My husband and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last Saturday, and decided to splurge with a visit to Starker’s Reserve:
We didn’t order a soup this evening, but we got some anyway… a server brought us two tall shotglasses with a lovely corn soup in them, tawny yellow and rich with tiny green snips of chives (he even garnished these tiny amuses!). It was a very sweet gesture and certainly helped us relax… we don’t get out much, and when we do, it’s very rare that we spend more than $50 for the night. So we were just a little nervous about blowing a big pile on one meal… a totally baseless fear, as it turned out.
Our waiter was Jonathan, who immediately put us at ease and helped us figure out our food and wine choices without making us feel like total bumpkins. Chef John McClure, if you have any say at all in the retention of the dining room staff, make sure this guy gets tenure. He’s a gem!
We started out with the “Ahi tuna tartare with avocado, cucumber, cilantro and spicy lemon vinaigrette.” It was also strongly supported by the addition of sesame seeds, and in general brought to mind an excellent sushi roll. We were drinking a half-bottle of white wine with this (an Oregon vineyard whose name escapes me, a Pinot Gris if I’m remembering correctly) and our salads.
My husband had the “Hearts of romaine Caesar topped with pecorino shavings and white anchovies.” I went with the “Mix lettuce salad with Granny Smith apples, Maytag cheese, spiced walnuts and Pommery mustard vinaigrette.” Both were fresh, excellently made, and we didn’t rush a bite. My husband in particular was glad to see actual anchovy on his Caesar, instead of just a hint of them in the dressing or wet little bits tossed in.
The bread came by, and I asked if it was made in-house. The server told me it was the local Farm to Market Italian bread (“You can get it in grocery stores here”). It was the only time during the entire meal that I felt the tiniest bit of ordinary life had snuck into the dining room, but it was still very good bread.
For the second half of our meal, we had a Napa Valley wine, Storybook’s Mayacamas Range Zinfandel if I’m recalling correctly, another half-bottle. Then, our entrees arrived: I had the “Grilled rack of lamb with savory butternut squash and pecan bread pudding, Beau Solais Farms oyster mushrooms, and sage demi glace”, and my husband had “Pan roasted veal chop with fall squash risotto, roasted pumpkin, wilted Swiss chard, toasted pepitas and pumpkin seed vinaigrette.”
We savored every single morsel on those plates. It was quite an exciting thing for us, to enjoy food that has been prepared with the care of an artist creating a painting. We felt like we were witnessing some incredible harmonies in these meals, things that we have only heard of and glimpsed in our past culinary adventures. The only thing we could compare it to in our past was a visit to Zuni Cafe in San Francisco about five years ago.
Every detail was attended to: the portions of each item were an appropriate size, the colors and shapes were arranged in an attractive manner, nothing was over- or under-cooked, no flavors were bizarre or out of place.
My dessert of a slice of decadent chocolate truffle, and my husband’s glass of fresh raspberries with a Grand Marnier/white chocolate sauce were lovely, fresh, not-too-sweet ways to round off the meal (along with the excellent house blend coffee… even the decaf was wonderful).
This meal was worth every single penny we paid, and my only regret is that we’re not in a position to do this every month!