Think Sonoma Wine Country dining, and many people think of Healdsburg, known for its many excellent restaurants.
Part of the reason so many top chefs love the area is because of the many famous wineries there – travelers come from all over to visit properties like Seghesio Family Vineyards, Quivira Vineyards, and Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery.
Before or after wine tasting, a great meal awaits.
Restaurateurs Kyle and Katina Connaughton finessed every last detail of the combination restaurant and luxury inn. They planted their own five-acre SingleThread Farm property between the Russian River and the historic San Lorenzo Ranch nearby, and established a 3,000-square-foot rooftop garden above the restaurant, both dedicated to growing boutique ingredients for the food and cocktail menus. The concept is kaiseki – elaborate multicourse meals crafted as art – and donabe – rustic clay pot cooking. Menus change daily, but might mean delicacies like black cod Fukkura-san (donabe style) with root vegetables, cabbage, charred onion, and walnut-nori pesto; plus wild salmon donabe-smoked over cherry-blossom-wood with fermented rice, salmon roe, and wild ginger.
Former Dry Creek Kitchen talent Dustin Valette is rocking the food world, bringing in crowds for his contemporary Cal-global cooking and a sexy, reclaimed-wood-trimmed, open kitchen ambience. Reservations are recommended to score a table laden with seasonally (and often weekly) changing dishes like slow cooked celeriac soup with toasted pistachios, yellow beet tartare, and goat cheese meringue, or crispy skin local sable fish with MIX garden bok choy, roasted ginger dashi, toasted soba noodles, and spicy kimchee purée. Be sure to start with hand crafted charcuterie from the custom-made curing case, and if you’re feeling adventurous, tuck into the “Trust Me” menu where Valette sends out a multi-course feast of his daily picks.
If you’re craving Barcelona tapas like boquerones, creamy chicken croquettes, and local sardines in black olive ink, this fashionable dining room and bar from chef Mark Stark will do you right. Set in a chic cottage, the boisterous spot offers specialties like fried pig ears, a ham-and-cheese bar, and signature gin and tonics such as the Levante of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, orange, saffron and cardamom.
Chalkboard showcases California ingredients, mainly in small plates of crudos and pastas of the day listed on a chalkboard. The format means dishes are sent to the tables in whatever order the cooks get them ready, but it results in the fun of sharing, and surprise, as we sometimes forget what we ordered but are so delighted when it arrives. The look is sleek and bright, with big windows and an open kitchen, while the food is wide ranging and often complex, from buttermilk fried quail decorated with fava beans, nasturtium greens, fennel, and cubed pepper vinaigrette, to beef tartare in a hefty, molded round moistened with quail egg, Calabrian chile, celery hearts, parsley, and smoked salt to be spooned on crostini.
Campo Fina finesses the art of distinctive dining, bringing a big city feel to this Wine Country town, with dishes like salsa verde anchovy eggs. The patio is a destination in itself. The café in front is small and narrow, but packed with chic statement. What used to be a storage lot out back is now an al fresco hot spot, anchored by a freestanding wood-burning pizza oven, bocce court, and a full bar.
You could make a full meal from the bar menu, nibbling on spicy fried chickpeas, burrata smeared on grilled bread with prosciutto, or fingerling potatoes smashed and fried, with mustard aioli and parsley. But bigger entrees will call your name, perhaps a hearty meatball sandwich on a crusty artisan roll, or a tiny, perfect portion of chicken that had better be ordered as soon as you sit down, because it’s made in limited amounts and ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone.’ Or go for a wood-fired pizza, with options like grilled brocollini or Pizza Bianca (fontina, winter squash, caramelized onions, rosemary, radicchio, and aged balsamic).
In addition to its Old World-style curated butcher counter, it offers a limited menu (including pizzas) from its wood-fired oven, its own handmade salumi and smoked sausages, and seasonal meat and wine pairings.
The menu changes weekly; recent selections included a Bianco Pizza (roasted leeks with bacon and farm egg); a roasted 3 oz. Market Steak served with arugula, parmigano reggiano, and grilled bread; a Bacon Burger; and a Sausage Trio Board featuring family recipes with locally raised pork.
If a bakery has been open since 1923, as this one has, it has to be doing something right. Just one example of that something is pie, made with wholesome fresh ingredients including pure butter, farm fresh eggs, real vanilla, and unbleached flour. Classic fruit pies are deep-dish 8-inch flaky buttery crust models with seasonal fruits like pumpkin. Or go wild, and indulge with a signature creamy Bavarian custard pie, encased in buttery pâte sucré and topped with a generous amount of fresh seasonal fruit. Besides pastries, the chic café offers quiche, omelets, and a very good salad of mixed greens, Willie Bird smoked duck breast, sliced almonds, chèvre, crostini, and balsamic vinaigrette. The cranberry turkey sandwich is a year-round favorite, too, on nine-grain toast with brie, baby greens, and avocado mayonnaise.
Baci Café & Wine Bar features regional Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, paired with wines from Sonoma, Napa, and Italy. Baci (which means ‘kisses’ in Italian) offers a creative and delicious menu, with sustainable and organic-based cooking methods.
Choose from pizza from the wood burning oven, a wide variety of pasta dishes, the Chef’s Tasting Menu (five to seven courses), large combination platters, or seasonal dishes like Al Forno (pasta rolls filled with fresh Dungeness crab).
Focusing on the flavors of Oaxaca, chef-owner Octavio Diaz impresses with homemade sauces, moles, and salsas, for refined dishes like Mole Negro de Oaxaca. The pretty dish brings Mary’s chicken draped in rich mole made from a rainbow of dried chiles, herbs, spices, almonds, and chocolate. The patio is a favorite for casual dining, savoring hearty dishes like molcajete, a giant, volcanic stone bowl brimming with sautéed prawns, steak, grilled chicken, grilled peppers, chipotle chiles, onions, and ranchero sauce.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.
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