707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
August 29, 2014

Ramen Gaijin is a new pop-up in Sebastopol featuring authentic Japanese ramen. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Zazu will host a spirited dinner with local distillery Spirit Works. Photo courtesy of Zazu.

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

First off, we’ve got to state the obvious: there was a whole lotta shaking going on last Sunday. But Napa wants everyone to know it’s still very much open for business. Despite some damage and a few red- and yellow-tagged restaurants in downtown Napa, nearly everyone has reopened.

The good news is that many newer restaurants are in historic brick buildings that have already been retrofitted and thus survived the earthquake with relatively little damage. The vast majority of wineries are also open, despite some of the scary images of wine barrels that toppled like Lincoln Logs.

Sonoma County escaped relatively unscathed other than a broken dish or two, so its restaurants are also open for business.

Show your love and support for Wine Country and head on up north to eat and drink! There are plenty of harvest happenings that are swinging into full gear this weekend!

~WINE COUNTRY WEEKEND~ is the top dog of wine events in Sonoma County and one of the most fun. More than 200 top-notch wineries and restaurants bring out their “A” game for the weekend. It is a see-and-be-seen hoopla that no one wants to miss.

The three-day event starts with winemaker dinners and barbecues throughout the county and a gala dinner at Francis Ford Coppola Winery tonight from 6:30-10pm. Locals know that the poolside stage and million-dollar vineyard views make this Geyserville destination worth the drive. The kickoff to the weekend of indulgence features chef John Toulze of the ~GIRL & THE FIG~ in the kitchen and more than 25 wineries pouring.

Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch is gastro overload with 65 restaurants sampling gourmet bites and more than 150 wineries pouring Sonoma’s best wines. Let’s just say you’ll have to work very, very hard to get to even half of the goodies on hand. Other Saturday events include wine and food pairings with Kendall-Jackson, wine tours with the “Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sommelier Stars,” a self-guided tour of the MacMurray Estate, a Steel Chef competition, and plenty of bubbly in the Bubble Lounge.

So ramen is finally becoming a “thing” in Wine Country, and I almost don’t want to tell anyone about the ramen pop-up ~RAMEN GAIJIN~, happening on selected Mondays at Woodfour Brewing. Almost. But word of mouth is traveling fast and seats are selling out even faster.

In July, chefs Moishe Hahn-Schuman and Matthew Williams quietly started a every-other-week slurp-and-burp shindig featuring incredible bowls of ramen with homemade rye noodles, pork belly, bonito flakes, mushrooms, and pickled veggies.

This week, I got access to the kitchen, where the chefs were prepping for that evening’s dinner—it’s a whirlwind leading up to the first seating at 5:30pm. We absolutely loved the donburi ($11), with a chicken thigh with a six-minute egg, burnt kale, and salmon roe; heirloom tomato salad with creamy tofu and shiso ($9); and both the miso and shoyu ramens ($13 each).

I won’t claim to be a ramen expert, but nearby slurpers seemed totally sold. The shoyu ramen is a heartier and meatier broth that’s topped with a host of ingredients like toasted rye noodles, pork belly, leeks, wood ear mushrooms, and wakame. The vegetarian miso ramen has a lighter, brighter, tangier flavor. Leave room for dessert, though. We swooned over a blackberry sorbet with yuzu curd, coconut and sesame granola, and blackberries. The Woodfour Ramen Gaijin dinners run from 5:30pm-10pm. Come early, because seating is first come, first served, with the waiting list opening at 4:30pm. The next pop-up is Monday September 8th at Woodfour Brewing (6780 Depot St. at the Barlow, Sebastopol, 707-823-3144), with others planned for Sebastopol’s Forchetta and SHED in Healdsburg. Lots of pix online that’ll have you salivating.

Get ready for a super-spirited dinner Thursday September 4th at ~ZAZU~ with Sonoma County craft distillery ~SPIRIT WORKS~ and Ziggy the Wine Gal. Spirit Works’ founders Timo and Ashby Marshall start the evening with a guided tour and tasting at their brand-new distillery (at Sebastopol’s Barlow), which is followed by a three-course meal at Zazu. Expect plenty of delightful and seasonal surprises on the menu. $89 per person; not including tax and gratuity. Call 707-523-4814 to secure your spot at the table.

Get up close and personal with the harvest at ~GARY FARRELL WINERY~ as they launch the Harvest Tour, Tasting, and Lunch high above the Russian River Valley. Guests get a behind-the-scenes winery tour and a chance to view all the crushpad action before a seated wine tasting and catered lunch on the winery’s woodland terrace. Six of Gary Farrell Winery’s acclaimed single-vineyard wines are featured, and guests can choose from a menu that includes artisan sandwiches and salads or a selection of local foods in a shared picnic basket. The cost is $75 per person and it’s offered at 12:30pm daily by reservation only. Details online or by calling 707-473-2909. 10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg. 

August 15, 2014

The Farm to Fermentation Festival happens on Sunday August 24th in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Harris.


Cadet Wine & Beer Bar in Napa offers pop-up chefs and industry nights with rare wines and beers. Photo courtesy of Cadet.


Park 121 in Sonoma’s Cornerstone Gardens. Photo courtesy of Park 121.

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

Farm to Fermentation Fest: We’re gaga for fermented foods—everything from chocolate, wine, cheese, beer, and pickles to lesser-known goodies like kefir, kombucha, and beet kvass. Which is why we’re always first in line at the annual Farm to Fermentation Festival organized by Wine Country fermentation cheerleader, Jennifer Harris. This year’s event will be on Sunday August 24th and includes a DIY pickle station, fermented root beer float bar, a kraut-off, cheese pairing with Madame de Fromage, as well as 20-plus classes and 45 vendors (don’t miss the beer, hard cider, and mead tastings). Details and tickets online; 11am-5pm. Santa Rosa Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa.

Crudo at Cadet: Chef Dave Cruz (Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and the soon-to-open Miles Restaurant) will guest host a limited-engagement pop-up crudo bar at the recently opened ~CADET WINE & BEER BAR~ in downtown Napa. The noshfest will run the next two Thursdays, August 21st and 28th, from 6pm-10pm, paring carefully curated wines and beers with crudo. Run by hospitality alums Colleen Fleming and Aubrey Bailey, Cadet is a neighborhood gathering place that explores unusual libations from the Napa Valley and beyond. We’re especially loving Monday’s Industry Nights, when rare wines, grand crus, and large-format beers are poured for the local wine cognoscenti. 930 Franklin St., Napa, 707-256-9606.

Another Napa food truck rolls into St. Helena: Serving up a seasonal menu of bruschetta, spiedini, salads, rotisserie chicken, and sweet treats, the ~CLIF FAMILY BRUSCHETTERIA~ truck is now open at the winery’s tasting room, Velo Vino in St. Helena. The truck’s compact kitchen is manned by chef John McConnell, formerly the chef de cuisine at Napa Valley’s Michelin-starred Terra restaurant. Open Wed.-Sun., 11am-5pm. 709 Main St., St. Helena, 707-968-0625.

In this season of bounty, the food festivals just keep on coming! The 9th Annual Taste of Petaluma kicks off on Saturday August 23rd with more than 50 local restaurants, chefs, food purveyors, wineries, and breweries taking part. Every year, BiteClub gets a taste of something new happening in southern Sonoma County. We’re especially excited about newcomers Free Range Provisions & Eats, Red Boy Pizza, Secret Kitchen (a BiteClub fave), Native Kitchen, Jezebel Donuterie, Roast & Vine, Thistle Meats, and Zodiac. Sheesh, where was I when all these new spots opened? Get your taste of Petaluma from 11:30am-4pm, $40; details online.

Bistro Ralph Ends Brunch: Rumors that longtime Healdsburg restaurant ~BISTRO RALPH~ was, gasp, closing have turned out to be greatly exaggerated. What is true: the restaurant has ended its Sunday brunch from 10am-3pm as of July 27. The good news: your chicken paillard and chicken livers are are still being served all day long, from 11:30am to close. Phew. 109 Plaza St., Healdsburg, 707-433-1380.

Park 121 After-Hours Opens at Cornerstone: I’ve never quite known what to make of Sonoma Valley’s ~CORNERSTONE GARDENS~. Part art installation, part tasting room hub, part garden, and part restaurant, it’s an amazing Wine Country destination that’s finally finding its groove. This week, chef Bruce Riezenman of Santa Rosa’s Park Avenue Catering opens ~PARK 121 AFTER-HOURS PIZZA AND EMPANADA KITCHEN~ at the gardens. The walk-up eatery will be open from 4pm-7pm(ish) Thursdays through Sundays until October. And if you’re wondering how 7pm can be “after-hours,” remember we’re in Wine Country, where many wineries are dark by 4:30pm. Riezenman also runs Park 121, a cafe, grill, and market, daily from 10am-5pm at the gardens. 23584 Arnold Dr., Hwy 121, Sonoma.

August 1, 2014

Hand rolls at SEA Thai Bistro Noodle Bar in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Dungeness crab puffs at SEA Thai Bistro Noodle Bar in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Pot stickers with pork belly and jicama at SEA Thai Bistro Noodle Bar in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

SEA Thai Noodle Bar Opens: We’ve been finding ourselves spending more and more time at the revamped Coddingtown Mall, eating our way through all the new restaurants making their way to the North Bay. Our favorite, however, has to be local chef Tony Ounpamornchai’s newest venture, ~SEA THAI BISTRO NOODLE BAR~. Opening just last week, it’s the third SEA Thai restaurant (there are also locations at Montgomery Village and Corte Madera), but by far the best. The “Southeast Asian comfort food” menu is built around large bowls of noodle soups, curries, rice bowls, small bites, and salads.

A master of fusing Southeast Asian flavors with Wine Country ingredients, Ounpamornchai has created a more casual menu and dining experience; the simple wood tables are a convenient platform for slurping and sharing. 

The menu is still evolving, but the best bets are the Drunken Man Noodles (flat noodles with chicken, Thai chiles, Chinese broccoli, and a healthy splash of Johnny Walker); a sumptuous lamb curry with sugar snap peas in creamy coconut milk; a rice bowl with pan-roasted Liberty Farms duck, pickled ginger, yu choy, and sweet soy sauce; pot stickers with jicama and pork belly; and Dungeness crab puffs with spicy bacon aioli and plum sauce. 

There’s lots to love on the dessert menu, such as crème caramel with sweet cherries, and there’s an extensive wine list too. Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-8pm, and Sun 11am-6pm. At the Coddingtown Mall, 2323 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa (north main entrance near BJ’s Brewhouse), 707-528-8333.

Hey, Betty: Is Guerneville getting more fun by the moment or what? The recently revamped Russian River Resort (R3) is now home to ~BETTY SPAGHETTI~, a casual bistro with a patio. Owned by chef Greg Barnes and his partner, Darrel Hutchison, the Cal-Ital menu includes such noshes as batter-dipped green beans with ranch dressing ($9), polenta cakes ($8), burrata with arugula ($9), Tuscan kale salad ($10), sausage pizza ($15), spaghetti and meatballs, natch ($19), orecchiette with goat cheese ($16), steamed mussels ($18), and a rib-eye steak ($29). Poolside, they serve up burgers, hot dogs, carnitas tacos, sweet tea, and fries for bathing beauties and sun gods. 16390 Fourth St., Guerneville, 707-869-8399.

Cider Showdown: In case you haven’t heard, craft cider is the new craft beer, and California’s North Coast is at the heart of the movement. No one knows that better than Sonoma County’s own Ellen Cavalli of ~TILTED SHED CIDERWORKS~, a family-run cidery making use of lost apple varieties from West County. She’ll host a bicoastal tasting of small-batch ciders at SHED Healdsburg on Sunday August 3rd at 3-5pm. The workshop includes a tasting of six ciders (including Tilted Shed and Devoto Orchards Cider) paired with cheeses from Gypsy Cheese Co. and Weirauch Farm & Creamery. 25 North St. at Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-431-7433. Tickets are $50 and available online; 21 and over.

Kids, Dogs and Cheese: What pairs best with Yorkville Highlands wines? On Saturday August 2nd, the annual ~YORKVILLE HIGHLANDS WINE FESTIVAL~ welcomes the whole family (including Fido) for a day of grape stomping, barrel rolling, barbecue, and more than 60 Yorkville Highlands and Mendocino Ridge wines. The festival is hosted by Meyer Family Cellars, near Boonville in Mendocino County. Proceeds help to support the local fire department. Tickets available online; $50, $30 for designated drivers and kids 13-18, children 12 and under free.

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.