California Road Trip, Day Three

May 21, 2017

My favorite dishes on this road odyssey weren’t actually in a restaurant.  They were in the quirkiest, most super-Northern California abode I’ve ever encountered, the home of Evan Shively and Madeleine Fitzpatrick.

I didn’t take many pictures; it was a private home and it seemed impolite.  Now I’m sorry, because you can’t see us walking through the wooden gate, wandering through the wildly wonderful garden munching on crisp fresh asparagus and exotic flowers. You can’t see the genuine throne in the bathroom, Madeleine’s mad hat collection, or what may be the world’s largest catfish, swimming happily in a spring-fed pool out in the garden. But you can take a look here:

Evan, who now crafts furniture and creates wood works for artists and architects, once made his living as a chef (he worked at Postrio, Manka’s and Oliveto). He stood casually in the kitchen, slicing a slab of tuna, marinating shrimp and squid and complaining that we weren’t eating enough.  The food was fresh, clean, completely irresistible. Then Madeleine made salad – 100 different greens, herbs, flowers and tiny vegetables- dressed in nothing but olive oil and vinegar. We ate it with our fingers. Salad doesn’t get better than this.

But first things first.  The day began in Healdsburg, at a long table in the lovely garden at Shed, surrounded  by the prettiest flowers….

and eating…

and….and this

Shed is a restaurant and a shop selling fabulous bread, cheese, fruit, charcuterie and prepared foods, along with all manner of cooking gear. It’s become one of Healdsburg’s major destinations. Having finished lunch we browsed the store, bought bread and cheese,  then drove through the hills and across the valley to Coal and Feed on Tomales Bay,  right next to Hog Island Oysters. The fabulously funky house hugs the water. It has room for 8, a giant extremely well-equipped kitchen, a couple of bathrooms – and some of the best views on the planet. I took this picture lying in bed:  I can’t think of a more sympathetic place to stay; I wanted to move right in. Did I mention that Evan and Madeleine own it?

Dinner that night was in exactly the same mood.  We went to Sir and Star in Point Reyes, one of the most relaxed, most unpretentious and most lovable restaurants you will ever find. (The chefs continue their tradition from the long-lamented Manka’s.)  I regret to say I was so relaxed I neglected to take pictures, but the meal began with carrot soup, buttery buns, duck liver faux gras –  and ended with hot fudge sundaes.  In between was the single best grass fed steak I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s the thing about grass fed beef: unlike conventional beef, which consumes a standard diet of corn, this is all about terroir. And right now, after a rainy winter, the grass in Sonoma is lush and green, which makes the meat gorgeously marbled.  Sir and Star uses local beef that’s aged; it is an extraordinary treat.  So is everything about this restaurant: this is the taste of here, the taste of now.  Simple but perfect, it is why you come to Northern California.

Tomorrow: I wake up with gulls cawing outside, the sun rising, watching an egret fish on Tomales Bay.  Oysters for breakfast – and the world’s best panettone. Then a meandering drive through giant redwoods to  San Francisco – and a stunning taste of Japan.

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