When looking for dining options for our weekend in Healdsburg, there were a ton of options. Many of them seemed were those farm-to-table options that are so in these days, but for some reason, the menu at Valette just read better. (I think it’s because one of the options wasn’t chicken like the majority of the other places.) I did manage to grab a slightly late booking, but given we were going to be eating and drinking all day with the Wine and Food Affair, I thought maybe it would be a better option for us to work up an appetite and to wind down a bit from running around and trying a lot of wine. (We did get to wind down in the hot tub at the hotel, so it definitely was a good idea!) It also gave us time to walk over there, which was a nice change since we did a lot of driving around for the two days.
We arrived to a very laid back restaurant and studied the menu. While there were quite a few things on the menu that looked interesting, we decided the “Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ Tasting menu” was the way to go. You can choose the number of courses you want at $15 a course with a minimum of four courses required. We went for six, even though the server suggested five. He asked us if there was anything we probably wouldn’t want, and after discussing it with him, we sat back and waited for our courses to arrive. We also ordered a bottle of wine, and they have quite an extensive menu (all available for your perusal on an iPad) including several rare and old cellar wines (which we decided later in the evening was a great choice for a bottle).
The tasting menu does get a bit strange as the two of us were often presented with different dishes for each course. For example, the first course we had, there was a beautiful looking steak tartare and a seared ahi tuna. Of course, we both wanted to try the dishes, so we tried to split them as evenly as possible and share, but it is a bit of a strange concept to serve different things to different people at the table. I guess we got to try more that way, but it’s still confusing. That being said, both the dishes were pretty fantastic, and it was quite difficult to decide which one may be the better dish.
Next up we were again presented with two different dishes: pumpkin soup and seared foie gras. It’s hard to not want to eat all the foie gras when it’s put in front of you, but I managed to swap it out for half the soup. The soup was actually the better of the two, as it was full of pumpkin flavor and had some fried goodies in the middle. I always love foie gras, but it was definitely a more traditional way to make it, so it didn’t have the freshness and originality of the soup.
Our third course was the same for both of us. We were served one of the restaurant’s signature dishes: Scallops en croute. They are baked in a pan with fennel and topped with a puff pastry brushed with squid ink. It looks impressive when they bring it to the table, and it definitely tasted as good as it looked. I wasn’t convinced it should be called “en croute” as the scallops aren’t completely encapsulated in pastry, but the dish is delicious, so I guess I shouldn’t care what they call it. The scallops were well cooked, and the fennel really complimented the dish. It’s something I may have to attempt to recreate at home.
For the fourth course, we were again presented with the same dish. This time it was cod served with an espelette pepper vinaigrette. Espelette pepper is one of my favorite spices, so I was really excited, but the dish itself didn’t wow me. (Which is a bit hard to do with fish dishes I’m afraid.) Also, it was served on a slate, so the vinaigrette flooded off of the slate onto the table and made a bit of a mess. Seriously, slates? Just serve it on a plate. I don’t really think anyone would care, and it’s much less of a mess.
I think this is the time we decided an old bottle of wine was necessary, so we had a fantastic 1999 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Fay Cabernet Sauvignon. Which was weirdly not incredibly more expensive than you may buy a current release at the winery. I’m not sure how they managed to give such a great price, but perhaps it’s a testament to their wine list. I also got introduced to The Durand Corkscrew when they opened the bottle, and I was really intrigued by the design developed for opening older bottles of wine.
The fifth course was the meat course, and we were again presented with two different dishes. One of them was a wagyu steak with mushrooms and the other was a pork porterhouse. While the beef was absolutely fantastic with a great umami burst (although a tad underseasoned), the winner was definitely the porterhouse which was cooked really well and had a great hit of sweetness from the apples they used to cook with it. The only downside were the undercooked sprouts, but both dishes were really good.
At this point we commented that we were getting quite full. Apparently five courses is the sweet spot unless you’re very hungry. Our waiter told us that because we said that, we were just going to get a small dessert course coming out. The joke was on us as we ended up with three desserts in front of us for our last course. But given the troupers we are, we dug in to give them a try. First up was the It’s Not A “Snickers Bar” dessert, which is basically the flavors of a snickers bar but much fancier. It was really good, but a bit sickly, and I don’t think I could have finished the whole thing. We also had a Carmella Chocolate Semifreddo. It was nice, but it didn’t really wow me sadly. Finally we had the Bread, Butter and Jam which was basically a bit of brioche french toast with some homemade jam and brown butter ice cream. This was definitely the winner of the three with a good hit of sweet and savory notes throughout the dish.
Valette was really a surprise. I chose it because I thought the menu looked more interesting than some of the other places in the area, and it definitely stood up to that. I don’t think it’s perfect yet, as there could be tiny improvements here and there (the seasoning was sometimes slightly off), but the meal was pretty top notch. We definitely did not leave hungry; I felt a bit like Mr. Creosote by the end of it. The service was pretty spectacular too, as the waiter seemed really on point and ready to help out with anything we needed. We also met the owners’ father as he was wandering around the room chatting with people and beaming with pride for his sons. While we were some of the last people there, we were not rushed out even though they were cleaning up and closing. I could definitely see ourselves coming back here several times, hopefully being able to try a few other things on the menu. It’s definitely a great place to have a really amazing meal if you happen to find yourself in Healdsburg.
344 Center St
Healdsburg, CA 95448