707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
July 18, 2014

A charcuterie plate at Earth’s Bounty Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


A homemade Ding Dong at Earth’s Bounty Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Orecchiette mac and cheese at Earth’s Bounty Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Fried chicken and rosemary-bacon waffles with collards at Earth’s Bounty Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Heritage Fire by Cochon 555 comes to Napa on August 3rd. Photo courtesy of Cochon 555.


The Thomas at Fagiani’s welcomes chef Jonnatan Leiva to Napa. Photo courtesy of The Thomas.

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

Earth’s Bounty Kitchen Opens: There’s a reason you’re not going to see America’s Top Caterer anytime soon on the Food Network. Not because catering chefs aren’t as talented as the blustery toques waving chef’s knives and pork tattoos for the cameras. It’s because hardworking caterers—the amazing culinary wizards who can somehow make dinner for 400 inside a pop-up tent—aren’t in it for the glory. They’re in it to prepare the food that can make an event.

And that’s why I have a special place in my heart for folks like chef Christopher Ludwick, a longtime caterer (Grapevine Catering) who recently opened ~EARTH’S BOUNTY KITCHEN & WINE BAR~ in the former Fresh by Lisa Hemenway. Yeah, the name’s a bit of a mouthful, but so’s the food. Meaning there’s plenty to stuff your face with—and then some.

First off, the massive interior has been radically transformed. Where Hemenway’s combined restaurant/market/coffee shop felt a bit, well, confusing, Ludwick has created distinct spaces: a deli and retail shop in front, the cozy wine bar and restaurant to the right, and an enviable catering kitchen taking up much of the back.

We fell to pieces over nearly everything on the compact and well-curated menu. A charcuterie board ($13) with a changing lineup of salumi, fight-over-the-last-bite pâté, pickled vegetables, and cabernet mustard (ours also featured duck rillettes and headcheese); a tiny iron skillet with pork cheeks, charred tomatoes, and Vella Dry Jack ($10) cooked in the wood oven; a burger with violet mustard, cabernet onion jam, and Vella cheddar on a Village Bakery English muffin ($13); “mac and cheese” ($12), which is less like Kraft and more like a creamy, dreamy dish of orecchiette, mushrooms, shallots, melty cheese, and buttered crumbs; fried chicken and rosemary-bacon waffles ($18) with country gravy and collard greens; and most especially the ever-changing desserts, which include a homemade Ding-Dong (devil’s food cake, ganache, marshmallow cream, and other wickedness) and a warm fruit crumble with mascarpone.

The wood-fired oven has been moved into the restaurant and turns out Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas and roasted meat and vegetables. The pizzaiolo tosses dough into everyday nibblers like the margherita, mushroom (with chèvre and olive oil), and pepperoni, as well as specials like maitake mushroom, truffle oil, prosciutto, and Toma cheese ($13-$16).

Don’t call Ludwick’s restaurant farm to table, though, he says with an eye roll. “We’re Sonoma farm country cuisine,” says Ludwick; it turns out that 53 local farms and producers bring of-the-moment ingredients to his doorstep—and your mouth. Dinner Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm, Sun 11am-4pm. 5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa, 707-827-9700.

Heritage Fire by Cochon 555, Napa’s flaming festival of meat, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena from 3pm-7pm on Sunday August 3rd. Heritage Fire features chefs and farmers working together to spotlight traditional outdoor cooking techniques paired with amazing wines, ice-cold brews, and crisp ciders. While Cochon’s flagship event, Cochon 555, brings chefs together in a friendly competition, Heritage Fire is a collection of culinary champions cooking together for a crowd of meat- and wine-loving gourmands. The list of heritage and heirloom foods to be featured include dry-aged beef, spit-roasted sturgeon, whole pigs, lambs, goat, lobster, squab, rabbit, duck, chicken, artisan cheese, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.

Local chefs participating include Matthew Accarrino (SPQR), Mark Liberman (TBD and AQ), Katie Hagan-Whelchel (Ad Hoc), Kelly McCown (Goose & Gander), and Joey Elenterio (Wayfare Tavern), among others. A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the St. Helena Farmers’ Market and The American Institute of Wine & Food. A group of celebrated butchers will host a pop-up butcher shop where 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the students of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, go online. General admission is $100, VIP admission is $200 (tickets are expected to sell out quickly). 2800 Main St., St. Helena.

~THE THOMAS~ in downtown Napa is doing a chef shuffle, with Jonnatan Leiva replacing the restaurant’s opening chef de cuisine, Jason Kupper. Leiva is part of the AvroKo family (the design and hospitality company that owns The Thomas and several other restaurants), having been chef at Saxon + Parole in NYC. 813 Main St., Napa.

July 11, 2014

You will definitely empty your glass at the West of West Festival. Photo courtesy of WOW.


The new Cucina di Rosa Italian Trattoria at Charles Krug winery was inspired by the winery’s matriarch, Rosa. Photo courtesy of Charles Krug winery.


Taste of Napa happens this Saturday in Napa. Photo courtesy of Festival del Sole.

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

There are a handful of “dude” moments in a Wine Country food writer’s annual list of must-attend events. As in, “Dude, you have to go to this.” ~WEST OF WEST WINE FESTIVAL~, which takes place Friday August 1st through Sunday August 3rd, is one of them. It’s an all-star lineup of the Sonoma Coast’s top vintners (Charles Heintz, DuMOL, Failla, Flowers, Lioco, Littori, MacPhail, and many more) and there will be incredible food throughout the weekend, culminating with a grand banquet featuring chefs from SF’s State Bird Provisions, Rich Table, and Bar Tartine at The Barlow. Tickets to this whirlwind three days of hobnobbing with wine connoisseurs, chefs, sommeliers, and vintners range from $125 for the Grand Tasting to $475 for all-access weekend tickets. Details online.

~CUCINA DI ROSA ITALIAN TRATTORIA~ opens Friday July 18th at St. Helena’s ~CHARLES KRUG~ winery, as part of the $9.5 million restoration of the winery’s Redwood Cellar Building. Inspired by the winery’s matriarch, Rosa Mondavi, the menu will feature rustic panini with pesto and tomatoes, a muffuletta, roasted tri-tip, and antipasti and salads that pair with Charles Krug wines. The menu was designed by Napa chef Richard Haake (Cakebread Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery). Hours will be Fri-Sun 10:30am-4pm. 2800 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-2200.

Another Napa heads-up: A Taste of Napa, part of the 10-day ~FESTIVAL DEL SOLE~, takes place this Saturday July 12th, with nearly 70 restaurants, food artisans, breweries, and wineries participating. The event is 11am-2:30pm. Tickets are a steal at just $45 and available online. 500 First St., Napa.

A few weeks ago, Sonoma restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark (of Monti’s, Bravas, etc.) announced that they would be opening a new restaurant at the former Italian Affair in Santa Rosa. More details about the space are emerging, including the fact that (no big surprise) the menu will have a strong focus on poultry. “We’re bringing chicken back,” said Terri Stark. “We’re moving on from all pig, all the time,” she added, which is a departure from the pig-centric bent of many a Wine Country chef over the last five years. Not that a little pork and beef won’t show up on the all-American comfort food menu, but expect crispy chicken skin instead of pork rinds and fried pork ears (featured at Willi’s Wine Bar). The decor will be “modern tavern style,” according to Stark, with a more homey and less minimalist feel. The good news for alfresco diners: the restaurant will feature 48 seats on the front deck for warm-weather dining. The Starks are aiming to open the new restaurant by the end of the year.

So what’s the difference between Neapolitan, Sicilian, New York, and California pizzas? Like barbecue, you’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask, but the forthcoming ~VIGNETTE~ (at The Barlow) will be serving Neapolitan pies, with their very thin crust and minimal toppings. Chef Mark Hopper’s menu will include pizzas like the Manhattan, with San Marzano tomatoes, chopped clams, buffalo mozzarella, and chile oil. Other dishes include ‘nduja flatbread with arugula, red onion, and Grana Padano cheese, and fire-roasted vegetables. GM Michael Zwicklbauer (formerly of The Restaurant at Meadowood and Farmshop Marin) will run a carefully curated beer, wine, and coffee list. The best news: Nothing on the menu will be more than $20. Look for a late July opening. 6750 McKinley St., Sebastopol.

If you’re getting a whiff of something smoky, meaty, and delicious in the general vicinity of Rohnert Park, follow your nose to the region’s biggest annual barbecue competition, the ~WINE COUNTRY BIG Q~ on Saturday July 12th. Pitmasters from 45 national teams compete this weekend for more than $8,300 in cash prizes. Want in on the grilling action (and maybe a few tips for your tri-tip)? Wine Country Big Q ticket holders feast on samples from the experts as well as contestants of the Winery Big Beef Challenge, The Bold Bean Challenge, the “Get Sauced” sauce competition, the amateurs “Tailgate” competition, and the “Bakin’ for Bacon” dessert competition. All in all, expect to stomach about a pound of meat, if you dare. The event will be from 1pm-5pm and tickets are $45. More info on the event here. Sonoma Mountain Village, 1300 Valley House Dr, Rohnert Park.

It isn’t summer without outdoor concert events featuring great acts, and more importantly great food and wine. We’re smitten with Glen Ellen’s ~BROADWAY UNDER THE STARS~ series, featuring favorite tunes from Broadway and beyond with actual Broadway actors. Get there early for noshes from Tips Tri-Tip, Ultra Crepes, Palooza Catering, Cookie Take a Bite (best chocolate chip cookies ever), Glen Ellen Star, and Fork Catering, as well as wine from dozens of local wineries. Tickets and details online. Meanwhile, the ~RODNEY STRONG SUMMER CONCERT SERIES~ hosts Chris Botti, Chris Isaak, and Mindi Abair at their outdoor green. Wine flows, picnics are welcome, and the winery serves up tasty bites before the show. Details online.

Get a sneak preview of ~OUTSIDE LANDS~ artists Woods and Sandy’s at ~LONG MEADOW RANCH WINERY AND FARMSTEAD~ in St. Helena on Sunday July 13th. This first “Summer Pairings” series is an afternoon of farm-to-table food and wine experiences on its outdoor stage. Long Meadow Ranch will also be a presence at Outside Lands’ Wine Lands and Cheeselands, with assorted cheese and charcuterie. Doors open at 2pm, with the concert starting at 3:30pm. Tickets include a wine tasting; $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Details online.

Still hungry? Check out Heather’s food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.

June 27, 2014

Roast chicken at Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Manila clams with chorizo at Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Crab cake po’boy at Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


The patio at Chalkboard in Healdsburg just opened. Photo courtesy of Chalkboard.

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

Santa Rosa’s new Pullman Kitchen, Destination Delicious: I never order chicken at restaurants. Ever. Because inevitably it’s the compromise entrée, the bland and uninspired dish for cautious eaters. But when a perfect roast chicken is the specialty of the house, as it is at the newly opened ~PULLMAN KITCHEN~, I bite.

Roasting a chicken isn’t as easy as it sounds. The trick is crispy skin and juicy, tender meat (both light and dark). Pullman Kitchen’s chef, Darren McRonald, hits the mark, serving up the bird with a light pan sauce and two dreamy spinach Parmesan pancakes. It’s everything a roast chicken should be, which is comforting and hearty, homey and succulent. Consider me a convert.

After several visits, I’m a bit in love with Pullman Kitchen, housed in the former Syrah Bistro. The interior is familiar, with an open kitchen and cozy dining room, but the space now has better seating and a more open feel. The interior courtyard, always a bit exposed, noisy, and uncomfortable, has been sectioned off, giving it a more unified feeling.

The menu is brief and fairly consistent (though seasonal ingredients come and go) with plenty of rib-sticking entrées including fish tacos, cheeseburgers, skirt steak, lamb, and Manila clams with chorizo. What’s we’ve been inspired by, however, are the daily specials, such as a crab cake po’boy and fried green tomatoes. And don’t miss the bacon-wrapped dates with paprika, honey, and lemon.

Dessert is just as inspired and just as comforting. Rich carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (notice the golden raisins, a nice touch), warm rhubarb and strawberry crumbles with whipped cream, or housemade ice cream—another dish I rarely order because of its banality. Again, I’m a convert, especially when the dish comes with warm sugar cookies on the side.

A few minuses, depending on your perspective. In warmer months, the menu seems a bit wintry, and the restaurant’s lack of air conditioning makes for a bit of a sweaty visit (especially near the front windows). We were also a bit taken aback by the automatic inclusion of a 17 percent tip on the bill. Servers do explain the logic, stating that it helps the staff have a living wage, and on both visits, servers were more than accommodating, and we added another 2 percent to the tip. BiteClub is looking forward to seeing the evolution of this stellar dining car. Open Mon-Fri lunch, nightly dinner, and Sat-Sun brunch. 205 5th St. at Wilson St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-4300.

Chalkboard Goes Outdoors: In its continuing evolution, Healdsburg’s ~CHALKBOARD~ (inside the Hotel Les Mars) has expanded with a new outdoor bar and 45-seat patio. What was once a barely used swimming pool has become an inviting warm-weather patio that opens at 4pm every night. The alfresco area will serve up a bar menu, cocktails, microbrews, and several new menu items including summer squash tart, grilled corn with queso fresco and lime, and almond-crusted salmon with Black Mission figs. As a side note, the multicourse library tasting menu launched in spring has been put on hiatus.

July Fourth at LMR: Forget the warm beer and hot dogs waiting for next week’s big fireworks show. ~LONG MEADOW RANCH~ has a more civilized alternative featuring a roasted whole hog, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and other summer goodies. The family-friendly lawn party also includes games of horseshoes and pétanque along with live music from the Jimi James Band. $25 per person for guests 21 and over, which includes a bottle of LMR Ranch House Red or sauvignon blanc and one Govino glass. Free admission for guests under 21. Tickets available online. Guests are encouraged to bring low-back chairs and blankets. 738 Main St., St. Helena, 707-963-4555.

After a few weeks of mystery, it turns out that former Ad Hoc chef de cuisine Dave Cruz will be taking over the former Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill space. But only temporarily. His pop-up concept, ~MQ~, opens Friday July 4th with a barbecue menu, with an official opening date of Tuesday July 15th. The pop-up is slated to run through the end of the year while Cruz works on a permanent Napa location. Owners of the restaurant space say they hope to continue to host other pop-up chefs.

UPDATE on 7/1/2014: unfortunately MQ is not longer happening. This note is from a post on Facebook by Dave Cruz: “Friends—I am saddened to announce that the planned Miles Restaurant and MQ pop-up in St. Helena is cancelled. Negotiations unfortunately fell through. The positive response I received from friends and supporters has been overwhelming and I have tried to secure an alternate location here in Napa. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I will have secured a new site by our target start date of July 4th. I want to thank everyone for their interest and support and hope to share good news in the future.”

Foie gras returns to California for one night only, Saturday July 5th, at ~LA TOQUE~ in Napa. Executive chef and owner Ken Frank has long been a vocal opponent to the law that banned the sale of foie gras in California. Running from noon to 2pm, The State of American Foie Gras includes a tasting lunch of domestically sourced foie from acclaimed Bay Area chefs Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L, Victor Scargle, Mark Dommen of One Market, David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit, and former Cyrus chef Douglas Keane. The event is free, but open to only 50 guests via a contest on the La Toque Facebook page (take a look at the most recent post on how to enter). 1314 McKinstry St., Napa, 707-257-5157.

June 13, 2014

The interior of The Farmer and The Fox. Photo courtesy of The Farmer and The Fox.


The interior of The Farmer and The Fox. Photo courtesy of The Farmer and The Fox.


Knife forger Bob Kramer will be in Santa Rosa on June 22. Photo courtesy of Heather Iriwn.


Secret Kitchen recently opened in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Korean barbecue bowl from Secret Kitchen in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Peach and strawberry tartlets from Secret Kitchen in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Signs of life at Cindy Pawlcyn’s shuttered Wood Grill and Wine Bar? Seems that the long-struggling location will reopen this year as ~641 MAIN STREET~ (the restaurant’s St. Helena address). The concept is still in the early stages of development, but property owner Rodney Friedrich is planning a pop-up-style restaurant and event space. Which makes sense, considering that Friedrich is also developing the nearby ~VINELAND STATION~ luxury hotel and retail space.

Also in St. Helena, the ~THE FARMER AND THE FOX~ has opened at the wine village of Cairdean Estate. The Scottish-style gastropub serves up dishes like Scotch egg and cress, “proper” English chips, popovers baked every half hour, game pie, rabbit Wellington, and pub steak with whiskey peppercorn sauce. In the kitchen are executive chef Joseph Humphrey (formerly of Auberge du Soleil and The Restaurant at Meadowood) and chef de cuisine Jason LaBue (formerly of J Vineyards). Open 5pm-10pm, reservations recommended. 3111 St. Helena Hwy North, St. Helena, 707-302-5101.

King of the Knife: Having the legendary blade smith ~BOB KRAMER~ teach a knife skills class at Sur la Table in Santa Rosa is sort of like having Meryl Streep teach a beginning acting class in your backyard. The Olympia-based master of carbon steel is so revered by chefs that his hand-forged knives command up to $10,000 apiece, with a waiting list more than three years long. But there’s still hope for the home chef. Kramer has partnered with German knife company Zwilling J.A. Henckels and Sur la Table to create a more-affordable line of stainless and carbon steel knives costing between $130 and $250 a pop, depending on the quality and size. Which may sound like a lot to the average Joe, but knife junkies know it’s a steal for some serious steel. Without the wait. Registration required, $69 per person. Details online. Sun June 22nd, noon-2:30pm. Sur la Table, 2323 Magowan Dr., Santa Rosa, 707-566-9823.

The Secret’s Out on Secret Kitchen: You know a restaurant’s under the radar when you can’t find it, even with Google Maps. But four miles west of Petaluma, where goats scamper in fields and signs for “lost family pig” aren’t unusual, is the ~SECRET KITCHEN~. Tucked behind an unassuming convenience store, Brenda Anderson, Janice Clement, and their tiny staff of friends and neighbors are running a takeout walk-up window with dishes like Korean barbecue chicken rice bowls with kimchi, “Hog in a Blanket” (pork brat with Lagunitas IPA mustard, cheddar cheese sauce, and caramelized onions), caramel rum cake, and fresh peach and strawberry tartlets. “These are just dishes I’ve picked up from around the world. Everything is just something I love,” says Anderson, whose Asian/Latin/American dishes reflect her former gigs, such as cooking in Thailand, teaching at the Culinary Institute of America, and running a restaurant at Google.

The secret’s already leaked out to locals, who line up at the split door to order and often grab a seat at one of the wooden picnic benches near the parking lot. But this is only the opening act for the Secret Kitchen gals, who weren’t really planning to open a restaurant at all. Their commercial kitchen accidentally became a walk-up when a batch of tamales sold out with just a homemade sign out front. A truck (the original idea) is still in the works, but for now, the team is operating at full capacity.

Best bets include the banh mi with slow-roasted pork, pickled carrots and daikon, peanuts, and secret sauce ($9); Korean barbecue tacos ($3); Korean barbecue chicken rice bowls with kimchi and pickled onions ($9); the American Hog in a Blanket ($9); khao soi (a Thai curried noodle bowl, $9.50); and desserts of the day. Just keep our little secret, okay? Open 11am-7:30pm Wed-Sat. 4701 Bodega Ave., Petaluma, 707-787-8243.

There was a time, not so long ago, when music festivals were just about music. In those very dark ages, you could get a slice of cold pizza, a corn dog, and some flat Budweiser, but that was about it for food and booze. In the last few years, however, local events like Outside Lands and BottleRock have made gourmet food, beer and wine the stars (or at least the co-stars) of the show. This weekend’s ~HUICHICA MUSIC FESTIVAL~ at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma keeps the trend going with food and drink from SF’s Salumeria and Craftsman and Wolves; the Wine Country’s Q Craft, Rancho Gordo, Smári Organics, Milk & Honey Ice Cream; and beverage pairings from the GunBun folks, as well as Deschutes Brewery, Happy Moose Juice, and Taylor Maid Farms. Oh, and there’s some music too. The event starts tonight and continues tomorrow, Sat June 14th, $55 per person. Details online.