Grilled cheese and tomato soup perfection at The Fremont Diner.
Sure, I have an appreciation for pull-out-all-the-stops tasting menus in which chefs maneuver and manipulate food into high art.
But it takes a place like The Fremont Diner to remind us all how wonderful the simple, the bare bones and the pared down can be.
I’m talking the perfect crumbly buttermilk biscuit you can’t wait to tear into, and a thick, spicy tomato soup served in a heavy coffee mug with a spoon — all enjoyed on a picnic table underneath a tented patio.
Surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards on the Sonoma side of the Carneros wine region, The Fremont Diner evokes nostalgia from the get-go with its rusty pick-up truck parked outside and its wood-slatted building with its swinging front-porch door.
Like stepping into the past.
The tented patio.
My husband and I dropped by a few weeks ago, paying our tab at the end of a most soul-satisfying meal.
As we near the end of one year and ready for the start of a brand new one, allow me to toast my favorite dishes of 2014.
It’s never easy to narrow the list to just 10. But these are the tastes that lingered the most; the ones I’d want to eat all over again in a heartbeat.
Here’s my Top 10, listed in no particular order. I raise a glass from a lovely sample bottle of Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling, a blend of nine white wines, which give this method champenoise bubbly the complex flavor of apple, pear, peach and lemon. Here’s to all the chefs and restaurants that made 2014 so delicious and delightful.
Southern ham done in the style of Iberico jamon — magically appears during a hiking tour of Post Ranch Inn.
When you get a group of esteemed Master Sommeliers together, you know there’s going to be an abundance of fine wines uncorked.
When you get them together at Big Sur’s gorgeous Post Ranch Inn as a prelude to next spring’s Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza, the drinking and dining are of the highest order and pretty much go on non-stop.
That’s what I was lucky enough to be privy to when I was invited as a guest to the soiree and to Post Ranch Inn a few weeks ago.
A room with a view at Post Ranch Inn.
The Nest — a sculpture that you can cocoon away in.
Sierra Mar restaurant.
Among the other guests at the two-night affair were: David Bernahl, founder of the Pebble Beach event; Lara Sailor Long, executive wine director for the event; Kim Beto of Southern Wine & Spirits; Shayn Bjornholm, education director for the Court of Master Sommeliers; Ian Cauble of SommSelect; Dominque DaCruz, wine director of Post Ranch Inn; Christie Dufault, former wine director at Restaurant Gary Danko; Seth Kunin of Kunin Wines; Jordan MacKay, wine and spirits writer; Carlton McCoy, wine director for The Little Nell in Aspen; and Larry Stone, estate director of Huneeus Vintners in Rutherford.
Sweet, delicate and buttery Clair de Lune cookies.
Clair De Lune Cookies
Crumbly, crisp and utterly melt-in-your-mouth, Chateau Bakery’s Clair de Lune cookies are the perfect holiday treat to share with co-workers or to thank your holiday dinner host.
The sugary butter cookies, which were first made in a small European bakery in 1898, are now made in Burlingame by Esther Buss, a former consumer marketing professional who’s been baking since she was a child.
I had a chance to sample the cookies, which are made with just cane sugar, flour, butter, sea salt and vanilla. They’re delicate and disintegrate in your mouth even more than your average meltaway cookies. Rolled in sugar, they are super sweet. A smidge of sea salt adds a refined touch.
Enjoy them with coffee, tea or even sparkling wine.
The cookies are available online, as well as at retailers including Lunardi’s, Mollie Stone’s and Draeger’s. They are priced at $9 for a package of 15 cookies; $25 for a large gift tub of 28 cookies; and $5 for a mini gift tub of five cookies.
Round Pond Estate’s Pomegranate Syrup
Imagine the super concentrated fruity taste of pomegranates without having to ferret out all those plump seeds to enjoy it?
A prime rib to end all prime ribs. From Snake River Farms.
Consider this the Maserati of meat.
Luxurious, extravagant and a work of art in its own right.
This is the Snake River Farms American Kobe Gold Grade Eye of Ribeye Roast.
At nearly $400 for a 6 1/2- to 7-pounder, it’s meat that makes an entrance. Especially on an important holiday.
I actually had a chance to try a sample of the roast recently. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a cut of meat worth this much. My kitchen almost felt unworthy.
What accounts for its sky-high price tag? First, it’s American Kobe, which is Japanese Wagyu crossed with American Angus. Second, it’s gold grade, meaning it’s more marbled than than any other roast the Idaho-based company sells. Third, it’s aged, hand-trimmed and limited in quantity.