Flower and Bone in Santa Rosa is one of Biteclub’s Hot Picks of 2017
Dalia Martinez wants your plums. She also wants your nasturtiums, your apples, your persimmons, your Meyer lemons and the baby pine cones on your fir tree. In fact, she forages for just about anything edible that might otherwise end up squished, rotted or otherwise ignored in the yards and fields around her Santa Rosa restaurant.
Martinez combs her neighborhood and backyard farm daily looking for tasty tidbits she can preserve, can, puree or otherwise incorporate into the sweet and savory stories she concocts at Flower + Bone, a new eatery she’s opened with partner Jason Sakach. The couple also owns Santa Rosa breakfast/brunch/lunch spot Naked Pig.
Preservation is the thread that runs through just about everything at Flower + Bone. Jewel-colored jars line a wall of the restaurant, filled with preserved tomatoes, plums, relishes and pickled vegetables, memories of a summer past that will brighten dishes for the months to come.
The restaurant’s broader mission, however, is preserving the Old Ways of eating—ancient traditions—from slow-cooked meats and fermented breads cooked in a tandoor oven to bone broths and handmade dumplings.
“You may be the only person in the world to eat exactly this,” said Martinez, placing a dish of **Polish dumplings with brown butter, wild foraged chanterelles and tiny green fir cones on the table**. Tomorrow, the ingredients may change slightly, as the fir cones she collected this morning run out, and she stumbles across something new. But in this exact moment, eating this exact dish, in this exact place, the dish has an entirely unique character with the creamy, nutty richness of the butter, the wet earthiness of mushrooms, the faint antiseptic flavor of the young pine cones.
With that kind of thought being put into every dish, it feels almost rude to lumber clumsily through the meal without intention. Instead, Flower + Bone is best enjoyed thoughtfully, slowly, contemplatively. The “Full Story” six-course tasting menu ($67) provides that kind of context.The first course, a simple cup of **steaming toasted rice broth**, sets the tone. Like everything here, it beckons to every sense: The calm blue of the clay cup, the smell of toasted rice, the warmth of the vessel in your hand, the barely-there flavor that lingers in the back of your throat.
Each successive course tells another part of the Flower + Bone story. Pulling from culinary traditions of Eastern Europe, India, Pakistan and Asia, the dishes feel both familiar and exotic; refined and homey; worthy of introspection, but best shared with friends and family who can appreciate the intent of the chef.
Here’s a sample journey through Flower + Bone…
**Sieved egg salad with paprika, wax beans and spelt toast** (out of my great-grandmother’s playbook) that’s as sturdy as babushka’s support hose. But way more delicious.
**Tandoor chicken, naan, lentils with sour cream and wild foraged weeds**: Another sturdy course, that’s leavened with moist, flavorful “morsels” of chicken from their wood-fired tandoor. Smashed lentils with tangy sour cream they’ve cultured at the restaurant is my new obsession, and the tiny salad is literally a collection of edible flowers and leaves with just a splash of vinaigrette. The wheat and rye naan uses natural yeasts in the air, giving it — and many of the other dishes — a flavor that’s not just unique to the region, but of the restaurant itself, and even of a particular day. That’s serious terroir.
**Nihari beef shank stew, quinoa pilaf, foraged orange and house cheese**: A Yelp review of the restaurant bemoaned the fact that her meat had fat on it. Martinez intentionally leaves some fat on her meat, because fat is flavor. Braised in bone broth, wine and spices this is luxe peasant food. The flavorful, nutty pilaf has bits of fruit leather and raisins to give it a sweet complexity.
**Pluot hooch and gold truffle, cheesecake with preserved plum sauce, lemon curd and nettle tea**: Infused with bang-pow flavors, these tiny bites packed more punch than a clunky cake or pie. I rarely use the word perfect, but Flower + Bone’s lemon curd is, well, perfect. Nettle tea helps digestion and lets the diner linger a bit.
**Plum Hooch**: Don’t miss a chance to try their homemade plum booze, a slightly tart, slightly fruity sip made from foraged fruit. Other drinks: Fennel, salted orange and soju ($12), whey and lime on ice, or various wines, beer or coffee.
Though Flower + Bone, with its large communal table in the back and smaller, more intimate tables up front, is meant to be a gathering place for the community. But it’s also not a place that everyone is going to appreciate. The prices reflect the commitment Jason and Dalia put into each dish, using manual techniques, supporting local farmers and ranchers, and wanting perfection in ingredients. They waste almost nothing, and portions are small, though not stingy.
“No one leaves hungry,” said Dalia. “We ask if people are full. If they’re still hungry, we can serve them more,” she said. So far only one patron has asked for seconds she said.
Some dishes can be ordered a la carte, or mezze style, ranging from $11-18 if you’re just looking for a nibble or two. Lunch is also served two days a week, with simpler naan wraps, cheese and preserve-stuffed philo pastries and salads, though the daily specials change up frequently.
In a world of fast-casual, buffets and drive-thru, sometimes it’s nice to stop and smell the roses along the journey. Just leave a few for Dalia to collect for her summer preserves.
Flower + Bone is at 650 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 707-708-8529, flowerandbonerestaurant.com. Lunch is served from 11a.m. to 3p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; dinner Thursday through Saturday from 6-9p.m. Reservations suggested but not required.