Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub Restaurant & Dining Reviews for Sonoma, Santa Rosa and the Wine Country Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:09:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-512_logo-150x150.gif Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub 32 32 Geyserville Gun Club Has the Secret Sauce http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/geyserville-gun-club-has-the-secret-sauce/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/geyserville-gun-club-has-the-secret-sauce/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2018 19:44:24 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37911 Shortribs at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Deer heads, a Pepto-pink bathroom and a bacon-wrapped hot dog with special sauce are on tap at this Geyserville bar

The post Geyserville Gun Club Has the Secret Sauce appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Shortribs at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

The most beautiful woman in the world is looking at my sad, soggy state of rumpledness with judgment in her eyes.

Wine Country’s spring rains have turned into a torrent of misery that has frizzled my hair, turned my makeup into runny streaks of color and transformed my already-compromised running shoes into floppy sponges that squeak and squish with every step.

Actress Sophia Loren at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Actress Sophia Loren at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Fortunately, I’ve found a pair of fuzzy slippers in the detritus of my car, and slipped them onto my pruney feet. They refuse, however, to stay on my feet properly due to the fact they are two sizes too small.

From her perch at the Geyserville Gun Club, Sophia Loren watches my sad shuffle. My plastic soles smack on the floor like sarcastic applause, echoing through the nearly empty room.

With her kohl-rimmed eyes, the Italian actress watches me across an ocean of time where she is forever young, forever beautiful in a movie still of the 1955 Italian film, “Woman of the River.”

Right now, I am Woman of the Soggy Slippers, and I need a drink and a plate of lumpia, stat.

The Geyserville Gun Club is a Fellini-esque watering hole that’s almost too absurdly wonderful to be true. Brought to life by Chef Dino Bugica, it’s the flipside of his more tourist-friendly Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria.

And by flipside, we mean a Pepto-pink bathroom with a stuffed ram’s head peering down at you while you do your business. Sophia, with her legs askew, gazes from an exposed brick wall overseeing the bar, a sort of Madonna of the Manhattan.

Spicy tuna rolls at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Spicy tuna rolls at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Smokey and the Bandit plays silently on a television screen while the Moody Blues croon from speakers.

It takes a minute for your eyes to adjust to the dim interior, with a backlit bar stocked with every artisan libation imaginable. A crystal deer antler chandelier illuminates the doorway, overseen by a taxidermy stag’s head that stares blankly into the room. Once used as an underground shooting range by boozy locals, the basement of the building is the inspiration for the name, according to chef-owner Dino Bugica.

The former Odd Fellows Hall is conjoined to Bugica’s next door pizzeria/salumeria, Diavola, by a kitchen, the Gun Club is a combination bar, lounge and live music venue that’s been under the radar for several years — especially when it comes to the food. Located in the tiny hamlet of Geyserville, it’s an out-of-the-way spot that’s a favorite of late-nighters, afternoon-drinkers, pre-Diavola diners and local music junkies.

Billing itself as “a true working man’s bar,” at 1 p.m. on Friday, there are already a handful of day-drinkers snuggled up with their beers. The kitchen opens early today (most days the bar opens at 4 p.m.), and we’re ready to dig into what Bugica calls his “fetish cooking” from the Gun Club menu.

“The menu is everything I love to eat and cook,” he said in a text from Hong Kong, where he’s on a food adventure. That means an ever-changing menu that’s focused on Asian street food — from ramen and lumpia to spicy tuna hand rolls and nightly raw crudo that recently included live uni. They’re perfect foils for cheeky drinks like the Thai Fighter with Old Forester 100 Bourbon, gum syrup, black Thai Tea, Fernet Branca, allspice dram and sweetened condensed milk. Sweet and prickled with exotic spice, it’s and Thai iced tea’s complicated and brooding older brother.

Lumpia at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Lumpia at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Equally impish are dishes like the Tijuana dog, a hot dog stuffed with cheese, topped with bacon and jalapeno, pico de gallo and “secret sauce”. It’s also supposed to include fried onions and pickled pineapple, but ours didn’t, and frankly didn’t suffer to terribly for the omission. This is the dish Bugica could never get away with serving next door, where stricter codes of chefdom overrule bacon hot dogs, and why Bugica relishes the opportunity to play with his food at the Geyserville Gun Club.

And the pink bathroom? It’s an ode to grandmothers everywhere, who stubbornly held onto their 1950s pastel pink potties and matching sinks for far longer than they should have. Bless their hearts. “It’s your time when you go in the bathroom. You kind of get lost and feel a change,” said Bugica. That and he really likes pink toilets. “It was a fun project to design,” he said.

Overall: Expect serious bar bites that will lay a solid foundation for a long night of drinking. With chef-driven dishes, Geyserville Gun Club has plenty of secret sauce, paying homage to the average Joe, but keeping irreverence and absurdity on tap.

Best Bets

Cocktail at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Cocktail at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Lumpia, $12: Maybe the best lumpia ever, stuffed with meaty sausage and shrimp rather than too many veggies. Fried to perfection. Little bits of sliced veggies decorate the plate, and would be a delightful accompaniment if they were pickled.

Korean short ribs with red curry mac: Fall-off-the-bone short ribs in a whoa Nelly spicy sauce studded with birds eye chilis. Creamy mac douses the fire in your face.

GGC Burger, $14: I am a bit of a cretin when it comes to hamburger. I don’t love the slightly gamey flavor of some grassfed beef. I grew up in the Midwest where the poor cows only saw feedlots and corn.

This burger has an honest grassfed flavor, topped brilliantly with American cheese (so daring, so delicious!), caramelized onions and secret sauce. Next time, we’ll try it with the Impossible Burger, a vegetarian ground beef substitute.

Mmmmaybe:

Spicy Tuna Handroll, $8: What look like giant threads of saffron stick to spicy tuna in Japanese Kewpie mayo. If you like the salad-dressing style mayo, you’ll love this. If not, you’ll want to pass.

Egg fried rice, $ : Big chunks of pork, with homey stir-fried rice. Maybe a little too homey, because it lacked the smokey wok hay we like to see on fried rice. On the super plus side: Crunchy bits of bottom-of-the-pot rice were a surprising addition.

Spring Alchemy cocktail, $11: Quaffable almost to a fault.

Antler chandelier at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Antler chandelier at the Geyserville Gun Club in Geyserville. Heather Irwin/PD

Next Time: Most of the crudos weren’t on the menu when we visited and dishes were very carne-centric. Previous menus have included a mezze plate, spicy Brussels sprouts and macro bowls. Bummed we couldn’t get the ramen at lunch, which is a Bugica staple. The good news is that the menu changes frequently, so you’ll always have something new to try.

Where: 21025 Geyserville Ave, Geyserville, 707-814-0036, geyservillegunclub.com

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Geyserville Gun Club Has the Secret Sauce appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/geyserville-gun-club-has-the-secret-sauce/feed/ 2
Willi’s Wine Bar Return Was a Hard Decision http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/willis-wine-bar-returning/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/willis-wine-bar-returning/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:25:50 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37904

Iconic Stark's restaurant will rise again.

The post Willi’s Wine Bar Return Was a Hard Decision appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

Before the ashes of Willi’s Wine Bar had cooled last October, restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark knew they faced a difficult decision — whether or not to rebuild their iconic Santa Rosa restaurant. 
 
In the six months since the fires, it’s been an unrelenting question posed to the couple by friends, family, employees and loyal fans of the 16-year-old restaurant. Until two weeks ago, Stark said she wasn’t sure what the answer would be. But in late March, Terri posted a cryptic picture of the scorched Willi’s Wine Bar sign disassembled on the ground to her personal Facebook page. “What goes up, must come down, and go up again. Right?” 
 
A flood of responses to the post overwhelmed the couple. “It was just huge, I don’t know how many hundreds of messages I got. People were calling our home phone and leaving voicemails,” she said.
 
Though she remained mum on the exact details of the post for more than a week, Stark has now confirmed that a new Willi’s Wine Bar will open in Santa Rosa next fall. They hope to open on Oct. 8, exactly one year since the wildfires began. The decision to reopen wasn’t an easy or quick one, she said.
 
“For a while it was ‘Oh poor us, Willi’s is gone’. I couldn’t envision a location that would be right for Willi’s to reopen, and we knew it would never be the same, but then Mark and I got kind of angry and decided we really weren’t done with Willi’s,” she said. 
 
“We went through all the stages of death with the restaurant,” she said of the shock, denial, anger and finally acceptance that the first restaurant the couple had opened was really gone. “There was such an outpouring of support from people all over. People were sending checks, and it’s unbelievable the number of people who hand wrote letters about how special the restaurant was to them. I could only take so much of that. I said, ‘We have to bring it back’.”   
 
Stark would not say where the new location would be, but confirmed that it would not be in their former Old Redwood Highway property and that they would be renovating an existing space. “Opportunities presented themselves,” she said.
 
It’s still hard for Stark to think about the quirky wine bar where she and Mark spent every day together when they opened in 2002. “It was our dream, me in the front of the house and him in the kitchen. That was the only one of our six restaurants where we were able to do that. We got money to open it from anyone who would answer the phone. It was kind of like a breakout role for an actor, a foundation that allowed us to continue forward and open six places,” she said. The Starks opened Willi’s Seafood in Healdsburg fifteen months later, then Monti’s, Stark’s Steak and Seafood, Bravas Bar de Tapas and most recently Bird and Bottle, which Terri said would be their last restaurant when it opened in 2015.
 
Staff displaced by the closure have been absorbed into the Stark’s other restaurants, but Terri said that many of the Willi’s staff had been at the restaurant for more than a decade and are ready to reunite. She also said that the restaurant was insured and the money they received after the fire will cover the cost of  rebuilding. Nothing, however, from Willi’s survived the fire aside from two propane tanks from outdoor patio heaters, the sign and a special horseshoe that once hung over the back door.
 
“It was there when we moved into the space. it was never even really attached to the building,” said Stark. “We went over after the fire, and we were just walking through the debris. I didn’t know Mark was looking for it. But he picked it up and said, ‘Okay we can go now.’
 
“Willi’s was the perfect little nugget of a restaurant,” said Stark. “A new restaurant will never be the same, be we’re excited for Willi’s Part 2,” she said.
 
The Starks have also announced plans to open a Jewish-style deli called Grossmans Jewish Noshery in early 2019. The name pays homage to Terri’s heritage and maiden name, Gross. The couple have long wanted to create a delicatessen in the region inspired by those in New York that serve everything from chicken liver to bagels and schmears. They’ll make their own challah, rye bread, and bagels, but Stark calls it Jewish, since it won’t be strictly kosher. “I want to be able to have bacon and not get in trouble,” she said.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Willi’s Wine Bar Return Was a Hard Decision appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/willis-wine-bar-returning/feed/ 3
In Santa Rosa, You Can Finally Get That Muffaletta You’ve Been Craving http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/in-santa-rosa-you-can-finally-get-that-muffaletta-youve-been-craving/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/in-santa-rosa-you-can-finally-get-that-muffaletta-youve-been-craving/#comments Thu, 29 Mar 2018 22:36:00 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37886 Muffaletta sandwich at the Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

You're about to go crazy for this New Orleans-style sandwich.

The post In Santa Rosa, You Can Finally Get That Muffaletta You’ve Been Craving appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Muffaletta sandwich at the Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

In a swirling cloud of powdered sugar, jambalaya and fried okra, the boisterous bon temps of Bourbon Street have arrived in downtown Santa Rosa.

Flanked by flickering New Orleans-style gas lamps and perfumed by the spicy bouquet of crawfish and hush puppies, The Parish Cafe is warmer than a peach cobbler resting on maw-maw’s window sill–and owner Rob Lippincott means to keep it that way.

“Be nice or leave” reads a sign on the hostess stand, fair warning for anyone threatening to put a damper on Parish’s heaping helping of Southern hospitality.

This isn’t Lippincott’s first crawfish boil. The Healdsburg outpost of the Parish Cafe opened in 2012, and Lippincott has been slinging beignets at farm market stands for years — and was where many of us first met the NOLA native.

“I always felt like I was selling memories,” said Lippincott, sitting at a communal redwood table at the new restaurant. “New Orleans is such a vortex for Americans. Everywhere I’ve gone I meet new people who want to tell me about their experiences there — about Cafe du Monde.”

“I think that’s always been part of our success,” he said, coming off a bustling weekend that saw more than 600 diners between the two cafes.

Beignets at Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather irwin/PD

Beignets at Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather irwin/PD

Covered with enough powdered sugar to cover most of your shirt, pants, and shoes should you fail to take heed, beignets have always been the constant for Lippincott, and are on just about every table. Fried squares of dough and hot, oily air are New Orleans’ unofficial food mascot and a bellwether for a chef’s prowess in Cajun cuisine. Lippincott takes his very seriously, though not everyone’s a pro at the art of beignet eating. You can always tell first-timers by their watering eyes and embarrassed coughing after inhaling a cloud of sugar. Nothing iced tea can’t correct

The downtown location comes at an exciting time for Santa Rosa’s revitalizing restaurant scene. Parish has opened in the former La Bufa Mexican restaurant after the owner retired. A complete overhaul began last May, with groundbreaking in October, and opening almost a year later.

It’s been worth the wait for a restaurant that feels so natural in this space, with its shrimp po-boys, muffaletta sandwiches, fried oysters, shrimp and grits, red beans and rice and rib-sticking jambalaya.

Surf and turf po-boy at Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather irwin/PD

Surf and turf po-boy at Parish Cafe in Santa Rosa. Heather irwin/PD

Best Bets at the Parish Cafe

Parish is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, and breakfast is served all day on the weekend.
Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m., but we’ve heard that you might be able to get a crawfish po-boy if you order before 11:45, the best of breakfast and lunch. No promises, though.

Po-Boys: This NOLA classic is basically a sandwich on steroids. The bread, however, is the key, and Lippincott’s father-in-law happens to be Will Seppi, owner of Cousteaux bakery in Healdsburg. The two worked on a special recipe for the perfect soft inside and lightly crunchy outside that sets his po-boys apart from all others. Our favorite is the Surf & Turf, with fried shrimp, roast beef and “debris” gravy. $14 regular, $18 king-sized.

Red Beans and Rice ($6, $10): Not for vegetarians, it’s made with ham hock and andouille sausage so it actually tastes good.

Muffaletta ($14, $26 for a whole): This NOLA classic is a round loaf of focaccia stuffed with ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella and olive tapenade. Olives are my kryptonite, but I actually ate a pretty darn big portion of this sandwich despite the tapenade. True connoisseurs, however, tell me this version is dead on.

Seafood Platter ($20): Big enough for one hearty eater, or two hungry lighter eaters, it’s a fried food bonanza with shrimp, oysters, fries, catfish and hush puppies.

Beignets ($5): A necessity.

Shrimp and Grits ($14): This is exactly what this Southern dish should be, full of butter, with Creole tomato sauce.

Overall: A love letter to his hometown, This second Parish Cafe has already woven itself into the fabric of downtown Santa Rosa.

Parish Cafe, 703 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-843-7804, theparishcafe.com. Also at 60 Mill St, Healdsburg.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post In Santa Rosa, You Can Finally Get That Muffaletta You’ve Been Craving appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/in-santa-rosa-you-can-finally-get-that-muffaletta-youve-been-craving/feed/ 4
Hippity Hop to Easter Brunch in Sonoma County 2018 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/hippity-hop-to-easter-brunch-in-sonoma-county-2018/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/hippity-hop-to-easter-brunch-in-sonoma-county-2018/#comments Wed, 28 Mar 2018 18:44:06 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37844 Easter Buffet in Sonoma County

The county's best spots to celebrate Easter brunch -- and the return of outdoor seating!

The post Hippity Hop to Easter Brunch in Sonoma County 2018 appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Easter Buffet in Sonoma County

With sunny weather and warm temperatures predicted for Easter, brunch is on the menu for the hoppiest of holidays.

Here are some favorite breakfast, brunch and dinner spots for your Easter celebrations.

Coast

Rocker Oysterfellers Kitchen + Saloon: Two-course brunch for $32 per person with their special Bloody Mary Bar that includes pickled veggies, bacon, peppers, salami, flavored salts and hot sauces. Egg hunt around the patio and a chalk art area for kids. Reservations highly encouraged. 14415 Shoreline Highway, Valley Ford, 707-876-1983, rockeroysterfellers.com.

Healdsburg
Spoonbar: Lineup includes buttermilk pancakes, spring vegetable quiche and orange and honey glazed baby back ribs, and a dessert bar. The brunch will also feature small pancakes and a “build-your-own ice cream cookie sandwiches” station for the kids. Diners can also toast with a Bergamot Blossom, a Bloody Mary or acclaimed “farm-to-bar” cocktails. $39 per person, $15 for kids under 12. 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707- 433-7222, spoonbar.com.

Botiffara at Mateo's Cocina Latina in Healdsburg. Courtesy

Botiffara at Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg. Courtesy

Mateo’s: Open at 9 a.m. serving breakfast and lunch (11:30 a.m to 3 p.m.) with specialties including Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, sangria, mimosas, pork carnitas quesadillas, cochinita pibil, ceviche and more. What’s especially fun is that they’ll be selling a limited supply of their housemade Botifarra, an ancient recipe for a regional type of sausage. Try something new! 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-1520, mateoscocinalatina.com.

Barndiva: Brunch in the gardens, with a 3-course $55 brunch including chilled asparagus soup, baby kale caesar, yellowfin tuna crudo, Dungeness crab BLT, steak and eggs, lobster huevos rancheros, Meyer lemon tart. Barndiva is also offering French Country dinners each Sunday throughout April in the Gallery, with homey dishes like herb roasted leg of lamb, soupe au pistou, salmon croquette, smoked pork and more. 231 Center St, Healdsburg, 707-431-0100, barndiva.com.

Dry Creek Kitchen: Three-course brunch featuring warm crab and asparagus, Bellwether ricotta pancakes, Mary’s chicken pot pie, German chocolate pie, carrot cake, key lime millefeuille.$55 per person, 11 a.m to 2 p.m., 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-431-0330, drycreekkitchen.com.

Petaluma
Chicken Pharm
: Gather your flock at Chicken Pharm for Easter Brunch. Easter Bunny photos from 9am-11am, brunch from 9am-2pm, including $17 bottomless mimosas for the adults. There will also be Easter eggs and other festive favors for the chicklets. The brunch menu includes Chick n’ Waffles; Stack Attack (buckwheat hotcakes, roasted bananas, Marshall Farms honey); Breakfast Tacos (Petaluma eggs, Black Pig bacon, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo) and giant blueberry muffins. 132 Keller St, Petaluma, 707-543-1278, chickenpharm.com.

Santa Rosa
Walter Hansel Wine Bistro:
A la carte Easter menu with crab cocktail, Coquille St. Jacques, Veal Cordon Bleu, spring lamb shanks, fruit tart. Open for dinner 4 to 8:30p.m., 3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, 707-546-6462, walterhanselbistro.com.

Franchetti’s: A la carte menu includes a Bennie Balooza with a Caprese bennie, ham, and pineapple, chilaquiles, frozen blackberry lemon chiffon pie or prix fixe featuring biscuits and honey butter, arancini, bennies and dessert. 1229 N. Dutton, Santa Rosa, 707-526-1229, franchettis.com.

Sonoma

Breakaway Café
: Spring vegetable toast with sauteed favas, oyster mushrooms, eggs and Hollandaise, braised lamb shank with lemon risotto, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 19101 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, 707-9965949, breakawaycafe.com.

Sebastopol

Patisserie Angelica: Passover and Easter sweets include Lemon Lavender Egg cake with flowers and piped flowers, and eye-popping chocolate raspberry eggs with chocolate truffle mousse, raspberry preserved and fresh raspberries glazed with dark chocolate. Order ahead for pickup. 6821 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 707-827-7998, patisserieangelica.com.

Zazu Kitchen and Farm: Prix-fixe, $29 per person includes Nutella French toast sandwich with strawberries, asparagus risotto, housemade bagel with smoked McFarland springs trout, Corned beef Rueben on rye, rabbit tinga tostadas, plus Black Pig bacon, grilled asparagus with tarragon Hollandaise, kale caesar, fried green tomatoes.  6770 McKinley #150, Sebastopol, 707-523-4814, zazukitchen.com.

Gravenstein Grill
Brunch specials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. includes Dungeness Crab Benedict and Sonoma Spring vegetable quiche. Plus Willie Bird Turkey Burger and Liberty duck confit. 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, 707-34-6142, gravensteingrill.com.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Hippity Hop to Easter Brunch in Sonoma County 2018 appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/hippity-hop-to-easter-brunch-in-sonoma-county-2018/feed/ 1
18 Best Steak Restaurants and Steakhouses in Sonoma County http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/18-best-steak-restaurants-and-steakhouses-in-sonoma-county/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/18-best-steak-restaurants-and-steakhouses-in-sonoma-county/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 21:56:43 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37797

Finding steak on a menu isn't hard. Finding a great steak, however, is a quest. We've found the best in Sonoma County.

The post 18 Best Steak Restaurants and Steakhouses in Sonoma County appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

Finding steak on a menu isn’t hard. Finding a great steak, however, is a quest. 

Whether you’re a corn-fed, grass-fed, or corn-finished beef fan, the thing about a great steak is letting it just be a steak. It doesn’t need heavy sauces or time-consuming preparation. How you grill it at home is pretty much how it’s cooked at a restaurant. No major mystery.

What makes it worth heading out for NY Strip, ribeye, porterhouse or filet mignon is sourcing and technique. Chefs can get special cuts from their trusted purveyors that may be dry aged, sourced locally or from exotic places like Japan. Chefs also know exactly how to get that perfect char on the outside and delicate pinkness all the way through. They let it reach room temperature before cooking it and let it rest before serving it. For home cooks, it’s often a toss-up between raw and well-done, racing just to get it on the table. A grocery store sirloin in dad’s hands just isn’t going to be the same. 

So, we’ve come up with a host of great spots for steaks in Sonoma County that make that steak worth the pricetag — from ultra luxe to weeknight splurge. Click through the gallery above for details. 

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post 18 Best Steak Restaurants and Steakhouses in Sonoma County appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/18-best-steak-restaurants-and-steakhouses-in-sonoma-county/feed/ 0
BBQ Chicken Spot is Firing Up Petalumans http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/bbq-chicken-spot-is-firing-up-petalumans/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/bbq-chicken-spot-is-firing-up-petalumans/#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2018 17:30:45 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37822 Petaluma BBQ spot features barbecue chicken, ribs, fresh salsas and tortillas. Heather Irwin/PD

An impressive salsa bar gives this barbecue spot an extra vote for awesomeness.

The post BBQ Chicken Spot is Firing Up Petalumans appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Petaluma BBQ spot features barbecue chicken, ribs, fresh salsas and tortillas. Heather Irwin/PD

Petaluma is going gonzo for What A Chicken!, a budget-friendly barbecue spot, which specializes in — you guessed it — chicken.

You’ll smell it before you see it, with a massive grill perfuming the entire block with mesquite smoke and grilling chicken. Prepare to drool a little. Once you’ve passed through the mist of sizzling poultry, it’s an order-at-the-counter affair. Choose from mixed grill plates, as well as tacos, fall-off-the-bone ribs, a so-so-sides like potato salad, coleslaw, and Spanish rice. Instead, get the freshly made corn tortillas and spend some time at the salsa bar. There’s usually a line, so you’ll have time to ponder the menu.

We found the chicken to be wonderfully flavored, but a bit dry. Doused with fiery pineapple salsa and wrapped in a warm tortilla, it’s easier to see why folks are so impressed. That and the prices: You’ll get a two-item, two-side plate and a drink for $7, hearty tacos are $3 and burritos around $7 as well.

Super plus: A selection of icy agua frescas are delightfully cool and sweet, taking some of the bite out of spicier salsas. 708 E. Washington, Petaluma, 510-776-7615.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post BBQ Chicken Spot is Firing Up Petalumans appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/bbq-chicken-spot-is-firing-up-petalumans/feed/ 1
A Secret Meal Is on the Menu at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-secret-meal-is-on-the-menu-at-dukes-common-in-healdsburg/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-secret-meal-is-on-the-menu-at-dukes-common-in-healdsburg/#respond Fri, 16 Mar 2018 21:33:31 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37734 Snacks and sticks from Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Served in a flimsy plastic tub, this ubiquitous dish is usually priceless. But you can have it for $10.

The post A Secret Meal Is on the Menu at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Snacks and sticks from Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

“Are you serious?” is about the only thing to say when a very undignified plastic container of shrimp and grits is inexplicably plopped in front of me at Healdsburg’s newest dining hotspot, Duke’s Common. I’m feigning indignity quite well after a couple glasses of rosé.

This flimsy plastic tub — albeit brimming with buttery Southern grits with lobster sauce and fiery little shrimp — is the kind you’d find stuffed into a doggie bag or filled with fruit salad. Not exactly the bespoke earthenware stoically dotting starched white tablecloths around the rest of the Square.

Snacks and sticks from Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Snacks and sticks from Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Then I get the joke. It’s a riff on “family meal”, a secret dish found at every restaurant, but not available on any menu. Humble, but nourishing, it’s a members-only experience for restaurant staff, made with a hodge-podge of kitchen leftovers and served from a communal pot. When family meal is set out, everyone from servers and dishwashers to executive chefs and line cooks come running — usually with a plastic take-out container — for this behind-closed-doors ritual.

“We all thought it would be a fun tongue-in-cheek menu item,” said Chef Shane Mcanelly (Brass Rabbit, Chalkboard), who collaborated on the project with Duke’s Spirited Cocktails owners Steven Maduro, Laura Sanfilippo, Tara Heffernon and Cappy Sorentino. “It’s been fun for me to take ideas that we might do for family meal and elevate them slightly,” said Mcanelly.

Five Dot Ranch corn dogs with stadium mustard. Heather Irwin/PD

Five Dot Ranch corn dogs with stadium mustard. Heather Irwin/PD

Bridging that gap between front of house and back of house, restaurant or bar, lofty versus unpretentious, Duke’s Common is the halfway point—literally and figuratively—between the classic American cafe dining of Brass Rabbit (109 Plaza St.) and unfiltered farm-to-table booziness of Duke’s Spirited Cocktails (111 Plaza St.). Housed in the former Scopa space, the goal of the casual commisary is to be, “A high-spirited place to gather with friends to enjoy a quick bite and drink in the heart of downtown Healdsburg,” say owners.

At the Common, thirty-somethings balance toddlers on their hips, while sipping Prosecco, the pre-dinner crowd can grab quick nibble and glass of wine, and after-hours revelers can stuff down some Disco Fries before boogying home to bed.

Menu at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Menu at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Keeping in that unruffled spirit of hale and hearty bites like fries doused with gravy and tubs of shrimp and grits, it’s clear to see that Duke’s Common doesn’t take itself the least bit seriously. There’s a brief but eclectic lineup of things on skewers (mushrooms, chicken, corn dogs), small bites like the insanely popular McChicken sandwich and slightly larger bites that include slices of pizza for $4 or a burrito stuffed with falafel, along with cocktails, wine, and beer. Nothing on the menu is more than $10. We ordered just about the entire menu for under $100, much to our surprise.

Duke’s Common has arrived in the right place at the right time—a place for all of us to gather, whether we’re plastic dish or white tablecloth kinds of diners.

Best Bets

McChicken Sandwich ($6): Exactly nothing like its namesake–except for being fried, doused in mayo and highly addictive. A top-seller for a reason.

McChicken Sandwich with spicy mayo, cabbage slaw at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

McChicken Sandwich with spicy mayo, cabbage slaw at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Marinated Shrooms ($6): Surf and turf without the beef. The earthbound flavors of mushrooms meet briny furikake seasoning and seaweed. Kewpie mayo dots keep the dish on-trend for you know, people who like Kewpie mayo.

Little Pork Tacos ($7): Yucatan-roasted pork shoulder with habanero marinated onions and lime. You can get ‘em just as good elsewhere in Healdsburg, but having a Carmela Anthony cocktail ($10, vodka, lemongrass, ginger and prickly pear) in your hand concurrently trumps any Michelada.

Maple Bacon Donut ($3): Donut may oversell what’s more of a maple-glazed beignet. Big flavors make up for the tiny size. Recommended: Catch all bacon and glaze crumbs into waxed paper, then upturn into your open mouth. Refuse to acknowledge you just did that.

BBQ Pork Banh Mi ($8): Sub out pork for black pepper tofu topped with pickled carrot, daikon, cilantro, pate and jalapeno mayo, and you’ve got a killer veggie ‘wich.

Five Dot Ranch Corn Dogs ($6): Doll-sized bites of corn dog with spicy stadium mustard. They’re just so darned cute.

Maple bacon donut at Duke’s Commons in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Maple bacon donut at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Falafel-Ritto ($9): We recently had a similar bite at Zoftig, but the tiny size of this version was more cocktail-hour appropriate and packs a powerful flavor one-two punch with tzatziki, falafel and pickled onion.

Swing and a Miss

Pork Satay ($7): Lemongrass and ginger flavor petite skewers of pork. More peanut sauce would be advisable.

Disco Fries ($6): Though our fries seemed to have peaked before even hitting the dance floor, this concept gives Saturday Night Fever to poutine (gravy and cheese curds), adding mozzarella and Bechamel to the mushroom gravy. We like a crispier base, or the whole thing falls like a dropped disco ball. 

Duke’s Common is located 109A Plaza St., in Healdsburg. For information, call 707-431-1105 for visit dukescommon.com.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post A Secret Meal Is on the Menu at Duke’s Common in Healdsburg appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-secret-meal-is-on-the-menu-at-dukes-common-in-healdsburg/feed/ 0
We Found the Impossible Burger! http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-burger-thats-not-actually-a-burger-thats-impossible/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-burger-thats-not-actually-a-burger-thats-impossible/#comments Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:20:35 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37728 The Impossible Burger at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa looks, tastes and eats like a beef burger. Mostly. Heather Irwin/PD

There's no meat in this patty, but it's every bit as good as a ground beef hamburger. Really.

The post We Found the Impossible Burger! appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
The Impossible Burger at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa looks, tastes and eats like a beef burger. Mostly. Heather Irwin/PD

A vegan burger that even the staunchest carnivores can sink their teeth into has arrived in Santa Rosa.

Gaia’s Garden (1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa) is featuring the much-hullabalooed Impossible Burger, an engineered faux-beef patty years in the making as scientists studied what exactly made a great burger, well, a great burger.

Embraced by some of the highest-end Bay Area chefs including Traci des Jardins (Jardiniere), meat-evangelist Chris Cosentino (Napa’s Acacia House) and St. Helena’s Harvest Table and even Gott’s Roadside in Napa, this isn’t your usual veggie burger. 

Inside of the Impossible Burger. Heather Irwin/PD


What’s the big deal? First off, there’s no dry, gritty flavor of beans, mushrooms, grains, and nuts that have made most of us run screaming from the mere thought of a “vegan” burger.
If we’re getting down to brass tacks, what makes the Impossible Burger unique is that it actually “bleeds” like cooked ground beef.  Sounds yucky, but that’s the truth. More importantly, it also tastes and chews like the meaty version. Mostly. 

The science behind the Impossible Burger is the result of a relentless search for a better burger that was more sustainable for the planet but would be appealing to carnivores. Funded by millions from venture capitalists like Bill Gates, the breakthrough was the connection between“heme”, an iron-containing molecule found in plants and animals. It’s what makes meat taste like meat, but the compound isn’t limited to animal products.

In the case of the Impossible Burger, soy leghemoglobin is the catalyst, which when cooked becomes “heme”, giving this vegan patty the flavor, look and mouthfeel of beef. Weird, right?

The taste test: We’re sold, especially since Gaia’s Garden does the Impossible up fancy with a load of mix and match toppings including caramelized onions, mushrooms, avocado, vegetarian mayo, dairy or non-dairy cheese, lettuce, tomato and all the usual toppings on a soft, herbed whole wheat bun. On a whim we opted for coconut “bacon”, which is nothing like bacon, but gives a delightfully smoky crunch. 

Impossible Burger with avocado and coconut bacon. Heather Irwin/PD

Impossible Burger with avocado and coconut bacon. Heather Irwin/PD

It’s a beast, and ours was overcooked a titch, but, unlike a beef burger, we were full but not full of regret an hour later. Easier on the gut. Easier on the planet. Win-win.

There are competitors to the Impossible Burger already entering the meatless burger market, notably the Beyond Burger, made with pea proteins and beets (for the “bleed”) which we also sampled at a food show and found entirely delicious as well.

We’re a long way from moving away from ground beef as an American food staple, but with vegetable-based products that can satisfy our heme-tooth in a sustainable and delicious way, it’s a huge step in the right direction.

Gaia’s Garden is at 1899 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, 707-544-2491, gaiasgardenonline.com.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post We Found the Impossible Burger! appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/a-burger-thats-not-actually-a-burger-thats-impossible/feed/ 15
So Close: Sonoma County Restaurants Opening This Spring http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/spring-2018-restaurant-openings/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/spring-2018-restaurant-openings/#comments Thu, 15 Mar 2018 03:48:20 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37674

From pastries to po’ boys to Swedish street food: there are plenty of new local restaurants to get excited about right now.

The post So Close: Sonoma County Restaurants Opening This Spring appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

We’ve had a few big openings in the last few months, from Zoftig and Perch and Plow in Santa Rosa to Duke’s Commons in Healdsburg. But that doesn’t mean we’re not still obsessively following the construction and permitting of several others throwing open their doors in the coming months. Here are some updates on what’s coming (photos in the gallery above). 

Les Pascals, Mid-March OPEN!
This French pastry cafe in Glen Ellen brings together husband and wife team Pascal and Pascale Merle’s patisserie skills with Sean Perry’s bread baking finesse. The cherished “Yellow Building” at 13758 Arnold Drive is slated to open in the next week or so, depending on final inspections, according to building owner Christine Hansson.

Parish Cafe, March OPEN!
Robb Lippincott’s wildly popular New Orleans restaurant is close to opening in downtown Santa Rosa, featuring all the po’ boys, beignets and cafe au lait you can shake a Louisiana gater at. The exterior looks fantastic, and fingers are crossed that they’ll get the final go-ahead to open in the coming weeks. 703 Fourth St., Santa Rosa.

Stockhome: Estimated End of April: Oh, we are so excited about this one. The owners of SF Swedish restaurant Plaj will soon open a more casual street food restaurant in Petaluma. They’re doing some pop-up preview dinners in San Francisco, teasing our taste buds with dishes like chicken shwarma with falafel, saffron basmati rice and garlic yogurt, Greek salad with halloumi cheese and Swedish kabob. Why so much Middle Eastern-inspired food? The many cultural influences in the Nordic country include large populations of Greek, Turkish, Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese immigrants whose food has become integrated into the country’s gastro fabric. Stockhome will also offer Lordagsgodis — Saturday candy — which is also a tradition in Sweden where kids load up on sugar for the week. 220 Western Ave., Petaluma.

Jade Room: May
Sift Dessert Bar founder Andrea Ballus is planning a bubbly and small plate spot at 643 Fourth St. in downtown Santa Rosa. Permitting has come through, but they’re a bit behind their much-hoped-for February launch. We say, worth the wait.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post So Close: Sonoma County Restaurants Opening This Spring appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/spring-2018-restaurant-openings/feed/ 1
12 Best Pies in Sonoma County http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/pie/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/pie/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:37:29 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=34711

Today is Pi Day. Celebrate with a slice of sweet or savory pie at these Sonoma County pie shops.

The post 12 Best Pies in Sonoma County appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

Happy Pi Day. Or is it Happy Pie Day?

Either way, we think celebrating pi (3.14 etc.) on 3/14 is a good enough reason to grab a piece of pie and ponder the mathematical universe. But really, is there ever a reason not to celebrate pie? In honor of Pi and Pie, we offer up a dozen of our favorite Sonoma County pie shops, and a few of our favorite slices therein. Click through the gallery above for details. 

Have a favorite we missed? Add your must-have pies from Sonoma County.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post 12 Best Pies in Sonoma County appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/pie/feed/ 4
Why a Santa Rosa Cafe Is the Future of the Office Lunch http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/why-a-santa-rosa-cafe-is-the-future-of-the-office-lunch/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/why-a-santa-rosa-cafe-is-the-future-of-the-office-lunch/#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2018 23:20:46 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37560 Grove Cafe in the Redwood Credit Union headquarters in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Would you eat at a bank? Maybe you should

The post Why a Santa Rosa Cafe Is the Future of the Office Lunch appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Grove Cafe in the Redwood Credit Union headquarters in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

It’s time for a little lunchtime dignity at the office. So long to sad brown paper sacks, desiccated Lean Cuisines warmed up in a dirty microwave, and worst of all, whatever stinky thing you had for dinner last night that’s making us all wretch at our desks. I make it a practice to publicly humiliate anyone with the chutzpah to bring a steaming plate of fish stew, garlic curry or god forbid, tuna salad near my workstation.

That’s why I’m convinced that Redwood Credit Union’s new Grove Cafe is the future of the office lunch.

Simple daily menus are placed near the entrance to the bright, modern space and include dishes like blacked chicken flatbread with sweet corn and red onion ($6), roast cauliflower and pear soup ($3.50), or Korean bbq chicken in lettuce cups ($8) or a grilled veggie sandwich with sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese ($6) fresh beet salad with arugula ($6.75), made-to-order sandwiches and burritos (all under $9). There are no servers or waitstaff, instead, diners simply pick a dish or two on the touch screen monitor, pay with a credit card and sit down. Minutes later, your number is called and your order ready for pickup at the counter. No muss, no fuss, no lost time when your lunch hour is ticking by quickly.

Recently built inside the RCU headquarters, (3033 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa), anyone is invited to dine at the cafe, though mostly populated by hungry bankers, nearby Empire College students and Superior Court staff. In fact, I was tipped off by my son, who has made it his mission to receive most of his daily sustenance at the cafe while on break from his college classes. It’s that affordable.

While the concept cafe isn’t locally-owned or Michelin-starred (it is part of international foodservice conglomerate Compass Group, which operates cafes and food services for businesses, schools and hospitals including Bon Appetit Management and Wolfgang Puck Catering), the simple idea is efficient, inexpensive and what office drones (myself included) could really use on days when simply putting food in our faces is something of a luxury.

The Grove Cafe: Open Monday – Friday. Breakfast – 8:30 -10:00 a.m, lunch – 11:30 a.m-1:30 p.m., snacks -1:30 – 3:00 p.m..

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Why a Santa Rosa Cafe Is the Future of the Office Lunch appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/why-a-santa-rosa-cafe-is-the-future-of-the-office-lunch/feed/ 4
Our Top Picks for Sonoma County Restaurant Week 2018 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/our-top-picks-sonoma-county-restaurant-week-2018/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/our-top-picks-sonoma-county-restaurant-week-2018/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:30:09 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37633

Where to eat and how to get a great deal during Restaurant Week - cause I've done this for 9 years.

The post Our Top Picks for Sonoma County Restaurant Week 2018 appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

Sonoma County Restaurant Week is here! Now in its 9th year, the event features more than 120 restaurants from every corner of the county serving up multi-course lunches for $10 or $15 and dinners for $19, $29 and $39 per person.

We just like to call it an opportunity to stuff your face at great local restaurants for a bargain. And this year, you have more than a week to enjoy the bounty; from Friday, March 2 all the way through Sunday, March 11. Other than a few stretches, pulling out your most forgiving pants and sharpening those fork tines, the most important thing you need to do is a little planning.

We’ve pulled together a few tips to make your experience a little easier to navigate, as well as some Restaurant Week menus that got us salivating (in the gallery above).

Top Tips
1. $15 lunches are the best way to see if you want to go back for a $29 or $39 dinner at the restaurant. Most have completely different lunch and dinner menus, but you’ll get a good sense of the restaurant’s style. Others offer similar lunch and dinner menus— adding a salad, soup or dessert to the dinner menu for evening diners. In that case, we’ll take the $15 version and skip the dessert.

2. Look at restaurants by price range on the website. We like to compare what folks are doing in the same price range. We’d probably skip over spots that aren’t offering anything different from their regular menu, or that haven’t put much effort into their menus. Seek out the restaurateurs that are putting extra oomph into their offerings.

3. Expect something impressive for $39. Don’t expect that same level of wow for $19. We tend to make a rule that we expect higher-end restaurants to really impress us with their $39 menus. We’re very impressed with menus from John Ash ad Co., Dry Creek Kitchen, and Seared at the higher price point. Also, look out for restaurants that aren’t staying in their usual lanes. For a value-priced fast-casual spot, a $39 dinner might be a bit overambitious.

4. If you hate to wait, go early or go late. But really, go early. Restaurant Week is very popular, so restaurants can get crowded. Also, make a reservation if possible. Weekdays tend to be quieter than weekends, natch. 

5. Tip your servers well. Let me repeat that, tip well. Whether its a $10 lunch or a $39 dinner for two, restaurant staff are put to the test during this busy week. All restaurant participants want to impress their guests, but service can be a bit harried during crush hours. You may be getting a great deal, but everyone from dishwashers and bussers to servers still depend on that extra percentage of your bill to stretch their paychecks.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Our Top Picks for Sonoma County Restaurant Week 2018 appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/our-top-picks-sonoma-county-restaurant-week-2018/feed/ 1
Zoftig is a Juicy New Santa Rosa Lunch Hideaway http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/zofitg-is-a-juicy-new-santa-rosa-lunch-restaurant/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/zofitg-is-a-juicy-new-santa-rosa-lunch-restaurant/#comments Wed, 28 Feb 2018 23:08:41 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37603 Beets and greens salad with walnuts, pickled onions, black pepper buttermilk dressing. Heather Irwin/PD

What happens when a high-end Napa chef turns his attention to sandwiches and salads? Zoftig.

The post Zoftig is a Juicy New Santa Rosa Lunch Hideaway appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
Beets and greens salad with walnuts, pickled onions, black pepper buttermilk dressing. Heather Irwin/PD

Fine dining was never a perfect fit for Matt and Sonjia Spector, the chef/owners of the critically acclaimed JoLe restaurant in Calistoga and Mattyson in Philadelphia.

“My grandmother always said live life with zoftig,” said Matt. A Holocaust survivor, she often used the Yiddish term that roughly translates as “fullness” that comes with being well-fed. “My uncle would constantly tell me to make sandwiches more zoftig –– or chubby,” Matt laughs, referring to the word’s more cheeky translation––a plump frame which literally means “juicy.” A life of late nights and Instagram-worthy menus just wasn’t the couple’s idea of finding abundant happiness –– or juiciness –– in their lives.

A sign at Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Facebook

A sign at Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Facebook

“Matt and I aren’t fancy people,” said Sonjia, who was JoLe’s pastry chef. “We would come greet guests (at JoLe) with flour on our shoes,” she said. Most folks found the informality charming. But some weren’t amused by the casual vibe in tony Napa. “Matt was always trying to fit into a box he wasn’t comfortable in.”

Matt Spector, chef and owner of Zoftig restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Matt Spector, chef and owner of Zoftig restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

So after selling the restaurant in 2016 (and doing a chef stint at Sonoma’s Girl and the Fig) the couple began looking for a restaurant to call their own again. This time, however, it would be close to their Santa Rosa home and only open for breakfast and lunch, giving them more regular daytime hours rather than perpetual night shifts. With two sons, the couple was ready for more zoftig. Which is exactly why they named their new cafe after that elusive feeling — Zoftig.

Porchetta banh mi from Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Porchetta banh mi from Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Focused on simple, yet well-made sandwiches, salads, and bowls, the concept doesn’t sound particularly fascinating at first pass. Until you realize that Matt makes everything from scratch — from the roasted chicken and Diestel turkey to oven-roasted tomatoes, and fresh porchetta for his own take on a Vietnamese banh mi. It’s a grab-and-go lunchtime spot near downtown Santa Rosa that’s far better than it actually needs to be, featuring bread from their next-door neighbors at Goguette, fresh chicories, and kale from FEED Sonoma and salad add-ins including paprika roasted cauliflower, goat Gouda, and grilled crimini mushrooms.

If, like us, you’ve been jonesing for a giant DIY salad packed with healthy arugula, farro, grapefruit slices and decadent Point Reyes blue cheese or a harvest bowl full of roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries, we’ve found the spot where you’ll be well-fed.

Best Bets

The breakfast menu is still in flux and chances are some of the dishes will change up over time, but we brought our leftovers to the newsroom and the consensus was, essentially — yum. Build-your-own salads are $8.95, and wraps and bowls are between $10.50 and $13.50. Most are easily splittable for two. Beer and sodas available.

Go Light

Roast chicken sandwich with apple Brussels sprout slaw, sharp cheddar, Dijon. Heather Irwin/PD

Roast chicken sandwich with apple Brussels sprout slaw, sharp cheddar, Dijon. Heather Irwin/PD

Roasted chicken ($11.50): This is what every deli sandwich aspires to be. Shredded, seasoned chicken with apple and Brussels sprouts slaw, tangy dijon mustard, sharp cheddar cheese and aioli on an airy ciabatta roll. We could easily eat this daily.

Falafel Wrap ($10.50): Grilled lavash stuffed with thick falafel patties, hummus, crisp cucumbers, sweet pickled red onions, tahini, and avocado. Too often this Middle Eastern staple is drier than the Negev desert, slathered with bitter, gritty tahini and stuffed with tasteless tomatoes. The sweetness of pickled onions, and moisture of good hummus, avocado and cucumber make it a lunchtime mitzvah.

Go Green

Beets and Greens Salad ($10.50): A giant bowl of greens studded with roasted beets, walnuts, pickled onions and a light buttermilk dressing. I might swap out a vinaigrette, but a solid meal of a salad.

Hanna salad with quinoa, kale, arugula, olives, red peppers, chick peas and tahini dressing at Zoftig. Heather Irwin/PD

Hanna salad with quinoa, kale, arugula, olives, red peppers, chick peas and tahini dressing at Zoftig. Heather Irwin/PD

Hanna Salad ($11): Virtue in a bowl. Peppery arugula with kale, quinoa, tomatoes olives, cukes, roasted red peppers, chickpeas and tahini dressing. Named after Matt’s mom. And as a mother, we know she’d be happy you’re eating your greens.

Go Big

Korean BBQ Burrito ($12.50): This food truck mashup is stuffed with sweet grilled short ribs, kimchi, daikon and short-grain brown rice inside a tortilla. It’s rib-sticking and hearty — not for dainty eaters.

Philly Special ($11.50): A nod to the Spectors’ time in Philly, where they ran a BYOB small plates restaurant, there’s no steak or cheese whiz in this version (though I’d be totally into that). Instead, fried chicken cutlets, bitter broccoli rabe, roasted garlic and provolone (natch) tell your tastebuds to fuggetaboudit and get to chompin’. Tart oven-roasted tomatoes class the whole thing up a notch.

Porchetta banh mi from Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Porchetta banh mi from Zoftig in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Banh Mi ($12): Porchetta is the secret ingredient. This rich, crispy rolled pork is paired with tasty chicken liver mousse, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro mint and jalapeño mayo. If you aren’t a huge fan of heat, skip the jalapeños sprinkled on top. They’re often a sizzling mask for lower-quality ingredients, but here, you’ll want to actually taste the ingredients. My favorite sando on the menu.

Zoftig Eatery, 57 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, (707) 738-3558, instagram.com/zoftigeatery

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Zoftig is a Juicy New Santa Rosa Lunch Hideaway appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/zofitg-is-a-juicy-new-santa-rosa-lunch-restaurant/feed/ 9
Perch & Plow: A Tiny Santa Rosa Kitchen is Cooking Up Big Flavors http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/perch-plow-a-tiny-santa-rosa-kitchen-is-cooking-up-big-flavors/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/perch-plow-a-tiny-santa-rosa-kitchen-is-cooking-up-big-flavors/#comments Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:15:46 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37563

Do you believe in love at first bite? We do at this Santa Rosa dining newcomer.

The post Perch & Plow: A Tiny Santa Rosa Kitchen is Cooking Up Big Flavors appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

Mike Mullins just might be the best Sonoma County chef you’ve never heard of. The young toque is limping around the dining rooms of downtown Santa Rosa’s newest restaurant, Perch and Plow, delivering plates of sweet potato chips and olives with a 500-watt smile. Wearing a FEED Sonoma baseball cap (a produce aggregator for regional farmers), loose chef pants and an apron, it’s a pretty safe bet that none of the diners here know he’s the culinary captain of what may be one of the most promising restaurants in Santa Rosa.

Farralon Fizz with gin, aloe liqueur, cucumber shrub, lime, limoncello, dill foam at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Farralon Fizz with gin, aloe liqueur, cucumber shrub, lime, limoncello, dill foam at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

The hitch in his giddyup doesn’t slow him down, and in fact is a source of a bit of embarrassment — a small skateboarding mishap after work last night. He nods toward a table in the back where his parents sit eating lunch, beaming. “Don’t tell my mom,” Mullins laughs, heading for a box filled with mushrooms. “She told me to stop,” he grins impishly, never slowing down as he walks the produce into the walk-in refrigerator, then heads into the wee kitchen of the otherwise expansive restaurant.

By wee kitchen, we mean that the mis en place could fit on a postage stamp and staff is packed in like Tokyo subway riders. A stray elbow or knife blade could have serious consequences. But Mullins takes it all in stride, equating the staff’s movement more to a graceful dance they’re perfecting. A few stepped on toes are the price of entry. Plus, he says, everything’s easy to reach.

Chef Mike Mullins at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Chef Mike Mullins at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Out of the diminutive galley, however, is a lineup of stunning dishes from coconut curried cauliflower with harissa to his grandmother’s fried chicken sandwich, yellowtail ceviche and a frisée salad with pork belly and a soft egg. There’s also an unforgettable burger that’s just become our new favorite. Mullins starts all of his dishes with fresh, local produce and local meats, which give him a head start on deliciousness. Having come up through top-notch restaurants including Michelin-starred Cavallo Point, Petite Syrah and the Kenwood Restaurant along with stints in the canteens of Silicon Valley (Apple, Google) he’s got plenty of culinary chops.

Suffice it to say Mullins’ is easily the best food I’ve ever had from a week-old restaurant. “And it’s just going to get better,” Mullins says.

Expect a mix of small plates, snacks, salads, several raw fish dishes and just a handful of larger plates. With prices ranging from $8 to $22, it’s an affordable luxury for most. Cocktails are equally impressive under Alec Vlastnic (formerly of Spoonbar) who whips up boozy magic with fresh produce, artisan spirits and exotic infusions (bacon fat-washed bourbon, dill foam, strawberry balsamic shrub). At Perch and Plow a $12 cocktail is worth every penny.  A brief beer and wine list seems a little bit tacked-on, but will likely expand. Non-alcoholic choices should be expanded.

The former Christy’s on the Square, an upstairs space overlooking the new Courthouse Square, has always had the potential for greatness, and finally seems to have a team up to the challenge. The interior space has been transformed into a sleek, modern design with a large Bud Snow octopus mural as an eye-catching centerpiece. It’s easily the most beautifully-designed in the downtown area. Large windows open onto the square and skylights fill the restaurant with a soft glow. The handful of bar tables and stools with front row views of the action and warm breezes below are among the most coveted.

As downtown Santa Rosa continues its transformation from quiet county seat to a Wine Country destination, restaurants like Perch and Plow lead the way.

Best Bets

Charred cauliflower ($8): Chunks of fresh multi-colored cauliflower are caramelized in the oven, then placed atop a pool of sweet coconut curry sauce. A spoonful of homemade harissa perks the whole dish up. Bitter, sweet, salty, with a hint of spice, makes it a vegetarian dish that’s required eating for the whole table. After several visits the size seems to have gotten smaller, but the dish has remained a favorite.

Grilled octopus at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Grilled octopus at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Grilled octopus ($12): Perfectly cooked, with a light char on the outside and a soft, meaty bite — no hint of the rubberiness that occurs with less deft chefs. Bean puree seems more a glue to stick the bits to the plates, but lightly dressed arugula enhances the flavor with a bit of bite.

House burger with aged cheddar, lettuce, at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

House burger with aged cheddar, lettuce, at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

House burger ($16): Baptized in butter, draped in aged Fiscalini cheddar, this burger has reached a higher plane. Made with ground Sonoma County Meat Co.’s Angus on a brioche roll, we won’t even pretend its anything but hard on the arteries, but if you’re going to indulge, do it without regret.

Fried chicken sandwich ($15): “My Texas grandma’s recipe”, says Mullins, presenting the plate. I’ve been tough on fried chicken sandwiches because so many are so lackluster, but this version has light, crispy, flavorful batter that won’t tear up your mouth; wonderfully moist chicken, coleslaw, pickled onion, and house-made aioli (the real deal). You also won’t have to wait an hour for it.

Pork belly ($12): A nest of bitter frisée holds a warm soft cooked egg and crouton-sized bites of pork belly and sunchoke in a tarragon vinaigrette. We’d like to see bigger pieces of sliced pork belly. Either way, watch for fork attacks from your dining partners.

Seared halibut at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Seared halibut at Perch and Plow restaurant in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Seared halibut ($21): Sunchokes are the base for a brilliantly cooked piece of halibut — a lighter fish that’s easy-eating even for folks who shy away from seafood. Ahi tuna poke ($12): Tuna tartare has been so badly abused by incompetent chefs trying to put it in ring molds and douse it with too much sesame oil. We like the simpler poke style Mullins executes with a light ponzu sauce that lets the fresh tuna flavor shine.

Beef Carpaccio ($14): Thin slices of raw beef with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We tend to like our carpaccio as unadulterated as possible, but this version is a bit more approachable for folks who aren’t quite sure they’re ready for raw beef.

Farm Salad ($10): This salad is drop dead simple, but shines because of the luxurious raw ingredients–nothing more than carrots, fresh cauliflower, radish, cucumber and ginger vinaigrette. This is truly what a salad should be.

The Churchill cocktail made with tequila and mezcal is a smoky ode to the British Bulldog at Perch and Plow in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

The Churchill cocktail made with tequila, mezcal and strawberry balsamic shrub is a smoky ode to the British Bulldog at Perch and Plow in Santa Rosa. Heather Irwin/PD

Needs Work

Desserts aren’t the highest priority at Perch and Plow and are still works in progress. The cheesecake is light, fluffy and tart, but pineapple compote isn’t the ideal match. Chocolate mousse has improved significantly since we first tried it but is still a little dense. Just order another cocktail and call it a day. The kitchen is still in its infancy, and Mullins is training new staff, but little inconsistencies seem to be quickly overcome.

Overall: A strong team headed by GM Jhaun Devere has gotten this restaurant off to a solid start, and Mullins’ talent should make Perch and Plow a long-term downtown jewel.

Hours: Open daily at 11:30a.m., until 9:30p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 900 Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 707-541-6896, perchandplow.com.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post Perch & Plow: A Tiny Santa Rosa Kitchen is Cooking Up Big Flavors appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/perch-plow-a-tiny-santa-rosa-kitchen-is-cooking-up-big-flavors/feed/ 23
The Best Bro Bars in Sonoma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/the-best-bro-bars-in-sonoma-county/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/the-best-bro-bars-in-sonoma-county/#comments Thu, 15 Feb 2018 21:39:15 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=37465

Whether you call them your buds, your posse, your bromosapiens or just "the guys", every dude needs a little down time with the testosterone tribe. With that in mind, here are the best bro bars in the county.

The post The Best Bro Bars in Sonoma appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>

by Michael Barnes

Whether you call them your buds, your posse, your bromosapiens or just “the guys”, every dude needs a little down time with the testosterone tribe. And while your man cave in the garage is cool and all, sometimes it’s nice to drink beer, talk sports and get your man-tastic voyage on without dogs, babies and your wife interrupting.

With that in mind, we present a handful of spots where wiping the foam off your beard with your sleeve is completely acceptable, television trumps real conversation and burgers, pizza and hot dogs are always on the menu.*

*We of course realize that this is a ridiculous generalization of the complexity of male bonding, and many women also enjoy drinking beer and watching sports, but sweeping statements are far more hilarious.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

The post The Best Bro Bars in Sonoma appeared first on Sonoma Magazine BiteClub.

]]>
http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/the-best-bro-bars-in-sonoma-county/feed/ 3