Preserve at Winters
One of my favorite pastimes is going on a spontaneous road trip. Since my son has been born, those trips have been far and few between. On a late Saturday afternoon in December, my family and I hopped in the car and went for a drive. Typically my weekends are spent catching up on chores, be it washing laundry or cleaning our home. It felt good to be out in the fresh air and admiring familiar but new scenery. Our destination was towards the coast but we found ourselves discovering new roads together and decided to head north instead.
Winters, California is located 36 miles northwest of Sacramento. The last time I visited this town was in the early 90’s for my mother’s company Christmas party at Buckhorn Steakhouse which happens to be the first place I tasted juicy rack of lamb. Slightly hungry and mostly curious, during the drive I did a little research to find a family friendly place to eat and perhaps an attraction or two. Similar to the city of Sacramento, Winters totes itself as a farm-to-fork town. They pride themselves on their assortment of local fruit and nut farms and as the gateway to the Napa Valley. I was intrigued at the potential dining options. However, of the few quaint restaurants and cafes in the area, which one was going to be accommodating for a nine month old infant?
After surveying Putah Creek Café, a local taqueria and Ficelle, we ended up choosing to eat at Preserve. There is also Preserve Market but the menu at Preserve proper looked more enticing. This particular restaurant has only been in business for a couple of years but it is highly recommended that reservations are made in advance. Since it’s that time of year when companies are holding their holiday parties, my family and I experienced a 15 to 20 minute wait. We were invited to grab a drink at the bar which also serves the full menu but these days it just doesn’t seem appropriate to bring the baby up there with us. Taking turns passing the baby back and forth, we admired the beautiful décor as our table was being prepared for us. The interior design of the restaurant contains a mix of dark woods, soft pillows, plenty of natural light and family style seating. Christmas lights and garlands adorned the full bar located front and center of the restaurant with a visible and extensive wine rack directly behind it. If my son were not with us, I would have happily sat at the bar to enjoy the basketball game and our meal. It is a spacious but fairly small restaurant with only two very beautiful unisex bathrooms. (Parents: don’t expect to see a changing table inside. Do expect to be able to take an awesome selfie in front of their full length mirror.) I’d speak more to the design and I probably should have snapped a few photos but I was there primarily to have a late lunch and early dinner. Make a note for yourself to see it in person and at least stay for a drink!
After being seated at our table, the hostess brought a highchair for the little guy and we proceed to further analyze the menu. We had a fairly good idea of what we wanted but I was intent on ordering a small plate or two in advance so my son had something to munch on while we waited for our entrees. For being late in the afternoon the restaurant was busy and there was only one waitress on the floor. Fortunately my son was preoccupied with his reflection in the mirrors. For those who have kids and choose not to provide them with a digital device, the restaurant has color pencils and coloring papers on hand. A fresh, hot loaf of sourdough bread and honey butter arrived at our table. Following the bread was a delectable poutine in a mini cast iron pan. The poutine consisted of thick French fried potatoes, tasty homemade gravy, mozzarella cheese curds, and smoked pork belly topped with a fried egg. I was delighted to find the gravy not salty as sometimes restaurants get carried away.
In between bites, we managed to order a glass of Heringer Moscato and one glass of Sonoma County Pinot Grigio. Since the birth of my son I haven’t had a chance to enjoy a glass of wine so this was an absolute treat. My family and I continued to munch on our appetizers. Since the starters were this good, we could hardly wait to taste our main course! Before we could make a dent in the poutine, our entrees arrived hot and fresh. For me the Berryessa Burger and for my dining partner the mac and cheese. The Berryessa burger is made with Niman Ranch beef, aged cheddar, summer tomato jam, butter leaf lettuce, garlic aioli, pickles, and was cooked to order with a side of fries. I also added a fried egg and avocado for more protein and healthy fats. My son loves avocado so this was a no brainer. The mac and cheese was made with penne pasta, aged cheddar, fontina, mozzarella, garlic formage blanc, chive and topped with a fried egg. To be honest, I was torn between ordering a burger or the mac and cheese so our choices worked out great because we were able to share.
Clearly our eyes were bigger than our tummies. Cheers to the chef for customizing a few parts of our order as well! We packed up our leftovers and proceeded to explore the rest of the charming town. The infamous Buckhorn Steakhouse is a neighbor to Preserve. Boutique shops, art spaces, an old school Ace hardware store and a bookshop fill spaces in between the restaurants. I find it refreshing to be in an environment without big corporate box stores and fast food chains. Watching people stroll along the sidewalk, hand-in-hand, who take the time to admire a window display; to be in a place where ranch style homes still exist and neighbors aren’t on top of you.
Is it because I’m getting older or is the small town, simple life looking more and more enticing?