Eclectic Wining and Dining in Sonoma

      There’s a new reason to visit Sonoma’s historic plaza in 2010: a classy but unpretentious restaurant known as the Harvest Moon Cafe.

     Nick and Jen Demarest operate the cafe, which may remind you of a French country bistro. Nick is the chef, and his resume is impressive: It includes a stint at the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Jen is the pastry chef, and her pumpkin bread pudding is to die for.

     Sadly, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to savor that delicious delicacy, as the Demarests change their menu daily. As a general rule, we applaud restaurants with such a policy, as it virtually guarantees a meal that’s full of discovery. On the other hand, if you find a dish that you really, really love, it may be a one-time-only experience.

     The positives outweigh the negatives, however, because the chef is always on his toes, seeking to create something new, something different, something memorable.

     Among the dishes – with all ingredients sourced from producers who embrace sustainable practices – available during one recent period were:

     * Roast leg of lamb, served with chickpeas, tomato bits and sauteed green chard, along with a green olive tapenade.

     * Pumpkin and Ricotta ravioli, with winter squash, sauteed greens, pancetta and Pecorino Romano sheep’s milk cheese.

     * Grilled pork chop, with a reconstituted dried cherry sauce, broccoli sauteed with garlic and buckwheat polenta.

     The wine list is equally eclectic, with the various bottlings – such as a Sonoma Valley Syrah from Muscardini – selected to complement the food.

     Entrees generally range from $18 to $25, and there are no real bargains on the wine list. To save a few bucks, diners are allowed to bring their own wine for a corkage fee of $18 per bottle – and that fee is waived, bottle for bottle, when a purchase is made from the restaurant’s wine list.

     The Harvest Moon Cafe faces the Sonoma plaza at 487 First Street West. You can learn more about this exceptional restaurant at

     LOCALS ONLY: For a much simpler… and less expensive… meal, check out Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, at 691 Broadway in Sonoma. The food is good (especially if you love spaghetti and meatballs), the prices are very reasonable, and locals love it.

Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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