s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 4 of 12 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 8 of 12 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 12 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Two Sonoma Coast culinary gems


Gearing into the first well-curved turns out of Petaluma, the bright summer sun is setting like a hot boiling yellow onion dancing atop the dry hills as they roll west out of town. I?m on a beautiful drive with my girlfriend and the warmth of the season resonates over this gorgeous countryside.

Economy is down? So what? We can afford to take a little excursion once in a while. Our destination? The Olema Inn. What was once an old schoolhouse sits in a dark, tree-filled valley just over the hill from the now foggy Pacific ? straight out D Street. We cruise past Nicasio Reservoir as the fog pours down the ravines just ahead of us. In 35 minutes we are there.

The Olema Inn is a jewel. The executive chef, James Wong, is young, bright, imaginative and cooks what may be the best food north of San Francisco. Even better, he is from Petaluma. Right away we are served some raw oysters prepared four ways. Each finds its way to my heart with a little tug of the Point Reyes Vineyard Late Harvest Sparkling. My favorite: the sweet onion/vinegar followed, closely by the fresh-pressed heirloom tomato juice swimming in radiator-green olive oil oysters. Like my date, lovely.

The restaurant then starts filling up. A baby cries and the trees seem to pull in their leaves and tighten as they enmesh in the sneaky lowland fog that has crept over from the sea. Suddenly, there is a sense of urgency. In comes old man hunger from the cold and seats are filling up. They have come to the right place.

Between meals, we are ushered out a glass of some lovely, rose-perfumed gew?rztraminer and a petite dish of beautiful, pan-seared scallop topped with a lovely grilled shrimp. Head and shoulders, these tasty niblets rest upon a hill of tapenade built of zucchini, corn, green peas, and, yes, morel mushrooms. I haven?t seen morels in quite some time and they are a favorite of mine. The forest-earth flavor of the morels contempts the green in the veggies. They seem to fight over who was the uglier one coming out of the ground in a duel for flavor supremacy in the palate. The spark of the crispy shellfish echoes above all and, within, the scallop battles the shrimp for the crown in my taste buds.

James sends out the main course and what a presentation it is. My date has ordered a porterhouse and it is the biggest, beautiful block of steak served anywhere, hands down. I ordered Mark Pasternak?s Devil?s Gulch Rabbit from Marin County. Big, perfect cuts of rabbit adorn my plate and below lay soft, smoky fava beans with chunks of smoky ham and spinach over creamy polenta. Maybe Hannibal Lecter had something here. Yum!

Pinot to pair? Anything grown in the Petaluma GAP (Growers Alliance of Petaluma). This dish was designed for the pinot grown in this region. The charred rabbit does wonders with the pungent beans. The spinach seems to wrap itself around and into everything and sets a clean, primed landing for the wine that follows. This is a 10. Wait, no, it?s the best rabbit I?ve ever tasted.

For dessert, I recommend the chocolate-peanut butter ladyfingers with stewed strawberries and a glass of brachetto Italian red sparkling.

On Sunday evening, I am coursing the pleasantry of Bodega Avenue, longing westward, again. My destination is a lovely little establishment in Valley Ford named Rocker Oysterfeller?s. I am hungry and when I pull in the place is packed. I forget that Sunday night is music night and the deep, soft sounds of the Bluebellies echoes through the creaks and seams of this eclectic old hotel as I walk up to the front porch.

The staff greets me warmly and I start with a deep-fried calamari appetizer with jalapenos and a nice, creamy, spicy Tabasco aioli. It is piled high and delicious. Their use of a light oil makes this plate easy to pick away. With it, I sip a Sierra foothills viognier from Stark Cellars. The subtle sweet in the dry viognier arcs wonderfully in my mouth against the jalapeno. The acidity in the wine seems to puree the calamari like the favorite dish of Charlotte in her web.

For the main course, I strap on the snorkel and dive into their scallop plate. It is a treat for any land lover or scuba aficionado, anytime.

Big scallops with a nice touch of spice pan-fried in butter and leaned on a mountain of wine-soaked stuffing with seared baby red and white onions and sweet glazed walnuts. The stuffing is moist and with its occupancy on my fork, I negotiate a bite of scallop alongside and it is, oh, let me say, ?delicious.? Here, I will coin the phrase, ?Less drama, more Dahlia Lama.? This term came to my mind as I feel we should all be so lucky to take this time to find inner peace at Rocker Oysterfeller?s one lazy Sunday just as I am. It is terrific; the food, spectacular. The employees are very kind and it reminds me of a time when, once, everyone around me was this laid-back and happy.

This sums up my local southern coast tour of Sonoma County. Get out there and enjoy ? at least try to once a month. No economy will turn around unless we make it move.

(Jason Jenkins is the owner of Vine and Barrel, a wine shop at 143 Kentucky St. He offers Wednesday night wine education classes from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday tastings from 4 to 7 p.m. He can be contacted at 765-1112. The Web site is www.vineand barrel.com)