707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
February 20, 2015
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Egg puffs at Quickly, which recently opened in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Mini octopus from Quickly, in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Woolly mangalitsa pigs at Winkler Wooly Pigs in Windsor, California. Owner Tim Winkler supplies many of the local restaurants with meat. Photo courtesy of Tim Winkler.

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Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega Restaurant in Yountville is among the all-star lineup at Yountville Live! Photo courtesy of Michael Chiarello.

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

Thursday marked the first day of the Lunar New Year, a two-week festival of food and family. The spring celebration ushers in the promise of good fortune with steaming bowls of noodles, whole fish, sweets, citrus, and other “lucky” delicacies.

This is the year of the goat, an animal that’s notorious for its appetite. (Okay, some say it’s the year of the sheep, which eat a lot too.) We say that’s good enough reason to break out of your sweet-and-sour pork rut and try something new at some of Sonoma County’s favorite Asian eateries. 

  1. Deep-fried foods and egg puffs at Quickly: Based in Taiwan, this wacky fast-food transplant is all about the tea—be it green, black, flavored with roses, coffee, red beans, or waxed gourds—supplemented with tapioca boba or grass jelly. Just dive in, because it’s all an adventure. There’s also an eye-popping menu of deep-fried items including mini octopus, tofu, and fish balls, which are pressed bits of fried fish, and not part of the fish’s, uh, reproductive anatomy. If you’re a little unsure about trying new flavors, go with the egg puffs. Though they look like bubble wrap, the taste is similar to a really eggy waffle. Expect a line of hungry Santa Rosa Junior College students ahead of you. 1880 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

  2. Steamed bao, pork belly, and barbecue pork at G+G Market: This local market is an under-the-radar gem for all things Chinese—at a great price. We’re huge fans of the steamed bao and barbecue pork, available in the deli. You can also find just about any Asian ingredient, from lychee jelly to black bean paste and dried shrimp, in the extensive grocery section. 1211 W. College Ave, Santa Rosa; and 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

  3. Chicken feet and tofu skin at Hang Ah: Dim sum fans agree that this is the best in the North Bay. The menu is massive, and chances are you won’t recognize about half of the small plates. But at just $2-$4 each, it’s worth some experimentation. Chicken feet are exactly that. They’re a huge delicacy, and folks raised on ‘em swear by them. Personally, I’m not a fan, but I did try one. Tofu skin? Sounds weird, tastes incredible. 2130 Armory Rd., Santa Rosa.

  4. Cantonese roast duck and mapo tofu at M.Y. Noodles: Martin Yan’s noodle shop at the Graton Casino is a hugely overlooked restaurant with really solid (and authentic) Chinese favorites. We really like the hoisin-glazed roast duck and mapo tofu. 288 Golf Course West Dr., Rohnert Park.

  5. Hot and sour soup at Kirin Restaurant: I’m a recent convert to hot and sour soup, over my usual wonton. Filled with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, feathery bits of egg, and with a spicy kick, it’s my new alternative to chicken soup when I’m ailing. 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. 

  6. Bakery goodies from East Wind Bakery: Just about everyone who’s been to this charming little Asian bakery has raved about the baked bao in flavors like kimchi-sausage and curried beef, along with Chinese sponge cakes and taro buns. I’m also gaga for their milk bread. 3851 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa.

  7. Goji Kitchen: This Pan-Asian restaurant has become a junior college-area staple because of its extensive menu of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes and also because of their dedication to fresh, often organic products and an extensive vegetarian selection. Though its not exactly authentic, you’ve gotta try the walnut pineapple prawn (the best in the area, hands down), along with clay pot rice and housemade pot stickers with ginger-garlic sauce. 1965 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.

Cheese lovers unite at Sonoma’s Artisan Cheese Fair, happening all weekend! This intimate cheese festival is at the cooking school Ramekins. Sunday’s gathering is one of the best opportunities to get face-to-face with the Bay Area’s artisan cheesemakers. Cheesemonger Sheana Davis of the Epicurean Connection hosts the annual event, which includes a mac and cheese cook-off, cheese tastings, and beer, wine, and cider tastings, plus guest chefs, live music, and of course, cheese wheel races. $50 per person, 21 and over. Trust us, you won’t walk away hungry or thirsty. Tickets available online.

If you haven’t heard about the mangalitsa pig, you should. This prized, woolly breed is fatty and flavorful, and definitely not “the other white meat.” A number of chefs are now offering the prized pork on their menus, but by far the best mangalitsa-centric (secret) feast we’ve seen lately is this Tuesday February 24th at the Epicurean Social Club/Matrix Winery dinner in Santa Rosa. Feast on charcuterie, pork rinds with pork lard, pork sliders with saffron rouille, pork jowl bacon, pork belly sous vide, pork tenderloin with vanilla bean sauce, leaf-lard cocoa nib cookie sandwiches, and of course, a bacon-chocolate brittle goodie bag. $95 per person includes wine; tickets online

Yountville Live: From March 19 to 22, Napa’s toniest town hosts an intimate lineup of top music performers, restaurants, and wineries for Yountville Live! The four-day event includes concerts, winemaker dinners, wine tastings, and more. Expect more than 20 musical acts (Aimee Mann, Colbie Caillat, and O.A.R.), 15 restaurants (Bottega, Hurley’s, Lucy, Brix), and 30 wineries (Jessup Cellars, Hill Family, Ma(i)sonry). There’s also a gospel brunch and the Taste of Yountville. Tickets range from a hefty $1,500 for an all-access pass to $450 for a music pass and $85-95 for concert tickets. Details and tickets online.

Still hungry? Check out BiteClubEats.com for even more delicious North Bay food news.

February 13, 2015
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Jeff and Susan Mall of Zin Restaurant head south of the border. Photo courtesy of Jeff and Susan Mall.

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Rancho Pescadero in Baja, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Rancho Pescadero.

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The makings of Buddha’s hand fruit kosho. Photo courtesy of Cultured Pickle.

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

Former Zin owners Jeff and Susan Mall are heading south of the border to take over food and beverage operations at ~RANCHO PESCADERO~ in Baja, Mexico. Que? Yup, it’s true. The Malls have been consultants for the resort since 2010, bringing their farm-to-table sensibility to the property, located south of Todos Santos. But don’t get your hankies out just yet. The couple plan to split their time between Mexico and Sonoma County and return north during the hot summer months.

No strangers to Mexico and its culinary traditions, Jeff spent many summers in Baja as a kid, staying in towns like Mulegé, La Paz, Loreto, and a much sleepier-than-it-is-now Cabo San Lucas. Susan grew up in San Diego and her summers were spent in Ensenada. Her early culinary memories include warm bolillos, turkey tortas, and carne asada. Jeff and Susan’s new menus at the resort’s restaurant, The Garden, will celebrate traditional Mexican flavors, made light and bright with locally grown ingredients. The Malls will also offer cooking classes, local food tours, and a robust guest chef program, hosting international talent for culinary weekends and events several times a year.

Sonoma County’s loss is certainly Rancho Pescadero’s gain. We will greatly miss the Malls incredible warmth, generosity, and culinary talents. The good news is, now BiteClub can go visit them in sunny Mexico.

That collective “eeeeeeeeeee!” you may be hearing from food-obsessed friends may have something to do with the Saturday February 21st Innovations in Fermentation Workshop and Dinner at ~SHED~ in Healdsburg. The half day workshop and multicourse dinner features a stunning lineup of chefs and producers, including Ali Bouzari of Pilot R&D, Kyle Connaughton of the recently announced Single Thread, Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing, Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine, the co-founders of Berkeley’s Cultured Pickle Shop, and Dan Felder, head chef of development at Momofuku.

They’ll be talking beer, cheese, miso, kimchi, and more, and afterward they’ll serve a communal meal with dishes like “ice-filtered duck broth with kohlrabi and miner’s lettuce from between the vine rows.” You know, just something simple they whipped up. The event will be from 3pm-10pm, and the $125 tickets are available online. 25 North St., Healdsburg.

February 6, 2015
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Roasted carrots at Atlas Social. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

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Angry shrimp at Atlas Social in Napa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Ricotta dumplings at Atlas Social in Napa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Chocolate and cherry budino at Atlas Social in Napa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Atlas Social in Napa recently opened in the downtown area. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Kyle and Katina Connaughton will open Single Thread Farms restaurant and inn next fall in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Kyle and Katina Connaughton.

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The exterior of Evangeline. Photo: Chloe Jackman.

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

I love a restaurant that says what it is and is what it says. The newly opened ~ATLAS SOCIAL~ in downtown Napa is exactly what it sounds like—a vibrant gastrohub for mixing, mingling, and plate-sharing. And when we say social, we mean that you’ll run into at least four people you know on the way to your communal table, where you’ll meet six more people you don’t. The restaurant is owned by local restaurateurs Michael Gyetvan and Christina Rivera (Norman Rose Tavern, Azzurro Pizzeria), who’ve partnered with exec chef Nick Ritchie and GM Pat Jeffries. The idea behind the small plates/big flavors restaurant is to, well, be social and share. Stingy eaters, you’ve been warned.

On a recent night, where “standing-room only” was a euphemism for “packed like sardines,” ordering came easy after seeing the flurry of plates land on the tables around us. Yes to the herb-leaf fries with Meyer lemon aioli, Dungeness crab toast, and the charcuterie plate. Yes to the ricotta dumplings with smoked mozzarella, “angry” shrimp, and braised pork belly tacos. Nope to the twice-fried Brussels sprouts, especially after smelling them go by our table several times. Dagnabbit to the mini rabbit potpie that arrived at a nearby table just as we ordered dessert. Fortunately, the chocolate budino with cherries and bee pollen more than made up for whatever else we didn’t order.

Plates range from $6-$18, with larger platters (for a crowd) between $34 and $42. The wine list is two well-curated pages, ranging from nicely priced local wines ($32) to higher-end cabs ($65-$70, plus a couple of pricier wines). So grab a glass, a seat, and a plate and get social in Napa. 1124 First St., Napa, 707-258-2583.

Even more news from Healdsburg: Superstar chef Kyle Connaughton and his farmer wife will be opening a Michelin-worthy restaurant this fall. Several months ago, rumors began buzzing with the news that a top-notch chef may be moving into winemaker Pete Seghesio’s newly constructed Healdsburg Meat Co. at 131 North St.

Turns out the grapevine was surprisingly accurate. This week it was announced that Connaughton and his wife, Katina, will open ~SINGLE THREAD FARMS~ restaurant and inn inside the space later this year. Seghesio’s butchery and a small tasting room for his Journeyman wines will occupy part of the first floor. They will also produce wine inside the Single Thread dining room in a glass-enclosed fermentation tank, making it the country’s smallest licensed winery.

“We really hoped to create a culinary showcase for the area with (this) building and we can’t think of a better pairing than the Connaughtons,” said Pete Seghesio. “They represent the essence of the modern food movement.”

The forthcoming 55-seat restaurant will offer an “experience” that includes personalized tours of the restaurant’s rooftop garden and greenhouse, an 11-course meal, California-centric wine pairings, lush decor, and the option to stay in one of the space’s five suites while being pampered and indulged throughout the evening.

Following a fine-dining trend that’s proved popular from Chicago to Los Angeles and New York, diners will purchase tickets (running about $200 per person) for the meal in advance. Kyle, who spent many years cooking in Japan, compares the luxe dining concept to “omotenashi,” which is a heightened sense of hospitality and anticipation of a guest’s every need.

Katina, who is an experienced culinary gardener, will manage a five-acre farm near Healdsburg, which will drive the menu almost entirely. Also enamored with Japanese culinary techniques, she embraces an ancient farming technique that breaks seasons into 72 five-day farming cycles, known in the expanding culinary farm-to-table cuisine as micro-seasons.

Kyle hasn’t given much detail on the dishes he’ll be serving, but he says they will be uniquely Sonoma County, with influences from his time in Japan, modernist cuisine inspired by his stint at England’s Fat Duck, and the traditional French cooking of Michel Bras. “We’re bringing together farm-driven cooking with innovation,” he said. Sonoma County is about to have a new Michelin-star contender.

Elsewhere, Ralph Tingle of the iconic ~BISTRO RALPH~ in Healdsburg wants you to know he’s not going anywhere soon. In fact, he’s opening a new barbecue restaurant at the former CK House Chinese (1525 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg) later this year.

Tingle told BiteClub that Bistro Ralph is still for sale, but it’s business as usual at the restaurant (meaning chicken livers for everyone!). The new space will have a mesquite grill, an outdoor beer garden, and live entertainment. “I’m excited to get all wrapped up in a new project,” said Tingle.

Nearby, Charcuterie has closed, and so far there’s no word on a buyer for the shuttered location. Also, Healdsburg’s 1950s-style eatery, Center Street Cafe & Deli, has closed temporarily— the owners of KIN Restaurant in Windsor will be taking over. The former Frank and Ernie’s steakhouse has reopened as Wild Flowers Saloon, and The Blackbird Cafe & Soda Fountain has replaced Snowbunny, with an expanded menu of panini, bagelwiches, and giant soft pretzels.

Just in time for Fat Tuesday, Michelin-starred chef Brandon Sharp is opening ~EVANGELINE~, a French-Creole-inspired bistro in Calistoga. The space, at 1226 Washington Street, has seen several restaurants come and go, but it was purchased last spring by Sharp’s employers at ~SOLAGE CALISTOGA~ resort. In the interim, the historic brick building, with its much-coveted patio space, underwent extensive renovation.

What we’re stoked about is the menu: classic French meets New Orleans Creole. Expect comfort dishes like poulet grand-mere and gumbo ya ya, along with Sharp’s own Croque Marin, which is a croque-madame with millionaire’s bacon (bacon cooked with brown sugar, black pepper, and cayenne).

The 2,000-square-foot space will include eight taps for wine, five taps for NorCal beers, and a cocktail program featuring NOLA-inspired drinks. Expect to pay around $15-$27 for entrées, with lunch and dinner service. Sharp, who is VP of culinary ops for Solage Hotels and Resorts, will act as the restaurant’s managing partner, while Solage vet Gustavo Rios will handle the daily ops. Sasan Nayeri, formerly of Terra in St. Helena, will be sommelier. 11am-9pm daily. 1226 Washington St., Calistoga.

January 16, 2015
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Winter is a perfect time to visit the Mendocino Coast. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Best clam chowder ever, at Little River Inn. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Wild Louie at Wild Fish restaurant in Little River along the Mendocino Coast. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Morning bun at GoodLife Cafe and Bakery in Mendocino. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Menu items at Thomas Keller’s Ad Lib include Atlantic salmon. Photo courtesy of Meg Smith.

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Menu items at Thomas Keller’s Ad Lib include Kumamoto oysters. Photo courtesy of Meg Smith.

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Chef Andrew Wilson takes the reins at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Andrew Wilson.

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East Wind Bakery’s bao, garam masala sweet bun, and kimchi croissants. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

The best time to go to the Mendocino Coast? If you ask me, it’s right about now, when crab season is still humming along and you might as well sit inside on a cold, blustery day and watch the crashing waves over a hot bowl of chowder. BiteClub spent three days wandering the bluffs of southern Mendocino County between Little River and Fort Bragg, eating, drinking, and enjoying a little solitude between sea and sky. Though this list is far from comprehensive, here are some of my faves from this trip.

Best Clam Chowder and Crab Cakes: ~LITTLE RIVER INN~

We all do it: visit the coast and eat clam chowder and crab cakes. And most of the time, let’s be honest, it’s a huge disappointment. Pasty bowls of rubbery clams and hard potatoes, crab-ish cakes made mostly of bread crumbs and egg. Even worse is when you know it’s been shipped in from some corporate kitchen hundreds of miles away. Little River Inn gets clam chowder right: a generous bowl of creamy broth, bits of Roundman bacon (see below), celery, onions, and clams still inside the shell. Best. Chowder. Ever.

Also a winner, literally, are their crab cakes; they’ve won the Mendocino crab cake cook-off several years in a row. The secret: lots of crème fraîche and sour cream, cornbread crumbs, and citrus zest. While you’re there, leave room for the olallieberry cobbler. 7751 California 1, Little River, 707-937-5942.

Best View: Mendocino Headlands

There’s no shortage of dramatic ocean vistas along the north coast, but some of my favorites are along the rugged coastline in the town of Mendocino. Be sure to bring a warm coat, hat, and gloves, then just park off Main Street and walk along any of the many trails along the bluffs. If you look closely, you may find a stairway down to a quiet cove, or a path through windswept trees to the edge of the world. On windy days, the Pacific booms in the caves below and ocean spray pelts your face. Just be careful, because this is unforgiving surf and one misstep can really ruin your day.

Best Local Seafood: ~WILD FISH~

Hidden behind a small convenience store and gas station, Wild Fish is the best restaurant you’ve never heard of in Mendocino. Using carefully sourced local products, including seafood from nearby Noyo Harbor, nearly everything on the menu just sings out to be ordered. Chef Jackson Clark is behind one of the best restaurants on the coast, with a dinner menu that includes whole Dungeness crab, local sablefish, swordfish with hedgehog mushrooms, and roasted goose from nearby Salmon Creek Ranch. The lunch menu is also incredible, with tequila-lime fish tacos, crab mac and cheese, roasted mussels, and the Wild Louie salad. Prices can be a little steep, but the view and the impeccably prepared dishes are well worth it. The wine pairings are spot-on as well. With just 10 tiny tables, be sure to call ahead for a reservation. 7750 California 1, Little River, 707-937-3055.

Best Winery: ~NAVARRO VINEYARDS~

The Sonoma Coast and nearby Anderson Valley are home to my favorite cool-climate whites and pinot noirs. And for everyday sipping, my absolute favorite bottles are from Navarro Vineyards, often hard to find outside of Mendocino County or their own Anderson Valley tasting room. We love seeing Navarro wines all over local menus; they’re well priced and pair so perfectly with the local seafood offerings. Their sister business, Pennyroyal Farms, offers up incredible goat’s milk cheeses that can also be found in restaurants and local grocers. If you find it, be sure to snap it up, because it won’t last. For kids (or non-drinkers), Navarro offers a line of nonalcoholic grape juices that are almost as good as the fermented stuff. 5601 Hwy 128, Philo.

Best Dessert: ~TRILLIUM CAFE AND INN~

Snuggle up around a cozy fireplace at this combination inn and restaurant. Though the restaurant lost its chef a few months after opening last year, the sous has kept things running smoothly. Though we’re sad that the baked Alaska has disappeared off the menu. It’s just as well, however, because the owner’s homemade salted caramel and ganache tart more than compensated. 10390 Kasten St., Mendocino, 707-937-3200.

Best Buns to Wake Up To: ~GOODLIFE CAFE AND BAKERY~

One of the best things about small towns like Mendocino is that everyone knows everyone else. Walk into GoodLife and you’ll overhear friends and neighbors catching up over the week’s news and a good cup of coffee. To boot, there’s an incredible array of freshly baked pastries, bagels, soups, salads, and daily specials like pumpkin curry. The morning bun, however, is a swirl of flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and orange that’s best enjoyed with a spicy cup of chai. Cozy up at a window seat to get the best view of downtown’s small-town bustle. 10483 Lansing St., Mendocino, 707-937-0836.

Best Smoked Everything: ~ROUNDMAN’S SMOKEHOUSE AND BUTCHER SHOP~

“We’ll smoke anything,” is the motto of this Fort Bragg meat shop, which upon entering, immediately infuses your soul with the sweet scent of smoke. They’ve got cases of housemade smoked sausages, cheeses, salmon, tuna, tilapia, hams, beef jerky, chicken, duck, lamb, and, well, you get the idea. They’ll smoke anything. The beef comes in from nearby H-Bench Ranch in Covelo. 412 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, 707-964-5438.

Word broke earlier this week that Thomas Keller is opening ~AD LIB~, a “pop-up restaurant” at the Silverado Resort through early March while the French Laundry undergoes a renovation. The restaurant will operate Thursday through Monday evenings out of the resort’s Royal Oak Room from January 21st to March 2nd.

According to the website, the menu consists of “traditional, honest food.” The à la carte entrées range from $28-$55 and include classic Caesar salad and steak tartare, both prepared tableside, fruitwood-smoked kielbasa, Black Angus chop steak, root vegetable potpie, braised beef short rib “Wellington,” broiled Alaskan king crab legs, and a seven-layer coconut cake. Guests can also expect a hearty selection of daily specials influenced by The French Laundry culinary garden.

This is a collaborative effort from the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group’s chef de cuisine Devin Knell, and The French Laundry’s chef de cuisine David Breeden and sous chef Michael Wallace, who is also the chef de cuisine of the pop-up.

But here’s the rub. Unless you’ve got at least four people, you’re out of luck (and even then, you’ll have to call soon). Tables for two have already been snapped up for the duration of the pop-up. Details and more info online. 1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, 707-754-4148.

Andrew Wilson has been named the new chef at Charlie Palmer’s ~DRY CREEK KITCHEN~ in Healdsburg, replacing Dustin Valette. Wilson was most recently at the Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar in Sonoma. With Wilson at the helm, Palmer says he plans to create “an elevated dining experience at the Hotel Healdsburg restaurant with a new style of service, enhanced operations, and all-new menus.” We look forward to seeing what changes Wilson brings to the destination restaurant. Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg, 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

Milk bread, where have you been all my life? Found primarily in Asian bakeries, this Japanese-style bread (also called Hokkaido) makes a supple, sweet, heavenly loaf, with nary a sprout, seed, or whole grain in sight. Perfect for toast, sandwiches, or simply nibbling straight from the bag, fresh loaves are baked daily at the recently opened pan-Asian ~EAST WIND BAKERY~. The loaves are about $5 each and are flecked with bits of Earl Grey tea, herbs, or cinnamon (as well as plain).

But that’s just the start of the inevitable caloric overload. This beautiful little bakery, owned by partners Doug Quick and Tony Tam, also features barbecue pork curried beef, red bean, and taro bao; kimchi- and Chinese sausage-stuffed croissants; garam masala-spiced sweet buns; Massaman beef and Thai chicken potpies; pork banh mi; and, well, you get the idea. Go with a sense of adventure and a hungry belly, and don’t miss out on the Sea Foam Coffee (made with a sweet-salty whipped cream and Asian spices) or boba tea. They’ve also got plenty of Western sweets (cupcakes, lemon tarts, etc.) that are equally delicious. 3851 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-568-6081.