Monthly Archives: May 2009

Sonoma County, California

Cyrus —  in Healdsburg, this is the Sonoma area’s answer to the French Laundry but less formal and less expensive than its Napa rival; only a  tasting menu is available, 5 or 7 course (with a couple choices in a number of the categories), and a vegetarian option; we opted for the 7-course carnivore menu, including the wine pairings;  we recommend splurging for the additional cost of the champagne (1/2 glasses available) and caviar cart; we tried the American paddlefish, which was delicious, served with both potato cakes and grit cakes (a little too heavy taking away from the taste of the caviar), with the other usual caviar accompaniments;  we were disappointed in the wine, primarily because we didn’t like many of the wines the restaurant paired with the food; unfortunately, not a cab to be had; that being said, there wasn’t a food course that we didn’t enjoy, even the foam that sneaked on the plate on a few occasions was o’kay; the foie gras torchon was delicious and generously served; the gnocchi with morels were light and fluffy; the seared scallop with chorizo and clams was perfectly cooked; Wagyu beef with burdock and shiso was excellent (how can one go wrong with Wagyu?);  the cheese cart was amazing (we found a cheese even too stinky and strong for us); desert wasn’t to the taste of at least one of us (the two choices that evening emphasized carrot and coffee); thankfully, the mingnardises cart sated our chocolate craving, as did the cute boxed brownies that arrived as a take-home, together with our custom-printed menu;  our request to see the kitchen was graciously honored, and we met the chef; this is a special occasion place and almost every table was celebrating something (in our case, a first anniversary); celebrants received an egg cream shooter and a warm chocolate cookie, dramatically served from a glass domed plate that swirled chocolate flakes over the cookie; reservations are essential and available starting two months in advance; if you are a last minute planner, there’s a great looking bar with a bar menu.

Dry Creek Kitchen —  Charlie Palmer’s wine country location in Healdsburg was quite the hopping place; we started with a good (but small) version of foie gras torchon, appropriately served with lavender salt, although it was so spare and fine we couldn’t use it; the spinach lover amongst us tried the spinach salad with a wine poached egg, tasty with the exception of the bacon powder (pointless and tasteless – this molecular approach to cooking has got to go); we moved on to  the pork duo (pork shoulder and tenderloin, served with farro), and shrimp with pappardelle in a buerre blanc; we understand some have complained of the service, but we were seated promptly and had very good service; reservations strongly advisable.

the Girl and the Fig — just off the charming town square in the city of Sonoma, this casual (same menu throughout the day) bar and restaurant was a nice spot to hit for lunch in southern Sonoma County, as we headed from the airport toward our base in Healdsburg; the cheeseburger is hugely popular; it seems at least half the people ordered it so we had that; we also tried the wild boar ragu on pasta, which was o’kay but didn’t wow us.

Willi’s Seafood — casual, comfortable Healdsburg spot with a decidedly Asian emphasis in its tapas style approach; we tried fried calamari, tuna tartare (with ginger and too few of the billed jalapenos), beet and blue cheese salad (probably the best thing we tried), and riblets, with a few actual ribs and some indistinguishable pieces of bone and meat.  The style of every dish was too sweet and not sufficiently spiced for our tastes; overall, average at best.

Diavola — located on the main drag in the small town of Geyserville in northern Sonoma County, this rustic style bar and restaurant turns out delicious thin crust, brick oven pizza; we added sausage to the four-cheese pizza; homemade sausage and other charcuterie are available for takeout; sharing a pizza was a great mid-afternoon choice for a late lunch after wine tasting.

Jimtown — located northwest of Healdsburg (down the road from Jordan winery), this place looks like a hole in the wall country grocery store in a former gas station, but it turns out some great soups and sandwiches; we enjoyed the split pea soup and the grilled prosciutto and brie sandwich; counter-served, the menu offers many wonderful sandwich combinations, as well as breakfast items; the diverse clientèle resulted in Harleys and limos in the parking lot; another great mid-afternoon spot during wine tasting.