Yellow lights string between the overarching trees, casting a glow across the graveled patio between The Blue Wing Saloon and the Tallman Hotel. A horse trough turned fountain bubbles to the left, with two child-sized chairs placed in front of it. Under the protection of the Tallman’s veranda, The Majide Trio smooths the night with their easygoing, relaxing jazz. The evening still holds the warmth of the day, but it’s pleasant, flip flop weather. It’s summer in Northern California.
Trudy and I sit at a table, soaking in the night. I sip on a Mendo Sour. It’s a delicate balance of pucker and sweet; the sour mix and lime dance with the sweetness of the blueberry purée and a sugared rim.
“You have to try this.” Trudy hands me the French 75, the most popular cocktail at The Blue Wing. “It tastes like summer nights.” Sparkling wine and lemon juice create high citrus notes, backed by the distinct brightness of the Russel Henry Hawaiian Ginger Rum.
A few minutes earlier, when we told our waitress Becca to order us whatever she chose for the night, her eyes lit up. “Really?” she eagerly asked.
“Yes, really,” we both reply.
“Oh, I hope that I can get you the chicken. It’s the best.” She soon returns with a dish of fried green beans with chipotle aioli on the side. Each bite combines the firm texture of the green bean with the crunch of the breadcrumbs and is particularly good when combined with the smoky notes of the aioli. “I checked with Pablo, our executive chef, and we can do the chicken,” Becca continues. “I’m really excited.” She makes sure we’re comfortable, then heads off to serve another table.
Trudy and I settle in with the green beans, listen to the music, and sip on our cocktails. Soon the Quinoa Spinach Salad comes. Bright, fresh, and balanced, the earthiness of quinoa, spinach and roasted corn brighten with the smoothness of avocado and the tang of pickled onion and the happiness of champagne vinaigrette.
The Majide Trio slides effortlessly into a new song. A gentle breeze sways the overhanging leaves. By the time Becca returns with two glasses of wine and the main course, I’m beginning to be full. But how can I turn down the lamb chops spread across the plate in front of me?
A beautiful plateful of chicken and fresh vegetables sits across the table in front of Trudy. She takes a bite. “Oh David, it’s magic,” she says, soaking in the flavors. “You need to try this.”
“Give me a second,” I reply. “I haven’t had the lamb yet.” Three chops sit on a bed of mashed potatoes, each dolloped with apricot compote. I slice a small section of the broccolini sitting on the side, take a hint of potatoes, and combine it with a small bite of the lamb and compote. The tang of the apricot hits first, followed by the earthiness of the seared lamb. Then, as the flavors blend, it creates a harmony of texture, sweet and smoky. I take another bite, then sip the Brassfield Pinot Noir Becca chose for the pairing; the sear of the lamb and the silky smoothness of the wine work together well.
“You really need to try the chicken, David,” Trudy reminds me. We swap plates, and I cut a small piece, dip it in the lemon au jus, and taste it. The texture of the chicken is soft, juicy, tender. It dissolves in the mouth. The au jus is both bright and hearty, lingering on the tongue.
“The lemon complements it so well. It’s like heaven.” She takes another bite, then sips on the Gregory Graham Chardonnay Becca paired with it. For a few seconds after that, she says nothing. “Okay,” she continues. “You need to try another bite with the wine.”
I put another piece of chicken on my fork, then taste it with the wine. The buttery notes of the Chardonnay blend with the butteriness of the chicken, while the lemon in the chicken tangs with the wine. It’s exquisite, delicate, and delightful.
We settle down to eating. The Majide Trio continues to play, creating a summer feel to the patio with each note. Laughter comes from the tables; everyone’s in a good mood and enjoying the food, drinks, and music.
Finally, dessert comes. In a half-pint mason jar sits the Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding, whipped cream mounded above it, covered in chocolate shavings and drizzled with butterscotch caramel. It’s decadently rich, filled with the toastiness of butterscotch, the vanilla oakiness of the bourbon, and the creaminess of the pudding and whipped cream.
It’s been an hour and a half. The Majide Trio is slowing down, giving their thank-yous, and playing one last song. Three-quarters of the patio has emptied, but a few music lovers still sit, soaking up the final notes of music. Dusk has already passed, and the yellow lights hanging between the trees glow warmly in the darkness.
Dinner’s over, but still Trudy and I linger just a few minutes longer. Soft voices still float through the air, but night has set in, and the music is slowly replaced with the sound of crickets. It’s been a perfect evening, and soon we head over to our room, carrying what’s left of our wine with us to enjoy into the night.
For more information on The Tallman Hotel, The Blue Wing Saloon, and their regular music events, visit their website.