Sonoma County boasts an abundance of farm-to-table restaurants. Paired with epic California wines, you're in for a culinary delight. Here are 5 best restaurants in Sonoma County.
I am a native of Sonoma County, and I love to return to visit with friends and family, sample the newest wines, and dine on exceptional cuisine. Sonoma County boasts an abundance of farm-to-table restaurants. With access to such fantastic ingredients, how could any chef not flourish? After a recent trip this summer, I have chosen what I think are the five best restaurants in Sonoma County.
Baci Café & Wine Bar
Walking into Baci Café & Wine Bar in Healdsburg is like stepping into a neighborhood restaurant in an Italian village. Husband and wife owners Shari Sarabi from Iran and Lisbeth Holmefjord from Norway work hard to make everyone entering the restaurant feel welcome. Shari once said, “In the beginning, we saved two or three tables for the locals; now we save two or three tables for visitors.”
Chef Sarabi loved cooking as a child, and eventually, he moved to Milano, Italy, and the French Riviera to learn and perfect his culinary craft by working in restaurants. When he was 18, Chef Sarabi opened his first restaurant in San Francisco.
Ingredients used in the kitchen at Baci are sourced from small local farmers whenever possible. A passion for fresh ingredients is evident in the incredible taste of each dish and in the effort afforded to the beauty of its presentation.
My Favorite Dish at Baci Café
Each September, Baci features Insalata di Pesca—sweet, sliced peaches from Dry Creek Farms alongside burrata, a delicious fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The flavorful peaches and creamy cheese arrive on the plate drizzled with basil-infused olive oil, a balsamic reduction, chopped pistachios, a chiffonade of mint, and unique balsamic pearls that burst in your mouth.
The Farmhouse Inn, One of the Best Restaurants in Sonoma County
Executive Chef Jackson Clark is not new to The Farmhouse Inn located in Forestville, California. He spent over three years in the kitchen with Michelin-star Executive Chef Steve Litke. Chef Jackson left for a year during Covid. The restaurant underwent a kitchen remodel during that time, and Chef Jackson returned as the executive chef at the request of Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, owners of The Farmhouse Inn. Chef Jackson is reaching his stride after six months at the helm. With Wine Director/Sommelier Jared Hooper, incredible wait staff, and kitchen crew by his side, Chef Jackson and his team are creating memorable dining experiences at The Farmhouse Inn.
Chef Jackson's training is all “boots on the ground.” He has worked at various California kitchens in Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Healdsburg, and Forestville, learning skills from seasoned chefs while broadening his understanding of local products.
During my interview with Chef Jackson, I asked what he loves about The Farmhouse Inn. He said, “I think the quality of the people we have and the quality of ingredients available to us in this area is a big plus. During the remodel, the dining room was made smaller and now accommodates about 36 diners. With fewer diners, we can be meticulous about our service and ensure everything is just right.”
Something Savory from the Kitchen
My friend, Bernadette, joined me for dinner, and we ordered from the two tasting menus. I love how you can mix and match the Land and Sea menu and the From the Garden menus. Every dish was delicious, well-structured with various flavors and textures, and artfully presented. One savory dish was the ricotta gnocchi and roasted Brentwood corn with Australian truffles. The gnocchi was al dente, the corn was sweet, and the shaved truffles raised the dish to another level.
In 2015, Dustin Valette and his brother Aaron Garzini opened Valette in Healdsburg, California. After 20 years of planning, they built a restaurant that showcases products from nearby artisans, local farmers, and regional winemakers. Before 2015 Chef Dustin worked as the executive chef at Dry Creek Kitchen for six years. Today Executive Chef Nathan Davis works with Chef/Owner Dustin to man the kitchen at Valette.
The culinary team incorporates an array of flavors found in various cuisines, and the Hawaiian Ahi Poke highlights Asian spices. The raw ahi is tossed in a soy kombu emulsion and sits atop a wakame seaweed salad with crispy fried avocados. Thinly sliced watermelon radishes adorn the plate. The gorgeous dish, packed with flavor, has a multitude of delectable textures.
A New Appreciation
The foie gras is a signature dish at Valette. During my visit five years ago, this dish won perfection. I spread it like butter onto toasted buttermilk brioche and then topped it with pickled green peaches and toasted hazelnuts. Finally, I put a touch of hibiscus puree on the top. This signature dish is served with various accompaniments that change with the seasons.
The Matheson, One of the Newest and Best Restaurants in Sonoma County
The Matheson and Roof 106 in Healdsburg, California, are Chef/Owner Dustin Valette's newest creations. Already notable in the culinary industry, the restaurant and bar overflowed with guests during my recent visit. My friend Judy and I stopped by Roof 106 for a drink, where Chef Brian Best runs the show, and then we sat down to a more formal dinner downstairs at The Matheson. The open-air kitchen kept the place lively, and the staff was fun and knowledgeable. Luckily, The Matheson and Valette are not far from each other as Chef Dustin keeps on his toes running between the two buildings.
Dustin attributes his success to his three top-notch chefs who handle the kitchen activities at the three venues: Valette, Roof 106, and The Matheson. He also gives high praise and thanks to his Vice President of Operations, Marko Sotto. Chef Matt Brimer works closely with Chef Dustin at The Matheson and shares the same dedication toward local ingredients.
When visiting The Matheson, the tasting menu with paired wines is the way to go, so arrive hungry. Each dish bursts with flavor and is thoughtfully composed. I am a potato fan. My daughter Brittney, another foodie, thinks it's hilarious that such a basic ingredient can make her mother happy.
For the Love of Spuds
The Osetra Caviar at The Matheson is a perfect example of how a great chef can turn a simple potato into something magnificent. Shitake mushroom “xo” sauce was the first layer, and then perfectly salted, creamy Yukon gold espuma veiled the sauce. Shavings of cured egg, chopped chives, and fresh potato chips garnished the potato espuma, and caviar crowned the dish. Finally, Piment d' Espelette, a red chili pepper powder from France, was dusted over the top. The salty caviar enhanced the plate with another complementary flavor and texture, and the chili powder added a touch of heat.
SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, One of the Best Restaurants in Sonoma.
Every one of the above restaurants is impressive. Still, Chef/Owner Kyle Connaughton and his wife Katina take cuisine to the next level at SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn in Healdsburg, California. The couple opened the restaurant in December 2016, and in 2017 SingleThread was already renowned in the culinary world. The restaurant received four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and a James Beard Foundation Restaurant Design Award.
SingleThread is the first and only restaurant in Sonoma County to receive three Michelin stars and was also a recipient of the World's 50 Best Restaurants' “Miele One to Watch” Award. In October 2021, SingleThread was named #37 at the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, another massive step in its rise up the culinary ladder.
A Dinner to Remember
My friend, Ken, joined me for dinner. We began the evening by relaxing with a glass of bubbles in the rooftop garden. This serene and Zen space is reserved for guests of the Inn and diners before their dinner begins. After our time upstairs, we went downstairs to watch the culinary team work their magic in the kitchen. Just inside the restaurant entrance, there is a viewing window where guests can watch the staff plate the chef's exquisite dishes.
We arrived at the table where a centerpiece of greenery, flowers, and single-bite dishes awaited us. After being seated, our sommelier brought out the first pour for dinner, a glass of 2012 Dom Pérignon Champagne. Ken and I looked at one another, made a toast, and sat back to sip the incredible bubbles and ponder the trajectory of our upcoming extraordinary culinary journey.
SingleThread takes Japanese cuisine to new heights. It was an entire evening of mouthwatering flavors, delectable textures, and artful presentations. I don't give out many “10s,” but there were several during the meal.
A Piece of Delicious Art
One of many exceptional dishes was the Nodoguro, a black throat seaperch known as “Rosy Seabass” or “Akamutsu.” The fish is highly sought after and caught along the coast of the Sea of Japan. The fish was served with three preparations of corn: a corn mochi cake, corn dashi velouté (potage), and torched corn. Spinach, basil, and Jimmy Nardello peppers, a sweet, thin-skinned Italian frying pepper, accompanied the fish, and a small sprig of flowering sea asparagus ornamented the dish.
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Treat Yourself to Dinners at the Best Restaurants in Sonoma County
When heading to California, take the time to sip on fabulous Sonoma County wines and enjoy the sunshine. Peruse Wander with Wonder for the best restaurants, wineries, and activities in Sonoma County. Don't forget to book reservations at one or all of the spectacular restaurants listed above.