“I wonder if there’s a margarita out there thinking about me, too.”
As one might imagine after reading the mouth watering details on the the amazing lunch we wished would never end, food was the last thing on our minds once we left Acacia House in St. Helena (for a refresher on the first half of our Day 1, check out my previous post). It was 89 degrees outside and we weren’t up for any strenuous activity, and shopping didn’t sound very exciting either. However, we did have another place on our list we wanted to try before going to dinner. Upon hearing about a recent sighting of both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant enjoying drinks at the Goose & Gander Basement Bar, we couldn’t wait to raise our own glasses in the same spot. I mean, any one of the Golden State Warriors could not be wrong, let alone those two. We hopped into the car and cruised just a few minutes south down to Spring Street.
Fourth Stop: St Helena, Goose & Gander (the Basement Bar)
Goose & Gander, open since 2012 serves well-reviewed food to compliment the alcoholic beverages– instead of the other way around. Although there is plenty of wine to choose from too, the cocktail list is classic but serves up new again, due to the addition of Scott Beattie’s retro-fresh signature spin. It wasn’t even close to Happy Hour, but we headed up the outside stairs into the restaurant and then back down the inside stairs into a shadowy yet impressive looking fully stocked bar anyway.
We noticed a few other folks inside enjoying drinks, but as it was well before 5pm we easily slid into bar stools front and center. The handsome bartender amiably chatted us up for a minute before asking what we were in the mood for. Wary of ordering anything outside of tequila, since we had started the day with it and did not want to suffer the consequences of adding any other types of alcohol to the mix, we asked for a recommendation. He did not disappoint us.
The drink on the left tasted like a wonderful fizz-type concoction, and the one on the right was the right amount of sweet with a faint touch of caramel-like flavoring. When we asked our mixologist how/where these gorgeous drinks were listed on the bar menu, he simply shrugged. He had poured them off-menu special for us, and unless our talented tequila expert is present, its doubtful we can ever return to order these same delicious cocktails again (outside of bringing this photo along). Either way, we’re going to make sure to come back, and next time leave room to try the food as well.
Still not in the mood to hike, shop or eat much but also not ready to wind things down (it was barely Happy Hour, for God’s sake!), we headed 2 blocks further south to dine at our final destination for the evening.
Fifth (and last) Stop: St Helena, Charter Oak (exciting and new, Round 2)
The Charter Oak opened after a 9 month delay this past June in the old site of the long standing, well respected, now closed Tra Vigne restaurant. We were interested in going there for several reasons, one of which being that its the latest venture conceived by Meadowood’s decorated Head Chef Christopher Kostow. The cuisine is described as more casual and lower key than that of The Restaurant Meadowood, which earned an impressive 3 stars in the legendary Michelin Restaurant Guide. The August 2017 issue of Bon Appétit magazine includes a nice feature page on The Charter Oak and its Kostow-trained chef de cuisine, Katianna Hong (copied here):
Chef Hong is pictured above at the hearth of the grill in the radically open Charter Oak restaurant kitchen, which is almost completely visible from the entire dining room. Its affiliation with an exceptional Michelin rating along with the Bon Appétit nod piqued our interest in trying out The Charter Oak.
We passed through the elegant 18 foot wooden front door and into the spacious dining room, noticeably darker and more traditionally outfitted than that of Acacia House. It was also pretty empty when we first got there, but that would soon change. The long bar probably seats 16 comfortably and once we took seats at the right side end, the female bartender working that day recommended we try one of the numbered cocktails off the bar menu.
We drank: Cocktail #5, made with a (you guessed it) tequila base, this cocktail consists of aperol, elderflower, lime, watermelon & tonic water, served along with refreshing ice cubes made from watermelon puree stacked up in the tall glass. We thought the healthy dose of aperol a bit too bitter/strong for our taste, and asked to mix more watermelon simple syrup into our drinks. After that it was exactly right.
We ate: Tarramasso Farm Eggs, which were perfectly hard boiled and halved, served with Hudson olive oil & salt. We paired those with the House Made Mortadella and the Charter Oak Country Bread with cultured butter. The mortadella, prettily pale and paper thinly sliced, tasted fantastic with the country bread, spread lightly with butter and paired with the fresh egg on top. We realized we had turned our starters into a tasty fancy sandwich and along with the watermelon drink, we couldn’t imagine a better summertime meal.
Initially prepared to order in-season veggies along with something hot off the hearth next to share for dinner, we soon found ourselves feeling too full to even think about taking one more bite. We lingered at the now packed bar for awhile after we finished our drinks and eats, watching an array of guests start to pour into the restaurant for dinner or cocktails or both.
While the sun began to set, we drove off back down Highway 29 to return to our bungalow for a good night’s sleep. In the old days, our night out on the town would be just beginning- but us old mid-lifers had exhausted ourselves during the heavily front-loaded game plan. We would be in Napa only half a day more, plus had a couple of more places to visit. We wanted, needed to be rested (and hungry again!) before continuing on our culinary adventure. Next stop: Napa Valley Weekend- Day 2. Despite not wanting to return to the reality of my own inferior kitchen, I’ll reluctantly provide a conclusion to this most memorable sweet + savory road trip.
©2017 Lisa Ihnken