Occupation: Airline Pilot
Favorite Restaurant: the girl and the fig
Reviewed the girl and the fig: Monday, June 6, 2011
This restaurant was where my husband and I had our first “real” date, so it is not only special due to that, but we go there often and bring all of our guests here. It is classic Sonoma and is perfect to end a day of wine tasting. I have to be honest, the same week we went to dinner at this restaurant, I also had lunch there later in the week, and my husband and I stopped in for appetizers the week prior…for the show, of course.
We walked in at 6:00 for our reservation, and they could not find it. It was very crowded and people were waiting at the bar and in seats behind us. They finally found it, but it was for two days later!! They asked us if we minded sitting at the bar, so they could try to accommodate us. I do not think we had even completely sat down when they grabbed us to take us to our table. Chewy and Amy were the Hosts; they did a fabulous job.
Our waitress, Amanda, took care of us right away. My husband had a Junipero (small batch gin made from the Anchor Steam brewing company) Gin martini up with an olive, which he says are “the best martinis in town.” I usually order a lavender mojito, which is one of the signature drinks and delicious, but decided on my old standard, a Crown Royal and diet Coke, and the cocktail was very good.
We decided to try some new items on the menu, as we visit this restaurant often. We started with the heirloom radishes. We are a bit spoiled, as we grow our own radishes and eat them right out of the garden. These were different and didn’t have the same spiciness but the anchovy butter with grey sea salt was a delicious accompaniment and it all went very well together.
The fig and arugula salad was next, on old favorite that did not disappoint. We were going to split it, so they very nicely split it on two plates before they brought it out to us. The arugula, as always, was very tasty and fresh, topped with a creamy Laura Chenel goat cheese, toasted pecans, pancetta that they make in-house, and fig and port vinaigrette. Yum!
For our entrée, I had the seared halibut. It was cooked more than seared and still delicious. It was pan-seared with salt and pepper and olive oil and had a very thin crust; delicious. It was accompanied by a parsley spätzle that had a wild mushroom cream truffle sauce. The tastes were perfect together and soothed my palate. My husband had the top round lamb, which was seasoned perfectly and was a leaner cut than he was expecting. It was not gamey at all. The white bean puree had a nice flavor, a very nice texture, and the fava beans were cooked perfectly. The lavender truffle au jus accompanied the lamb very well. The flavors all married nicely.
Now for dessert! The lavender crème brûlée is a favorite of mine and has the perfect crust and hint of lavender, it is served with a mint leaf that I almost wish I could cut up and eat with the creamy concoction. I had a tawny port to accompany it, one that our waitress, Amanda recommended. It was less expensive than the Five Grapes tawny I was going to order, and I was very impressed. I was in heaven as I completed my dining experience. My husband had the chocolate caramel torte with sea salt and brown butter ice cream. The salt blended into the caramel, which just flows out when you cut into it, and the dark rich chocolate flavors it perfectly. It just melts in your mouth. The syrah port complemented the chocolate flavors perfectly just as the tawny did for my crème brûlée. Delightful!
Favorite Restaurant: Sauce
Reviewed the girl and the fig: Sunday, June 12, 2011
We drove up to Sonoma on a Sunday afternoon and made the drive without traffic. Great start! We arrived early afternoon (3:00) and decided to stroll the shops. Music and art was going on in the square, an added plus. The setting was busy and alive with tourists and locals.
We had reservations at 6:30 and arrived fifteen minutes early. We were greeted and seated immediately. The waiter introduced himself and brought us cocktails to relax and look over the menu (no hurry). We had a table for two at a window looking out on the town square (great seat to watch the activities).
The interior of the restaurant is very nicely decorated with artwork. It was active and alive with patrons. After cocktails, we ordered dinner. The first course was a sampler of cheeses and cured meats with olives, mustard, caper berries, and sliced sourdough baguette. It was delicious! Good starter.
We each had a salad for the second course. The fig and arugula salad had pancetta, toasted pecans, fig, and port vinaigrette. It was large enough to share and really refreshing and scrumptious after the cheese and hand made coppa and salami.
I chose the wild flounder meunière for my entrée. It was served over Yukon potato puree, Cello spinach, and drizzled with a lemon caper brown butter. This was the best preparation of flounder I’ve had. The fish was crispy, yet fork tender, and the potato and spinach were great complements, but my favorite part was the lemon-caper butter drizzle (fantastic). My wife is not a fan of fish, but she thought it was superb. She chose the flat iron steak with red chard and wild mushroom bread pudding. This was very well executed. (Super tender.)
After dinner we tried one dessert suggested by the waiter. It was a strawberry rhubarb tart with toasted oats and almonds, and pineapple sorbet. When you visit it is a must.
For all this, our bill was $127. I found it to be a great spot. Drive to Sonoma and don’t forget to visit the girl and the fig. (We loved it.)
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Rhea's Market and Deli
Reviewed the girl and the fig: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Set in downtown Sonoma, the girl and the fig is a charming and comfortable, if slightly uneven dining experience. Our party started with cocktails. The Sazerac was very well prepared and was one of the best I’ve had. It's made with rye whisky with Pernod (usually absinthe is used, which I prefer), bitters, and lemon oil. I would consider the size of the drink a slightly “short pour,” and given that the price of the drink was $10, my guard after drink service was raised as opposed to relaxed.
I was dining with a small group and felt a large sampling of appetizers and small plates would be best. We opened with a charcuterie plate of cheese and Mano Formate meats served with various (homemade?) mustards. There were three homemade meat selections with a sopressata and a coppa (which I swear looked more like a Parma) being the only ones I remember (see above Sazarac order) and three local cheeses. (The Bellwether and the Capricious cheeses being the most exceptional.) This improved my mood greatly.
From there we moved on to the starters. First were the heirloom radishes. This consisted of radishes of varying sizes -- some chopped simply in half, some slivered thin -- and topped with watercress and grey sea salt and served with anchovy butter. We got exactly what we ordered. I don’t know what I was expecting per se (I know this is a very popular starter in France), but it seemed fairly dull. The butter was whipped, and while salty, anchovy was not the flavor profile that leapt to mind. The dish was fine, but I couldn't help but think that this would be a fun playful alternative to bread and butter, as opposed to a stand-alone dish. The next starter was the steak tartare. This was a fairly bland dish; the caper berries came through far more than the taste of the actual meat. When I tried the steak on its own, free from the other ingredients, it was flat. The next dish was the smoked trout salad served with frisée, bacon lardons, hardboiled eggs and beet vinaigrette. The trout was a fillet and was very lightly but effectively smoked. The combination of all the ingredients was deceptively simple, but fantastic when you tasted them all together. This was the table’s favorite of the night. The duck confit came highly recommended, but left us underwhelmed. It was served almost as a cassoulet with tomatoes, beans, and bacon. I felt the dish had a good flavor, but the duck was unremarkable and the beans seemed slightly hard to me, and I couldn’t figure out if that had to do with cooking time, or if they were salted.
We also had the mussels and “matchstick” fries. I have had matchstick fries before. I would not call the fries we received “matchstick” These were the smallest/thinnest fries I have ever seen in my life. They reminded me of the remnants that are left in the bottom of a potato chip bag that you abandon scratching and clawing for, you just pour into your mouth. They were so small that you could not dip them in anything without getting the tips of your fingers dipped as well.
Furthermore, they were so crispy that when you tried to stab them with a fork, you sent crispy pieces of French fry bits flying all across the table and laps of those you were seated with. These fries were a large source of personal aggravation for me. I just felt that they sat at the edge of the table taunting me on how to eat them. In the end, I poured the liquid from the mussels over them and ate them like cereal in milk. I am all for a kitchen that is playful, I don’t think that is the same thing as making your diners feel infantile.
The mussels were ok. We had several that did not open which I was surprised by but even that did not irate me much as the fries. The entrée for the evening was the flounder, which was prepared meunière-style and served on top of Yukon potato purée and sautéed spinach. The flounder was cooked perfectly; however, the dish was very salty. The potatoes and fish seemed very salty, and the spinach was, thankfully, not very seasoned, so when eaten together the dish worked but individual bites were too loaded with salt. There were also a great deal of capers on the plate, which you had to avoid for fear of making the dish inedible, or at least requiring many glasses of water to finish it. This was a shame because had the seasoning been better, this dish had all the makings of a great dish.
We concluded the meal with the caramel tart. This was also deemed a table favorite. The caramel stayed room temperature and worked great with the chocolate top and the graham cracker crust. The main feature of the dessert was the brown butter ice cream, which was so packed with unmistakable brown butter taste that it was violently fought over at the table.
On the whole, I would summarize the girl and the fig as good, not great food, with a relaxed setting. The wait staff was friendly and accommodating to our desire to share all of our plates. There were a few items that looked quite good that I may go back for if I should ever find myself in the area. There ingredients seemed to be of a very high quality, but on the whole I found many of the dishes to be too salty and many times found that the “star” of a dish was not as interesting as some of the other components that surrounded it.