707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
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There’s still a grandiosity to the ~GUERNEVILLE BANK CLUB~, though the safe is now a photo booth and the tellers have been replaced by ice cream scoopers.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.

June 12, 2015

Restaurant Hazel will open in Occidental this summer. The chefs are most recently from Berkeley’s Zut! on Fourth. Courtesy of Hazel.


Red Bird Bakery has opened in Santa Rosa, featuring sweets and stellar breads by two former Della Fattoria bakers. Photo: Heather Irwin.


Suite D, a pop-up restaurant in Sonoma, will host an all-chocolate dinner on Saturday. Photo by Megan Clouse, courtesy of Suite D.


RKTO opens in the Trek bicycle store in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Trek.

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

Berkeley chefs Jim and Michele Wimborough of Zut! on Fourth are moving north to open ~HAZEL~, a wood oven-focused restaurant in Occidental. The couple are taking over the longtime Bistro des Copains space, which was for years a destination for French cuisine. The new “rustic California-Mediterranean” restaurant will make heavy use of the dual live-fire ovens, and the opening menu will include thin-crust pizzas, local fish from Bodega Bay, burgers, and small plates. As an alum of Boulevard, Kokkari, and Evvia, Jim is no stranger to wood-fired ovens. Michele will head up the desserts, including Friday Pie Day, as well as sundaes, cookies, and cakes. The couple are looking to open in mid-July; more details online. 3782 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental.

Best. Sticky buns. Ever. Though veteran baker Linda Cermak says her buttery, caramel-topped buns are a bit sweet for her taste, we’re a whole lot in love with Cermak’s spanking-new patisserie, ~RED BIRD BAKERY~. Hidden away in a Santa Rosa industrial park, the small bread, pastry, and cake shop Linda operates with husband Isaac is a dream that the former Della Fattoria bakers have leveraged their savings, their house, and their lives (baking starts at 2 am) to open.

Having tasted through literally everything in their shop—from the aforementioned sticky buns to yeasty cinnamon rolls, crackling croissants (some of the best in Sonoma County), coconut shortbread cookies, and freshly baked baguettes and round boules—there’s no doubt that there’s something special happening in their kitchens, which an extra pound or two around my waist reflects.

Literally part of the Della Fattoria family (Linda was married to the owner’s son), the couple have honed their craft to a science, questing for the perfect crumb and crust. One of their secrets? French butter. Made with a higher butterfat content and slightly fermented (or cultured), it makes all the difference in the flavor of their pastries. Another secret? Isaac won’t sell any loaves of bread he isn’t happy with, which by most standards would still be excellent. That’s how serious they are.

It’s well worth searching out the Cermaks at their Santa Rosa bakery, or at the Saturday morning farmers’ market at the Veteran’s Building, the Petaluma evening market, or the Tuesday Novato market—all of which are at least 5,500 miles closer than Paris. Hours are 6:30am-2:30pm weekdays. Call ahead to make sure they’re not at a market! 3279 Dutton Ave, Santa Rosa, 707-521-9838.

Nope, you’re not dreaming. Step into a Willy Wonka world of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate for dinner at ~THE GIRL & THE FIG~ chef Sondra Bernstein’s ~SUITE D~ on Saturday June 13th (that’s tomorrow!). The sure-to-sell-out Chocolate for Dinner event features a 10-dish cocoa extravaganza with top-notch chocolate from Valrhona, Vosges, Poco Dolce, and CocoaPlanet, including cocoa-rubbed baby back riblets, chocolate chile-dipped bacon, caramel-toffee potato chips, chocolate eggplant caponata, chicken with dark chocolate mole, and Italian zeppole with Belgian chocolate. During dinner, watch chocolate-themed movies, meet the owners of locally owned CocoaPlanet, and if you still haven’t had enough chocolate, a pop-up chocolate shop will also be there. Tickets $75 per person, all-inclusive with free corkage. For more info, go online or call 707-933-3668. 21800 Schellville Road, Suite D, Sonoma.

You can tell that Malorie, a popular barista in Santa Rosa, is tired of explaining what RKTO means. Standing behind the counter of the ~RKTO~ coffee/kombucha/tea bar that’s popped up inside the downtown Santa Rosa Trek store, she graciously gives it a shot, then turns it over to shop president Bret Gave. Apparently it means “great Northern bear,” as in the Bear Republic. As in California, he explains.

Gave has hit on a trend that’s popular in Europe and is making its way into hip retailers across the States: putting a food and drink spot inside a retail store. In this case, RKTO is located within a high-end bicycle shop. “We’re creating a community space,” said Gave, who hopes to expand the coffee bar to include beer, an outdoor space, and eventually some sandwiches. He also hopes it will serve as a meet-up spot for bicyclists heading out on rides.

Frankly, we’re more than happy with the current lineup of BiteClub faves, like Bella Rosa coffee, Straus milk, Republic of Tea, Red Bird Bakery goodies (see, they’re getting big!), Revive Kombucha (on tap), and Guayaki yerba mate. Well, that and Malorie. Ten percent of the proceeds from the coffee bar will benefit local cycling advocacy groups. And as for the name? How about Really Killer Trek Osteria? Add your suggestion online at BiteClubEats.com. We’ll pass ‘em along to the baristas. Hours are 7am-2pm weekdays. 512 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa (inside the Trek Store).

June 9, 2015

Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.


Artist rendering of the proposed Brewster’s Beer Garden in Petaluma. Courtesy of Michael Goebel.

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

Permits have been signed and work is set to get started on ~BREWSTER’S BEER GARDEN~ in downtown Petaluma. We’ve just gotten word from owner Mike Goebel that he’s planning a pretty ambitious space that will include a large restaurant with a beer garden (natch), bocce ball court, kids playground area, and a bar. “The site was phenomenal,” said Goebel in a phone interview.

“I like the people and the culture of Petaluma, and it’s nestled in with cool historic buildings right on the river,” he said of the now-parking lot near Buffalo Billiards on Petaluma Blvd North.

Goebel is the owner of several bars in San Francisco and the restaurant Mamacita. He’s tapped chef Chris Beerman of the popular San Francisco comfort food restaurant Citizen’s Band (also Boulevard, Conduit) to head up the kitchen, which will focus on “barbecue-influenced” food and local craft brews. Goebel hopes to create a family-friendly space, including the possibility of bringing in dessert food trucks or coffee carts to add even more to the experience.

“I want something cool and different; we think this is a really sweet opportunity,” Goebel said. Expect the opening in 9 to 12 months.

June 2, 2015

Communal table seating at The Farmer & The Fox. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

We heard a rumor last week that chef Joseph Humphrey had left St. Helena restaurant ~THE FARMER & THE FOX~, and now the press team has sent over the news of his replacement. Aaron Meneghelli, a Napa Valley native who was previously executive chef at Calistoga Ranch and chef de cuisine at Angele, will be taking the helm at Cairdean Estate, which includes The Farmer & The Fox, as well as Butterscots Bakery and Deli. The restaurant concept will remain the same, with gastropub-style food made using local and seasonal ingredients. As for Humphrey, he will be pursuing his own projects closer to his Oakland residence—the commute up there was pretty brutal. We’ll keep you updated on what’s next for him. 3111 St. Helena Hwy. N. at Byrd Hill, St. Helena, 707-302-5101.

May 29, 2015

Chef Masaharu Morimoto, photo courtesy of Masaharu Morimoto.


The Terrace at Rodney Strong. Photo courtesy of Rodney Strong.


BBQ, Brews, and Barn Dance. The band Cahoots performing at last year’s dance. Photo courtesy of FarmTrails.org.


St@x Social Eatery in Cotati serves up themed trays of ingredients to mix and match any way you like. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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.

May 15, 2015

Shoyu Ramen at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Smoked fish salad at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Sesame ice cream with miso caramel at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Torc restaurant in Napa has new happy hour offerings including the Midlife Crisis cocktail and the Face Melter quesadilla. Photo courtesy of Torc.


BYO dinner, decorations, and booze? Yup, it’s a Sonoma Valley pop-up from Hand Made Events. Photo courtesy of Hand Made Events.


Dungeness crab salad from new chef Andrew Wilson at Dry Creek Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.


Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Table opened this week in St. Helena. Photo courtesy of Harvest Table.


Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Table opened this week in St. Helena. Photo courtesy of Harvest Table.

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

~RAMEN GAIJIN~ chef Matthew Williams isn’t quite sure why his Sebastopol noodlery recently got called “white guy ramen” by the notoriously opinionated Richie Nakano of SF’s late Hapa Ramen. So, okay, Williams and co-owner Moishe Hahn-Schuman are white guys, and their restaurant is called Ramen Gaijin (the Japanese term gaijin refers to a non-Japanese person, or foreigner), but when you’re cranking out some of the best ramen in the Bay Area, well, people tend to take potshots regardless of how good your food is.

That’s unfortunate, because Williams and Hahn-Schuman are ramen savants, meticulous in every detail of this exceedingly complex noodle soup. In fact, the two just bought Nakano’s (allegedly) $60,000 Japanese noodle maker for their own Sebastopol shop, cutting their backbreaking six- to eight-hour in-house noodle-making process to mere minutes.

Additionally, Ramen Gaijin sources their vast lineup of ingredients from small local farmers and coastal fishmongers and craft everything from karaage to their signature shoyu ramen with patient hands. This ain’t no assembly-line ramen.

So what’s with the swipe? Meh. The guys take it in stride, saying that they stand behind every single bowl they serve as being as true to its regional inspiration as possible. Frankly, I’d be willing to bathe in every single rich, umami-laden, pork belly-filled bowl. Because I’m loyal like that. 6948 Sebastopol Ave. (near Main), Sebastopol, 707-827-3609.

Crack open Memorial Day weekend with a rocking and slurping good time at ~ROCKER OYSTERFELLER’S~ annual Oysterpalooza. With more than a hint of NOLA in its soul, this celebration of the bivalve features five bands on two stages along with a mollusk-heavy menu of barbecued oysters, fried oyster po’boys, red beans and rice, barbecued brisket, Hurricanes, and more surprises. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and kids 6-12 are $10. Tickets and details online. 14415 Shoreline Highway, Valley Ford, 707-876-1983.

Raise a glass to downtown Napa, which just got twice as happy with new happy hour menus. ~TORC’S~ daily happy hour from 5-6:30pm features $5 bites, including the “Face Melter” quesadilla with short ribs, Bengali sweet potato pakora, deviled eggs with pickled onions and bacon, and $6 cocktails like the Midlife Crisis (vodka, Dimmi, lemon, peach, and elderflower). 1140 Main St. (near Pearl), Napa, 707-252-3292.

~FAGIANI’S~ has a new Land and Sea happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4:30pm-6pm, featuring $1 oysters; $6 plates of charcuterie, steak tartare, or Scotch egg; and weekly martini selections. 813 Main St. (near Third St.), Napa, 707-226-7821.

Eat for Nepal: Santa Rosa newcomer ~YETI RESTAURANT~ serves up a special prix-fixe meal on Tuesday May 19th to benefit earthquake relief efforts in Nepal. The cost of the dinner is $29.99 per person and half the proceeds will go to NEWAH, a nonprofit focused on providing access to clean water in Nepal. Call 707-521-9608 for reservations. 190 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa.

What do you call a pop-up dinner where you have to bring your own food, wine, and table decor? Hand Made Events, based in Sonoma, calls it a party. After sellout events in SF, LA, and Brooklyn, the company is bringing their unique concept to Wine Country on Saturday May 23rd. What makes the experience so much fun? It’s an exercise in creativity and community. Groups of guests are guided to a secret location (in this case somewhere in the Sonoma Valley) a few hours before the start of the event. Wearing chic all-white ensembles, friends collaborate on the menu, the table decor, and the drink list, with just two hours to set up before the 7pm dinner. The whole evening ends with entertainment and dancing.

“We are so happy to bring PopUp Dinner back to our hometown.” said Nicole Benjamin, co-founder of Hand Made Events. “Sonoma is a place known for its exceptional beauty, food, and wine, so it truly is the perfect location.” Tickets are $38 per person (remember, you bring all your own food and drink) for a night with hundreds of new (and old) friends under the stars of the Valley of the Moon. After the event, you get to truck out all your own stuff as well, leaving no trace behind. Details and tickets online.

It’s been a busy year for Charlie Palmer. First he installed Andrew Wilson as the new chef at ~DRY CREEK KITCHEN~ in Healdsburg (which btw is going swimmingly). Next it was the spring release of his new cookbook, Charlie Palmer’s American Fare, and yesterday, the opening of his second Wine Country restaurant, ~HARVEST TABLE~ in St. Helena.

So far, the buzz is hot for exec chef Levi Mezick’s take on Wine Country cuisine, with dishes like roasted carrots with buttermilk, vadouvan, and granola; the Harvest Table burger with fontina cheese; and whole roasted truffled chicken with Parmesan polenta and morel mushrooms. Pastry chef Andrew DiClementi, most recently of Dry Creek Kitchen, is turning out his signature chocolate peanut butter bar with dark chocolate marquise. Hours are lunch Wed-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner Tue-Thu, Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10pm; and brunch Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm. 1 Main St. (near Sulphur Springs), St. Helena, 707-967-4695.