ditor's note: First Bite is a new concept in restaurant writing. This is not a go-three-times, try-everything-on-the-menu report; rather, this is a quick snapshot of a single experience. We invite you to come along with our writers as they--informed, intelligent eaters like yourselves--have a simple meal at an area restaurant, just like you do.
Sometimes you have to dig a rose up and move it clear across the garden before it can blossom, full-petaled and fragrant, filling that hole along the road as if it were born to grace that very spot. So it is with Saint Rose, Sebastopol's most welcome transplant. I admit I never got there when it was in Santa Rosa and called Cafe St. Rose, but I know it had its ardent fans. So, city dwellers, I feel your pain, but it's buried somewhere under my own delight in having such a fine, fine restaurant close by.
Kismet abounded in this recent move (doors opened in May). Just as chef-owner Mark Malicki and his wife Jenny's plans to expand their Santa Rosa restaurant fell through, they discovered their friends at the Two Crows Roadhouse were feeling the travel itch. Suddenly, that location Malicki had been eyeing practically from his front porch (they live that close) was opening. Just like that, they took their show west. They came home, and home is just how it feels.
The evening that Doug and I went, a flossy-locked girl hiked up her floral frock to ride a trike on the side patio. The back patio, where we sat, was bathed in amber light. Amy Winehouse was crooning "What kind of fuckery is this?" from the speakers. It was all so West County and so down-home. But the food . . . ah, the food. Our bouches amused by a dish of ripe figs, we considered our choices. The menu changes daily but always offers five or so small plates and an equal number of mains, prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients, some from Malicki's adjoining Bohemian Grooves garden.
We chose the white corn soup with sheep's milk ricotta dumpling ($10), and spooned it up with tears of gratitude in our eyes, sweet as summer love. An arugula salad with shaved Saint George cheese and pine nuts ($9) was subtle and simple. In our lobster salad ($16), plump chunks of tail meat cozied up with red, yellow and orange roasted baby carrots and beets. We split the main: grilled squab with parpadelle noodle, morels and pancetta ($23). I'd never eaten either squab or morels before (deprived childhood), but I will forever associate them dancing together in their Saint Rose waltz, for they are heaven-matched: savory, meaty, wild and earthy.
Our waitress could not have been sweeter or more solicitous. Minutes after delivering our second glass of wine, for such a night deserved toasting and re-toasting, she came with yet another glass, saying she'd confused our order. Heck, I wasn't driving; what a happy mistake.
Before our dessert--a cherry almond upside-down cake with crème fraîche whipped cream ($7) and Flying Goat coffee--I took a cigarette stroll around the grounds, a comfy jumble of weeds, wild roses and upraised vegetable beds with a tortoise-shell cat as my escort, and I spoke to a fellow's boots sticking out from a jacked-up vintage truck as he ratcheted his wrench to loosen a stubborn bolt. This is the place the new Saint Rose occupies, and it's clearly flourishing.
Saint Rose. Dinner, Wednesday-Sunday; brunch, Saturday-Sunday. 9890 Bodega Hwy. Sebastopol. 707.546.2459.
Quick-and-dirty dashes through North Bay restaurants. These aren't your standard "bring five friends and order everything on the menu" dining reviews.