Slow Cooked

Enjoy Lucy’s at your leisure

By Davina Baum

This is the way to eat at Lucy’s: slowly. The Sebastopol eatery, sitting comfortably off the plaza, luxuriates at a pace that approximates the passage of the ages. No matter what time of day, what server, or what you order, Lucy’s is just slow.

Not to say that this is a bad thing. Lucy’s, which moved into its current location from a smaller space on North Main Street a year ago, is a pleasure–an expensive, slow pleasure, but still a pleasure.

In forfeiting its Sebastopol Avenue entrance (the door onto the street is just an emergency exit), Lucy’s turns its focus toward the plaza. A newly added outdoor seating area provides ample entertainment on Sunday market days and warm evenings.

Lined with brick walls and an open kitchen, the dining area is set off from the more casual cafe and bakery space; the two brick ovens tease diners with what’s to come as they pass by to their seats. The soft lighting, dark wood tables, and sleek, curving bar create a thorough warmth in a space that could easily seem cavernous. Large abstract paintings by co-owner Chloe Beard adorn the walls. Chloe’s partner (in life and business), Jonathan Beard, usually works the kitchen while she serves as maitre d’.

A swanky bar menu sets the mood. Lucy’s version of the Cuban mojito ($7.25) is light and summery, muddled well with fresh mint. The sidecar ($6) is sugary sweet and packs a brandy punch–a perfect autumn evening cocktail. Once the drinks come, we turn to the menus, surpassing Lucy’s friendly staff at their own slow-paced game.

Jonathan Beard calls the menu “Mediterranean-influenced,” and the influences come in the form of dishes abundant with southern European delights such as goat cheese, olives, seafood, and grilled meats. A proximity to the Sunday farmers market has encouraged connections aplenty, and most of the produce is locally grown.

The hazelnut-encrusted baked goat-cheese salad ($8.75) features said baked goat cheese as the star; a generous round of the nutty, crumbly good stuff sits on top of locally grown greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives doused lightly in a balsamic vinaigrette. The roasted beet salad ($8.75) also has a healthy dose of goat cheese. The deep red vegetables, roasted to rich perfection, sit happily aside walnuts, frisée, marinated red onions, and the tasty cheese.

The busy brick ovens spit out perfect crackly-crusted sourdough pizzas and fat calzones. The seasonal harvest pizza ($13.50) is topped with local grapes, caramelized onions, rosemary, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and pine nuts. The pizzas are a great brunch treat, but on this particular evening we went straight for the entrées.

The grilled local king salmon ($18) is perfectly medium rare and moist. It shines far brighter than the lackluster rice pilaf and arugula and tomato salad it sits with. Competent grilling lets the salmon speak for itself–no overpowering sauces or toppings.

The grilled Delmonico rib-eye steak ($21.50), however, is topped with a far-too-generous slab of tarragon butter, making the dish a greasy mess once it all melts. The butter-topped steak sits atop garlic mashed potatoes, which ensures a fat-and-cholesterol-laden decadence worthy of the finest hedonist. Lightly sautéed French beans add a touch of greenery.

To add heart attack to injury, we inhale a plate of garlic and sage yam fries ($5), cut into shoestring size–light on the sage and heavy on the garlic–and served with spicy homemade ketchup.

In fact, all the condiments at Lucy’s are homemade. Weekend breakfasts come with homemade ketchup, hot sauce, and jam. Good scrambles, omelettes, and fritattas dominate the menu on the weekends, though the ricotta pancakes are moist and delicious–definitely worth a try.

Lazy Sunday brunches are also the time to taste the magic that comes out of those big brick ovens. Lucy’s always has a table at the Sunday market, but any weekend morning can provide the opportunity to taste fresh baked bread, bagels, pastries, and granola, all made with organic flour.

The wine list features a good range of local and foreign wines. A glass of Fox Creek Verdelho ($6) from Australia is nice and crisp. Verdelho is a Portuguese grape that’s often used for making port, but those wily Australians have captured it and turned it into a refreshing pineapple-tinged wine. The Noceto Sangiovese ($6.25) from the Sierra foothills is a medium-bodied, cherry-rich wine.

The dessert list is short and sweet (all the treats are made in-house too). We settle for the white Russian crème brûlée, a variation on the classic that perhaps should never have been tampered with. This version is rich with Kahlua. It’s too cold in the center, though–it should be room temperature–and someone was a little too liberal with the blowtorch: the top is charred.

A meal at Lucy’s can be expensive but doesn’t have to break the bank. Careful choosing can moderate the damage. Two salads, a shared pizza, and wine would make a great dinner for two, and you could get out of there having spent under $50. Still, for most people, that’s a special-occasion price tag, pushing Lucy’s into the expensive category.

With K&L Bistro down the street vying for best-in-town fine-dining status, Lucy’s would do best not to compete with prices there and instead position itself as a casual, everyday option. My advice may not carry much weight, though, considering that Lucy’s still manages to fill up tables every weekend. It’s the good food that does it–and a casual warmth that makes patrons feel welcome.

But don’t go if you’re in a hurry.

Lucy’s, 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. 707.829.9713. Open for brunch Saturday- Sunday, 9am-2pm; dinner nightly, 5:30-10pm.

From the October 17-23, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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