August 5, 2011

August 5, 2011

Yes, that is the Bouchon Bakery logo on a large jalapeño-pepperoni; photo courtesy of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

Last month Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc opened a super casual backyard operation for the restaurant’s beloved fried chicken and barbecue. Last Tuesday, the Yountville ~BOUCHON BAKERY~ started pumping out pizzas on Tuesday nights. Will a TK taco truck be next?

French Laundry employees have been happily scarfing down Bouchon Bakery’s pizzas as their Saturday night staff meal for a while now, and apparently the experience was too good not to share with the public. The new pizza venture is not a large scale operation, though. Only 30 pies are available for pickup each Tuesday night, only by advance reservation, and all of them must be collected at the Bouchon Bakery window at 6pm on the appointed day. Fortunately, you can order ahead by phone or in person as early as the Wednesday morning preceding the pickup date. If you don’t reserve before 6pm on Tuesday (or before all 30 are spoken for), no pizza for you. (You got all that?)

Ordering is easy, though. One size (18-inch diameter), one price ($25 plus tax), and a shortlist of classic comfort toppings keep it simple. So far we have pepperoni, pepperoni and jalapeño, cheese (mascarpone, goat cheese, and mozzarella), and “French Laundry Garden,” a changing special of whatever’s fresh that day.

For the next few Tuesdays, tablehopper readers can also order an off-the-menu pie, specially crafted by chef Matt McDonald just for you! The ‘hopper toppers for Tuesday August 9th will be sausage, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and pepperoni—a perfect blend of haute and homey. If you can’t place your order in time for this Tuesday, a new tablehopper flavah will be available for the following Tuesday (the 16th). Just tell them the ‘hopper sent ya!

Call or stop in to Bouchon Bakery for menu details and availability each week, and keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter pages for future developments. 6528 Washington St. at Yount, Yountville, 707-944-2253.


Go Fish goes Brassica; photo from


The arugula salad at Carneros Inn’s Boon Fly Café; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Obscenely delectable; from the website of Vintner’s Collective.


Heirloom panzanella, the height of summer; photo courtesy of Simi Winery.

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

Cindy Pawlcyn announced recently in the Weekly Calistogan that she is transitioning her sushi and seafood restaurant ~GO FISH~ into ~BRASSICA~, a Mediterranean concept featuring the wine-friendly flavors and dishes of that delectable region. The word Brassica is the Latin name for the mustard family of plants, and a slick reference to Cindy’s wine country flagship Mustards Grill. Brassica’s menus will include inspirations from all the continents touched by the Mediterranean, with items like spiced lamb and eggplant kabobs, summer ribollita, “winemaker” pork and orzo, seasonal flatbreads, and stonefruit galettes.

Cindy and her managing partner Sean Knight are also ambitiously planning to pour over 70 wines by the glass, with 10 local champs on tap, and a slew of original cocktails. Brassica’s new wine bar space will serve the full restaurant menu as well as a selection of smaller plates, plus all the tasty drinks. The restaurant is being redesigned and updated by architect Howard Backen this summer, but remains open for business during the transition, serving the Go Fish menu (sans sushi) until Brassica opens officially in early September. 641 Main St. at Mills, St. Helena, 707-963-0700.

Big news in Carneros, as well. ~THE CARNEROS INN~ just upped their game with the addition of pastry chef Anna Springer (ex-executive pastry sous for Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurants), FARM chef de cuisine Andrew Budnyj, Boon Fly Café chef Cody Williams, and culinary gardener Peter Stonebraker. Stonebraker designed the new half-acre culinary garden on the property, which will start supplying much of the produce for the Inn’s three restaurants. Since Budnyj formerly worked with Jeremy Fox at Ubuntu, he knows his vegetables and will help oversee the development of this new garden. On the Sonoma side of Carneros, the ~CARNEROS BISTRO & WINE BAR~ welcomes new chef de cuisine Andrew Wilson to the kitchen. Wilson replaces Janine Falvo, who left in April to open a new Renaissance Hotel restaurant in Atlanta. Wilson’s menus at Carneros Bistro should go live this fall.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Summer is still in full swing, and there are tons of feasts and bacchanals going on. Saturday August 13th, ~VINTNER’S COLLECTIVE~ in downtown Napa hosts their annual Slurps ‘n’ Sips party from 3pm-5pm. This year wines from Vinoce Vineyards will be the beverage of choice to wash down luscious raw and barbecued oysters from Hog Island, and/or the grilled chicken skewers provided for the bivalve-averse. Tickets to the oysterfest are $40 for wine club members, $50 for everyone else, and are limited to the first 40 reservations. Call 707-259-1980 or email to RSVP. 1245 Main St. at Clinton, Napa.

~MA(I)SONRY~ in Yountville hosts Juslyn Vineyards for an Artist’s Palette dinner on Saturday August 20th. Juslyn principals Perry and Carolyn Butler will be on hand that night to discuss the wines and join in the alfresco revelry. The evening begins at 6:30pm with wine, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a curated tour of Ma(i)sonry’s art gallery with the artists and winemakers du soir. At 7:15pm, everybody sits down together in the gorgeous garden for a multi-course plated dinner designed by chef Cindy Pawlcyn. Tickets are $155 per person, and space is limited, so call 707-944-0889 or buy online to reserve a spot. If you miss the Juslyn dinner on August 20th, look for Lail, Renteria, and Tor dinners coming up later this fall. 6711 Washington St. at Burgundy, Yountville.

Moving north to Healdsburg, ~SIMI WINERY~ is hosting food truck roundups the second Wednesday of every month this summer, and continuing through mid-October. The party features tasty nibbles from Sonoma-based trucks like Karma Bistro, Foxy Cupcakes, Matchbox Diner, and La Texanita (which was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives). On weekends Simi is also cranking out seasonal salads and pizzas itself from the new Landslide Terrazzo Pizzeria, serving Fridays from 12pm-6pm and Saturdays from 11am-4pm, also through mid-October. The current menu includes a gorgeous panzanella with local heirloom tomatoes, and an assortment of pizzas like the droolworthy “Parma,” topped with roasted garlic, prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, baby arugula, and roasted peppers. During the pizzeria’s opening hours, the winery is also offering $1.35 wine tastings right now in honor of their 135th anniversary this year. That’s practically Old World, yo. Who says California has no history?


SPS’ app-sized shrimp of my dreams; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Can you pick your favorite out of this punch lineup? Photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Photo by Deirdre Bourdet.


Vin Antico’s spaghettini with pork; photo by Deirdre Bourdet

By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.

Marin County isn’t technically in the 707, but its location makes it the logical stopping off ground for folks coming from the city up north (or vice versa)—particularly when 101 is backed up and hunger and/or road rage strikes. I recently had the excellent fortune of being invited to check out two of Marin’s cutting edge eateries, and honestly can’t wait to return to either one.

~THE SOUTHERN PACIFIC SMOKEHOUSE~ opened in Novato in May, courtesy of Rick Riess (former CEO of the PlumpJack Group) and Nashville recording artist/barbecue aficionado Philip Claypool. Think Southern-style comfort cooking meets Pacific coast ingredients and live music in a high style atmosphere. This place is seriously SWANK—the restaurant describes the décor as “industrial machine age meets Roadhouse fun,” rather incongruously perched at the edge Novato’s Vintage Oaks shopping center … but the location right off 101 makes for easy driving and even easier parking.

Notwithstanding the stylin’ décor and sophisticated bar menu, the food is built to please, prices are attainable, and service couldn’t be sweeter. Nifty handheld controllers let servers send drink orders while they’re still standing at the table, and sometimes the drinks arrive from the bar before the server has even left. Some of the highlights of my visit were the (seemingly) filler-free crab and shrimp cakes with cayenne-lemon emulsion, and the sick spice-rubbed shrimp and grits in a pan sauce made with Worcester-glazed shallots and crème fraîche. Man. I still dream about that dish. Fortunately the restaurant will be selling the spice blend, as well as the house sauce for you to take home once their retail operation gets going.

And then there is the artisanal cocktail menu by Alex Bachman—a good 15 minutes’ read. Manhattan drinkers, take note: there is an entire submenu dedicated to you. Barman Bachman clearly has a taste for bourbon, so the restaurant also has its own label of Evan Williams, and is working on scoring a couple of barrels of whisky from Even Kulsveen next. There’s also a really interesting selection of old-school adult punches by the glass and pitcher, made on the not-so-sweet side so they actually work with food. I particularly dug the Garrick Club Punch (Bombay London Dry gin, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon, club soda) with the crab cakes. Non-drinkers can also enjoy some sophisticated flavors thanks to the nonalcoholic cocktail menu also offered.

The restaurant has an adjoining live music venue—“the Smokehouse”—with performers Wednesday through Sunday nights. 100% of the cover charges for shows ($5-$20) goes to the talent and production expenses, so quit yer griping that it’s not free. Now that the outdoor patio is open for business too, this place is a no-brainer for a pit stop mid-way between Napa and SF. 224 Vintage Way (in the Vintage Oaks shopping center), Novato, 415-899-9600.

For those wanting a stop closer to the city, ~VIN ANTICO~ in San Rafael has some surprisingly delicious things going on these days thanks to chef Ed Vigil. The tiny little storefront is right downtown on Fourth Street, just steps from the edge of the San Rafael farmers’ market. The place is adorable, the kind of neighborhood joint everyone wishes was in their ‘hood. The wine list has an eclectic selection from all over the world, with plenty of interesting items from more unusual areas—all of which are food-friendly, because that’s the main attraction after all.

I was invited to check out the Sunday night “Spaghettata” that Vin Antico launched this summer, a special $25 prix-fixe offering inspired by the Italian tradition of impromptu spaghetti dinners. Unlike a classic spaghettata, however, Vin Antico’s version is a multi-course miracle of fresh, hand-rolled pastas of all sizes and shapes, sauced with whatever seasonal produce finds its way to the local farmers’ markets.

When I was there, the menu kicked off with a modern grilled octopus dish with Star Route Farms pickled radishes and rouille, then jumped into the first of the three pasta courses. Delectable corzetti (coins) with a meaty medley of fresh morels, fava beans, and purée of ramps were followed by toothsome spaghettini with braised pork and an earthy caper, wheatberry, and artichoke compote … and then the irresistible Bellwether Farms ricotta gnocchi with English peas, beach mushrooms, and pine nuts in brown butter arrived, requiring a quick transition to the second stomach because there was no option of leaving anything on the plate. Incredibly, the $25 deal also included dessert, which on my night was white chocolate mousse with a saffron, apricot, and plum compote.

It’s hard to fathom a better value for this kind of labor-intensive, seasonally driven cooking. This is a run-don’t-walk kind of deal, perfectly situated to cheer up the sad Sunday night drive home from wine country. 881 Fourth St. at Lootens, San Rafael, 415-454-4492.