By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin.
On balmy spring nights, it’s not surprising to find more people outside the tiny GLEN ELLEN STAR than inside. With just eight dining tables and a handful of seats around the open galley kitchen, every inch is prime real estate. At the glowing heart of the restaurant is chef Ari Weiswasser’s 650-degree custom-built wood oven, which perfumes the entire block with its smoke. Combining classic French technique, razor-focused attention to detail, and exotic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in every dish, Glen Ellen Star hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed.
On the menu: cast-iron quick bread with local feta and za’atar ($6); and spring pea soup with ricotta gnudi, mint, and mascarpone ($10) that’s the sweet essence of spring in a bowl. Tapping (dad-in-law) Mike Benziger’s biodynamic farm for produce, the wood-oven vegetables section is a revolving lineup of whatever is in season—from fava beans with brown sugar-bacon marmalade and golden beets with harissa crumble to fennel-crusted fennel with chili and Meyer lemon oil ($8). Pizzas steal the show and both the simple margherita ($12) and white pizza with guanciale and arugula ($16) easily feed two. If you’re up for something more substantial, brick chicken ($21) goes beyond the usual pallid poultry with tender meat and a crackling skin seasoned with urfa, a Turkish pepper. Roasted lamb meatballs, couscous with dried fruit, and a sweet-savory soffrito of tomatoes, onions, and peppers ($18) turns this Italian standard into something extraordinary.
Everything’s available for takeout, including dessert—half-pints of house-churned ice cream in flavors like malted milk, maple vanilla bourbon, salted peanut butter, espresso, and strawberry sorbet ($6 each). The wine list is well curated to reflect the food and ambiance and includes locals (Benziger, Imagery, Gundlach Bundschu), localish (Radio-Coteau, County Line, Copain), and a handful of Italian, French, and Germans. Expect this star to continue to rise. Open Sun-Thu 5:30pm-9pm, Fri-Sat until 9:30pm. 13648 Arnold Dr. at Warm Springs Rd., Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384.
Much ado about Napa with three major shake-ups reported this week. First up is the official shutter of celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s ROTISSERIE AND WINE, according to the Scoop. The restaurant lasted only a year, going on “hiatus” last winter after several critical pans, a failing grade from the health department, and the early departure of former Ubuntu chef Jeremy Fox. Florence plans to focus on his other restaurants ~WAYFARE TAVERN~ and ~EL PASEO~.
Speaking of UBUNTU, the much-lauded vegetarian restaurant that also went on hiatus last winter: the restaurant may be changing hands. Grubstreet leaked the news that Terra and Ame owners Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani are in discussions to take over the space. So far, there’s no final word from owner Sandy Lawrence as to Ubuntu’s future, but stay tuned.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got a cool $35 million burning a hole in your pocket, the Friedensreich Hundertwasser-designed winery QUIXOTE is up for sale. Wine legend Carl Doumani’s 42-acre Stags Leap property also includes a lakefront home, according to NapaLife.
Sooie! Barbecue in Windsor is once again smoking as JADED TOAD BBQ & GRILL opens for business this weekend. On the menu are baby back ribs, barbecued chicken, sliders, corn bread, steamed clams, salmon, and panfried frog’s legs, according to owner Leo Tocchini, who took over the former Mamma Pig’s Barbecue. 275 Windsor River Rd. at Honsa Ave., Windsor, 707-838-8336.
The 707 puts its own spin on mobile dining with a fleet of food trucks roaming the vineyards (and beyond) this summer. SIMI WINERY hosts Keep on Truckin’ Wednesdays the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, pairing their wines with everything from tacos to cupcakes. Each week features a different cuisine, but the winery’s own truck (featuring wines on tap and small bites) rolls up Wednesday June 13th with former Gary Danko executive sous chef Kolin Vazzoler on board at 16275 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-3686.
Other food-truck stops to check out in Wine Country: Food Truck Fridays at IRON HORSE VINEYARDS from 11:30am-3:30pm every Friday through September, 9786 Ross Station Rd., Sebastopol, 707-887-1507; Totally Truckin’ Thursdays from 11:30am-2pm every Thursday at 1005 Gravenstein Hwy. N. at the O’Reilly & Associates parking lot, Sebastopol; and Park-N-Eat each Tuesday from 4pm-dusk at the boat ramp at SPRING LAKE PARK in Santa Rosa.