Just off the press: Chef Dustin Valette’s new Wine Country project officially has a name: Valette. (http://www.biteclubeats.com/dustin-valettes-new-passion-project-healdsburg/) This ain’t about ego, however. We’re wiping a tiny tear from our eyes after Dustin explained that the building (which has housed Healdsburg institution Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar (http://www.zinrestaurant.com/) for years) was once owned by his grandfather Honore Valette in the 1940s.
“We spent some serious time thinking about what to call our new little ‘baby’ and we couldn’t get away from Valette. It pays homage to our family’s history with the building,” said Valette.
So sweet. Adding to the charm factor is the all-in-the-family vibe: Brother Les Garzini of Garzini Welding is making the restaurant’s charcuterie box and bro Aaron is co-owner of the forthcoming restaurant. Look for a spring opening.
New Year’s Eve in Wine Country is always a food and wine-centric affair, making the dress code more about casual comfort and fun than, well, six-inch stilettos and micro minis (though you’re welcome if that’s your bag). Here are a few of our top picks to celebrate the dawn of 2015.
Mateo’s Cocina Latina: A tribute to Drakes Bay with the last clams from the coastal farms, Drakes Bake oyster shooters, Bolinas halibut ceviche, Estero clam soup with local Dungeness crab and Fort Bragg uni (OMG, please); rabbit with pear demi-glace, goat with ancho chile demi-glace or yellow tail rock cod, persimmon upside down cake. $75 per person. 214 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, (707) 433-1520.
Backyard: A Forestville fave. Choose from California oysters, mackerel crudo, roasted bone marrow, Dungeness crab stuffed sole, roasted quail, purple potato gnocchi with foraged mushrooms, chocolate budino (best in the county), tiramisu and Meyer lemon tart. Three courses, $44; four, $65 and five courses, $75pp. Reservations required. 6566 Front St., Forestville, (707) 820-8445.
Solbar: A 12-item menu includes buckwheat blini with caviar, chilled Maine lobster, Kobe beef carpaccio, grilled yellowfin tuna, petrale sole, veal tenderloin with sweetbreads and black truffle, Black Forest cake. $90 for four courses, $20 for each additional course. 755 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga, (707) 226-0800.
Village Inn & Restaurant: One of the best values for NYE is in the quaint west county village of Monte Rio. Chef William Oliver prepares a three-course prix fixe that includes mustard seed crusted smoked trout, lobster bisque, Beef Wellington, poached Maine lobster, Cornish game hen with herb gnocchi and foie gras jus, black truffle gnocchi with roasted chanterelles and a champagne tart with berries. $55 per person, reservations required, (707) 865-2304.
Centre du Vin Bistro: Five courses of classic French bistro fare includes Oysters Rockefeller, roasted chestnut soup, butternut squash ravioli, Filet Mignon Oscar and chocolate orange pot de creme. 480 First St., Sonoma, (707) 996-9779. $100pp, $150 with wine pairing.
Spinster Sisters: Three course prix fixe, $65 pp, includes Dungeness crab with Meyer lemon aioli, duck liver mousse with port wine gelee and candied kumquats, tangerine brown butter scallops, grilled beef cheek, rabbit pappardelle, Moroccan vegetable tagine, steamed chocolate cake, or Meyer lemon meringue tart. We’re also loving the idea of their New Year’s Day Brunch, celebrated from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations, (707) 528-7100, 401 South A St., Santa Rosa.
I’ll be adding more spots as I find them at BiteClubEats.com.
Cook Tavern in St. Helena opened this week with a seriously nosh-able menu that includes house-made fried pickles, poutine with beef cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads with red wine veal jus, mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and bigger plates of buttermilk fried chicken wings, a house-ground burger, slow-roasted pork Cubano, and steak frites among the offerings. Potables include an old-school daiquiri, barrel-aged Manhattan, hot toddy, and crafty cocktails like the Cougar Juice (Grey Goose, St. Germain, peach shrub, lemon juice and wine). Why do I feel slightly offended, yet thirsty? The tavern is the little sister restaurant of the popular Cook Tavern. 1310 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 963-7088.