Food Nerds

One day, a few years ago, Dawn Zaft stumbled out of acupuncture school and opened a bakery. Since then, by tapping into the fresh food culture in Sonoma County, Dawn and her accomplices at Criminal Baking Co. & Noshery have helped make Santa Rosa a sweeter, more delicious place.
We sat down with Dawn to discuss the Santa Rosa food scene. Here are a few tasty clips.

Restaurant Week Review:
Bird and the Bottle

With over 130 restaurants participating in this year’s Restaurant Week here in Sonoma County, it’s not hard to find a spot that’s tailor made to suit all your food and drink desires.

Menus are generally available online, which is incredibly convenient. It took only a few minutes of browsing on my iPhone before settling in on Bird & The Bottle, located just off the 101 on Fourth Street. I’d both heard and read the odd praise before my meal there, which set in place a bar I hoped would remain consistent.

outside signage

Right off the bat, I appreciate B&TB’s location. Fourth Street tends to carry with it some trepidation regarding parking, but the location is just far enough east to safely reduce the prospect of block circling and hazard lights. Instantaneous parking, albeit on a Tuesday night, makes for a great start to any meal.

Once indoors, you’re greeted with a tasteful and cozy scene. The building was originally constructed as a home in the early 1900s, and although thoroughly renovated, there is definitely a vibe of homey intimacy, especially in the upstairs section where we were seated. Acoustics in the room where we dined initially came off as noisy, but I soon retracted that thought after realizing it was less about the room and more about the man behind me who took to conversation like he was relaying traffic from a helicopter.

Ok, food time. Being that it’s Restaurant Week, we went straight for their exclusive prix-fixe menu and got to ordering: three courses, each with a few options, $39. Our waitress was terrific and laid out the basics with an infectious cheer. Soon we were enjoying a delicious craft beer and cocktail and getting in the odd conversation when the chopper reporter was catching his breath.

restaurant week: prix fixe menu

The appetizer was wood grilled goat brie, red pepper roasted garlic jam, and smoked almonds. The warm brie was gooey, subtle, and worked well with the toasted rye bread. The jam and almonds brought up the rearguard with an interesting contrast, and we made the dish disappear with shameless speed.

Restaurant Week: Prix Fixe menu

I’m a huge pork fan, and the “Moo Shu Style” smoked pork shoulder clicked immediately. The garlic chive pancakes were crepe-thin yet surprisingly fluffy – a great mouthfeel when combined with the pork. Excellent selection of trimmings and even homemade kimchi!
I can’t speak to their regular menu, but the Restaurant Week offerings were hearty and filling. My partner and I merely ordered one of the $39 prix-fixe selections and it was the perfect amount of food to get us safely to dessert.

Goo Goo Pie in Another Jar rounded out the evening. This was basically a Mason jar full of peanut butter custard, caramel, and chocolate. A tad rich for my tastes, but delicious nonetheless.

bird and bottle dessert

Overall, I had a great time at Bird & The Bottle, and would definitely return. Although food is the all important criteria for judging a restaurant, there are many other factors that play a role in the combined experience. I was happy that our server was kind, attentive, and knowledgable. We received our food and drinks in a timely fashion and the entire meal went by, as it should, smooth and enjoyable.

Bird & The Bottle

1055 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Restaurant Week Review: Yeti

I wasted no time whatsoever diving mouth-first into this year’s Sonoma County Restaurant Week, and promptly at lunchtime on Monday afternoon found myself at Yeti Indian and Nepalese Restaurant, in Santa Rosa.

I’ve been wanting to try this place for while, but their location is a bit odd, albeit incredibly convenient in the grand scheme of things. At the intersection of Farmer’s Lane and Highway 12, this bright yellow building exudes a welcoming cheeriness, while inside the space is invitingly dark, with dark wood, rich red and gold upholstery, and a friendly, professional staff.

I ordered the Yeti Special Lunch Set, which allowed me to sample several different items in smaller portions. First came a perfect little salad, which looked as though it had been prepared by salad fairies, each with their own special job: this one adds the slice of avocado; this one adds the fancy-cut cucumber, and so on. All of it was topped with a delicious homemade mustard dressing, made with mustard (obviously), vinegar, garlic, honey and mint, which gave this simple salad a satisfying nudge into the ‘beyond ordinary’ category.

Next came the Mulligatawny style Dal Pot soup. This small bowl of pureed lentil, cream and spiced vegetables was packed full of flavor with just the right amount of kick to make me perk up and take notice, without hurting my taste buds.

As for the Lunch Set itself – because the soup and salad were an added bonus yaaaaaay! – everything was beautifully presented, and delicious. The lightly-buttered naan was soft, warm, and therefore the perfect scooping vessel for the smaller dishes. Yes, I used a fork as well…sometimes. The Dal Bukhara (lentils) were simple and paired nicely with the perfectly cooked rice; the vegetables curry dish managed to pack an impressive variety of vegetables into such a small dish, and my favorite Indian dish, Saag Paneer (creamy spinach curry with homemade farmer’s cheese) disappeared faster than I’d care to admit here.

But let’s talk for just a moment about the chicken. Anyone who has ever tried to feed me knows that I shy away from meat involving bones or being eaten with my hands. I’m just a low-maintenance food eating kind of gal. But for the sake of a full review for you, dear readers, I picked up a leg of Tandoori Chicken, bit in, and am forever a changed woman. Bursting with flavor and fall-off-the-bone tender, this was by far the best chicken I have ever tried. In short order I’d abandoned the proper use of utensils and was tearing away at this delicacy like it was caveman times again. I’d do it again, too.

After this herculean amount of eating, I didn’t think I had space for the surprise dessert which had also come as a bonus to the meal, but again: full review – you’re welcome. I was delighted after the first bite to discover that it was a very delicate dish of fresh apples in a light yogurt; a perfect, light way to end the meal.

I was so thrilled for the chance to try Yeti Restaurant, and cannot wait to return. Considering they are open 7 days a week from 11:30am – 3pm for lunch and 5pm – 9:30 for dinner, this should be easy. A few other notes to keep in mind are their buffet, offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and their daily Happy Hour from 4 – 6, offering $4 and $5 drinks, and appetizers ranging from $5 – $7.

And of course, open all week for Sonoma County Restaurant Week, offering $15 lunch specials, and $29 dinner specials!

Yeti Restaurant
190 Farmers Lane (near the Flamingo Hotel)
Santa Rosa, CA 95405

Burma Crave

I love trying new foods, particularly those of other countries and cultures. So when a “Best of Burma: Coming Soon” sign showed up in front of the old Shuffles Ice Cream, I jumped for joy – Burmese food was coming to Santa Rosa!

After Best of Burma opened last fall, I set out with my husband to try out this new culinary adventure. I had no idea what to expect for our dinner, and I had no idea what type of food Burmese actually was. I knew very little about Burma- other than the country was now known as Myanmar, and it’s the home of origin to the Burmese Python. But as one always up for new things, I was eager to try it out.Best of Burma

Our server Kevin was very helpful, and explained that the dishes were served family style, and pointed out what items were the most authentic. For someone as clueless to Burmese food as I was, I would say they were similar to Thai – lots of noodle and curry dishes.

Best of BurmaTo start with, we ordered the tea leaf salad. It came arranged with the individual components of lettuce, fried yellow beans, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh tomatoes, and jalapenos arranged around a pile of the tea leaves. We opted to have the dish vegetarian, but normally it comes with dried shrimp. Kevin then squeezed fresh lemon over the tea leaves, and then mixed everything together. He told us that the leaves are fermented in a clay pot for 3-6 months.

Best of BurmaOur next Best of Burma dish was Nan Gyu Thoke, a rice noodle dish with a chicken coconut curry sauce. Like the salad, it came arranged with the ingredients separate, and the server mixed at the table. I asked if that was a traditional presentation, and Kevin told us no, its just something they like to do because many people are unfamiliar with the ingredients. We also chose Pork Curry with Potatoes, which was as it sounded, but also marinated with pickled mangoes. I like both of these curry dishes, which were lighter and fruitier than other Thai curries I’ve had. Our server explained that most of the dishes in the cuisine were wet and saucy like these, which is complimentary to the wet and humid climate the country experiences.

For dessert, I somewhat reluctantly ordered Sooji, which Kevin described as a baked cream of wheat. It was the most authentic dessert they had, amongst a selection of sticky rice and ice creams. Despite not being excited about it (I mean, baked cream of wheat?), I was determined to explore all sides of the Best of Burma menu, so based on his recommendation, we forged ahead. It came with mango ice cream, and while it wasn’t my favorite dish by far, it wasn’t bad. Similar to a dry rice pudding, with flavors of cinnamon and coconut, it was much different than the descendant chocolate and sugary things I consider dessert.

I’ll be sure to come back. There were several other things on the menu that I’m eager to try, such as samosa soup and the rainbow salad, which was described as “4 types of noodles and 22 other ingredients that were too many to list.”

Best of Burma is located at 528 7th Street.

Phone: 707-623-9280