Deirdre Bourdet: November 2010 Archives

Mushroom Hunting in Mendocino

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By Deirdre Bourdet

If, like me, you missed this year's Wine and Mushroom Festival in Mendocino (November 5-14th) don't delay your shroom-hunting expedition until next November.  Many other opportunities to stalk the wild mushroom await you in the coming months! 

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg maintain an unbelievable variety of flora on their grounds.  In addition to the meticulous formal gardens, dense pine forest, fern-covered canyons, camellias, magnolias, heathers, and flowered coastal bluffs on the Pacific Ocean, there are wild mushrooms galore.  Every wintry Monday afternoon through January 31, 2011, the Gardens' staff mycologists lead off-trail Mushroom Walks through the funghi's favorite growing areas, and instruct participants about mushroom myths, biology, and identification.  Tours run every Monday from 1:30pm to 3pm through January 31, 2011, and are free with admission to the gardens ($10 per adult, discounted rates available for seniors, Mendocino County residents, and kids). Come prepared for wet weather and messy tromping through the wilds.  18220 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, 707.964.4352x16.

Change Is Afoot At the Oxbow Public Market

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oxbowmarketsign.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The Oxbow Market is one of my favorite destinations in the Napa Valley.  It has everything a foodie could want in one convenient, comfortable, and very social marketplace.  As a local, it's rare that I stop in without spotting at least one person I know.  With the fantastic new changes in the Main Hall this autumn, the Oxbow's cult following is about to get a lot bigger.  

One of the biggest issues for people visiting the Oxbow in the evening was the early shuttering of the stores, starting around 7pm.  Starting November 17th, the Oxbow will be open every night until at least 9pm, eliminating the need to eat an early bird supper or leave the building.  "Oxbow at Nite!" aims to make the market an anytime, any day kind of scene: it's not just for Tuesdays anymore.

Feasting in Sonoma This Thanksgiving

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By Deirdre Bourdet

If you find yourself in Sonoma on November 25th this year, skip the stressful prep and aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday, and focus on the feasting at one of these great local restaurants. From the rugged coast to the inland valleys, Sonoma has a wealth of delicious ways to give thanks.

Alexander's is perched right on the dramatic Sonoma Coast in the Timber Cove Inn, and enjoys panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from the dining room. Their four course, $60 "Celebration of Cultural Heritage" menu begins with a wild mushroom soup paired with foraged local acorns. Next, a punchy salad of apple and watercress with guanciale, blood orange oil, walnuts, and marigolds freshens the palate before the bird of the hour arrives at the table. The turkey here comes in two parts--herb roasted breast and cocoa-confit leg--accompanied by an Okinawa sweet potato gratin, wild mushroom stuffing, brussel sprouts, and a house-made cranberry sauce. The meal ends on a sweet and shiny note with "laminated" pastry and a poached Suckle pear. Since the Timber Cove Inn is right there on site, dinner here is the perfect spot for an impromptu romantic getaway.

We All Swoon for Spoonbar

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spoonbar4.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The h2hotel is Healdsburg's newest swank place to sleep, but its in-house bar does a lot to prevent any sleep from happening.  Sleek modern furniture, all-spoon waterfall, small production artisanal liquors, classic glassware, and incomparable barman Scott Beattie at the helm make it very hard to call it a night when Spoonbar bartenders await.

Bar Manager Scott Beattie first secured his place in the pantheon of celebrity mixologists when he created the award-winning bar program at Cyrus restaurant, just a few steps up the street in the Les Mars hotel.  Scott's rigorous standards for organic seasonal produce, ultra-premium mixers, and craft-distilled local spirits changed the way people looked at cocktails--and the way cocktails look.  His excellent mixologist cookbook, Artisanal Cocktails, belongs in every cocktail enthusiast's library, whether or not you can hunt down fresh Rangpur limes or borage blossoms in your area, and whether or not you ever intend to dehydrate lotus chips, pickle hearts of palm, or make grapefruit foams to garnish your drinks.   After a few years of freelance cocktail catering and consulting post cocktail cookbook, Scott has again stepped behind the bar to kick off the program at Spoonbar, a restaurant with locally-driven, sustainable ingredient sourcing priorities that line up rather nicely with his own.  

Healdsburg's Dry Creek Kitchen

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drycreekkitchen.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

All too frequently, restaurants run by out-of-town celebrity chefs reflect their out of town origins more than their actual location.  Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen bucks that trend in every respect, and more than lives up to its name.   

Chef de cuisine and Healdsburg native Dustin Vallette manages the kitchen, crafting elegant menus from Sonoma County's finest seasonal ingredients to complement the region's distinctive wines.  Sommelier Drew Munro has created an all-Sonoma County wine list of over 600 different bottles, including the largest selection of dessert wines of any Sonoma restaurant, but the restaurant charges no corkage for Sonoma County wines brought in to the restaurant.   Dry Creek Kitchen's active participation in numerous special events throughout the year further celebrates the local winemakers, and food artisans of the area.

The restaurant is situated on the main square in downtown Healdsburg, immediately next to the swank Healdsburg Hotel.  I met General Manager Dan Prentice last year during an unrelated visit to the hotel last year, and after a fascinating discussion of the restaurant's numerous dining and wine programs, he invited me back to experience them first-hand. 

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