By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
Excuse me while I put on my rock star jeans and shine up my spork, because it’s the opening day of Napa’s BottleRock, and time’s a wastin’! With more than 40 restaurants, food trucks, and chefs participating, food is every bit the attraction, though, of course, there will also be music from the likes of No Doubt and Imagine Dragons. Top toques Ken Frank from La Toque and Masaharu Morimoto serve up restaurant-quality food from pop-up tents and there will also be plenty of food trucks.
On the new Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage, chefs such as Dominique Crenn, Michael Voltaggio, and Rick Moonen will pair up with musicians (Flavor Flav, Snoop Dog) and dancers for food-inspired performances (we can only hope it will be as entertaining as Big Freedia’s Beignet Bounce at Outside Lands last year). I’ll be reporting from the festival throughout the day at BiteClubEats.com.
The smell of spring swirls around the newly opened ~TERRACE AT RODNEY STRONG VINEYARDS~—rows of grapevines, freshly mowed grass, and a bright pink rosé of pinot noir in the glass. Breathe deeply, then pinch yourself, because you’ve found your new happy place.
More than a tasting room, this intimate outdoor patio features the perfect lazy-afternoon sip-and-nibble experience with five luxe bites paired with five Rodney Strong wines. Kick back under the cheery orange umbrellas, survey the expansive vineyards before you, and let yourself be pampered with a plate of local cheeses or charcuterie with perfectly paired wines. Or go all in for the five-course pairing (think Dungeness crab and short rib bao) with reserve wines (we swooned over the 2012 reserve chardonnay). Chef Mat Petersen heads up the kitchen (and new outdoor pizza oven) with consultation from Tara Goodman (Adafina Culinary, Zazu), making the terrace worth going out of your way for. Well, that and the view. Five-course tasting, $55; cheese plate for two, $25; cheese and charcuterie, $35. Reservations recommended. Open Fri-Sun 11am-4pm. 11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg, 707-431-1533.
Grab a partner and do-si-do to tomorrow’s ~BBQ, BREWS & BARN DANCE~ at Dutton Ranch in Sebastopol, which will be featuring a cheese and cider social, dinner by ~BACKYARD’S~ Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire, and plenty of heel-kicking tunes. The Farm Trails-sponsored event is from 5:30pm-10pm. Tickets and more details online.
Former Domaine Chandon chef Perry Hoffman has resurfaced after the closure of Étoile, taking over as executive chef for the popular Elaine Bell Catering in Napa. The Michelin-rated chef is an alum of Santé, Auberge du Soleil, and The Boonville Hotel. The Napa native’s grandparents were the original owners of Yountville’s The French Laundry.
Wondering which rosés to stock up on this summer? Taste through some of the top-rated rosés (as judged by a panel of professional sommeliers) at ~SIMI WINERY~ this Saturday May 30th from 2pm to 5pm. There will be more than 20 cherry-picked pinks from around the country, which were deemed the best of the 192 submissions at SIMI’s recent rosé competition. Exec chef Kolin Vazzoler will pair up some tasty noshes, and the band Full Chizel will get the party rocking. Tickets are $35, and the event is 2pm-5pm. More details online
One of the hottest trends in the restaurant scene right now: do-it-yourself entrees. Clever restaurateurs are offering a set list of ingredients that customers can customize to their gluten-free, meat-free, low-carb, Paleo-friendly, low-cal, and “I don’t like onions or olives” needs. Among some of the local newcomers: Pieology’s top-your-own pizzas, Chipotle’s DIY burritos and bowls, and Napa’s recently opened Heritage Eats, with their luxe meats and condiments for sandwiches.
~ST@X SOCIAL EATERY~, which recently opened in Cotati, takes it one step further, with thematic trays of ingredients you can stack up any way you want. Here’s how it works: select from eight different trays (or tasting menus) that include tiny bites of 10-12 items.
We fell hard for the Good Indian Stuff vegetarian tray, made up of Bombay spiced potatoes, cauliflower “tots,” roasted eggplant with peanut masala, flatbread, pea cakes, mango yogurt sauce, chutney, fig jam, lentils, coconut rice, and chickpeas. Using your fingers (the heck with forks), you can scoop, stack, dip, and nibble your way through the dishes. Go with a crowd and order multiple trays, such as the Louisiana (boudin balls, crispy pork skins, johnnycakes, rémoulade), Low Country (pork rillettes, country ham, catfish, crispy chicken skin, pickled peaches), Northern Italy (smoked sausage, risotto cakes, brown butter gnocchi, white bean purée), or Sliders (mini burgers, Spam and egg, pulled pork, pretzel rolls, onion jam, and mac and cheese).
We couldn’t help but wonder how the kitchen staff could possibly put together these complicated trays from more than 75 individual items. “That’s gotta be some mise en place,” said my co-eater. In fact, chef Paul Croshal has it down to a science, though it can get a little hectic during busy weekends, especially when more than 90 percent of the menu has to be made daily. Croshal’s menu even nods to of-the-moment eateries like Momofuku, with dishes like cereal milk and cookies (sugary cornflakes steeped in milk, then strained out, leaving only the deliciously sweet liquid). One customer described the milk and cookies experience like this: “the cereal milk must be made from rainbows and unicorn blood.” Also on the dessert menu, the Pie Party, which includes apple pie, lemon cream, and chocolate cream with cornflake milk ice cream.
Go with curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a few friends for the best experience. We’re pretty sure this is the most fun you can have at a restaurant—and still be legal. Hours are Tue-Sun 11am to, well, whenever o’clock. 8204 Old Redwood Hwy, Cotati, 707-664-1418.