First Look at Torc, Madrona's Dickens Dinners, Duck Commander Wines

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Torc restaurant in Napa recently opened in the former Ubuntu location. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Gnocchi from Torc. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Hamachi crudo at Torc in Napa. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Dickens Dinners at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg feature strolling carolers. Photo courtesy of Madrona Manor.

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Appetizer sashimi at Twisted 2 in Petaluma. Photo courtesy of Twisted 2.

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

A first look at Torc: Get a sneak peek at Napa’s newest restaurant entrant, ~TORC~. The menu looks spectacular and chef Sean O’Toole is again in his element, with free rein over the kitchen. Pictures of his hamachi crudo with kumquats, pillowy gnocchi, and one of the best desserts we’ve had in years from pastry chef Elizabeth Gentry—a confit of quince, honey shortbread, and lemon verbena ice cream—are worth a thousand nibbles. See photos online. 1140 Main St., Napa, 707-252-3292. Open 5pm-9:30pm daily.

Michelin-starred ~MADRONA MANOR~ will once again hold its beloved annual Dickens Dinners December 8th through Christmas Day. In addition to a five-course feast from chef Jesse Mallgren, strolling carolers in 19th-century garb serenade diners throughout the evening. The menu includes smoked egg sabayon with estate watercress, and prosciutto syrup and potato; beef Wellington with mashed potatoes and red wine reduction; and osetra caviar, black winter truffles, and Alba white truffles. Prices range from $90 to $170 per person (for the Christmas night dinner). Reservations are required and can be made by calling 707-433-4231. More details online. Want to extend your holiday fun? Book a room at Madrona Manor on the night of your dinner reservation and receive 25 percent off the room rate for that night.

From December 6th through February 9th, Calistoga hosts its fifth annual ~WINTER IN THE WINERIES PASSPORT~ program, a unique wine tasting guide offering visitors a relaxed way to tour, taste, and meet winemakers at 14 noteworthy wineries, as well as experience the warm and genuine vibe of the charming northern Napa Valley town. For $75, Calistoga’s Winter in the Wineries Passport program allows passport holders access to up to 14 wine tastings at any time during the two-month period—a wine tasting value of more than $250. Additionally, passport holders will receive discounts at several of Calistoga’s finest restaurants, lodgings, and downtown shops. More information online or call 707-942-6333.

Also in Calistoga, early reports are in on ~1226 WASHINGTON~, a gastropub that opened in the former Wappo Wine Bar last week. And so far they’re pretty positive. The restaurant serves brunch and high tea on Saturday and Sunday, and lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday). There’s also a lighter bar menu in the tavern. Check out some of the early menus online. 1226 Washington St., Calistoga, 707-799-5889.

In Petaluma, readers tipped me off that the former owners of Twisted Vines in Petaluma have opened ~TWISTED 2~, an intimate prix-fixe dining experience (and happy hour) Thursday through Sundays. Owners Dick and Julie Warner each play to their own strengths, with Dick (a local wine merchant) focused on the well-curated wine selections and Julie (most recently of Glen Ellen’s Olive & Vine) in the kitchen. There’s a strong focus on line-caught Hawaiian fish along with lots of produce from their own gardens and local producers. A sample four-course menu includes ahi sashimi, escarole Caesar, grilled fish with parsnip potatoes, lamb chops, Meyer lemon pudding, and flourless walnut cake. Dinner prices range from around $60 without wine to $95 with wine. Just want a nibble and a sip? Check out the Happy Hour and a Half from 5pm-6:30pm with wines by the glass, small plates, soup, and salads. Reservations recommended, 707-789-9914, 29F Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma.