Transplanted chefs from the South paired with the of-the-moment culinary passion for down-home Paula Deen-style cooking are making fried chicken, barbecue and sweet tea all but ubiquitous in Wine Country.
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Momma Pig's BBQ Roadhouse: Follow the scent of sweet porky smoke to the transformed digs of Matthew and Bryan Bousquet. The former owners of haute French eatery Mirepoix traded in their Michelin star for a counter-service barbecue joint that had a line out the door opening week. The couple both have roots in the south and know their way around a brisket, sweet tea, hush puppies (or hush piggies, as they call them) and molasses pit beans and bacon. For dessert, check out the brown-sugar pound cake or chocolate pig on a stick. There are still plenty of Wine Country twists (like a burger with duck liver, and a sweet Sonoma zinfandel barbecue sauce), but Momma Pig's is strictly a beer, bacon and burger kind of spot where all the kin are welcome.
Addendum @ Ad Hoc: Move over French Laundry, Thomas Keller's going take-out? The latest venture by King Keller is in his backyard, serving up Ad Hoc's famous buttermilk fried chicken and barbecue from a walk-up window. First-come, first-served, it's lunch in a box with two side dishes (we had corn succotash and potato salad) for $16.50 Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Keller was dining on the patio himself on our first visit, seeming well-pleased while construction workers, locals and a handful of eager foodies made a bee-line for the upscale-downscale grub. Don't miss dessert, a Creamsicle-style ice cream cup. 6476 Washington St., Yountville. Orders can be placed over the phone for pick up by calling 944-1565 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday only.
Douglas Richey Project: The Santa Rosa food scene is atwitter at the Southern ramblings of the former Santi chef. For several weeks he's been Facebooking his food adventures from Tennessee to South Carolina, including a few stints in some famous kitchens. Though he's still keeping mum on his exact plans, he will cop to the fact that he's planning to use some of those newfound skills sometime in the near future. The young toque has the backing of several Bay Area investors and is rumored to be moving back into the Fountaingrove space vacated by his former employer. A favorite dish on his recent tour, he said, was a Sorghum cake. Stay tuned.
Zin Restaurant: Chef owner Jeff Mall is the high priest of Southern cooking in Sonoma County. Though his Healdsburg restaurant is more Wine Country than Low Country, the flavors and inspirations of Dixie inform nearly everything he does. The menu changes with the whims of his Eastside Farm (where much of the produce for the restaurant comes from), but weekly Blue Plate specials include Sunday's buttermilk fried chicken night with biscuits, collard greens, honey butter and pickles; and St. Louis style ribs on Mondays. Giving serious cred, Mall's always got Falls Mill white-corn grits somewhere on the menu and makes his own Andouille sausage, which he uses to season many dishes. "I just love history, food and flavor, and the place those all come together is in the South," said the California native who makes annual food pilgrimages to Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. Currently on the menu: Country Captain, an old-school chicken curry dish from Georgia that goes back more than a century. 344 Center St., Healdsburg, 473-0946.