October. Birthday month. I can hear the sighs and see the eye-rolling from my friends. Yes, October is my birthday month, but, let me assure you, last year’s bacchanalia of birthday festivities was just a one-time thing. I promise.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday, so I definitely plan, like usual, to take full advantage of a gathering or possibly a meal or two being about nothing other than little old me spread out languidly over the course of the month. There are plenty of new, tasty options to have dinner in and around Sonoma.
The Thomas is a new hipster hot spot located in Napa’s newly bustling downtown. It’s housed in a very cool historic building along the Napa River that has sadly sat empty since the early seventies. There is a creepy story that hints at a haunting, but the wine chugging, skinny jean wearing crowd didn’t seem to mind. The building has been fabulously restored to the closest thing that I have seen to a New York City restaurant this side of the Rockies.
The best part of the atmospheric, three-story dining room is the gorgeous, open air, rooftop space dotted with tables and a long wooden bar all glowing beneath strings of twinkling lights. The menu reads like my birthday wish list. Think bone marrow on toast and classic French bistro seafood plateaus. Everything about The Thomas screams, “Festive!” I can’t wait to go back for their perfect sounding Sunday Brunch. It’s best to make reservations before heading over the hill. Call The Thomas at 226.7821 to do so.
Finally! Just in time for birthday month, my favorite Sonoma roadside eatery, the Fremont Diner, will begin serving up a menu of barbecue dinners beginning October 18 and I couldn’t be more excited! Possibly, I will get the gang together for heaping platters of Chad’s spicy-sticky pulled pig, hopefully some sort of vinegary, forever-cooked greens, and plenty of Rancho Gordo baked beans.
I definitely will wish for a few dozen of their truly addictive deviled eggs, which arrive embellished with the thoughtful addition of a heaping spoonful of tangy mustard seeds which pop like caviar in your mouth. More than likely we’ll end up with caramel cake for dessert and all crammed into the photo booth, especially after Mason jar after Mason jar of local keg wine. Call the Fremont Diner for specifics at 938.7370.
I was terribly saddened by the departure of Cafe 522 and continue to mourn the loss of those heavenly fresh noodles with chicken livers, and a perfectly poached egg. Sigh. In its place, Restaurant Rudy, I am relieved to say, is whipping up some pretty tasty dishes in a lovely, updated space. The dining room is now a tad more elegant then in the 522 days, with a menu to match. We nibbled on just about everything from the smallish menu. Each dish was skillfully prepared, particularly the seafood. I craved a whole platter of nothing more than the beautiful boneless filet of sardine which adorned the simple Caesar salad. I wished we had room for dessert, but I will be back since, during birthday month, there’s always room for dessert. Restaurant Rudy is located at 522 Broadway. Call 938.7373 for reservations or more information.
Kristin’s Event Pick of the Month
“The Story of Wine in the Park,” is a discussion and tasting at Jack London Historic State Park. Explore this fascinating history with Lou Leal, Sonoma Valley winemaker and Jack London historian, and Marvin Collins, photographer and writer for Wine & Spirits Magazine. The duo will lead a conversation about the wineries and wine made on the lands of Jack London Historic State Park and in the surrounding Glen Ellen area from 1860 to the present. In addition to their talk, they will lead a tour of Beauty Ranch to explore the old winery buildings and vineyards and conclude with a tasting of Kenwood Vineyard wines. This fabulous afternoon takes place on Saturday, October 27, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Purchase tickets in advance or obtain more information at Jacklondonpark.com. Seating is limited.
On the Menu
Chef Rob Larman and Cochon Volant host a “La Poste Bistro Dinner” at the Valley Wine Shack on October 18 from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The tres yummy-sounding menu includes an heirloom tomato salad with wild arugula and Burrata, duck legs braised in red wine, with a puree of root vegetables and Romano beans, and mixed berries with lemon curd and biscotti. The dinner costs a mere $35, with affordable Valley Wine Shack wines available by the glass and bottle. Make your necessary reservations by calling 938.7218. The Valley Wine Shack is located at 535 West Napa Street.
While sitting on Swanson Vineyards’ spectacular courtyard in Napa, I feel as if I have been transported to an epic home nestled in the lavender-studded countryside of France. The idyllic space is truly lovely, made even more so when sipping the winery’s delicious wines and listening to Sonoma’s own French musician Michel Saga playing his vintage French barrel organ. Michel plays at Swanson each Saturday in October from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call the winery to save your space at 754.4018. Visit swansonvineyards.com for more information.
The Epicurean Connection always has plenty of great food-related happenings in store. On October 24, they host a “Dinner with Idell Family Vineyard & Hamel Family Vineyards,” featuring a menu courtesy of guest chefs from The Depot Hotel & Crisp Bakery. On November 14, “Dinner with Paula Wolfert” boasts a complete Moroccan menu prepared by Sheana Davis. The Epicurean Connection is located at 122 West Napa St. Call 935.960 or visit their website at sheanadavis.com for details on the shop or these events.
One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon drinking wine, Kunde’s “Hike & Taste in the Vineyards” is next Saturday, October 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Join Sonoma Valley Docent Bill Myers on a fun, casual and up-close hike through the 1,850 acre volcanic and vertical Kunde Estate. This is a great opportunity to see sustainable winegrowing practices at work while taking in some of wine country’s most spectacular scenery. Reservations required. For more information please contact Naomi Dohert at 282.1531.
Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken Livers
Recipe inspired by Cafe 522
Top this decadent pasta with a runny poached egg for ultimate happiness.
In a medium bowl, cover the chicken livers with the milk and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and pat completely dry. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken livers and cook over high heat until lightly browned on the bottoms, about 2 minutes. Turn the livers. Add the shallot, garlic and thyme to the skillet and cook until the shallot and garlic are fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a food processor and pulse until chopped. With the machine on, add the butter and puree until smooth. Scrape the chicken-liver butter into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the chicken-liver butter, chives, and the reserved pasta cooking water. Bring to a simmer over moderately low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Transfer to bowls, top each dish with a poached egg, and serve right away.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at [email protected]