Ubuntu Still Seeks Sale, The Thomas Opens, Spinster Sisters, and Hard Cider at the Apple Fair

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Seafood platter from The Thomas. Courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa. Courtesy of Spinster Sisters.

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Owners of the Tilted Shed Ciderworks. Courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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

Owners of Napa’s Michelin-starred ~UBUNTU~ are continuing to look for a sale after negotiations between Terra’s Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone broke down last month. The deal breaker: terms of the lease with the building’s landlord, which insiders acknowledge was steep even by Napa standards. A new notice about the restaurant has gone out offering a “New Lease Available Direct from Landlord at Market Rates,” fishing for another nibble on the restaurant. The $2 million renovation to the 1140 Main Street location, sporting 30-foot ceilings, custom woodwork, and “excellent feng shui” may be better suited to a lessee with deep corporate pockets and higher profit margins than most restaurateurs can offer. Then again, there seem to be no shortage of big names eager to put their mark on the expanding Napa dining scene.

To wit: ~THE THOMAS AND FAGIANI’S AT THE THOMAS~, the stunning new AvroKO bar and restaurant that opened Thursday in downtown Napa. The New York-based hospitality group has done a major renovation of the long-shuttered Fagiani’s bar building and brought in executive chef Brad Farmerie to create a stellar menu that highlights the region’s produce. Recently announced was the addition of chef de cuisine Jason Kupper (Dry Creek Kitchen, Bouchon); Cory Colton as pastry chef overseeing the dessert and daily bread program; and longtime Napa Valley resident Bradley Wasserman (recently of Solage) as sommelier.

On the menu: an extensive raw bar and iced seafood platters; wild mushroom mousse with whiskey jelly ($10); a plate of pickled, raw, and blanched vegetables with black truffle baba ghanoush ($13); chilled corn soup with huitlacoche croutons ($9); halibut with chorizo and tomato caper stew ($29); and the Thomas burger ($15), a house blend of dry-aged Angus and Kobe beef on a brioche bun. The bar is expected to open tonight (after some construction snafus) and will offer Negronis on tap, boozy lavender lemonade, frozen pisco sours, and … sorry, you had me at lavender lemonade. If you’re still not sold, the wine list seals the deal with Wasserman offering a variety of plain old delicious by-the-glass pours and heavy-hitting bottles. Open for dinner and cocktails, brunch begins later this month, and lunch in September. The kitchen is open daily until midnight and the bar is open until 12am Sunday - Thursday, and till 2am Friday and Saturday. See a slideshow of the media preview dinner, which included many of these dishes at BiteClub.

~THE SPINSTER SISTERS~, the much anticipated community-focused restaurant in Santa Rosa, opens tonight. One of the backers is a founding partner of Prune restaurant in New York City, and former Santi chef, Liza Hinman (who cut her chops at Delfina), is in the kitchen. Dishes are slated to include Thai-style crunchy peanuts and cashews and kimchee and bacon deviled eggs to start; cheese and charcuterie plates; small plates of crispy Berkshire pork belly with watermelon, spicy lamb sausage, and ricotta gnocchi ($9-12); larger plates of grilled hangar steak and salmon ($13-15); and sides of French beans with brown butter, Kennebec fries, and mixed local lettuces ($4-6). 401 S. A St. at Mill St., Santa Rosa, 707-528-7100.

Meanwhile, plenty of buzz on restaurants still in development around Sonoma County, including the forthcoming ~SOCIAL CLUB~ in Petaluma, a project from the team behind San Francisco’s Circa, the Cosmopolitan, and Parlor Bar, which is in the midst of hiring staff but likely won’t open until September. 

This cider house rules: Featured at this weekend’s ~GRAVENSTEIN APPLE FAIR~ in Sebastopol is microcidery ~TILTED SHED~. The owners spent months searching out bittersweet cider apples planted by long-ago orchardists. Mostly forgotten in favor of sweeter Gravensteins or plowed under for vineyards, they’re part of West County’s past, brought to life again in a handful of cases of Lost Orchard Dry Cider released this fall. Without much residual sugar and a lightly tannic finish, it has more in common with sparkling wine than the treacly booze juice that passes as cider in many bar taps. They’re also working on a smoked apple cider that incorporates, well, smoked apples.