October 26, 2012

October 26, 2012
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The Umbrian white truffle at Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg. Courtesy Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Chef Rob Lippincott at The Parish Cafe in Healdsburg. Courtesy Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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New Orleans gumbo with andouille sausage and chicken at The Parish Cafe in Healdsburg. Courtesy Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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The Parish Cafe in Healdsburg. Courtesy Heather Irwin, BiteClubEats.com.

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Artisano, a wine, food and art event in Santa Rosa. Courtesy Artisano.

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

What does a $15,000 Umbrian white truffle look like? Well, the brain-size fungus that’s been purchased by ~CYRUS~ isn’t the most photogenic thing you’ve ever seen. It’s sort of lumpy and dusty, and weighs roughly the same as three baseballs.

Primarily found in Italy, the truffle’s earthy, seductive, musky odor envelops you. In fact, its scent envelops the whole room. Bought wholesale for about $5,600, the truffle will be the centerpiece of a special menu being served at the Michelin-starred Healdsburg restaurant during its final week of operation, says chef-owner Douglas Keane. Portioned out in shavings and slices, the truffle will ultimately end up selling for $10,000 to $15,000. “It’s pretty rare. They do get much bigger, but this is probably the biggest one I’ve ever worked with,” said Keane.

It’s a delicious farewell for the Healdsburg restaurant, which has been sold out for months, ever since the announcement that it would close at the end of October. A drawn-out conflict with the building’s landlord resulted in the decision to shutter. Keane and business partner Nick Peyton have not announced future plans, but remain involved with ~HEALDSBURG BAR & GRILL~.

At the newly opened ~THE PARISH CAFE~ in Healdsburg, Southern hospitality is alive and well. “The first time you walk in, we want you to feel like you’ve been here a hundred times,” says Bradley Blanchard, setting down a half-pound muffaletta sandwich on my table with a wink. Despite looking easily half my age, he’s called me “baby” at least three times, with the same kind of boyish Southern charm as his cousin, Parish Cafe chef-owner Rob Lippincott. I can’t say I mind being fawned over. Nor will you.

With all of the easy of the Big Easy, Lippincott’s New Orleans café draws you in with homey charm, Southern comfort, and a menu that’s pure French Quarter. Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more authentic Louisiana cooking this side of the mighty Miss.

Breakfast includes a crawfish and andouille omelet ($11); Egg St. Charles, which is a poached egg with fried trout ($14); shrimp grits with Creole tomato sauce ($12); pain perdu with bananas and bourbon sauce ($9); and Lippincott’s beignets (three for $5), which he’s sold for several years at local farmers’ markets. You’re required, at least by me, to eat those beignets—lightly fried pastries with a dusting of powdered sugar—with café au lait ($3.50), a heavenly mix of half-and-half and chicory coffee often associated with New Orleans’ famous Café du Monde.

Lunch is a hearty affair with 10 different po’boys—the signature sandwich of New Orleans—served on a light and fluffy baguette. Lippincott’s in-laws, who own nearby ~COSTEAUX FRENCH BAKERY~, make the loaves specially for the restaurant, which are stuffed with fried shrimp, fried oysters (go for the half-and-half, with a mix of oysters and shrimp), catfish, or fried green tomatoes (half or king-size, $7-$15). Several come with “debris” gravy, pronounced day-bray, a salty, meaty roast beef au jus (which I ordered on the side to dip my fries). The muffaletta (another NOLA staple) is piled high with ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella, and housemade olive spread on focaccia ($12-$18).

What you’re absolutely here for, however, is the gumbo, made with chicken and andouille sausage with okra, tomatoes, and green bell peppers, and served over white rice ($6). Order a side of feather-light hush puppies ($4) and fried okra ($3), which is breaded and fried to order, so there’s no slime. You’ll pull away from the table full, no matter what you order. It’s Lippincott and Blanchard’s mission to send you away happy.

“This could easily become a habit,” says a customer waddling out the door. But not before Lippincott hollers after him, “Come back soon, y’all.” 60A Mill St. at Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-431-8474.

Experience autumn in Sonoma County, using all five senses, at the fourth annual ~ARTISANO~ celebration, Saturday November 17th from noon to 4pm at the Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa. Discover local ultra-premium wines, delicacies from the finest restaurants that source regional, seasonal ingredients, and meet many of the region’s most talented artists. Hosted by Vintners Inn in the heart of Wine Country, Artisano will feature a raffle and silent auction of Sonoma County’s most creative lots with proceeds benefitting ~CERES COMMUNITY PROJECT~. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $75 per person and can be purchased online. 4350 Barnes Road at River Road, Santa Rosa.