Building out furniture for Dustin Valette’s new restaurant is an all-in-the-family project. Photo courtesy of Dustin Valette.
A sketch of the new charcuterie box for Valette. Drawing courtesy of Dustin Valette.
Cook Tavern opened this week. Photo courtesy of Cook Tavern.
Atlas Social will open in Napa next year.
Just off the press, chef Dustin Valette’s new Wine Country project officially has a name: ~VALETTE~. This ain’t about ego, however. We’re wiping a tiny tear from our eyes after Dustin explained that the building (which housed Healdsburg institution Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar for years) was once owned by his grandfather, Honore Valette, in the 1940s. “We spent some serious time thinking about what to call our new little ‘baby’ and we couldn’t get away from Valette. It pays homage to our family’s history with the building,” he says. So sweet. Adding to the charm factor is the all-in-the-family vibe: brother Les Garzini of Garzini Welding is making the restaurant’s charcuterie box and bro Aaron is co-owner. Look for a spring opening.
New Year’s Eve in Wine Country is always a food- and wine-centric affair, making the dress code more about casual comfort and fun than, well, six-inch stilettos and microminis (though you’re welcome to that, too, if that’s your bag). Here are a few of our top picks to celebrate the dawn of 2015.
~MATEO’S COCINA LATINA~: A tribute to Drakes Bay, including oyster shooters, halibut ceviche, and clam soup with local Dungeness crab and Fort Bragg uni (OMG, please). Also expect rabbit with pear demi-glace, goat with ancho chile demi-glace, and persimmon upside-down cake. $75 per person. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1520.
~BACKYARD~: The Forestville fave offers up California oysters, mackerel crudo, roasted bone marrow, Dungeness crab-stuffed sole, roasted quail, and purple potato gnocchi with foraged mushrooms. For dessert, there’s chocolate budino, tiramisu, and Meyer lemon tart. Three courses, $44; four courses, $65; and five courses, $75. Reservations required. 6566 Front St., Forestville; 707-820-8445.
~SOLBAR~: A 12-item menu includes buckwheat blini with caviar, chilled Maine lobster, Kobe beef carpaccio, grilled yellowfin tuna, petrale sole, veal tenderloin with sweetbreads and black truffle, and Black Forest cake. $90 for four courses, $20 for each additional course. 755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga; 707-226-0800.
~VILLAGE INN & RESTAURANT~: One of the best values for NYE is in the quaint West County village of Monte Rio. Chef William Oliver prepares a three-course prix-fixe that includes mustard seed-crusted smoked trout, lobster bisque, beef Wellington, poached Maine lobster, Cornish hen with herb gnocchi and foie gras jus, black truffle gnocchi with roasted chanterelles, and a Champagne tart with berries. $55 per person, reservations required. 20822 River Boulevard, Monte Rio; 707-865-2304.
~CENTRE DU VIN BISTRO~: Five courses of classic French bistro fare includes oysters Rockefeller, roasted chestnut soup, butternut squash ravioli, filet mignon Oscar, and chocolate-orange pot de creme. $100, $150 with wine pairing. 480 First St., Sonoma; 707-996-9779.
~SPINSTER SISTERS~: A three-course prix-fixe for $65 includes choices such as Dungeness crab with Meyer lemon aioli, duck liver mousse with port wine gelée and candied kumquats, tangerine-brown butter scallops, grilled beef cheek, rabbit pappardelle, Moroccan vegetable tagine, steamed chocolate cake, and Meyer lemon meringue tart. We’re also loving the idea of their New Year’s Day brunch, celebrated from 9am-3pm. 401 South A St., Santa Rosa; 707-528-7100.
I’ll be adding more spots as I find them at BiteClubEats.com.
~COOK TAVERN~ in St. Helena opened this week with a seriously noshable menu that includes housemade fried pickles, poutine with beef cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads with red wine veal jus, and mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Bigger plates include buttermilk fried chicken wings, a house-ground burger, slow-roasted Cubano, and steak frites. Potables include an old-school daiquiri, barrel-aged Manhattan, hot toddy, and crafty cocktails like the Cougar Juice (Grey Goose, St. Germain, peach shrub, lemon juice, and wine). Why do I feel slightly offended, yet thirsty? The tavern is the little sister restaurant of the popular Cook St. Helena. 1310 Main St., St. Helena; 707-963-7088.
Just one night a year, Christmas Eve, ~COSTEAUX FRENCH BAKERY~ sells its famous homemade cannoli. Fried pastry shells are filled with mascarpone and ricotta cheeses, candied fruits, and chocolate chips, then rolled in powdered sugar. This Southern Italian dessert has traditionally been part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Christmas Eve dinner that celebrates the bounty of the sea. Just remember to leave one out for Santa and his reindeer. We hear they’re huge fans. Advance orders only; six for $25. 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-433-1913.
We’re chomping at the bit for Napa’s ~ATLAS SOCIAL~, slated for an early January opening. Headed by Michael and Christina Gyetvan of Azzurro Pizzeria & Enoteca and Norman Rose Tavern, the kitchen will be in the hands of Nick Ritchie (the former chef de cuisine at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega). Industry veteran Pat Jeffries will run the front of house. Opening menu items will include crispy fried farm egg with bacon jam; winter greens, apple, and persimmon salad; smoked trout rillettes with caraway-rye crostini; and citrus-braised pork belly tacos. Atlas Social will also feature family-style platters, including a garlic- and chile-roasted Dungeness crab and an ale-braised boneless beef rib. 1124 First St., Napa.