I just got back from a week (too short!) in/around the SF Bay area, and while I enjoyed some wonderful meals (Cyrus in Healdsburg, for instance :) and had some good food that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to find in my corner of New England (e.g. Aziza's in SF), I really wanted to put in a HUGE plug for two small, chef-owned/operated restaurants that - to me - exemplifies food cooked with passion and a restaurant that's a real labor of love.
At Cafe des Jumelles (on Highway 116 in Monte Rio, near Jenner/the Marin coast and Sonoma County), we had perfectly-cooked, fresh, brunch-y breakfasts (perfect poached eggs, excellent chicken fried steak (yes, in CA!) and personal, friendly service from the chef and owner's children.) At Rendezvous Inn (in Fort Bragg, a few miles north of Mendocino) we had fabulous wild boar terrine, impeccable pork loin and an enjoyable long conversation with chef Kim Badenhop.
Both places showed off the chefs' background/training/experience in top-flight restaurants, but - perhaps sometimes just as, if not more, importantly - highlighted the passion, dedication and craft that these men and their partners brought to the profession.
If you find yourself in/near either of these towns, run, don't walk, to talk to and support these talented and passionate folks.