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Jul 17, 2015 4 min read

Hazel Opens, Ninebark Coming, Pascaline Patisserie

Hazel Opens, Ninebark Coming, Pascaline Patisserie
Branzino at Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Hazel.
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By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

RESTAURANT HAZEL, the new Occidental restaurant from Berkeley chefs Jim and Michele Wimborough, has opened! For months, the former Bistro des Copains has been undergoing some serious interior updates. Both chefs have been teasing fans on their Facebook page with pictures of roasted branzino, curried scallops with Santa Rosa plums, cupcakes, and braised short ribs with polenta.

The rustic California-Mediterranean menu is centered around the restaurant’s two wood-fired ovens. Jim is a pro with the fire, after years working with it at Boulevard, Kokkari, and Evvia. Because working with temperamental coals isn’t for just anyone, Michele will head up the desserts, including sundaes, cookies, and cakes, and she will make a seasonal treat every Friday for Pie Day. The inside scoop: blueberry pie is up first.

Hazel (named after Jim’s great-grandmother, who inspired him to become a chef) will be doing dinner only its first week and then lunch and dinner seven days thereafter, as well as weekend brunch. 3782 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental.

After just three years, FAGIANI’S BAR/THE THOMAS is closing in downtown Napa. Ninebark will be its immediate replacement. The vintage Fagiani’s sign in downtown Napa has gone dark again. In fact, it’s gone altogether. After just three years, the upscale, retro restaurant is shuttering. Call it the curse of the building (which was the site of the town’s most notorious murders), the kerfuffle the Fagiani family made over the original name, the ever-changing lineup of chefs, or maybe just the need for something different in the Napa Valley dining scene.

Whatever the reason, the NYC hospitality group behind the restaurant, AvroKo, is reinventing it as Ninebark (the name refers to a woody bush native to the region).

What’s really captured our attention: AvroKo has partnered with Michelin-starred wunderkind Matthew Lightner, who will open the restaurant and handle all of their West Coast culinary operations. There are whispers of a second restaurant in Calistoga, and there will likely be other Wine Country eateries. Lightner rose to fame as executive chef of Castagna in Portland, Oregon, then received two Michelin stars in NYC after opening Atera.

The restaurant and rooftop bar will feature “California-focused, market-forward cuisine” based around “innovative preparation techniques,” with proposed menu items like scallops with bottarga, seaweed, and buttermilk; skewers of fatty tuna, shiso, peppercorns, and sorrel; and savory porridge with smoked fish, heirloom rice, and sourdough.

The Thomas/Fagiani’s is slated to close at the end of July, and Ninebark will hopefully open in early August. Call us stoked.

Move over cronuts, kouign amann are the “it” pastry of the moment. With layers of puffed dough, caramelized sugar, and more butter than should be legal, they’re so worth whatever caloric damage inevitably follows.

And no one makes them better than Celine Plano, the new pastry chef at PASCALINE GOURMET SHOP. It’s in her blood, after all. Having grown up in Brittany, Plano is well versed in the complex and unforgiving creation of Breton’s most famous cake. “These are from where I’m from,” she says, pointing the kouign amann among the meticulous rows of muffins, scones, breads, and cakes she’s made that morning.

Plano is just half of the dynamic French duo behind the newly opened breakfast and lunch spot along Gravenstein Hwy (next to Mom’s Apple Pie). The other half of the team is Didier Pascal Ageorges, the former culinary powerhouse of Chalk Hill Winery, SF’s Ritz-Carlton, and Hotel du Palais Biarritz in France. Plano worked with Ageorges at the Ritz-Carlton and is also chef and technical adviser to Callebaut, the world’s largest premium chocolate manufacturer.

Not that sweets are all you’ll find at Pascaline Gourmet Shop. Open just a few weeks, they’re open for lunch as well, with simple but luxurious salads and sandwiches (think croque monsieur). The team also does catering and events, and Ageorges said they plan on including pop-up dinners and other surprises as they settle into the space. Stay tuned for more tastes from Pascaline. Tue-Sun 7am-7pm. 4550 North Gravenstein Hwy, Sebastopol; 707-521-9348.

Scallops at Restaurant Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.
Braised short ribs at Restaurant Hazel in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.
Restaurant Hazel has opened in Occidental. Photo courtesy of Restaurant Hazel.
Chef Matthew Lightner will be taking over the former Thomas in Napa, which is being reborn as Ninebark. Photo courtesy of the chef.
Kouign amann at Pascaline in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.
Caramel-filled brioche at Pascaline in Sebastopol. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.
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