Before making the long drive home to Los Angeles, The Astronomer and I made one final stop at The Fremont Diner in Sonoma for lunch. The restaurant has been garnering significant buzz ever since it opened in 2009, but it didn’t come across my radar until my friend Lien enthusiastically recommended it. She promised me that Chef Chad Harris’ brand of gussied-up down-home cuisine would rub me in all sorts of right ways.
Situated on a lonely stretch of Highway 121, the two-year-old diner captures the feel of a weathered roadside diner down South. Rusted truck parked out front? Check. Chickens roaming around the building? Check. Grease wafting heavily in the air? Check. If it weren’t for the lush rolling hills and acres of carefully planted grapes, I would’ve sworn we were back in sweet home Alabama.
After placing and paying for our order at the front counter, The Astronomer and I grabbed a table inside. There were a dozen inviting picnic tables set-up out front, but the essence of manure in the air discouraged us from outdoor dining.
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Sometime last December, a brilliant idea came to me while I was procrastinating at work. I didn’t know how the logistics would unfold exactly, but I decided that my 29th birthday had to be celebrated over fried chicken at Ad Hoc. It’s been a dream of mine for quite sometime, and it was high time that it was turned into a reality.
After calling the restaurant and figuring out the schedule (fried chicken is only served for dinner every other Monday), a table was booked for February 21. And thus, my month-long birthday party culminated in Yountville at Ad Hoc’s fried chicken night. Dreams really do come true!
Ad Hoc has been one of my all-time favorite restaurants ever since The Astronomer and I brunched here nearly two years ago. The food, which has a deceptively simple and homey quality about it, is made with the finest ingredients and executed with precision. The restaurant serves a four-course menu five nights a week and a three-course brunch on Sunday. All meals are shared family style.
The Astronomer and I were joined by our friend Scott and his girlfriend Nandita for this hotly anticipated dinner. Scott, who produces wine in nearby St. Helena, was in charge of the evening’s libations. He chose a light and bright white from the Napa Valley—Massican “Annia.”
Fried chicken Monday, which is priced at $52 per person, started off like any other Ad Hoc meal, with bread from nearby Bouchon Bakery served with perfectly spreadable butter.
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After spending several days in The Bay visiting loved ones and dining at some spectacular local spots, The Astronomer and I traveled to Wine Country for more of the same. We haven’t been back to the area since celebrating our engagement at The French Laundry in 2009, but the scenery and spirit of the place was just as lovely as we remembered it.
On our first night in town, The Astronomer and I snagged two seats at the bar at Chef Michael Chiarello‘s three-year-old rustic Italian eatery Bottega. I had tried to make a proper reservation a few days earlier, but the entire restaurant was fully booked. Fortunately, we didn’t wait but five minutes before two stools opened up.
While we perused the menu and wine list, our waiter dropped off some white bread along with a garlic- and cheese-infused olive oil. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered bread service worth going gaga over, but Bottega’s was really outstanding. The bread was crusty without scarring the roof of my delicate mouth, while the olive oil was just plain addictive. Even though we had a feast ahead of us, seconds were requested and immediately devoured.
To start, I picked the pesce crudo—”market fresh raw selection from the sea.” The day’s offering was Big Eye tuna served with spicy micro greens and deep-fried satsumas ($13). I liked the dish well enough, but thought the portion size was ridiculously small. The tempura-battered mandarin segments were the most exciting element on the slab.
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