This week's tablehopper: rocktober.
An array of breads and treats from Butterscots at Cairdean Estate. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hey there, how you doing with this stunning weather? I know, right? I am loving these warm nights. SF Indian summer, you never disappoint! I am actually going from the frying pan into the fire: I’m heading up to Sonoma this afternoon to check out the new Williams-Sonoma landmark store opening right off the plaza (our fab 707 Scout Heather Irwin writes about it in today’s column, read all about it) and to raise a glass to Chuck Williams for reaching his 99th birthday, just wow.
I will be staying the night so I can visit the new Patz & Hall tasting room tomorrow, and hit a fun New England-style party (a “badger grab”—I’ll report back on what the hell that is) at Hamel Family Wines—when I found out Barbara Lynch was going to be there with lobster rolls, I was like, yeah, I need to make that happen. Don’t want to be stupid in life.
Today we also have a review of my experience at The Farmer & the Fox (which is where you’ll find chef Joseph Humphrey these days) and Cairdean Estate, just north of downtown St. Helena. Maybe it’ll inspire you to head up for a getaway? If so, you’ll want to read my recent piece on St. Helena for the Bay Guardian before you go.
Okay, I need to pack my overnight back and hustle up to the 707 before the traffic goes from bad to worse. Have a swell weekend, yeehaw!
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Barrel-Aged Gin, a Roving Bartender, and a New Williams-Sonoma in Sonoma
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.
On a recent tour of SPIRIT WORKS DISTILLERY, BiteClub fell a little bit in love. Partly with owners Timo and Ashby Marshall’s Boston terrier, Bandit, but mostly with their newly released barrel-aged gin.
Made from red winter wheat, the gin is aged in new white oak, imparting a rich amber hue and giving it a more intense, toasty flavor, with lots of vanilla, butterscotch, cardamom, and orange. It’s a perfect winter sipper. Try it mixed with a little eggnog or straight-up by the fire.
Want to see the distillery for yourself? Guided tours are available Fri-Sun for $15 per person; reservations required. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of their vodka, rye whiskey, or sloe gin (a specialty of Timo’s family for generations), which are also available at local BevMos and specialty retailers. 6790 McKinley St #100, Sebastopol, 707-634-4793.
Guerneville’s food and drink renaissance continues with the recently opened EL BARRIO cocktail lounge. It’s the next in a series of food and drink projects by Crista Luedtke, who also owns Big Bottom Market, Boon Eat + Drink, and Boon Hotel + Spa.
The “Mexican modern cocktail lounge” will focus on spirits—bourbon, tequila, and mezcal—rather than food, with a robust drink program developed by SF bartender and consultant Christina Cabrera (Novela, Range, Marlow, Michael Mina). Luedtke says the name, which translates as “the neighborhood” is also a play on words bar and rio (“river”), or “river bar.”
The lounge replaces Whitetail Wine Bar, and the revamped interior includes custom-made Talavera tile and a graffiti wall installation by the Apexer, a SF-based artist. 16230 Main St., Guerneville.
It doesn’t get much cooler than this, cocktailians. From his vintage-style teardrop trailer, bartender Christopher Long (Spoonbar, Campo Fina) roams Napa and Sonoma serving up artisan cocktails (aka liquid alchemy) at outdoor dinners, weddings, and other Wine Country gatherings. Libations Unlimited offers bespoke drinks for each event, including kegged cocktails, a beer tap, and his customized espresso machine. So much classier than your brother pouring too warm wine, that’s for sure. You can hire Long (yes, he has a beard and wears a vest like any good bartender) for your event at libationsunlimited.com or by calling 707-328-2132.
Brawl of the bartenders at the Sonoma Bar Battle: Are there ever losers in a cocktail competition? Especially when the audience gets to be the judges? On Saturday October 11th, 14 local bars and restaurants will battle for the ultimate cocktail concoction. Did we mention that Charbay Artisan Distillery is the proud vodka provider and that Gloria Ferrer is hosting the sparkling wine cocktail contest? Tickets are $35 online and $40 at the door. Dancing, food, and a photo booth to document the merriment are included. All proceeds go to charity. Sonoma Veterans Building, 126 First St., Sonoma.
Former North Bay chef Matthew Bousquet has turned up at SF’s PER DIEM. His Windsor restaurant, Mirepoix, which earned a Michelin star, closed in 2011, leaving a hole in the Sonoma County restaurant scene. We’re happy to hear he’s landed in a new gig focused on seasonally inspired dishes (though they lean more toward Italian than Bousquet’s well-known French cuisine). Santé!
In Napa, the owners of CA’ MOMI ENOTECA plan to open a second restaurant in downtown Napa. The menu is still under wraps, but expect their Oxbow Market enoteca (610 1st St., Suite 9, Napa) to continue focusing on authentic, to-die-for Neapolitan pizzas and pastries. The Oxbow location is one of the few pizzerias in the United States that’s certified by the authoritative Vera Pizza Napoletana association in Italy. Seating is limited at Oxbow, so we’re hoping to see even more “slow food” entrees (beef tongue, oxtail, and “obsessively Italian” pastas) in the larger restaurant space. 1141 First St., Napa.
After several years of planning, permitting, and building, the kitchen outfitter Williams-Sonoma is returning to its Sonoma roots. In celebration of founder Chuck Williams’s 99th birthday, the store will (re)open on Saturday October 4th (that’s tomorrow) at its original Sonoma Square location; there will also be a cooking school and culinary museum. The landmark store opened in 1956, when a prescient Williams decided Americans might appreciate European-quality cookware. Just a few years later, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking kindled a firestorm of interest in high-end copper pots, pans, and knives. Sonoma County hasn’t had a Williams-Sonoma store since Williams moved his operation to San Francisco in the late 1950s. 605 Broadway, Sonoma.
Saturdays get even tastier on local news station KSRO (1350 AM, 103.5 FM) with the debut of At the Table with Wolf & Smothers on Saturday October 4th. Wine Country food fanatics Clark Wolf and Marcy Smothers will dish each week on food news and personalities with guests such as Ruth Reichl, Emeril Lagasse, Bruce Aidells, Martin Yan, and Douglas Keane. The dynamic duo’s first show airs live from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds during the Harvest Fair this Saturday from 1pm-3pm. KSRO’s Saturday lineup also includes The Good Food Hour with John Ash and Steve Garner from 11am-noon and On the Wine Road with Jeff Davis from noon-1pm. Delicious!
The food world lost a gourmet pioneer this week. Bonnie Lynn Tempesta, credited with introducing biscotti to the American food scene in the 1980s, died on September 25th at her Sonoma home. After founding La Tempesta Bakery Confections in the Bay Area in 1982, she became the largest biscotti producer in America, selling to Neiman Marcus, Starbucks, Macy’s, and Dean & DeLuca. The entrepreneur sold her business in 1997, devoting her life to art, animals, and a program for disadvantaged youth. In 2012, she started a small philanthropic bakery in Kenwood named Boncora Biscotti, donating a portion of every sale to her favorite cause, Pets Lifeline of Sonoma Valley.
Moving on from Sebastopol’s popular WOODFOUR BREWING is Jamil Peden. The creative chef, whose résumé includes Petite Syrah and Healdsburg’s Campo Fina, says he doesn’t yet have any plans, but welcomes the change. You’ll still find him at Woodfour’s ramen pop-up, Ramen Gaijin, on Mondays. There are some whispers about the new chef, who we hear is coming from a highly respected Marin restaurant, but no official word yet.
A hearty hello to the forthcoming YETI RESTAURANT, slated to open in the former Lyon’s location in Santa Rosa, near the intersection of Farmers Lane and Highway 12. Yeti has been a popular Himalayan/Indian restaurant in Kenwood for several years, offering some of the best naan BiteClub’s ever had. More details on when they’ll arrive soon.
Wine and Dine: Cairdean Estate and The Farmer & the Fox
A Wine Country visit and review by Marcia Gagliardi.
The next time you’re heading to St. Helena or Calistoga, you should think about stopping off at the newly opened Cairdean Estate on the St. Helena Highway, just at the base of Spring Mountain. The owners, winemaker Stacia and Edwin Williams, have done a good job transforming the former outlet center into a food-and-wine destination (which will be taking shape even more in coming months with a sensory tasting experience and mercantile).
There’s a tasting room where you can try their extensive lineup (they have two estate vineyards, one in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley and the other in the Russian River Valley AVA), which includes an unoaked chardonnay, rosé (made from cab, merlot, and syrah), Russian River pinot, sangiovese, cabernet franc, and more. The tasting room has a gorg view of the valley at sunset, and here’s one more bonus: it’s open until 8pm nightly. There is also a very stylish private room for club members for events and parties, with its own bar and fireplace.
What I recommend is visiting the tasting room for a pre-dinner aperitif, and then saunter over to The Farmer & the Fox for dinner. The chef is Joseph Humphrey, who has a long legacy in Wine Country and San Francisco—the talented Florida-born chef got his start in New Orleans, and then came west to open the Restaurant at Meadowood. He was also the executive chef at Auberge du Soleil, Murray Circle, and then opened his own place, Dixie, in SF. Now he’s back in the 707, creating a modern, Napa-style version of a British gastropub.
Start with a cocktail from bar manager James Kendall, who blew our collective minds with his creative and balanced concoctions. The Countess of Carrak is one of the most unique drinks I have had all year, with Krogstad aquavit, egg white, beet juice, lemon juice, and a dusting of fennel pollen (and the Cairdean logo stenciled on top). Kendall hails from Bouchon and Ad Hoc, and his handcrafted cocktails are destination-worthy in and of themselves.
You’ll want to quickly order the cured salmon ($15) that comes on beer bread with curls of butter, spring onions, purslane, and herbs to keep the Countess good company. You should also make sure the smoked duck wings ($9) make their way over, a fun spin on buffalo wings (they come with crumbled Pt. Reyes blue cheese and finely diced celery), and of course the Scotch egg ($8) needs to be on the table—it’s spicy, with shaved horseradish and a watercress pistou. Humphrey’s team also shucks some fantastic Shigoku oysters (they come with a Mendocino seaweed mignonette).
Heartier choices include a game pie ($15) made with boar, venison, squab, quail, and duck (I know, whoa!), its density and richness cut by a big scoop of whole-grain mustard and crème fraîche on the plate. The flavor-forward lamb tartare ($12) comes with thick-cut, curry oil-brushed brioche, but we also loved piling it into the warm popovers ($9), baked every half hour. (I really enjoyed the texture from the fried shallots in the tartare as well.)
Of course there’s a burger ($16), with grass-fed beef, cheddar, and chips that get a clever dusting of vinegar powder. On the elegant side is a simple grilled fish ($21) with béarnaise, and check out that amazing price again. Bonus: it comes with rumbledethumps (!!), battered and golden little potato, cabbage, and onion croquettes. Say it: rumpledethumps! You can really dial in the luxe with the Paine Farm squab (cooked like a dream) and lobster salad ($32), with a stunning jus made from the two, balanced by the prickly heat of a baby mustard salad on the side.
All the dishes have Humphrey’s refined touch, mad culinary technique, and soigné plating, with such well-sourced ingredients. Unfortunately the desserts looked impressive but didn’t particularly stand out for various reasons (we tried the butterscotch mousse cake, roasted peach rice pudding, and ginger ice cream cake). But the after-dinner drinks, like the Spanish coffee (Kahlúa, Combier, coffee, whipped cream, and burnt sugar rim) ended things on a high note.
The restaurant doesn’t charge a corkage, which is pretty notable. Our server was friendly and well schooled on the menu, but our meal took a long time, with lags in service that I would have understood with a busier restaurant. It’s a location that doesn’t have food traffic—people will need to know about it before heading over—so I imagine biz will pick up in time. It’s still relatively fresh and new. But as the word spreads about Humphrey’s hearty-yet-elegant cuisine, the killer cocktails, and the stylish dining room that’s well designed for groups (there are plenty of booths), people should start filling it up. There were a bunch of fun residential design details, from the homey plates on the oak-paneled walls to the Welsh blankets and leather wingback chairs. It’s the kind of design that makes you instantly comfortable (although they could turn the overhead lights down a touch—then again, it made for some excellent food photography lighting, ha-ha).
If you’re around during the daytime, pay a visit to Butterscots Bakery, Deli, and Culinary Market (open daily from 7am-5pm). You can get your morning coffee and a house-baked croissant or a scone if you’re on the run, or sit on the fab patio for a nice lunch or afternoon snack (there are also picnic tables, plus an outdoor fire pit for evening chillaxing with a glass of wine). You can choose from a pretty significant array of salads (great to go as well), sandwiches, unique breads (including seaweed, curry brioche, and Scottish beer bread), cookies, and pastries. Oh yeah, and puddings!
3111 St. Helena Hwy. at Ehlers Ln., St. Helena. Restaurant: 707-302-5101.
Book Reviews (another place for your nose)
Fall Cookbooks, Bay Area Edition by Pete Mulvihill
Here’s another Bay Area edition of the Bookworm with two fresh books from local chefs and authors.
Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20 percent off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.
Tacolicious: Festive Recipes for Tacos, Snacks, Cocktails, and More Sara Deseran
First up is Tacolicious by food writer extraordinaire Sara Deseran (Ten Speed Press). And I emphasize her writing chops before her ownership stake in Tacolicious, as so many cookbooks are not well written. But Tacolicious (the book) has a real sense of story, warmth, and charm. It’s full of lessons learned from the opening of three Tacolicious locations, plus recipes, of course, and an assortment of sidebars, tips, and tales.
You can use the book as seriously as you want—toast your own recado spice mix, for example. Or just use the foolproof margarita recipes as a launching point for creativity. The book includes a variety of easy recipes for the home cook: snacks, drinks, and, of course, plenty of tacos. There’s even a “Cliff’s Notes” section on tequila. And it’s priced to sell: just $22 in a lovely package.
French Roots: Two Cooks, Two Countries, and the Beautiful Food Along the Way Jean-Pierre Moullé and Denise Lurton Moullé
Next up, French Roots by Jean-Pierre Moullé and Denise Lurton Moullé (also Ten Speed Press).
Let’s start with pedigree: until he retired in 2012, Jean-Pierre Moullé was the executive chef at Chez Panisse, where he began working in 1975. Denise Lurton Moullé hails from a renowned winemaking family in Bordeaux. So the good life is the starting point for this very personal book of recipes and stories. They risk coming across as too “too,” but their earnestness, honesty, and pure joie de vivre can’t be faked and may just inspire you to make that leg of veal with porcini mushrooms. Winter is nigh, after all.
There are distinct sections in the book covering “French family life,” “Berkeley in the Seventies,” “Back to Bourdeuax,” etc. So there’s a nice variety of recipes, both traditional French and French-Californian (à la Chez Panisse). The recipes range in difficulty, but any home cook with patience can follow them; they’re clear. And there are tales of that famous restaurant, stories of French Sunday lunch (epic), and sidebars on topics like the joys and challenges of beekeeping or finding the balance in making ice cream.
If you need some inspiration, or just want to France out on your couch, French Roots is sure to please. As with everything Ten Speed does these days, the “package” is beautiful—photography, layout, and an elegant cover. All for $35.
Thanks for reading.
Green Apple has recently opened a second location in the Inner Sunset (on 9th Avenue at Lincoln): Green Apple Books on the Park. We’ve shacked up with Le Video; they’ve moved upstairs and preserved their collection of 100,000 movies. We remodeled the ground floor to offer 25,000 new and used books in all subject areas (including cookbooks, of course!). The kids section is especially vibrant, and the space was designed for events, so expect literary hootenannies on a regular basis. Drop by while the place still smells like fresh-cut pine.