Insalatas Restaurant – A Diner’s Home Away From Home
By Kaye Cloutman
Photography by Pierre Gussman
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we will always jump at the chance to visit Marin County; not just because of the picturesque drive but because it is home to one of my current favorite dining spots – Insalatas. For more than 20 years, Executive Chef Heidi Krahling and her staff have provided guests with memorable dining experiences and top-shelf service. It just feels like you’re family there; Insalatas has very much been a landmark in the community and has become an extended home to many people in the neighborhood. The wonderful ambience and the ivy-covered walls of the building immediately make me feel nostalgic. As you walk in, you’ll notice a takeout corner where freshly prepared salads, appetizers, entrees and pastries await. Insalatas is a bustling destination and really popular during lunch for people on the go who want to grab a quick healthy bite.
The Nurturing Chef
I remember meeting Chef Krahling a few years ago at Marinitas, a restaurant she co-owned which is also located in San Anselmo, when she prepared a party for Chef Rick Bayless who had just won Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV. Almost like a Fiesta, the venue was packed and the food and drinks were overflowing. I guess from then on I couldn’t shake Chef Heidi off my mind. As Rick Bayless announced at the end of the party, “I would like to thank the lovely Heidi Krahling for opening up her restaurant to me and my family and for throwing such a grand welcoming party for us.” – And a rare thing occurred, instead of basking in the limelight herself, Heidi rushed to the kitchen to get her whole crew out and have them be the center of attention and stars of the evening. It spoke volumes about her and during my visit to Insalatas – I felt the same encouraging energy and trust she had for her kitchen crew.
Insalatas’ Superb Kitchen Crew
First off, let me tell you how fascinated I was to get to know her with her young Insalatas Chefs Taylor Carnes and Mariko Wilkinson since I adore seeing fresh faces behind superb dishes. Both definitely had a great command of the kitchen and it was a joy to speak with them.
When asked what dish represented them, Chef Taylor exclaimed he’ll be “a good ol’ cut of steak preferably a rib-eye or New York with fish sauce vinaigrette and some fresh herbs like basil and cilantro. It’ll be grass-fed and organic with the fish sauce, giving that great combination of freshness and salty umami flavor, because I really tend to go Asian outside work and when cooking for myself”.
The charming Mariko cuts in and adds she’s almost like a caprese salad. “For this season, I am thinking simplistic too – There’s nothing more I love this time than the combination of flavors of a really good heirloom tomato, the best burrata and basil, drizzled with really good olive oil and huge chunks of Maldon Sea Salt everywhere” she says, then Chef Taylor jokingly adds “but don’t get us wrong, we love nothing more than a seared foie gras with truffle reduction sauce”.
As for Pastry Chef Bruce Johnston who just presented us with a divine galette dish that reminded me so much of my grandma, his version of it was just simply a watermelon. “I grew up on the East Coast and suffered the “dog days” of summer. I happen to celebrate my birthday during this time too so I guess for me, what really brings me back to my childhood is a huge juicy watermelon. I would just stick candles on it like a birthday cake.”
And let’s not forget general manager Jim Warren , who so eloquently explained all the wine varietals poured that day and how he carefully worked on the flavor profiles and pairing them together. Gracious and always with a helpful demeanor, it isn’t any wonder why the staff and service is impeccable too. In any season or for any mood, Insalatas is a place like home – consistent, stable, a retreat I can always count on, where great dining and friends await.
Check out their current offerings here
Trio of Dips with Warm Pita
Hummus with parsely garlic verde, eggplant tarator, taramasalata
Syrian Fattoush Salad
Romaine, toasted pita, feta cheese, onions, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, cilantro, mint, lemon vinaigrette
Grilled Salmon, summer succotash with Hobbs bacon, fingerling potatoes, oven roasted garlic and tomatoes, basil aoili
paired with Domaine de Sainte Rose, Coquille D’OC 2011
Rock Shrimp Puttanesca, orecchiette, rock shrimp, sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, and sweet basil
paired with 2009 Fidelity, Merlot/Cab.,Alexander Valley
Athenian Cream, theyme infused panna cotta with baklava and orange-honey syrup
Nectarine Almond Galette with Vanilla Ice cream
paired with 2007 Quady, “Essencia”, Orange Muscat
Join them on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings in September for their $29.50 prix fixe menu.
All Dishes are available ala carte.
September 4 – 6
Shaved Zucchini Ribbons, Pecorino, Almonds, Fried Quinoa
Grilled Flatiron Steak, Heirloom Tomato & Arugula Salad, Horseradish Salsa Verde
Peach Pistachio Melba
2010 Lee Family Farms, Verdelho, Lodi
2010 Alamos, Malbec, Argentina
September 11 – 13
Trio of Tomato Crostinis
Grilled Gulf Prawn Salad, Tomatillo Salsa
Spiced Tea Pudding, Lime Caramel, Candied Cashews
2011 Balletto Rose, Russian River Valley
2009 Cotes Du Ventoux, Grenache, France
September 18 – 20
Trio of Summer Peppers
Pan Seared Flounder, Oven Roasted Tomato-Fennel Gratin
Pear Frangipane Tart with Bourbon Caramel
2010 Domaine de la Citadelle, Luberon, France
2011 Domaine de Sainte Rose, Languedoc, France
September 25 – 27
Fresh Shelling Bean Soup
Braised Lamb Shoulder on Sweet Corn-Farro Risotto
Semolina Cake with Drunken Grapes
2010 Sempre Vive, Sauvignon Blanc
2009 Ducasse Merlot, Graves, France
120 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard San Anselmo, CA 94960