Eating (and Drinking) Sonoma

10 Apr

Last week I hopped on a plane and headed West for a mini vacation in CA with two of my very favorite chickadees in the whole-wide-world. For me a big part of the traveling experiencing is on the plate (in the bowl, glass, mug, bun etc). It is so fun to try out new dishes in new places, every region with its own culinary identity to delve into and Northern California is like the mecca of all things fresh and organic so it’s a great place to delve.

On this trip our culinary adventures began in Napa with a little wine tasting (what else in wine country). After sipping our way through the Sattui Family Vineyard’s greatest hits we picked up a few bottles and enjoyed a late lunch of bread, cheese and a little tapenade (again… what else in wine country). With our picnic lunch we polished off a bottle of the vineyard’s Gamay Rouge, which they describe as the perfect picnic wine, refreshing and fruity but not too sweet. Perfect picnic indeed.

So we picked up just a few bottles...

That evening we made reservations to dine at Santé Restaurant where we were staying at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn (Mercí Hessica!).  The restaurant is very California Wine Country in that it blends some serious luxury with laid back sensibilities. It’s the kind of place where you are welcome to eat your truffles and your lobster in your blue jeans.

Our servers were warm and friendly, happy to guide us through the menu as we nibbled on our bread and butter (and speaking of our bread and butter, theirs is served warm with two butters: one local, one French and a little pile of sea salt in between… I would have seriously been happy with that as an entrée; you can’t beat bread and really good butter).  We ordered a bottle of champagne and when it emerged it came accompanied by a gift from the chef, a little amuse bouche of parsnip soup and toast. This was clearly a place that knew how to win a girl over.

We ordered two appetizers to share: the little gem salad and a tuna tartar napoleon. The napoleon, a neat little tower of tuna, haricots vert and fish roe was beautiful both on the plate and the palate. And the little gem was lovely. You know restaurant is putting out really good food when you can get excited about a salad.


For my main course I actually ordered another appetizer, the ‘grown up macaroni and cheese’, simply because it sounded too good not to. The pasta was baked in an incredibly rich fontina cheese sauce studded with huge chunks of Maine lobster and topped with shaved black truffles. Creamy, rich, velvety, indulgent…. Absolutely. Delicious.

Earlier when we had sat down for dinner that evening we noticed a nearby couple being presented their dessert. Their waiter pierced the top with a spoon and with flourish poured a creamy sauce inside. What was that? It was a chocolate soufflé with crème anglaise, a special that evening. Would we like to preorder one? Yes we would. And yes we did. And all its airy chocolaty goodness was gone in about two seconds. Just to round things out we also selected the panna cotta with strawberries and basil sorbet. I know a lot of people object to savory elements in their desserts but I love it and Santé did a good job incorporating the herb it into the dish. The two very different desserts married nicely, a great end to a great meal.

Sweet Endings

There is food that is good and then there is food that is just something special, when days after the meal you can still recall the creamy texture of lobster melting into cheese or the salty pop of the fist roe on tuna. Santé delivered that kind of a meal. One to remember.


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