The Pullman Kitchen: Thoughtful, locally-sourced fare with a comfort food twist in this Santa Rosa neighborhood bistro

Owner Darren McRonald and chef John Trunk, good friends whose résumés share upstate New York’s Tinhorn, Manhattan’s Bellavitae and, locally, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, helm this California-Mediterranean-inspired bistro. The contemporary, intimate space features…

The Pullman Kitchen

205 Fifth Street

Santa Rosa, CA 95401


Reservations recommended. Indoor dog-friendly patio.

$$. Open for Lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner nightly and Brunch Sat-Sun.

Bonus: If you plan to be in Santa Rosa the evening of June 10th, The Pullman Kitchen will be hosting a dine and donate fundraiser for Sonoma Humane Society where 10% of all pre-tax sales from 5:30-9:30p will be donated to the shelter animals. Gotta love a business that supports animal welfare!


Butterscots: Relax and refuel at this delightful respite in North St. Helena

Located at Cairdean Estate in north St. Helena, Butterscots is a welcome stop for a light meal on any wine country itinerary. While waiting for a frothy cappuccino…



Butterscots at Cairdean Estate

3111 St. Helena Hwy North

St. Helena, CA 94574


$. Open daily for breakfast and lunch.


Redd Wood: A chic, Italian-inspired gem with wood-fired cuisine in the middle of Napa Valley


Yountville’s Richard Reddington of Redd fame offers Napa Valley a casually elegant osteria with Redd Wood, where the focus is on Italian-inspired wood-fired pizza and fresh, house-made pasta. The chic ambiance is right on par with…

If you’re on a low-carb diet (I’m so sorry), this is not the place for you. But if you’re like me and dig fresh seasonal comfort food (bonus: from a wood-burning oven) in a hipster’s (without too many hipsters) space, you will love it.  This was one of my better finds to date. Highly recommend!

Redd Wood

6755 Washington St.

Yountville, CA 94599


$$. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Reservations recommended.


Drink menu steals the show at St. Helena’s new gastropub – The Farmer & the Fox

As you reach the north side of St. Helena, just at the base of Spring Mountain you may notice something seems a little different. Where did those posh St. Helena retail outlets go? The group of buildings look familiar but there’s no signs of Coach or Escada or Brooks Brothers.

If you haven’t yet received the memo, the St. Helena Premium outlets have been rigorously replaced by Cairdean Estate – a luxe wine country village unto itself that includes a full-fledged winery and meticulously-manicured working vineyard, a lively British gastropub, and a breakfast-lunch eatery (that supposedly rivals another very popular nearby bakery). Soon to open on the grounds is a high-end gift shop offering fine mercantiles and rare Scotches, as well as a wine sensory classroom and event center.  Also under construction are the winery’s extensive Napa-esque wine caves – sure to make wine-makers in Bordeaux blush.

Opened by Edwin and Stacia Williams in June 2014, the Farmer & the Fox is the powerhouse duo’s take on the trendy gastropub – merging traditional Brit pub fare and drinks with splashes of wine country panache.

After finding the front door (which is not as easy as you might think), you quickly realize the bar is where it’s at. A gleaming copper bar punctuated by a stunning glass-walled walk-in wine fridge infuses a hip vibe throughout the pub and contributes to the quick realization that there really is no reason to belly up anywhere but in the nearby polished leather banquettes or right there, at the bar. The drink program boasts unique house speciality cocktails, a healthy offering of wine and beer on tap (from mostly California and French producers) along with an impressive bottled wine list that includes Cairdean Estate’s own wines but also hundreds of highly respectable others. Several different ciders, scotches and dessert wines round out the expansive drink selection.

Upon my visit in late November, I was disappointed to find the service lacked consistency and the food lacked inspiration. Open only five months (at the time of my review), I was reminded of an awkward teenager where all of the pub’s moving parts were desperately trying to find its groove but were far from being in sync. A few dishes appeared table-side as dupes, confusing both patrons and servers. Menu items were often plopped down without any explanation or presentation. While the warm, buttery popovers and the spicy-sweet-smoky rubbed duck wings were favorite apps, the petrale sole and pork loin roast entrees were missing flavor and originality. The Scotch egg and butternut squash fritters were acceptable but nothing to write home about.

The gastropub’s self-identity certainly appears murky as well – is this a chic bar or a chic restaurant with a hip bar? I’m not convinced most of their servers could answer that. Although I did not try everything on the menu, the proof is in the drink menu, not in the food menu. Napa Valley diners are a fickle bunch, and typically arrive with heavy wallets and high expectations. With so many other above-average options nearby, time is ticking for this what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up gastropub.

Overall, the Farmer & the Fox is a worthwhile stop for a fun pre- or post-dinner drink (and a few duck wings), but when it comes to dinner fare, keep on winding up Highway 29 further north (Calistoga) or south (St. Helena, Yountville, Rutherford, Napa).

For more details, check out my Gayot review:

The Farmer & the Fox

3111 St. Helena Hwy N.

St Helena, CA 94574


$$$. Open nightly for dinner.

Reservations recommended.

Come out and play at Chalkboard in Healdsburg

photo-45 Upon first stepping inside Chalkboard, a black and white checkered floor under a captivating rainbow of bottles atop a neighborhood-feel bar greet you. Through this intimate lounge, a narrow hallway leads to the dining room opening up to softly-arched ceilings, warm light converging into shadows, large mirrors reflecting further gradations, columns lining the room’s center.  A dark wood communal table surrounded by red velvet seats – sits high, openly encouraging community. Executive Chef Shane McAnelly (previously of Zero Zero in San Francisco and Va de Vi in Walnut Creek) creates a seasonal wine country whimsical menu inspired by the bounty of nearby Chalk Hill Estate’s 3-acre organic garden.  Small plates instilled with unique combinations invite diners to come out and play. This is one play date not to be missed.

For my full review – go to



at Hotel Les Mars

29 North Street

Healdsburg, CA  95448


$$$. Open for lunch on weekends and dinner nightly.

Reservations recommended.

New world West Sonoma County takes on old world Neapolitan at Sebastopol’s Vignette Pizzeria


Toting an impressive tenure at Thomas Keller Restaurant Group and Farmshop Marin, chef-owner Mark Hopper’s first solo act, Vignette Pizzeria is ideally located at The Barlow, Sebastopol’s artisanal marketplace, emphasizing local food, art and wine. “Vignette” refers to a moment in time, allowing focus on one object – in this case, traditional Neapolitan pizza with an innovative twist.

The simple wine list features Italian-inspired, boutique wines highlighting Chef Hopper’s roots: California, New York, and Italy. Craft artisan beer offerings are in tune with this bi-coastal-country theme.

For a sweet ending, try Pizzelle Cannoli, Mama Hopper’s not-to-be missed symphony of ricotta cheese and candied fruits, dusted with chocolate. Uniquely local deliciousness.

My full review can be found on

Vignette Pizzeria

At The Barlow

6750 McKinley Street

Sebastopol, CA 95472


$$. Open daily for lunch & dinner.

The Rise of Missy Hissy

It’s been quite a morning on Fat ‘n Happy farm…

Brooding under the coop for over a week now, one of our Rhode Island Reds was determined to watch over and protect her “babies”… Now seeing as we don’t have any roosters, there are no babies – only raw runny eggs underneath a hard shell. You see, sometimes as hens mature, their maternal instinct kicks in and for whatever reason, they convince themselves their eggs are babies, even when they are not.

Peering under the 4-6-inch gap (from ground to coop) with a flashlight, my husband and I could see over a dozen missed eggs underneath the coop. Proudly perched on top of the egg pile was our Red girl – staring back at us, daring us to make a move. Our arms were not long enough to reach her and try as we might, we couldn’t shimmy our bodies under the coop to drag her out. After spending hours trying to coax her out with feed and watermelon (i.e., chicken-crack) and then gently trying to usher her out with a long stick, all we got was one stubborn, hissing hen who stood her ground (literally). 

And so the other day I peered under the coop and all I could see was a pile of feathers, no beady eyes staring back at me. Seeing as she hadn’t eaten in days, I was convinced she’d left us and gone to Hen-ven. 

As I was writing up her hen-ulogy this morning, my husband decided to give it one last try. Thanks to the suggestion of a chicken-loving neighbor, he got out the hose, positioned it under the coop, and sprayed directly toward the pile of feathers…

After a few minutes of spray, out popped a wet, angry squawking hen… Totally perplexed, the dogs watched as we danced around the coop, high fiving each other – “She’s alive! She’s alive!” Squawking the entire time, Hissy beelined it to the feed, kicking the other hens out of the way as if to say “I’m baaaaaack!”. After 8+ days of no food, I was convinced she’d be a bit on the scrawny side, but immediately we noticed she’s toting a significantly larger girth than any others in the flock. Turns out she was feeding on the eggs – yes, the very same eggs she was trying to protect.

Hey, a girl’s got to live.