27 Nov A Diamond in the Fluff
Petra Restaurant & Wine Bar at Northstar hits the mark on après and everything after
Kelsey and Chris Barkman know wine. And they know food. The energetic, entrepreneurial couple pair the best of both at their Petra Wine Bar & Restaurant at the Village at Northstar.
The Barkmans, who also co-own and operate the Uncorked bottle shops in Tahoe City, Truckee and at the Village at Palisades Tahoe, opened Petra in 2011 with a progressive Mediterranean-inspired menu designed to play well with their large inventory of limited-production wines from around the world.
Chris, who grew up around the wine business (his father owned a wine shop in Palm Desert), is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. As a former wine distributor and brand manager, he traveled extensively to South America and Europe, learning the whole vine-to-table process. His focus is on organic, sustainable and/or biodynamically farmed wines that sincerely represent their varietal and region, are well-priced and food-friendly.
Kelsey, who has a background in high-end event management and is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu’s California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, knows her way around fresh seasonal ingredients and their best preparation and presentation. In addition to managing the front of the house, she picks up cheffing shifts as needed in the small but impressive kitchen.
In the shoulder seasons, the Barkmans travel for both wine and food inspiration, often with their 7-year-old son Jack, who has become an unofficial mascot of sorts at the restaurant.
A modern, airy space that doubles as a retail shop, Petra’s walls are lined with some 1,260 bottles ready to sip on-site or to enjoy at home. Seating for some 60 guests includes wooden high-top and standard tables, as well as a bar area boasting burgundy-colored walls, a thick and curvy mahogany counter and dramatic Washoe pine branch suspended above designed by local woodworker Andy Cline of Roundwood Furniture. In warmer months, an outdoor patio can accommodate an additional 35 patrons.
Petra’s ever-evolving wine list includes 14 to 18 pours by the glass; the detailed and in-depth tasting notes inspire sampling them all. For example, a 2021 Tegernseerhof Gruner Veltliner Federspiel from Wachau, Austria, reads: “Nose of honeysuckle and petrol, sharp acidity, apricot and green apple, saline minerals, fresh and focused.” A 2019 Stewart Chardonnay from Sonoma brings “subtle graham cracker and ripe peach on the nose, mandarin and Meyer lemon palate, rich and robust.” The 2021 Mendocino Lioco Pinot Noir: “Expressive and complex, earthy pine undertones, wild coastal berries and hints of lavender.” And popular in the winter, the 2020 Domaine D’Auphilhac, Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge, “Lou Maset” from France: “A blend of mainly grenache and cinsault, fresh, fruity, rich and elegant, dominant aromas of licorice, black fruits and wild Mediterranean herbs.”
If beer is better, choose from four rotating regional brews on tap, perhaps a Henhouse hazy pale ale from Santa Rosa.
Back to the happy place where wine meets food: High-quality extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh herbs, Kelsey’s favorite ingredients, run through the simple but substantial Med-Cal menu. Though dishes change seasonally, some customer favorites remain year-round. For instance, shareables and small plate mainstays include a cheese and charcuterie platter with assorted artisan cheeses and cured meats, local raw honey, Dijon mustard and house jam, as well as the creamy and lemony roasted garlic humus topped with crispy garbanzos that arrives with toasted naan for dipping. A kale Caesar sprinkled with Truckee sourdough breadcrumbs sauteed in olive oil is tossed with tahini instead of anchovies, making it vegan and delivering deeper flavor.
Winter weather calls for the light and warming vegan San Marzano tomato soup served with its perfect partner, grilled fontina cheese on toasty Truckee sourdough ciabatta. A brothy Moroccan tagine made with San Marzanos, sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans is ladled atop pearled couscous and topped with a mint and basil pesto; it is also vegan. Butternut squash ravioli with brown butter lemon sage sauce is scattered with roasted squash, grated Parmesan cheese and lava salt.
For something meaty, the bavette steak is simply seasoned with salt and pepper, seared in a cast iron pan and finished in the oven, dolloped with herb butter, sliced and plated atop a spring mix; it gets a side of hot and crispy shoestring fries served with a roasted garlic and dill aioli with a pop of red pepper flakes. A wagyu burger on a brioche bun features melted fontina, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles and garlic aioli.
The dessert menu is short and sweet and a worthy way to finish a meal here. Look for selections such as a New York cheesecake with raspberry coulis, a gooey chocolate fondant (similar to a lava cake) or the s’mores tart: dark and creamy pot de creme tucked into a graham cracker crust and topped with toasted marshmallow, perhaps paired with a Smith Woodhouse 10-year-old tawny port, bringing “ripe date and fig, roasted hazelnut and toffee and light lemon peel finish.”
Petra Restaurant & Wine Bar is located at the Village at Northstar; 3001 North Village Drive, Truckee, CA 96161; (530) 562-0600; uncorkedtahoe.com. Winter hours: Monday through Friday, 4 p.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.–9 p.m. Reservations recommended, call or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan D. Rock is Tahoe Quarterly’s longtime Food & Wine editor.