Exciting Updates From the girl & the fig Empire


Drool-worthy MANO FORMATE selections with homegrown, housemade pickles; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Winter tastes like apple, endive, pomegranate salad with Fourme d’Ambert, candied walnuts, and pomegranate vinaigrette; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

~THE GIRL & THE FIG~ helped put Sonoma on the map as a dining destination when it opened 14 years ago, and partners Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze continue to push boundaries on California wine country cuisine. They invited me over recently to check out their restaurant family’s latest ventures and seasonal specials, which, predictably, are legion.

It’s clear from the produce-driven menus I saw that the fig empire is making great use of its new biodynamic vegetable garden, located at Imagery Estate Winery. Their garden blog now shares the seasonal developments throughout the year as well, with plenty of pictures at every step of the planting, cultivating, harvesting, and feasting process.

In addition, Sondra and John are rocking their MANO FORMATE charcuterie, which does an award-winning coppa, a fantabulous lardo-like pancetta rubbed with sage, nutmeg and pepper, and many, many others. Charcuterie making is a highly addictive pastime apparently, and chef John told me he’s constantly experimenting with different paste mixes, curing pressures, and meat cuts throughout the year. Look for lots of neat cured meats nestled among the produce this year.

Somehow, Sondra and John have also just released a new cookbook entitled Plats du Jour, which is a glorious full-color homage to the artisan food and wine producers of Sonoma County. As you might guess from the title, the book celebrates the homey seasonal dishes at the center of French daily cooking, which the girl & the fig creates every day as part of their prix-fixe menu ($34 for three full courses). This cookbook would be just as appropriate on a coffee table as in the kitchen, thanks to its gorgeous photos, interesting sidebars, and overall philosophy.

To celebrate the book’s release, the fig empire is running a special plat du jour promotion through March. If you order a prix-fixe dinner at all three restaurants between now and March, you can present your receipts to collect a fourth free Cena or plat du jour dinner at the restaurant of your choice, anytime you like. Not too shabby.

the girl & the fig, 110 W. Spain St. at 1st St. W., Sonoma, 707-938-3634; the fig café, 13690 Arnold Dr. at O’Donnell Ln., Glen Ellen, 707-938-2130; ESTATE, 400 W. Spain St. at 4th St. W., Sonoma, 707-933-3663.