Wine Country: February 2008 Archives

The Duck Stops Here

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By Courtney Cochran

Long the doyenne of the luxe food lexicon, foie gras appears to be on its way out.  This week's shuttering of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cambridge following violent protests by anti-foie gras activists is just the latest in a string of retractions relating to sales of the delicacy.  To wit, top Chicago toque Charlie Trotter pulled the controversial item from his menus in 2005, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has approved legislation that will phase out foie gras production in the Golden State by 2012.

Made from the fattened livers of force-fed geese and ducks - the inelegant process is known as gavage - foie gras is a source of conflict for many diners who applaud its singular savory-rich taste but shrink from tales of how it's made.  But, with outbursts like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)'s recent vandalism in Cambridge - in response to which the restaurant pulled foie gras from its menu - it's a tale few are able to ignore at this point.  

Provençal Prodigy

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By Courtney Cochran


Travelers who find themselves on the charming Central California coast are well advised to stop in to Corkscrew Café (, an almost unbelievably cute eatery tucked into the rolling hills outside Carmel.  With its early Monterey mission meets-Provençal farmhouse décor and vibrant gardens, this gem from the same folks behind Carmel's well-liked Casanova restaurant is almost worth a trip in and of itself.

Settle into a table on the popular terrace when the weather is nice, or dine in one of the spot's appealingly well-lit dining rooms, where colorful walls and cool tile floors act as antidotes to the sometimes scorching heat outside.  When it comes to food, the spot's a haven for diners who appreciate low-frills fare made with only the freshest ingredients (there's an on-site garden, natch).  Don't miss the signature pâté of duck and pistachio, the daily-changing selection of burgers and sandwiches made exclusively from hormone-free meats and the superbly simple desserts made in-house.  Wash it all down with a rich red from Georis Winery - located next door and owned by the same family - then linger to check out the café's impressive collection of antique corkscrews.

55 West Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, CA 93921 * (831) 659-8888 * Open for lunch Mon-Sat & dinner Fri & Sat

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