Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eating in Sonoma - We're Fancy Now and Still Judging

Earlier this month I found myself in Northern California with 36 hours to spare before my flight out of Sacramento.  I needed someplace nice to relax and it was a toss up between Tahoe (37 F) and Sonoma County (82 F).  Weather was the key here, so off I went to Sonoma. 
 Besides the obvious weather considerations, I wanted to see Sonoma because the The Bachelor filmed there last Season with local boy Ben.  As fans of the show know (and who isn't a fan!), Ben took front runner Kaci B. to dinner at The Girl and The Fig.  That was all I needed to make Girl/Fig my destination! 

I checked into the El Dorado Hotel on the plaza and a very nice girl at the desk gave me the "Internet special" even though I was a walk-in.  While I did love the California coolness of the El Dorado, I'm not sure I'd stay there again.  It's was great to be right on the plaza, but after midnight the motorcycle noise went on all night.  Apparently, the Harley noise in California is just as bad as the the Harley noise in Florida.  Can't say I'm surprised.  Sonoma sort of reminds me of Truckee, California meets Leesburg, Virginia.  There's a blue jean, wine-snooty, ex-hippie vibe in both places.  Shopping and wine are probably better in Sonoma.  People watching better in Leesburg.

Restaurant wise, I'm now a big fan of the El Dorado Kitchen.  The Kitchen has to be the best place in town.  There's a wood and whitewash feel to the place that is quintessential California.  The menu is what you'd expect with a few nice touches and tons of avocado.  It would have been very, very easy to pick something healthy and low-cal.  But, of course, I didn't.  My salad of heirloom beats, goat cheese mousse, orange, ruby grapefruit, arugula and marcona almonds was spectacular.  The chef was very accommodating and made me a vegetarian version of the pasta special: pappardelle with green garlic cream, peas, wild mushrooms, baby carrots and chiles.  He left out the sausage and it was not missed.  I am not exaggerating when I say this might be the best meal I've had this year.

Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of The Girl and The Fig.  Maybe my expectations were a bit high.  Maybe I was just too excited to eat at a restaurant featured on The Bachelor!  Maybe not.  The Girl/Fig can only be described as "Goodwill Chic."  That's my term for something one or two steps below "Shabby Chic."  The furniture is first apartment shabby and the lighting is bright to highlight the fact that the place is dumpy.  I suppose that's what they are going for, but with the El Dorado Kitchen across the street, you'd think they'd try to up the ante. 

Although it was a Tuesday in the middle of low season, they could only give me a reservation for 9 pm.  OK.  I can be European now and then.  I ordered the mussels because it looked like a specialty.  The french fries showed up in the little cone, but were stone cold.  What is worse than cold fries, I ask you?  The mussels seem to be made in a big pot in the back and most of the meat must drop to the bottom because I had way too many empty shells in my dish.  To be fair, the waitress did not charge me for the mussels after I complained about the fries.  Excuse me, frites.  Since I was already in a foul, cold-frites sort of mood, the two girls sitting next to me talking on their cell phones did not help.  I like restaurants that have a no cell phone policy and enforce it. 

Good food was also had for breakfast at the Sunflower Caffe for breakfast and The Red Grape for lunch.

- Auntie

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