By Gretchen Giles
Sometimes the holiday splurge doesn't come under the tree, but beside ittableside it, that is. Several excellent North Bay restaurants stay open for Christmas Eve or Christmas day, offering sumptuous meals for celebrating (with sumptuous prices graciously attached).
Highest on our Dream List is the Christmas Eve meal presented by Manka's Inverness Lodge (415.669.1034, www.mankas.com) in the Pt.Reyes National Seashore. At press time, a table for four and a table for six were still available for those wishing to partake of "watercress from alongside an Inverness steam draped over blood orange and candied fennel" before tucking into the Christmas cassoulet, Jim's duck confit and Dr. Pasternak's rabbit, but after a "mustard of sun-dried Inverness pears and Betty Ann's plums." A thousand other yummy poetic goodnesses are seemingly listed on a nearly rhapsodic menu that concludes with "a little riot of candies to eat or to covet." Manka's offers a single seating and the cost is $145 per person.
Perhaps situated slightly closer to earth, the Restaurant at Domaine Chandon (One California Drive, Yountville; 800.736.2892) celebrates a first this year by offering a three-course prix fixe menu on Christmas Eve. First course choices include a fuyu persimmon salad with fried chestnuts or foie gras with mountain huckleberries and pear charlotte or sunchoke soup with caviar. The main course could be beef tenderloin, striped bass, or Paine Farm squab. Dessert, sigh, includes the classic Büche de Noël, vanilla bean crème brûlée or a bittersweet chocolate tart. A full vegetarian menu is available, as is a special one for the little guys in the family. Served between 11:30am and 4:30pm, the meal is $75 without wine pairings, or $95 with. The restaurant then closes for a short four-day break, offering the staff a wonderful holiday of their own, so one need feel no guilt at being so well-served.
The Applewood Inn (13555 Hwy. 116, Guerneville, 800.555.8509) also lays on the edible swank for Christmas Eve, offering a four-course lesson in divinity that could include such comestibles as parsnip soup with crisp greens and cinnamon oil, duck confit and caramelized onion buckwheat crêpe with Humboldt fog cheese and watercress, perhaps finishing with pomegranate sorbet and Meyer lemon cookies. The meal is $65 per person and seatings begin at 5pm.
Saddles Steakhouse (within the MacArthur Place hotel, 707.933.3191, www.macarthurplace.com) this year tries out two different menus for Christmas Day dinner, offering a compacted version of its regular megasteak menu as well as a four-course prix fixe slate that ranges from oyster bisque to venison to a chestnut rum creamcake. Indeed. Regular menu entrées range between $20.95 and $52.95; the prix fixe is $60 per person.
The less traditional may wish to go wild this Christmas, and the good folks at Safari West (3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, 707.579.2551) are delighted to oblige. Guests are encouraged to come at 1:30pm for a brief tour of this wild animal preserve and to watch the animals enjoy their own holiday treats. Champagne and fruit drinks follow and a casual meal is served by the Safari West staff. With meals priced at $35 for adults, $15 for children, reservations are bound to go fast.
From the December 14-20, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.