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Thanksgiving Dinner in Sonoma

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2012 Update!

turkeyDinner.jpgRestaurants That Will Be Open

It's not too late to have a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with family and friends where you can leave the dishes and clean up to someone else. See below for which restaurants in Sonoma this year will be open to serve you a grand Thanksgiving feast.

CLICK HERE for a list of all the Sonoma wineries that will be open Thanksgiving Day as well.

Depot Hotel
Bring your family and friends and join Chefs Antonio and Michael Ghilarducci for Thanksgiving Dinner. Open for dinner 12 noon through 7pm with seatings every half hour. Call for reservations if you have a party of 6 or more. MORE DETAILS

Inn at the Tides - Bay View Restaurant
Join The Bay View Restaurant for a festive Thanksgiving Day feast.  Entree choices include traditional Roasted Turkey (children under 12, half price), Lobster Fettuccine, Poached Salmon, Pork Tenderloin, Rack of Lamb and Filet Mignon.  Full menu available on our website. Reservations strongly suggested. MORE DETAILS


Spice Up Your Summer Nights!

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Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma
From butchery to Mexican tamales, plan a culinary getaway to Sonoma Wine Country and spend your summer evenings learning new tricks, tips, and culinary techniques. With the addition of TASTE, a complimentary wine tasting event complete with tasty bites and good company, guests are invited to relax, unwind, and enjoy the warm nights.

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Summer Tamales with Agustín Gaytá
June 1, 6:30-9:30p.m., $100

Using the techniques and ingredients of his childhood, Chef Gaytá demonstrates how to prepare Mexico's oldest dish, the tamale. Students are encouraged to master the basics, then add their own concepts and experiment with a variety of flavors. From savory to succulent, dishes include Tamales de Mariscos (Shrimp and Scallops with Butternut Squash Wrapped in Swiss Chard and Served with Habañero Salsa) and Tameles Dulces de Coco (Sweet Coconut with Vanilla Cream Sauce). Register for Class!

Wake Up Call

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Where to enjoy the best breakfasts in Wine Country.

by Jill Silverman Hough

There's nothing like waking up in Wine Country, with the promise of a perfect day ahead. So, why not indulge in an amazing breakfast? Whether you like to ease into the day with coffee and a fresh-baked scone, or you're up for a three-course brunch, here are the spots to start your day off right.

Cantinetta Piero
The venue: A hotel restaurant, but the hotel feels like a bit of Tuscany.
The food: The two-course prix fixe breakfast starts with fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee, a small pastry, and yogurt with fruit and house-made granola. Then, it moves to your choice of three egg dishes. Go for the side of artisan-smoked bacon, and linger over every bite.
The prices: $18 (30 percent off for locals).
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7:30-10 a.m. 6774 Washington St., Yountville, (707) 299-5015, cantinettapiero.com.

Solbar
The venue: Michelin star-rated hotel restaurant, with a hip yet casual vibe.
The food: The on-premise garden influences the menu, and everything is expertly prepared. Lemon ricotta pancakes are crisp around the edges but light inside, thanks to whipped egg whites. Beef for the hash is house corned. Juices aren't just fresh squeezed, they're squeezed to order. And coffee comes in a personal French press.
The prices (entrées): $11-$17.
The details: Breakfast Mon.-Sun. 7-11 a.m., brunch Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga, (707) 226-0800, solbarnv.com.

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Time To Stop Beating Around the Bûche

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Growing up in California, I always thought a yule log was the crackling fire you tuned your televisions to while you opened your Christmas gifts.  I was stunned to learn that the yule log is not only a real cake consumed by many Americans, but the Christmas Eve dessert for families in France.

In contrast to the rest of the traditional Réveillon menu for December 24th--oysters, foie gras, truffles, and roast capon--the Bûche de Noël is a humble little creature.  Thin genoise cake, usually chocolate, is rolled around a flavored cream-based filling and then frosted and decorated with meringue mushrooms to look like a felled log in the forest.  Although some French seem to prize an ultra-realistic log, and others opt for a more cartoonish look, everyone's goal is clearly to make the cake look like a moldering piece of wood.

Sonoma Dining Guide

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girlfig.JPGBy Deirdre Bourdet

Sonoma Valley boasts dozens and dozens of restaurants, from tiny holes in the wall to luxurious palaces.  Where to go depends entirely on the kind of ambience and sustenance you're craving.  Here are some suggestions that may speak to your mood next time you're in the area.

The Depot Hotel.  For old-school Italian nostalgia, you must go to the Depot Hotel.  The 19th Century plumstone building is only two blocks off the Sonoma square, but feels sixty years away with its circa 1950s time capsule dining room and outdoor terrace, with fountain and reflecting pool.   Rest assured, however, that the cuisine has evolved since the 1950s.  Chef-owner Michael Ghilarducci is now joined in the kitchen by his son, Antonio, who has worked at such places as The French Laundry, La Folie in San Francisco, Angele in Napa, and El Dorado Kitchen down the street.  The finest local ingredients are prepared in true Italian style--simply, deliciously, and with a minimum of fuss.  The kitchen produces its own pastas, fresh ricotta, and salumi, and also offers regional cooking classes at its Scuola Rustica.  This month is Summer Sardinian Grilling, offered July 26 and 27th.

Yeti, I Know You...

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yetifrontdoor.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I'm sure my girlfriend and I are not the only ones who loved that guy on American Idol who auditioned in Atlanta with his original one-man duet lovesong, beginning "La-ty, I know you," in falsetto.  Now I hear that guy every time I hear a word that starts with "lay" or ends with "tee"... or anything remotely similar.  As we strolled under the large Yeti Restaurant sign into the historic sawmill building of the Jack London Village Shops in Glen Ellen, the Atlanta guy was with us.  But the delectable smells wafting up from the open kitchen into the restaurant quickly put to rest any fears of further comparisons to that performance.  Warm spices, creamy curries, and blistering tandoor breads filled the air with their enticing aromas and made it clear that we needed to get to know Yeti, stat.

Restaurant Week Comes To Sonoma February 22-28, 2010

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By Deirdre Bourdet

The tradition of local "restaurant week" promotions dates from the last recession, post dotcom crash, when the nouveaux poor's continued need for high end dining and the high end dining establishments' need for continued business found common ground in a beautiful, prix-fixed way.  New York and San Francisco restaurants enjoyed such success with their Restaurant Week programs that they kept them in place even after fortunes were again flying high.

Ahi Tuna in a Cucumber Rollup

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Ahi Tuna Roll-up.jpgSubmitted by Gloria Ferrer

The clean flavors of "maguro" sushi come together in this dazzling appetizer. A sesame-soy marinade lifts the tuna flavors, and the wasabi and pickled ginger give these delectable rollups a real punch. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut sparkling wine provides a vivacious accompaniment to the spicy, exotic nature of the dish while balancing the salty flavor of the marinade.

Yield: 24 pieces

INGREDIENTS
  • ½ lb Ahi tuna - absolutely fresh, dark red, high quality "sushi grade" is essential here

Marinade
  • 2 T Green onion - chives will work as a substitute
  • 1 T Fresh ginger - if you can't find the fresh root, skip it. Don't use powder!
  • 2 T soy sauce - good quality "shoyu" works best
  • 2 t Rice wine vinegar - substitute any light wine vinegar if necessary
  • 1 T Toasted sesame oil - toasted sesame oil has more flavor than untoasted
  • Pinch Black pepper--several turns from the peppermill works best

Delicious Deals

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From truly cheap eats to exquisitely high-value dining

By Sue Elliott

When business gets tough, restaurateurs get creative, coming up with delicious high-value offers to entice diners through the door. We've included many of the best deals here along with a handful of little-known, always-cheap eats.


Angèle Restaurant & Bar
The deal: Classics, $18-$20.
When: Sun.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m.
What you get: A hearty, traditional French one-dish meal. Current Classics include La Chaudrée fish stew on Sundays, ratatouille on Mondays, choucroute alsacienne on Tuesdays, coq au vin on Wednesdays, and chef's choice on Thursdays. The ingredients are fresh, the preparations meticulous.
Other deals: Half-off wines and beers that pair nicely with the Classics. That means Chardonnay on Sundays, "other reds" (Syrah, Petite Sirah, Côte Rôtie, Beaujolais, Crozes-Hermitage) on Mondays, beers on Tuesdays, and Pinot Noir on Wednesdays. Every bottle on the wine list is half-price on Thursdays.
Where: 540 Main St., Napa, (707) 252-8115, angelerestaurant.com.

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ
The deal: Pony Express Lunch, $10.
When: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
What you get: Fast and tasty. Choose any sandwich (pulled pork, beef brisket, shredded barbecued chicken, grilled veggies, or The Reubenesque), plus any side (such as fresh, crispy cole slaw), and any nonalcoholic beverage. The delicious meal is served in 10 minutes or less, along with three barbecue sauces.
Other Deals: Happy hour, weekdays 3-6 p.m. The $5 rib and cole slaw appetizer includes three Smokin' St. Louis Cut ribs. The $10 BBQ sampler is enough for a meal, with brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and slaw.
Where: 975 First St., Napa, (707) 226-3976, bountyhunterwinebar.com.

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Cold-Weather Dining Deals

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By Deirdre Bourdet

Winter is traditionally the off-season in wine country, though it's always been one of my favorite times to visit. Besides the lack of crowds, cold weather brings out local warmth and a slew of discounted activities and menus.

Here are two restaurant deals that should not be missed this year:

'Tis the Season... for Olives

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By Deirdre Bourdet

The start of olive season always gets me excited because it means olio nuovo is here--the bright green, fresh out of the press, creamy and practically alive-tasting oil. It's the first, freshest extra virgin oil from a crush and it only keeps its magic for a short time, making it an elusive commodity. I love to finish salads or fish with a drizzle of the stuff, or just set out a dish with good bread and sea salt for one of the simplest and most delicious snacks ever... more than worthy of a quality bottle of vino to wash it down.

Formule de Fig

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fig+front[1].jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

I love prix-fixe menus, and wish more restaurants outside of Europe embraced the concept. There is something very satisfying about walking into a restaurant and having the whole meal just brought to you without instruction, all thought out and planned and decided by the chefs. So obviously, when the girl and the fig invited me to come check out their Bistro Plat du Jour prix fixe, I jumped at the chance.

Pizza and Pinot

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estate.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

A $10 dinner with wine in a wine country restaurant is like a unicorn--beautiful, magical, fun to think about, but totally a mythical beast... or at least that used to be the case.  I can now say with certainty that such an animal exists, every night, AND you can sit outside by a fireplace to enjoy it.  

Estate is Sondra Bernstein's latest restaurant project in the old General Daughter's location just a few blocks west of the Sonoma square. The restaurant offers up some seriously well-priced California-inflected Italian cuisine, and the Pizza and Pinot special is perhaps the best example of the restaurant's bicultural offerings.  Every night, and all day Saturday and Sunday, the bar menu features your choice of pizza with a glass of featured pinot grigio or pinot noir... for ten dollars. Total.  

Cheap Burger no More?

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By Robert Farmer

Can somebody tell me what happened to Babe's Burgers? Actually, I think the official name was Babe's Burgers and Franks but everybody just called it Babe's. It's the little ramshackle shop along the highway (Hwy. 121, to be exact) that neatly ties together Napa and Sonoma valleys. You know the place. Or maybe you don't. That was the beauty of Babe's, it was beloved by some, completely off the radar for others. It was the kind of place that maintained an "insider" vibe no matter what restaurant was currently the talk of the valley - either valley. It was easily blown by when cruising along the Highway in the Carneros District, bouncing from one winery to the next.

And the Ivy Goes to Dry Creek Kitchen

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drycreekKitchen.jpg

In the culinary world, the term "award-winning" is tossed around like so many mushrooms sautéed in a skillet. But sometimes the term actually means something, and some restaurants and chefs just seem to rack up the awards faster than others. Especially in Wine Country, where the competition is fierce, the awards and accolades a particular place earns can mean the difference between good and great.

Pigs & Pinot

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By Robert Farmer

piggy.jpeg

One could spend a lifetime enjoying Wine Country only by its events. The calendar year is jam-packed with themed events that were created to spotlight and celebrate the many and diverse aspects of Wine Country. All wine regions have them, and some are of course more alluring than others. Others still speak to certain people on an acute level. And those nice-market events are where you can find your personal Valhalla.

One such event for me in particular is Pigs & Pinot at the Hotel Healdsburg (800-889-7188; www.hotelhealdsburg.com). Now in its third year, this descriptively titled weekend-long event is the brainchild of chef Charlie Palmer, whose Dry Creek Kitchen is one of the great destination restaurants in California Wine Country. Pigs & Pinot, as you have by now likely surmised, is a celebration of the flavor combination of pork and pinot noirs--Palmer's professed favorite food and wine varietal pairing. The weekend is comprised of a gala dinner, wine and food pairings, and seminars and parties related to all things pork and pinot noir. It's at once decadent and educational--one of the most innovative culinary-themed events in the region. Attendees will be treated to samples of more than 50 pinot noirs from some of the top producers in Sonoma County and the world. The wines are paired with such pork delicacies as charcuterie, homemade sausages, pates, and one-off creations from chef Palmer as well as well-known chefs from San Francisco, New York, even France.

Guests are also invited to check out "swine and wine" seminars and a demonstration-style cooking class. Essentially, when the weekend is over, you'll know about all there is to know about the pairing. And, you might also need to hit the gym. Hotel Healdsburg conveniently has one, and they are also offering special weekend packages for the event. The extravaganza begins Friday, March 14th, and lasts through the weekend. And to make it even more worthwhile, proceeds from the event benefit Share Our Strengths and Healdsburg's St. John's School.

Big Praise for Small Scale Dining

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By Courtney Cochran

Last year Healdsburg diners hit the jackpot when hot spot Ravenous moved from its digs next door the Raven Theater into a more spacious spot across the street, expanding its own business while leaving room for new favorite Ravenette in its pint-sized former location.  The new micro eatery - which seats no more than a dozen or so diners comfortably - has quickly won the hearts of locals who care more about delicious, simply prepared food and friendly service than they do about Michelin star ambiance.

But don't get us wrong - there's still plenty of ambiance at Ravenette, it's just more of the unstudied, bistro-around-the-corner type than the professionally airbrushed motif you see at some of the big-ticket spots.  And when it comes to food, Ravenette positively soars with an unfussy menu emphasizing seasonal ingredients prepared in small plates fashion.  Don't miss the decadent desserts made in-house, and wash everything down with a bottle from the short but well-edited wine list or a favorite from your own cellar.

All this, and you can catch a flick next door when you're done.  Two thumbs up, way up!

Ravenette * 117 North St., Healdsburg, CA 95448 * (707) 431-1770

Bistro Basics

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By Courtney Cochran

Accessories.  Plot lines.  Lunch.  

Like so many things in life, food is often best kept simple.  At newly Michelin-starred K & L Bistro in Sebastopol, this mantra couldn’t be truer.  

The tiny spot - sandwiched between storefronts on Main Street in the quiet western Sonoma community - has nailed French bistro fare, without the fuss.  Dishes like pâté of rillettes and wild mushroom risotto don’t look terrifically pretty, but taste like a million bucks.  Which is exactly the way it ought to be at a bistro, where the emphasis has traditionally been on making good food that doesn’t beak the bank.    

The décor follows the food in this respect:  On a recent lunch-time visit, oil paintings of postcard-worthy Paris spots lined the walls, and high ceilings and an open kitchen created a welcome sense of space and easy informality.

Which led me to reflect that with such a simple recipe, this new star has all the makings of staying power.  And there’s nothing simple about that.   

K & L Bistro * 119 South Main St., Sebastopol, CA 95472 * (707) 823-6614 * Open Mon.-Thu. 11:30am-9pm, Fri.-Sat. 11:30am-10pm

Wonka World, Circa Now

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By Courtney Cochran

Next time you’re looking for something sweet in northern Sonoma County, stop into retro fabulous Powell’s Sweet Shoppe on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg.  The candy emporium boasts floor-to-ceiling displays of every kind of confection imaginable, including both new and vintage brands.

Treats aside, the sweetest part of the experience has to be the uncanny sense of nostalgia that’s felt in every nook and cranny of the store.  From the color palate-like bins of brightly hued saltwater taffy to the old-fashioned soda fountain and excellent selection of retro kids’ toys (cap guns, anyone?), the place fairly oozes small town America, circa way back when.

Fortunately for sugar fans, there’s no need to go back in time to partake of Powell’s bounty.  The only obstacle keeping visitors from sheer confection bliss, in fact, is the spot’s sometimes steep prices, a reminder that we are, in fact, in the here and now.  

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe * 322 Center St., Healdsburg, CA 95448 * (707) 431-2784 * powellssweetshoppe.com

Moon Over My Macaroon

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By Courtney Cochran

Travelers looking for a quick fix of the sugar or caffeine variety need look no further than El Dorado Kitchen’s adorable new mini-me, Kitchenette. Little sister to the El Dorado Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, the deli-style eatery and bakery occupies prime real estate at the northeast corner of the hotel, which sits on Sonoma’s historic town plaza.

Open since July, Kitchenette serves to-die-for baked goods (made fresh every morning, natch), soft-serve ice cream, and a small selection of salads and sandwiches.

Nosh inside the airy, well-lit space that overlooks the plaza or take your grub to go. Options in the libation category include a bevy of coffee drinks brewed from La Coppa beans and a delightful selection of domestic and imported wines, many in handy half-bottle sizes that are perfect for impromptu lunches in the plaza (where you can drink daily ‘til sundown).

eldoradosonoma.com * 707-996-3030 * 405 First Street West, Sonoma, CA 95476

By Jamie Rushing

(SONOMA, CA) -- Imagine realizing that after just 24 hours you are personally obsessed with a girl and a fig. A super delicious foodie brand out of Sonoma… well not just food more like innovative dining, wine pairings, fabulous take-out , best coffee in Sonoma, bakery goodies, artisan sauces and jams, cookbooks, whoopee pies and bottled wines … oh my.

I was first lured into the restaurant, The Girl and the Fig, which sits on Sonoma Square.
The cuisine is Californian with a French twist. Atmosphere relaxed and warm, I settled into a sunny window seat and couldn’t resist ordering a glass of wine with lunch.

The afternoon spread included crab cakes with fresh corn relish & garlic herb aoli (aka the best version of mayo anyone has put in their mouth), a side salad with shaved fennel, salty olives and champagne vinaigrette. Now I know you are saying “but where are the figs.” Don’t worry, grilled and open faced, a sandwich of proscuitto, fresh sliced black figs and handmade mozarrrella drizzled with fig vinegar filled my final culinary cravings.

We paired lunch with a little Sonoma Viognier, Monterey Marsanne and Central Coast Rousanne- a true mouthful of delicious French varietals, not always well done in California. The wine list itself was admirable as the focus was clearly food friendly wines, more on the European style, but most all were from unique areas of California.

Too full for dessert just then, I headed off to my lodging at MacArthur Place. I decided to take the side road- Napa Road (yes, still just off Sonoma Square), to peruse the beautiful homes of those living “the wine country lifestyle.”

This fateful path landed me right in front of The Girl and the Fig Pantry? Oh my god, I had to pull over and just “look”. Right. Look. One big fat look later, I ended up with a big fat Chocolate Chip Whoopee Pie, a Coconut Oatmeal cookie, crispy toasted cashews and some dark chocolates- for the evening (I needed a few nibbles for the late afternoon right? And I did skip dessert the first time!).

I did manage to “look” while at the Pantry, passing up items, like savory cracker snacks, cheeses galore, salts and peppers, infused olive oils, wine vinegars and a line of “Girl and the Fig” products including fig caramel sauce and thick jams.

Looking back for a final farewell, whoopee pie already in my mouth, I knew this little gem hadn’t seen the last of me.

As I awoke the next day, after attending a dreamy Sonoma wedding and packing up to leave behind the fall air of wine country, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. I couldn’t bear the journey back to San Francisco without a little cheery music and a little something to sweeten the ride. (ok so I am being a little dramatic, it is just a 55 minute “journey”).
I decided that maybe a mocha would do the trick… and where did I come crawling back to? The confectionary coffee bar at, what I now like to adoringly call, “the G & the F”. But do you know what was connected to the coffee bar? The gelato bar, so I had to dive into the home churned “fig and port” concoction. It was too good to pass up… “just one scoop please.” Now I was set to hit the road! Or not.

I paused over my first spoonful and thought to myself.. long drive ahead, 5 o’clock and not looking forward to an evening of cooking once arriving home. Hmm, wonder if they have take out. I peered around the corner to find an entire staff ready to package up my 3 course dinner to take home. So I shamelessly, walked over ordered heirloom tomato soup, home style meatloaf, beet gratin and a cheesy breadstick.

And well..let’s just say I didn’t pass up dessert this time… whoopee pie, you’re coming with me.

Mushroom Camp

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by Heather Irwin

FREESTONE--It’s hard not to think a lot about mushrooms right now. Everything underfoot has been squish-squishing for what seems like weeks now, making a happy home for fungi of just about every shape and hue. Beneath leaves, on the sides of bare trees and popping up like perfect little gnome-homes on my lawn, they’re everywhere.

But unlike the many local mushroom hunters, eating anything growing in my yard or found in the woods is something I’d have to think long and hard about doing. I simply don’t know the good stuff from the bad—and unlike nibbling a nasturtium leaf or grabbing a handful of wild blackberries, mushrooms aren’t something to mess with.

Here in Sonoma County, however, there are literally hundreds of varieties of mushrooms, many edible—some not—that can be found in the woods and meadows throughout the county. There are probably equal, if not greater numbers of amateur mycologists (mushroom enthusiasts) who congregate in great numbers this time of year for something called Mushroom Camp. Last Sunday, I stopped by Charmoon Richardson’s to see what all the hubbub was about.

For weeks, foodie friends had been salivating over the upcoming gathering of mushroom folks who forage, collect, sort, eat and talk (and talk, and talk and talk) about little else but local mushrooms for three full days. I figured if nothing else, I'd learn a thing or two about all the odd little fungi threatening to creep into my house.

We stumbled into Camp, located this year at the CYO Camp near Freestone, mid-day on an overcast, cool, slightly damp day: ideal conditions for ‘shroomers. They were everywhere, congregated around tables listening to discussions on how to pick, where to pick, how to identify and how to cook mushrooms. Downstairs, however, was the real mushroom booty. Overflowing from a small room, and onto benches outside were dozens of paper plates, each with a single species of mushroom. Marked with the scientific name, the plates held every size and shape of mushroom imaginable: red, brown, grey and white. There were some that were larger than a fist, and others the size of a large crumb. Covered in dirt and moss, the small room that held most of the prized discoveries (all were found on the several acres at the CYO) was earthy and funky with the smell of wet, dank mushrooms—the smell of sweet success to triumphant mushroom hunters.

For more info on the Sonoma Mycological Association, and Mushroom Camp, contact http://somamushrooms.org/.

+++++++++++
Beyond Crimini:
Stores like Whole Foods and Olivers (in Santa Rosa) are carrying a huge selection of exotic mushrooms right now…from oyster and porcini to wood ear and shitake. Many come from local commercial mushroom purveyors in Petaluma and Mendocino, so look first for local. A fun way to try an exotic blend are with the Chef’s Packs (about $7) that include three to four kinds of mushrooms that can be used in a great mushroom soup or mushroom risotto.

If you can’t buy fresh, local mushrooms, you can buy dried ones locally at West County Dried Mushrooms or from purveyors like Far West Fungi (at San Francisco’s Ferry Building).

By Heather Irwin

SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA -- When people find out I'm a food writer, their first question is usually, "How'd you get that gig?" When they find out what freelance food critics actually make and how often I get indigestion (or worse), the jealous looks on their faces slide off pretty quickly. The next question is, "Where's your favorite restaurant?" They're usually equally disappointed with that answer, too.

Truth is, picking a favorite restaurant is like picking a favorite child. They all have their charms...and their, well, not so delightful sides. You'd be surprised at how a great restaurant can have a seedy kitchen staff or even seedier waiters...or how a little hole in the wall joint down the street can serve up the most divine noodles you've ever laid chopsticks on.

So, when I'm asked, I typically turn the question back around. "What are you hungry for?" If nothing else it stalls them for a while, as I run through my mental Roladex.

A restaurant, however, that I find myself returning to again and again...and again, depending on just how rough a day it's been is Pho Vietnam in Santa Rosa. Decor, I'll say up front, isn't the strong suit here. Tucked into what is quite possibly the world's tackiest minimall, it's usually hot, packed with locals and all the counters are, er, a little sticky. But your'e not here for the ambiance, anyway. You're here for the noodles.

I'm a creature of habit, so each time, I order the A-6 (fresh springrolls with pork and shrimp) and the #36 glass noodles with BBQ pork, eggrolls and shrimp. The rolls are filled with noodles, lettuce, cilantro, mint and meat, and come with peanut dipping sauce which is frustratingly gone by the time you've eaten the second roll. A sweet mixture of vinegar, peppers and fish sauce is poured over the noodles, making the whole mess a slippery, drippy mess that can turn a bad day good. And that, I tell my friends, is what makes any restaurant my favorite.

If you go: Pho Vietnam, 711 Stony Point Rd # 8, Santa Rosa, 707.571.7687

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