Just a breath beyond the arc of the Golden Gate bridge in Sausalito, the Cavallo Point Lodge encompasses a cluster of white-washed former World War II military barracks. History geeks know the structures date back to the early 1900s. But most in-the-know San Franciscans concentrate on the fun part. Cavallo Point's Murray Circle restaurant and its adjacent Farley Bar make up one of the closest hang-outs to San Francisco that actually lets you feel like you're miles and miles away.
Under the leadership of its last chef, Joe Humphrey, the Murray Circle kitchen and its several tasting menu options earned Michelin attention and lots of well-deserved stars from the local critics. But it wasn't exactly the type of restaurant you could pop into for a bite after a long day of work or a weekend day trip to Marin. In June, the powers that be decided to take Murray Circle in a new direction. Chef Humphrey moved on to launch a personal restaurant project called Dixie. He tapped old friend and Auberge du Soleil colleague, Justin Everett, to lead the kitchen forward. Now there's a housemade charcuterie program in place, most diners order a la carte, and the raw bar is kicking.
The most successful visits to Cavallo always start with a glass of bubbly on the deck. After a recent visit to try out Everett's new menu, I think an impromptu dinner at Murray Circle might be the most appropriate follow up. Start with something from the new charcuterie roster, like Liberty Farms duck pastrami with house-fermented sauerkraut and a lick of horseradishy Mendocino mustard oil. If you like scallops, Everett's seasonal preparations are interesting. On my last visit the velvety bivalve was seared to a crisp, served with grilled nectarines and a delicate sauce made with emulsified rooibos tea leaves. Then there's a modern take on boullibaise with local Rancho Gordo beans and a grand finale of peanut butter soufflé with homemade milk chocolate ice cream. An order-ahead preparation might seem a little stuffy for peanut butter, but the overall effect is playful enough to make your Sausalito trip feel like vacation.