Monday, November 20, 2006

Sonoma: Off the Beaten Path

J and I headed up to San Francisco again to visit her brother. This was my third time up here this year and I love it more and more each time. We chose to fly instead of enduring the 4.5 hour drive. I've never flown to NorCal, so this was going to be a more relaxed trip. We arrived around 10 at night and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Tomorrow we would be going to Sonoma instead of Napa because we had heard that the region was perfect for making Pinots. I'm all for Pinot Noir because it is typically less tannic, fruity and smooth.

We started driving up the 101 into Sonoma's wine country around 9:30 am, accompanied with 4 other friends. The day started off extremely hazy and cold and we wondered if it was worth driving up there. Sonoma wineries are known for beautiful estates and Flickr-worthy scenery. After about an hour and a half, we arrived in Sonoma County.

We couldn't go wine tasting without a little padding and made reservations at a restaurant called El Dorado Kitchen. We settled on this place after three cancellations on reservations. We found out that the chefs of EDK worked under the tutelage of Thomas Keller. Okay, we are so there.

EDK is located in the Sonoma town square and neighbors the El Dorado hotel - a cozy, boutique hotel. We walked into the restaurant and were instantly transported to a West Elm catalog. (Page 82 of the Winter issue) Brown and white colors contrasted the dark colored wood furniture throughout the restaurant and made it a perfect place for Sunday brunch. Enough about ambiance, here's what we had:

Blueberry Muffin and Jam
I didn't have this but everyone loved it.

Biscuits & Gravy
Our friend had this said that it was too rich and salty. Minus all that, it was still a nice take on an American favorite.

French Toast
At last, we see a glimpse of Thomas Keller's influence. Beautiful, thick pieces of bread fried to a nice golden brown and topped with créme fraîche. Kind of wish I tasted some of this.

Eggs Benedict and Beef Bourguignonne Hash
Food envy kicked in once I took a bite of this. The eggs were beautifully poached and laced with a velvety hollandaise sauce. I thought the idea of using wine-braised beef in the hash was pure genius. This was awesome.

Fried Egg & Sopressata Salami Pizza
This was a case of misinterpretation. My eyes lit up when I saw this on the menu because (1) I love pizza and (2) I love eggs. I first saw this concept on a food special in Aspen. The chef of the ski resort made a pizza, and right before it was finished, cracked an egg on top of the pizza. It looked sick. When I got this, I was quite bummed. It was merely 2 things put together.. a pizza and 3 fried eggs. An interesting thing about this was the type of eggs used. I think they must have been from a special ranch or something because they were RICH and GOLDEN YELLOW like the eggs of Japan. I took a few bites of the fried eggs and had to set it aside. I just couldn't handle it.

Forest Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil Pizza
J ordered this and was turned off by how rich it was. The mushrooms and goat cheese served as nice toppings but the pizza was just drowned in truffle oil. It was sickening. I love truffle oil but only in moderation. Truffle oil is very high in demand and currently a hot trend. Chefs, for some reason think they can boost up the price of the dish if they add more truffle oil. It isn't THAT hard to find it in LA. Trader Joe's has a poor man's version for $10 and I think it works fine. Moderation! We tried to eat this a few hours later and still couldn't handle it haha.

Overall, the food is rich at EDK but still a great place to stop at before getting smashed bourgeois-style. If you eat here, I highly recommend sharing an entree with someone. Every one of us had doggy-bags by the end of the meal. I'm definitely coming back here again.

It was time to wine taste now. We ended up visiting four wineries in four hours. Last time we were in Napa, we stopped at seven wineries in 2.5 hours! It was fun winery-hopping, but this time, we wanted to take our time. Here's where we stopped at:

Sebastiani - very average wine. Although it's a Sonoma favorite, I didn't try anything that knocked my pants off.

Buena Vista - nice stuff. Smooth and enjoyable.

Gundlach Bundschu - wow, definitely my favorite. Unfortunately, at $36+ a bottle, we walked out of the winery with sad faces. = (

Cline - stellar wine at stellar prices. Wine ranged from $11-$30. This place was packed even an hour before closing and we really enjoyed it. The people were extremely friendly and didn't charge for tastings. Five for Free! I ended up buying 4 bottles of wine and parked it on the bench with our group. We drank 2 bottles and got really buzzed. At about 5 pm, we took off back into San Francisco. After all the rich wine and food, nothing sounded better than a fresh, cold cut of salmon, yellowtail and uni. We ended up at a very average sushi joint but didn't care because it was so refreshing to eat something light. If I were to choose between Napa and Sonoma, I'd pick Sonoma because the wineries are mainly family/privately owned. You don't see too many of the corporate big boys out there and there are definitely less tourists. Stay tuned for J's writeup on our San Francisco eats.

Thanks for reading.

14 comments:

Chubbypanda said...

4.5 hour drive? Dude, you must do 120mph to make it in that time. It usually takes me 5.5 hours, and I leave at 4am so I can do 90 all the way through. When I still at UCI, I made that round trip around four times a year. Ah, Kettleman City, my midpoint Mickey-Dee's stop.

Lol, I went wine tasting too, to a winery in Carmel Valley. I post when I get back to SoCal. It sounds like you and Jeni are wine tasting pros. I wanna get some tips from you about more local wineries. =)

- Chubbypanda

BoLA said...

Haha! Great post, as always! Glad you two had a great weekend!

One Food Guy said...

Sounds like you had some fun. Did the weather cooperate? I'm heading to Napa in two weeks with the Mrs. and it sounds like we might need to hit some locales in Sonoma while we are out there.

We are driving from LA, up the PCH. It will probably take us a good 8-9 hours!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

CP, yeah that one time i drove up, it was QUICK. I was doing 95-100. Carmel Valley? Is that near Monterey? We're going to checkout some Santa Barbara wineries sometime soon.

Bola, cold but nice weekend.

OFG, weather cleared up around 2-3 pm, allowing us to take some nice shots of the hills/vineyards. When you go to Napa, I highly recommend you stop at Mustard's Grill for some brunch or go to Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Yountville (all very close to Napaland). If I were you, I would try my hardest to jump on the 5 freeway. Life will be much better when you can cut 2-3 hours out of the drive.

Daily Gluttony said...

ditto CP...4.5 hours???

dude, do you know how long it took us to drive back to LA in post-Turkey Day traffic yesterday? 9 HOURS!!! between 2 accidents, heavy traffic and the rain, it was flippin' insane!

great post! we're hoping to go back up to sonoma/napa soon--there are so many great wineries up there that it's hard to hit them all in one trip!

Bon Vivant said...

I've been to Napa Valley a zillion times (never get to spend as much time up there as I want or need) but surprisingly have not made it to Sonoma yet (my big dark secret.)

Great post.

chicopants said...

this stuff is so beautious...:)
amy
sillypants.com

H. C. said...

Ahh Napa's little bro (with Mendocino being even more neglected) -- good stuff though, even though I too held higher expectations for that mushroom/truffle oil pizza. I remember liking the one Cafe Del Rey had in the summer.

elmomonster said...

never been much of a wine drinker, but i still look forward to trips to napa. but napa's getting more and more touristy these days. sonoma looks more my style.

rameniac said...

yaaargh, after so many trips up to napa valley... get thee to french laundry already! or would that just ruin it for all other future meals?

rameniac said...

oops just saw your response on your last post. well, at least... go sneak into skywalker ranch or something! >=)

joanh said...

yum!!! it's really tough to find simple yet delicious and elegant american style brunch/breakfast in taipei.. this post made me hungry and sad!!

Anonymous said...

Hi. This is the first time I've been to your blog and I'm really enjoying it - feeling a bit hungry and very thirsty though.....!

Next time you go down to Sonoma go and visit Seghesio Family Vineyards
- if you've not already been there - and try their Zinfandel. It's surperb. Dark, rich and velety with plum and chocolate notes. I know you Americans like your Pinots but try this for something different.

www.seghesio.com

Georgie - Norwich, England

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