707 Scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
March 6, 2015
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Roast chicken and Parmesan pancakes at Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Cinco will be opening in the Barlow later this spring.

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Natural foods giant Amy’s Kitchen is planning a meatless fast-food experience in Rohnert Park. Photo courtesy of Amy’s Kitchen.

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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.

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

Been working your core lately? We sure hope so, because it’s about to get a serious workout this week. Sonoma County Restaurant Week starts Monday, with seven days of dining adventures awaiting you. Throughout the county, participating restaurants will feature two-course lunch menus for $10, $15, or $20; and three-course dinner menus for $19, $29, or $39. It’s one of my favorite ways to check out new restaurants and revisit old favorites.

Knowing what I know (and you know I know), here are my top 12 picks for getting the biggest bang for your buck:

~BACKYARD~: The $29 dinner features wild mushroom soup, skirt steak with polenta and lemon-braised cabbage, and chocolate budino or candy cap mushroom ice cream. 6566 Front St., Forestville.

~BISTRO 29~: This great French bistro, which is never a disappointment, will be doing a $29 dinner. 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa.

~CAFÉ LUCIA~: If you haven’t had a chance to try this Portuguese café, the $29 dinner is a great opportunity to sample some of the best of the menu, including the pork tenderloin “recheado” that’s stuffed with olive, figs, and almonds, and served with cheese and potato croquettes and a port sauce. 235 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

~CANNETI~: The weekly emailed menu from this Forestville roadhouse never fails to make my mouth water. Their $39 dinner includes grilled calamari with purple potatoes, crispy skinned spring trout with yellow chickpeas and squash chips, beef cacciatore with olives over white corn polenta, and chocolate mousse with cherries. 6675 Front St., Forestville.

~MATEO’S COCINA LATINA~: Mateo’s does true farm-to-table dining, with the meat and produce sourced from nearby fields. The $39 dinner includes asparagus soup, red wine-braised beef with celery root and horseradish, black cod with braised napa cabbage in a Meyer lemon cream sauce, and a Downtown Bakery sticky bun and flan. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg.

~PULLMAN KITCHEN~: The $29 dinner is your chance to check out the signature Pullman roast chicken with Parmesan pancakes, and the housemade ice cream. It’s a BiteClub fave. 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa.

~STARK’S STEAKS & SEAFOOD~: A $39 dinner that includes a Caesar salad, a 16-ounce rib eye with a baked potato, and a warm chocolate soufflé cake? Um, yes. 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa.

~TWISTED 2~: I still haven’t been here (I hear it’s a real gem), but maybe the $39 dinner for Restaurant Week is the impetus. The menu features Hawaiian sashimi with Asian slaw, Brazilian pork shoulder with black bean cassoulet, and strawberry shortcake. 29F Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma.

~UNDERWOOD BAR AND BISTRO~: Always a solid contender, Underwood’s $39 dinner includes flat-iron steak frites, Bellwether Farms ricotta ravioli, pan-roasted salmon with Calvados brown butter, and Meyer lemon cheesecake. 9113 Graton Road, Graton.

~VILLAGE INN~: This sleeper has a new chef, a new attitude and is looking to prove itself—which means they’re offering killer deal for $29. The menu includes parsnip-white bean soup with porcini beignets; clams casino with saffron poached clams and pork belly; lamb shank with carrots and potato puree; and apple-cherry crisp with Marshall Farm honey gastrique or carrot cake with maple icing and butterscotch mousse. Impressive. 20822 River Road Blvd, Monte Rio.

~WISHBONE~: I’m in love with this funky little café, which is worth the trip even if you don’t live nearby. The $39 dinner includes bacon jam bruschetta; duck and rabbit pasta with duck egg fettuccine, bacon carbonara, and rabbit-lemon sausage, or spring veggie risotto; and chocolate truffle with peanut butter and caramel and vanilla panna cotta with lavender salt. 841 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma.

~ZAZU KITCHEN + FARM~ The $39 dinner includes grilled asparagus with preserved lemon aioli and duck egg, pork cheek pasta, and kaffir lime pie in a jar. 6770 McKinley #150 (The Barlow), Sebastopol.

Cinco coming to the Barlow: As if the Sebastopol’s Barlow didn’t have enough destination-worthy restaurants, BiteClub’s gotten word that yet another one is slated to open in the coming months. The casual Mexican eatery ~CINCO~ is being spearheaded by Bay Area restaurateur Jorge Saldana, who owns Tlaloc in San Francisco and Cancún in Berkeley.

What’s especially interesting is that Saldana runs a 130-acre farm and retreat near Guerneville that supplies much of the produce for his restaurants and line of salsas. The opening menu is still in development, but dishes at his other restaurants include prawn tostadas, fish burritos, ceviche, mole(!), fajitas, beef tortas, salads, and nachos. Simple, authentic, local. Word is that there will be a full bar as well. More info as opening gets closer. 180 Morris St., Sebastopol.

Amy’s Kitchen Drive-Thru Menu Preview: Natural foods giant Amy’s Kitchen is planning a meatless fast-food experience in Rohnert Park. Piled with sweet pickles, lettuce, tomato slices, cheese, and “special sauce,” the “Amy’s Burger” is a “beefy” mouth-stretcher (without the beef, of course) that can satisfy the most devout carnivore. And that’s a good thing, considering that In-N-Out and McDonald’s will be within spitting distance of their Redwood Drive location in Rohnert Park.

But getting that fast-food experience with the meat-free philosophy of Amy’s Kitchen hasn’t been, well, a picnic. “We’ve grilled enough burgers [in the R & D lab] to run the restaurant for a month and a half—multiple times,” said head food developer Fred Scarpulla. Trial and error can be delicious, though not necessarily easy. Not to mention that everything on the menu comes in vegan and gluten-free versions, which demands even more recipe testing. But as of late February, the opening menu will include burgers, meatless “chili” cheese fries, milk shakes, mac and cheese, pizzas, burritos, salads, and natural sodas made with GMO-free, organic ingredients, many of which are sourced locally.

“We make it all, and we make it from scratch,” said Scarpulla. That also includes the potatoes, which are specially grown for the company. “We’ve tasted every kind of potato to find the perfect potato,” said co-owner Rachel Berliner.

“I’m super-excited to pull up and just get this food to go,” said Rachel. “I’m that person.” If all goes well, much of Sonoma County will be those people, too. How many times have you asked yourself why someone can’t come up with a healthier version of fast food? Amy’s may have just cracked the code. Expect to pay less than $10 for a double cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, and less than $5 for a burrito. Redwood Drive at Golf Course, Rohnert Park.

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.