When wine tasting – which as we all know is yuppese for getting drunk outside during the day in a socially acceptable manner – it is important to lay down a base. Because there is tipsy in the wine cave and then there is puking in the parking lot. The latter will get you booted from the vineyards for life, doomed to limit your wine tasting to NASCAR events.
Needless to say, we made a point to eat well when wine tasting in Sonoma. We were traveling around the rolling, green hills of Healdsburg, CA and needed a lunch spot to fill up. And when seeking out the best under the radar wine Northern California has to offer, a Taco Bell nacho grande would not do. No sir, we were headed to the Dry Creek Kitchen for a heady lunch.
Dry Creek Kitchen is a Charlie Palmer property, fusing French and Italian sensibilities with a very Californian drive. Although still officially based in Manhattan, Palmer’s family lives in the area and you can catch a glimpse of this mountain man working the dining room from time to time. How will you know its him? Just keep an eye out for a dude who looks like he just felled a redwood with his bare hands. That’s probably Palmer.
Most days, the restaurant is steered by the very capable hands of Chef de Cuisine Les Goodman, who has added several new items to the menu since his arrival at the Kitchen. We started our meal with an ahi tuna carpaccio, served with shaved fennel, local citrus and brioche croutons. The dish was bright and flavorful – an edible cure for any case of winter blues. If I could, I would have packed 5 more of these to go so I could break it out as a delicious snack over the next few days.
More dishes after the jump.
Next up came a delightful osso buco that had us scraping the sides of the shankbone to get every last morsel of perfectly seasoned marrow. The dish was served with savory meat cooked to a delicate pliantness and balanced with a gorgeous, rich risotto.
At this point, we were full enough for a quick food coma and jog around the block. But no, the culinary adventure was not over. Our entrees were arriving. Apparently I ordered like a trucker planning his last meal and gazed with wonder as my wagyu beef burger was set in front of me in its juicy, marbled glory. Mike, always the savvier diner, went lighter with a smoked salmon “reuben” served on toasted rye with pickled cabbage and green onion horseradish dressing. Although my burger was rich and delicious, Mike out-ordered me with the salmon. It was full of flavor, moist and light.
Sommelier Drew Munro was accessible and helpful throughout the meal. The wine list is both expansive and focused, drawing from the immediate region around the restaurant, so additional guidance is in order to navigate the sea of unknowns. The list features local stars, including some small batches that aren’t often available to mere mortals like you and me.
We polished off our entrees, slurped up the rest of our wine and waddled off into the afternoon sun, girded for a day of civilized drinking. Although I don’t think it comes as a surprise that we skipped dinner that night.