Monday, April 26, 2010
Fine and Casual Dining Near the Redwoods
Sometimes a second career doesn’t pan out. In the case of Chef Dennis of Henweigh Café, the lucky folks who come here to dine are the winners of his choice to trade in a suit for a toque.
We celebrated our round number wedding anniversary by having dinner at this charming West County restaurant. You can find it right next to Mom’s Apple Pie shop, an institution along Hwy 116 north of Sebastopol for years and a super place to get house made pies.
But I digress; tonight the focus was on the finely tuned creative cuisine Sweetie and I enjoyed in the cozy indoor dining room at Henweigh. Warm woods and restful green and gold colors created a comfortable ambiance. Light streamed in plentiful windows and reflected in large mirrors. In good weather we’ll return and enjoy the expansive patio where Xam has been promised a bowl of water and some dog treats. Maybe we’ll come for brunch one Sunday now that the weather is warming up.
The menu has well chosen items ranging from small plates to sandwiches, salads, panini’s and soup…including the chef's hometown Boston style ‘chowdah’ - to full meals, including rib eye steak, pasta and smoked ribs.
I was lucky enough to get the last chicken pot pie of the day, served piping hot. The pastry is buttery and flaky with just the right amount of crispness at the edges of a large portion in a ramekin. The filling includes fresh corn that is roasted on the cob. The result is the texture that only comes with fresh from the cob kernels plus a slightly smoky sweetness. Nicely cut potatoes and fresh carrots and large chunks of moist and flavorful chicken are bathed in a mellow chicken gravy with just a touch of sherry.
A fine salad of mixed greens, grape tomatoes and crispy, sweetly fresh red pepper chunks and red onion rings came with the potpie. I chose the balsamic vinaigrette from an assortment of dressing choices. It was assertive with a deep balsamic flavor and plenty of good mustard.
Sweetie started with the All Star Sliders small plate. For lunch this would have been enough since it had two juicy mini-burgers on soft rolls with a great aioli topping, and chips. The beef was very flavorful and the sliders were about 3 to 3 ½ inches across. We’ll come back for the Grilled Angus Burger after trying the sliders. Sweetie's other choice was a special, a blackened ahi tuna sandwich.
The spices were on the hot side (as they should be) and the excellent slaw that came with the sandwich cooled things down a bit. The tuna itself was still rare in the middle...perfect! Usually the lettuce and tomato are an afterthought but Sweetie insisted that I try a bite of the tomato slice. It tasted like summer tomatoes. Not sure how they did that but it added to the deliciousness.
One of the advantages of a cozy dining room is that you can see what others are eating. A couple nearby seemed to be really enjoying the Caesar salad. The people to our left came for the ribs and told the chef when he came to see how everyone was enjoying their meal that the ribs were outstanding. We chatted briefly on the way out with a pair who had just finished the cheese fondue. They were very satisfied and mentioned that it even came with asparagus for dunking in addition to bread, sausage, peppers and tiny onions.
For dessert we had the roasted berry sundae. A mixture of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are roasted with vanilla bean in their own juices and cooled, then served over rich vanilla ice cream with a garnish of whipped cream. The perfect ending to an enjoyable dining experience that was also easy on the pocketbook.