Wednesday, October 2, 2019

GOOSE & GANDER (St. Helena, Calif.)


Yes - what's good for the goose is good for the gander at this wine country "public house."  Though it's not a description used often (pub being the more common choice), public houses were known as restaurant/bars that served ale, alcohol and delicious tavern food and were the focal point of a small village community.  The Goose & Gander fits that definition and then some, serving delicious bar-bites in its tavern-like bar and a rustic American/British food menu in the main restaurant with many gourmet twists.

I wish I could say we "discovered" Goose & Gander when we were up in Sonoma, but we wouldn't have, even accidentally, since it's in the town of St. Helena, in the Napa Valley.  When friends heard we were off to Sonoma, they told us about their friends' public house/pub/tavern/restaurant (all work).  When I checked it out online and read "pork burger with cheddar and bacon," I knew I had to drag Richard, Bob & Nguyen there. 

The day we decided to go, the weather was perfect... the  drive to St. Helena, beautiful, and the town quaint and picturesque.  Owned by Andy and Trisha Florsheim, I immediately fell in love with this public house the minute I saw it.

The main dining room with it's pitched wooden ceiling and substantial wooden bar is welcoming in an "old world" way.

The separate bar downstairs is dark and cozy with brick walls and a large stone fireplace.  It was like stepping back in time as if we might have left our horse-drawn carriage and entered the restaurant for a meal in a English countryside wayside inn during the age of Henry V.

But, being a beautiful day, we opted to have lunch in the lovely outside terrace/patio that featured a koi pool.

Bob and I started with a "featured" cocktail (Finns like cocktails - some like them too much):  Walter's Manhattan, made with Templeton rye, Evan Williams single barrel bourbon, Carpano Antica, and bitters.  Don't know who Walter is, but he mixes a helluva Manhattan.

We met Sylvia, Dwight and Jason, who took excellent care of us.  We started with a bar bite of corn croquettes with pepper coulis to share...

... as well as wood roasted cauliflower with cilantro, spiced yogurt, chili and curried almonds.  Two perfect examples of gourmet twists on English/American food standards.

Richard chose the Pulled BBQ Duck with Masa al la Plancha, avocado puree, chipotle slaw, radish, lime and pickle fennel.  Of course I tried it.  Wow.  Sadly, it was gone before I could take a picture.

Bob opted for the Beef Chicharrone - a delicious concoction of beef tastes you won't find in your average pub -- not even a gastro pub.

Nguyen loves British pub favorite, fish and chips.  She was not disappointed.  With malt vinegar powder, a side of fresh made coleslaw, tartar sauce and lemon, it lived up to pub excellence.  And then those duck fat fries...  Yes!

For those of you who know about my hunt for the perfect cheeseburger, must have guessed that I, of course, had the Heritage Pork Burger.  Well, that was the whole reason I insisted we come to Goose & Gander, right?  Topped with melty cheddar, bacon, Siracha aioli, nestled in a pain de mie, pull apart bun (made with no eggs, but plenty of butter, Julia Child's favorite ingredient), it was beyond my juicy cheeseburger expectations.  I also got the duck fat fries... not one was left.

We couldn't leave without desserts with lots of spoons to share...  cinnamon ice cream, vanilla ice cream and orange sorbet... perfect on a Keto diet.  Just kidding!  Then came a vanilla brownie with caramel sauce.  Really!  I gained 10 pounds just from looking at the desserts.

Also on the Goose & Gander lunch menus (a la carte and prix fixe) were Vietnamese Sticky Ears one of the other bar-bite, cheese plates and a charcuterie board - (I was sorry I didn't get a chance to try the Martini House mushroom soup made with wild and "tame" mushrooms, topped with chives - I just couldn't taste another thing)... wines and cocktails and craft sodas, including house-made cream soda.

Needless to say, if you're in Napa or Sonoma or within a day's drive of the Goose & Gander, you must have lunch or dinner there.  The surroundings are beautiful - the food, well, you'll want more than just a gander at it!

1245 Spring Street
St. Helena, Calif.  9474

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Williamson Wines

As Richard, brother Bob and sister-in-law Nguyen and I wined and dined during our Sonoma County "road trip," we came across a gem of a tasting room in the charming town of Healdsburg.

Owner Bill Williamson, a farmer and winemaker, is also a software entrepreneur who designed the software that runs his business.  Did I mention he also wrote a book?  "Way Beyond Wine - The Williamson Wine Story."  Born in Australia, Bill developed a successful software company there and it was at his company that he met his wife, Dawn.  They immigrated to San Francisco where Bill started yet another software company.  Eventually, he sold that business and he and Dawn moved to Dry Creek... the rest is Williamson wine history.
When our little group entered the tasting room, we had no idea what to expect, folks were sitting at various tables in a collection of rooms...

...with a barista, sipping wines and munching on little snacks.  Hmmmm.  Food.  What's that all about?  We were soon to fine out.

A young man, who introduced himself as Sam Williamson (the son of Bill), escorted us to a table for four and told us that the tasting/pairing would be complimentary.  So that was what that food was all about.

We checked out the tasting menu...

... as he explained that with each taste we would be getting a small bite pairing created and made by his mom (Dawn) specifically for each wine.  As you can see, each small bite was placed on a piece of cheese which served as its cracker.  I was in cheese-pairing heaven.

While our bites were being prepared, Sam started us off with Bliss Sparkling Shiraz that just whetted our palate.  I could start a tasting that way every time. 

Next was Frolic Viognier.  Viognier has become a favorite white wine of mine, having more body than a sauvignon blanc, but not as oak-y as a chardonnary.  Frolic frolic-ed happily in my mouth.

The Joy Sauvignon Blanc followed.  I'm not a sauvignon blanc fan normally, but this was a crisp, refreshing mouthful.

Elate Grange Cuvee recommended to be paired with bacon/pork/turkey earned three stars (out of four) from me, as did the Enchant Trinity GSM, great with lamb or pork.

Folly Melange is a Bordeaux blend (hence "melange") that goes with everything from meat to duck, pizza to chocolate.  Loved the hint of blueberry and spice.

If you enjoy a good cab, Impulse Cabernet is a must. A Bordeaux/Merlot blend with rich tannins, described by the winemaker as a "Left Bank" wine.  I describe it as quite good.

My four star pick has to be Ravish Melange with its classic French "nose" of a Bordeaux with hints of spice, coffee and chocolate.  Rich in color, it's a lush red wine.  My favorite wine of the day.

We ended the tasting as we began with a sparkling wine...  this time the sparkling was a Malbec... and a worthy finish to a sparkling day.

Williamson Wines
1334 Matheson Street
Healdsburg, CA  95448

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Part 1 - Twist Eatery

Road trip!!!  It's been a few years since my brother Bob and his wife Nguyen invited us to share a condo in Sonoma County (Sonoma for short) -- (we've been on other joyful and adventurous trips with them since then, all of which are chronicled on this blog), so when they asked if we wanted to spend Easter week with them at their WorldMark time share in Windsor, we jumped at the chance.  Nothing was happening at the Ojai Art Center Theater where Richard's the artistic director that needed his immediate attention and I had no writing deadlines, so we packed our bags and meds (we're at the age) and hit the road.

We left Ojai around 8:30-9:00 am, and virtually flew up the 101 til we got to the 680 where traffic literally came to a standstill.  In life, if you can avoid the 405 in Los Angeles and the 680 in Northern California leading the way into Sonoma, your driving experience will be better for it.  We couldn't... so, a drive that should have taken 6 1/2 - 7 hours, took 8, but we arrived just in time for the cocktail hour and plopped ourselves down on the condo's terrace, sipped some wine and enjoyed looking over the grounds of the complex.

One of the joys of traveling is finding a local gem... in this case a tiny restaurant in Forestville.  After having a fabulous lunch experience in that town on our last visit to Sonoma, we decided to go back and revisit the place for lunch.  It was a half hour or so away, so we called first, only to discover that that cafe/deli had closed, but we were encouraged to try the restaurant that replaced it.

Toni Young, the owner of Twist Eatery with her husband and chef, Jeff, greeted us warmly and sat us down at an exterior table.  Warm and friendly, she told us that Twist had been open for a few years and was proud of the reputation the restaurant had for putting a new and fresh twist on standard fare.

After going over the menu and listening to her recommendations, we placed our order.  While waiting, I decided to explore the small space to see what changes the Youngs had made.  First off, the deli was gone and more counter space was added.

Not only did the Youngs add the exterior platformed table we were seated at, but also seating outside under a trellis...

Soon, our lunch arrived...  Nguyen had the chicken fried chicken...  a spicy fried boneless thigh on penne with local chard and garlic in a light cream sauce.  I had to taste, of course, and it was a scrumptious taste treat.

Richard and Bob had a pork tenderloin salad with blue cheese dressing, red potatoes, green beans, bacon AND crumbled blue cheese.  Bacon, pork, blue cheese - be still my heart.

I'm a sandwich girl, so I chose the chicken salad sandwich and the cup of mushroom soup that "came with."  The mushroom soup was probably the best mushroom soup I've ever had - rich and so creamy.  The sandwich made with free range roasted chicken, house made mayo, cashews, celery, cilantro and Serrano peppers on a toasted rosemary focaccia roll with red onions and local greens was deliciously perfect!!!

Twist uses nothing but organic, local and sustainable ingredients... and also serves gluten free dishes.

The next time you're in Sonoma, you must take a detour to the little town of Forestville and have a meal at this little twist of a gem.

PS - The eatery also has a nice selection of local wines, beers and soft drink.

Twist Eatery
6536 Front Street
Forestville, CA  95436

Friday, July 5, 2019

LINDA - A Memory

 My beautiful Linda.  I say ‘my’ because since I was a little girl, I always thought of her as my beautiful cousin, my role model, and later my big sister.

My first real memory of Linda was at Lake Boone, our great Aunt Fanny’s summer “camp” a term Massachusetts folks give their rambling lake homes.  I was 5 or 6, she was a teenager.  The boys on Lake Boone flocked to her.  Not just because she was so beautiful, but because she was sweet and kind. That was the summer I learned how to dive.  I’d been swimming for years, but now my dad said it was time to learn to dive.  We lived in Bayside, NY and he would commute up to the lake for weekends from his job on Long Island.  As he was leaving to return home, he told me that if I could dive into the lake by the time he returned, we would go into town and he’d buy me a present.

When he returned the following Friday, I had succeeded, with coaching from my mom, in plunging into the water head first – not artfully – but it was a dive.  As promised, he took me to the local five and dime, and on one of the shelves was an assortment of ‘collection’ dolls (that’s what my mom called them).  Though I never played with dolls, I loved displaying them in my bedroom – I chose one dressed in a crocheted purple gown. Purple because my mom’s name was Violet.  When I got home, mom asked me if I had picked out a name for my new doll…  Yes – Linda.

When she was in high school, every so often Linda would take the train to N.Y. from her family home in Connecticut and visit us in Bayside.  My mom would take us on adventures into the “city” (Manhattan) to see a movie and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, or shopping at Best & Co., B. Altman’s and other Fifth Avenue stores, and having a girls’ lunch at Schrafft’s or Rumplemeyer’s.  I was in awe of my teenage cousin and how effortlessly she moved around the department stores, as if she was born to be in one.  How she would try on various outfits and model for us.

One visit, Linda went with my family to Brooklyn for a Sunday visit my grandparents.  It was summer and I still have a vivid memory of what she wore.  She had on black pedal pushers, a white cropped blouse, and sandals that had laces that crisscrossed her ankles and up her leg to just below the calf. She looked like a model in one of my “Seventeen” fashion magazines, a career she hoped to have.

During one of her visits, she had been accepted to New York’s Conover Modeling Agency, but shortly after her high school graduation a car accident scarred her lip. A talented artist, she focused on a new career in fashion and moved in with my family to attend Traphagen School of Fashion & Design in Manhattan.  She settled in on our beautiful, pine-paneled third floor attic with two built in twin beds, a built-in desk by the front windows, a sitting area and lots of closets, now filled with Linda’s clothes.  When she was at school, I would sneak up to her room and try on her prom dresses.  Especially the one she wore as prom queen.   

She always knew when I had done this, and she never cared.  She’d show me her sketches from class… how she learned to draw fabric patterns and fur, as well as the beautiful dresses and women’s suits she designed for homework projects.

I truly had a big sister.

My mom being a mom, we both had chores, especially clean-up after dinner. We’d argue on whose turn it was to dry the dishes (we both preferred washing).  We’d play rock’n’roll on the kitchen radio and lindy-ed together as we worked.  But, when we asked my mom why she never bought a dishwasher, her standard answer was always, “Why?  I already have two.”

When she left Traphagen, Linda went to work for department stores moving up to assistant buyer at B. Altman, then buyer.  She loved what she did and made friends easily.  My dad always spent time “interviewing” the boys who would come to pick her up for dates.  Sometimes I would eavesdrop so I could learn what to expect when I started dating.  Linda and her date always seemed to be talking and laughing with my dad before they left for their date, which I thought was a good sign for my future.

She had been living with us for a couple of years when my dad suddenly died.  She was quietly there for us, especially for my mom, even though she, too, was grief stricken.  Linda truly loved my father.  It wasn’t that much later that it was time for her to move out and be on her own.  She had a great job and needed to spread her wings.  She and a girlfriend got an apartment together.  I was devastated.  Having her there in my life had been so important to me… I watched how she interacted with people… how caring and kind she was and I didn’t want to lose her.  She made sure that I didn’t.

Returning to Danielson to attend a high school reunion, she reconnected with her classmate and friend, Johnny Makowsky.  The rest is a love story that, even now, has no ending.  I was thrilled and excited when Linda asked me to be her Maid-of-Honor...

and honored when I became godmother to her daughter Monique. 

Years later she would be my Matron-of-Honor when I married Richard.  Though she was no longer living in NYC, we spent holidays together and many summer vacations on Alexander’s Lake.   

Her three beautiful girls became “my” beautiful girls as I watched her raise them into wonderful, caring women and mothers.

She was my cousin, my role model, my sister, my friend.  “My” beautiful Linda.  I will love you always.  I will miss you always.