This is not a riddle. It was a dream of mine for many years and still is. Back in the days when we were poor students, we used to go to Three Star restaurants in France and look at the lunch menu (the lunch menu was usually much less expensive than dinner). My father once told me that during the potato famine in Ireland, the children got "point," that is, they got to point at the food, but the breadwinner got to eat it. I guess the point is, we got to "look" at the menu. That didn't stop us from deciding what we would have for entree, plat, et dessert or maybe we settled on the "prix fixe" menu. We made note of the cost and proceeded to a One Star restaurant, or as close to that as we could afford, and had lunch at "one-third" the cost. That was back in the days of "France On $5 & $10 A Day" by Frommer who actually went to the restaurants in those days before he got rich. Anyway, we had many wonderful meals and many wonderful house wines that way and figured we saved the difference in cost between three stars and one star which amounted to hundreds of non-inflation adjusted dollars.
This culinary tripping led to the fantasy of the restaurant with the ultimate Michelin rating of one Knife & Fork and Three Stars. To this day, I still prefer the informality of a Bistro, Relais des Routiers, Brasserie or Cafe to the starchiness of white table clothes and waiters dressed up as penguins, though I must admit to having enjoyed some fabulous meals and wine in such settings. I never have realized the fantasy of 1KF&***, though I have found some fabulous 1K&F*, and even a few 1K&F** in France, almost always in the countryside in small towns.
Having dinner at Baci in Healdsberg made me realize that I have found several 1KFs with at least one star in the U.S. With Baci I may actually have scored my first and possibly only 1KF***. After a long hard day in the vineyards, we landed at Baci which initially appeared to be a traditional wood-paneled Italian restaurant behind a very plain exterior. Just reading the wine list was almost enough to revive us. A glass of 2007 Ramazzoti Dry Creek Chardonnay did the trick! The wine is unoaked and fresh with the perfect balance of fruit and stone. My wife was kind enough to share her glass of 2007 Gustafson Estate Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel - big, charming and old-fashioned in a style that is becoming increasingly rare. We loved it!
The Baci wine list is clever and in my experience unique. Baci offers "featured wines by the glass." Baci finds relatively new, small or obscure wineries and features their wines as glass pours and the prices are amazingly reasonable. This benefits everybody - Baci has a great list, the wineries get exposure, and we get to drink great wine at a reasonable price. In addition to Ramazzoti and Gustafson, Ardente from Napa and Mueller from the Russian River were featured wineries. The rest of the extensive wine list covers the waterfront.
The food - OMG! Perfectly prepared Carpaccio - thin, flavorful, melt in your mouth raw beef, shaved Parmigiano, Capers, Lemon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil - to die from, err, I mean "for." Insalate Baci - a perfect and creative chopped salad featuring Romaine, Carrots, Celery, Peppers, Cucumbers, Mushrooms, Italian Parsley, Lemon Balsalmic Vinaigrette. Segundo Piatti - Agnolletti D'Aragosta - Round, Homemade Pasta filled with Lobster,Prosciutto, and Ricotta in a Lobster Cream Sauce - truly to die from - fabulous - truly Michelin three star, Gault- Millau three toques (19), exquisite. Vitello Piccata - The best Veal Piccata I've ever had - for once the veal was not pounded to death and overcooked - actually pink and juicy in the the middle. I wish Shara was my personal chef - dream on...
You must get here before it is "discovered." The locals have already discovered it, now you must (don't forget you can fly directly into Santa Rosa from Seattle on Alaska Air) Check out their website: http://www.bacicafeandwinebar.com
where you will find out the secret of this international style restaurant in a little town in Sonoma. How did Gustafson from Minnesota get on the list? Owner Lsibeth Holmesford is from Norway. Chef Shari's family originally hails from Persia and he is a world traveller. Michael, our waiter,originally hails from the Czech Republic, but after 32 years in the U.S. he has not forgotten the European tradition of service - quiet, smooth, attentive, accomodating, impeccable - thank you, Michael! Let's see! Baci! Kisses! The motto? "Vorrei Coprir La Tua Bocca Di Baci, Per Dirti Quanto Mi Piaci" My rough translation - "I would like to cover your mouth with kisses, to tell you how much you please me" Baci's translation - May I cover your lips with kisse to tell you how much I like you" Well, I certainly like you! I think I love you!You guys must have been kissed on the forehead by God. OK, OK, so maybe it's not one knife and fork, maybe it's two. Per que, no!