Mushroom soup with crema and green sauce @ Cafe Saint Rose
Today I took advantage of 70+ degree weather for a brief lunch pitstop at a sidewalk table at Cafe Saint Rose in Santa Rosa. Open a month now, some of the obvious changes are addition of raised stools for counter seating and squeezing in a four-top inside. The selection of small plates at the top of the menu has turned over completely and is much different from what's listed on the website currently. http://cafesaintrose.com/menu.html The selection of bocadillos is about the same. I had hoped that the servings on the small plate/snack/salad section would become more petite at lower prices encouraging ordering two items for lunch. But it seems that the prices have crept up so that they range from $6 to $9 now in that category.
I had time for just one bite anyway and picked the mushroom soup with crema and green sauce, $6. Lucky me, as this knocked my socks off. This started off with a rich, oodles-of-mushrooms base, then took it over the top with the peppy green sauce, and brought it home to the nest with the thick, tart crema. That condiment deserves a much catchier name to match the exotic aromas and exciting flavors. Mint, cilantro, basil, garlic, peanuts, lime . . . and so much more than green to zing the palate.
Can't recommend the Thai ice tea, too weak.
Soft opening thread -
Here's the map -
Third Ave. exit off 101 is closed for construction. The tricky part is that both access roads from Santa Rosa Avenue have a change of street name as they cross Santa Rosa Avenue (marked on the map) so you might miss the sign if you're looking the wrong direction.
You've been to Lola's on Petaluma Hill Road, right? Continue north on Petaluma Hill Road, and it will dump you onto Santa Rosa Ave. just south (spitting distance) from Hwy 12 that you can see on the map.
How often do I eat at the same restaurant twice in one year? Not frequently, and even rarer for me to go back to the same spot two times in one week, but that I did. After Monday's lunch, I was back at Cafe Saint Rose for lunch on Thursday last week. Things continue to evolve --- now two large umbrellas shade the three outside tables, very welcome on this warm and sunny day.
The romaine hearts with green goddess on the menu caught my eye, and I asked Malicki if this was the classic San Francisco dressing. As a Connecticut native, he said that he couldn't say for sure about "classic" but that it was based on Chez Panisse's recipe ( http://www.startribune.com/436/story/617674.html ) with crema, avocado, tarragon and other fresh herbs. Tarragon was the key word for me, so I gave it a try. I had eyed the golden halves of the grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches shared at the four-top, and jealously asked if it were possible to order just a half to go with my salad. The staffer shook her head, and I backed off.
Soon my plate of salad was brought outside to me, garnished with a half of a grilled cheese sandwich! The green goddess dressing captured the richness and anise-y notes of the original though it seemed rather anemic in color and could have used a bit more acidic snap. As much as I enjoyed the salad, the studied simplicity of the tomato and cheese sandwich stole the show. Perfectly pressed, the buttered yet still very light and toasty semolina bread from Della Fattoria takes this American classic to new heights combined with soft and stringy jack cheese and ripe tomatoes. My server confided that the sandwich is the most popular item on the menu, and her personal favorite. Later I left three more bucks in the tip jar to thank her for the sample from the kitchen.
At the end of service, Malicki stepped outside to check on me. I gushed again about the sandwich and asked when he might start grilling outdoors. He said that the area was set up and ready to go, but he had to work through the catering jobs already scheduled on an overly busy calendar. Some time after November 1 things should free up enough to be open on weekends, probably for breakfast/brunch. He also explained that as much as he wanted to be open for breakfast and lunch only, the morning meal never took off. He was planning to start dinner service, likely Tuesday through Friday, and expected a wine/beer license in a month.
Image of salad and half san -
re: Melanie Wong
I also was anxious to have lunch at Cafe St. Rose. I met Mark briefly in Hopland a few years ago when he was hired as a chef in Hopland. I had stopped at the Flying Goat on the way to Santa Rosa and met up with a couple of other restaurant people who knew about the restaurant's opening. Mr. Malicki seems to be a well known (if perhaps colorful) fiqure in the cooking biz.
I know Santa Rosa pretty well and didn't have too much trouble finding it but I hope it's obscure location doesn't hinder it. I had the pulled pork sandwich which was quite good if a little dry. But I also eyed my neighbor's grilled cheese and something that looked like an asian chicken salad.
About the prices--since they have only a few tables and can't really do very many lunches or dinners--I don't see how it could be cheaper. Hopefully, it will take off with those in the know who are looking for an alternative to the usual downtown fare or who want good food without the overblown prices and attitude.
re: Emily Ford
To clarify, I think the prices are quite reasonable, cheap even considering the quality of the cooking and the ingredients. My comment about prices going up is that there used to be some small portioned items under $5 so that ordering two items was viable from a cost and volume standpoint for lunch. Given the option, I'd rather have two tastes for $10 rather than one plate for $8 or $9.
It has been interesting to see the evolution in a short time. I think the original idea was that it would be predominantly take-out with counter service, and an adjunct to a busy catering business. Pricing runs about the same as getting a nondescript deli sandwich or salad somewhere else. As you point out, there's not much seating. But it seems that customers want to eat their purchases there. Maybe it's too far away from the core of downtown for convenient take-out business.