By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
Earth’s Bounty Kitchen Opens: There’s a reason you’re not going to see America’s Top Caterer anytime soon on the Food Network. Not because catering chefs aren’t as talented as the blustery toques waving chef’s knives and pork tattoos for the cameras. It’s because hardworking caterers—the amazing culinary wizards who can somehow make dinner for 400 inside a pop-up tent—aren’t in it for the glory. They’re in it to prepare the food that can make an event.
And that’s why I have a special place in my heart for folks like chef Christopher Ludwick, a longtime caterer (Grapevine Catering) who recently opened EARTH’S BOUNTY KITCHEN & WINE BAR in the former Fresh by Lisa Hemenway. Yeah, the name’s a bit of a mouthful, but so’s the food. Meaning there’s plenty to stuff your face with—and then some.
First off, the massive interior has been radically transformed. Where Hemenway’s combined restaurant/market/coffee shop felt a bit, well, confusing, Ludwick has created distinct spaces: a deli and retail shop in front, the cozy wine bar and restaurant to the right, and an enviable catering kitchen taking up much of the back.
We fell to pieces over nearly everything on the compact and well-curated menu. A charcuterie board ($13) with a changing lineup of salumi, fight-over-the-last-bite pâté, pickled vegetables, and cabernet mustard (ours also featured duck rillettes and headcheese); a tiny iron skillet with pork cheeks, charred tomatoes, and Vella Dry Jack ($10) cooked in the wood oven; a burger with violet mustard, cabernet onion jam, and Vella cheddar on a Village Bakery English muffin ($13); “mac and cheese” ($12), which is less like Kraft and more like a creamy, dreamy dish of orecchiette, mushrooms, shallots, melty cheese, and buttered crumbs; fried chicken and rosemary-bacon waffles ($18) with country gravy and collard greens; and most especially the ever-changing desserts, which include a homemade Ding-Dong (devil’s food cake, ganache, marshmallow cream, and other wickedness) and a warm fruit crumble with mascarpone.
The wood-fired oven has been moved into the restaurant and turns out Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas and roasted meat and vegetables. The pizzaiolo tosses dough into everyday nibblers like the margherita, mushroom (with chèvre and olive oil), and pepperoni, as well as specials like maitake mushroom, truffle oil, prosciutto, and Toma cheese ($13-$16).
Don’t call Ludwick’s restaurant farm to table, though, he says with an eye roll. “We’re Sonoma farm country cuisine,” says Ludwick; it turns out that 53 local farms and producers bring of-the-moment ingredients to his doorstep—and your mouth. Dinner Tue-Sat 5pm-9pm, Sun 11am-4pm. 5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa, 707-827-9700.
Heritage Fire by Cochon 555, Napa’s flaming festival of meat, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena from 3pm-7pm on Sunday August 3rd. Heritage Fire features chefs and farmers working together to spotlight traditional outdoor cooking techniques paired with amazing wines, ice-cold brews, and crisp ciders. While Cochon’s flagship event, Cochon 555, brings chefs together in a friendly competition, Heritage Fire is a collection of culinary champions cooking together for a crowd of meat- and wine-loving gourmands. The list of heritage and heirloom foods to be featured include dry-aged beef, spit-roasted sturgeon, whole pigs, lambs, goat, lobster, squab, rabbit, duck, chicken, artisan cheese, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.
Local chefs participating include Matthew Accarrino (SPQR), Mark Liberman (TBD and AQ), Katie Hagan-Whelchel (Ad Hoc), Kelly McCown (Goose & Gander), and Joey Elenterio (Wayfare Tavern), among others. A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the St. Helena Farmers’ Market and The American Institute of Wine & Food. A group of celebrated butchers will host a pop-up butcher shop where 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the students of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. To purchase tickets or learn more about the event, go online. General admission is $100, VIP admission is $200 (tickets are expected to sell out quickly). 2800 Main St., St. Helena.
THE THOMAS in downtown Napa is doing a chef shuffle, with Jonnatan Leiva replacing the restaurant’s opening chef de cuisine, Jason Kupper. Leiva is part of the AvroKo family (the design and hospitality company that owns The Thomas and several other restaurants), having been chef at Saxon + Parole in NYC. 813 Main St., Napa.