707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
November 6, 2015

Chef Christopher Kostow will be opening a new, casual restaurant at the soon-to-shutter Tra Vigne location. Photo courtesy of Meadowood.


Copia food and wine center has a new tenant. Photo: Commons.wikimedia.


Korean fried chicken at Dick Blomster’s is coming to Santa Rosa next Friday. Photo courtesy of Dick Blomster’s.

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

The big news in Napa Valley this week: Chef Christopher Kostow of ~THE RESTAURANT AT MEADOWOOD~ will be opening a yet-to-be-named restaurant in the St. Helena space being vacated by ~TRA VIGNE~. He will be joined by Meadowood’s restaurant director Nathaniel Dorn.

News broke last week that the legendary Italian restaurant will shutter on December 20th. Property owner Bill Harlan, of Harlan Estate, decided not to renew the restaurant’s lease. Harlan also owns Meadowood.

The new restaurant, according to Kostow, will be focused on more casual, celebratory dining experiences. He plans to continue his role at the three-starred Michelin restaurant, along with his wife, Martina. “We will continue our work here, unabated, at The Restaurant at Meadowood. We are looking at this new project first and foremost through the lens of St. Helena and then through that of the Napa Valley as a whole,” said Kostow. The new restaurant is slated for a 2016 opening.

In downtown Napa, Robert Mondavi’s long-empty food, wine, and art center Copia finally has a new resident, ~THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA~. The 80,000-square-foot building includes a theater, two restaurants, a demonstration kitchen, classrooms, a library, and retail space, along with an outdoor theater and gardens. Though the details of what will stay at the CIA’s Greystone campus and what moves to Copia are still in flux, it sounds like the downtown Napa space may be used for public events and classes as well as the Vintners Hall of Fame and the CIA’s Food Business School. There’s plenty more to come in the months ahead, but the acquisition of this Napa Valley gem is great news for the culinary scene.

Another new ‘cue: Glen Ellen Star chef Ari Weiswasser spent nearly a month in Austin learning the fine art of barbecue. He’s brought that back to Sonoma’s ~ROSSI’S 1906~ with a brand-new menu that debuted last week. Working with owner Max Young, they’re billing the new menu as “Texas barbecue in a California context,” featuring dishes like brisket and oysters. Appetizers on the menu include brown butter corn muffins, crispy pig’s ears with nacho cheese, chicken-fat fries with malt vinegar salt and lemon, and sausage links. Clearly not for the calorie-conscious. In addition, look for decidedly non-Texan pork ribs, turkey, veal-base barbecued baked beans, mac and cheese, and collards. For dessert, there are pecan hand pies and assorted ice cream flavors. Wed-Sun lunch and dinner. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, 707-343-0044.

Get ready for Korean fried chicken: ~DICK BLOMSTER’S KOREAN DINER~ in Santa Rosa has set an opening date of Friday November 13th. This second pop-up of the Korean BBQ-meets-pub grub (the original is in Guerneville) will be the nighttime alter ego of Don Taylor’s Omelette Express several evenings a week. Doors open at 5pm. 112 4th St., Santa Rosa.

October 30, 2015

City of Gold, a documentary about food critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Gold, will be playing at the Napa Valley Film Festival.


The Wine & Food Affair is a great way to sip and sup your way through Sonoma’s Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys.


Hush puppies, sweet potato tots, beans, ribs, brisket, and corn muffins at KINsmoke in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


KINsmoke recently opened in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Ribs at Juicy Pig in Guerneville. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

And…action! The ~NAPA VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL~ lights up Napa Valley from November 11th to 15th with more than 120 indie film screenings, plus glittering galas and plenty of food and wine events. This is Napa, after all. Food-centric films, including For Grace, about the opening of chef Curtis Duffy’s dream restaurant, Growing Farmer, the profile of an aspiring young farmer in the Salinas Valley, and City of Gold, a documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold (who will also host a discussion), join the lineup of films competing for awards. A series of vintner dinners and other tony culinary experiences round out the lineup. One- and five-day passes are available online, with prices starting at $95/day. $15 rush tickets to single films will be sold first come, first serve after pass holders have been admitted.

We’ve got an insider’s secret to meeting some of your favorite vintners and tasting some of their wineries’ best recipes: Sonoma’s annual ~WINE & FOOD AFFAIR~ on November 7th and 8th. The weekend event is a walk-around, sip-around tour through the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. A bit more sedate than some of the other tasting events of the season, this post-harvest event takes advantage of one of the most beautiful times in the vineyards. Tickets are $70 for the weekend and $50 for Sunday only. Details online.

Arrivederci to ~TRA VIGNE~. After nearly 30 years as one of Napa’s most legendary restaurants, it will close in December. One of its first partners, Kevin Cronin, reminisced about the decades of celebrity sightings, life-changing introductions, and first jobs for many of Wine Country’s elite. A Wine Country institution, it was hub for up-and-coming winemakers in the Napa Valley, as well as a see-and-be-seen spot for celebrities throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

“A lot of big names started their careers there,” he said. Michael Chiarello was the first executive chef, if that’s any indication. But after months of rumors, news officially broke that the restaurant will shut its doors on December 20th after property owner Bill Harlan decided not to renew the restaurant’s lease. And while the restaurant had lost some of its luster in recent years, the closure is a tough one for many to swallow.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Cronin, who left Tra Vigne in 2006 to open Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar with chef John Franchetti (also a Tra Vigne alum), but has kept close ties to the current partners. “It was like Camelot in the early days,” he said. “It was an epic time, and (the closure) is the end of an era,” he said.

The restaurant’s onetime guest list included Robert Redford, Robert Mondavi, Danny DeVito, and Francis Ford Coppola. Even Julia Child made an appearance once, asking to meet everyone in the kitchen and shake their hands. “She had an impact on every person she touched,” Cronin said. “She knew who she was supposed to be for people.”

Stories come easy for Cronin, who describes the property as one of the most beautiful in America. A life-changing moment for him: having dinner with Andre Tchelistcheff, one of California’s most important winemakers, credited with defining the enduring style of Napa wines. “He talked about pinot noir like sex. It was like magic, and one of the most amazing moments in my career,” he said. Rumors are already swirling again as to what’s next for the space, but from what we hear it will continue to operate as a restaurant. A large group of old-timers plan to meet at the restaurant on November 20th, Cronin said.

Barbecue You’ll Queue For: I’ll be writing a whole lot more about the exploding barbecue scene in Sonoma County, but there’s one spot that’s already got lines out the door. ~KINSMOKE~ opened on the Healdsburg Square less than a month ago, serving St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, smoked chicken, corn bread, and pulled pork. The former Center Street Cafe has been magically transformed into a Texas roadhouse, complete with rolls of paper towels on the tables and a secret sauce that’s so secret that even co-owner Brad Barmore had to beg for it—from his father-in-law. If the name sounds familiar, it’s the second Sonoma County restaurant for business partners Brad Barmore and JC Adams, who opened Windsor’s KIN restaurant in 2011. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440.

But wait, there’s more. ~COCHON VOLANT BBQ SMOKE HOUSE~ is opening in Sonoma this week, offering Texas-style barbecue that’s smoked over almondwood and sliced to order. Chef-owner Rob Larman has been running a mobile barbecue operation for the last seven years, so it looks like he’s already got his stripes. More on this spot after the doors open. 18350 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma.

Recently, I also headed to Guerneville to check out ~THE JUICY PIG~, a new barbecue spot from chef Ruben Gomez (most recently of Corks in Forestville). I’ve been hearing lots of great stuff about Gomez’s barbecue, and as we arrived, the smell of smoked meats was a solid sign. We loved the ridiculously cheesy mac and cheese, and the unbeatable Ruben’s Reuben ($14), with house-smoked pastrami, sriracha Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, and melted havarti and Gruyère on Costeaux’s pumpernickel. Strangely enough, the day’s soup—butternut squash—was one of the best bowls of soup we’ve ever had. I mean, ever.

The slow-smoked brisket and Niman Ranch pork ribs have potential, but seemed like they could have benefitted from just a little more fat and time to be as tender as we like. Sides also show promise, but could do with some additional seasoning. Overall, we’re looking forward to seeing how this one pans out, because West County could use a good barbecue spot. 16440 4th St, Guerneville, 707-604-7120.

~LA PERLA~, a sleeper Peruvian restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa, was a huge surprise on the 2016 Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list, beating out spots like Sondra Bernstein’s Girl and the Fig and several others that dropped off the list. I stopped by La Perla last Sunday to see what all the hubbub was about and wasn’t disappointed. Though the restaurant has had its ups and downs in the kitchen, Sunday was definitely an up, with authentic ceviches, including prawns with mango, ginger, red onions and lime ($15), and ahi with coconut milk and plantain chips ($16). We also loved the beef heart skewers and papa rellena, a fried potato croquette with beef, onions, raisins, and olives ($10).

It turns out that the chef who cooked for us Sunday—a former Sazon employee—has departed, and the original chef has returned. We’ll have to wait and see how things shake out before giving it a final thumbs-up, but the ceviche is definitely worth checking out. 522 7th St., Santa Rosa, 707-324-9548.

October 16, 2015

Salmon at the Kendall-Jackson Farm-to-Table dinner last June. Photo courtesy of K-J.


The Kendall-Jackson Farm-to-Table dinner last June. Photo courtesy of K-J.


Hazel in Occidental is now serving brunch and lunch, including plenty of pastries. Photo courtesy of Hazel.


Minty Vietnamese iced coffee from PhinBar, at the West End Farmers Market in Santa Rosa. Photo by Heather Irwin.


Shakshuka, a Tunisian dish of eggs, tomatoes, yogurt, and spices at Goodman’s Jewish Deli, part of the Sunday West End Farm Market in Santa Rosa. Photo: Heather Irwin.


Handline Fish and Food will be opening in Sebastopol in 2016. Photo courtesy of Lowell Sheldon.

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

Farm-to-Table Dinner: I’m always a sucker for a dinners in a vineyard—the kind of stuff people from Milwaukee think is a daily thing for us Wine Country people. And while it happens often enough, there are only a handful of these dinners that really surpass my expectations. Kendall-Jackson’s Farm-to-Table Dinner is a so-worth-it affair, on Saturday October 24th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. From the view of farmer Tucker Tyler’s incredible gardens (literally at your feet) to the sun setting in the vineyards to a tablescape worthy of Martha Stewart and chef Justin Wangler’s squeal-worthy dishes. Did we mention there’s wine? Yup, lots of that too. General admission is $125; details online.

~HAZEL~ in Occidental, which has been hitting it out of the park for dinner, has started lunch and brunch service. On the menu: pumpkin cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting, grilled sourdough from their wood-fired ovens with homemade jam, savory bread pudding with Pugs Leap chèvre, beef cheek hash, and a lamb merguez wrap sound luxe, along with pizzas and salads for lunch. You’ll likely need to work off all the decadence with a round-trip bicycle ride out to Occidental, or you know, not. Either way, grab a seat in the sunny dining room or on the small porch. Sat-Sun brunch 10am-2pm, Wed-Fri lunch 11:30am-3pm. 3782 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental, 707-874-6003.

The much loved Petaluma Italian restaurant ~CUCINA PARADISO~ is expanding north to Santa Rosa. Owner Dennis Hernandez took over Roberto’s Trattoria Lupo on Sonoma Highway this summer, with plans to reopen in early November. The menu will be similar to the Petaluma restaurant, which has been a longtime Michelin Bib Gourmand selection. Chef Angelo Cucco will take over the kitchen, an SF chef and pal of Dennis.

Farmers’ Market Report: I always love finding a dish I’ve never heard of before. This week, it was shakshuka, a Northern Africa one-dish meal that wakes up your taste buds with a one-two punch of cayenne-spiked tomato-red pepper sauce and gently coddled eggs, laffa, and yogurt. Onions, cloves, garlic, and other spices tag team in each splendid bite. You’ll find this little gem of a breakfast, along with bialys, egg creams, hummus, and even a vegan pastrami at ~GOODMAN’S JEWISH DELI~ at the ~WEST END FARMERS MARKET~. Here’s the thing, though: They make a limited amount of food each week, so come early and be prepared to grab a Vietnamese coffee from PhinBar, a cuppa at Retrograde Coffee Roasters (hand-roasted drip coffee, more on them soon), or a loaf at Revolution Breads. Save room for my incredible Sonoma County Fair find, Nuevo Sazon, who’ve also joined the market, serving their torta ahogada, a roll dipped in tomato sauce, then stacked up with carnitas, onions, and refried beans.

Restaurateur Lowell Sheldon of Sebastopol’s ~PETER LOWELL’S~ will open ~HANDLINE FISH AND FOOD~, a “California coastal-inspired restaurant” next May with partner Natalie Goble. There has been plenty of speculation about what’s going on at the former Foster’s Freeze on Gravenstein Highway. Sheldon plans to offer a chef-driven menu that isn’t about clam chowder and fish and chips; he says it will be inspired by Californian flavors.

“We are many things in California, but essentially we are a blend of Mexican and American. This is our history, and this is what we grew up eating,” said Sheldon. Inspirations for the restaurant, he said, include the Marshall Store, Fish, Gott’s Roadside, Swan Oyster Depot, the old Foster’s Freeze, and El Molino Central. The menu is still in development, but think ceviche, fish tacos, burgers, seafood stews, and salads.

~HERITAGE PUBLIC HOUSE~, a brewpub in Santa Rosa, has shuttered, effective immediately. According to proprietor Dino D’Argenzio, turning over the kitchen and management to restaurateur Josh Silvers in April 2015 “didn’t fit” and the parties have ended the relationship on a “friendly note.” Several months ago, BiteClub tasted through the menu, which was impressive, but it was recently cut back significantly. “It’s disappointing it didn’t work out,” said Silvers. “The team was really jelling. I’m hopeful in this time of employee deficits they will get snapped up fast,” he added. Silvers is the owner of Jackson’s Bar and Oven and does frequent restaurant consulting.

The on-site ~BLOODLINE BREWING CO.~ was a significant part of their tap program and will continue brewing offsite, focusing on increased distribution throughout the Bay Area. Bloodline is co-owned by several members of the D’Argenzio family. 1901 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa.

October 13, 2015

The dining room at Ninebark. Photo by Garrett Rowland.


The roof deck, looking into the bar at Ninebark. Photo by Garrett Rowland.


Octopus marinated in sweet-and-sour dressing from Ninebark. Photo by Garrett Rowland.


Ca’ Momi Osteria. Photo courtesy of Ca’ Momi.

A report by Dana Eastland: As previously mentioned on tablehopper, the former Fagiani’s/The Thomas in Napa will now be ~NINEBARK~, and the doors are now open. Hospitality and design group AvroKO has brought chef Matt Lightner (New York’s Atera) on to run the kitchen, and they’ve redone the space as a three-level bar and restaurant, complete with a roof deck.

The menu is California seasonal, with high-caliber technique. Lightner plans to smoke, perfume, and grill many of the dishes and is plating some unique salads as well. On the salad front, look for the horiatiki salad with Buddha’s hand, persimmons, peppers, seasonal selections of fresh fruit and produce, local feta cheese, citrus, and olive oil. Lightner is also preparing a selection of seafood, including appetizers like the chicken, shrimp, and ricotta dumplings with gravy of roasted chicken and prawns, smoked bread, and Parmesan. Many of the main dishes are smoked or grilled, like the charcoal-roasted duck with Valencia orange, garden sorrel, and tarragon sauce, or check out the poached and grilled halibut with escabeche, ragout of radishes, fresh and dried nasturtium, and a broth of stewed vegetables.

This being a former bar, there is also a wide selection of drinks from bar manager Andrew Salazar. The drink menu will vary depending on which floor of the restaurant you’re on, starting with classics on the ground floor. There’s a piña colada made with smoked pineapple, white rum, and coconut, or try the sidecar with Cognac, lemon, triple sec, and fig. On the third-floor roof deck, the drinks are all-new creations, like the Route 15 with Mosto Verde Italia pisco, lemon, cream, egg white, orange blossom, and honeycomb, or the Old Ball Game, with popcorn- and peanut-infused rye whiskey, Demerara, and leather bitters.

The space, as mentioned above, has three floors. The first floor has a bar and casual dining area, with a wall of goods and produce on display. On the second floor is the open kitchen, as well as a chef’s table and the main dining room. Then on the roof deck, there is an additional bar as well as more dining space, with lounge furniture and banquettes. Reservations are available, and hours are Tue-Thu 5:30pm-12am and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-1am. 813 Main St. at 3rd St., Napa, 707-226-7821.

~CA’ MOMI~ has opened a new osteria in downtown Napa (separate from their Oxbow location), complete with certified pizzaiolos and an Acunto Napoli pizza oven. In addition to meticulously authentic pizza, you’ll find a menu from chef and co-owner Valentina Guolo-Migotto that includes antipasti, pasta, and main dishes, all rooted in Italian regional home-style cooking. There is a traditional tortellini en brodo pasta dish, featuring handmade tortellini filled with pork, mortadella, prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg, and then cooked in housemade capon broth, or try the polenta con coda alla vaccinara, a braised oxtail stew with tomato, soffritto, pinoli, raisins, and Anson Mills polenta.

There is a selection of beer and wine, as well as cocktails featuring Italian and local spirits. Hours are daily 5pm-10pm. 1141 1st St. at Coombs, 707-224-6664.

October 2, 2015

The kitchen of the newly opened Bird and the Bottle in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Chicken liver mousse with pumpernickel bread at Bird and the Bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Fried chicken and whole fish with biscuits. The entrées are part of the Jewish/Korean/Southern menu at Bird and the Bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Cheesy grits with preserved egg and schmaltz at Bird and the Bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Pimento cheese and biscuits at Bird and the Bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Perry Hoffman joins Shed as the culinary director. Photo courtesy of Shed.


Manuel Azevedo and his sister Lucia. Azevedo will open a new tapas restaurant just off the Sonoma Square in January. Photo: Heather Irwin

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

Longtime Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark have finally (finally) opened their sixth restaurant, ~BIRD AND THE BOTTLE~, in Santa Rosa. It wasn’t without some labor pains, which included everything from permitting and ABC challenges to managing the $1.5 million renovation. But the pain will be soon forgotten when the restaurant turns out to be pretty darn perfect. I’ll be writing more about the menu and the whole story behind what Mark is lovingly calling his “Jew-rean” menu in the coming weeks, but here’s the 411 on what you need to know:
- The menu is a mash-up of Jewish comfort food, Southern classics, and a little Korean. That means dishes like cheesy grits with maitake mushrooms, cured egg, and spicy schmaltz ($10), kimchi latkes ($10), and matzo ball ramen ($10). Somehow it all works.
- The cocktail menu is equally inspired, with hard teas; drinking vinegars paired with vodka, bourbon, and tequila; and giant cocktail shakers with drinks for the table.
- Schmears are a great snack or lunch item, with chicken liver mousse, smoked black cod, and barbecued bone marrow served with pumpernickel rye ($10-$14).
- The restaurant’s name refers to a saucy double entendre describing late-night pleasures of pre-World War I young men about town—“hot bird and a cold bottle.” We’ll let you guess which was the saucy dish and which was the Champagne.
- A $20,000 indoor wood-fired grill is the kitchen’s centerpiece, with live-fire grilling of fish, breads, veggies, and of course, heartier meats. A commercial smoker gives duck and fish perfect flavor.
Tons more photos from the opening on my blog. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000.

Team Sonoma Gets a Heavy Hitter: The former chef of Napa’s Étoile at Domaine Chandon, Perry Hoffman, has taken over the kitchens of Healdsburg’s ~SHED~ as culinary director.

The Michelin-starred chef (and culinary wunderkind) will oversee the entire culinary program at the hybrid café, marketplace, and “modern grange hall,” including breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner at the café, as well as private dining and events. And while Hoffman’s wheelhouse is white-tablecloth dining at tony spots like Étoile and Napa’s Auberge du Soleil, he’ll be loosening things up to accommodate the more casual vibe of Shed.

Part of Hoffman’s new gig will include getting his hands dirty at Shed owners Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton’s Home Farm, a working farm that provides produce for the café.

A few fun facts about Hoffman:
- His grandparents Sally and Don Schmitt were the original owners of The French Laundry in Yountville and founders of The Apple Farm in Philo.
- Hoffman was the youngest chef ever to win a Michelin star, at the age of 25.
- He was a co-founder of Carneros Micros, a microgreen and edible flower farm.
- Hoffman replaces chef Miles Thompson, who joined Shed in January.

Shed has hosted a string of talented chefs in its kitchen since opening in 2013. 25 North St., Healdsburg, 707-431-7433.

Fish On: The fishmongers of ~SANTA ROSA SEAFOOD RAW BAR AND GRILL~ have opened a new restaurant with—and I say this with all seriousness—the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. That may have a lot to do with the fact that most of the fish comes in daily and is already incredible. Rather than being batter-dipped and fried within an inch of its life, delicate whitefish (usually cod, but it changes with the fresh catch) is adorned only with pico de gallo, cabbage, and chipotle aioli. Fish and chips are also outstanding—the kind you always wish you could get at the beach, but never do. Larger entrees like blackened ahi tuna, petrale sole piccata, and cioppino are also stunners. Just keep in mind that lines are starting to form, and the space is small.Open Wed-Sun. 946 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-579-2085.

News on the Sonoma Square: LaSalette’s Manuel Azevedo has purchased Sonoma’s Epicurean Connection, with plans to open a tapas restaurant and wine bar in the space in early 2016. Dubbed ~TASCA TASCA TAPAS RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR~, the forthcoming eatery is the third for Azevedo, who also owns Sonoma’s LaSalette and Café Lucia in Healdsburg. Both have won numerous accolades for Azevedo’s cozinha nova portuguesa, or “new Portuguese cuisine.”

Tasca Tasca’s menu will reflect Azevedo’s focus on Portuguese cooking, small plates style. Dishes will include Portuguese mac and cheese, raw oysters with lemon fennel mignonette, house-smoked California sturgeon, Azoriana sliders with pork and São Jorge cheese, goat stew with fingerling potatoes, and pork belly with Madeira glaze. There will also be many other authentic and seasonal tapas including a variety of salads, soups, and sweets. A curated wine list focuses on Portuguese wines and an extensive Port and Madeira selection. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma.

Sheana Davis, who opened Epicurean Connection in 2010, has no plans to hang up her apron anytime soon. The cheesemaker, caterer, and educator will be expanding her cheesemaking operations with her Delice de la Vallee and Creme de Fromage cheeses (found at swank spots like The French Laundry). She also plans to continue to cater and host a variety of classes throughout the region, as well as in NYC and New Orleans.