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critique my food choices in wine country

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  • edub Jul 7, 2014 04:48 PM
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Hi Chowhounds,

I would love some help with the food portion of my itinerary (Wed July 16-Sat July 19). I've pored over previous posts but still have questions!

The first day (not even a half day), we have a 5pm reservation at the Mayo Family tasting room. I haven't seen a recent Chowhound review. Can anyone give me feedback?

We also have a 7:45pm at Glen Ellen Star. I was under the impression that Mayo wasn't really a lot of food - would it be overkill to do Mayo as appetizer and Glen Ellen Star as dinner? And is Glen Ellen Star all that?

We are staying in Petaluna, so breakfasts will probably be from Della Fattore and other bakeries, except that one day we'll venture to El Molino for chilaquiles (we are addicts). Has anyone been there for breakfast? Most lunches will be picnics we bring with us from Petaluma, or something quick we procure on the way. The one exception is the first day, when we'll be coming through Napa, and I'd like to stop at Oxbow. I was thinking the arepas place for lunch, would welcome thoughts.

We end our first day at Scribe, so was thinking about a 6:30pm at Girl and the Fig. Is it still top-notch, or are there other better places in Sonoma town? I adore figs but from what I see on the menu it doesn't appear I'm guaranteed them. Would welcome thoughts on the Sonoma night dinner.

Friday night we were planning on Central Market, so we could stay local to our hotel. Reviews seem to be great. Are we missing anything else in Petaluma? (I want to pick up a sandwich with Dutch crunch bread somewhere along the way too).

Saturday is our Healdsburg/rose day. If we are up early might do Healdsburg shed for breakfast but haven't seen many reviews. We want to hit Quivira, Mauritson, and MacPhail. Any good lunch options along the way?

We are taking the redeye out of SFO Saturday night, so for dinner I was thinking Picco in Larkspur (based on the raves I've read on Chowhound). Would that leave us with full tummies and happy memories before heading back East?

I really welcome other suggestions and alternatives. We went to Ad Hoc 7 years ago and had one of the most memorable meals ever, but everything I've read suggests that it's gone downhill (and for some reason that extra fifth course they offer seems to throw the simplicity of the menu off). But you wouldn't have to work too hard to change my mind. Other delicious options welcomed! Thanks.

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  1. I think your choices are all stellar. There's one favorite casual lunch stop you may like, just northeast of Healdsburg, Jimtown Store.

    1. It all depends on what you'd enjoy most. I'd run up to Hole In the Wall/Sebastopol, a quick 15-20 min drive, for breakfast or lunch. No reservations, same menu for lunch and dinner. We feel chef/owner Adam Beers is doing an amazing job at this modest little cafe.

      We're not lovers of Central Market. We found the deep-frying uniformly greasy and the flavors unbalanced. The chef comes out and glad-hands endlessly, something we rarely approve of, since we trust line cooks without supervision about as far as we can throw them. Petaluma is not a great restaurant town. We enjoy Le Bistro, which is more Continental than French. Portions are small, but his execution is classic. Again, we would rather go to Sebastopol, where French Garden and K&L Bistro are both beautiful and do terrific food.

      Sonoma Square: Girl & Fig is good. So are Cafe La Haye, La Salette, and although no one else seems to like them, Depot Hotel Restaurant, just off the Square.

      H.Shed is an odd duck that is a little bit kitchen store, a little bit deli/bakery, a little bit gourmet foodstuffs, and fully one-half meeting/classroom space. It, and Downtown Bakery, are right on Healdsburg Square, so your choice for breakfast. We get our coffee at Flying Goat, near Downtown Bakery, as we love their coffees and espresso drinks. If you are closer to lunchtime, go to Shed; they'll have more lunch items than Downtown, which is a true bakery and not so cafe-like.

      Hole in the Wall
      972 Gravenstein Hwy. South, Sebastopol, CA
      http://www.holeinthewallsebastopol.co...

      Le Bistro
      312 Petaluma Blvd. So., Petaluma, CA
      No website; Yelp reviews http://www.yelp.com/biz/le-bistro-pet...

      Cafe La Haye
      140 E. Napa St., Sonoma
      www.cafelahaye.com

      La Salette
      452-H First Street East, Sonoma, CA
      www.lasalette-restaurant.com

      Depot Hotel Restaurant and Garden
      241 First St. West, Sonoma, CA
      http://www.depotsonoma.com/Depot-Menu

      Downtown Bakery & Creamery
      308 Center St., Healdsburg
      www.downtownbakery.net

      Flying Goat Coffee
      419 Center St, Healdsburg

      1. Since Jaiko mentioned Sebastopol, if you are interested in taking a scenic ride north of Petaluma and west of Sebastopol, Wildflour Bakery is a really great spot. http://www.wildflourbread.com/

        In that same area, I have not tried this place, but I think the CH reviews have been positive: http://www.rockeroysterfellers.com/

        There have also been recent positive review of this place, a bit north of Healdsburg: http://www.diavolapizzeria.com/

        1. Thank you all for your replies! Upon considering the wealth of top notch eats in Glen Ellen, we're actually thinking of staying there for one or two nights instead of Petaluma. What would be top choices there - Glen Ellen Inn/Fig Cafe/Olive and Vine? And any good bakeries or place for picnic supplies?

          1. I don't know the other restaurants in Glen Ellen, but note there is a great grocery store for picnic supplies, Sonoma Market, there is a brand new restaurant, Aventine, in a pretty and historic setting, and there is a local's/tourist's bar with a pool table, the Jack London. The "downtown" wine tasting rooms are good, but do not stay open late. The Jack London Park is also worth a visit, if you need an activity besides dining and wine tasting. It's a very small town - one night/two days may be enough. It is nice to stay and enjoy the wines at Glen Ellen Star and a night cap at the local bar, and just walk to your lodging.

            Glen Ellen is about 5-10 minutes away from El Molino Central, too, so it is very convenient to overnight and then have Mexican brunch the next day (El Molino has Blue Bottle Coffee, too).

            1 Reply
            1. re: foodeye

              Awesome! I think I have to make this a reality!

            2. Here's the readout on my trip - the itinerary was two days in Carneros/Glen Ellen, one day in Dry Creek Valley.

              We arrived too late for Mayo. We headed straight for Glen Ellen Star. FABulous. The wood oven yielded some delightful vegetables - the carrots with mole and sesame brittle were outstanding, and better than any dessert we could have ordered. Octopus with harissa was excellent (delectable lemons and octopus was charred but completely tender). I thought the gnocchi in my husband's lamb ragu excelled, and I was delighted with the brick chicken and creamed corn.

              We decided to stay at the retro Glen Ellen Inn instead of Petaluma, and headed out to a private tasting of our favorite wine, Road 31 pinot, in Stag's Leap. Please do yourself a favor and try this wine when you see it but don't join the Truckers list because then there's more wine for us.

              We liked Oxbow for lunch; we had the arepas because we're fans. Good but not $20 for two good! The facility is very nice and we would have been over the moon if not for the similarly wonderful Union Market that's been installed recently in our hometown.

              Truchard was a treasure. Mathew gave us a nice tour and generous pours and we really felt attached to the Truchard family after his history. The wines were better one after the other. The Roussane is their signature and very tasty. We loved the merlot and I really enjoyed their Cab. I'm told their wine is considered "old world" and restrained. The $30 tasting fee is waived with a three bottle purchase and their shipping is more than reasonable.

              We hit Domaine Chandon for a glass of bubbly on the patio. It's kind of a seminal Napa experience; we didn't feel we missed out without the tasting. We liked the 2012 brut and ultra brut a lot.

              We went to Scribe, and while this was one of the nicest settings imaginable, it was one of our least favorite wine spots. The vibe is hipster-chic-ish and a little pretentious. It's totally at odds with the picnic settings, right-on-top-of-the-vines setting. The cheese plate was quite flimsy for $25/person. We didn't really care for the wines other than an interesting skin fermented chardonnay.

              We did dinner at the Glen Ellen Inn, in keeping with the retro vibe of their cottages. Very solid. It was perfect to roll in and out of our room to get there, but I don't think it's worth a special trip. Calamari was so-so (ginger meant a few pieces of pickled ginger on top rather than marinated or integrated into the fish), moules frites in saffron sauce was tasty but heavy. Free ice cream sundae complimented the retro vibe! Adorable patio, great for a drink and snack if in the area.

              By happy accident we ended up at Fremont Diner for breakfast. I wasn't too intrigued since we live close enough to the South to get the real thing, but I also didn't appreciate the farm fresh/Cali/Latin influences on the menu. For example, house roasted brisket hash with kale - divine. Scrumptious home made plum jam with biscuits and hot sauce with breakfast sandwich. If biscuits were served warm and coffee was stronger, this would be a 10 for breakfast.

              We stopped at Artesa for the art and ended up sharing a glass of Pinot rose. We learned during this trip that we just don't care for this varietal of rose, but it was certainly nice.

              We loved, loved Adasta. One love for the wine and one for the experience. It's a genuine rustic small farm run by a family of intellects - they have literary themed family parties, you get a dose of astronomy and Latin in learning about their name, history of the place to the 19th century, etc. Tom Sawyer could have grown up happy here, especially if he took up baseball and croquet and maybe tomato growing. We adored the unoaked (and inexpensive!) Chardonnay and loved the pinots. The only wine club we joined on the trip.

              We picnicked in Sonoma square - the Sonoma cheese co was adequate - they have cheese scraps in the back of the less busy half of the store, so I was able to get some gorgonzola dulce, packaged red grapes and bread with Perrier. A decent lunch, but I noticed in general when out and about that it was harder than I had expected to find nice cheese and bread.

              We hit MacRostie, which appealed to us in part because of the industrial thing (they taste and produce essentially in an industrial park). We did like the wines, but coming on the heels of our love affair with Adastra we weren't enamored of any in particular.

              Dinner was at Girl and the Fig, and what a treat that was. The menu was much lengthier than we had expected. I did a champagne flight which I did not love, but it's hard not to be charmed by their fig twist on a kir royale. Very good (but not outstanding) beef tartare. A strong cucumber soup was enlivened with bright pickled shallots. Roast peach salad was plated summer. Burger (by recommendation) did not disappoint. Nice cheese plate with several yummy components for dessert, although I really couldn't figure out why there was no brie/camembert-like selection (are there no good local choices? Are they passé? Does France know that?) The waiter was a one of a kind experience. Highly recommend.

              We had been trying to get to El Molino Central all trip and were determined to make it happen for breakfast. First in line for chilaquiles; by far the best latte/cappucino of the trip. Very, very good chilaquiles, although we've never had this style before with scrambled eggs on the side and unincorporated. We both prefer them mixed in, or even better, with no eggs but with roasted chicken. Anyways, small complaints. No doubt we'd plan a lunch/dinner there with more time. I was intrigued by the fresh sauces in the deli case, including some kind of pumpkin seed pesto that had a Mayan name.

              First winery was Quivira and we enjoyed it a lot. I had taken the farm tour off our itinerary because we'd done several tours, but I know I would have loved it - their garden is awesome, all kinds of vegetables and fruits and herbs and green, and everything biodynamic. We'll certainly do it next time. I liked the dry rose. The zins were big for us because we'd concentrated on pinots until then. I could drink the moltepuciano every night. Friendly folks too. I'd get there earlier to avoid the hordes of bike groups hogging up the picnic tables.

              We liked Mauritson a lot. We really got to taste a wide variety of zins and my favorite was Jack's Cabin. We're encouraged to see a few of these wines, and Quivira, in our local wine stores.

              We quickly stopped at Healdsburg Shed - wonderful structure - and went to our last stop at MacPhail. We had a wonderful tasting experience. Lauren was fantastic. Loved the modern shed structure here as well but we're told they're moving to Guernesville next week, so along with the earlier suggestions from this thread I think we have the makings of our next trip to wine country. We tasted a wide variety of pinots and deeply enjoyed them. We were quite a bit tipsy by the end!

              And there you have it ... an amazing trip. We did some meticulous planning and then left ourselves lots of room to change plans, go slower and go with the flow. I think it's the only way to do wine country. I hope this is helpful for others - Chowhound is a real "pay it forward" kind of place!

              2 Replies
              1. re: edub

                Wonderful report. Thanks for sharing the details of your trip and your impressions. Glad it was a good trip.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Wow - thanks, maria lorraine! High praise coming from you! I really valued reading all your advice in researching this trip.