Dear Bohemian Grovers,
First off, welcome back to Camp Big Cheese! Yes, we locals know you’re here. Perhaps it was the traffic jam of private jets on our local tarmacs last week, the prepoderance of “OMG. Celeb sighting!” Tweets around Sonoma County or the sudden run on grand crus from our local wine shops. Who’s to say, because frankly, we’ve been more focused on the traffic jam of limos on River Road.
Now we know you have a lot to do these next few days, what with the rituals, high jinks and wheeling and dealing, but let us be the first to suggest that some off-campus bread-breaking might just be the thing. Goodness knows that with 2,000 of your fellow VIPS clogging up the cafeteria lines, mystery meat at your campsite (again!) and unsavory gate-crashers lurking about, maybe you’re better off with a little covert noshing.
So in the spirit of friendship (and totally not stalking), may we suggest a few of our favorite local eateries? We’re talking quiet, off-the-beaten-path spots where the locals hang and great grub is a way of life. You’re in Sonoma County, after all. Just leave a big tip and we promise we’ll post a flattering iPhone picture of you to our Facebook page.
BiteClub’s Best Bets for What to Eat In (and around) Monte Rio
Applewood Inn: Chef Bruce Frieseke is one of the best Wine Country chefs you may not know. In his brief tenure at the helm of this quiet Guerneville bed and breakfast, he’s elevated the cuisine from ho-hum to haute. Trained in Paris and San Francisco, with stints at the Farmhouse Inn and as Exec chef at Healdsburg’s Manzanita, Freiseke has put his energy toward a locally-inspired dinner menu with dishes like fresh chilled English Pea soup with mint; a tartare of beef, potato chips, pickled mustard seeds, quail’s egg and house-cured anchovies; and cacao nib crusted rack of lamb with brown butter parsnips, house made chorizo and mini chimichurri. The five-course tasting menu at $70 is still a value, with impressive wine or beer-pairings for $105. 13555 Highway 116, Guerneville, 869-9093.
Garden Grill: Don’t let the name fool you. This insanely popular breakfast spot has recently added a lineup of house-smoked barbecue to their menu, including ribs, bbq tri-tip and brisket for lunch and dinner. And while we won’t guarantee it’s quite up to our native KC and Tennessee standards (because nothin’ east of the Rockies can compare), the pink smoke rings brought a tear to our eye and a smile to our lips. 17132 Hwy 116, Guerneville, (707) 869-3922.
Raymond’s Bakery: Hidden among the redwood groves in Cazadero is your diet’s downfall. Award-winning baker Mark Raymond and his wife Elizabeth have fresh racks of baguettes, batards, fougasse and boules each day — meaning yummy bread in all shapes and sizes — along with fresh pizza and pastries. Don’t miss the butter-crusted walnut tart, a tastier, classier cousin to pecan pie. 5400 Cazadero Highway, Cazadero, (707) 632-5335
Don’s Dogs and More Cafe: Monte Rio has a love-hate relationship with the Grovers. While some folks in these parts can be pretty unfriendly to big-talkin’ conservative-types, the Grove also raises quite a bit of money each year for their fire services, schools and churches. But if you’re craving a dog, Don’s is the place to get your wiener relished. Locals swear by the Don’s Dog, a grilled quarter-pounder best eaten on the deck. Bohemian Hwy and Hwy 116 intersection, Monte Rio, (707) 865-4190.
Sophie’s Cellars: For three weeks each year, John Haggard is at the beck and call of the world’s most powerful men. The other 49 weeks, he’s just a guy from Monte Rio who happens to run a world class wine shop. Nestled deep among the coastal redwood groves of West County, Sophie’s Cellars caters to the grand cru-set during the Grove gathering, but is equally happy to sell a $15 bottle of chardonnay. In fact, he seems to get just as much satisfaction match-making visitors with local eateries and tasting rooms (with maps and coupons), giving insider menu tips and suggesting tasty wine pairings. Call him the Concierge of West County. 20293 Hwy 116, Monte Rio, 707-865-1122. Open 11am to 7pm, closed Wednesday.
Boon Eat + Drink: Simple, stylish decor with an equally simple and stylish menu. This funky eatery serves up just a handful of local, seasonal dishes, but almost all are done to perfection. Flat iron steak, a beefy boon burger with garlic aioli and pickled onions ($9), fresh salads and a giant bowl of truffle fries with sundried tomato ketchup and garlic aoili shouldn’t be missed. And Humphry Slocombe ice cream is a perfect foil for all those gin fizzes you’ve been packing.16248 Main St., Guerneville, 869-0780.
Dear Bohemian Grovers,