707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
July 28, 2015

Meat over the fire at Cochon Heritage Fire in 2014. Photo by Galdones Photography, courtesy of Cochon Heritage.

The outdoor, open-fire meat fest ~COCHON HERITAGE FIRE~ is happening at Charles Krug in St. Helena this Sunday August 2nd. The meat-tastic party is part of the Cochon 555 national tour, which aims to celebrate and promote chefs who are using responsible, sustainable, and quality ingredients in their cooking. The Heritage Fire party focuses on meats cooked over open fire, in a most idyllic Wine Country setting. Featured meat items include smoked duck, dry-aged beef, spit-roasted rabbit, and roasted goat. There will also be seafood, including oysters and clams, plus cheeses, grilled vegetables, and more. In all, more than 3,000 pounds of meat will be served during Sunday’s event.

As for who’s actually doing all this cooking, more than 25 local chefs will be participating, including Sophina Uong (Revival), Adam Sobel (RN74), Robin Song (Hog & Rocks), Chris Marchino (Cotogna), and Kim Weiss (Antica Napa Valley), to name just a few. This being Wine Country, of course, there will be plenty of wine, including selections from both California wineries like Clif Family, Cornerstone, and Charles Krug, as well as a selection of German wines from Wines of Germany. In addition to all the food and beverages, there will also be fun activities, including lawn games, butchery demonstrations, and more.

The party runs from 4pm-7pm, and tickets are $100 for general admission or $160 for VIP, which includes entry at 3pm, some exclusive dishes, and access to the magnum wine bar. 2800 Main St. at Deer Park, St. Helena, 707-967-2200.

July 17, 2015

Scallops at Restaurant Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.


Braised short ribs at Restaurant Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.


Branzino at Restaurant Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.


Restaurant Hazel has opened in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.


Chef Matthew Lightner will be taking over the former Thomas in Napa, which is being reborn as Ninebark. Photo courtesy of the chef.


Kouign amann at Pascaline in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Caramel-filled brioche at Pascaline in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

~RESTAURANT HAZEL~, the new Occidental restaurant from Berkeley chefs Jim and Michele Wimborough, has opened! For months, the former Bistro des Copains has been undergoing some serious interior updates. Both chefs have been teasing fans on their Facebook page with pictures of roasted branzino, curried scallops with Santa Rosa plums, cupcakes, and braised short ribs with polenta.

The rustic California-Mediterranean menu is centered around the restaurant’s two wood-fired ovens. Jim is a pro with the fire, after years working with it at Boulevard, Kokkari, and Evvia. Because working with temperamental coals isn’t for just anyone, Michele will head up the desserts, including sundaes, cookies, and cakes, and she will make a seasonal treat every Friday for Pie Day. The inside scoop: blueberry pie is up first.

Hazel (named after Jim’s great-grandmother, who inspired him to become a chef) will be doing dinner only its first week and then lunch and dinner seven days thereafter, as well as weekend brunch. 3782 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental.

After just three years, ~FAGIANI’S BAR/THE THOMAS~ is closing in downtown Napa. Ninebark will be its immediate replacement. The vintage Fagiani’s sign in downtown Napa has gone dark again. In fact, it’s gone altogether. After just three years, the upscale, retro restaurant is shuttering. Call it the curse of the building (which was the site of the town’s most notorious murders), the kerfuffle the Fagiani family made over the original name, the ever-changing lineup of chefs, or maybe just the need for something different in the Napa Valley dining scene.

Whatever the reason, the NYC hospitality group behind the restaurant, AvroKo, is reinventing it as Ninebark (the name refers to a woody bush native to the region).

What’s really captured our attention: AvroKo has partnered with Michelin-starred wunderkind Matthew Lightner, who will open the restaurant and handle all of their West Coast culinary operations. There are whispers of a second restaurant in Calistoga, and there will likely be other Wine Country eateries. Lightner rose to fame as executive chef of Castagna in Portland, Oregon, then received two Michelin stars in NYC after opening Atera.

The restaurant and rooftop bar will feature “California-focused, market-forward cuisine” based around “innovative preparation techniques,” with proposed menu items like scallops with bottarga, seaweed, and buttermilk; skewers of fatty tuna, shiso, peppercorns, and sorrel; and savory porridge with smoked fish, heirloom rice, and sourdough. 

The Thomas/Fagiani’s is slated to close at the end of July, and Ninebark will hopefully open in early August. Call us stoked.

Move over cronuts, kouign amann are the “it” pastry of the moment. With layers of puffed dough, caramelized sugar, and more butter than should be legal, they’re so worth whatever caloric damage inevitably follows.

And no one makes them better than Celine Plano, the new pastry chef at ~PASCALINE GOURMET SHOP~. It’s in her blood, after all. Having grown up in Brittany, Plano is well versed in the complex and unforgiving creation of Breton’s most famous cake. “These are from where I’m from,” she says, pointing the kouign amann among the meticulous rows of muffins, scones, breads, and cakes she’s made that morning.

Plano is just half of the dynamic French duo behind the newly opened breakfast and lunch spot along Gravenstein Hwy (next to Mom’s Apple Pie). The other half of the team is Didier Pascal Ageorges, the former culinary powerhouse of Chalk Hill Winery, SF’s Ritz-Carlton, and Hotel du Palais Biarritz in France. Plano worked with Ageorges at the Ritz-Carlton and is also chef and technical adviser to Callebaut, the world’s largest premium chocolate manufacturer.

Not that sweets are all you’ll find at Pascaline Gourmet Shop. Open just a few weeks, they’re open for lunch as well, with simple but luxurious salads and sandwiches (think croque monsieur). The team also does catering and events, and Ageorges said they plan on including pop-up dinners and other surprises as they settle into the space. Stay tuned for more tastes from Pascaline. Tue-Sun 7am-7pm. 4550 North Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol; 707-521-9348.

June 19, 2015

Rendering of the rooftop bar at the Archer Hotel in Napa. Courtesy of Archer Hotel.


Rendering of the Archer Hotel in Napa, slated for a late 2016 opening. Courtesy of Archer Hotel.


The Guerneville Bank Club features ice cream from Nimble and Finn and chile apple pie from Chile Pies. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Charlie’s Wine Country Three-peat: Chef Charlie Palmer is on a roll. Following his recent St. Helena restaurant opening at Harvest Table, he announced yesterday that he’ll be opening ~CHARLIE PALMER STEAK~ in downtown Napa. The restaurant and rooftop bar is slated to open at the forthcoming Archer Hotel, a 183-room luxury property planned for late 2016.

The hotel and restaurant will be the centerpieces of the 275,000-square-foot Napa Center, which is being hailed as a game-changing “Napa Valley experience” with more than 40 shops and restaurants. Palmer has steak houses in New York, D.C., Las Vegas, and Reno currently. The tireless chef also recently released a cookbook, Charlie Palmer’s America Fare.

There’s still a grandiosity to the ~GUERNEVILLE BANK CLUB~, though the safe is now a photo booth and the tellers have been replaced by ice cream scoopers. The 1928 bank building has been rehabbed by locals and is now an ice cream and pie shop with retail space, an art gallery, and the Russian River Historical Society.

We’re smitten with ~NIMBLE AND FINN’S~ cheeky scoop flavors, including Manhattan (whisky, vermouth, and cherry chunks), blueberry cheesecake, and vegan strawberry, rose, and geranium sorbet. Paired with ~CHILE PIES’~ sweet apple and chile pie with a drizzle of chile-infused honey? Solid gold. 16290 Main St., Guerneville.