March 7, 2014

March 7, 2014
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Pork belly from Belly Left Coast Kitchen in Santa Rosa, just one of the more than 100 restaurants participating in Sonoma County Restaurant Week March 10-16th. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Beet tartare from Partake by K-J, which will be served during Sonoma County Restaurant Week. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Trillium chef Jeremy Baumgartner prepares for the opening of the new Mendocino restaurant. Photo courtesy of Trillium Cafe.

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

Sonoma County Restaurant Week (Monday March 10th through Sunday March 16th): I always feel like I need to announce Restaurant Week with the same voice Oprah used to announce that her audience was flying to Australia in 2010. “And you get a three-course dinner for $19! And you get a three-course dinner for $29!” I’d shout over the screaming audience. Talk show dreams aside, it’s hard to believe this is the fifth year that Sonoma County celebrates its hardworking restaurateurs with a five-day celebration of all things delicious. With well over 100 restaurants spanning Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Petaluma, the coast, and everything in between, this is your chance to hit up some of those restaurants you’ve been dying to try, but just haven’t been to yet.

New this year: two-course lunch menus for $10, $15, or $20. Three-course dinner menus remain at $19, $29, and $39. I’ll have a full list online, as well as some of my favorite menus, but some of the newcomers you may want to check out include:
- Palooza Gastropub (8910 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood) is featuring their wedge salad; beef cheeks or chef Chris Hanson’s luxe vegetarian risotto made with Speakeasy lager, mushrooms, and seasonal veggies; and s’mores on a stick, $39.
- 38 Degrees North Lounge (100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma): Sonoma Mission Inn’s hot new restaurant serves up roasted beet salad, beef sliders, and crème brûlée, $39.
- Belly Left Coast Kitchen (523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa): Love this downtown SR restaurant that’s got a killer pork belly with hoisin and Campfire Stout chocolate mousse, $29.
- Red’s Apple Roadhouse (4550 Gravenstein Hwy., Sebastopol): One of my favorite off-the-beaten-path newcomers is doing both lunch ($15, pulled pork sammie or portobello mushroom burger with hand-cut fries and pie) and dinner ($19) featuring their famous fried chicken supper or beer-braised pork belly.
- Best Value, Partake by K-J (241 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg): BiteClub is pretty floored by the $29 and $39 dinner menus that include four-plus courses of chef Justin Wangler’s life-altering food with multiple wine pairings. Think oysters with white verjus, smoked loin of lamb, white chocolate panna cotta, beet tartare, and Meyer lemon pudding. Now, keep in mind, each course is just a few luxurious bites rather than a craggy mound of food. But we’d far rather eat well than prodigiously.

Now please excuse me while sop the drool off my keyboard.

Good news from our neighbors to the north: The Baked Alaska is back. Granted, we’ve cherry-picked this Mad Men-era dessert (ice cream and sponge cake covered with meringue, baked, and often set alight) from the forthcoming ~TRILLIUM CAFE’S~ menu. But after perusing this new Mendocino restaurant’s menu, it’s indicative of the kind of classic-meets-modern dishes that are emblematic of chef Jeremy Baumgartner’s sensibility.

To wit: This Baked Alaska is an olive oil cake with kumquat meringue and mint ice cream ($9). And as long as we’re thinking dessert first, how about bourbon cream beignets with maple glaze and candied bacon, or a butterscotch pie with caramel and Chantilly cream. At least you’ve been warned to save room.

“We know this is an often overlooked area…We feel strongly that diners who are paying for a Wine Country-caliber meal…in a stunning location deserve not only outstanding food and drink, but…caring service as well,” said restaurant owner Sandra McElroy. Other tempting menu items: spring pea arancini ($12), Dungeness crab strudel with capers and nasturtium ($15), rabbit meatballs and tortelloni with sunchokes ($22), and pork loin and belly with heirloom beans ($26). Also available are several vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items. The restaurant opens officially on Saturday March 15th for lunch and dinner. And of course, dessert. 10390 Kasten St., Mendocino.