707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
April 17, 2015

Arriving at The French Laundry’s courtyard, guests will be greeted by the scent of California almond blossoms. A view through the stone wall will reveal the historic original building and its iconic blue door. Rendering: Snøhetta.


The French Laundry’s new landscape design will double the size of the existing garden and provide a new vehicular drop-off entry, extending the guest experience to the street edge. Framed views will orient guests to The French Laundry’s iconic blue door along a new path through the garden. Rendering: Snøhetta.


The French Laundry’s kitchen expansion will give guests a view of the chefs at work inside. The frit pattern on the exterior cladding was developed from layering sketches based on the choreography of a chef’s hands at work. Rendering: Snøhetta.


The French Laundry’s new kitchen ceiling will evoke a tablecloth being gently unfurled across a table, while also hiding the ceiling’s functional elements. The sweeping vaults will create large skylights, flooding the kitchen with natural light and mitigating ambient noise for a more comfortable workspace. Rendering: Snøhetta.


A dessert at Partake by K-J. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.


Ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.


Scallops en croute at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.


Studio Barndiva will offer bar bites and cocktails in a gallery atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Barndiva.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

With the Louvre as inspiration, chef Thomas Keller’s ~THE FRENCH LAUNDRY~ kitchen redesign is in full swing.

The press release notes: “The renderings are in—and the design team chosen—for a historic renovation of The French Laundry, the first major overhaul of the landmark restaurant in 20 years. International design firm, Snøhetta, is the lead design and landscape architect, working in collaboration with California-based firms Envelope A+D as executive architect and Tim Harrison of Harrison, Koellner, LLC as kitchen designer. The renovation will result in a new and expanded kitchen and courtyard, an auxiliary building to house a wine cellar and support offices, and a new arrival experience to enhance the approach to the iconic blue door.”

The press release also quotes Thomas Keller as saying: “The French Laundry is being redesigned to be a backdrop worthy of the restaurant’s history….With the Louvre Pyramid as my inspiration, we wanted to find a way to juxtapose the historic and the modern while maintaining the high-quality cuisine and service our guests have come to expect from The French Laundry. The new design will be an innovative and functioning space that will allow us to continue to evolve as a restaurant and develop new standards.”

The press release further details the changes: “In addition to expanding the kitchen’s size by 25 percent, the renovation will make for more efficient use of space, creating one contiguous room for the entire culinary team with a visual connection from station to station. With walls, flooring and work stations all fashioned out of Dekton…the new kitchen will feature a white-on-white palette—a nod to the sense of promise and potential of a fresh start. The kitchen equipment will feature two unique Molteni suites by Electrolux and commercial ranges by Hestan Commercial. The ground-up construction of a new Kitchen Annex will house The French Laundry’s support functions including the prep kitchen, butchery, produce breakdown, and management offices. It is also home to The French Laundry’s regarded wine collection, with the storage capacity to hold up to 14,000 bottles.” Commence jealous sighs.

Chef Thomas Keller’s culinary team, meanwhile, has moved into a temporary kitchen space at the restaurant and have been serving diners since April 7th. The press release explains: “During construction, Envelope A+D conceived of using shipping containers as modular units for a temporary kitchen in the restaurant’s former courtyard, allowing for service to resume….Tim Harrison, chef Keller’s kitchen designer-of-record for the past 20 years, designed and adapted the temporary space as a re-creation of the former French Laundry kitchen, complete with its five stars mounted hood.” The restaurant is offering dinner seven nights a week and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. The grand reopening is slated for the end of the year.

Whisk and Spat: Here’s a chance to eat dessert first. On Monday April 20th, four all-star pastry chefs converge for a four-course dessert and wine tasting at ~PARTAKE BY K-J~. The lineup includes Manny Fimbrez of Madrona Manor, Corey Wright of Kendall-Jackson, Robert “Buttercup” Nieto, also of K-J, and Ramon Perez of Puur Chocolat in Sacramento.

This is no chocolate lava cake or crème brûlée phone-in, be assured. Expect some serious dessert porn, with sweet, savory, crunchy, and exotic plates that are good enough for competition. Each course is then perfectly paired with late-harvest chardonnay and port. To whet your appetite, the chefs are cooking up some savory canapés during the reception, so you don’t totally go into sugar shock. Tickets are $45 per person, $36 for wine club members. RSVP by April 17th to 707-433-6000. 241 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

Cinnaholic coming to Santa Rosa: As if the gooey, sugary cinnamon roll couldn’t get any more decadent, Berkeley’s ~CINNAHOLIC~ takes it one step further, by mixing and matching frosting and toppings on their vegan buns. Think fro-yo meets the bakery case. Santa Rosa is slated to be one of the next outposts, serving up Irish cream frosting with pie crumbles and chocolate sauce slathered all over their buns. Not into that combo? There are 39 other frosting flavors and 21 toppings ranging from marshmallows to Oreos. All of it is 100 percent vegan. (And yes, Oreos are vegan.) No word yet on the exact location or opening date, but we’ll be looking forward to the sweet smell of fresh baked buns somewhere in Santa Rosa.

Here’s a peek at the menu of one of the hottest new restaurants in Wine Country, ~VALETTE~, which opened five weeks ago in Healdsburg. The former chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, chef-owner Dustin Valette isn’t a guy who likes to take shortcuts or worry about gilding the lily. Kobe beef with foie gras butter; ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” and a 64-degree egg; fresh semolina pasta with walnut pesto and fresh peas; and a dessert of brown butter ice cream, rhubarb, and brioche.

Each dish is carefully constructed—and often deconstructed—with more unexpected twists and turns than an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Consider the charcoal-roasted potatoes—so blackened that they look like mussel shells (is that a hint of squid ink?) with a smoky quality that’s reminiscent of a campfire or an ashtray, depending on your outlook. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0946.

One of the curses of success in a small town like Healdsburg? Being too full to accommodate the locals. Which is exactly what’s happened to ~BARNDIVA~ over the years, as out-of-towners have flocked to this Wine Country destination. Not surprising considering chef Ryan Fancher’s spot-on dishes—lobster risotto, goat cheese croquette with wildflower honey, pork belly salad with poached quail egg—and the rustic, Cali-chic, indoor-outdoor dining.

Now, however, they’ll be offering a no-reservations option in their nearby gallery, Studio Barndiva, offering simple dishes and curated cocktails. Fancher’s sous chef, Andrew Wycoff, will handle the gallery’s kitchen, featuring plates of bone marrow tater tots, pork meatballs with fennel, Cuban sandwiches, and fish and chips. Hours are Wed-Sun from 3pm until close. 237 Center St., Healdsburg.

From grain to glass, Rohnert Park’s Sonoma County Distilling Co. is making some of the best small-batch whiskey in the country. Using in-house mashing, direct-fired alembic pot distillation (a fancy way of describing an ancient distillation process), small-barrel aging, and lots of of know-how, it’s a fascinating process. Tours are now being offered at the Rohnert Park location (which, trust us, is well hidden from prying eyes) that explain the process and, of course, offer a tasting of several of the company’s spirits. It’s a great way to get up close and personal with your booze. Tours are Thu-Sun, by reservation only. $20. Reserve online or by calling 707-583-7753.

April 14, 2015

Sing to us, Kevin Spacey! Photo: Festival Del Sole.

The Napa Valley Festival del Sole is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the region’s cultural vitality and their Annual Festival Gala at Meadowood is going to be a big one this year. It’s happening on Sunday July 19th at Meadowood Napa Valley, and the theme is Hollywood + Vine. It’s all about the nightclub scene of Hollywood’s golden age, with none other than the fabulous Kevin Spacey in attendance, performing standards from the Great American Songbook. (I know, we just need Christopher Walken to do a dance number for us.)

In addition to the megawatt entertainment, Meadowood chef Alejandro Ayala will be serving dinner along with wines from the cellar of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines. It’s all happening on Meadowood’s newly designed croquet glen and fairways, and should be a glamorous alfresco evening. More details can be found here along with passes to the gala, the weekend, and the whole festival. Tickets to the gala are $1,000 per person ($700 tax deductible) and table sponsorships are also available. Email for additional details, or call 707-346-5052, ext. 4. 900 Meadowood Ln. at Silverado Trail, St. Helena, 707-346-5052, ext. 4.

April 3, 2015

The Birds Cafe in Bodega Bay has million-dollar views from their picnic tables. Fish and chips are tops. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Chef Jamil Peden has taken over the kitchens at Guerneville’s Applewood Inn. Photo courtesy of Jamil Peden.


Chef Levi Mezick has been tapped to head Charlie Palmer’s new Harvest Table restaurant in St. Helena, which opens in May. Photo courtesy of the chef.


Lamb korma from Yeti restaurant, which recently opened a second outpost in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Bloomfield Farms will offer a “CSA for a Day” box for visitors at St. Francis Winery. Archival photo of Bloomfield Farms produce courtesy of Heather Irwin.


The Calistoga Food & Wine event is April 24th–25th. Photo courtesy of Calistoga Food & Wine.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

It’s for the Birds: Turns out you don’t have to pay a lot for a million-dollar view in Bodega Bay. The tiny ~BIRDS CAFE~, perched above the harbor, serves only a handful of items—fish and chips, salads, clam chowder, shrimp tacos—but is one of my new favorite places on the coast.

Just order at the counter, then walk up the stairs (there’s also a handy ramp) to the deck for a lovely view and a picnic-style meal for less than $15. Best bets: creamy chowder, artichoke fritters, and lightly battered fish and chips. Spicy tartar sauce makes this red-basket special, well, special. Hours are daily from 11:30am-5pm. 1407 Highway 1, Bodega Bay.

Macro bowl meets foie gras: Can’t we all just get along? Vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, locavores, the gluten intolerant, and spice avoidant? Food doesn’t have to be a battleground. In fact, forward-thinking chefs know that commingling creative vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian fare on their omnivorous menus is more than just pandering—it’s smart business in an evolving food culture.

Windsor farmer and chef Joe Rueter is putting that bold idea into practice with his new venture, ~THE GASTRONOMIST~, in Sebastopol. Here, duck tacos, grass-fed beef, lamb, and, yes, foie gras get cozy with squash fries, lentil salad, pumpkin gnocchi, and even a raw chocolate terrine.

Housed in the Gravenstein Station railroad car that was briefly occupied by Starlight Wine Bar, Rueter’s fiercely sustainable and local dishes have always been a BiteClub favorite. (His heirloom tomato BLT is a top 10.) But sprouted living salads, kefir, and organic wine from a guy who routinely grills up hundreds of pounds of bacon at his weekly farmers’ market stands? Yup.

Rueter keeps a separate griddle and cutting boards for vegan foods and cooks the meat outdoors under a market tent. (Mmm, the smell of sizzling bacon.) Anyone with allergies will be accommodated by using the phrase “No-Touchy…” followed by the allergy. Yup, seriously.

“I am not serving anything that has spent weeks in a walk-in and has been on a truck all day coming from no produce company,” said the never-shy-to-speak-his-mind Rueter in a text message. “Nutrient-depleted tasteless vegetables not happening at this restaurant, period. No frozen meat or fish, nada. We’ve got an established local food system built from the markets we participate in weekly.” Hours are daily for breakfast and lunch 9am-5pm and dinner Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm. 6681 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707-837-8113.

Opening: ~VALETTE~ in Healdsburg has opened, and we’re booked for a table. Stay tuned for details, but the opening menu looks tasty, with housemade charcuterie, a Liberty Farm “duck trio” with pinot noir-poached foie gras, Dungeness-stuffed petrale sole with cauliflower mousseline, and yeah, we’re hungry too. Hours are daily from 5:30pm-closing, 344 Center St., Healdsburg.

It’s been awhile since I’ve made a visit up to the ~APPLEWOOD INN~ in Guerneville. Having lost both its Michelin-starred chef, Bruce Frieseke, in 2011 and its Michelin star in 2012, there didn’t seem to be reason to make the trek. But this week, local chef Jamil Peden has taken the mantle. Peden was most recently at Woodfour Brewing, and before that Scopa and Petite Syrah, among others. He’s already making changes to the menu, and we’ll be eager to see if he can bring some star power back to G-Ville.

In St. Helena, Charlie Palmer has tapped Levi Mezick to head the ~HARVEST TABLE~ kitchen. Slated for a May opening, the 110-seat restaurant will have plenty of outdoor dining that overlooks five edible gardens overseen by horticulturalist Laura McNiff. You can see a full list of the current plantings (which is fascinating) online. The menu embraces the produce that is grown right outside the restaurant’s doors as well as foods from Northern California’s artisanal producers, including Tolenas quail, Masami Cattle Ranch, Sebastopol Berry Farms, and Bera Ranch stone fruit. Signature dishes will include roasted garden carrots with buttermilk, curry blend, and granola; poached petrale sole with garden-bean nage, lemon thyme, and chanterelles; and pan-roasted Modesto squab with poached plums, stinging nettles, fermented turnips, and sherry-squab jus. More details as the opening gets closer.

I’ll give you a hint as to which Santa Rosa restaurateur is taking over the food operations at ~HERITAGE PUBLIC HOUSE~: his chicken wings are second to none and his burger is, hands down, my favorite in Sonoma County. You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t): Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Bar and Oven (and Syrah Bistro) has been tapped to overhaul the gastropub’s menu come mid-April. Boom! Here’s why you should be stoked too. 1. The beer is just going to get better: The pub is also a working brewery and home to Bloodline Brewing Co., which launched last fall. GM Roman D’Argenzio and his team will be focusing on increasing production of this already acclaimed brewery. The pub will continue to serve an impressive variety of California craft brews on tap as well. 2. Outdoor patio: Silvers plans to close Heritage for about a week in mid-April to update the restaurant and revamp the beer garden. 3. Beer-worthy food: Dishes like ale-braised short ribs, grilled salmon with hard-cider cream sauce, beer-steamed mussels, wings and burgers (natch), fresh oysters and “brewer’s fries” (with garlic and brewer’s yeast), along with Gypsy Grill sausages, a smoked chicken Cobb salad, and hearty black barley “risotto” will keep both diners and drinkers happy. 4. The prices are right: Silvers gets that the pub is a college favorite, so smaller plates will be priced for student budgets. Larger plates will range from $15-$23. 5. Fish and chips stay, the sheet pans go: Heritage has had solid beer-battered fish and chips since opening, but serving them on a sheet pan got old. Silvers plans to keep fish and chips on the menu, but class things up a notch with, uh, plates.

BiteClub will have a first look and all the details on the new menu when it debuts in late April. 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

Hidden away in Glen Ellen’s Jack London Village, Indian-Nepalese sleeper ~YETI~ has been a word-of-mouth phenom for nearly eight years. And trust us, it’s in no small part the naan. Baked to order in a piping hot tandoor oven, the flatbread arrives to the table still steaming and is nearly as long as your forearm. Tear off a buttery, yeasty, garlic bite and remember the soul-satisfying taste of gluten and carbs.

Hold onto your tikka, because this mythical monster of deliciousness has expanded its footprint. Open just a week, the tandoor is fired up and garam masala perfumes the former Lyon’s after six months of renovation.

Yeti’s naan, of course, is only a vehicle for the mix of freshly ground herbs and spices, yogurt, coconut, cumin, vegetables, and tandoor-grilled meats inspired by Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Timid or adventurous, here’s what we’re loving: onion bhaji ($7.99), vegetable momo ($7.99), chicken biryani ($17.95), mixed tandoor platter ($24.99), chicken tikka masala ($15.99), rogan josh ($16.99), and Kashmiri pulao ($5.99). If there are more than two of you, order a couple of naan breads, and spring for the sauces—from mild raita to sweet mango chutney. 190 Farmer’s Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-521-9608.

CSA for a day? Tourists are often green with envy over beautiful produce boxes delivered to locals from nearby farms. Overflowing with farm eggs, seasonal fruits and veggies, and fresh flowers, they’re a signature of Sonoma County. ~BLOOMFIELD FARMS~ and ~ST. FRANCIS WINERY~ have the remedy with their new biweekly CSA for a Day program, which allows visitors to pick up a “travel-friendly”-sized box with a variety of organic items and a bottle of St. Francis Sonoma County chardonnay or zinfandel at the St. Francis tasting room. Just call a day ahead, and your box will be waiting. Calling 707-833-0251 for details.

A stellar lineup of chefs will host the ~CALISTOGA FOOD AND WINE~ event on April 24th and 25th. On the roster are chef Brandon Sharp of Solbar and the newly opened Evangeline, chef Reylon Agustin from SF’s Commissary, and chef Bradley Borchardt from Expanding Palates. The two-day event includes a grand tasting of wine and food from local restaurants including Solage, Evangeline, Larkmead Vineyards, JoLe, and Sam’s Social Club. Tickets range from $95 to $195 for various events. Details online.

Still hungry? Check out Heather’s always up-to-date food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.