We gobbled three plates before even deciding upon our main meal or wine. (The tater tots—formed into cubes, fried and topped with crème fraîche, chives and fresh crab lumps—were greedily consumed but needn't be mentioned again.) We duly perused, learning that many of the veggies come from the restaurant's dedicated three-acre patch situated on the Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards.
Perhaps it was the Hendrick's, but Leon promptly lost all geographic bearings, wondering aloud how they could serve fresh seafood so far inland. While the man has actually heard tales of air travel, a different type fortunately distracted him, as a single, manic Drosophila chose our human forms for repeated personal inspection. Doing his best Obama, Leon felled him in a swoop.
Talking with my mouth grossly smacking full, I settled upon the wild nettle and ricotta gnudi ($12), followed by the plate of buttermilk-fried quail ($15) that Leon had rejected as being too "tedious" to eat. I chose a glass of the ballsy (yes, it appears that I later amused myself by using that descriptor to the poor server) Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($12), while Leon opted for the gigli with crab and zucchini ($15) and the local king salmon ($15) with a glass of Fruilano ($8) to start.
Momentarily not eating, we surveyed the room, opened up and simplified since Cyrus, replete with the de rigueur community table, handsome wood chairs and small potted succulents on each table. More guests arrived, the servers were swift and graceful, the place quickly hummed.
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MMMMM The fabled veggie plate ($8), with butter-stuffed radishes.
My gnudi was vibrantly green, larded with maitake mushrooms, and swimming in a sauce that could only be described as butter. Truffle butter, all the better. Leon's gigli were crocus-yellow and ethereal with a slight heat from calabrian chiles. The wine, as has been noted, was ballsy.
I am pleased to report that we discussed abstract painting and the death of print journalism but soon moved shamefully on to kitchen products and why that friend we don't like didn't invite us to her party.
With our next course came two glasses of Bluxome Street Pinot Noir ($12) recommended by our server and just right for my emphatically nontedious quail, dressed as it was with nasturtium greens, and Leon's perfectly prepared three ounces of salmon. (He no longer wondered how it had made its way from the sea.)
We mellowed, we flushed, my voice growing louder in inverse proportion to the excellence of my jokes.
Of course we'd like dessert! Good God, man. We soon spooned up the creamy cold goodness of a salted balsamic vinegar and caramel gelato ($6). Over two hours had passed, and we knew Chalkboard.
We forgave the friend we don't like, we settled upon the kitchen items to buy, we didn't say another word about painting or papers. We took a long walk around the evening-stained streets and into the car we went, headed south for an early night home.
We'll soon go north to that spot again.
Chalkboard, 29 North St., Healdsburg. Open daily for dinner; lunch, Friday–Sunday. 707.473.8030.