March 22, 2013

March 22, 2013
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Artist rendering of the Graton Resort & Casino under construction in Rohnert Park. Courtesy of Graton Resort & Casino.

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Pork belly, chicken tomatillo, and grilled salmon tacos at Speakeasy in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Bacon lobster mac and cheese at Speakeasy in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Wine Country is still abuzz at the news that M.Y. China’s Martin Yan has filed for a business license in Sonoma County. Though company spokesfolks aren’t confirming the news, rumors abound that Yan is looking at the forthcoming Graton Resort & Casino as a possibility. Under construction in Rohnert Park, the upscale casino is promising four fine dining establishments and locals in the know say the offerings should be pretty impressive and have confirmed that the casino was in talks with Yan and a number of other high-profile restaurateurs. With plans for more than just gambling, including headlining concerts and events, and additional nine quick-serve eateries and close proximity to the new Green Music Center at Sonoma State (host to both classical and contemporary live music), it’s no wonder Yan and others may be eager to head north.

Excuse us if we’re moving a little slow today, but after five nights of ~SONOMA COUNTY RESTAURANT WEEK~ (and a gut-busting three more to go), there’s little doubt that this year’s event has been a boon not only to the local food industry, but will be adding a few delicious inches to locals’ waistlines. We’ll work it off running around the Artisan Cheese Marketplace on Sunday.

One of Petaluma’s signature events, this year’s ~ARTISAN CHEESE FESTIVAL~ (March 22-24th) is three full days of shoulder-rubbing with the cultured culturers of the local and national artisan cheese scene. The tented marketplace happens from noon to 4pm on Sunday March 24th at the Sonoma Sheraton in Petaluma. Come hungry (and thirsty) to the walkaround tasting featuring more than 70 cheesemakers, wineries, and breweries. Plus, plenty of chef demos and book signings. Tickets $45 at the door, 745 Baywood Dr. at CA-116, Petaluma, 707-283-2900.

Out-of-towners often find out the hard way that the kitchens—and sidewalks—of Wine Country often roll up around 9pm, leaving few options for late-night diners and midnight munchers. Skip the trip to Denny’s and cuddle up with a dish of lobster, bacon macaroni and cheese, or an egg-topped croque-madame at Petaluma’s ~SPEAKEASY~, open from 5pm to 2am daily. The tiny bar and dining room has quickly become a late-night hangout not only for restaurant industry folks, but also for barflies and revelers looking for a postparty nosh. The tapas-style menu covers all the bases—from creamy asparagus soup with tarragon crème fraîche ($6) to butternut squash and goat cheese panini (with crispy pork belly, $13), vegan tahini burgers with hand-cut fries ($9), spring pea and mushroom risotto ($10), chicken paillard with citrus caper butter ($13), the signature lobster mac (which may run out, so order early, $13), and the smoked ham, cheese, and fried egg sandwich with Mornay sauce (croque-madame, $11).

Don’t miss the jalapeño firecrackers ($8), which come with a verbal warning: Apparently the heat level is variable and you never know what you’ll get. Avocado purée and an offer of a glass of milk help mitigate the fear. Also worth the trip is orange tea-infused crème brûlée ($6) with cookies. So now you know where to go to quell your 1am munchie attack with a nice pork belly taco and sweet and spicy chicken wings. You’re welcome. 139 Petaluma Blvd North, Suite B, at Washington St., Petaluma, 707-776-4631.

The burgerfication of Wine Country continues with the forthcoming opening of ~BURGERFI~, a casual burger chain popular in the Southeast and Midwest. Call us a bit nonplussed at the burger offerings, since we’re pretty sure they’re not going to beat the offerings at ~GOTT’S ROADSIDE~ or our beloved In-N-Out. As a born-and-bred Midwesterner, however, there’s good reason to plotz a bit at their frozen custards, something rarely seen west of the mighty Mississippi. The eggier cousin of ice cream, it’s the key ingredient to Frozen Concretes, which put runny, watery milk shakes to shame. BurgerFi does a red velvet and key lime concrete (both hovering around a whopping 900 calories) that sound worth the splurge. Watch for it this summer at 967 First Street in Napa.