707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
December 11, 2015
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Granola with seasonal fruit is one of the items on the new Ninebark brunch menu in Napa. Photo courtesy of Ninebark.

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Ahi tuna with olive oil “snow” at Valette in Healdsburg. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Watch out In-N-Out, Amy’s Kitchen is planning a meatless version of the Double Double. And it’s a contender. Photo courtesy of Amy’s Kitchen.

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Branzino at Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Hazel.

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Sonoma County terrine at Bistro 100. Photo by Heather Irwin.

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

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

Napa’s recently opened ~NINEBARK ~ will begin brunch service this weekend, featuring a lineup of sweet and savory dishes including bread pudding with crème anglaise, a fried oyster po’boy, smoked seafood Benedict, and the Ninebark burger. Morning cocktails crafted especially for the brunch crowd include the Tiziano (sparkling wine with Cocchi Americano and grapes), Southside fizz, and an Aperol sour. Sat-Sun 11am-2:30pm. 316 Main Street, Napa, 707-226-7821.

There’s always a great new restaurant opening somewhere in Sonoma County, and this year was no exception. Our 2015 west Wine Country lineup includes Michelin-worthy restaurants, fast-casual pizzerias, a vegetarian drive-thru, barbecue spots galore, and even a neo-Jewish/Korean spot. Here are our favorites for 2015.

~VALETTE~: There’s a reason why people spend hundreds of dollars for a meal; to delight every sense, one at a time. Valette delivers on that promise by showcasing the best local products, well-studied technique, and creative execution. A gathering spot for the who’s who of Healdsburg, this upscale-yet-approachable restaurant is the namesake of chef Dustin Valette, a longtime Charlie Palmer/Dry Creek Kitchen toque. Dishes are elaborate and carefully thought out to include a mix of textures, flavors, colors, and culinary intrigue, so prepared for plenty of surprises. The best bet is to immerse yourself in the chef’s “Trust Me” tasting menu—a guided tour through four (or more) dishes on the menu. At $15 per course, you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Dinner nightly starting at 5:30pm, lunch Fri-Sat 11:30am-2pm. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0946.

~AMY’S DRIVE THRU~: This healthy fast-food alternative created by Andy and Rachel Berliner of frozen-food giant Amy’s Kitchen is focused on an all-vegetarian (and vegan- and gluten-free-friendly) menu. But that doesn’t mean your junk food cravings won’t be satisfied. Go for double-stack veggie burgers, chili cheese fries, milk shakes, burritos, pizza, and salads that are a whole lot better for you than traditional fast food. ”This is food that even though it’s meatless, you don’t miss the meat,” said Rachel Berliner. The (literally) million-dollar question: where and when will they expand? Judging by the still-lengthy lines at the drive-thru, fans are coming back for more, and more, and more. More restaurants are in the works, but no word on exactly when. 58 Golf Course Dr. West, Rohnert Park. Daily 10am-10pm.

~SANTA ROSA SEAFOOD/RAW BAR~: For seafood in Sonoma County, it’s hard to beat this boat-to-table restaurant. An expansion of Santa Rosa Seafood’s retail shop, this casual cafe serves up destination-worthy fish tacos, fish and chips, and tuna ceviche along with more upscale classic seafood dishes like seafood cioppino, petrale sole piccata, grilled swordfish, and North Beach-style linguine with clams. This is the kind of fresh seafood you wish you could find at the coast, but rarely do. Prepare to be hooked at first bite. Lunch and dinner Wed-Sun. 946 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-579-2085.

~BIRD AND THE BOTTLE~: Popular Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark’s newest venture, Bird and the Bottle, is a marriage of East and West brought together by fire and schmaltz. Here, dishes like smoked black cod schmear and chicken skin cracklings fried in schmaltz with Nashville hot sauce commingle with congee-style cheese grits, mac and cheese, or buttermilk fried chicken. It’s a menu that not everyone gets, but the strange mash-up somehow works, with bold flavors and risky dishes that still have the rib-sticking comfort that the Starks’ restaurants are known for. A great cocktail lineup and $1.5-million interior make it a favorite meet-up spot. Sun-Thu 11:30am-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm.1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000.

~HAZEL~: Two blisteringly hot wood-fired ovens are the muscle at Jim and Michele Wimborough’s Occidental restaurant, Hazel. Left there by the previous occupant (longtime French restaurant Bistro des Copains), the ovens are being pressed into service for everything from housemade sourdough loaves to whole braised branzino, perfectly cooked pizzas, and every so often, pastry chef Michele’s chocolate chip cookies. Already being hailed as a new West County classic, the couple have quickly endeared themselves to the community with a mix of Mediterranean and California cuisines. Great weekend brunches too. Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm, brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. 3782 Bohemian Hwy, Occidental, 707-874-6003.

~BISTRO 100~: Local, comfort classics with a French twist are the signature of this cozy Petaluma bistro. Here, everyone knows everyone or, if they don’t, they will soon. The bistro tables lend themselves to casual conversation and your neighbor’s knowing nod of approval as your lusty plate of short ribs arrives. Most of the food (and wine) is sourced from within 20 miles or less, giving diners a true taste of the local area’s bounty. Best bets include mushroom and truffled bruschetta cream canapés and Sonoma County terrine, and cabernet-braised short ribs. Tue-Sun lunch 11:30am-3:30pm, happy hour 3:30pm-6:30 pm, dinner from 5pm-close. 140 2nd St., Suite 100, Petaluma, 707-981-8228.

~DICK BLOMSTERS KOREAN DINER~: Follow your nose to this funky Korean pop-up, where kimchee and KFC (Korean Fried Crack) are served up along with Kobe beef hot dogs (with pickled daikon and kimchee aioli, natch) and short rib mac and cheese. The sign goes up at 5pm, outside Don Taylor’s Omelette Express, after the pancakes and burgers are put away for the day. There are plenty of kid-friendly dishes that make this an experience for the whole family, along with fried PB&J with Pop Rocks for late-night diners. Wed-Sun 5pm-10pm.112 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-869-8006.

The Barbecue Crew of KINSmoke, Terry’s Southern BBQ, Sauced, Rossi’s 1906, Cochon Volant BBQ Smokehouse, and Juicy Pig: The new Sonoma aroma might just be wood smoke and brisket. This year, barbecue restaurants popped up like gophers on a golf course. It seemed like every time I turned around another chef had spent a month in Austin, Texas, learning the secrets of barbecue masters, and was now touting his secret sauce and philosophical approach to brisket.

With its “nondenominational” approach to barbecue, ~KINSMOKE~ tops our list, featuring everything from St. Louis-style pork ribs and Texas links to Alabama white sauce, Carolina mustard sauce, and Texas brisket. With a serious approach to sides, they’re the all-around spot to get your ‘cue on. Be forewarned that when the brisket or ribs are gone for the day, they’re gone. Lunch and dinner daily. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440.

The return of ~TERRY’S SOUTHERN BARBECUE~ is cause for celebration among its many fans for fall-off-the-bone ribs, hush puppies, catfish and Momma’s Boss Sauce, and sweet peach cobbler. 5979 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park, no phone.

~SAUCED~ has the unicorn of West Coast barbecue, burnt ends, along with a monster-sized sweet potato with pulled pork, bacon, sour cream, chives, and pretty much the kitchen sink of other goodies. 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 707-410-4410.

Glen Ellen Star chef Ari Weiswasser spent nearly a month in Austin learning the fine art of barbecue and has brought that back to Sonoma’s ~ROSSI’S 1906 BBQ SMOKEHOUSE AND DANCEHALL~ with a brand-new menu. Working with owner Max Young, they’re calling it “Texas barbecue in a California context,” featuring dishes like brisket and oysters. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, 707-343-0044.

Newest to the lineup is Texas-style barbecue spot ~COCHON VOLANT~, where chef Rob Larman serves up ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder sliced by the pound. 18350 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, 707-509-5480.

~BASILICO CUCINA ITALIANA~: Just opened in Santa Rosa, this trattoria is the second from the owners of the critically acclaimed Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma. Fresh pastas and real-deal Northern Italian entrees that go well beyond the usual spaghetti and meatballs fare. 4776 Sonoma Highway, Santa Rosa, 707-539-0260.

The nearly 100-year-old ~TWIN OAKS TAVERN~ in Penngrove, a favorite of ranchers and honky-tonkers, has been purchased by HopMonk Tavern owner Dean Biersch. Don’t expect another Hopmonk (there are HopMonks in Sebastopol, Novato, and Sonoma), because plans are to simply do a remodel and update, keeping the same honky-tonk vibe and iconic neon sign, just with better food and 16 taps. The bar closes in January for the remodel and will reopen in the spring with a new dance floor and kitchen and an expanded patio.

Doing some baking this weekend? We’ve got seven years of amazing holiday cookie recipes! This year’s BiteClub Holiday Cookie Contest is over, and the winner is…Jo’s Lemon Snowflake Cookie Recipe. We just loved the bright lemony flavors at the time of year when citrus is in season, and we’re also a bit “chocolated” out. This year brought a plethora of great new recipes, including the much-debated Salted Caramel Apple cookie (which some judges thought should win this year’s top prize), fudgy chocolate crinkle cookies, a really stellar sugar cookie recipe, and several others.

December 4, 2015
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1313 Main restaurant in Napa features a “snow”-covered dining experience throughout December. Photo courtesy of 1313 Main.

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A black and white truffle dinner will be held at Napa’s La Toque Restaurant on Wednesday December 9th. Photos courtesy of La Toque.

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Cheesemaker and author Gordon Edgar. Photo courtesy of Sheana Davis.

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Blackberry galette from the June 2015 tasting menu at St. Francis Winery. Photo: Heather Irwin.

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The view from the St. Francis Winery dining room. Photo: Heather Irwin.

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

Yountville is abuzz with the news that chef Michael Chiarello will shutter his ~NAPASTYLE~ store and open a food hall in the space, with a mozzarella bar, meat-curing area, wood-fired pizza oven, nanobrewery, and a café that serves pastries. It’s already being compared to Mario Batali’s Eataly in NYC and Chicago, though the footprint will be significantly smaller and the focus will be on a Wine Country experience. The space is adjacent to Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant and the unnamed project is slated for a March 2016 opening. The NapaStyle store, which focuses on kitchenware and Wine Country souvenirs, will close on January 4th. 6525 Washington St., Yountville.

You can have a white Christmas in downtown Napa after all. The restaurant ~1313 MAIN~ has been transformed into a winter wonderland with holiday trees, more than 20 pounds of fake snow, and a six-course holiday menu featuring Santa-approved dishes like 20-day dry-aged Sonoma Duck roasted over pine with cranberry and celery root velouté, sweet potato gnocchi with roasted chestnuts, a gingerbread soufflé, and luxe wine pairings. The $250 per person experience runs through December 30th. Details and reservations online. 1313 Main St. (at 5th St.), Napa, 707-258-1313.

Truffles are coming! On Wednesday December 9th, Napa’s ~LA TOQUE~ restaurant will feature a five-course truffle tasting menu featuring some of the most renowned truffles in the world. The Michelin-starred restaurant’s chef, Ken Frank, has invited guest chef Carlo Zarri from Hotel Ristorante Villa San Carlo in Cortemilia, Italy, to showcase both white and black truffles from Piemonte. Local and Italian wines will be paired with each course. Details and reservations online or by calling 707-257-5157. $150 per person, plus $62 for optional wine pairing. 1314 McKinstry St. at Soscol, Napa.

High-end Napa wine emporium and eatery ~BOUNTY HUNTER~ will be expanding—a lot. Founder and CEO Mark Pope announced plans for a four-story, 27,500-square-foot “food and wine emporium” that will open in 2018. The ground floor will feature a large barbecue restaurant, and there will also be a retail space for wine and spirits. The second floor will include event spaces and a “wine lab” for “a unique educational experience,” according to reps. Company headquarters will be on the third and fourth floors of the First and Main building. “It has been my longtime dream to create an engaging environment that celebrates this region’s love of food and wine in a fun, approachable setting,” said Pope.

Get a little cheesy on Sunday December 6th with cheesemonger Gordon “Zola” Edgar. The author and passionate cheese enthusiast will be at ~RAMEKINS~ from 3-4:30pm for a free event and book signing for Cheddar: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese, his latest work. The event is hosted by Sonoma cheesemaker Sheana Davis, who will serve aged cheddars from around the country, along with brews from Uncommon Brewers. Reservations suggested; call 707-935-7960. 400 West Spain St. (at W. 4th St.), Sonoma.

For the second year, OpenTable.com has tapped ~ST. FRANCIS WINERY~ in the Sonoma Valley as the nation’s number one restaurant, beating out culinary superheroes in New York, San Francisco, and Napa Valley.

“We are still pinching ourselves,” said Chris Silva, president and CEO of St. Francis Winery and Vineyards. “The real irony is that we aren’t actually a restaurant,” he added, acknowledging the uniqueness of his situation. St. Francis won the coveted top spot in 2013 as well.

But it also isn’t an accident that executive chef Bryan Jones’s five-course tasting menu and wine pairings have attracted a lot of attention. Using ingredients from the winery’s two-acre garden, classical fine dining techniques, and luxury ingredients, this isn’t exactly picnic fodder. And then there’s the idyllic scenery surrounding the dining room, with views of Mount St. Helena and the vineyards. At $68 per person, it’s a relative steal for this kind of dining experience.

OpenTable generated its list of the 100 Best Restaurants in America from more than 5 million restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between November 1st, 2014, and October 31st, 2015. Reps tell us that restaurants are sorted according to a score calculated from each restaurant’s average rating in the “overall” category, along with that restaurant’s rating relative to others in the same metropolitan area and the average number of restaurants reviewed by diners who reviewed that restaurant.

St. Francis Winery takes reservations for food and wine pairings Friday through Monday; details online. 100 Pythian Road (at Sonoma Hwy), Santa Rosa, 707-538-9463.

November 6, 2015
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Chef Christopher Kostow will be opening a new, casual restaurant at the soon-to-shutter Tra Vigne location. Photo courtesy of Meadowood.

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

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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.