Goose and Gander Opens Its Doors In Wine Country Today

Photos by Kanoa Utler and Kevin Osmond Man

Over the weekend, we had the undeniable pleasure of checking out the opening of St. Helena’s latest culinary temptation, Goose and Gander, and had the opportunity to have a chat with Chef Kelly McCown.  Chef Kelly is returning to St. Helena from Ella Dining Room and Bar in Sacramento, and his return disproves the old adage that “you can never go home” – he was actually the original Chef in this very same location when it opened as The Martini House years ago.

GEV: We couldn’t help but notice how delicious this looks – What are you making?

Chef Kelly: These are Confit chicken wings with our version of green goddess dressing, but instead of dairy we use avocado to present it a bit differently. We also use some paprika salt and some shaved heirloom radishes.

GEV:  What dish would you say represents “You” on a plate?

Chef Kelly: Well we are just opening right now so I don’t know if I could say I’ve got one dish that really represents me just yet.

GEV: What’s your “go-to” dish then? Do you have a favorite?

Chef Kelly: I think it’s an overall attitude and not necessarily the food. It’s about making a real comfortable food and a real sense of us (the staff and management) returning this restaurant to the community.

GEV: What were your inspirations for the current dishes served on the menu?

Chef Kelly: I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK. I’m an Irish boy, I’ve got my roots from Ireland so kind of taking with me that UK “Public House” feel in the restaurant. Here in the States you say “Pub” and you kind of think crappy – fries and whatever else, but what I mean is more of a sense of community. Being here in wine country there’s that availability of great food and ingredients, and so many of my friends are wine makers and superb chefs; I wanted to create a cozy place for them and all the people coming to the valley. If you wanted to spend ten minutes here you can, that’s fantastic! Come in and get a quick drink? You can too. If you want to come and spend three hours here – do it! But the idea is that it’s a user-friendly environment, we are here to serve the guest. It’s not me as a chef holding court – does that make sense?

GEV: What kind of food are you serving?

Chef Kelly: We are calling it rustic American. For example we have a plate of that chicken dish we serve but the idea being is that we take a mid-joint chicken wing that comes from Petaluma. It’s a local producer. We take them and we pack them and season them the same way we do with the confit. We season them with local fresh herbs 24 hours and then we cook them in duck fat, and we sprinkle a little smoked paprika salt we make in house, with some local radishes from my friend Barney just up the street, then we make the green goddess dressing. So it’s riffing on those the Pub house classics. Of course instead of a dairy-based green goddess dressing, we made it from avocado but it’s still approachable and we don’t use foam, or sodium amalgamates. I just don’t do that, I kind of cook the food that I like to eat.

GEV: We can’t help but ask this question because of your restaurant’s name but what are your thoughts/sentiments about the imminent possibility of banning Foie Gras in California on July?

Chef Kelly: You know what? The whole Foie Gras thing, one thing about me being a chef, and I know it’s funny but I was never this huge Foie Gras fan. It was never something that was a lynchpin on menus that I did. I can kind of understand what’s going on. But on the other hand I think with everything going on in the world you know and all the brouhaha about the things like this. I just think that if we spent enough time worrying about things such as Monsanto (GMO), we’d see there are bigger issues in the food world than the foie gras thing. I would like it if we spun it a different way. In terms of foie it’s inevitable it’s going to be outlawed, there’s going to be guys smuggling it in. It’s funny because if you read the law it’s not banning foie gras, what it’s banning is the force feeding of particular animals. You could still have ducks running around all over your place and harvest their liver and serve it but it’s not going to be the same animal because there’s no force feeding. But maybe that’s a good idea too!

Maybe there’s an ability to have wild harvested duck liver. Maybe it’s not quite the same “animal” but at least it falls in the realm of the law. Otherwise I think there are bigger issues of concern in the community.

GEV: Aside from obvious reasons, why did you decide to move back to the Wine Country especially considering the fact that Ella in Sacramento was doing so well and is even considered one of GEV’s must-go dining places in the area?

Chef Kelly:  Well actually I’m born and raised in San Francisco, spent eleven years here Napa and when the economy tanked at the time; I was working for Francis Ford Coppola linked to his sales team. When 150
dollar bottles of wine weren’t flying off the shelves they consolidated the company. It was funny because in the last three years of me being there he made three movies; do you know what they were?

GEV: No

Chef Kelly:  There you go, that’s half the problem. So the movies, the printing, the winery, they had to consolidate the company. They are a business, and yet I had the best time there. It was a great job, it was fantastic. They gave me a great severance, and sent me on my way. I ended up looking for a new job throughout the country but wanted to stay close to here, my family and friends are here. So I went to Sacramento. I thought it was an amazing opportunity, you were right there in the farmland. But the problem there was that the food culture is a little disjointed and I don’t think it has anything to do with the mindset of the Sacramento diner, it’s just so spread out. If you were in downtown Sacramento and had to drive 40 min to El Dorado Hills for dinner, and drive back 40 minutes more, it’s not very viable. Working for that family was a great experience but I just needed to get back home. And especially since I have been a chef here before and when I heard about the project I thought that it would be such a great story and wanted to carry on the legacy of the space. This place just has so much history and is one of the most beloved locations in Napa. I’m glad to be home.

WHAT’S THE TIME FRAME?

Goose & Gander, the new wine country gathering place in St. Helena, Calif., located at 1245 Spring Street at Oak – just off Highway 29 (also known as Main Street), is scheduled to open late April 2012.

WHO’S ELSE IS ON THE TEAM?

Bar Manager Scott Beattie will be creating seasonal drinks using quality farmers’ market produce, homemade mixers and top-notch shelf spirits. He was a bartender at the former Martini House when McCown was there and will be tending the Basement Bar.

General Manager Marcus Marquez, last at Sacramento’s L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen, is bringing his enthusiasm and commitment to service excellence to this beloved redesigned restaurant and bar.

Wine Director Cristina Merrigan, a Certified Sommelier, comes to Goose & Gander from Morimoto Napa to head up the wine program that will perfectly complement Chef McCown’s menu.

Proprietor Andrew Florsheim, a seasoned restaurant industry pro, moved from Chicago to Napa Valley three years ago. His company – Oliver Jade Restaurant Management – is coordinating the development and operations of Goose & Gander.

Goose & Gander Group: (L-R) Wine Director Cristina Merrigan, Chef Kelly McCown, General Manager Marcus Marquez and Proprietor Andrew Florsheim

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT NAME – GOOSE & GANDER?

The name is based on the original English proverb popular in the late 1600s, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” which later morphed to “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” This idiom literally is speaking to gender equality, but in the broader context for the restaurant, it’s all about equal treatment, sharing and a sense of community – among the culinary team, the farmers and purveyors and Goose & Gander guests from far and near.

WILL IT BE THE SAME – UPSTAIRS, BASEMENT & IN THE GARDEN?

Throughout the 4,282 square feet, Alexandra Wines Designs has created with Trisha Florsheim spaces that remain true to the charm and warmth of the original 90-year-old craftsman-style bungalow. The exterior entrance has been returned to its former location and glory, flanked by two 100-year-old cedars. An iron gate and flagstone path leads to the grand staircase and into the newly renovated Upstairs dining room seating 65. It’s furnished with big cozy leather booths and tables made from reclaimed old-growth redwood. Comfortable furnishings and accents set the mood for community and celebration with a rustic “duck club” feel. A path veering off the side of the staircase is the way to the intimate “near-perfect” 32-seat Basement Bar that has scarcely been changed. A private dining room seats 12.

The lovely Garden, designed by Jonathan Plant, has been nurtured and enhanced by the addition of new trees and plants, romantic lighting and the installation of fire and water features. Various outdoor locations will provide settings for romantic evenings, festive gatherings and private functions, including the dining area that seats 66 around the original koi pond.

AND FINALLY WHAT WILL BE GOOSE & GANDER’S CLAIM TO FAME?

Locals and visitors are invited to a comfortable place to eat and drink in a wine country setting infused with a new vibrant energy. Goose & Gander will be “the spot” to meet old and new friends, enjoy artisanal cocktails and fine wines and to savor Chef Kelly McCown’s delicious rustic fare at a leisurely and relaxed pace. Chef McCown will offer housemade charcuterie, shareable plates of seasonal temptations such as Hot Skillet Roasted White Prawns, Hand-Pulled Burratta and Hand-cut Steak Tartare. Entrees will include The G&G Burger with Duck Fries, Seared Scottish Salmon and River Stone Pressed Chicken. Something sweet created by Chef McCown might be “The Goose Sundae,” Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart or Coconut Cake with Banana Pastry Cream, Coconut Ice Cream and Crème Anglaise.

THE RESULT: What’s good for the Goose & Gander promises to be good for the local residents and way beyond travelers who want to meet, relax, dine and enjoy a special libation or sip wine at a convivial Wine Country establishment.

HOURS:   

  • Upstairs Dining Room: Daily from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. (Lunch slated to start in May.)
  • Downstairs Basement Bar: Daily from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
  • Garden opening after Memorial Day

ADDRESS:

Goose & Gander
1245 Spring Street at Oak
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: 707-967-8779

Website: www.goosegander.com