Getting a gander at new St. Helena restaurant and bar

2012-04-23T22:00:00Z 2012-05-01T18:00:20Z Getting a gander at new St. Helena restaurant and barL. PIERCE CARSON Napa Valley Register
April 23, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

The wait is over.

The wildly popular basement bar in the former Martini House opens Tuesday night — retooled, restocked and refected by a veteran restaurateur with ties to the Windy City. And upstairs, hungry diners can once again tuck into tasty comfort food.

Illinois native Andy Florsheim has picked up where well-known Napa Valley chef Todd Humphries left off when Humphries and partners shuttered the Spring Street dining destination 18 months ago.

Florsheim and his wife, Trisha, spent more than a year adding new furnishings, accents and structural tweaks to their Goose & Gander, a wine country interpretation of what executive chef Kelly McCown calls “a public house.”

Fans of the basement bar need to know that the Florsheims also invited Northern California cocktail pro Scott Beattie to return to the fold to work his magic behind the bar. After all, Beattie literally wrote the book on the subject — his “Artisanal Cocktails” was published when he was making customers happy over at Cyrus in Healdsburg a couple of years ago.

On top of that, the management team enticed two more industry pros to sign on at Goose & Gander — Michael Pazdon, who made mixed-drink devotees weak at the knees with his spirits wizardry at Solbar, and Bob Copeland, who helped launch the new bar program at BarBersQ and is a longtime friend of the new owner.

When it comes to full circle, Beattie isn’t the only member of the team to return to the Spring Street operation. Chef McCown helped Humphries open Martini House more than a decade ago, serving as chef de cuisine.

Another hospitality industry veteran, Marcus Marquez, is general manager of Goose & Gander. Like McCown in recent years, Marquez has been in Sacramento, serving as wine director and in front-of-the-house posts at L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen and Selland’s Market & Café. Assisting him in his new post as restaurant manager is Khristopher Lund, who’s been with Tra Vigne for the past three years.

Rounding out the Goose & Gander team is wine director/sommelier Cristina Merrigan — a former manager at Morimoto Napa, and sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and Chez TJ in Mountain View. Merrigan indicated Goose & Gander will feature about 150 different wine brands, a majority of them small Northern California producers, a small offering of international wines and 20 red, white and sparkling wines by the glass.

Goose & Gander is located in what once was the 1920s home of Walter Martini, a retired San Francisco opera singer who owned the William Tell Hotel (which was across from his 1245 Spring St. dwelling) and later became a prosperous bootlegger. The structure was transformed into the Martini House in 2001 by renowned Bay Area restaurant designer Pat Kuleto. The original entrance — flanked by a pair of cedar trees — has been restored.

With its scarlet red walls, dark woods and scores of decoys, the 65-seat upstairs dining room has all the earmarks of an English duck club. Renovations here include covering an area of open floor that earlier allowed guests to look into the basement bar, plus the addition of cozy chocolate leather booths and handcrafted wooden tables made from reclaimed old-growth redwood. Similar chocolate leather booths now flank the fireplace in the basement bar, which accommodates nearly three dozen bibbers.

The outdoor garden, with Martini’s original koi pond, is being landscaped by, quite appropriately, Jonathan Plant, and should be open for sunset dinners by Memorial Day. More than five dozen diners will be able to enjoy al fresco meals during warm-weather months.

Food and drink

A gaggle of writersand bloggers got a preview late last week of what’s to come at Goose & Gander. Beattie, Pazdon and Copeland greeted us with a mouthwatering assortment of libations — all of which will be offered at $11 a pop. Pazdon got my attention with what the mixologists are calling a Scarlet Gander. It might also be labeled a rhubarb mint cooler, this blend of Hanger One Buddha’s Hand vodka, fresh lemon juice, raw rhubarb chunks steeped in beet-stained simple syrup (flavored with ginger, galangal and shiso), poured over ice cubes and topped with mint leaves. It’s bound to become a bar favorite this spring and summer.

Beattie and company also are featuring their take on Pisco Punch — using a couple of Peruvian piscos, pineapple syrup and citrus — and reviving Pimm’s Cup with a tall refreshing drink that incorporates Pimm’s No. 1, gin, lemon, seltzer and cucumbers. Cucumbers also star in a collins, with cucumber vodka, lemon, yuzu and seltzer given a vigorous shake with ice before the frosty glass is decorated with both fresh and pickled cucumber slices. In case one of the featured cocktails doesn’t strike your fancy, the bar is well stocked with all manner of spirits and beer.

The menu features a few rustic snacks — crispy snails with garlic anchovy butter, duck confit biscuits with onion marmalade, and toothsome meatballs braised for 90 minutes in chicken stock and served with candied garlic, “wild and tame” mushrooms, “crushed breadcrumbs” and crème fraîche. Goose & Gander also offers a plate of cheese and salumi, the latter coming from St. Helena’s Panevino. Chef McCown said his kitchen is the only one in the valley featuring Panevino’s assortment of salumi.

Whether you consider the fare at this cozy St. Helena gastropub comfort food or not, the menu speaks for itself. There’s hot skillet-roasted white prawns with spicy garlic butter atop a crispy polenta cake as well as the Québecois favorite, poutine with duck fat fries, squeaky cheese and beef gravy. Additional first courses include an arugula salad with beet carpaccio and goat cheese fritter, carpaccio of ahi tuna with poached egg and crispy potatoes, crispy veal sweetbreads with apples and miner’s lettuce, plus spring onion and green garlic soup.

For mains, try a crispy duck leg confit with a “celebration” of garden vegetables — artichokes, fiddlehead ferns, daikon sprouts, Tokyo turnips, fava beans, carrots plus English, sugar and snap peas — or stick a fork into seared Scottish salmon over mashed English peas.

Meat lovers will take to roasted beef sirloin topped with foraged mushrooms and onion rings crisped in duck fat, or wood-fired flat iron steak resting on a warm salad of butter beans. Sure to be a popular item, the meaty Berkshire pork shank marinated and braised with a whisper of curry and pinch of fennel pollen in the stock comes on occasion with panzanella and sweet onion puree, with brown butter spaetzle and stinging nettles on another evening.

The sweet freshness of quickly seared scallops gets a flavor and textural boost from fried green tomatoes that have been seasoned with jalapeños and cilantro.

Most recently CEO/president of Levy Campero (which owned and operated Pollo Campero restaurants throughout the Chicago area and Florida), Florsheim said he’s building on his experience at such renowned Chicago eateries as Spiaggia, the Chestnut Street Grill and City Tavern.

“I met my wife, Trisha, when I worked with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg at the underwater-themed Los Angeles restaurant, Dive!,” he noted. “That’s when we started coming to Napa Valley. From that moment on, we were interested in not only living here but also having a restaurant. When I got the call about the availability of Martini House from Todd Humphries, we jumped at the opportunity.”

Goose & Gander is serving dinner daily from 4 to 10 p.m. in the upstairs dining room. The basement bar is open from 4 p.m. to midnight daily. Small plates range in price from $8 to $18, while main courses are offered at $14 to $26. The average price for a bar snack is $5 or $6. For information and reservations, call 967-8779, or visit the website, GooseGander.com.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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