Waiting outside Paul Martin’s for the rest of my party, I plopped myself on the lounge chair and watched the waiters pull one last drag from their cigarettes as waiters are wont to do before the Friday night rush arrived. Ashley had finally pulled Elise and me together for a meal over at the new Roseville restaurant that had been receiving so many online accolades.
I met up with the two lovely ladies and after an exchange of kisses, hugs, and pleasantries we meandered inside. The décor is, in HGTV speak, very prohibition-era steakhouse via Chicago/SF with a contemporary twist. The dim light inside prevented me from taking my own pictures (all food pics here come from Ashley), but it’s all very warm, softly lit, and very romantic. A lot of soft woods, pinpoint colorful lighting along with large jaunty drum chandeliers, and a long bar paralleled by dimensional mirrors and an astounding wine display welcome you in.
The seating is wide and open, designed to allow people to hang out and relax. Brian Bennett, one of the managers, pointed out to us a deliberate absence of two-top tables so that people would feel free to just throw their stuff down on the table and enjoy themselves. The seating is laid back, wide, and comfortable. Like napping comfortable.
One negative, and this a complete personal note, is it reminded me of the Laguna Beach area of Orange County, CA where I grew up. Very posh, very Here and Now, designed to be the new cool place where all the people who sat at the cool table in high school and the socialites come to be seen. It's a personal irk when I see this much name brand clothing and botox, but the food rocks my socks and the design really is quite shibby so just learn to ignore it.
As we walked to our seating we were intercepted by Mr. Paul Martin Fleming, the man who put the P.F. in the P.F. Chang’s, and owner of Paul Martin’s. He was snacking on a charcruterie board with his dining companions. Paul filled us in on some of the workings of the restaurant and his philosophy and practice of using local products (which in turn led to a vibrant discussion of nearby wineries and local persimmon farms). We then turned to the widespread utilization of blogs as an ever growing source of information, which of course I was vocally agreeing with thankyouverymuch.
Personally I found the fact that the staff and given three full meals astounded me. Since prep work begins in the early morning and produce and bread are coming in fresh daily (the bread that day came just as the first lunch guests sat down, the bread having only been baked a few hours earlier) the staff need to be fed. The staff eat the same things served to the guests and thus have first hand knowledge of all of the products and their sources and can accurately describe and recommend the various dishes. It also ensures that not a single piece of food goes to waste, so props.
As a former coffee house slave I'm very happy to see a manager who so firmly believes in the economic algebraic equation of Happy Workers = Good/Productive/Eager to Learn Workers. Snaps to the management. I have had more than enough bad waiters ruins my nights before, and any time a waiter/waitress is efficient and intelligent it just makes the whole dining out experience so much more pleasurable.
Back to the meal, once we were seated we ordered the butcher's board to begin, a fine tray of local artisan salume and cheeses with some coarse grain mustard, olives brined and cured by the restaurant, and caper berries. The caper berries were delicious salty and well brined. The olives were flavored with parsley, lemon, and rosemary and we all were snatching them up as fast as possible.
The Point Reyes bleu cheese was tepid and perfect, without too much bite so that you could enjoy it and the other cheeses afterwards and not only taste BLEU. The Laurel Chanel goat cheese shmeared perfectly over the bread, then the creamy Winchester Farms gouda followed up well, though I prefer gouda to be smoked and have a creamier taste.
The salume were just... my god... amazing. The boccalone salame had delicious fatty bits, with fennel and orange zest, which was delicious when paired with a smokey Sangiovese. We all had our favorite and they were devoured with the utmost refined carnage you might have ever witnessed at a dining table. Duels were fought over the remaining translucent slivers of meat. My personal fave was a delicious Lonzo boccalone that was mild and salty, with a bit of smoke.
Then the small dishes came and the eating really began...
Read part II.