707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
January 16, 2015

Winter is a perfect time to visit the Mendocino Coast. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Best clam chowder ever, at Little River Inn. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Wild Louie at Wild Fish restaurant in Little River along the Mendocino Coast. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Morning bun at GoodLife Cafe and Bakery in Mendocino. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Menu items at Thomas Keller’s Ad Lib include Atlantic salmon. Photo courtesy of Meg Smith.


Menu items at Thomas Keller’s Ad Lib include Kumamoto oysters. Photo courtesy of Meg Smith.


Chef Andrew Wilson takes the reins at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Andrew Wilson.


East Wind Bakery’s bao, garam masala sweet bun, and kimchi croissants. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

The best time to go to the Mendocino Coast? If you ask me, it’s right about now, when crab season is still humming along and you might as well sit inside on a cold, blustery day and watch the crashing waves over a hot bowl of chowder. BiteClub spent three days wandering the bluffs of southern Mendocino County between Little River and Fort Bragg, eating, drinking, and enjoying a little solitude between sea and sky. Though this list is far from comprehensive, here are some of my faves from this trip.

Best Clam Chowder and Crab Cakes: ~LITTLE RIVER INN~

We all do it: visit the coast and eat clam chowder and crab cakes. And most of the time, let’s be honest, it’s a huge disappointment. Pasty bowls of rubbery clams and hard potatoes, crab-ish cakes made mostly of bread crumbs and egg. Even worse is when you know it’s been shipped in from some corporate kitchen hundreds of miles away. Little River Inn gets clam chowder right: a generous bowl of creamy broth, bits of Roundman bacon (see below), celery, onions, and clams still inside the shell. Best. Chowder. Ever.

Also a winner, literally, are their crab cakes; they’ve won the Mendocino crab cake cook-off several years in a row. The secret: lots of crème fraîche and sour cream, cornbread crumbs, and citrus zest. While you’re there, leave room for the olallieberry cobbler. 7751 California 1, Little River, 707-937-5942.

Best View: Mendocino Headlands

There’s no shortage of dramatic ocean vistas along the north coast, but some of my favorites are along the rugged coastline in the town of Mendocino. Be sure to bring a warm coat, hat, and gloves, then just park off Main Street and walk along any of the many trails along the bluffs. If you look closely, you may find a stairway down to a quiet cove, or a path through windswept trees to the edge of the world. On windy days, the Pacific booms in the caves below and ocean spray pelts your face. Just be careful, because this is unforgiving surf and one misstep can really ruin your day.

Best Local Seafood: ~WILD FISH~

Hidden behind a small convenience store and gas station, Wild Fish is the best restaurant you’ve never heard of in Mendocino. Using carefully sourced local products, including seafood from nearby Noyo Harbor, nearly everything on the menu just sings out to be ordered. Chef Jackson Clark is behind one of the best restaurants on the coast, with a dinner menu that includes whole Dungeness crab, local sablefish, swordfish with hedgehog mushrooms, and roasted goose from nearby Salmon Creek Ranch. The lunch menu is also incredible, with tequila-lime fish tacos, crab mac and cheese, roasted mussels, and the Wild Louie salad. Prices can be a little steep, but the view and the impeccably prepared dishes are well worth it. The wine pairings are spot-on as well. With just 10 tiny tables, be sure to call ahead for a reservation. 7750 California 1, Little River, 707-937-3055.


The Sonoma Coast and nearby Anderson Valley are home to my favorite cool-climate whites and pinot noirs. And for everyday sipping, my absolute favorite bottles are from Navarro Vineyards, often hard to find outside of Mendocino County or their own Anderson Valley tasting room. We love seeing Navarro wines all over local menus; they’re well priced and pair so perfectly with the local seafood offerings. Their sister business, Pennyroyal Farms, offers up incredible goat’s milk cheeses that can also be found in restaurants and local grocers. If you find it, be sure to snap it up, because it won’t last. For kids (or non-drinkers), Navarro offers a line of nonalcoholic grape juices that are almost as good as the fermented stuff. 5601 Hwy 128, Philo.


Snuggle up around a cozy fireplace at this combination inn and restaurant. Though the restaurant lost its chef a few months after opening last year, the sous has kept things running smoothly. Though we’re sad that the baked Alaska has disappeared off the menu. It’s just as well, however, because the owner’s homemade salted caramel and ganache tart more than compensated. 10390 Kasten St., Mendocino, 707-937-3200.


One of the best things about small towns like Mendocino is that everyone knows everyone else. Walk into GoodLife and you’ll overhear friends and neighbors catching up over the week’s news and a good cup of coffee. To boot, there’s an incredible array of freshly baked pastries, bagels, soups, salads, and daily specials like pumpkin curry. The morning bun, however, is a swirl of flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and orange that’s best enjoyed with a spicy cup of chai. Cozy up at a window seat to get the best view of downtown’s small-town bustle. 10483 Lansing St., Mendocino, 707-937-0836.


“We’ll smoke anything,” is the motto of this Fort Bragg meat shop, which upon entering, immediately infuses your soul with the sweet scent of smoke. They’ve got cases of housemade smoked sausages, cheeses, salmon, tuna, tilapia, hams, beef jerky, chicken, duck, lamb, and, well, you get the idea. They’ll smoke anything. The beef comes in from nearby H-Bench Ranch in Covelo. 412 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, 707-964-5438.

Word broke earlier this week that Thomas Keller is opening ~AD LIB~, a “pop-up restaurant” at the Silverado Resort through early March while the French Laundry undergoes a renovation. The restaurant will operate Thursday through Monday evenings out of the resort’s Royal Oak Room from January 21st to March 2nd.

According to the website, the menu consists of “traditional, honest food.” The à la carte entrées range from $28-$55 and include classic Caesar salad and steak tartare, both prepared tableside, fruitwood-smoked kielbasa, Black Angus chop steak, root vegetable potpie, braised beef short rib “Wellington,” broiled Alaskan king crab legs, and a seven-layer coconut cake. Guests can also expect a hearty selection of daily specials influenced by The French Laundry culinary garden.

This is a collaborative effort from the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group’s chef de cuisine Devin Knell, and The French Laundry’s chef de cuisine David Breeden and sous chef Michael Wallace, who is also the chef de cuisine of the pop-up.

But here’s the rub. Unless you’ve got at least four people, you’re out of luck (and even then, you’ll have to call soon). Tables for two have already been snapped up for the duration of the pop-up. Details and more info online. 1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, 707-754-4148.

Andrew Wilson has been named the new chef at Charlie Palmer’s ~DRY CREEK KITCHEN~ in Healdsburg, replacing Dustin Valette. Wilson was most recently at the Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar in Sonoma. With Wilson at the helm, Palmer says he plans to create “an elevated dining experience at the Hotel Healdsburg restaurant with a new style of service, enhanced operations, and all-new menus.” We look forward to seeing what changes Wilson brings to the destination restaurant. Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg, 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

Milk bread, where have you been all my life? Found primarily in Asian bakeries, this Japanese-style bread (also called Hokkaido) makes a supple, sweet, heavenly loaf, with nary a sprout, seed, or whole grain in sight. Perfect for toast, sandwiches, or simply nibbling straight from the bag, fresh loaves are baked daily at the recently opened pan-Asian ~EAST WIND BAKERY~. The loaves are about $5 each and are flecked with bits of Earl Grey tea, herbs, or cinnamon (as well as plain).

But that’s just the start of the inevitable caloric overload. This beautiful little bakery, owned by partners Doug Quick and Tony Tam, also features barbecue pork curried beef, red bean, and taro bao; kimchi- and Chinese sausage-stuffed croissants; garam masala-spiced sweet buns; Massaman beef and Thai chicken potpies; pork banh mi; and, well, you get the idea. Go with a sense of adventure and a hungry belly, and don’t miss out on the Sea Foam Coffee (made with a sweet-salty whipped cream and Asian spices) or boba tea. They’ve also got plenty of Western sweets (cupcakes, lemon tarts, etc.) that are equally delicious. 3851 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-568-6081.

January 9, 2015

Fists of Foie Fury: Chef Doug Richey shows his foie gras pride. A new ruling makes foie gras legal to sell in California again. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Fork Roadhouse’s cozy and charming interior. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Quinoa, goat cheese, watermelon radish, and greens at Fork Roadhouse in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Ritual Coffee Roasters pour-overs at Brew. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Foie gras has returned to California restaurants after a surprise ruling on Wednesday that overturned the 2012 ban against its sale. At least in theory.

In the 48 hours since a federal judge nixed the state statute that banned the production and sale of the fatty duck liver, Bay Area chefs have been scrambling to put foie back on their menus, since it’s almost impossible to procure.

“I’m going to try to get it on my menu as soon as I can, but we probably won’t be able to get it until next week,” said Brian Anderson, owner of Santa Rosa’s ~BISTRO 29~. Like others in the restaurant industry, he was taken by surprise when news of the ruling hit on Wednesday. “My wife texted me. I had no idea,” he said.

“No one knew this was coming down,” said Doug Keane, the former chef at Cyrus and a vocal foie gras proponent. While briefing other chefs who were trying to understand the impact of the ruling on Wednesday, Keane said he offered up the three lobes he had tucked away in his freezer.

For others, however, it’s still a mad rush to get foie gras. “I’ve called everywhere, and we’re having a really hard time getting it,” said Daniel Kedan of Forestville’s Backyard. He’s phoned a number of former Bay Area suppliers and even called down to Los Angeles to see if anything is available. “It will make an appearance on our menu—eventually,” he said.

Keane and Ken Frank, chef of Napa’s ~LA TOQUE~, who hosted a 10-course foie gras luncheon last July, acknowledged that for hard-core fans, foie gras never really went away. It just went underground, with restaurants offering the dish without charge.

“We never took it off the menu,” said Jesse Mallgren, chef at Healdsburg’s Michelin-starred ~MADRONA MANOR~, who recently served up the dish on a tasting menu, offering it as a “gift from the chef.” “I gave a lot of ‘gifts’ the last two years,” Mallgren said.

Chef Miriam Donaldson of ~WISHBONE~ in Petaluma also served the dish as a “special” from time to time, procuring it from sources that she, like most chefs, has kept under wraps.

There are only three American producers of foie gras. Sonoma Foie Gras, which has since relocated outside of California, was at the heart of the state’s debate about the practice of force-feeding ducks to create the enlarged livers so prized by diners. The other two producers are Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm, both in New York state. Animal rights activists contend that the practice of force-feeding ducks is torture, while supporters and chefs who serve the delicacy argue the practice as carried out by Sonoma Foie Gras was not harmful to the animals. Activists and state attorneys are considering appeals.

In the meantime, other Sonoma County restaurants planning to put foie gras back on the menu include: — Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, where owner Terri Stark hopes to have the once-popular foie gras “poppers” make a return to the menu next week. — Farmhouse Inn in Forestville. “Of course we’re putting it on the menu,” said Steve Litke, the executive chef. “A lot of our customers really miss it.” — Chalkboard in Healdsburg, where chef Shane McAnelly plans to have it on the menu next week. — Thistle Meats in Petaluma has incorporated duck livers into its pâté and terrine since opening last year, using livers (foie) from ducks that have not been force-fed rather than foie gras (fatty duck liver). Owner Molly Best said her staff of butchers is excited to bring foie gras to their terrines. But you probably won’t see duck livers in the meat case unless there is a retail demand for the lobes, Best said.

Fork Roadhouse Opens: It looks like 2015 will be a pretty tasty year, with ~FORK ROADHOUSE~ leading the charge. Chef Sarah Piccolo has rehabbed the roadhouse at 9890 Bodega Highway, turning it into a homey little noshery that’s open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. We’ve been a fan of Sarah’s food truck for years, and most recently at her interim kitchen/café on South Main Street in Sebastopol. With about a dozen tables and a wood bar running the length of the space, there’s more room to spread out.

The menu includes a polenta bowl filled with goat cheese, kale, and a poached egg; a pork belly taco; a grass-fed burger with tomato jam; and orange- and ginger-stewed prunes with Greek yogurt, honey, granola, and bee pollen. There are also a number of vegetarian options, and everything is made with local, seasonal ingredients—and a whole lot of love. BiteClub is especially excited to check out the back patio when the weather warms, with creekside dining and a toasty fire pit. Thu-Sun 9am-3pm. 9890 Bodega Hwy, Sebastopol.

Where to grabba cuppa: A few weeks ago, I did a construction report on ~ BREW~, the new coffee and beer joint on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. With a soft opening this week, BiteClub’s a little in love—okay, maybe a lot. The former Donut Hut has been transformed into a warm and charming hangout that the neighborhood has already taken to. There’s a cozy couch in the corner, a case full of incredible pastries, burritos, and quiche from Criminal Baking Co., along with items from Grateful Bagel and Village Bakery. To drink, there are Ritual Roasters pour-over and espresso drinks. The taps are coming in this week, so hold tight for beer. Meanwhile, enjoy a little morning sunshine at my new favorite spot. 555 Healdsburg Ave., Santa Rosa.

Best Sonoma County restaurant openings of 2014: Want to know my picks for the best restaurant openings of last year? Check them out here.

December 23, 2014

Building out furniture for Dustin Valette’s new restaurant is an all-in-the-family project. Photo courtesy of Dustin Valette.


A sketch of the new charcuterie box for Valette. Drawing courtesy of Dustin Valette.


Cook Tavern opened this week. Photo courtesy of Cook Tavern.


Atlas Social will open in Napa next year.

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

Just off the press, chef Dustin Valette’s new Wine Country project officially has a name: ~VALETTE~. This ain’t about ego, however. We’re wiping a tiny tear from our eyes after Dustin explained that the building (which housed Healdsburg institution Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar for years) was once owned by his grandfather, Honore Valette, in the 1940s. “We spent some serious time thinking about what to call our new little ‘baby’ and we couldn’t get away from Valette. It pays homage to our family’s history with the building,” he says. So sweet. Adding to the charm factor is the all-in-the-family vibe: brother Les Garzini of Garzini Welding is making the restaurant’s charcuterie box and bro Aaron is co-owner. Look for a spring opening.

New Year’s Eve in Wine Country is always a food- and wine-centric affair, making the dress code more about casual comfort and fun than, well, six-inch stilettos and microminis (though you’re welcome to that, too, if that’s your bag). Here are a few of our top picks to celebrate the dawn of 2015.

~MATEO’S COCINA LATINA~: A tribute to Drakes Bay, including oyster shooters, halibut ceviche, and clam soup with local Dungeness crab and Fort Bragg uni (OMG, please). Also expect rabbit with pear demi-glace, goat with ancho chile demi-glace, and persimmon upside-down cake. $75 per person. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1520.

~BACKYARD~: The Forestville fave offers up California oysters, mackerel crudo, roasted bone marrow, Dungeness crab-stuffed sole, roasted quail, and purple potato gnocchi with foraged mushrooms. For dessert, there’s chocolate budino, tiramisu, and Meyer lemon tart. Three courses, $44; four courses, $65; and five courses, $75. Reservations required. 6566 Front St., Forestville; 707-820-8445.

~SOLBAR~: A 12-item menu includes buckwheat blini with caviar, chilled Maine lobster, Kobe beef carpaccio, grilled yellowfin tuna, petrale sole, veal tenderloin with sweetbreads and black truffle, and Black Forest cake. $90 for four courses, $20 for each additional course. 755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga; 707-226-0800.

~VILLAGE INN & RESTAURANT~: One of the best values for NYE is in the quaint West County village of Monte Rio. Chef William Oliver prepares a three-course prix-fixe that includes mustard seed-crusted smoked trout, lobster bisque, beef Wellington, poached Maine lobster, Cornish hen with herb gnocchi and foie gras jus, black truffle gnocchi with roasted chanterelles, and a Champagne tart with berries. $55 per person, reservations required. 20822 River Boulevard, Monte Rio; 707-865-2304.

~CENTRE DU VIN BISTRO~: Five courses of classic French bistro fare includes oysters Rockefeller, roasted chestnut soup, butternut squash ravioli, filet mignon Oscar, and chocolate-orange pot de creme. $100, $150 with wine pairing. 480 First St., Sonoma; 707-996-9779.

~SPINSTER SISTERS~: A three-course prix-fixe for $65 includes choices such as Dungeness crab with Meyer lemon aioli, duck liver mousse with port wine gelée and candied kumquats, tangerine-brown butter scallops, grilled beef cheek, rabbit pappardelle, Moroccan vegetable tagine, steamed chocolate cake, and Meyer lemon meringue tart. We’re also loving the idea of their New Year’s Day brunch, celebrated from 9am-3pm. 401 South A St., Santa Rosa; 707-528-7100.

I’ll be adding more spots as I find them at BiteClubEats.com.

~COOK TAVERN~ in St. Helena opened this week with a seriously noshable menu that includes housemade fried pickles, poutine with beef cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads with red wine veal jus, and mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Bigger plates include buttermilk fried chicken wings, a house-ground burger, slow-roasted Cubano, and steak frites. Potables include an old-school daiquiri, barrel-aged Manhattan, hot toddy, and crafty cocktails like the Cougar Juice (Grey Goose, St. Germain, peach shrub, lemon juice, and wine). Why do I feel slightly offended, yet thirsty? The tavern is the little sister restaurant of the popular Cook St. Helena. 1310 Main St., St. Helena; 707-963-7088.

Just one night a year, Christmas Eve, ~COSTEAUX FRENCH BAKERY~ sells its famous homemade cannoli. Fried pastry shells are filled with mascarpone and ricotta cheeses, candied fruits, and chocolate chips, then rolled in powdered sugar. This Southern Italian dessert has traditionally been part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Christmas Eve dinner that celebrates the bounty of the sea. Just remember to leave one out for Santa and his reindeer. We hear they’re huge fans. Advance orders only; six for $25. 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1913.

We’re chomping at the bit for Napa’s ~ATLAS SOCIAL~, slated for an early January opening. Headed by Michael and Christina Gyetvan of Azzurro Pizzeria & Enoteca and Norman Rose Tavern, the kitchen will be in the hands of Nick Ritchie (the former chef de cuisine at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega). Industry veteran Pat Jeffries will run the front of house. Opening menu items will include crispy fried farm egg with bacon jam; winter greens, apple, and persimmon salad; smoked trout rillettes with caraway-rye crostini; and citrus-braised pork belly tacos. Atlas Social will also feature family-style platters, including a garlic- and chile-roasted Dungeness crab and an ale-braised boneless beef rib. 1124 First St., Napa.

December 12, 2014

Cindy Pawlcyn is back with a new menu and a new chef, Jim Leiken. Photo courtesy of Cindy Pawlcyn.


Chilled English pea soup with Dungeness crab at Chalkboard. Photo Heather Irwin/BiteClubEats.com.


Backyard in Forestville will host a Hannukah dinner even your Bubbe would love on December 17th. Photo courtesy of Backyard.

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

Napa chef Cindy Pawlcyn, who was injured in a car accident earlier this year, is back in action! She and new ~CINDY’S BACKSTREET KITCHEN~ chef, Jim Leiken (a Daniel Boulud veteran), have created a new menu for the St. Helena restaurant that includes grilled Spanish octopus with Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, duck leg confit cassoulet, and a wood-oven pork shoulder. Old favorites like the Chinatown duck burger, rabbit tostada, and the adult grilled cheese are also still available. This month, they’re celebrating A.B.C. (Anything but Chicken), featuring game birds from small local farms, including guinea hens, partridge, quail, pheasant, and squab. Delish. 1327 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707-963-1200.

Three Alarm Grill Opens: Midwestern weenies have arrived in Guerneville! And this corn-fed flatlander couldn’t be more excited to take a bite. ~THREE ALARM GRILL~, which opened on December 5th, is serving up wet and messy Italian beef on a bun, hand-cut fries, and of course, a classic Chicago dog made with Vienna sausage (natch) that’s topped with mustard, onions, neon green relish, tomato, and pickles so authentic that you’ll think you’re at Wrigley. Ya can’t have a serious dog without chili, so they’ll will be serving up their signature beef chili on top or by the bowl (no word on whether it beats Cincinnati’s Skyline). What we’re especially loving is the funnel cake for dessert. For you hippy Californians, there are salads, cedar plank salmon, and chicken breasts. Uff da! Open Thurs-Mon 11am-9pm. 16218 Main St., Guerneville.

Pork Belly Biscuits, Y’all: There’s nothing more awesome than a happy hour with food and booze that actually, uh, makes you happy. In Healdsburg, ~CHALKBOARD~ is stepping up the post-cubicle party with a lineup of snacks and cocktails that already have us smiling. Just $6 gets you warm pretzels with cheddar cheese sauce, hamachi crudo, Dungeness crab tater tots, pork belly biscuits, or a fried chicken sandwich. Pair up another George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for a figgy Negroni, or a classic daiquiri, martini, or old-fashioned (plus a white and red wine). Heading up the new bar program is Nathan Grise Myers, so give him a shout if you’re happy and you know it. Happy hour is 4:30pm-6:30pm every day except Saturday. 29 North St., Healdsburg.

Light the Menorah: ~BACKYARD~ in Forestville celebrates Hannukah with their annual feast on Wednesday December 17th. The menu features matzo ball soup, smoked halibut salad, braised brisket, potato latkes, and Bubbe’s kugel. $55 per person; reservations recommended. 6566 Front St., Forestville; 707-820-8445.

December 5, 2014

Chef Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen will soon open his own restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Calistoga’s Solbar restaurant will close for renovations later this winter. Photo courtesy of Solbar.


Charlie Palmer has announced plans to rehab St. Helena’s Harvest Inn, adding a new restaurant, Harvest Table. Photo courtesy charliepalmer.com.


BurtoNZ Bakery opens in Windsor, serving up authentic New Zealand meat pies and other goodies. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Ramen Gaijin will soon have a permanent home at Forchetta in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Truffles from the BiteClub Holiday Cookie Contest. Recipes online. Photo Heather Irwin.

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

New details on Dry Creek Kitchen chef Dustin Valette’s yet-unnamed restaurant in Healdsburg. Turns out it’s a bro-fest, as Valette is partnering with his brother, Aaron Garzini, a front-of-house vet who has done stints at John Ash and Co., SF’s ~BETELNUT~, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Rustic.

“We dreamed about this when were were little kids playing in the yard,” said Valette (the two are half brothers). The boys grew up in the Sonoma County restaurant business and will be paying homage to many of their favorite local farmers, winemakers, and grape growers. The restaurant will be full of thoughtful details, such as furniture that will be hand hewn from a 750-year-old redwood stump. “I bumped into that stump recently and memories came flooding back,” said Valette, of the tree that was milled by his father.

“Everything in the restaurant will have a story,” said Valette, including the menu. Look for a parade of Sonoma County’s bounty, with a tasting menu, fresh pastas, local meats, housemade charcuterie, bespoke cheeses from a local cheesemaker, and of course, Valette’s signature scallops en croûte.

The vibe will be upscale casual, with entrées in the $20-$30 range, and no white tablecloths. There will be an extensive wine list and a cocktail program. The brothers say they’re hoping for a late February 2015 opening.

Of course, there’s always another story behind every restaurant opening and closing. For months, news that Valette was looking for a space of his own after six years with Charlie Palmer was one of the worst kept secrets in Healdsburg.

Most bets were that Valette would take on the Bistro Ralph space, which was quietly for sale, so it came as a surprise when Zin’s Jeff and Susan Mall abruptly announced their closing.

No one is speaking publicly about the reason behind the couple’s departure, but suffice it to say, the restaurant will be much missed and there’s plenty of push for the Malls to continue cooking for the community. “The spirit of Zin will live on with…Valette,” said the couple. Zin’s last day will be December 30th, 2014.

Bistro 100 Coming to Petaluma: Local chef Garrett Adair is planning a new restaurant in downtown Petaluma, slated to open in early 2015. The focus of ~BISTRO 100~ will be on ingredients, beer, and wine that are all sourced within 100 miles of the restaurant—hence the name. The restaurant will be opening in the former Blu space in Theatre Square. More news as it develops.

Shop Tawk: ~ROSSO PIZZERIA AND WINE BAR~ has hired a new wine director, Paul McBratney. Cheers!

Announcing some winter closures: ~SOLAGE’S SOLBAR~ in Calistoga will shutter for a revamp in January, and the ~FRENCH LAUNDRY~ in Yountville will also be closing to start a massive renovation in the end of December, according to sources. Look for it to be closed for many months into 2015, we’ll keep you posted on the project. There’s buzz about another high-profile Napa restaurant undergoing some major changes in early 2015, but so far no confirmation.

~FISH STORY~ in downtown Napa is on “winter hiatus,” meaning it’s closed, at least temporarily. Part of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, officials say there will be a new concept in the space come spring, but for now, the lights are out.

Finally, news has just broken that Charlie Palmer (Dry Creek Kitchen) will be rehabbing St. Helena’s Harvest Inn (which he purchased last winter) to make way for a new restaurant in his ever-growing hospitality empire: ~HARVEST TABLE~. The 110-seat restaurant will showcase (you guessed it) ingredients sourced from the surrounding area and the property’s own culinary gardens. There will also be a Napa-centric wine list, housemade tinctures and syrups for seasonal cocktails, and Northern Californian brews and ales. We’re digging the inn’s new culinary horticulturist, Laura McNiff, who will be the green thumb shepherding various herbs, berries, greens, and fruit from garden to table. Look for a 2015 opening.

BurtoNZ Bakery Opens: Meat pies for everyone! I’m a sucker for all things Kiwi (i.e., from New Zealand). So short of a rugby team showing up in my living room, the opening of a proper New Zealand-style bakery in Windsor is cause for celebration.

Seems about 400 other people had the same reaction on the opening day of ~BURTONZ BAKERY~, overwhelming the couple, and pretty much clearing out the bakery case by noon.

Owned by native New Zealander and master baker Warren Burton and his wife, Bobbi, the newly minted bakery is a labor of love for the couple, who raised nearly $40,000 on Kickstarter for their new business. The bakery offers authentic meat pies—flaky-crusted mini pies with steak and potatoes, cheese and mushrooms, or bacon and eggs—along with sausage rolls and Wattie’s sauce (a sort of spiced ketchup), custard pies, breads, and other traditional baked goods.

Burton’s effusive Down Under personality, longtime ties to the wine industry, and, let’s be honest, killer breads and pastries have made him a familiar figure in the Alexander Valley. As he loads baguettes into an oven that costs twice what I paid for a new car, Burton chats with customers, friends, and me, neglecting to slice steam vents into several loaves. As they come out of the oven a few minutes later, he tosses one of the imperfect loaves at me. “See what you made me do?” he chuckles. “Now you have to eat it!” Usually open from 5am-5pm, but call ahead to make sure. 9076 Brooks Road South (near the Safeway), Windsor, 707-687-5455.

The wildly successful ramen pop-up ~RAMEN GAIJIN~ gets a permanent home at the former Forchetta in Sebastopol starting later this month (we hope).The noodle fest is slated to be open four days a week (Wednesday through Saturday) for lunch and dinner. The rotating menu, according to co-founding chef Matthew Williams, will include ramen, Japanese donburi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, and yakitori made with plenty of SoCo produce and meats. Stay tuned for opening dates. P.S. Asian fusion restaurant Bastoni will still be operating in the space. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol.

Want a cookie? The results of the BiteClubEats Holiday Cookie Contest are online.