Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On the Road: Sonoma + Napa Valley

Mikey escaped from the basement last week. He pulled the chains out from the wall leaving two gaping black holes. When I realized what'd happened I followed his breadcrumb trail north. Ten hours later I was in Sonoma. He apparently resented the fact that I never took him, so he decided to high-tail it up there himself.

I found him and his doughy little cheeks pressed against the window of a quaint little restaurant called The Girl and the Fig. They're known for their 'fromage tower,' a 3-tiered cheese, fruit and meat plate. Mikey hopped all the way there for it only to realize he had no money. "You know, you're a real pain in the bun," I told him. "But (sigh) we're here so we might as well go in."

The tower du cheese dauntingly overshadowed us (hey, we're short!), but I'm not one to waste food so we got some wine, took a deep breath and began picking at it bit by bit. At $38 it included six artisan cheeses, pork terrine, a selection of cured meats, pickles, fig cake, fruits, and a bevy of home-sweetened nuts. Now I understood why Mikey came all the way up here. Mixing and matching the pungent with the sweet tickled my taste-buds in ways I wouldn't've imagined. We were like Hansel and Gretel tasting candy for the very first time.

My stomach squeezed in room for the next course, a roasted whole rainbow trout ($20.95). The fresh fillet was pan-fried to a golden crisp and topped with a vinaigrette-doused assortment of fingerling potatoes, nubs of applewood bacon, shaved fuji apples and roasted shallots. The tower had done me in but I still enjoyed every bite of this.

I was ready to go home but Mikey had a second destination mapped out -- the Culinary Institute of America. We were far too tipsy to walk, so we hitchhiked our way to the town of St. Helena, population 6,000. Our driver told us to look for Hogwarts castle amid
the purple and green-vined flatlands. Sure enough, as soon as we rounded the corner there it was:

Okay so maybe Harry Potter never drove a PT Cruiser to school. And the parking lot in front puts a damper on the majestic sight. A broomstick lot would've been more discreet.

Greystone Restaurant was located around the corner of the building. Inside, guests sat at a stone-top counter encompassing an open kitchen in the middle of the room. It provided a birds' eye view of the culinary students (aka wizards) gripping their hats as they seared and broiled the day's special ingredients.

Already red-faced Mikey ordered a 3-glass white wine sampler ($16):

We also tried the 'Today's Temptations,' a $9.95 per person array of tiny bites whipped up on whim of the chef: duck pate on a baby lettuce leaf, a marinated shrimp, a pea puree... interesting stuff and, yes, very fancy-smancy. Mikey put on his silk ascot for the occasion.

I moved onto the $34 plate of day-boat scallops collected from divers on the North Atlantic coast:

And of course you can't forget dessert. The molten chocolate lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream ($8):

Organic yogurt panna cotta with strawberry rhubarb sorbet ($5):

And some lemon custard beignets coupled with a shot of citrus fizz topped with thyme foam ($7):

With all that food in our belly we decided to take a leisurely stroll home to Los Angeles. The digestion process drew all the blood in my head to my stomach and I'd completely forgotten I had been mad at Mikey. That is, until I remembered the two holes in my wall. (argh!) But he promised to plaster it up once we got back.

Secretly, though, I'm glad he'd escaped. Otherwise I would have never gone up north, much less brought myself to spend the money we did on those two meals (a little under $300 in total). Like I said before, I'm a $5-noodle bowl kinda girl. But when a decadent meal calls it's best to come a-runnin'.

The Girl and the Fig
110 West Spain Street
Sonoma, CA. 95476
(707) 938-3634

Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant
at Culinary Institute of America
2555 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-1010
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H. C. said...

Seems like a very tasty and worthwhile splurge! Gonna keep these two places in mind next time I'm in NorCal.

Pirikara said...

Hi h.c., if you're at Girl and the Fig you should also try the prix fixe menu. It's only $34! I didn't get it this time because sardines were their main course.

BoLA said...

Mmm... I just went to the Girl and the Fig a few weeks ago myself! YUM! The cheeses were delicious, and I splurged with the BRIE HAMBURGER with BACON! ACK!!! hehehe!!! Too shameful to write a post on...

Miss ya!