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May 3, 2010 02:47 PM

Table 128 in Anderson Valley

Not quite sure if this belongs here exactly. I consider Anderson Valley kind of the far north bay area, and lots of BA people go there to visit. BTW Anderson Valley is a wonderful weekend escape. Bucolic, laid back and open. Last weekend we visited a friend in Anderson Valley and had dinner at Table 128, a new restaurant at the Boonville hotel. It was overall very good to excellent. The atmosphere was very laid back and the service friendly. It was price fix meal.

Here is what we ate:

fresh pea & mint soup-was served with chive blossoms which added a nice bit of texture and flavor. Overall very good, though it was difficult to discern a pea flavor.

mezze plate of hummus, piquillo peppers, feta, poppudoms & olives. This course was good to just ok and seemed like it was kind of thrown together. Eggplant was just ok. The
poppudoms were great and the hummus was very good. Having fewer things on the plate but more of them might have been better. For example if they ditched the peppers, feta and olives and included a saganaki instead.

liberty duck legs with ramps, olives, preserved lemon on isreali cous cous. Excellent. The duck legs were falling of the bone tender and the seasoning was perfect.

honey ice cream with rhubarb & kumquat compote. The ice cream just blew me away. The hostess said it was made in house. It tasted like it was made with very high quality milk and cream. I don’t remember ever having ice cream with such a delicious intense rich milk flavor. One of the best desserts in recent memory.

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    1. Ridge, "Table 128" is just the latest name for the dining room at the Boonville Hotel, same guy's still in charge and doing much of the cooking. In the 18(?) years I've been occasionally stopping there, enjoying humble but delicious meals, the dining room has experimented with geography, menu formats, days open, and now, a name.

      I recently had, there, one of the best dinners of recent memory. An ordinary-enough sounding "Nicoise salad" had seared albacore tuna, sweet peppers, wonderfully fresh flavorful fava beans, and watercress, with quarters of delicate hard-cooked egg ("we got them from some chickens down the block") and a slightly mustardy aioli sauce. The thing is, you can't sense just from the description how simple and yet intensely farm-fresh everything was. After it came an individual round "lasagna" of asparagus, shiitakes, leeks, reggiano, and handmade noodles, interspersed with Béchamel sauce. A little rich, but mazing. Everybody seemed to think so. I stretched it out, and sampled some good red wine with it. Will try to make something like that at home, since I like to cook with fresh noodles. (I'm writing this while staying at the hotel; the town seems to _finally_ have good wireless access.)

      Boonville Hotel
      14040 Highway 128, Boonville, CA 95415

      1 Reply
      1. re: eatzalot

        I forgot to mention the appetizer, a delicate jellied pork much like the "jambon persillade" they serve in Burgundy (but without much parsley), tasting of roast drippings and maybe balsamic vinegar or a little wine, I think; and the bittersweet chocolate torte served with just slightly sweetened whipped cream. That meal was prix-fixe, $40 if I remember. It had a quality level that would do well in a competitive restaurant scene, and here it was at a small-town roadhouse.

        Next evening was a different menu, and began with pork rillettes served with toasted French-bread croûtes. Johnny Schmitt (who was cooking both nights) said it was a local pig, and the two pork appetizers were made within a couple days of the oink.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          We went back a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. The meal included a delicious mussel salad and oxtail main course.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              No not yet. Last time we were in Anderson valley we were surprised how much it is growing. Lots of new wineries and new construction going on. Hopefully it will not lose its charm.

              1. re: Ridge

                I was stunned when I drove through on my way to Fort Bragg two weeks ago. And I'd been in Boonville just the year before. So many visitors in town even on a weekday. There's a fine balance --- clearly Anderson Valley needed more hospitality infrastructure of restaurants and lodgings to support visitors for the tasting rooms but not so much that it loses the rural character.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  The number of visitors you'll see depends strongly on the particular day and season.

                  FYI, people have been remarking about apparent explosive growth of Boonville's little commercial district at least since the microbrewery came in (about 20 years ago -- and went, in the course of events; IIRC, same building that now houses the pub called Buckhorn). But those businesses ebb and flow; several have come and gone; and it's still true that Anderson Valley itself contains remarkably little _lodging,_ much less than it has restaurant seating. And a degree of protection thanks to the shockingly serpentine stretches of Hwy 128 that cause a steady fraction of newcomers riding in rear seats to lose their, uh, composure. That's why one of the best-known winemakers dubbed it the Dramamine Road.

                  Turnover and new options in Boonville itself simply increase the importance, IMO, of getting to know the durable locals' hangouts, by way of orientation, if you plan to do much eating in Anderson Valley.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    Boonville is less than an hour's drive from my home in Alexander Valley (Sonoma County). But it's not a drive that I've made often . . . takes awhile for the mind to soften the memory of those curvy roads. That said, it has gotten better in the 20+ years that I've been driving that route though there is a natural limit to how much more road straightening and widening can be accomplished.

                    My recent drive-by was the Thursday morning after the 4th of July, so quite a surprise to see crowded streets in Boonville early on a weekday. My previous visit was a Saturday in May 2012, not the peak of summer tourist season but even then seemed like more people than I'd seen here before.

                    Thanks for the info on the other places to check-out. I feel like I need to get caught up on what's happening in Anderson Valley with another visit soon.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I certainly had a few more meals there since this 2010 thread.

            However I want to point out something that regulars who know the area take for granted, but infrequent visitors may not.

            If someone is considering Aquarelle (which just opened in late 2012 and is the new kid on the street, irrespective of merit) they might also want to get more familiar with Boonville's established, creditable dining infrastructure, all within very short walk. (I've been to each of these places several times, enough to explore the menu; and have regularly hit Lauren's and some others a few times a year for many years.)

            Lauren's (across from Hotel, a block east). Longtime locals', winemakers', and hospitality workers' hangout, started by a former Boonville Hotel inkeeper. Eclectic interesting menu, very moderate prices. Table and counter dining. Musicians some nights.

            All the little places up and down that short strip. General Store opposite the Hotel that does mainly breakfast, lunch, and deli, but has fine, almost VPN-grade smallish Neapolitan-type pizzas for dining or take-out, certain days (schedule posted). Mosswood, tiny bakery-café near the General Store and known for panini. The diner west of the Hotel on same side of 128 as it, where farmers (NEVER tourists in my 3-4 experiences) gather for breakfast and local gossip around 5-7 AM daily. The tiny grocery (with cheeses) almost opposite the diner, suggestive of a hobbit's den. The upstairs pub back up toward Lauren's, now called Buckhorn Boonville (a few years back it was briefly the Highpockety Ox, and it has a long history of food and drink) with personnel spun off from a popular SF craft-beer bar; many taps, decent mainstream pizzas (though less interesting than the general store's, IMO), and run partly by a couple of British expats who know something about beer (he has a rich Midlands accent).

            Libby's, the Mexican diner up in Philo, is another standard wine-industry hangout, and nearer to many of the valley's signature wineries than Boonville is.

            1. re: eatzalot

              Libby's- I was going to mention it but forgot the name. We did not eat there on our recent visit but have eaten there in previous visits and enjoyed it.

              Regarding the growth of Anderson Valley, I know there may be a tendency to exaggerate or overstate such things but I would say that we definitely noticed an increase that took us by surprise our last visit there.

              1. re: eatzalot

                Yes that road is nauseating. It was unbearable going there with my old Camry a few years ago but is more tolerable in our Prius.

                1. re: Ridge

                  The road also becomes more manageable with experience. It is the unexpected, shocking encounter with it (especially on a full stomach) that is most profound. I first experienced that in the 1960s, but with time (and spending time in Anderson Valley, rather than just using it as a road to the coast) it became a known hazard, best approached by driving that stretch patiently.

                  It is only on the more boring hilly segments of 128 -- no-passing zones -- that you'll likely encounter that road's other hazard: Self-absorbed idiots driving 15MPH below the posted limit, for 10 miles or more, with a long chain of cars accumulated behind them; yet blissfully ignoring the turn-outs provided (not to mention California statute requiring drivers to pull over in this situation and let the traffic pass).

                  At a dinner about 5 years ago (with the local winemaker I alluded to), the topic of conversation was the Valley's possible population growth, and limitations to it. That was when the winemaker described a first drive on that road -- to take his job in the Valley -- with family in car, kids in back. Both of whom were, so to speak, baptized, in Highway 128's distinctive way, during the drive. At that meal I first heard it dubbed the "Dramamine Road," and I've heard the same guy quip it elsewhere since.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    I have a slightly different point of view: a good friend was killed on that road a few years back, while being passed (well, attempted to pass) by someone who had too much to drink along the way (and who is now in jail as a result). Thus, I will take those 'self absorbed idiots' going under the speed limit over the too fast alternative any day of the week, even if they are a bit ignorant of the law (as could have been her friend visiting from out of state who was driving, and also killed.) Yes, patience is needed, but I don't think the road is that bad, especially if one takes it a bit slow.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Very sorry to hear about the tragedy, susan, and it also brings up another serious, perennial, dirty little problem of California winemaking regions: drunk or "buzzed" drivers on the roads that serve wineries.

                      I'd like to hope that the visiting out-of-state driver would be alert enough to follow the posted signs on eastbound hilly Hwy128 directing drivers to use the several turnout lanes provided, to allow following traffic to pass. By "self-absorbed idiots" I mean people who ignore those, not just the longtime California 5-following-vehicle rule; who accumulate 10-20 cars behind them for literally many miles; and who thus encourage frustrated or impatient people to pass illegally (which I have seen repeatedly). The self-absorbed may be drunk, too. I just wish there were more pro-active enforcement of road rules and common sense there. The cops seem to prefer instead to deal with the consequences, after people speed or crash.

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        I agree of course, and like you, mostly was trying to give a reminder that we aren't all perfect on the road (just more reason for patience) as well as make a point about drunk or 'buzzed' drivers myself. In this instance, I don't know if she had observed signs or not, but she was going eastbound (can't imagine why such signs would only be posted in one direction, however, though it has been a year or so since the last time I was on 128.).

                        The older I get, the more I like to plan stays so that I don't have to drive anywhere after a great dinner with wine. The Boonville Hotel (with the restaurant and the rooms) is on the list to try one of these days soon....

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Sorry, my typo: I actually meant "eastbound" earlier, typed westbound by mistake, and have now corrected it.

                          In many dozens of trips through that road I've seen the problems described above in both directions, but for some reason, particularly noticed drivers ignoring turnouts in the eastbound direction, on roughly the western half of the hilly section running between Boonville and Cloverdale (i.e. Hwy 101). That part of the road includes one or more very long stretches with passing prohibited eastbound, but turnout lanes provided. Another source of very slow traffic is specialized agricultural or construction machinery that uses the same road, but usually for shorter stretches, and those drivers are invariably professionals who pull over as needed.