We drove down the Oregon and California coast on our way to Santa Rosa. After spending the night in Eureka, we arrived in Santa Rosa in time to have lunch at La Texanita. I must warn you that I am a taqueria nut. I love Al Pastor and Carne Asada. There’s a burrito truck near where I live and I’ve been enjoying their food for about 20 years now. So I was looking forward to lunch and it did not disappoint. Again, I was so excited I forgot to take pictures. We left happy.
The big thrill for Santa Rosa was dinner at Johnny Garlic’s. We arrived and the place was jumping. We got a good table and a good server. She was friendly and took good care of us. We don’t usually eat real big, but we decided to make an exception for Guy Fieri’s place. It was close to Anna’s birthday (uh, 29) and we were in the mood to celebrate.
Anna ordered a Bikini Bellini cocktail which is a peach/pear/apricot puree with vodka and Prosecco. I enjoyed a beer. We decided to order a bacon cheeseburger with Black Angus beef and garlic fries, and a combo pizza. The food was outstanding. The burger was cooked perfectly, the meat was juicy and succulent. The fries were some of the best we’ve ever had, and the pizza was a delight with a perfect crust, righteous charcuterie and fresh basil. As if all that weren’t enough, we ordered a dessert of chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. It was one of those times when you order one dessert to share and it’s so decadent and scrumptious that you wish you would have ordered two. Life is good in Flavortown USA.
Johnny Garlic’s gets our highest recommendation. Of course the place rocks, which is exactly what we would expect from Guy Fieri. Killer food, great atmosphere, good prices and friendly service. We enjoyed the place a lot and would be happy to go back. I liked the open kitchen and the menu is a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to Tex Wasabi’s. Our server said that Guy comes in all the time and that he is good to work for.
The next day was our first outing into wine country. We first ran down to Mill Valley to see Tyler Florence’s place and split a Phat Burger around the corner at Pearl’s. We also drove down to see the Golden Gate bridge which is spectacular to look at. We wanted to walk across, but the pedestrian access was closed due to construction. We doubled back north and made a beeline for Schellville Grill. We were going to go there for dinner and it’s a good thing we decided to make it lunch instead because they close after lunch on Tuesdays.
The chef and owner, Matthew, was a lot of fun and told me I could come back and learn how to make pasta. He ought to know because he spends a lot of time in Italy. In the episode they made a killer tri-tip sandwich, the Buckaroo chicken sandwich, and an individual lasagna, cooked to order. We wanted all three, but had to pick two. We decided to leave the tri-tip for next time (and there will be a next time).
The Buckaroo sandwich was awesome, but the real kicker was the lasagna. It was a masterpiece. You could taste all the fresh vegetables, spinach, mushrooms, squash, eggplant, the ragout, the cheese, the hand-rolled pasta, the sauce. It was a symphony of flavor, which was different from the kind of lasagna that I am used to. It was served with a side salad which complemented the richness. I can’t wait to go back. I’ll plan my day around chef Matthew teaching me how to make pasta.
We spent the rest of the afternoon touring wine country, Napa, Yountville and the wineries. We stopped in and browsed around at the Culinary Institute of America. I would love to go to culinary school, but it would be a major commitment and it’s just not the right time for me. The school was very impressive. Coincidentally, there was a Culinary Arts program at South Seattle Community College where I studied music and got my Associate Degree. There were always people walking about with their chef white coats and checkered pants, carrying the ubiquitous knife bag. I didn’t think a thing of it, because I hadn’t started watching the Food Network yet. Actually, that was about five years before the Food Network started. Coming up next year (2013) the Food Network will be celebrating 20 years of being on the air, entertaining us and teaching us how to cook.
We arrived in St. Helena and took a nice stroll through the downtown area. It was a lovely place and we were looking forward to a light dinner at Taylor’s Refresher. It sits on a busy street, but there are tables out back in a park like setting. It was a long line to get in our order, but it went fast. I ordered the cheeseburger and fries and Anna ordered the Fried Green Tomato BLT sandwich. The burger was good, but the sandwich killed. The fried green tomatoes had a unexpected peppery/spicy bite to them that delighted the senses and complemented the bacon. It made the whole sandwich. It was a lot of food for one day, but it happens that way sometimes. This shows one of the reasons why we don’t have sodas with our meals. It would be too many calories/sugar. We did make a happy exception once (which I’m looking forward to telling you about). There are some other places in the area, but we had to leave them for next time. Places like Jimtown Store, Catelli’s, Café Citti, and the Russian River Room. We still have all of those to look forward to (and Tex Wasabi’s).
Our last morning in Santa Rosa took us right past Johnny Garlic’s to get to Hank’s Creekside Restaurant. We had a wonderful breakfast there, and chatted a bit with the owner, Linda. We told her we were on a DDD tour and she said that she and her husband, Hank, had known Guy for years and always knew he would be very successful at whatever he set his sights on. We didn’t get to meet Hank, but we’ll look for him next time we’re in town. Breakfast was good. I had an omelet with hash browns and an English muffin. Anna had Eggs Florentine, which were delicious. Hank’s is undoubtedly an institution with the locals. The place was very comfortable.
We hated to leave Santa Rosa and the wine country. But we had one more spot to visit on our way home… we cut east and headed for Sacramento and The Squeeze Inn (home of the famous burger with the cheese skirt). They had just moved to their new location and so the wait was not too long. Our server was friendly and took great care of us. The owner was out taking care of something else so we didn’t get to meet him. While we were waiting for our food to come, I went over to the kitchen and watched them at work. Watching the grill and all that hot melted cheese was theater.
We got two of the squeeze with cheese burgers and I had to try the steak taco as well. Although it didn’t take too long for our order to come, it seemed like forever. I remembered to take pictures and then we dove in. It would be a great story if I could tell you it was the best cheeseburger I ever had, but it was not meant to be. We enjoyed the burgers well enough, but the set-up was a little off for me. The meat and cheese were excellent. The bottom bun however, was not toasted/grilled and was dry, way too thick, and actually cold. It really diminished the eating experience for me. (See my Hamburger Don’ts). I really enjoyed eating the taco, which rounded out the overall experience. I would go back.
It’s about a five hour drive home from Sacramento and we shared our memories and experiences of our first DDD excursion. We hit a total of 26 places and absolutely loved it. (Note: Johnny Garlic’s did not get on DDD until May 2012. We were there in October 2010 and never counted it until it aired on the show; at which time, it bumped our count up from 188 to 189.)
It was a long trip, but we had family and friends to visit in Moscow, Spokane, Seattle and Portland. We also had the Pablo Cruise concert, and an overdue trip to explore the Oregon coast. We were long overdue for our first visit to Boise as well. Anna and I used to drive all over the country when we worked on the road, but having the DDD places to look forward to is a total game-changer for us.
Next DDD destination: Las Vegas (DDD count: 26)