Good food puts a twinkle in our eye. We’ve been fortunate to live in dining meccas: first, just south of San Francisco and now here in Sonoma County. But Clay and I are creatures of habit and find ourselves wandering to the same several restaurants where we know the people are welcoming and the food is delicious. Underwood Bar and Bistro: We became familiar with Underwood during the winter of 2009, when we were driving up from the Bay Area on weekends to work on the ranch. During those short days and long, cold nights, the beautiful bar and restaurant gave off a warm, neighborhood feel with a mostly local crowd. But the cuisine is always world class. Some of our favorite dishes are the savory French Onion Soup, the clean and fresh Tuna Tartare from the tapas menu and the Flat Iron Steak Frites and their world-famous Grilled Hamburger. It has become our go-to place when hosting our family.
Tomi Thai: Our good friends, Ken and Donna Brandt, introduced us to the wonders of Tomi Thai. It’s a very small place, and because the staff greets returning guests as old friends, it has a very loyal following. Reservations are definitely recommended. Our favorite dishes include their deep-friend cilantro-and-garlic prawns, the fragrant coconut milk soup and the grilled rib-eye steak in a Thai-style marinade. Also, they make the best Thai fried rice I have ever had. Ever.
Ca’ Bianca: For Italian, our hearts and stomachs lead us to Ca’ Bianca. Although the restaurant is located in the gorgeous, 19th-century Marshall House, the staff doesn’t take itself too seriously. For a laugh, be sure to ask the owner and sometimes-host Marco Diana, “What’s upstairs?” The food is never overdone or fussy but is served with understated elegance. Everything is spectacular, but we’ve often returned to their Rigatoni alla Contadina, Tonno agli aroma and my favorite, Petto di pollo ripieno. If you go to their website to see the description of these dishes, I promise your next call will be for reservations.
K & L Bistro: We started eating at K & L Bistro years ago, when the idea of living in Sonoma and having a vineyard wasn’t even a gleam in Clay’s eye. We would ride motorcycles through Sebastopol on our tours of Sonoma wine country and always made a point of stopping here for dinner. The Michelin-starred restaurant is still one of our top favorites for a laid-back neighborhood restaurant with a French sensibility. When we’re there, we tend to gravitate toward their whole grilled fish offerings, their Local Petrale Sole Meuniere, or any of their grilled steaks. Their menu changes often to take advantage of the availability of local meat, fish and veggies, so our favorite of last week is often replaced by this week’s new opportunity.
Farmhouse: The restaurant at the Farmhouse Inn is our special treat. I can’t say it better than they do: “The food that we serve is sourced from Joe and Catherine's Bartolomei ranch or local artisan farmers and the menu is ever-changing and relies exclusively on not only what is fresh and of the moment in Sonoma County, but on what is perfect, unexpected and delightful.” Their 2012 Clash of the Sommeliers was an experience we’ll never, ever forget. Again, their menu changes with the seasons but their Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit is a favorite of the locavore crowd. Reservations are required and should be made a few weeks in advance. You will not be sorry.