A Taste of Litchfield’s at Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa

A Taste of Litchfield's at Sonoma Coast Villa Resort & Spa

Carey Sweet

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The 60-acre Sonoma Coast Villa Resort & Spa property on Bodega's Shoreline Highway has been in operation since 1976. Recently, it took on new life, undergoing extensive renovations and re-opening last spring with the new Litchfield's restaurant.

What a great local secret, since previously, the restaurant was only open to resort guests. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere, too, surrounded by cattle pastures, with the low-slung Tuscan-style main building a bit hidden behind a gently sloping hillside.

The name is in tribute to the owners, Charlie Litchfield and his father Perry Litchfield, who bought the property in 2010 and now run the 18-room hideaway and Mediterranean themed restaurant.

Litchfield's, Bodega, Sonoma County, California

The look: If you love classic Sonoma (and I do), you'll love this place. Quaint yet still elegant, the dining room sits beneath a dramatic 22-foot wood rafter ceiling, and is warmed by a wood burning fireplace. Views of the garden are soothing, and I appreciate how classic touches like white tablecloths add extra elegance.

To eat: The brief dinner menu rotates often, but usually includes several favorites that chef Ivan Rodriguez (Sausalito's Cavallo Point and Healdsburg SHED,) has perfected with local ingredients sourced from surrounding farms, ranches, and creameries. Signatures are seasonal, too, which meant that a recent dinner celebrated fall and winter flavors.

Litchfield's, Bodega, Sonoma County, California

We started with burrata salad, a marvelous, creative tumble of bitter radicchio, sweet kiwi and pomegranate, zingy mint, creamy burrata, and pistachios, all laced in honey vinaigrette ($9). I've never had such an intriguing soup as this, either, of creamy, cardamom-spiced rutabaga ($9) that's tart, earthy, and made me think of holiday pie.

Chef Rodriguez put his statement on cioppino ($32) as well, jazzing up the tomato broth with Ethiopian/Eritrean berbere chile blend. The heat builds slowly, adding welcome sizzle to the pulled crabmeat, mussels, clams, rock cod, and firm shrimp.

Litchfield's, Bodega, Sonoma County, California

Duck breast, meanwhile, gets a holiday touch with a dollop of cranberry sauce alongside the broccolini and celery root puree. The thick slabs of bird are rimmed with a ribbon of succulent fat and edged in crispy golden skin ($34).

And even if you're not a vegetarian, bets are you'll like the excellent saffron couscous, the fluffy grains tossed with grilled golden beets, meaty wild mushrooms, red onions and a robust herb pesto ($26). Some of the mushrooms, my server explains, are foraged from the resort estate.

Litchfield's, Bodega, Sonoma County, California

To note: Fish is a consistent standout, here, be it pan-roasted halibut in garlic cream sauce with tender roasted knobs of fennel, or wild king salmon in pesto atop wild rice risotto finished with fresh basil. The chef is an expert at keeping the flesh moist while giving the skin decadent crispiness.

Dessert: Beignets Chantilly are a specialty for good reason, the deep fried choux pastries showered in powdered sugar and set on a pond of strawberry sauce with fresh berries and pillows of whipped cream ($9).

To drink: Servers like to recommend boutique selections from neighboring wineries, for bottlings you won't often find elsewhere.

Details: Litchfield's, 16702 Shoreline Highway, Bodega, 707-876-9812.