Roasted bone marrow. Sweetbreads. Head cheese charcuterie. You’re either following along with a dribble of drool or I’ve lost you altogether. Hey, you’re either a fan of Fergus or you’re not.
I’m talking about nose-to-tail eating, the waste-not, want-not food movement recently popularized by Fergus Henderson and adopted by a new generation of chefs (and eaters) savoring the wobbly, wiggly organ meats our penny-pinching great-grandmothers once coveted. It’s challenge food for even the most experienced eaters, but once you go offal, you never go back.
Showing their passion for oft-overlooked cuts (as well as more everyday eats) into their French-Mediterranean menu, young husband-and-wife chefs Eric Korsh and Ginevra Iverson have created a comforting mix of old-meets-new school dishes at the recently opened Restaurant Eloise in Sebastopol.
Housed in the revamped Bistro V space on Gravenstein Highway, the former Brooklynites (both ex-Prune staffers) aren’t mincing around with the foods they’re passionate about. In their first weeks, Eric bought 50 pounds of bone marrow despite the fact that he wasn’t totally sure the dish would sell. It has, in spades. On a busy Tuesday night, plates of sizzling bone, toasted dark bread and parsley salad were one of the hottest tickets in Sebastopol. Really.
And why not? The warm, creamy marrow ($13) topped with a sprinkle of salt flakes is butter’s evil twin. Sharing the spotlight are crispy sweetbreads and pickled vegetables with raisin-mustard vinaigrette ($14). Rolled in panko breadcrumbs, they’re light and fluffy rather than, uh, dare I say, Burger King chicken-nugget-esque. Sweetbread fans know what I’m talking about. Other openers include fresh puntarelle (a lettuce grown out back) with chopped egg and candied bacon ($12), marinated sardines, octopus and white anchovy salad ($13) and, from the bar menu spicy boiled crawfish with butter ($10). BiteClub sadly missed out on the charcuterie plate of veal tongue, head cheese and foie gras ($6-$15).
Second courses are a bit pricier, but in line with the level of execution and commitment to local products. It’s a tough call for chefs to use pricier regional artisan foods rather than rock-bottom suppliers because patrons don’t always appreciate the difference, or the price. Eloise’s menu doesn’t gush on about local ingredients, but GM Brian Howe (who works the room like a champ) will talk you through the pedigrees with confidence.
BiteClub Senior (aka my mom) described the milk-poached dayboat halibut with a dreamy butter sauce, greenbeans and onions ($26) saying, “Honey, there’s fish and there’s this.” She kind of melted into a reverie after that. Having recently returned from a food tour of France, I took it to mean the halibut approached her exacting standards. Also solid is the pan-roasted veal chop stuffed with Pecorino cheese, a side of spinach and crispy potato galette ($31). BiteClub ordered it medium rare and the cheese was still hard inside — a quick whisk away and it returned soft, fragrant and with the chef’s personal apology. Nice touch. Also on the menu: Ricotta gnocchi with swiss chard and King trumpet mushrooms, sanddabs ($25) with artichokes and brown butter, rack of lamb and a whole Maine lobster with tarragon butter (a steal at $36). A daily special of Porterhouse steak for two appeases the pickiest of meat-and-potatoes eaters.
Dessert, which is often either an afterthought or overambitious, is brilliantly basic. Baba rum ($9) is rum-soaked brioche laden with Chantilly cream. Even better are warm sugared doughnuts in a puddle of raspberry jam (more sauce than jam – $9).
The compact wine list nods to SoCo, Anderson Valley and Napa with plenty of by-the-glass pours. Pull up a craft-brew and deviled eggs at the cozy bar, or simply order a first course or two. With impeccable service, a comfy location and a talented tag-team in the kitchen odds are on Restaurant Eloise as a new Wine Country classic. Whether you’re a fan or Fergus or not.
Restaurant Eloise, 2295 Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol, 707.823.6300. Open Monday through Saturday at 5:30pm, closed Sunday.