St. Helena, it was good to see you again. As Cori Sue and I were making our way around wine country, traveling from the Sonoma region to the Napa Valley region, I was delighted that we would be spending a good amount of our short time there in St. Helena, a small, quaint, and friendly town in the heart of Napa Valley.
St. Helena is home to some of the best restaurants, hotels, and above all, wine, in the United States. It’s home to a vibrant community that celebrates all things food, wine, hospitality, art, health, and wellness. As in, people bike 100 miles a day, and then head to their favorite wine room immediately after. St. Helena is a quintessential part of the California wine country experience.
When Cori Sue informed me we had been invited to brunch at Goose & Gander in St. Helena, I knew it would be spectacular, as are the majority of restaurants in the Napa Valley area. (Ahem, Thomas Keller.) Goose and Gander is a quaint restaurant housed in a 1920s colonial home. As you walk into the garden towards the front door, you will see a gorgeous open patio to the left.
Upon entering the restaurant, Cori Sue and I were instantly enchanted by the cozy environment on the inside; a stone fireplace burning wood, tufted leather booths amid red painted walls, and bookshelves lining the walls with selected works of all different authors and genres. The space is unpretentious and inviting. And, although it is reminiscent of a gentlemen-only cigar club or the ideal man-cave, it’s still the type of place you would want to grab drinks with girlfriends.
While the weather in the Bay Area had been consistently windy and not as warm as we would have preferred, our last day in California gifted us gorgeous, warm sunshine, and a light breeze. It was a no-brainer that Cori Sue and I would opt to sit on the patio.
As we sat at our table and were greeted by our server, we were immediately drawn to the cocktail list. After drinking so much wine that weekend, we were excited to change it up and to indulge in refreshing adult beverages. We had chosen the perfect place to do so, as we were informed that the restaurant is home to one of the best cocktail programs in St. Helena, with a basement cocktail bar that specializes in unique craft cocktails and is a favorite among locals.
Having felt under-the-weather the day before, Cori Sue selected the rosemary-pear shrub, with gin, ginger, lemon, and seltzer. Less the alcohol, we argued that the other ingredients were health-rearing super foods. I went with Cucumber Collins, a favorite of mine. This one was unique in that had the addition of Yuzo, pickled cucumber, and huckleberries. Both of our beverages were not only beautiful, but well-balanced, refreshing—and most importantly—memorable.
The menu offered unique and delicious-sounding dishes, the majority of which we were anxious to try. After one look at how beautiful our beverages were presented, we had no doubt that the food would be equally impressive. Therefore, we decided to order a bunch of dishes at once, and have them arrive to the table all together for those perfect Insta-worthy shots.
We choose two starters; the heirloom beets and burrata, and the smoked corn croquettes. The beets were such a beautiful dish, served with rich burrata, endives, fennel, basil, and balsamic, and finished with a Sicilian pistachio crumble. This was the perfect combination of flavors and— simply put—was an incredible salad.
The croquettes were equally as delicious. Served with a roasted red pepper sauce, they were fried to a crisp, golden brown and seasoned perfectly. I chose these over a side of the duck fat fries after much deliberation, and did not regret my decision one bit.
Being it was our last meal in wine country and our final opportunity to overindulge before heading home to detox for a few days, we seized the moment and ordered some cheese as well. A single serving of cheese was served with pistachios, fresh, local jam and delicious, crispy crackers. It was the classic wine-country presentation. They were all delicious and made us both really happy; we laughed thinking about how it must be near impossible to have bad cheese in this region of California. It is!
I could not resist from ordering the huevos rancheros. This is a favorite brunch item of mine and I am always excited to see when restaurants take a unique approach to the classic dish. In Goose and Gander’s case, this was in the form of the addition of duck fat refried beans and and a lime crema. Two perfectly over-easy eggs came atop two masa a la plancha tortillas; essentially the Central and South American version of a thick, pizza dough-like, corn tortilla.
Wow, did I enjoy this dish. It was simple, yet had complex flavors, and the refried beans were undeniably delicious, especially coming from a gal who doesn’t like refried beans typically. As the egg yolk oozed around the dish, adding a richness, the tortilla remained crunchy without ever getting soggy.
Cori Sue, excited to eat again after her short bout with a stomach bug, had big eyes and chose the Korean beef dish. Having maybe glanced at the menu too fast, or ordered so rushed that she didn’t read the full description, she was surprised to find the dish in the form of a sandwich, since she normally steers away from bread thanks to a slight gluten-intolerance.
Totally fine with this, she just merely pushed the bun aside and dug into her dish. Served with a side of sweet potato fries and sesame mayo, the sandwich was delicious, moist beef served with kimchi, Asian pear, and topped with a fried egg. This was the perfect, hearty dish to satiate her hunger and to keep her full after feeling under the weather. The beer was incredible, and the egg was fried perfectly. Normally, she prefers regular French fries but these sweet potatoes were on point.
Satiated and fully prepared to relax and finish our cocktails, while enjoying the fountain bubbling into the koi pond behind us, we were nonetheless delighted when our server presented us with one last dish to finish to our meal, the chocolate brioche served with a banana ice cream. Needless to say, it was the definition of a sweet finish, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Upon finishing our meal we got to chat with the owner for a moment, and I was so excited when I discovered he was originally from Chicago and had grown up in the restaurant industry in my city, where his family owned some pretty prominent Chicago restaurants. It is clear that the industry is in his blood, and that he, his wife, and their team of chefs and servers love what they do and are a great representation of what Goose and Gander seems to be all about; great food and great company in a relaxed setting.
The Bitches say: A+. If you’re in Napa, we highly recommend this restaurant. A true gem in the heart of St. Helena, it’s the perfect spot for a relaxed brunch by day, or fancy cocktails and dinner in the evening. The patio is perfect for sitting outside even when it is chilly, thanks to the heat lamps. We will definitely be back to this must-visit spot.
Goose & Gander
1245 Spring St.
St. Helena, California 94574