It’s for the Birds: Turns out you don’t have to pay a lot for a million-dollar view in Bodega Bay. The tiny BIRDS CAFE, perched above the harbor, serves only a handful of items—fish and chips, salads, clam chowder, shrimp tacos—but is one of my new favorite places on the coast.
Just order at the counter, then walk up the stairs (there’s also a handy ramp) to the deck for a lovely view and a picnic-style meal for less than $15. Best bets: creamy chowder, artichoke fritters, and lightly battered fish and chips. Spicy tartar sauce makes this red-basket special, well, special. Hours are daily from 11:30am-5pm. 1407 Highway 1, Bodega Bay.
Macro bowl meets foie gras: Can’t we all just get along? Vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, locavores, the gluten intolerant, and spice avoidant? Food doesn’t have to be a battleground. In fact, forward-thinking chefs know that commingling creative vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian fare on their omnivorous menus is more than just pandering—it’s smart business in an evolving food culture.
Windsor farmer and chef Joe Rueter is putting that bold idea into practice with his new venture, THE GASTRONOMIST, in Sebastopol. Here, duck tacos, grass-fed beef, lamb, and, yes, foie gras get cozy with squash fries, lentil salad, pumpkin gnocchi, and even a raw chocolate terrine.
Housed in the Gravenstein Station railroad car that was briefly occupied by Starlight Wine Bar, Rueter’s fiercely sustainable and local dishes have always been a BiteClub favorite. (His heirloom tomato BLT is a top 10.) But sprouted living salads, kefir, and organic wine from a guy who routinely grills up hundreds of pounds of bacon at his weekly farmers’ market stands? Yup.
Rueter keeps a separate griddle and cutting boards for vegan foods and cooks the meat outdoors under a market tent. (Mmm, the smell of sizzling bacon.) Anyone with allergies will be accommodated by using the phrase “No-Touchy…” followed by the allergy. Yup, seriously.
“I am not serving anything that has spent weeks in a walk-in and has been on a truck all day coming from no produce company,” said the never-shy-to-speak-his-mind Rueter in a text message. “Nutrient-depleted tasteless vegetables not happening at this restaurant, period. No frozen meat or fish, nada. We’ve got an established local food system built from the markets we participate in weekly.” Hours are daily for breakfast and lunch 9am-5pm and dinner Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm. 6681 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 707-837-8113.
Opening: VALETTE in Healdsburg has opened, and we’re booked for a table. Stay tuned for details, but the opening menu looks tasty, with housemade charcuterie, a Liberty Farm “duck trio” with pinot noir-poached foie gras, Dungeness-stuffed petrale sole with cauliflower mousseline, and yeah, we’re hungry too. Hours are daily from 5:30pm-closing, 344 Center St., Healdsburg.
It’s been awhile since I’ve made a visit up to the APPLEWOOD INN in Guerneville. Having lost both its Michelin-starred chef, Bruce Frieseke, in 2011 and its Michelin star in 2012, there didn’t seem to be reason to make the trek. But this week, local chef Jamil Peden has taken the mantle. Peden was most recently at Woodfour Brewing, and before that Scopa and Petite Syrah, among others. He’s already making changes to the menu, and we’ll be eager to see if he can bring some star power back to G-Ville.
In St. Helena, Charlie Palmer has tapped Levi Mezick to head the HARVEST TABLE kitchen. Slated for a May opening, the 110-seat restaurant will have plenty of outdoor dining that overlooks five edible gardens overseen by horticulturalist Laura McNiff. You can see a full list of the current plantings (which is fascinating) online. The menu embraces the produce that is grown right outside the restaurant’s doors as well as foods from Northern California’s artisanal producers, including Tolenas quail, Masami Cattle Ranch, Sebastopol Berry Farms, and Bera Ranch stone fruit. Signature dishes will include roasted garden carrots with buttermilk, curry blend, and granola; poached petrale sole with garden-bean nage, lemon thyme, and chanterelles; and pan-roasted Modesto squab with poached plums, stinging nettles, fermented turnips, and sherry-squab jus. More details as the opening gets closer.
I’ll give you a hint as to which Santa Rosa restaurateur is taking over the food operations at HERITAGE PUBLIC HOUSE: his chicken wings are second to none and his burger is, hands down, my favorite in Sonoma County. You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t): Josh Silvers of Jackson’s Bar and Oven (and Syrah Bistro) has been tapped to overhaul the gastropub’s menu come mid-April. Boom! Here’s why you should be stoked too. 1. The beer is just going to get better: The pub is also a working brewery and home to Bloodline Brewing Co., which launched last fall. GM Roman D’Argenzio and his team will be focusing on increasing production of this already acclaimed brewery. The pub will continue to serve an impressive variety of California craft brews on tap as well. 2. Outdoor patio: Silvers plans to close Heritage for about a week in mid-April to update the restaurant and revamp the beer garden. 3. Beer-worthy food: Dishes like ale-braised short ribs, grilled salmon with hard-cider cream sauce, beer-steamed mussels, wings and burgers (natch), fresh oysters and “brewer’s fries” (with garlic and brewer’s yeast), along with Gypsy Grill sausages, a smoked chicken Cobb salad, and hearty black barley “risotto” will keep both diners and drinkers happy. 4. The prices are right: Silvers gets that the pub is a college favorite, so smaller plates will be priced for student budgets. Larger plates will range from $15-$23. 5. Fish and chips stay, the sheet pans go: Heritage has had solid beer-battered fish and chips since opening, but serving them on a sheet pan got old. Silvers plans to keep fish and chips on the menu, but class things up a notch with, uh, plates.
BiteClub will have a first look and all the details on the new menu when it debuts in late April. 1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.
Hidden away in Glen Ellen’s Jack London Village, Indian-Nepalese sleeper YETI has been a word-of-mouth phenom for nearly eight years. And trust us, it’s in no small part the naan. Baked to order in a piping hot tandoor oven, the flatbread arrives to the table still steaming and is nearly as long as your forearm. Tear off a buttery, yeasty, garlic bite and remember the soul-satisfying taste of gluten and carbs.
Hold onto your tikka, because this mythical monster of deliciousness has expanded its footprint. Open just a week, the tandoor is fired up and garam masala perfumes the former Lyon’s after six months of renovation.
Yeti’s naan, of course, is only a vehicle for the mix of freshly ground herbs and spices, yogurt, coconut, cumin, vegetables, and tandoor-grilled meats inspired by Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Timid or adventurous, here’s what we’re loving: onion bhaji ($7.99), vegetable momo ($7.99), chicken biryani ($17.95), mixed tandoor platter ($24.99), chicken tikka masala ($15.99), rogan josh ($16.99), and Kashmiri pulao ($5.99). If there are more than two of you, order a couple of naan breads, and spring for the sauces—from mild raita to sweet mango chutney. 190 Farmer’s Lane, Santa Rosa, 707-521-9608.
CSA for a day? Tourists are often green with envy over beautiful produce boxes delivered to locals from nearby farms. Overflowing with farm eggs, seasonal fruits and veggies, and fresh flowers, they’re a signature of Sonoma County. BLOOMFIELD FARMS and ST. FRANCIS WINERY have the remedy with their new biweekly CSA for a Day program, which allows visitors to pick up a “travel-friendly”-sized box with a variety of organic items and a bottle of St. Francis Sonoma County chardonnay or zinfandel at the St. Francis tasting room. Just call a day ahead, and your box will be waiting. Calling 707-833-0251 for details.
A stellar lineup of chefs will host the CALISTOGA FOOD AND WINE event on April 24th and 25th. On the roster are chef Brandon Sharp of Solbar and the newly opened Evangeline, chef Reylon Agustin from SF’s Commissary, and chef Bradley Borchardt from Expanding Palates. The two-day event includes a grand tasting of wine and food from local restaurants including Solage, Evangeline, Larkmead Vineyards, JoLe, and Sam’s Social Club. Tickets range from $95 to $195 for various events. Details online.
Still hungry? Check out Heather’s always up-to-date food and dining blog at BiteClubEats.com.