5 Fine-Dining Restaurants You've Never Heard Of In Wine Country
Library at Chalkboard, Healdsburg
Discreetly ensconced at Hotel Les Mars in downtown Healdsburg, the Library "pops up" in a salon off the lobby on Friday and Saturday nights only, limited to just 16 guests. Chef Shane McAnelly succeds here with a six-course feasts featuring meticulous dishes like kampachi crudo with fava bean, radish, and ponzu “bubbles”; bacon consommé studded with pork belly, 63° egg, maple and nasturtium; and grilled rib eye over creamed nettles. Plan to pay a pretty penny – $95 for dinner, plus $70 extra for wine pairings – and be happy to do so. As with any other fine-dining, white-tablecloth resto, reservations most certainly are required. (Yes, there is a waiting list.)
The Restaurant at Applewood, Guerneville
It’s a best-kept secret that some of Wine Country’s most exquisite dining is found in the rural river town of Guerneville. And this restaurant that looks like nothign more than a gracious barn, surrounded by fruit orchards and redwoods,The Restaurant at Applewood features a flickering fireplace, a hidden wine cellar stocked with a marvelous array of boutique bottles, and more. Owner Carlos Pippa is a perfectionist, and it shows in the tasting menu – chefs Ty Taube and Shelley Cerneant orchestrate an expertly balanced, seasonal five-course tasting menu that ranges from a chilled gazpacho of Galia melon decorated with cucumber and almonds, crispy prosciutto and olice oil, to a pan-seared diver scallop gilded with Mendocino uni over whipped Yukon gold potatoes with saffron butter and piment d'Ville. A seating will run you $75, with $55 extra for wine pairing.
Supper at Etoile in the Domaine Chandon winery is revelatory experience. As the restaurant rang in its 40th anniversary last year, chef Perry Hoffman added even more carts to the house, including three caviar carts that swirl through the dining room, offering five types of roe to pair with sparkling wines. The most lavish way to indulge? The six-course tasting menu. It features such gems as green garlic gnocchi (with butter poached egg yolk, yellowfoot mushrooms, asparagus, melted endive and mizuna); wild black bass; and Dungeness crab with Meyer lemon, green apple, violets and celery sauce. The tasting runs $125, plus $85 for wine pairings.
Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
Most people might not even realize there’s a sublime restaurant inside this historic 1881 Victorian mansion, so tucked-away is the elegant property, but the Michelin people certainly do. The coveted dining guide maintained its one-star status for 2014. And it's easy to see why. Under the care of executive chef Jesse Mallgren, the New Californian-Global cuisine changes with the seasons and uses ingredients from their on-site garden. Some signature dishes: roasted brassica with estate persimmon, pickled cippollini and charred onions sauce; pumpkin risotto with Alba truffles; and roast squab breast and confit thigh with barley and kale. The setting is just as delicious, glittering with fine silver, china and candlelight in five intimate, parlor-style rooms. Don't forget about their world-class wine list!
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
This Michelin Star-ranked restaurant is so popular that reservations should be made weeks in advance. Owned by siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, a familial feel adds a certain friendliness to the entire place, but the food and drink are the real stars here. The on-staff master sommelier pairs wines with chef Steve Litke’s luxurious Cal-Mediterranean creations, resulting in a menu that changes aomost daily. Whatever you order, we implore you to try the Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit – i.e., as a petite roasted rack with the loin cut into thick coins then wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, and leg confit draped in velvety whole grain mustard sauce alongside Yukon potato.