Sonoma County’s St. Francis is Top Restaurant in the Nation
The lines just keep blurring further between winery and restaurant in Sonoma County, as more and more tasting rooms bring on the big-name chef component and offer everything from small plate pairings to full, sit down meals.
To rate the public’s love, the online restaurant reservations site compiled more than 5 million user reviews for about 19,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Then they designated the most popular 100 restaurants from those reviews.
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant of Forestville also made the Top 100 roster.
What’s significant about the St. Francis win is that it’s not a restaurant, exactly. Though once a diner leaps into the farm-to-table Wine & Food Pairing experience, it can be hard to tell the difference.
The one-and-a-half-hour long pairing features a six-course tasting menu prepared by executive chef David Bush (formerly of girl & the fig and The Carnelian Room), paired with wines from St. Francis’ artisan collection.
Guests reserve one of three scheduled seatings at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, or two seatings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.
There’s another way to tell it’s not a restaurant: the prices. Since it’s part of the winery experience, the tab comes in at just $45 (Wine club members $36).
Presented as small tasting plates, each meal is hosted by a St. Francis wine expert, to describe the recipes and why the wines work with the ingredients.
On a recent day, diners indulged in red curry braised squash with kale falafel, fried cashews, raw baby kale and minted yogurt (paired with 2012 Viognier, Wild Oak Vineyard, Sonoma Valley), and mushroom and ricotta agnolotti scattered in seared mushrooms, pickled red onions, mache and shaved Grana Padano (2011 Red Wine, Cuvée Lago, Sonoma County).
Next was bouillabaisse of fresh fish and shellfish, fingerling potatoes, fennel fronds and grilled crostini topped in rouille (2010 Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Valley), followed by grilled bavette of beef with Bloomsdale spinach in sesame-miso vinaigrette, baby turnips, garlic chips and truffled ponzu (2010 Merlot, Behler Vineyard, Sonoma Valley).
To finish, the chef offered a seasonal cheese selection, plus peanut butter mousse covered in dark chocolate ganache with red wine soaked blueberries and pretzel crunch (2010 Zinfandel, Amann Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley).
St. Francis is getting plenty of love lately, by the way. In the Holiday 2013 issue of People Magazine, Cooking Channel Star Jason Sobocinski recommends St. Francis wines for party-favorite grilled cheese and wine parties. So what is the perfect pairing for his three-course grilled cheese menu? He suggests St. Francis Sonoma County Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Over at the Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville, the circa-1870 hideaway consistently wins a Michelin-star for its extremely popular Cal-Mediterranean food and sophisticated setting of antiques and modern farm touches, plus big glass windows overlooking lush gardens.
Chef Steve Litke cooks in a stunning salute to seasonal Sonoma County, for seasonal signatures like burrata stabbed with crispy tempura’d herb leaves over a fan of multi-color heirloom tomatoes lined with a stripe of sweet corn kernels.
One of The Farmhouse’s signature dishes is rabbit, and Litke offers it as a trio, bringing a rich, filling presentation. There’s a roasted rack, so petite it looks like meat with a mini Mohawk of bones. There’s loin, cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood smoked bacon. And there’s leg confit, draped in velvety whole grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potato.
Naturally, reservations for both St. Francis and Farmhouse are strongly recommended.
Read about more about other top restaurants with Michelin Stars in Sonoma County.