New restaurants, new dishes, and best bets for holiday dining. Here’s the latest from the Sonoma County dining scene. Click through the above gallery for must-try dishes and a peek inside the restaurants.
Billi Bi has been called the most luxurious dish in the world. The velvety mussel soup is one of the most delicious things on the nearly 20-course tasting menu at Cyrus restaurant.
Deceptively simple, chef Douglas Keane’s Billi Bi uses the broth of steamed mussels and a heavy dose of cream, butter, and white wine to create a deep, satisfying soup that’s far more than the sum of its parts.
I can only hope, for your sake, it remains on the tasting menu.
The restaurant opened in a former prune-packing plant outside Geyserville in September, 10 years after the original Cyrus in Healdsburg closed. In many ways, this new Cyrus holds to the original vision of Keane and business partner Nick Peyton—a mix of opulent, painstakingly created European and Japanese small bites. It doesn’t get a lot more pinkiesup than this $295 prix fixe meal, though compared to other highend restaurants in Wine Country, Cyrus is a relative deal.
The multi-course experience rolls out in three stages, with just 12 guests per seating and three seatings a night. Diners are welcomed into the Bubbles Lounge with canapés and champagne or seasonal cocktails. The second stage is at a darkened counter in the kitchen, where each place setting is lit with a single spotlight.
Then it’s off to the main dining room for seven more dishes, all served on bespoke ceramic dinnerware. The four-hour experience ends with a trip through a hidden door to the Chocolate Room, where a curtain of melted chocolate perfumes the air and boxes of bonbons levitate. Keane’s ingredient-driven menus change seasonally, but dishes like red wine risotto with Parmesan froth and white truffle (from the original Cyrus menu), duck with hoisin and turnips, and beef with maitake mushrooms and umeshu (plum liqueur) consommé are timeless. Raw seafood dishes served at the table in the chef kitchen include a raw oyster with ginger-shiso-dashi gelée, and kanpachi with passion fruit.
Since 2012, the playing field of high-end restaurants in Sonoma County has expanded, and Cyrus is no longer the only Michelinworthy dining destination. But with chef Keane and his team at the helm, doing their alchemy and creating culinary magic, Cyrus is certain to reach a star once again… or two…or three.
275 Highway 128, Geyserville. 707-723-5999, cyrusrestaurant.com
Saucy Mama’s Jook Joint, Guerneville
There’s no question who is in charge at Saucy Mama’s Jook Joint. Inside the bustling barbecue spot, owner Yvette Bidegain flits from table to table, with a giant smile and infectious giggle. Here, everyone is “honey,” as Bidegain fusses over customers, leaving a warm sense of hospitality in her wake.
Even on a Sunday, the joint has the Saturday-night feel of a lively rural roadhouse, with waitstaff bringing out plate after plate of ribs, cornbread waffles, and the evening’s special shrimp and grits as fast as the kitchen can keep up.
Saucy Mama’s puts the soul in soul food by fusing the deeply Southern flavors of Bidegain’s family’s Louisiana heritage with her own California culinary twists. A Sonoma County native, Bidegain inherited the barbecue legacy of her father, Leroy Richardson of Richardson’s Ribs.
Raised in Mississippi, not far from New Orleans, Richardson arrived in Northern California in the early 1950s, hoping for a new life and armed with an arsenal of family recipes.
The restaurant business, however, is a second act for Bidegain. The 62-yearold spent most of her adult life working for Caltrans; she recently retired after 36 years on the job. With her four children grown, she needed a new project.
“After the kids grew up, I had a void in my life,” she said. “I had all this extra time when I retired. I said, there has to be something out there that no one else is doing.” Soul food was her answer.
She found an audience ravenous for her unparalleled fried catfish (honestly, the best I’ve ever had); smoked beef ribs; chicken skin cracklings; and best-in-class sides like three-cheese macaroni, collard greens and blackeyed peas. The shrimp and grits special is a jumble of poached shrimp, onions, and garlic atop a bed of creamy, golden cornmeal cheesier than a prom photo.
There are generations of heart and soul in every bite.
16632 Highway 116, Guerneville. 707-6047184, saucymamasjookjoint.com
Galvan’s Eatery, Mobile Kitchen
Omar Galvan’s dream isn’t to own a taco truck. The 28-year-old food entrepreneur wants a fleet of quesabirria-laden mobile kitchens operating daily at breweries throughout the county. Now, as of this fall, he is one red truck closer to that dream.
Galvan and his brother, Ivan, 24, own Galvan’s Eatery, a shiny red mobile kitchen that has become a familiar sight at Shady Oak, Old Caz, Cooperage and HenHouse breweries. Known for their crispy shrimp tacos, birria grilled cheese sandwiches, loaded carne asada fries and meaty quesabirria, the brothers, both first-generation immigrants, have developed a fiercely loyal following.
Omar launched the business in October 2020, as pandemic regulations requiring businesses that served alcohol to offer sit-down, dine-in meals created new opportunities for food trucks in Sonoma County. Many local breweries turned to food trucks to fulfill the mandate to serve food. “It just snowballed. People had to try new food at breweries,” says Omar. “It’s all become very harmonious, and families are (at breweries) now.”
Near-constant social media communication has been a boon to their business. Their Instagram account (@galvanseatery) has nearly 9,000 followers and lists upcoming locations, pictures of their customers, and mouthwatering photos of tacos sizzling on the griddle.
With their first food truck booked out at breweries months in advance, the brothers recently used some of their profits to expand, purchasing a replica truck for Ivan to manage. Omar says he envisions the day when he and Ivan will own a large taproom with beers from all the breweries they’ve worked with and food trailers slinging birria and tacos from one end of the county to the other.
“We were destined for this,” he says.
For locations and information, call 707-836-5087 or check Instagram @Galvanseatery.
Marla Bakery at Miracle Plum, Santa Rosa
Like peanut butter meeting chocolate, two of Sonoma County’s yummiest businesses are joining forces on a delicious collaboration.
Miracle Plum, a natural wine bar and market in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, has paired up with Marla Bakery to sell the bakery’s excellent coffee and pastries, breakfast and lunch fare, and baked goods for online ordering and in-store pickup.
“We might even do a bagel day on Sunday,” says Joe Wolf, who owns the bakery with his wife, Amy Brown.
Marla’s current production bakery is housed in a Windsor industrial park, so they have little visibility for would-be walk-in customers, according to Wolf, which makes Miracle Plum’s downtown location attractive. Meanwhile, the Miracle Plum team will continue to offer events, CSA pickups, tastings, and seasonal cooking classes in addition to selling pantry staples and natural wines.
Gourmet Au Bay, Bodega Bay
This is the perfect Bodega getaway, tucked off the beaten path. It’s a definite upgrade from coastal crab shacks, with a great selection of wines by the glass and an impressive kitchen. Meaty crab cakes arrived in a sizzling mini cast-iron skillet with a nickel-size dollop of creamy aioli. Crispy-edged and full of crab, these were a winner. We also loved the giant bowl of mussels with slices of bread for dipping. The clam flatbread was studded with roasted garlic and bacon, with a light cream sauce atop a cracker-crisp crust.
1412 Bay Flat Rd., Bodega Bay. 707-875-9875, gourmetaubay.com