from the kitchen: Seasonal Seafood


As if we didn’t already have more than our fair share of incredible bounty, Dungeness Crab season opened this month in Sonoma!

The “dungies'” return draws throngs of hopefully bobbing kayaks to the the coast and captures headlines throughout the region, but there’s ample local seafood to be had year-round in Sonoma – especially if you aren’t afraid to broaden your palate!

Wild Salmon and Dungeness Crab steal a lot of the buzz from less flashy varieties of seafood, such as Black Cod or Anchovies, which are available most of the year. And there’s even more to be said for purchasing locally-harvested (often smaller) species of fish with longer fishing seasons: they are frequently less expensive (and shorter lifespans means lower in contaminants). Perhaps even more significant is the fact that supporting fishing operations responsibly harvesting these populations strengthens those systems seeking to preserve our ocean’s bounty – a cause I think all of us can get behind!

Lastly there’s the flavor – like vegetables, buying seasonally and regionally where possible also means a fish (or shellfish) that will make the farmed, frozen, and imported-from-afar product pale in comparison.

So, today, a few suggestions for enjoying some of the less-glamorous – and frequently underutilized – seafood options from the Northern Coast! ~


These silvery schools of whitefish are typically available year-round in Northern California. Ranging in size from one to fifteen inches, the pungent taste we all remember from childhood has more to do with the curing and canning process than it does with the fresh fish. Prized for their rich, fatty flesh (super-high in healthful fatty acids!), they are delicious fresh or cured. Boquerones are the tangy, less-salty Italian counterpart commonly served in tapas.

Olive Tomato’s Roasted Anchovies


Pacific Black Cod is considered one of the most sustainable fish on the California coast. Despite this, it doesn’t get much love from the home cook. It’s worth getting to know this plentiful local whitefish as it is high in omega 3’s, has a nice moisture content and skin that crisps up well. Be sure to look for “line-caught” when purchasing; the trawler-caught fish are not a friendly choice for the ocean.

From our kitchens: Salt Cod Croquettes


California mussel season is year-round; however, advisories are typically in place from May to October to protect consumers from naturally-occurring bio-toxins which can accumulate in warmer months. That said, you can rest assured that any commercially-available mussel you’re served during this window has been tested for safety. California mussels are characterized by their sweet orange flesh, and take approximately three years to reach maturity. We love the tender, briny bites of ocean flavor, as well as the fact these creatures are constantly filtering the seas of phytoplankton, which keeps our waters clear.

From our kitchens: Pernod-scented mussels


Of course we have mention the superstar salmon. As the pale and watery off-season tomato is to its summer cousin, so is farmed salmon to it’s wild, local counterpart. In the peak of salmon season from May to August, these beauties are line-caught directly off of the Northern California coast (and a better choice than the highly-polluting farmed assortment). Fun fact: the deep red coloring of a healthy Pacific salmon comes from their diet of local krill.

From our kitchens: Apricot-cured salmon 


Sand dabs have been called “the secret of the California seas.” These tiny flatfish are not widely known, nor are they widely available commercially – though that is slowly changing. Sand dabs possess a sweet, buttery flavor, and their delicate skin does not require scaling – making home preparation a breeze. Pacific sand dabs’ fishing season is year round, and they’re listed as one of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Best Choices” for sustainable seafood.

Siren Fish Co.’s Pan fried Sand Dabs


Siren Fish Co.


Local Catch .org

Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

…or your local farmers’ market!

Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch APP here!

Meet the Maker: Hello Cello Limoncello di Sonoma


We’re always looking for local purveyors that will enhance our restaurants and promote the region, whether they’re winemakers, farmers, or artisans. So, when we met Fred and Amy Groth, our neighbors and founders of HelloCello, a certified organic limoncello made in Sonoma, we were intrigued.

Limoncello, a lemon liqueur originally from Italy, is a difficult spirit because, outside of Italy, it’s often too sweet and syrupy. Fred and Amy’s Limoncello di Sonoma tastes light and fresh—like it actually comes from real lemons (which it does!). It was the perfect fit for ESTATE, where we serve it as a digestivo, or after-dinner drink, and have incorporated it into cocktails.

The story behind HelloCello is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to flourish in Sonoma. Fred and Amy moved to Sonoma from Colorado in 2008 after visiting Sonoma and basically falling in love with the town. “We wanted to do something fun and different and wanted a lifestyle change,” recalls Fred. “Sonoma was perfect because it has a European feel to it and there are so many artisan products here, like cheese and wine.” The Groths packed up their three kids and moved to Sonoma. They had always loved limoncello and made it as a hobby, but they realized there was no one in the U.S. making artisan limoncello. “The limoncello here in the U.S. is pasteurized and shelf stabilized,” says Fred. “We wanted to make a smallbatch, artisan product.”

Fred went to Italy for a month to learn the techniques of making limoncello. They built a distilled spirits plant in Sonoma, and one year later they started production with 80 cases. Production is now 100 to 150 cases made four to five times a year. “We want it really fresh,” says Fred. Everything is done by hand and the only full-time employees are Fred and Amy. “My wife and I do everything,” says Fred. “We make it, bottle it, and deliver it.”

What makes HelloCello Limoncello di Sonoma different from mass-market limoncello are the ingredients and the freshness. They start with organic Eureka and Sorrento lemons, which grow year-round in California. The Sorrento lemon, grown in the town of Sorrento, Italy, is the original lemon used in Italian limoncello. Instead of cane sugar Fred and Amy decided to use agave, for both taste and health reasons; it gives the limoncello a deeper flavor and doesn’t spike blood glucose levels like other sweeteners do. Instead of a high-proof grain alcohol, HelloCello is made with distilled grapes, or brandy. (Fred and Amy found someone to make brandy to their specifications.) “Everything except for the agave is from within 60 to 80 miles of our plant,” notes Fred. All of the ingredients are 100 percent certified organic.

The Groths use the traditional limoncello process and the most important ingredient is the lemon peel. Each batch requires the peels of 4,000 lemons, though the recipe only uses the yellow peel, not the pith or juice. The Groths turned the time-consuming chore of peeling lemons into a festive occasion by throwing lemon-peeling parties. “Our friends come over, we’ll get a keg or and have wine, and everyone sits at a big table and peels and zests,” says Fred, laughing. There are no machines that could peel the lemons because when working with organic citrus there are imperfections that a machine couldn’t work around, notes Fred. The lemon peels then go into a tank with the brandy, where the liquid is filtered, simple syrup is added, and the limoncello is bottled. The whole process takes about one month from start to finish. “It’s fresh to market,” says Fred. We were so impressed with their product that we asked them to make us a fig liqueur. They agreed and started researching recipes and techniques.

“It was an interesting and fun process,” says Fred. “We made 30 samples with various botanical and flavor elements (such as orange peel, tarragon, and star anise) to decide which would go well with fig and alcohol.” We had an informal tasting panel, and we chose the flavors that worked the best. Production had to start almost immediately to take advantage of the second fig season that was just beginning. Fred and Amy (and their kids!) wild-harvested 400 pounds of fresh figs from around Sonoma Valley. “We chopped them up and threw them in with the alcohol and herbs, let it sit for a month, and then filtered it and added sugar,” Fred remarks. Voilà—our fig liqueur! Fred and Amy produced 55 cases and we serve it in the restaurants. It was so delicious that they plan to make it a seasonal product.

It’s amazing that two Americans could travel to Italy, fall in love with a beverage, and recreate it here in Sonoma. “We’re small producers filling a niche in specialty spirits,” says Fred. They are devoted to making the perfect organic limoncello and in our mind they’ve succeeded.

Find HelloCello (along with their other delicious offerings) at their new craft distillery and tasting room located at Cornerstone, Sonoma.

Open daily: Cornerstone 23570 Arnold Drive

(This article originally published in Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig’s Journey through the Seasons in Wine Country)

Upcoming Events with the girl & the fig

Don’t miss us at these upcoming events!

Thirsty Thursdays – November & December @ 5:30 PM


Thirsty Thursdays at the fig cafe!!

Join us and some of our favorite local winemakers for incredible pours on Thursday evenings from 5:30 ’til the tastes run out! Winemakers will provide complimentary tastings of their limited edition, Sonoma-centric creations for you to enjoy – and you’ll be able to chat with the makers in person! No reservations required. Complimentary Tasting. See you at the fig cafe!

Ramen Nights @ Suite D! Every Wednesday Night


Join us for RAMEN on Wednesday nights from 5 pm – 7:30 pm or until we run out!

For just $15 the menu includes your choice of a cucumber or mung bean sprout salad and a bowl of one of our four ramens.

Dessert a la cart $3
Ramen salad $15
Beer, Wine & Sake Available for $5
Corkage $5 (comp for Suite D members)

Ramen Nights on the fig rig Every Thursday Night at the Lanning Building


Join us for RAMEN on Thursday nights at the Lanning Bldg beginning at 5:30!

The menu includes assortment of house-made Ramens, kimchee dogs and dirty fries!

“Sip & Slide” Thursdays – November 17th, 23rd (Wednesday) @ ROCHE,  3:30 – 6:30 pm


Brought to you by Roche Winery & Vineyards AND the girl & the fig!

Roche Winery and the girl & the fig invite you to join us Thursday evenings, through November, fireside on the Roche patio.  Enjoy extraordinary sips by Roche (offered by the taste, flight, glass or bottle), alongside raw or barbecued local oysters, lobster rolls & chowder crafted for you by the girl & the fig!

Lighting of the Snowmen @ Cornerstone – December 3rd


This year, the Lighting of the Snowmen kicks off with a festival and actual lighting on SATURDAY, December 3rd, and the display will remain up through the end of December for all to enjoy!

The festival will feature music, kids crafts, wine + beer tasting, delicious food, festive decoration and more!Parking will be available at Cornerstone (until the lots are filled) and then at the Sonoma Valley Airport, located next to Cornerstone (shuttle service will be provided).Admission to the festival is FREE and there is a $10 charge for parking.

AND come say “hi” to the fig rig while you’re there!

Insider Guide to Locals’ Favorite Sonoma Restaurants | Sonoma Wine Country Dining Best Sonoma Restaurants


There are two distinct personalities to the town of Sonoma. One is the tourist face, with a carefully cultivated shabby-chic, gentleman farmer vibe that matches its historic mission, wineries and Old West past. Charm abounds, and there are plenty of white tablecloth, high dollar restaurants to accommodate luxe tastes.

But simmering just below is the true Sonoma, a tight-knit community that includes the rest of us — the people who work in the tasting rooms and restaurants, at the Sonoma Speedway, behind desks and in firehouses. This diverse gathering of native Californians, immigrants, retirees, artisans and small business owners makes for a vibrant, (mostly) affordable food scene that most visitors breeze past.

We’re pulling back the cover on the Sonoma restaurants where townies really eat: From favorite happy hours and taco trucks to insiders-only recommendations for where to get a great cup of coffee or a family breakfast. We’re also including a few tips on getting some great bites at the higher-end spots, whether that’s a happy hour special, or a dish that won’t cost a mint.

Source: Insider Guide to Locals’ Favorite Sonoma Restaurants | Sonoma Wine Country Dining Best Sonoma Restaurants

Women Chefs & Restaurateurs


WCR Women Chefs and Restaurateurs EVENT in Wine Country!
October 17th
3 – 7pm

We are VERY excited to announce that our next NorCal Regional Event will be held on Monday, October 17th, from 3pm to 7pm at the beautiful Cornerstone Sonoma, which is also the home of the Sunset Outdoor Kitchen and Sunset Test Gardens.

Our reception, from 3-5pm, will offer our guests the opportunity to shop, explore, mingle, and enjoy a variety of Cocktails, Wine, and delicious Appetizers. From 5-7pm, on the Sunset Kitchen Stage & Garden we will enjoy some exciting Demo’s and Speakers.

Chef Demos:
5:30 pmthe girl & the fig, Sonoma CA Ramen, Kimchee and Fermentation Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze (executive chef & managing partner). Sondra is an inspirational leader in our chef community. Celebrating 19 years with 2 successful restaurants, catering company, Pop Up Dinner Series, Specialty Food Line, Cookbooks, and her new Fig Rig Food Truck. the fig rig 

6:30 pm Callebaut Chocolate Demo Callebaut
Sally Darling, Bakery Director
Market Hall Foods, San Francisco Market Hall Foods
Book Signing and Cheese Education by award winning author Janet Fletcher

As you know, California’s Napa Valley Wine Country is one of the world’s great destinations, especially for lovers of great wine, fantastic food, and beautiful views. Many of Napa Valley’s wineries and restaurants are led by women. We want to create a special opportunity for us to break bread and get to know these fabulous women as we collectively showcase our talents, increase community, and share the benefits of WCR membership. Proceeds will benefit WCR, including their scholarship programs.
This event is hosted by Women Chefs & Restaurateurs members with special support from Callebaut, Front of the House – FOH, Inc., and Media Sponsor Chef’s Roll Cindy Lasar.