Taste of Spain in Sonoma
When we stopped for lunch at the Vineyards Inn during a wine-tasting weekend, I had no idea of the culinary adventure that awaited. All I knew was that this is the Greenest Restaurant in the Bay Area and they serve Spanish cuisine, which was all I needed to hear.
Owner Steve Rose, aka Chef Esteban, joined us to share his passion for sustainability and Spanish food. His Spanish Basque heritage is reflected in his menus and his penchant for choosing local, fresh, and sustainably harvested ingredients is reflected in the quality of his dishes. He grows the majority of his own produce for the restaurant at his nearby home and organic farm. When there is excess produce he sells it at the restaurant’s farm stand.
To get started, we ordered wine on tap from his selection of 14, stored in kegs, which keeps the wine fresh and reduces the use of bottles and recycling. We chose a Rose Ranch Primitivo and a Rose Ranch Margarita Rose, Rose of Primitivo to accompany the variety of tapas we planned to try. We started with Gambas al Ajillo, a favorite of mine, shrimp in garlic and white wine sauce served with fresh bread for dipping; Fire Broiled Organic Artichoke with a dipping sauce; and Sardines served on a baguette.
Chef Esteban suggested we try the paella, which requires 20 minutes to custom-prepare. We opted for the Paella Valenciana with organic chicken, clams, mussels, prawns, house-made chorizo, and Rose Ranch roasted peppers. It was delicious. We weren’t able to finish it, with all of the tapas we had already consumed. He also insisted we try his broiled Calamari served with fresh kale from his garden. The flavors and textures were perfectly balanced. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, we were served Chuletas, Sonoma-raised lamb chops with a mustard sauce. It was a simple preparation but so exceptional, this was the best lamb that I have ever tasted! The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday.
Chef Esteban is passionate about sustainability and the quality of his ingredients. He has fresh fish delivered four to five times each week (sustainably harvested), purchases poultry and meat from local farmers and ranchers, and prefers biodynamic and organic farming practices, which he employs at his own farm at Rose Ranch. His goal is to reduce his carbon footprint and to help others learn how easy it is to incorporate into their daily lives. He is very inspiring!
There are a lot of ways to experience Spain through Chef Esteban. He teaches cooking classes at Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma. I learned how to prepare Winter Tapas at his most recent class. Dishes featured were Gambas al Ajillo, shrimp with sauteed garlic in white wine: Bacalou, salt cod and potato cakes; cilantro and lemon line-caught fish skewers; and Guisado de Cordero, braised lamb stew. After the hands-on instruction preparing these dishes, we sat down to enjoy the fruit of our labor with a glass of Sonoma wine. Feasting on these delicious tapas gave me a new appreciation of the effort involved in their creation.
Chef’s Basque Dinner Series is a feast of Spanish food, a six-course dinner with wine featuring his family recipes. It’s held the second Thursday of each month and reservations are required. The meal is served family style and has a limited number of seats.
Join Chef Esteban on a Culinary Tour of Spain: Flavors of Andalucia May 24 – 31, 2012; tours are limited to 14 people, guests will stay in comfort at five-star accommodations in Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada while learning about Spanish food and culture. Enjoy cooking lessons from some of Spain’s most famous chefs and develop a new appreciation for Andalucian cuisine as you stroll through local food markets and visit vineyards, olive oil producers, and Iberian pig farms famous for cured ham.
Stay at Casa Verde, a bed and breakfast designated as the highest “green rated” home in Sonoma and located in a vineyard. It is walking distance to several wineries, as well as to the Vineyards Inn.
For a memorable Spanish meal, visit Vineyards Inn, located in the heart of Sonoma at 8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, California 94542. Phone 707-833-4500.