The Girl & the Fig

Salad with Carrot Vinaigrette, Girl & the Fig
Lettuce Love This Salad

Sonoma makes it easy to forget where you are, and that’s not just some side effect from all the wine drinking. The vineyards, the sunshine, and the verdant country lanes conspire to make you believe you’re in Tuscany or some bewitching corner of France. After a lovely long lunch featuring Sonoma County’s best ingredients prepared with a bistro flair, The Girl & the Fig restaurant just off Sonoma’s central plaza will definitely make you think you’re living la vie en rose.

The restaurant’s sun-drenched patio is a great place to dine for a few hours, although my husband and I often prefer the bar; you can learn a lot from the masters who mix there. The Girl & the Fig has an array of French apéritifs, from Ricard to the more exotic Figoun (an unusual, tasty fig liqueur that makes for an interesting take on a kir royale when mixed with champagne).

Having grown up under the Midwestern Tyranny of Iceberg before agribusinesses started doing crazy things to ship decent lettuce hither and yon, I was once not a fan of salad. Living in California and eating at the Girl & the Fig profoundly changed my view, however.  You can do no better than the produce grown in or near Sonoma County, which the Girl & the Fig proudly features.

That’s why the restaurant’s “salad of the season” is always worth a try. My favorite was one I once had in summer: a few different varieties of mixed greens+ shards of zesty radishes + matchsticks of sweet carrots + freshly made garlicky croutons + housemade carrot vinaigrette = heaven. (My picture above doesn’t do that salad justice, but I love the colors.)

If you happen to visit the restaurant when radishes abound, be sure to give them a try. You’ve never tasted how good a radish can truly be until you’ve had one of the heirloom radishes at The Girl & the Fig. With a little bit of cool butter and a dash of grey salt for dipping, fresh radishes make a refreshing, yummy appetizer. 

Though it seems remiss to zero in on veggies at a restaurant that has excellent mussels, scrumptious duck confit, a to-die-for gourmet cheeseburger, and some of the world’s best crème brûlée, it’s the care for Sonoma’s simpler bounties that always makes me curious to come back and explore how the menu has changed with the seasons. And it’s always so good, I have even been prompted to dream of Sonoma when in France.

The Girl & the Fig – 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma
An online taste:  http://www.thegirlandthefig.com/

El Dorado

Located right on Sonoma Plaza, the El Dorado is in a historic building with mod-Mission interiors that will make the most devout style-loving city slicker feel right at home.

In addition to its great location, the hotel’s rooms are spacious, and are blessedly free of the antiques and frou-frou decor that can occasionally make people get that “grandma’s bedroom panic” feeling when staying at hotels or B&Bs in the Wine Country.

Whether you’re staying in the hotel or not, the lounge area with the nifty crystal fire feature is a good place to meet up with friends for a pre-dinner drink.

The El Dorado Kitchen also serves very good food, which can be enjoyed in the restaurant. The restaurant draws an impressive local crowd, which is a good sign in food and wine-focused Sonoma. The sunny patio’s also a fine place to enjoy the El Dorado Kitchen’s contemporary classic cuisine.  

Info on the hotel and the El Dorado Kitchen lives here: http://www.eldoradosonoma.com/

Della Santina’s & Enoteca – Sonoma

Della Santina’s is one of those Italian places where it is difficult to decide what to order because everything you see on the menu and coming out of the kitchen looks great. Fortunately, you won’t go wrong with anything on the menu here. Roast meats are fantastic. Pastas are fresh and sauced well. You really can’t go wrong with anything featuring mushrooms. If they have penne con funghi or anything con funghi, give it a try as they really seem to understand how to honor mushrooms.

The main room is a sweet white cottage-type area, making you feel as if you’re eating in an old school Sonoma family’s home. (And, in a way, you are!) The vine-covered patio, out back, is a beautiful place to have dinner when the season’s right.  The servers are always nice and knowledgeable.

The wine list offers an amazing variety, and Della Santina’s is run by one of the most knowledgeable wine guys in the county. (Which is saying something in a county of wine experts.)  I was introduced to Radio-Coteau here, which you should try if there are still a few bottles kicking around. On my last visit, there weren’t, but, we discovered the restaurant’s own private label, “R Cellars,” that had a fantastic, very nicely priced, pinot noir.

The commitment to wine knowledge is why Enoteca (also owned by Della Santina’s folks), next door to the restaurant, is worth stopping by before or after dinner. Many interesting wines are on offer there, for sipping on site or taking home with you. There’s even a wine club if you just can’t get enough. 

For more info & hours (they also do lunch), check out www.dellasantinas.com, or just swing by: 133 East Napa Street, Sonoma (right off the town square).