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.

The Santa Rosa Cider Sipper

You already know about Santa Rosa’s booming beer scene. And wine, well, you don’t have to go very far to find the vines in this town. But here’s a cocktail concoction that’s pure SR. The Santa Rosa Cider Sipper is a cool, fresh-tasting, refreshing delight on a warm Central SoCo day. In fact, let’s work up a little thirst so we can truly enjoy it. Instead of just passing on the recipe, we’re taking you on the Cider Sipper tour.

Recipe by:
Marcia Simmons

Debbie Wilson

• Start by moseying on down to your favorite specialty beverage store and grab a bottle of FoxCraft Hard Cider (we recommend Cranberry, but feel free to dabble with their other flavors.) These new world style hard ciders have been sweeping the award circuits.

• From there, it’s just a jaunt to the Miracle Plum neighborhood market in Railroad Square. Ask the good people there for a bottle of Golden Bear Bitters California Native Plants Aromatic Bitters. Then have a sniff to take in the essence of coastal woodlands.

• If you don’t have a box of sugar cubes buried on the back shelf, grab those at a nearby grocer and hustle home.

First, make sure your porch chairs are dry and there’s a comfy spot in the sun to hang out.

Then grab a couple of champagne flutes and put a sugar cube in the bottom.

Pour in just enough bitters to saturate the cube. Then take another whiff. Amazing, right?

Okay, here’s the final step.

Pop that bottle of FoxCraft and pour the hard cider carefully to create the fizzy head of bubbles, known as the mousse in the hoity champagne circles. 

Add a tiny twist of lemon.

If you want a little more kick, drop in a few drips of brandy or whiskey.

Now head out into the warm day and get started doing very little besides savoring your Santa Rosa Cider Sipper and soaking up the sunshine.

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