By Deirdre Bourdet
Winter is traditionally the off-season in wine country, though it’s
always been one of my favorite times to visit. Besides the lack of
crowds, cold weather brings out local warmth and a slew of discounted
activities and menus.
Here are two restaurant deals that should not be
missed this year:
1. Regional French Menus at BANK.
Few people are aware that Ken Frank of La Toque restaurant also oversees BANK, the breakfast-lunch-dinner restaurant at the Westin Verasa. He’s introduced a nostalgic (and nostalgically priced) $29 prix fixe dinner menu highlighting the greatest hits of various different regions of France. Having just celebrated Antibes (with perfect pissaladière, soupe de poisson,
and île flottante,
all personal favorites), the kitchen is moving on to Normandy this week and featuring moules marinière, blanquette de veau,
and crêpes with roasted apples (Dec. 7-13). Next up will be Lyon, the so-called gastronomic capital of France. Expect to see classic salade lyonnaise
(frisée with sautéed lardons and poached egg), saucisson lyonnais
with mashed potatoes, and a cinnamon crème brûlée. Christmas week will fête the Basque region, with a Bilbao-style seafood stew, poulet basquaise
(braised chicken with tomatoes, bell peppers, and beans), and the classic cherry-filled gâteau basque.
The price is right, and the flavors are spot-on.
2. “La Cena di Famiglia” at Estate.
Sondra Bernstein of the girl and the fig fame has added yet another great-value prix fixe option at her Italian outpost in Sonoma, and she was kind enough to invite me to check it out gratis. The place: Estate, located in an elegant old Victorian mansion just a few blocks off Sonoma Square. The food: rustic, seasonal Italian full of local veggies, punchy Mediterranean flavors, and love. The deal: for $26 per person ($38 with optional blood orange “fellini” aperitivo, glass of wine, and espresso) you get a copious selection of garden-driven antipasti, a main course, side of seasonal contorni, and dessert, all served family-style. You need at least two people to score this deal, but at least three people to eat the 2-person portion. When I was there, the antipasti included marinated heirloom radishes, lentil and farro salad, fried chick peas, cauliflower gratin, fingerling potato salad, parmesan-red pepper spread, and housemade bread, and we could have made a meal out of that course alone. Check out the weekly changing menus here. BANK Café and Wine Bar
(in the Westin Verasa)
1314 McKinstry Street, Napa 707.257.5151Estate
400 West Spain Street, Sonoma, 707.933.3663