Forestville's Twist is tiny but mighty

Twist, a little hole-in-the-wall eatery in Forestville, serves the most substantial food in town.

We're talking big plates of good food, the amount of food you might find at an all-night truck stop somewhere along Interstate 40 near Oklahoma City. It's big food, but it's not mystery meat and gravy. It's California cooking with world influences writ large.

Twist opens at 11 a.m. except on Sundays and Mondays, when it is closed. If you get up late or like breakfast for lunch, check out chef Jeff Young's Daily Scramble ($12.95 ?). On a recent visit, he scrambled organic eggs and lit them up flavorwise with chorizo, mushrooms, spinach and English farmhouse cheddar, turned the scramble onto a plate, and filled it out with hash browns and griddled toast. This is the kind of breakfast that will carry you right past dinner, if need be.

The place is small, and the nine stools at the counter are often filled. There are some seats outside if the counter is full, and Toni Echols, chef Young's wife who serves the food and buses the tables and does everything that Young can't do, will bring your food outside to you.

Like any good diner, the prices are reasonable, but this being Forestville, the beverage list is better than most. Here's a half bottle of Merry Edwards 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for $32, and a whole bottle of 2010 Wine Guerilla Sonoma County Zinfandel for $24. If you want beer, there's Racer 5 IPA, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and yes, the obligatory PBR. Eleven non-alcoholic drinks include Boylan's black cherry and root beer, San Pellegrino citrus sodas, coconut water, Arnold Palmer iced tea and lemonade, and more.

The daily pasta special changes with the chef's whim, but on a recent night it was Spaghetti with Chicken ($12.95 ?), a big plate of tasty pasta and tender chicken tethered to the flavorful bass note of mushrooms and set afire with sweet, fruity and spicy-hot ground Aleppo pepper flakes.

Besides the pasta special, there's a daily Twist special. Salmon and Red Snapper Curry ($13.95 ) was on the chalkboard recently, laced with mushrooms in a rich Southeast Asian curry sauce properly layered with spices. The snapper tasted fine with the curry, but something in the distinct flavor and aroma of the salmon fought with the spices.

Want a light lunch and looking for a salad? You can get them at Twist, but bring your hunger for the Trio of Salads ($12.50 ). You get to choose three from six salads offered. Good choices are the roasted chicken salad with cashews, cilantro and Serrano chilies; the organic roasted beet salad with an herb vinaigrette; and bright green Brussels sprouts with carrots, toasted crushed walnuts and an orange sambal dressing.

Bring a friend or business acquaintance and pick at the delectable Cheese Platter ($14.50 ?). The platter features warm, panko-encrusted Laura Chenel goat cheese; Bellwether Farms' "Carmody," made with creamy Jersey cow milk; Bleating Heart's exquisite washed-rind and aged raw sheep's milk cheese, called "Fat Bottom Girl" after a Queen song, and the Central Coast Creamery's "Holey Cow," a cow's milk cheese with Swiss-like holes. It's all accompanied by a chunk of honeycomb, spicy fig and walnut chutney, griddle toast and dried fruits and nuts.

Of the two sandwiches tried, the Tri-Tip Sandwich ($13.95 ?) was the better, with charcoal-seared grass-fed beef, bacon, red onions, organic greens and creamy horseradish sauce on a toasted soft bun. The shredded pork in the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($11.15 ?) was unpleasantly tough and hard to eat. The meat was mixed with house-made barbecue sauce, topped with cole slaw, and served on a toasted rosemary focaccia roll. Both sandwiches come with salad.

On one night, the soup of the day was Tuscan White Bean Soup ($3.95 a cup ?), a brothy, warming, meaty-tasting soup with a short handful of white beans.

For dessert, who can resist the big and luscious looking Chocolate Chip Cookie ($1.50 ). Even better than looking at it is biting into it to discover it's been made with chunks of bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chips. It's soft and as seductive as a cookie gets.

To sum up: Twist serves big plates of mostly organic and locally sourced food, served with a Forestville friendly vibe.

Jeff Cox writes a weekly restaurant review column for the Sonoma Living section. You can reach him at

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