Portuguese Dining, Feast of the Seven Fishes, Napa's Pear

2soupbest.jpg

Caldeirada, a Portuguese fish stew, at Café Lucia. Courtesy Heather Irwin.

dessert.jpg

Dessert at Café Lucia in Healdsburg. Courtesy Heather Irwin.

scallop.jpg

Scallops at Café Lucia. Courtesy Heather Irwin.

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

A new restaurant in Healdsburg that doesn’t have a wood-fired oven? Yes, it’s true. Channeling Mediterranean flavors of another sort, ~CAFÉ LUCIA~ has opened in the former Affronti location on Healdsburg Avenue. Tucked well back from the street, brother-and-sister team Manuel and Lucia Azevedo have brought the “Cozinha Nova Portuguesa,” or New Portuguese cuisine, of Manuel’s highly acclaimed Sonoma restaurant, LaSalette, to their northern neighbors.

Many of the dishes will be familiar to LaSalette regulars, including richly flavored, nose-to-tail “tasca,” or tasting plates, of tripe stew, blood sausage, pig’s feet terrine, and sardine pâté. The menu also includes caldo verde, steak with piri piri fries, and feijoada (with stewed beef, pork, and beans), as well as “all access” sandwiches like a crab melt, pulled pork sandwich, and BLT. Don’t skimp on the homemade rolls, made with a bit of sugar for a slightly sweet, yeasty taste.

If you’re new to Portuguese food, it’s worth some culinary exploration. Go for authentic eats like caldeirada, a fish stew with shrimp, sea bass, mussels, and lobster fumet; pan-seared scallops with Japanese sweet potatoes; and a traditional dessert trio that includes sweet rice, malassadinhas (tiny fried doughnuts), and almond ice cream with fig cake. Prices range from $10 to $25 for entrees; open for lunch and dinner daily. 235 Healdsburg Ave. at Mill St., 707-431-1113. 

Over seven nights (December 18th through 24th), Healdsburg’s ~SPOONBAR~ will serve up an eclectic mix of fish and seafood dishes from the everyday to the exotic in homage to the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Chef Louis Maldonado’s menu includes sea urchin with smoked potato purée, citrus-marinated Dungeness crab, Japanese kanpachi, octopus and mussels in coconut curry broth, brioche-crusted branzino, and oyster panna cotta. Menus will range from $50-$55 per person, with each night featuring a different menu. For details, go to the Spoonbar Feast of the Seven Fishes website. 219 Healdsburg Ave. at Mill St., 707-433-7222.

~PEAR~ opened Tuesday December 11th in Napa. The Southern-inspired restaurant replaces Tyler Florence’s short-lived riverfront bistro at 720 Main Street. Open daily for lunch and dinner, the restaurant stakes its claim on classics like macaroni and cheese, shrimp and grits, rotisserie chicken, collard greens, chicken and dumplings, and chicken and waffles with pear-bourbon maple syrup. Chef-owner Rodney Worth owns several restaurants in the East Bay, including The Peasant and the Pear, The Prickly Pear Cantina, and Ferrari’s Cucina Italiana.

All I want for Christmas is … well, okay, the list is pretty lengthy, but on the wish list of every wine lover are tickets to the ~ANNUAL PASSPORT TO DRY CREEK VALLEY~. More than 50 wineries participate in this long-standing Sonoma County tradition that includes live entertainment and gourmet tastings in addition to top-flight wine tasting. The event doesn’t happen until this spring (April 27th and 28th, 2013), but mark your calendar to purchase tickets for the event ($120, two-day passport; $70, Sunday-only passport) starting February 1st.