Sonoma | Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub Restaurant & Dining Reviews for Sonoma, Santa Rosa and the Wine Country Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:41:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-512_logo-150x150.gif Sonoma | Sonoma Magazine BiteClub http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub 32 32 Giving Thanks: Free Thanksgiving Meals in Sonoma County http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/giving-thanks-free-thanksgiving-meals-in-sonoma-county/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/giving-thanks-free-thanksgiving-meals-in-sonoma-county/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 20:10:12 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=36935 Thanksgiving turkey dinner

Thanksgiving has never been more important than this year in Sonoma County.

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Thanksgiving turkey dinner

Thanksgiving has never been more important than this year in Sonoma County and there is no shortage of organizations, restaurants, volunteers and chefs who are giving back to the community by serving up hearty, heartfelt bowls of turkey (or tofurkey) and gravy.

Here is an ever-growing list of organizations and restaurants serving free Thanksgiving meals this year.

GUERNEVILLE

The annual Guerneville Community Thanksgiving Dinner will take place at the Guerneville Veterans Hall. 12PM-4PM, (707) 326-1257, 16225 1st St., Guerneville. 

SANTA ROSA

Franchettis’ is serving a “top-notch, traditional Thanksgiving buffet” for victims of the fires, first responders and extended family. They will also be offering to go meals. Reservations recommended. 11AM-6PM, 1229 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa, franchettis.com.

Redwood Gospel Mission hosts their annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet on Thanksgiving eve (Nov. 22). Everyone receives a hot turkey dinner, food boxes to take home. They will also be offering haircuts, free warm coats, a bounce house for the kids, and informational booths will be on hand, too. 11AM-7PM, Sonoma County Fairgrounds, srmission.org, .

Sprenger’s Tap Room is hosting a Thanksgiving Brunch Community Feed. Food provided. Beer is optional at a mere $5. 9AM-1PM, 446 B St., Santa Rosa.

SEBASTOPOL

The Community Church of Sebastopol will host their 17th annual Thanksgiving Dinner 1p – 5 pm November 23 which is open to the public. Meal delivery is available and they are also offering transportation to the dinner (reserve by November 20). 1PM-5PM, (707) 823-2484, 1000 Gravenstein Hwy N., Sebastopol, uccseb.org.

SONOMA

The Sonoma Community Center will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner. Rotary of Sonoma Valley, cheesemaker Gary Edwards, and chef Daniel Quijada source and prepare the locally sourced meal. 3PM, November 23.  126 1st St. W., Sonoma, sonomacommunitycenter.org.

Seniors can enjoy a free Thanksgiving dinner at Vintage House. 3PM-6PM, (707) 996-0311, 264 1st St. E., Sonoma, vintagehouse.org.

WINDSOR

Windsor United Methodist Church will host a Thanksgiving meal on Saturday, November 18. They’ll serve up Thanksgiving dinner and there will be live music and activities for kids. (707) 838-6898, 9451 Brooks Rd. South, Windsor, windsorumc.com.

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Tyler Florence & Grateful Table to Host Thanksgiving Fire Fundraiser http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/tyler-florence-grateful-table-to-host-fire-fundraiser/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/tyler-florence-grateful-table-to-host-fire-fundraiser/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 18:58:01 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=36926

Celebrity chef, and Bay Area resident, Tyler Florence joins Outstanding in the Field for an al fresco Thanksgiving fundraiser for fire relief efforts. 

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Celebrity chef, and Bay Area resident, Tyler Florence joins Outstanding in the Field for an al fresco Thanksgiving fundraiser for fire relief efforts. 

The fundraiser, which takes place Tuesday, November 21, starts at $500 a pop and a group of eight can share a table for $4,000. Can’t attend? You can buy a ticket for a first responder or a resident affected by the fires for $250.

100% of ticket sales benefit the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund, Mendocino County Disaster Fund, and the California Restaurant Association Foundation.

Named the Grateful Table, the Thanksgiving-themed fundraiser takes place in a vineyard in Carneros, on the Napa/Sonoma County line. Guests are told the exact location after procuring their tickets.

Upon arrival, guests take their seats at a really long table and the food and wine flows.

Menu details haven’t been announced, but with a Thanksgiving theme, the locally sourced menu could include recipes from Tyler Florence’s own Thanksgiving cookbook, such as spatchcocked free-range turkey, sausage stuffing, green bean poutine, and chocolate pecan pie.

The event is the brainchild of Outstanding in the Field founder, Jim Denevan. “Outstanding in the Field is about setting our long table in celebration of community and connection, where we hear and taste the story of the people and places that nourish and sustain us,” says Denevan. He describes the upcoming event as being a “scene of celebration, and…also a portrait of resilience.”

Tuesday, November 21, 1 PM. Tickets on sale now, outstandinginthefield.com.

 

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Basque Boulangerie is Sonoma’s Bakery Meeting Place http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/basque-boulangerie-is-sonomas-bakery-meeting-place/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/basque-boulangerie-is-sonomas-bakery-meeting-place/#comments Fri, 29 Sep 2017 19:52:59 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=36460

Basque Boulangerie in Sonoma is a historic gathering spot for locals

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Over the last 20 years, Basque Boulangeri has become the town of Sonoma’s gathering spot– where locals meet for coffee and fresh pastries or a sandwich. There’s usually a line of folks waiting to bring home a loaf of their Parisian style breads.

A number of local restaurants and groceries also stock their baguettes. The bakery has grown from three employees to more than 60.

Longtime owners sold the spot in 2012, but much remains the same.

460 First Street East  Sonoma, (707) 935-7687

Basque Bakery (Photo Courtesy of Basque Bakery Website)

From the owners of Basque Boulangerie

Basque Boulangerie Café opened on the historic square of Sonoma in 1994 with an old-world feeling of an original French bakery. It is a second generation bakery, originally started in Sonoma in 1956 as the Sonoma French Bakery in the Sebastiani Theatre building.

Our founders’ family arrived in the United States from the southwest region of France, specifically the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France from Spain. They settled in the heart of the Valley of the Moon because of opportunity and since it reminded them of the villages in the Basque and Bearn regions of France that they were from. They had a family history of bakers, butchers and restauranteurs. The family learned the baking trade in their French small towns of Saint Etienne de Baigorry, and Oloron Sainte Marie and offers two generations of baking excellence. Our team of talented bakers
The family learned the baking trade in their French small towns of Saint Etienne de Baigorry, and Oloron Sainte Marie and offers two generations of baking excellence. Our team of talented bakers start late at night, every night, using the old world European tradition of hand crafted baking artisanship in order to create these crusty, hand made loaves of peasant bread, inspired by our founders’ Basque ancestors.

We have brought traditional stone hearth ovens to Sonoma to assure the same consistent, traditional bread with no preservatives. Our pastries, baked goods and desserts are hand crafted in small batches using European-style techniques with quality ingredients.

“The Basque”, as we are affectionately known by locals and return customers, specializes in lightcrumb, crisp sourdough breads and assorted sweet French or Parisian style breads, Danish, morning rolls, cookies, pastries, desserts and cakes in our lively café, as well as delivering these fresh products daily to our wholesale customers. Our

Our breads have won the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Sweepstakes Awards. Our Pastry Chef has been featured on the Food Network for her famous Beehive Cake and has won awards for her Chocolate Truffle Gateau and Frangipane Tartes.

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Reel Fish Shop & Grill: A Sonoma Seafood Catch http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/reel-fish-shop-grill-a-sonoma-seafood-catch/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/reel-fish-shop-grill-a-sonoma-seafood-catch/#comments Fri, 07 Jul 2017 17:19:31 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=35686 Fish and chips at Reel Fish Shop & Grill in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

With the experience of a sushi chef, Sonoma seafood shop shines when it comes to fish

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Fish and chips at Reel Fish Shop & Grill in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

There’s a good reason the apprenticeship of a sushi chef can take 10 years or more: It’s really hard to cut up a fish without making a serious mess of the whole thing. Add in razor sharp knives sliding along wet, slippery flesh and suddenly deboning a chicken seems like child’s play.

But after dead lifting a 150-pound tuna with his sous chef, both of them straining to hold on for the nail-biting 50 feet to the kitchen, Chef Aiki Terashima of Reel Fish & Grill breathes a sigh of relief once the yellowfin is firmly on his chopping board. Worth several thousand dollars, the tuna is a serious investment for the restaurant. Considered a more sustainable tuna, as opposed to the bluefin, it retails for up to $30 per pound.

What happens next, however, will make even a jaded culinary observer go slack-jawed. With a finely honed Japanese knife in one hand and a carefully placed wet towel bracing the fish in the other, Terashima butchers the tuna in minutes according to incredibly specific techniques he learned as a sushi chef for Masaharu Morimoto (of NYC’s Nobu, Napa’s Morimoto and, yes, “Iron Chef”). The whole thing looks terribly simple as he glides the knife along the lines of a mental map of the fish’s anatomy — leaving only a few slips of meat sticking to the bones. The only tell that this is actually brutally physical work are the tiny beads of sweat on the chef’s forehead, and a weightlifter’s tensed face as he lifts a huge hunk of fish to go into the restaurant’s blast freezer.

And though it would be far simpler to order presliced, preweighed fish from a restaurant supplier, Terashima makes a habit of regularly buying whole fish like Scottish salmon and ling cod. Cutting up the fish himself is cost-effective and more sustainable (all the fish is used, not just filets), and frankly, it just tastes a whole lot better.

The Reel Fish Shop & Grill opened in January, replacing Rossi’s 1906 on the outskirts of the town of Sonoma. The menu is a something-for-everyone mashup of sushi rolls, poke, fish and chips, seafood chowders and stews, along with Japanese curry, shrimp po-boys, fish tacos and for the seafood-challenged, even a burger and steak frites. The historic 100-plus year old roadhouse once again has destination-worthy food in addition to its still-great lineup of live music and massive outdoor patio.

One of the questions most often asked by restaurant-seekers in Sonoma County: Where can I get great seafood? And though many restaurants have one or two seafood items on the menu, Reel Fish Shop & Grill is one of only a handful that specialize in seafood. With a focus on helping to maintain rather than deplete ocean populations, it’s a solid choice when you’re craving a taste of the sea.

Best Bets

Grilled Salmon Salad ($16): What could be a ho-hum pile of greens goes the extra mile. A generous hunk of grilled salmon tops creamy dill dressing mixed with fresh greens, pickled cucumbers, red onions and oranges. We licked the bowl clean, and just looking at the pictures again makes us drool a little.

Fish & Chips ($16): Along with great clam chowder, every coastal adventure seems to culminate in a search for the ultimate fish and chips. And always ends in disappointment. This crispy beer-battered version uses ling cod, and is refreshingly light enough to actually dip in tartar sauce — something we dare not do with greasier, more dense versions.

Chef’s 2-Day Curry ($16): A slightly sweet Japanese style curry. Japanese curry? Adapted from Indian recipes, curry is actually a pretty common Japanese food, though it tends to be sweeter, often with apples added to the veggies. This version, with shrimp (you can sub steak, salmon, chicken or mushrooms) is offbeat, but delicious comfort food.

Fish Tacos ($10): Fish often feels like an afterthought in fish tacos — a fried filler of dubious origins. Gild the lily with the fried version, with salsa fresca and citrus creme.

Did we mention? The restaurant has a full bar, along with a happy hour with fish tacos, wings and fries for $3-$6. Live music Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to some Thursdays and Sundays.

Related Images:

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Want to Eat Lunch Inside a Chocolate Factory? In Sonoma You Can. http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/chocolate-factory/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/chocolate-factory/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 19:29:31 +0000 http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/?p=34759

Eat dessert first at this small cafe and chocolate factory in the town of Sonoma.

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At the Cocoa Planet Chocolate Factory in the town of Sonoma no one will bat an eye if you order dessert first. Or if you order three desserts first. This is a confectionary, after all, and handmade chocolate is their trade, so eat all you want.

Edible shortbread "dirt" with chocolate pot de creme at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Edible shortbread “dirt” with chocolate pot de creme at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Unfortunately for Willie Wonka fans dreaming of chocolate rivers and lickable wallpaper, Cocoa Planet’s tiny factory is a bit more dependent on shiny metal equipment than Oompa Loompas for their luxe bites of dark chocolate. They do, however, offer edible chocolate “dirt” along with decadent hot chocolates, chocolate tasting flights, chocolate creme brulee and chocolate cakes that would make August Gloop squeal with delight.

The exterior patio at the Cocoa Planet Cafe. Courtesy photo.

The exterior patio at the Cocoa Planet Cafe. Courtesy photo.

The interior cafe at the Cocoa Planet Cafe. Courtesy photo.

The interior cafe at the Cocoa Planet Cafe. Courtesy photo.

The factory recently opened a small indoor cafe and outdoor patio serving all manner of their vegan, gluten free, non-GMO chocolate bites as well as more savory dishes including cheese and charcuterie plates, gougeres (French cheese puffs, $7), soups, salads, cassoulet, French dip with prime rib, crepes, Croque Monsieur and quiche.

Cheesy gougeres at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Cheesy gougeres at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Cassoulet at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Cassoulet at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

What makes the cafe space especially unique, however, is that all of the food is gluten-free—from the baguettes to the gougeres. The facility is also wheat, peanut-free, and the dairy they use for lattes and hot chocolate is lactose-free (or you can order almond milk). So for special diets, Cocoa Planet is even more of a treat.

Mandarin orange chocolate latte at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Mandarin orange chocolate latte at Cocoa Planet in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD


They recently added a wine, beer, port and chocolate pairing menu, featuring their four of their five chocolates: salted caramel, vanilla espresso, deep dark truffle, mandarin orange. Flights pair each of the chocolate discs with recommended wine pairings, from deep reds to a cappuccino stout beer, sparkling wine and heartier after-dinner port-style sips. Two oz. pours are $6-8, and 5 oz. pours are $12-20. Wine and beer is also available by the glass.

Grab a few of their CocoaMint discs, which are only 100 calories (like all of their chocolates), for dessert. Or an appetizer. Or your entire meal. We won’t judge.

Cocoa Planet Tasting Room and Modern French Cafe: Open Thursday through Sunday from 11:30am to 6pm. 921 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-343-7453, cocoaplanet.com. Limited factory tours are available by appointment for parties of 8 guests or fewer, 707-343-7453 for details.

Cocoa Planet Cafe and factory in Sonoma. Courtesy photo.

Cocoa Planet Cafe and factory in Sonoma. Courtesy photo.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

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Insider Guide to Locals’ Favorite Sonoma Restaurants http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/insider-guide-to-locals-favorite-sonoma-restaurants/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/insider-guide-to-locals-favorite-sonoma-restaurants/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2016 21:08:13 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=33778 Tacos from Juanita Juanita. Heather Irwin/PD

Where do locals eat in the town of Sonoma? We suss out the Sonoma Restaurants tourists often overlook.

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Tacos from Juanita Juanita. Heather Irwin/PD

There are two distinct personalities to the town of Sonoma. One is the tourist face, with a carefully cultivated shabby-chic, gentleman farmer vibe that matches its historic mission, wineries and Old West past. Charm abounds, and there are plenty of white tablecloth, high dollar restaurants to accommodate luxe tastes.

But simmering just below is the true Sonoma, a tight-knit community that includes the rest of us — the people who work in the tasting rooms and restaurants, at the Sonoma Speedway, behind desks and in firehouses. This diverse gathering of native Californians, immigrants, retirees, artisans and small business owners makes for a vibrant, (mostly) affordable food scene that most visitors breeze past.

We’re pulling back the cover on the Sonoma restaurants where townies really eat: From favorite happy hours and taco trucks to insiders-only recommendations for where to get a great cup of coffee or a family breakfast. We’re also including a few tips on getting some great bites at the higher-end spots, whether that’s a happy hour special, or a dish that won’t cost a mint.

So, forget the stars and hype. We’ve got the real guide to eating in Sonoma.

It must be authentic, because finding a photo is nearly impossible. La Bamba Taco Truck in Sonoma, courtesy of Yelp.

It must be authentic, because finding a photo is nearly impossible. La Bamba Taco Truck in Sonoma, courtesy of Yelp.

Tacos at Juanita Juanita: There’s no shortage of great taco trucks and taquerias around town but we can’t help but love the locals-only vibe at this offbeat cantina where you can grab a cold one and stuff you face al pastor and carne asada tacos. Going solo tonight? Feel free to try their Garlic Garlic Burrito with a pungent garlic-walnut paste and all the other fixings. 19114 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, (707)935-3981. Of course, if you need a late-night gordita or burrito, hit up La Bamba Taco Truck at the Larbre Automotive Lot in Boyes Hot Springs (but expect a wait).

hi0916_starlingbar_manhattan

Black walnut Manhattan at Starling Bar in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Black Walnut Manhattan at Starling: This new craft cocktail bar in the former Blue Moon is everything a neighborhood bar should be, but with really good cocktails. Their Black Walnut Manhattan is made with their own nocino (a walnut liqueur), along with bourbon, vermouth and a brandied cherry. We also like the Bacon Bourbon Sour with a mix of bacon-infused bourbon, Madeira, maple syrup, fresh citrus juice, cherry, lime and sriracha bacon. 19380 Hwy. 12, Sonoma, (707) 938-7442, starlingsonoma.com.

New Haven Apizza in Sonoma. Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune

New Haven Apizza in Sonoma. Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune

Clam pizza at Apizza Sonoma.

Clam pizza at Apizza Sonoma.

Clam Pizza at New Haven Apizza Shop: Mexican bakery by day, New Haven-style pizzeria by night. Fernando Garcia, whose family owns Garcia Mexican bakery learned about this East Coast style of pizza after working in a New Haven restaurant for 15 years. Locals say the crispy crust and traditional clam, garlic and white sauce pizza is as real as it gets…at least on the West Coast. Pies run from $14 (small) to $31 for a large. Don’t miss the homemade espresso tiramisu $6 made daily. Beginning at 3p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 555 Fifth St. West, 931-4694, newhavenapizzashop.com.

Seafood pasta at Mama Tanino's in Sonoma. Courtesy Yelp.

Seafood pasta at Mama Tanino’s in Sonoma. Courtesy Yelp.

Seafood Pasta at Mamma Tanino’s Ristorante: Way off the square, Mamma Tanino’s is rustic, Italian cuisine straight from a Sicilian. The menu is simple, but authentic, with spaghetti all Carbonara, linguine, fettuccine with sausage, pappardelle Bolognese and classics like Chicken Marsala and Veal Scaloppini. Early birds flock to the $15 daily dinner specials from 5-5:30p.m. The location, near the Sonoma Market, isn’t swanky, and there can be a wait on busy nights, but this is solid Italian at an attainable price. Open 5-9p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 500 W. Napa St., Suite 512, 933-8826, mammataninos.com.

You can't go wrong with just about any flavor at Sweet Scoops in Sonoma. Heather Irwin

You can’t go wrong with just about any flavor at Sweet Scoops in Sonoma. Heather Irwin

A Tiny (or big) Scoop at Sweet Scoops: Mid-afternoons during the week tend to be the best time to get a scoop from these mad scientists of ice cream. Though there’s Rocky Road, Chocolate, Strawberry and vanilla for the traditionalists, we come for flavors like jalapeno cucumber sorbet, Mare Island Brewery chocolate stout, horchata, pear crisp, salted caramel corn and seasonal strawberry basil. The flavors change daily and are made in small batches, so there’s always a new flavor to try. Tiny scoops are $3, but we love the flight of four for $6.75. 408 First St. East, 721-1187, sweetscoopsicecream.com.

Maya Restaurant. Jeff Kan Lee/PD

Maya Restaurant. Jeff Kan Lee/PD

Nachos and Margaritas at Maya: Not just nachos, but “Really Good Nachos,” are part of this Yucatecan menu, along with specially priced tacos, sliders and margaritas from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you want something a little more special, ask for the fresh-squeezed margarita or taste your way through Maya’s 100+ tequila list. 101 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 935-3500, mayarestaurant.com.

Tapas at Tasca Tasca in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Tapas at Tasca Tasca in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Tapas At Tasca Tasca: The more casual little sister to Chef Manuel Azevedo’s La Salette, this small plates (true tapas) includes everything from fried piri piri potatoes with saffron aioli to goat stew, salt cod cakes and Portuguese mac and cheese in nibble-sized portions. The idea is to order between three and seven items at a time, presented on beautiful butcher boards, to share with the table. Or, you can just hog it all for yourself. With so many choices, feel free to go out on a culinary limb, and try ceviche, blood sausage, escargot in garlic butter or Portugal’s national soup, Caldo Verde. Priced at $15 for three plates, $24 for five and $32 for seven. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 996-8272, tascatasca.com.

Charcuterie Plate at the Girl and the Fig. Heather Irwin/PD

Charcuterie Plate at the Girl and the Fig. Heather Irwin/PD

Charcuterie at Girl and the Fig’s Seat 99: We don’t usually suggest specific seats, but this spot at the end of the bar is such a perfect spot to perch. The housemade charcuterie is a passion for Executive Chef John Toulze, who started making prosciutto, coppa, bacon and other cured meats for the restaurant several years ago. The platter comes with several meats, pate and terrine, along with grilled toast and house pickles for $16. 110 West Spain St., Sonoma (707) 933-3000, thegirlandthefig.com.

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. Photo Heather Irwin

Ribs at Rossi’s 1906: Barbecue is a thing here, with some of the best in the North Bay. You’ll know by the scent of smoked meat wafting from behind the restaurant. The beer garden has a great happy hour to warm up (4-6p.m. Wednesday through Saturday) with $5 burgers, pulled pork slides, twice baked potatoes and pimento cheese toast. But you’re really here for the smoker plates with chicken, ribs, tri tip and pulled pork. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, (707) 303-0044, rossis1906.com.

Caesar salad at Oso Restaurant in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Caesar salad at Oso Restaurant in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Deviled eggs with crab at Oso Restaurant in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Deviled eggs with crab at Oso Restaurant in Sonoma. Heather Irwin/PD

Between Time at Oso: There’s that awkward time between 2:30 and 5p.m. for restaurants when it’s well past lunch but too early for dinner. Many just close up for those few hours, but Oso keeps a light menu rolling for “linner” eaters. Our fave: Mole pork tacos and deviled eggs. Chef David Bush’s critically-acclaimed restaurant can be bustling for dinner, so we like getting a leg up when the kitchen and the bar are quieter. 9 East Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 931-6926, ososonoma.com.

tortilla
Fresh Tortillas at Tortilleria Jalisco:
Locals takeaway still-warm bags of homemade flour and corn tortillas by the pound and swear by the posole. Run by a group of women, most mornings you can watch as they roll the dough and lineup stacks of balls for pressing and griddle-cooking. They’ll cost you just a few dollars for a stack of 10, in flour, wheat or spinach flavors. 897 W. Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 935-7396). We’d be remiss in not mentioning El Molino Central (11 Central Ave., Boyes Hot Springs, elmolinocentral.com), where you can buy corn tortillas made with freshly-ground masa, for a truly authentic experience.

Truffle Fries at EDK

Truffle Fries at EDK

Truffle Fries at El Dorado Kitchen: More than one local suggested the addictive truffle oil and Parmesan fries here, which you can get at lunch or dinner, best paired on the outdoor patio with a cocktail. Either way, they’re great alone, or with a signature EDK burger.405 First St. West, Sonoma, (707)996-3030, eldoradosonoma.com.

Truffled eggs at the Community Cafe. PD file photo

Truffled eggs at the Community Cafe. PD file photo

Waffles at the Breakaway Cafe.

Waffles at the Breakaway Cafe.

Breakfast at Breakaway Cafe: This cafe is one of the most under-rated spots in the Valley, and we’re happy to keep it under the radar. They’ve got plenty of the usual suspects on the menu (scrambles, Huevos Rancheros, hash) but we love extra delicious buttermilk pancakes and banana walnut waffles. 19101 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, (707) 996-5949, breakawaycafe.com. We also have to mention, however, the Community Cafe’s lemon flaxseed pancakes with warm raspberry honey butter syrup and truffled eggs and toast with eggs, fontina, mushrooms and asparagus, topped with truffle oil. (875 West Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 938-7779, ccsonoma.com) Decisions, decisions!

Murphy's Irish Pub in Sonoma. PD File Photo

Murphy’s Irish Pub in Sonoma. PD File Photo

A Beer at Murphy’s Irish Pub: We love a pub you have to hunt for. Located at the end of one of the Square’s hidden alleyways, Murphy’s is a favorite Irish pub with plenty of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s on tap. They’ve also got some solid Irish pub food like bangers and mash, mushy peas, colcannon and meat pies. Just don’t ask for a Bud, because they don’t sell ‘em. Time it right and there’s live music several times a week. 464 First St. East, Sonoma, (707) 935-0660, facebook.com/SonomaPub.

Sunny days at the Sunflower Caffe. PD file photo

Sunny days at the Sunflower Caffe. PD file photo

Coffee at, well, hmmm: No one can seem to agree on the best place for coffee in Sonoma because everyone has a favorite. If you’re grabbing a pastry and want to take it to go, it has to be Basque Boulangerie. If you’re wanting to sit outside and just have a slow moment, it’s Sunflower Caffe. If you’re looking for a local roastery for some freshly ground coffee, Barking Dog Roasters is tops.

Of course, we’ve probably missed many more favorites. Want to shout out the ones we’ve missed? Have your say below…

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Sonoma Grille Seafood and Steak in Sonoma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-grille-sonoma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-grille-sonoma/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 21:49:53 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=32155 Oysters at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California .Photo: Heather Irwin.

Nima Sherpa of Sonoma Grille, a seafood and steakhouse, has a past that includes cooking on Mt. Everest.

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Oysters at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California .Photo: Heather Irwin.

Nima Sherpa in front of his Sonoma Grille just before opening in 2015. (Photo Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune)

Nima Sherpa in front of his Sonoma Grille just before opening in 2015. (Photo Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune)

Nima Sherpa found his American dream at 22,000 feet, on the side of Mt. Everest.

The Nepalese native spent years guiding Westerners up the dangerous face of the world’s tallest mountain, and then cooking for them at Basecamp 2 (at around 23,000 feet above sea level). For more than a decade, he risked his life climbing through ice falls and up sheer rock faces for Americans, Italians and other trekkers. And they, in turn, helped him find his way to Sonoma County, and his dream of one day owning a restaurant.

Seafood Linguine at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Seafood Linguine at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Sitting in the afternoon sunlight, inside one of the town’s newest restaurants, Sherpa’s Sonoma Grille has been booked solid since opening in late December 2015. His cellphone rings almost constantly, with friends and neighbors seeking a hard-to-find table. Sherpa almost always finds them something, even if it’s at the bar. When the restaurant overflows, he pours champagne for anyone waiting. “I open a lot of bottles of champagne,” he said.

Nima’s no stranger to this West Napa Street location, having worked for restaurateur Carlo Cavallo when it was Sonoma-Meritage Martini Oyster Bar and Grille for more than a decade. Under Cavallo (who now owns the nearby BV Whisky Bar and Grill), Sherpa absorbed the ins-and-outs of the restaurant business from the inside. After Cavallo closed in 2013, the business sat empty for nearly a year until Sherpa took over the lease in 2014, opening one year — to the day — after becoming its tenant.

Nima Sherpa at the opening of his restaurant, Sonoma Grille, in December. Photo courtesy of Nima Sherpa.

d Nima Sherpa at the opening of his restaurant, Sonoma Grille, in December. Photo courtesy of Nima Sherpa.

This isn’t Sherpa’s first restaurant, however. In 2011, Sherpa opened Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen in St. Helena, with a fellow Nepalese native, Chhiring Sherpa, and continues to be a partner. (The two aren’t related. The surname “Sherpa” refers primarily to an ethnic group of people who immigrated from Tibet generations ago). It’s a family affair, with Sherpa’s wife, Mingma, and two sons helping out at both restaurants. Mingma now works full time at the Sonoma Grille, making sure every dish is Yelp!-worthy.

Opening night at the Sonoma Grille.

Opening night at the Sonoma Grille.

So, what’s a sherpa from Nepal doing running a Cal-Ital restaurant in Wine Country? It’s not as surprising as you might think. Nima spent more than a decade working with Italian surveyors on Everest, and got pretty adept at making pasta. Having worked with Cavallo for 14 years, doing everything from cooking to management, he became very familiar with dishes like risotto, raw oysters, fettuccine with prawns and other dishes that are now on Sonoma Grille’s menu. There are no Himalyan or Indian dishes on the menu.

“There was already a Himalyan restaurant in town,” he said (also owned by Sherpas). “I didn’t want to compete,” he said. But seafood was another story.

“No one really had a great seafood place,” he said. Sherpa created a menu that’s both approachable and wildly diverse, with everything from salmon ($24), lobster ($34) and BBQ oysters )$18) to rigatoni ($23, vegetarian), filet mignon ($30),  rack of lamb ($27) and beef carpaccio ($12). With massive plates of food, no one’s walking away from the table hungry, here, and Nima sees to that personally.

“Everything has to be perfect,” he said. “Eat, eat!”

Best bets include:

Surf and Turf at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Surf and Turf at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Surf and Turf ($37): I haven’t ordered this decadent steak and lobster dish since I was in college (and that’s a really long time ago). It always just seems so, well, decadent. But sometimes you gotta stray from the usual, and this well-priced version is worth the detour. Grilled filet and a half Maine lobster with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe. A small ramekin of clarified butter takes the whole dish way over the top, but that’s what we’re going for here, right?

Seared ahi tuna salad at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Seared ahi tuna salad at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Seared Tuna Salad ($15): Seared, rare ahi tuna with cucumbers, grapefruit, avocado and tomato on roasted red pepper sauce. Rather than the usual poke-style pile, the tuna takes center stage, and the refreshing produce makes for a snappy salad.

Lobster risotto at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Lobster risotto at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Lobster Risotto ($24): Lemme just say that I usually frown on lobster, because we have such great crab here, and it seems silly to fly in seafood from Maine. That said, without crab this season, lobster has become a regular fixture on menus to satisfy those of us jonesing for a little crustacean. Long-simmered arborio rice with Maine lobster and porcini mushrooms. The richness gets a bump with mascarpone cheese and lobster sauce for a dish you won’t want to share (but feel free, because it’s more than one human should eat).

Seafood Linguine at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Seafood Linguine at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California. Photo: Heather Irwin.

Seafood Linguine ($21): Shell-abrate this Neptune’s feast of shellfish in garlic chili Chardonnay sauce. It’s way better than my pun.

Oysters at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California .Photo: Heather Irwin.

Oysters at Sonoma Grille in Sonoma, California .Photo: Heather Irwin.

Fresh Oysters ($18 for sampler platter): As tentative oyster fans, we won’t pretend to know your Blue Point from our Royal Miyagi, which is why the sampler platter that also includes Drakes Bay and Steam Boat oysters on a bed of ice and seaweed is the way to go. With cocktail sauce and mignonette, there are more than a dozen ways to nosh these briny delicacies.

Saffron fettucine ($19): This dish is Nima’s favorite, made with wide saffron pasta, tiger prawns, arugula and sun dried tomatoes with lobster sauce.

Sonoma Grille, 165 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Open daily for dinner from 5-9:30p.m.; happy hour from 3-5p.m.. sonomagrilleandbar.com.

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Sonoma County Barbecue Scene is Smokin’ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-county-barbecue-scene-is-smokin/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/sonoma-county-barbecue-scene-is-smokin/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 23:00:59 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=31646 Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

BBQ has finally found its way to Sonoma County. For reals.

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Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

The new Sonoma aroma might just be wood-smoke and brisket.

Throughout Sonoma County, barbecue restaurants are popping up like gophers on a golf course. Turn around and another chef is touting his burnt ends and secret sauce. It’s become something of an obsession in a county where grilling has traditionally meant ahi burgers and tri-tip.

Part of the reason: Live-fire cooking is a hot trend, along with American comfort food and, maybe most of all, it’s the opposite of tweezer-perfect haute cuisine that has ruled Wine Country for years.

Ribs from Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ in Rohnert Park. Heather Irwin for the Press Democrat.

Ribs from Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ in Rohnert Park. Heather Irwin for the Press Democrat.

“Barbecue comes from a humble place,” said Brad Barmore, co-owner of KINSmoke, which recently opened in Healdsburg. “You can live high on the hog at lots of places around here, but what about the humble cuts? That’s what barbecue is about.”

But are they getting it right?

That’s the question we asked when sampling a handful of newcomers, along with some of the tried-and-true standbys. The results were mixed, because true ’cue is both art and science, and notoriously difficult to do in a restaurant environment with fixed costs, the need for accurate timing and space constraints for large smokers (not to mention expensive equipment to deal with air pollutions from the smoke). Barbecue waits for no man on a warming table, and spending 16-plus hours on a single brisket isn’t the height of efficiency in a restaurant environment.

So, with sauce on our faces and ribs stuck in our teeth, we’ve picked the best of the bunch and one stand-out fave for Sonoma County BBQ.

Interior of KINSmoke BBQ in Healdsburg, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

Interior of KINSmoke BBQ in Healdsburg, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

KINSmoke: Top Pick

With a “non-denominational” approach to regional barbecue, Barmore’s new restaurant features everything from St. Louis style pork ribs and Texas links to Alabama white sauce, Carolina mustard sauce and Texas brisket. But what makes his restaurant (co-owned with business partner JC Adams) unique? It’s all good, including the sides, probably the best in the county with lines out the door.

Barmore ate his way through Texas barbecue spots before opening KinSmoke, stopping at Franklin BBQ in Austin, the mecca of barbecue-dom. His wife’s family owned a barbecue restaurant for generations in Oklahoma, which is where he got the recipe for his secret sweet sauce. The potato salad is a Pennsylvania-Dutch recipe from a server at Barmore and Adams’ Windsor bistro, KIN.

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders from Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

Barbecue Pulled Pork Sliders from Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

“I’ve wanted to do this forever,” said Barmore, sitting at a thick wooden table topped with a roll of brown paper towels and a six-pack container of the restaurant’s five signature sauces. The sauces represent the United States of barbecue, from Alabama’s mayo-based white to South Carolina mustard, North Carolina vinegar, KC sweet and a California-inspired espresso barbecue sauce. Texans, of course, would rather eat their 10-gallon hats than slather sauce on a good piece of beef.

What sealed the deal: When ordering brisket at the walk-up counter, there’s a choice of lean or fatty. Too often local brisket is far too lean, missing the unctuous reason for eating it in the first place. That and the ribs are never boiled (a restaurant trick to cook the meat faster), but smoked for hours and hours and hours.

Brussels sprouts at Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California

Brussels sprouts at Rossis 1906 in Sonoma, California

“Barbecue can’t be based solely on time,” said Barmore. It’s done when it’s done.

A few hints, if you go: One of the best things about KINSmoke is also the worst. Owners aren’t afraid to run out of the daily allotment of barbecue. Rather than over-preparing and leaving the meat to dry out all day, you’ll have to make another choice when brisket runs out . So go early, and be willing to make a compromise.

Grilled items include a coffee-rubbed porterhouse ($30) or coffee-rubbed KIN Burger ($11). Go light on the sides (most are $3-$9), and get a single serving to try as many as possible: mayo-y potato salad, Granny Smith apple horseradish slaw, macaroni salad, baked mac and pale ale hush puppies with cajun remoulade, sauteed sprouts, spiced sweet potato tater tots and stellar sweet cornbread ($1.25 each). They’re all excellent.

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Barbecue Brisket from Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. The new menu features Cal-Tex bbq from chef Ari Weisswasser. Photo Heather Irwin

Tables are mostly community-style, but (here’s a worst kept secret), you can also eat at the bar. No desserts, but a stellar beer and wine list that runs a full page, from PBR to MacPhail pinot noir and Seghesio zinfandel. 304 Center St., Healdsburg, 473-8440, kinsmoke.com, open daily for lunch and dinner.

Terry’s Southern BBQ

Back in 2005 I had a moment with the peach cobbler at Terry’s Southern Style Fish and BBQ. This gritty barbecue spot along one of the grittier sections of Santa Rosa Avenue was a mecca for fall-off-the-bone ribs, hush puppies, catfish and Momma’s Boss Sauce, but it was the ridiculously uncomplicated plastic bowl of cooked peaches and sugared crust that made me fall hard. There was no fussiness with pedigreed peaches (I’m fairly sure they were canned), French butter or organic, fair trade sugar. Just a bear hug of warm, steaming deliciousness tossed ungracefully on the table with a side of bent silverware. But then, like a bad boyfriend, Terry’s disappeared without so much as a goodbye. I dallied with other desserts, but it wasn’t the same. Now, 10 years later, they’ve re-opened with the mostly the same menu, just as good as ever and peach cobbler that’s just as wonderful as I remembered it. Ribs are tops, and sides are scrumptious if you’re a fan of sweet ‘que. Expect a wait.  5979 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park, no phone number.

Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Burnt Ends at Sauced Barbecue Smokehouse in Petaluma, California. Heather Irwin.

Sauced

Burnt ends are the unicorns of West Coast barbecue. They’re nearly impossible to find, but if you ever do, hold on for dear life (and don’t tell anyone else). They’re a small cut from the point of a smoked brisket and are cooked within an inch of their life to render out the fat and collagen. Tender, crispy, wonderful. Most local spots don’t make enough brisket or use a slightly different cut (or tri-tip), making them so rare. Sauced has burnt ends so tender you don’t need teeth. Not to mention you can also get them in a sandwich (in limited quantities, $14.99) We’re also in love the loaded sweet potato with pulled pork, bacon, sour cream, chives and pretty much the kitchen sink of other goodies ($17.99-$19.99) and hush puppies with peach chutney, honey butter and bacon ($9.99). Plus beer, wine and plenty of whiskey for washing it all down. 151 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma, 410-4400, saucedbbqandsprits.com.

Pecan pie at Rossi's 1906 in Sonoma, Californa. Heather Irwin

Pecan pie at Rossi’s 1906 in Sonoma, California. Heather Irwin

Rossi’s 1906

Glen Ellen Star Chef Ari Weisswasser spent nearly a month in Austin learning the fine art of barbecue and has brought that back to Sonoma’s Rossi’s 1906 with a brand new menu. Working with owner Max Young, they’re calling it “Texas barbecue in a California context,” featuring authentic Texas BBQ with a Cali twist, like brisket and oysters. But its the brisket that Weisswasser has really put his heart and soul into. Appetizers include sausage links, brown butter corn muffins, crispy pig ears with nacho cheese, and chicken fat fries with malt vinegar salt and lemon. Clearly not for the calorie conscious. In addition, look for decidedly non-Texan pork ribs, turkey, veal-base BBQ baked beans, mac and cheese and collards. For dessert: Pecan hand pies and assorted ice cream. Did we mention the nacho cheese crispy pig ears? Yah, get those. 401 Grove St., Sonoma, open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. 343-0044, rossis1906.com.

You might also like…

Juicy Pig: Recently-opened in Guerneville, with lots of promise from Chef Ruben Gomez. 16440 Fourth St., Guerneville, 604-7120.

BBQ Smokehouse: Excellent southern barbecue from a well-studied master. Great roadhouse location, 6811 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 829-3277.

Pack Jack: This old school barbecue restaurant was resurrected from the ashes several years ago and remains a favorite. 3963 Gravenstein Highway South, Sebastopol, 827-3665.

BBQ Ribs at Sweet T's in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

BBQ Ribs at Sweet T’s in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: Heather Irwin

Sweet T’s: Barbecue is just one of the decadent Southern foods that make this a Santa Rosa favorite. 2097 Stagecoach Road, Suite 100, Santa Rosa,

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La Salette Owner Opening New Restaurant in Sonoma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/la-salette-owner-opening-new-restaurant-in-sonoma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/la-salette-owner-opening-new-restaurant-in-sonoma/#respond Tue, 08 Sep 2015 23:26:15 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=31035

New tapas eatery will replace Epicurean Connection in early 2016

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Sheana Davis of Epicurean Connection in Sonoma has sold her business to La Salette Owner Manuel Azevedo.

Sheana Davis of Epicurean Connection in Sonoma has sold her business to La Salette Owner Manuel Azevedo.


LaSalette’s Manuel Azevedo
has purchased Sonoma’s Epicurean Connection (122 W Napa St., Sonoma), with plans to open a tapas restaurant and wine bar in downtown the space in early 2016.

Dubbed Tasca Tasca Tapas Restaurant and Wine Bar, the forthcoming eatery is the third for Azevedo, who also owns Sonoma’s LaSalette and Cafe Lucia in Healdsburg. Both have won numerous accolades for Azevedo’s “Cozinha Nova Portuguesa” or “new Portuguese cuisine”.

Manuel Azevedo of La Salette (Press Democrat file)

Manuel Azevedo of La Salette (Press Democrat file)

Tasca Tasca’s menu will reflect Azevedo’s focus on Portuguese cooking, small plate style, including: Sonoma Goat Cheese with Apricot Jelly; Portuguese Mac & Cheese; Herb & Garlic Marinated Olives; Linguiça-Sausage; Raw Oysters with Lemon Fennel Mignonette; House-Smoked California Sturgeon; Polvo – Octopus with “villain’s” sauce; Azoriana Sliders – Pork & São Jorge Cheese; Goat Stew with Fingerling Potatoes; Pork Belly with Madiera Glaze; Foie Gras Terrine, as well as a many other authentic and seasonal tapas including a variety of salads, soups and sweets. A curated wine list focuses on Portuguese wines and an extensive Port and Madeira selection.

Sheana Davis, whose Epicurean Connection opened on the Sonoma Square in 2010, has no plans to hang up her apron anytime soon. The cheesemaker, caterer and educator will be expanding her cheesemaking operations with new locations for her Delice de la Vallee and Creme de Fromage cheeses (found at swank spots like The French Laundry). She also plans to continue to cater and host a variety of classes throughout the region, and in NYC and New Orleans.

Davis will continue to run her Epicurean Connection shop through September, so stop by and wish her well. 

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Williams-Sonoma Returns http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/williams-sonoma-returns/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/williams-sonoma-returns/#respond Fri, 19 Sep 2014 20:18:05 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=29414

Williams-Sonoma reopens in Sonoma for Chuck Williams' 99th birthday

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Chuck Williams in 1956. A Williams-Sonoma store will open in Sonoma in October 2014.

Chuck Williams in 1956. A Williams-Sonoma store will open in Sonoma in October 2014.

After several years of planning, permitting and building, kitchen outfitter Williams-Sonoma will be returning to its roots in Sonoma. In celebration of founder Chuck William’s 99th birthday, the store will open in early October at its original Broadway location on the Sonoma Square.

There will be a small cooking school and historic display, in addition to cookware and kitchen gadgets.

The landmark store opened in 1956, when a prescient Williams decided Americans might appreciate European-quality cookware. Just a few years later, Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking kindled a firestorm of interest in his high-end copper pots, pans and knives. utensils. Ironically, Sonoma County has’t had a Williams-Sonoma store since Williams moved his operation to San Francisco in the late 1950s.

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Park 121 After Hours at Cornerstone http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/park-121-after-hours-at-cornerstone/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/park-121-after-hours-at-cornerstone/#respond Tue, 19 Aug 2014 23:11:11 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=29136

Pizza, empanadas and wine tasting at Cornerstone gardens

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Park 121 After Hours Kitchen opens at Cornerstone gardens in Sonoma

Park 121 After Hours Kitchen opens at Cornerstone gardens in Sonoma

 CLOSED

I’ve never quite known what to make of Sonoma Valley’s Cornerstone gardens.

Part art installation, part wine tasting room hub, part garden and part restaurant, it’s an amazing Wine Country destination that’s finally finding its groove. T

his week, Chef Bruce Riezenman of Santa Rosa’s Park Avenue Catering opens Park 121 After-Hours Pizza and Empanada Kitchen at the gardens.

The walk-up eatery will be open from 4p.m. to 7p.m.(ish) Thursday through Sundays through October. And if you’re wondering how 7p.m. is actually “after hours”, remember we’re in Wine Country, where many wineries are dark by 4:30p.m. Reisenman runs Park 121 cafe, grill and market daily from 10a.m. to 5p.m. at the gardens.

23584 Arnold Drive, Hwy 121, Sonoma.

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Basque Boulangerie changing hands http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/basque-boulangerie-changing-hands/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/basque-boulangerie-changing-hands/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2012 21:54:32 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=24678

Longtime owners plan to sell the Sonoma Square bakery later this summer

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Longtime owners of Sonoma’s Basque Boulangerie have confirmed plans to sell over their 20-year-old bakery later this summer. Though the sale is still pending, Ron and Francoise Hodges along with co-owner/baker Jack Montaldo hope to transfer ownership to Harman “Sunny” Bajwa of San Ramon in August.

It’s a bittersweet move for the partners. “The cafe was the center of life for us,” said Francoise, reached by phone today.  “The staff are like our kids, but there were no kids to take over the business,” she said, of the decision to retire. Tired of long hours and needing to care for family, 20 years seemed like the right time to pass the baguette to a new generation. The couple don’t have children of their own, however, to take over the business and longtime staff weren’t interested in the burden of ownership. Several months ago, they started entertaining offers to buy the business.

“We turned down several people who wanted to change everything,” she said. Bajwa, a district manager for Noah’s Bagels told owners he wanted to keep the bakery, the staff and the product exactly the same. “He wants to make it a family tradition, like it’s been a family tradition for us,” Francoise said.

Hodges parents were the owners of the original Sonoma French Bakery, which opened in 1956. After selling the business in 1989, the bakery went through several ownership changes and ultimately dissolved. In 1994, the Hodges and Jack Montaldo (who was a baker at Sonoma French bakery) opened Basque Boulangerie Cafe as a restaurant and bakeshop on the square with the old world feeling of their parent’s bakery.

Over the last 20 years, the cafe has become the town’s gathering spot– where locals meet for coffee and fresh pastries or a sandwich. There’s usually a line of folks waiting to bring home a loaf of their Parisian style breads which have won numerous Harvest Fair awards. A number of local restaurants and groceries also stock their baguettes. The bakery has grown from three employees to more than 60.

Early morning baking at Basque/Crista Jeremiason

As to the future, the partners are hoping for a seamless transition for customers and wholesale accounts. “The name stays the same, we’ll have the same pictures on the wall, the same bakers, the same staff. That’s our intention,” she said. Asked about any secret family recipes that may be leaving with them, Francoise laughs. “There isn’t any secret recipe. It’s just about handmade products you have to wait for,” she said.

Don’t expect an vanishing act by the Hodges anytime soon, however. Francoise and her husband plan to stick around long after the sale. “People are used to checking in with us,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll just be drinking coffee with them on the other side of the counter.”

 

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Crisp Bake Shop for cakes, sweets in Sonoma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/crisp-bakeshop-sonoma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/crisp-bakeshop-sonoma/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2012 23:49:31 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=23533 Macarons at Crisp Bakeshop in Sonoma. Heather irwin

Crisp Bake Shop in Sonoma is more than just a pretty case with unique wedding cakes, macarons, cupcakes and cookies

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Macarons at Crisp Bakeshop in Sonoma. Heather irwin

Bakeries are so easy to love. All butter cream, sugar and chocolate, they speak to the caloric enabler in each of us. Just one bite, it says. You deserve this, it whispers. And of course, you do. But only if the payoff is worth the price.

Crisp Bake Shop is more than just a pretty case. More than stacks of sea salt chocolate chip cookies, homemade vanilla marshmallows, bacon peanut toffee, white chocolate macarons, green tea cupcakes and brown butter cake with salted creme fraiche caramel and vanilla bean buttercream as soft and light as a lover’s lips. 

This is no sugar shack dalliance. Crisp Bake Shop is the bakery you take home to mom.

Opened by chef-partners Moaya Scheiman (Stars, Ramekins, Tamal Vino y Mas SF) and Andrea Koweek (Ramkins instruction, Keller assistant at Per Se, French Laundry, catering director at girl and the fig), the Sonoma bakery rethinks what it is to be a bakery. Sweet and savory are mixed with abandon; cookies are taken as seriously as wedding cakes; egg salad sandwiches cohabitate with chorizo-studded scones; breads are baked fresh each day, but baguettes are banned.

“I couldn’t do that,” said Scheiman, paying homage to the sanctified Artisan Bakers’ location they now occupy. A fan of the longtime bakery (which moved out last September and is now only wholesale), he said, “It would just be a losing battle.”

So instead he makes Kaiser rolls, Philly rolls and other comforting, egg bread of his youth.

“We didn’t want to do a restaurant or a food truck. We wanted to give the community something different,” said Scheiman. So the couple wakes up at 4 am to bake whatever strikes their imagination.

Their latest creation: A chocolate stout cupcake using next door neighbor Sonoma Brewery’s stout, topped with Kahlua Buttercream and bacon peanut toffee. Yup, it’s even better than it sounds. But cupcakes are just a training ground for their bigger aspirations.

But the bakery’s bread and butter, so to speak, are cakes. As a former catering director in Sonoma, Koweek felt guilty sending locals to Santa Rosa or Napa for their wedding and special event cakes.

With a third partner, they’re turning out towering layer cakes in decidedly unusual flavors like coconut passion fruit, buttermilk orange with lemon buttercream and lime curd; malted cake with Nutella chocolate filling and malt balls or apple spice with butterscotch cream.

Open from 6am to 2pm daily, the small shop has an 8-person table for dining in or drinking coffee or will send you on your way with a neat brown box full of goodies.

“We’re just trying to make people happy,” said Koweek.

With flavors as big as their imagination, Crisp’s future should be a cakewalk.

Crisp Bake Shop, 720 West Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 933-9999.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

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Be A Big Cheese: Win Tix to Sonoma’s Cheese Rolling & Tasting http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/cheese-contest/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/cheese-contest/#comments Tue, 22 Feb 2011 20:00:04 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=13622 Aged gouda to a oiled-up chevre log, tell BiteClub what kind of cheese is the fastest!

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While any cheese-lover worth their Camembert has sniffed, savored, grated, cubed and, let’s be honest, cut a cheese or two, chances are you’ve never rolled one to victory.

In what amounts to a queso-friendly Pine Derby for les fromagistes, Sonoma’s favorite cheese lady, Sheana Davis, will host Sonoma County’s first annual Cheese Rolling contest on February 27, 2011 in the gardens of MacArthur Place.  And you’re invited.

Tell BiteClub what kind of cheese would blow away the competition in this dairy derby — from an sneaky rolled chevre to a hunky aged gouda. Style points for originality, aerodynamic qualities, and creativity.

One winner will be a celebrity cheese roller during the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference’s Cheese, Beer and Wine Tasting reception, beginning at 1:30pm on Sunday, February 27. You’ll be in the company of such luminaries as Sonoma Mayor Laurie Gallian, Chef Justin Wangler of Kendall Jackson Estate, Chef John Stewart of Black Pig Meat, and cheesemongers from the Rainbow Grocery Coop. Tickets also include and afternoon of cheese beer and wine tasting — you know, to relax after all that intense competition. While there you can also check out some home cheesemaking demos with Ricki Carroll, the self-described “Cheese Queen.”

The event is a kick-off for Davis’ annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, a gathering of cheesemakers, retailers, distributors and cheese enthusiasts that runs through March 2. More details here.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Enter your comment below. My bets are on the the cheddar.

Full rules here.

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

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El Molino Central | Sonoma http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/el-molino-central-sonoma/ http://www.sonomamag.com/biteclub/el-molino-central-sonoma/#comments Wed, 07 Jul 2010 22:01:54 +0000 http://www.biteclubeats.com/?p=10755

Stone ground masa, fresh tortillas and Oaxacan mole at this chic taqueria in Sonoma. Plus amazing Mexican ice cream at la Michoacana

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Longtime fans of Primavera — Karen Waikiki’s mystically-delicious tamales — have been among the first to beat a path to her new Boyes Hot Springs restaurant, El Molino Central. Housed in the old Barking Dog roastery, it’s a chic-yet-totally-approachable taqueria/tortillaria serving up incredible regional Mexican classics including potato tacos (astounding!) enchiladas suizas, chilaquiles and daily tamales with authentic 18-ingredient Oaxacan red mole that’s the best I’ve had in Sonoma. In the morning, the cafe serves coveted Blue Bottle coffee and chilaquiles.

The key to everything, however, are her stone-ground tortillas.

El Molino Central

A friend of Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy (who will be staying with her in October when she comes to promote her new book) and Alice Waters, Karen is renowned for revitalizing traditional methods of stone-grinding corn into masa, an art all but lost in Mexico. Each morning, around 11am, staff feed soaked corn — grown by a single farmer in Nebraska — into the specially made machine for the day’s tortillas and tamales. “No one is grinding corn anymore. People just stopped grinding corn and use instant ‘Maseca’ instead. But (grinding) is just the way it shouuld be,” Karen said, hustling through her kitchen.

Wind around back to sit on the patio and watch Karen and her staff hand-press tortillas and throw them on the grill. Fanatics can buy fresh masa for torillas for $1.25 or prepared tortillas for $3.50 a dozen.

Realizing that her demographic is both the tony spa-set of the nearby Sonoma Mission Inn as well as the heavily Latino working-class population, she aims to entice both. “We want the local community to buy and like these,” Karen says, pointing to the irregular edges on her tortillas — a sign that they’re handmade rather than machine-made. “Otherwise, all this is just pointless,” she added.

El Molino Central, 11 Central Ave (along Hwy 12), Boyes Hot Springs. Open Mon-Sun 7 am – 7 pm

La Michoacano Ice Cream in Sonoma

While you’re there, don’t miss la Michoacano, an amazing new(ish) ice cream/bionicos/paletas spot. Exotic flavors are made onsite, and are amazingly creamy and rich, often with fruit or other tidbits (nuts, candy) mixed in. Flavors are usually on the board, but its worth asking for a few samples just to, you know, make sure you’re making the right choice. Top bet: Pinenut and Mexican caramel. Don’t miss the paletas, frozen bars made with fresh fruit. 18495 Highway 12, Sonoma

Related Images:

[See image gallery at www.sonomamag.com]

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