SingleThread Farm – Restaurant- Inn

Check presentation
Sorbet
Wagashi (course 11 of 11 courses)
Sonoma Grains (course 8 of 11 courses)
Duclair Duck (course 7 of 11 courses)
Bone broth for Ume Medai (course 6/ of 11 courses)
Ume Medai (course 6 of 11 courses)
Smoked Salmon with Steelhead Roe (our favorite course) (course 4 of 11 courses)
Duck Liver Parfait (course 5 of 11 courses)
Interior
Koginut squash (second half of course 3 of 11 courses)
Koginut squash (first half of course 3 of 11 courses)
Half of the second course of 11 courses, mussels and uni.
Second half of the first course (of 11 courses)!
Just half of the first course (of 11 courses)!
Kitchen
Exterior

***** (5 stars)

Phenomenal experience on Christmas Eve. Eleven courses (more like 40 if you count every item) and it’s hard to pick a favorite. But it’s my job, so I’ll make the call: the smoked salmon covered in steelhead roe!

But seriously, everthing was superb, and the service was that perfect balance of professionalism and friendliness that you rarely find accompanying elevated cuisine.

Although not inexpensive, I have to say that the dinner is very fairly priced.

The wine list has impressive breadth, and some depth, with stunning selections of the top wines, and stunning prices to match, but for those who invest some effort (I suggest a thorough perusal online before your visit) there are some gems here. A specific recommendation for chardonnay fans: 2015 Journeyman Chardonnay (complex, malolactic, good acid, touch of oak, apple, citrus, spice, caramel, honey, true expression of chardonnay fruit).

A really memorable dinner.

SingleThread Farm – Restaurant- Inn
131 North St
Healdsburg, CA
95448
(707) 723-4646
https://www.yelp.com/biz/singlethread-farm-restaurant-inn-healdsburg-7

Goose & Gander

Downstairs bar
Orange tart
Fish and chips
Interior
Interior
Cheesesteak
Exterior

***** (5 stars)

This charming restaurant is located on a side street of St. Helena’s Main Street. The delightful space upstairs offers high beamed ceilings and an open kitchen, plus lots of duck hunting memorabilia. Downstairs is an atmospheric bar that also has table seating. And there is also lovely outdoor dining.

The menu offers elevated comfort food such as fish and chips, or cheesesteak sandwiches, both of which were good. The orange tart with kumquat marmalade was excellent.

The wine list is very extensive, with plenty of selections from around the world and a nice assortment of half bottles.

Service was very attentive and welcoming.

Goose & Gander
1245 Spring St
Saint Helena, CA
94574
(707) 967-8779
https://www.yelp.com/biz/goose-and-gander-saint-helena-2

Kikko

***** (5 stars)

Another stellar restaurant from the Oriole folks. Chef Mariya has come up with a succession of genius courses, including the best nigiri in town. Gracious and informative bar service by Patrick.

The fixed course menu offers a variety of pairings at very reasonable prices.

Well deserving of the Michelin star they received in record time!

Have a cocktail designed just for you before or after at the Kumiko bar upstairs, with the best mixologist in town.

Kikko
630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL
60661
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kikko-chicago-2

The Dearborn

Interior
Bar

***** (5 stars)

I really like the interesting menu at the Dearborn. It has all the classic sandwiches you’d want for lunch, but also interesting appetizers, soups and salads.

It’s fairly large and very popular, so it can get noisy, but there are several ultra-private booths at the very back that are intimate and quiet. We loved the setting, and my curry chicken BLT was superb.

The Dearborn
145 N Dearborn St
Chicago, IL
60602
(312) 384-1242
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-dearborn-chicago-2

The Gathering Table

Fondue
Hamachi
Octopus
Exterior
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This terrific restaurant in The Ballard Inn is very popular, so be sure to make reservations. The atmosphere is a cross between modern and colonial, and the food is 100% creative.

We loved every course. The standouts were the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted, and some incredibly tender octopus. The hamachi was also melt in your mouth tender. Service was an efficient team effort.

The wine list offers a nice selection of local bottles and some French wines, but very little variety by the glass.

Highly recommended.

The Gathering Table
2436 Baseline AveThe Ballard Inn
Solvang (Ballard), CA
93463
(805) 688-7770
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-gathering-table-solvang-ballard

Pearl District

Bar
Patio
Duck confit pancake
Ahi crudo
Interior

***** (5 stars)

This cozy, stylish spot offers an interesting menu and an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Be aware that although the food is sophisticated, portions are very large, so don’t over order.

We liked everything we had. My favorite was the duck confirm pancake, which was more like a quesadilla.

Save room for Spanish coffee. How can you pass up anything where the second ingredient is “fire”!?

Pearl District
982 S Westlake BlvdSte 8
Westlake Village, CA
91361
(805) 230-9944
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pearl-district-westlake-village-2

STK Chicago

Brussels Sprouts

Bone-In Filet

Grilled Octopus

Bread service

Interior

Interior

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

STK is the 26th steakhouse I’ve been to in Chicago (not all the same week, mind you!) and I’d rate it somewhere in the second half of that list.

The atmosphere is different from the others, in that it’s trying to be more of a trendy spot with a live DJ in a booth creating a sometimes too-loud soundtrack that seemed to be appreciated more in the open bar area than the dining area.

The wine list is more limited than some of the other steakhouses in town, and prices are the usual River North markup.

Bread was sort of like a pull apart Parker House roll. It was topped with blue cheese butter, so if you don’t like that say so up front.

I enjoyed the grilled octopus I started with, which combined a nicely grilled tentacle with some tender octopus ceviche.

The brussels sprouts where nicely roasted, but were swimming in a sweet balsamic. It was good, but far too much of a good thing.

My biggest bone to pick (ahem) was with my steak. It was a bone-in filet. As you would expect with a filet, it didn’t have a lot of flavor, but it should have had more flavor near the bone. And since it was a filet, it should have been more tender and gristle-free. It wasn’t. At over $70, I think my money is better spent on a place with prime meat.

Service was fine.

On to number 27.

STK Chicago
9 West Kinzie St
Chicago, IL
60654
(312) 340-5636
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stk-chicago-chicago-2

The Barn Steakhouse

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Ceviche

Lamb chops (Saturday special)

**** (4 stars)

This charming restaurant is indeed in an old, two-story brick barn that was a Bordens Milk plant in the distant past. The space has been nicely remodeled while saving its charm.

The Barn styles itself as a Chicago steakhouse, but there is a lot more on the menus, and none of us actually had steak. We really enjoyed the very generous ceviche appetizer. Another favorite is their famous caviar sandwich, which is also a generous serving, and the caviar was quite good for the price.

As an entree I had the lamb chops, which were excellent. Four large chops were perfectly cooked, and served in a wonderfully flavorful sauce that conatined a hint of licorice. The is a Saturday special, so if lamb is your thing, that’s the day to go.

There’s a fairly extensive wine list.

Service was friendly and professional.

Because of the brick walls, the space can get quite loud when busy, so it’s best to go early. The upstairs seating in the loft is a little bit quieter.

The Barn Steakhouse
1016 Church St
Rear
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 868-8041
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-barn-steakhouse-evanston-4

Pacific Standard Time

Interior

Exterior

Mushroom pizza

Duck

Olive oil cake

Huckleberry sundae

*** (3 stars)

This is another good restaurant defeated by its interior design, where no consideration was given to acoustics. You can’t seat 160 people in a glass and tile box and end up with anything but cacaphony. They’ve even put carpet on the undersides of the table to try to fix what shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.

Some work is needed at the front desk, which is staffed by at least three people. Not sure why it takes a five-minute conversation to decide upon a table when you have a reservation and the restaurant is 1/3 empty.

The food is quite good. The best dishes we had were all raw fish: the Shima Aji Crud, Madai Snapper Aguachile, and the marinated ahi tuna, which was listed under pitas because it was served with one (although probably unnecessarily).

The Harry’s Berries Strawberries and mushroom pizza were also very good.

The Whole Roasted Dusk was an interesting dish, but not a completely successful one. It included, thick who slices of very rare and not particularly tender duck, plus duck sausages served in a tureen with greens and beans and baked covered with pita dough. An odd presentation, and the greens turned out to be the best flavor in the mix.

The highlights of dessert were all the ice cream flavors, including Green Chartreuse served ala cart, the creme fraiche ice cream served with the olive oil cake, and the ice creams in the huckleberry sundae.

There’s a nice list of wines by the bottle at reasonable prices. Food pricing also seems very reasonable, although it should be noted that everything except the duck was really a small serving.

Service was fine, but not exactly enthusiastic. Our waiter seemed like he’d put in an all-nighter, and it was only 6:30.

I would certainly go back for all the raw fish plates that were the highlight, but only if the restaurant was half full. Otherwise the noise level is simply unacceptable.

Pacific Standard Time
141 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 736-1778
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pacific-standard-time-chicago

Valor

Cheeseburger

Salmon

Sorry, there’s only one rib left for you. We fell on the rest like hungry wolves.

Trio of ice creams and bombe

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This popular cafe serves good food with a bit of a French influence to some dishes.

We started with four appetizers. The one we absolutely loved was the Sticky Asian Pork Ribs, which were coated in a wonderful soy-infused teriyaki sauce. Popcorn Cauliflower was also very good, especially dipped in the leftover rib sauce! Warm Brussels Sprout Caesar and Roasted Broccoli and Grilled (cold) Shrimp were both just okay.

Everyone also liked their entrees, which included the Steak Frites, Salmon, and a Cheeseburger.

For dessert we had a housemade ice cream trio and a Chocolate Bombe, both of which were also good.

The wine list is a bit obscure, but we found some interesting selections, and prices are reasonable.

Service was attentive and friendly.

Valor
667 Vernon Ave
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 786-4324
https://www.yelp.com/biz/valor-glencoe