bite: With just three farm tables, the newly opened NAKED PIG can’t help but be an intimate experience, which makes it all the tastier. Here’s what to get: tip-top billing goes to the cheddar, chive, and ham bread pudding ($12), a supercollider mash-up of flavors. We’re also huge fans of the green onion biscuit with honey, poached eggs, perfectly cooked bacon, and a tartly dressed salad ($13). Artisanal whiskey caramel waffles ($11) are fluffy and moist with a boozy punch. Midday sandwiches are takes on lunch box favorites like meatloaf ($13) and egg salad ($11), but with gourmet twists like ciabatta, pastured eggs, and homemade pickles and ketchup. We won’t deny a bit of sticker shock on a few items, but foodists will appreciate the owners’ curated list of purveyors, which include small, sustainable farmers and bakers. We’re always willing to pay a little more to support our friends. Open 8am-3pm Wed-Sun. 435 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa.
Former Keller Restaurant Group Chef Doing Pizza at The Barlow: Holy pepperoni, Sebastopol’s Barlow marketplace will soon be home to yet another noteworthy restaurant. Chef Mark Hopper, former executive chef for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, will open VIGNETTE PIZZERIA in Sebastopol’s The Barlow this summer. Hopper’s Twitter feed is punctuated with pizzeria pix from coast to coast, marking his R & D progress from New York City (Motorino), Denver (Pizzeria Locale), and SF’s Del Popolo and Una Pizza Napoletana (among others). The menu will include Neopolitan-style pies along with seasonal antipasti and craft beers and wines. There will be both indoor and outdoor seating. Look for a summer opening at 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol.
But wait, we’re not done. Also coming soon to The Barlow: ULTRA CREPES and THE NECTARY. Ultra Crepes has had a mobile kitchen for several years, offering both sweet and savory concoctions (what BiteClub wouldn’t do for a Palachinka with Nutella, crushed cookies, and whipped cream). The Nectary will focus on pressed juices, smoothies, probiotic beverages, acai bowls, and other simple foods.
The long-shuttered LAST DAY SALOON may come back to life, albeit in a new guise, in 2015. BiteClub has gotten word that a local family of restaurateurs is hoping to rehab the historic building on Fifth Street in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square. With a working name of MONSOON, the concept is an “upscale Indian-fusion restaurant and performance venue.” Just don’t call it a nightclub. The plan goes to the city on May 7th and BiteClub will have more details in the coming weeks.
Cinco de Redd Wood: The Napa restaurant REDD WOOD will be throwing a Cinco de Mayo party Monday May 5th from 5pm-10pm. The restaurant will set up an outdoor bar on the patio and will be offering $5 margaritas, $3 Dos Equis, and $3 Wood Draft. Food offerings will include ceviche, tacos, and Mexican pizza. Reservations aren’t necessary; guests are encouraged to just come down, hang out, and enjoy the celebration.
Also launching: Redd Wood is offering premiere poolside service for guests staying at North Block Hotel. The hotel has recently redesigned the pool area, which now boasts semiprivate cabanas featuring rich fabrics and seductive colors for the perfect lounge area. Most important, they’ve installed a midcentury-era phone with a direct line to Redd Wood, which allows guests to place an order for their favorite Redd Wood pizza and a bottle of bubbles to enjoy poolside (full menu available). 6755 Washington St., Yountville, 707-299-5030.