Saturday, July 2, 2011

Parents’ Kid-Free Week in Healdsburg, CA

I am not a fan of blogging. I prefer my off-work experiences to be away from computer screens. That said, it has dawned on me that my partner’s and my recently begun experience has been long in coming, and jealously cherished by so many of our family oriented friends that perhaps this experience may be helpful to TWH readers that simply are looking for fun as opposed to knowing the chemical breakdown of the soil from where the cab franc grapes were planted.
We reside 1 hour from the airport. We departed our house 5 hours prior to flight time, as we needed to drop off the dog at the kennel (which is not on the way), stop and feed the kids (which is not on the way), drop off the kids at my sister’s house (which is not on the way) and proceed to the airport, covering approximately twice as many miles compared to driving directly to the airport. (By the way, thanks sis.)
You get the idea. I will not go into the unfortunate travel details of my airplane seat partner needing to occupy half of my generously sized coach seat along with her own, nor the 1-1/2 hour car rental experience, nor the “smart” phone GPS inadvertently taking us into the heart of San Francisco on the Friday night of July 4th weekend. As many of you all know, the only things that were important during this expedition were that we did not need to carry the made-for-kids roll along bag, we did not need to find the one bagel counter in the airport, we did not need to apologize to the row in front of us for the seat-kicking episode, we did not hear “when are we going to be there”, and we did not need to accommodate teenage music options on the car radio.
Okay, enough of this.
We arrived in the square of Healdsburg for the first time around 8pm on a beautiful Friday night to find a nicely active community engaging in food, drink, and conversation from just about every open establishment. Despite my partner’s acquisition of a plethora of guidebooks, I had failed to identify my preferred dinner stop while riding shotgun on the way up from Oakland. With that failure she proposed Willi’s Raw & Seafood Bar (www.willisseafood.net) which name she vaguely recalled during her significant researching hours last month.
I will jump to the end now, and go back to review a few of the details. Simply put, Willi’s Raw & Seafood Bar is now one of my favorite restaurants of all time. It was nothing short of an outstanding experience.
Please allow me to share one personal self-awareness with you. I am a very critical person. I do not dole out compliments easily, and most especially when it comes to food and beverage. I share this with you so that you may better understand how thoroughly impressed I was with our dining experience.
Upon arrival Willi’s Raw & Seafood Bar (note that there is a Willi’s Wine Bar of the same ownership here which may very well be just as fantastic) we found a crowded venue full of seemingly happy, kid-free diners. This required us to wait a bit at the bar due to our lack of a reservation. This was fine as I was looking for a cold beverage to quench my well traveled thirst. Unfortunately, I found the beer options significantly lacking. This drove me to the specialty cocktail list as I was not quite ready to dive into my week long wine experience. While considering this liquid election, my partner introduced me to the extensive menu, overflowing with unique small plate selections. The Kumamoto oysters on the half shell jumped right out as they are one of our favorites (no need for a basket of bread, nor American cheese filled quesadillas). With this initial choice, my partner selected a habenero infused vodka mixed with cantelope & melon. This is most definitely not my style of libation. However, since I was thirsty for something cold and it sounded like a good pairing with the oysters, I said, “make it two”.
As expected, a very fu-fu looking, bright orange martini-style drink was placed in front of me. At that point I was just happy that it did not have a little umbrella, nor flower in it. Once past my initial evaluation one sipped confirmed that I had made a good choice, and it did indeed go fabulously well with the Kumamotos.
Once escorted to our table, we selected 4 more small plates to share. They were all fantastic. My favorite was a tuna tartare with jalapenos, cashews, coconut milk, and ginger. This simple 5-ingredient dish that required no cooking, was absolutely scrumptious. We followed this with marinated chicken skewers with aji amarillo, mango mustard, & toasted pine nuts, which was nicely complimented with roasted asparagus in white miso butter and a melted cheese plate with chorizo and cilantro pesto, accompanied by Fritos. All of this was fantastic.
Neither my wife’s affinity for heavily oaked chardonnays, nor my preference of big, bold cabs was going to work with this eclectic grouping of deliciousness. Therefore we chose to go with the most versatile of whites in the form of Sauvignon Blanc. We did a nice comparison of two half bottles – a 2009 Bennett Valley Grey Stack (www.greystackcellars.com) and a 2009 Groom Adelaide Hills (www.groomwines.com) . While the Groom was very pleasant, the previously unknown (by us) Grey Stack was a perfect 10 along with our fabulous meal.
No more time now. We must venture out in our 2 seat, no room for kids, convertible and taste some new liquid grapes.

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