Fremont Diner (and Others More Dear But Not as Dear to Me)
Just got back from an extended weekend with lots of eats in Wine Country.
1) Fremont Diner. This place is just the tops. Charming atmosphere. Wonderful pulled pork sandwich, LOVED the padron peppers with gremolata (had those twice. we stopped near closing time after a disappointing sandwich from Jimtown, had peppers, shake and tried the corn fritters which were yummy too), great vanilla bean shake, great peach baked (not fried) pie, nice and not oversalted beans and hock. Burger was ok fries were nice, go for the pulled pork sandwich instead with those yummy peppers. Nice people, nice dogs, screen porch seating inside, picnic tables outside. Just the best. I only wish it had been open Sunday and Monday of Labor Day (was closed both days) and that I could have tried the fried chicken too.
2) La Sallette. More of a soulful meal than Ad Hoc. Charming patio with twinkly liights on plants and heat lamps, nice dinner rolls. The caldo verde was ok, tasting platter chourico was nice, did not like the octoupus but loved the Portugese sheep cheese with honey. Very nice sea bass on collards, also quite tasty Feiojada. They could use a little more spice in the piri piri fries (or maybe a side of piri piri sauce) Had no room for dessert. Great service.
3) Ad Hoc-Steak night. Nice but small portioned salad with small gems. Fab spiced cashews, I only wish my portion had more than the very (too) few on the plate, nice green beans very toothsome, perfectly done, great sweet corn. Thought the blue cheese dressing was a bit over the top. Smashed small potatoes were great as was the sauteed savoy, the steak however was rather bland and mine was sort of cold (I did not complain, should have). Not wild about how the first course salad came before the wine. Butter was too salty. Portion of the cowgirl creamery cheese was too small. Pear buckle with creme anglaise was nice, homey dessert. Felt somewhat rushed, not much time between courses.
4) Ubuntu. Ok, I know this was supposed to be a transcendent meal, but it just wasn't. I am not a vegetarian, but am veg friendly and the thought of an all veg gourmet experience was quite exciting. Unfortunately, Ubuntu did not live up to expectations. We had the 3 sampler of marcona almonds with lavendar salt and sugar (probably my favorite dish all night and I almost did not get it), fried chickpea fritters and a humous with very greasy fried chip like things. Second courses were vegetable patties that tasted a lot like falafel which were over a sweet corn puree that tasted like creamed corn and heirloom tomatoes with buratta. There were air dried corn crumbles in one of those dishes too. Passed on the $20 special house salad of what looked like leaves and flowers. Two mains were gnochettis with an overly rich and overly salty mushroom sauce and what looked and tasted like veg bacon curls and grits with goat cheese (or milk), whey and green tomato jam. Overall , there was a mushiness to the dishes (and a general lack of solid pieces in what we ordered) and the fried ones were somewhat oily. Bussers also seemed to try and whisk everything away even when some sauce was left on the plates (maybe because the tables are so small?) Dessert was pain perdu with berries, honey ice cream, was missing a zing, and the pain perdu itself was bland. The butter was nice. This was my least favorite of my three dinners.
Your visit to Ubuntu sounds a lot like what I had about 2 months or so ago and our reactions and ditto to our visit to Ad Hoc last year. I was disappointed in both (and posted) and since posters on this board that I really value were so high on the restaurants, I thought I had either hit uninspiring days or my expecations were unrealistic. I thought both were ok but not worth a a return trip. I do have the Fremont Diner on my radar to hit soon.
I really hope Fremont Diner does open on Sunday some time in the future. They just seem to be targeting locals rather than the tourist trade. One early morning there was a table of what appeared to be farm laborers having a meal. I thought this was uber-cool that it wasn't the usual foodies who were attracted to this place.
tomatoaday writes of Ubuntu "posters on this board that I really value were so high on the restaurants, I thought I had either hit uninspiring days or my expecations were unrealistic. I thought both were ok but not worth a a return trip"
The weird thing about Ubuntu is that there are people I think will be as crazy about it as I am based on their tastes and past posts ... aren't.
One early rant about small portions, etc ... well, looking at what that posters dining preferences, I could understand that.
But there was also an early report by some posters who I really respect who said 'meh' that just floored me. I could not even imagine these people being anything less than estatic about the place.
I guess I don't understand why that is, even reading a few reports like that and your report. You did an excellent job of explaining why you didn't like it ... but I guess what I don'really cant figure out is why it hits a few people that way. I've found Ubuntu pretty consistant over my many visits, so I don't think it is a matter of an off day.
There are some restaurants like Zuni or Chez Panisse where the opinions are strong enough on either side that when I recommend these places I'l often recommend reading the reports to see if it is for them.
Ubuntu tho gets these little blips. For the most part, it seems a lot of people who normally would not like this type of restaurant like it. There's that small number of people I would otherwise expect to rave about it that don't like it much.
I just wish I could figure out a pattern.
Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
452 First Street East, Suite H, Sonoma, CA 95476
2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA
Actually, I do think that Ubuntu is having an off day/season/something. I'm one that was reluctant to talk about how much I loved Ubuntu because I sounded like a raving fangirl - I couldn't control the excessive adjectives. And, frankly, I found the food to be so amazing that I was more than willing to overlook the spotty service and pacing. But my last visit was not everything that I wanted it to be. it might be that I had too high of expectations for summer produce, but my August visit was disappointing, even compared to a visit a month earlier. Not sure if it's higher traffic during the tourist season, or fatigue in the kitchen, or just that Jeremy is stronger with the heavier ingredients of winter, but it wasn't what it was. (and the chickpea fritters are nowhere near as good as the old fries).
Fremont Diner is a lovely addition, despite their hours. And I'm one that still loves Ad Hoc, but I can understand the varying responses to it.
I should probably actually try La Salette sometime - it's just never made it to the top of my list of places to visit.