The Trading Post a big addition to little Cloverdale

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Trading Post Restaurant & Bakery

Where: 102 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale

When: Restaurant: 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Bakery: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Bakery counter and takeout: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday

Contact: 707-894-6483, thepostcloverdale.com

Cuisine: California, American

Price: Expensive, entrees $16-$49

Corkage: $20, waived with bottle purchase

Stars: **1/2

Summary: The combination of a full bakery and casual California restaurant is delightful; try the savory topped toasts

I admit it. It has taken me a while to get over the idea of paying for bread service at restaurants. Forever, bread has been a staple of dining out, as a filler to idly nibble while waiting for appetizers to arrive.

Yet here in Wine Country, the noble starch is usually custom-crafted daily, either on-site or by a boutique bakery nearby. It becomes as much a statement of a kitchen’s talent as homemade pastas and desserts.

At the Trading Post, which opened in October in Cloverdale, things are even better. There’s a full bakery showcased through a glass wall off the dining room. Head baker Aaron Arabian changes the bread board line-up daily, such as the superb brandied onion rolls, potato-arugula focaccia, pumpkin rye and rosemary pain d’epi we enjoyed one evening, or the French baguette, artisanal sourdough country loaf, seeded rye and sweet fruit-nut bread on another.

Served in generous portions with creamy cultured butter, the bread fantasia ends up being a mouthwatering bargain for just $6.

It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this delightful eatery, after the bakery side first debuted in June 2015. A project from the Mercer Restaurant Group that was behind Mid-Market San Francisco former hot spots TBD, Bon Marché and AQ, the bakery alone took more than a year to build out, and then the remainder of the 3,000-square-foot building at First Street and Cloverdale Boulevard needed substantial renovation to turn it into restaurant space.

Now, Mercer has turned the reins over to executive chef-new owner Erik Johnson and his wife and business partner, Marissa Alden. Johnson previously worked at Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen and J Vineyards & Winery’s Bubble Room.

It’s very easy to like this stylish, raw-wood-trimmed space with its wood and brass wine bar that runs the length of the room.

Especially given the limited dining choices in Cloverdale, it feels like an under-the-radar hideaway, joining neighboring hip charmers like Savvy on First café and pastry shop, Plank coffee and Cloverdale Ale Co.’s Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub.

The restaurant is still evolving, too, with recent additions like a bakery counter at the restaurant entry stocked with changing temptations such as jalapeño-cheddar-bacon focaccia that’s rich and pillowy, and whole baguettes that are long, crisp-crusted wands of perfect fluffy crumb.

(I also admit it: I took home two loaves of bread after dinner one night, and devoured them both within two days.)

Expanded counter

In January, the counter expanded to a takeaway center, offering specialties like smoked salmon with cream cheese and green onion on rye ($7), brie layered with sweet piquillo pepper, butter and spicy pepper cress on baguette ($7), and rice noodles tossed with bok choy, roasted winter squash and sesame soy dressing ($7). There are chocolate chip cookies, flan and tarts, and we can grab a picnic, or take a seat at the oversized wood tables that sit atop the Saltillo terra cotta-tile and wood floor.

Still, dinner remains the main attraction, featuring a simple but entirely satisfying lineup at reasonable prices. There are plenty of pleasing bites, from a platter of five deviled eggs (where does the last half egg end up?) topped in finely grated horseradish and mustard seeds ($6), to dill seasoned tater tots lightly fried in duck fat and plated with aioli and herb salad ($8).

Trading Post Restaurant & Bakery

Where: 102 S. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale

When: Restaurant: 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Bakery: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Bakery counter and takeout: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday

Contact: 707-894-6483, thepostcloverdale.com

Cuisine: California, American

Price: Expensive, entrees $16-$49

Corkage: $20, waived with bottle purchase

Stars: **1/2

Summary: The combination of a full bakery and casual California restaurant is delightful; try the savory topped toasts

A handful of larger entrees range from spiced fried chicken thighs atop greens with puckery housemade pickles ($13), to a 22-ounce rib-eye for two, partnered with duck fat potatoes and leafy spigarello ($49).

Vegetables offer a nice start, showcasing “Ronnie’s Garden,” and in an assortments like beets, carrot, watermelon radish, pickled green tomato and spritzes of lemon ($8). Ronnie is restaurant gardener Ron Ferrato, who also raises chickens for the eatery’s deviled eggs, and during prime hen laying season, supplies fresh eggs for sale at the bakery counter.

More watermelon radish arrives shaved thin atop smoked bean puree on excellent pumpernickel toast, finished with tiny curls of mint.

And while sausage- stuffed mushrooms sound like a retro potluck snack, this version of five savory nubbins is updated with plump, soy marinated creminis and homemade meat chunks over rich glaze and crisp greens ($7).

Soothing mix

We were hoping that the Greens & Grains was served warm, since the kale dressed in roasted winter squash vinaigrette, pepitas and rye crumble sounded like a soothing mix on a chilly night, but it’s cold ($13).

It’s still tasty, however, and we alternated bites with spoonfuls of steaming hot butternut squash soup topped in brown butter toasted croutons and fresh herbs ($11).

On the meat side, the Liberty Farms duck legs are good, crispy confit fried and arranged with Thumbelina carrot, Tokyo turnips and moist farro pilaf ($24).

The half-chicken is fine, too, roasted to order in a cast-iron pot then plated with diced beets, potatoes and spicy greens ($24). Both were enhanced when we paired wines from the Sonoma County and Mendocino-focused list: a Cast Russian River Chardonnay ($14/$56), and a La Pitchoune Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($13/$52).

This is one of the best butterscotch puddings I’ve had, meanwhile, brilliant with rich flavor and a dash of rum, then sprinkled with gingerbread chunks and whipped cream.

How great to see how Cloverdale is developing into its own destination, with a burgeoning arts, music and, increasingly, dining scene.

Thanks, Trading Post, for giving us yet another reason to explore this pretty little town.

Carey Sweet is a Santa Rosa-based food and restaurant writer. Read her restaurant reviews every other week in Sonoma Life. Contact her at carey@careysweet.com.

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