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Restaurants & Bars 4

Friday in Sonoma: Fiorini’s, Meritage & Vegevillage

Melanie Wong | May 15, 200502:42 AM

Last month on tax day, I headed to the town of Sonoma to see my CPA. Afterwards I had the chance to do a little chowing.

My first stop was Fiorini’s ( for afternoon tea. Since I’d missed lunch, I was more interested in savory items, but most had sold-out by this hour. A slice of potato and rosemary torta was one of the few options. I also picked the apple sfogliatelle for something sweet. The torta was undersalted with too much resinous rosemary and a bland crust. Rather than many layers, the sfogliatelle had a thick pastry crust and soggy filling. I did like my tea and even though neither of my picks was satisactory, I think I just chose poorly. This place calls to me. I’ll probably be back to sample more.

I hung out in the library using its free wi-fi to get some work done waiting for my friend to join me for happy hour. Meritage ( offers raw oysters for half off every day from 5 to 6pm. As it turned out, she was stuck in traffic and had to turn back. Just as well, as the oysters at Meritage were the worst ones I’ve ever been served. I had ordered two of each available, plus a couple of cherrystone clams for good measure. The clams were tired with little flavor left. The oysters had been poorly shucked, stabbed through the gut mangling the flesh and spilling their milky middles into what little remained of the briny juices. They were littered with shell fragments and still partly attached to the shell. The oysters were also less than fresh and I left the second of each pair behind after tasting one of each. I looked over at the shucker and had to turn my head because his method of stabbing bivalves wrapped in a towel and then straining with great force to try to open them looked like an accident waiting to happen. Even at half off, this was a total waste of money.

One bright light here though was the glass of wonderful Prosecco from Carpene Molvolti. The bar had none chilled of what it usually pours by the glass and popped this one open instead. Blended with Chardonnay, this had more depth and character than the typical Prosecco. I appreciated its richness to wash the taste of those oysters out of my mouth. The bartenders were great --- I’d come back to drink but would skip the raw bar.

Foiled in my plan to gorge on oysters for dinner, I took a stroll around the plaza to see what might attract me. Café La Haye was full, Rin’s didn’t appeal, and I wanted something lighter than what Maya was serving. I looked at Harmony Club but was turned off by the sidewalk heaters blasting on this warm evening, the cramped tables, and the high prices. Then I remembered the vegan Chinese restaurant up the road that I’d wanted to check out.

Walking into Vegevillage (18350 Sonoma Highway 12, Boyes Hot Springs, 707-939-8383) for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the scholar’s desk in the entry way with the owner’s inks and brushes. From Taiwan, he is an accomplished calligrapher and his work adorns the walls of the restaurant. On this night, he was also the waiter and cook. The menu has color photos of the dishes making it easier to order. I went with the “beef” and asparagus with black pepper sauce, $7.50. The mock beef patties, made from soy protein, had the texture of coarse ground bulk sausage patties. The black pepper sauce was slightly sweet with better balance than other versions I’ve tried. I enjoyed it with the steamed white rice (brown also available). The asparagus was crunchy and undercooked for my taste yet impeccably fresh. The owner encouraged me to return for his dishes made all from fresh vegetables (e.g., basil eggplant).

This was certainly a first. Never before has my best meal of the day in the wine country been a Chinese one.



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