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Los Angeles hound visits wine country-(long)

petradish | Aug 24, 200401:24 AM

Last week husband & I took a trip north, driving around beautiful Sonoma & Napa(and beyond). First stop-meeting up with friends from Sebastopol & a visit to the Gravenstein apple fair. They pointed out the deep fried, creamy apple fritters from Grandma’s stand as a favorite. Well worth the long line.

Breakfast in lovely Glen Ellen at Garden Court Café. Thoughtful homemade touches completed a basic two egg order: fluffy biscuits, excellent table preserves, pork sausage patty. My only complaint, the scone was heavy, dry, & overspiced w/cinnamon. Next time I would try the biscuits & sausage gravy based on the quality of their ingredients.

A visit to the culinary garden at Kendall-Jackson Wine Center under a very ,very hot sun. I think Melanie Wong suggested this idea in a post-thanks! What fun to go from vine to vine and compare grape characteristics. A staff member remarked that it was a great moment to taste because of current sugar levels. Snagged a perfect strawberry too.

Stopped at a few wineries in Russian River Valley -Martinelli & Topolos(liked a 2000 Alexander Valley Zin).

Out west to the bay & south on the 1 to the Marshall Store for a snack of bbq oysters(thanks to Pam). Despite waiting 45 minutes(!)to receive 6 oysters(their service system is bizarre), they were a treat w/their zesty red sauce mingling w/the oyster juice. Didn’t catch the name of the bread baker, but good stuff. Eavesdropping on the tiny back patio overlooking the water also enjoyable.

Dinner in Sonoma at the Girl & the Fig. Very pretty antique bar featuring aperitifs on a blackboard(dubonnet,campari,picon!) Waited for a spot on the patio, which turned out to be a little tight w/regard to table spacing. Oh well, it was a beautiful night outside. Started with fried green tomatoes & arugula pistou. Didn’t care for the fried coating, as it seemed tired & lacked crunch. I was quite pleased with my entrée of wild salmon on a bed of pebbly pasta(Israeli couscous?)& tender fennel. Husband was not as pleased with his steak frites(a ribeye on the tough side of chewy). Not bad, but not memorable either. Frites were tasty & ultra-ultra thin. He enjoyed the “red varietal flight” of grenache, carignane, cinsault, mourvedre, & syrah, served in quirky little glasses of different shapes. Fun. Finished with a cheese & fruit plate. From a list of nine, we chose the Pierre Robert triple cream cow’s milk, Lingot ash coated goats milk, & Valley Ford’s Bellwether Farms San Andreas sheep’s milk(my favorite). They were served with a few fresh figs & walnuts(can’t remember the rest of the accompaniments).

Next day, breakfast of sweets from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Pain au chocolat(really good), lemon verbena panna cotta w/passion fruit gelee(good), a delightful round butter cookie with a hint of salt(excellent), & a vanilla macaroon(excellent).

Lunch at Gordon’s in Yountville. A roast beef & a turkey sandwich. Moist, roasted meat on soft & chewy bread, served w/tarragon & caper accented potato salad. Very satisfying.

All around Napa valley, visited Duckhorn(lovely tasting room), Pineridge(experienced no attitude here), Cakebread.

Dinner at Sonoma Saveurs in Sonoma(Plaza). We chose the garden patio, which was roomy & comfortable. The waitstaff were very friendly, perhaps a little less informed about their menu than expected, but delivered the food promptly & were on top of replenishing bread & water. Like the G & F, aperitifs were an option. We started with the trio of foie gras(a small, seared slice w/sautéed nectarines, a black pepper-topped mousse, & a smooth terrine). The plate also featured an intriguing sweet & spicy-tangy chutney & a salad w/pear slices. Beautiful, dreamy stuff. Next, a grilled duck breast with a ramekin of jus, sweet haricots verts & corn kernels. Expertly cooked w/a gorgeous layer of seared fat, utterly fresh & deeply flavored meat. Also a cheese plate of strong blue, creamy goat & cow’s milk(no info on origins) w/more chutney, tiny red grapes, quince paste, & marcona almonds. The bread basket featured both fresh & toasted slices, a nice way to play with the textures of cheese & foie gras mousse. Dessert was a nice slice of gateau basque that skillfully combined almonds, custard, butter, & lightly whipped cream.

Next day, a final lunch at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar store café in North Beach for a meatball sandwich(on Liguria focaccia!!). Meatballs were quite moist & loosely formed, pressed into the scallion studded bread w/melted cheese & a bit of red sauce. A wonderful, toasty combination of flavors.

Thanks to all for your helpful posts.

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