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Rocker Oysterfeller?s serves up Southern-influenced fare

To fully appreciate the joke, you need a little back story.

Oysters Rockefeller was created in 1899 at Antoine?s in New Orleans by Antoine?s son, Jules Alciatore, who?d inherited the restaurant from his father.

Jules named the dish ? oysters given a splash of Tabasco sauce and gently baked under anise-flavored spinach, scallions, and parsley ? for John D. Rockefeller because both man and sauce were so rich. It was an immediate hit and is still served in restaurants around the country.

Rocker Oysterfeller's restaurant

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Fast forward to our time and place, where local oysters are plentiful and good old rock ?n? roll occupies at least one button on the car radio. In the old Valley Ford Hotel along Highway 1 in Valley Ford, owners Brandon Guenther, the chef, and Shona Campbell, who titles herself ?bar wench? on her business card, have named their restaurant and saloon Rocker Oysterfeller?s.

Prominent on the menu are six Rocker Oysterfellers ($14 *** ?)<MC>. They bear more resemblance to bacon-rich clams casino than oysters Rockefeller, what with their arugula, bacon, cream cheese, and cornmeal crust topping for six <NO1><NO>oysters on the half shell. Much could go wrong with this dish ? the cornmeal and cream cheese could easily burn. The oysters could be baked dry. But chef Guenther avoids these pitfalls and turns out a plate of perfectly cooked bivalves ? hot but not overdone ? that might win a one-on-one competition with the original recipe from Antoine?s.

The rocker part at Oysterfeller?s happens mostly in the saloon, a comfy bar in the front room, with pictures of good-looking horses on the walls and a painterly, impressionistic oil of an ocean cove by George Campbell, Shona?s father. That painting and others in the dining room show him to be an accomplished artist who has a real knack for capturing the wild spirit of the Sonoma Coast.

On a recent night, the bar was packed and the crack was fierce, as the Irish say when the fun reaches a crescendo. Music shifted around from raucus rock ?n? roll to jelly-jam blues to Bo Diddley and boogie-woogie, to Bessie Smith encouraging her man to ?Do Your Duty.? Wonderful stuff, and enough of the fun and music filters into the dining room to bring a cheerful atmosphere to the pretty space, with its 19th-century wainscoting, white trim, and mustard yellow walls.

The waitress kept things moving along smoothly and was pleasant and sharp when it came to making sure the proper utensils were in place for the various dishes.

The wine list is stocked with 28 whites and 33 reds. About the time you?re perusing the wine list, the waiter brings a delicious warm jalape? corn muffin to snack on, with butter to dress it up. Some wines of note: Roederer Estate NV Brut, $34; 2005 Londer ?Kent Ritchie Vineyard? Chardonnay, $62; 2007 Copain Viognier, $32, and that beautiful, meaty, blueberry-jammy Bella ?Lily Hill? Zinfandel (85 percent Zin, 15 percent Syrah) for $24 for a split. Corkage for Sonoma County wines is $10, and $15 for all others ? and Wednesdays there?s no corkage at all.

The bitterly damp cold of the coastal climate chills one?s bones, but they can be nicely warmed by a cup of <MC>Hamhock Soup ($6 *** )<MC>, a smoky, meaty soup with slender green beans, pasta, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and a touch of spicy heat. For a light meal, pair the soup with the <MC>Mixed Baby Greens Salad ($11 ***)<MC>. The greens seemed just-picked, they were that fresh, and among them you could find red and golden baked beet bits, candied pecans, generous lumps of tangy Pt. Reyes blue cheese, all of it given a sherried orange vinaigrette.


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