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Jul 26, 2006 01:24 AM

Occidental - Bistro des Copains - any reports?

We're heading up to Guerneville and Russian River this weekend and need a decent place for 4-8 (number is still TBD).

I know about Farmhouse Inn, Stella's and the others, but we will actually be coming from Cazadero, west of Guerneville, so Occidental is most convenient.

Last year we had a couple of great meals at The Naked Lady, but it is apparently closed now.

I looked around and came upon Bistro des Copains, south of Occidental and the menu looks good.

Has anyone eaten there, or alternatively, do you have a good current Occidental suggestion. The Union Hotel is too ordinary, so something interesting nearby would be welcome.

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  1. Sorry, I haven't been there. The menu does look interesting, very Provencal if prepared in the traditional way.

    I'm hoping you'll try it, as I'd love to hear a report from you!

    But, have you considered the Applewood Inn in Guerneville?

    Kathleen's post -

    Applewood Inn & Restaurant
    13555 Hwy 116
    Guerneville, CA
    (707) 869-9093

    1. I ate there in early July about 5 weeks after opening.
      Michel, one of the partners, is very congenial. They did a nice job on the dining room. The 2 wood burning ovens are tempting, the philosophy of the food admirable.
      I was disappointed by the cooking. Michel had so many great things to say about his chef... alas I didn't see those things on my plates. The service was friendly and what one would expect from a small town place. The wine list is short and very affordable but as corkage is so low, better to bring your own - if you go.
      Nice thing about Occidental is it is so close to all points in west county.

      1. I was there earlier this summer, in June, just a few weeks after they opened.

        I started with the oyster sampler (2 each of 3 local oysters), which were beautifully fresh and served with a mignonette of red wine vinegar. I prefer a milder mignonette: while this one was tasty, I had to be very sparing to avoid overwhelming the poor oysters. I also had a glass of the Iron Horse Cuvee.

        I went on to the three-course prix fixe, which that night consisted of the butter lettuce salad, the salmon, and the chocolate souffle cake; I forget what wine I paired it with.
        The salad was pleasant enough: the dressing was light and, unlike the oysters' mignonette, did not overpower the leaves. My server alerted me that the salmon would be prepared medium rare by default, but alas, arrived well done. It was served over mashed potatoes. Since I was sitting at the bar, I was able to observe the dishes coming out of the kitchen, and I noticed that the mashed potatoes were pretty ubiquitous. The chocolate souffle cake surprised me a little: it was prepared in a sort of shallow, undersized (4-5 inch diameter) fluted quiche dish. It had been baked in the wood-burning oven, and so had risen and baked unevenly.

        The service was friendly and attentive (and I had three separate people offer me bread).

        Total for two glasses of wine, the oysters, the prix fixe, and tip: about $65

        I would certainly go back if I were in the area.

        They took over the old Naked Lady location, BTW.

        1. So today we went to Bistro des Copains for dinner. There were 9 of us, so we had a chance to sample the menu.

          When I arrived (early) I met Michel, the owner (?) and Melissa (the chef), who was sitting at the wine bar. We chatted and I noted that they had a number of french rose wines available. My wife and I had been talking about how much we like these dry roses, so I ordered a glass of 2005 Mas de Gourgonnier (from Les Baux) - very nice, medium body and quite refreshing.

          Once the group assembled (5 adults and 4 teenagers), we proceeded to sample the following items:

          1. Beet salad - three colors of fresh, local Sebastapol beets with toasted walnuts in a light vinagerette - perfectly cooked, sweet and earthy, complemented with some slices of a hard cheese (sorry, can't recall). Very good.

          2. Salt cod fritters - three 2" crab-cake shaped fritters, nicely pan-fried in a crumb crust. A mixture of the salt cod mixed with very light fluffy potatoes, served with a tomato coulis. Tasty with good texture inside and out. Not up to the standard of bacalaou at Piperade, but tasty. Very good.

          3. Ravioli - these were obviously large and homemade - stuffed with eggplant and chevre, topped with a coarse sauce of tomatoes and olives. Very summery in flavor, we could forgive the slight heaviness in the pasta because it was obviously homemade.

          4. Roast chicken - a huge portion of chicken (half chicken) with not much else but sauce. It looked good but I didn't try it - two people at the table had it, and reported to be good.

          5. Margherita pizza - my son reported it to be quite good - it went quickly!

          6. Pissaladiere Provencal - a pizza with carmelized onions, olives and (optional) anchovies. I ordered with anchovies, my daughter without - both of us found the onions to be too dried out and the crust-to-topping ratio was a bit heavy on crust. Also the crust was a bit dry and chalky. I actually mentioned this to Michel at the end of the meal, in the hope that they can calibrate their wood-burning oven (and pizza chefs) for improvement. That oven can definitely produce much better pizzas as we found out last year when the location was The Naked Lady.

          My wife and I also sampled a flight of French rose's (sorry, can't get the accent here):
          1. 2005 Vin Gris - Lynmar - light and somewhat floral notes.
          2. 2005 Corbieres Gris de Gris (Domaine de Fointsainte) - very nice - I recall it may have had some Grenache in it - I think Michel said it can be found at Kermit Lynch in Berkeley
          3. The Les Baux I described earlier.

          All in all, given the location, it's a worthwhile place to visit if you are in the Russian River area, as we were this weekend. The location is about 15 minutes south and west of Guerneville and very quiet location.

          The restaurant just opened in June, and the service is still a bit uneven, but Michel and Melissa seem genuinely committed to pulling a nice place together, and the variety of tasty-sounding Provencal dishes will bring us back. Actually, we're going again next Saturday as we're heading back up again.

          1 Reply
          1. re: RichInMV

            Rich, I'm so glad it worked out for you. Thanks for reporting back.

            Yes, I've had good pizzas from those ovens during the West Pole incarnation of the site.