The second part of this Down Home Downtown Weekend was… can you guess it?

The Downtown part.

I think this whole concept represents my life in a weirdly accurate way. For example, when I was a kid, I went to high school in Manhattan, with characters like Ivanka Trump. But then at the end of the day I’d get picked up and drive home to the Hudson Valley where I’d shovel chicken manure.

This dichotomy sums me up. Ivanka Trump meets chicken manure.

She never came over to shovel. I don’t know why, she said she was busy that day I invited her.

But back in Sonoma county California, on a very full stomach from an incredible outdoor lunch with farmer/chef/writer/craftsman Jeff Mall, I waddled over to downtown Santa Rosa. There was my next meeting, with Josh Silvers at his latest restaurant Jackson’s Bar & Oven (named after his son), which is a less formal version of his other restaurant down the street–Syrah.

They have a wonderful drink menu and guess what else they had on the menu?

Chicken wings.

I almost fainted they looked so good. And then I cried when I realized I couldn’t fit another bite into my stomach. Especially if I was going to be eating a full dinner soon. So if someone wouldn’t mind going over there and sending me a few, that would be stellar. I’m in New York right now and could use a chicken wing.

Josh took me on a little tour of the town, our first stop was a tasting room next door where they hold classes and do interesting “smell/taste” comparisons with wine.

He did a demo for me.

It’s amazing how accurate these little bottles of smell were.

The ceiling in the tasting room was made from old wine barrels!

I’m having some installed in my apartment next week.

Here’s an aerial view. It was a very pretty place…

And he poured me a taste of a grenache that was killer. I like using that word to describe wine. It’s so inappropriate. Shouldn’t I be talking about the nose and say that it has vegetal or velevety or chewey quality, or possessed a forward nose, or that it climbed to the back of my throat and took a nap?

Well, let me tell ya folks, that right there was a killer wine.


The town had a lot of great stores… this garden shop for example.

And this yarn shop!! A shop devoted to knitting, I love it.

There was also some kind of restaurant devoted to the omelet.

And then it was time for the competition.

You see, Robert Larsen from Rodney Strong Vineyards joined us along the way, and he and Josh Silvers are old friends. They have had this ongoing debate over which shop produces the best coffee.

There is this place, Flying Goat Coffee, which Robert prefers…

(See that’s Robert on the left and Josh on the right looking at each other competitively over a cup o joe…)

And then there’s this place, A’Roma Roasters Coffee & Tea, which Josh prefers.

I tasted myself and drum roll please…

I couldn’t decide. But the truth was that the Flying Goat espresso was much more mellow and drinkable to me, whereas the A’Roma Roasters espresso had that bitter strong finish that tasted more like traditional espresso. So it depends on if you’re a purist or not I suppose. I know, I’m a lame judge.

And soon it was dinner time at Josh’s restaurant, one of the coolest signs downtown.

I sat at the chef’s counter looking onto the open kitchen, which was quite a treat. And there it was, that wonderful book that shows how the same ingredients can be turned into very down home or very downtown dishes, depending on your mood.

They had a beautiful menu. One part was devoted to a pig tasting. Clearly, this was my kind of place.

Usually when I’ve had the chance to meet the chef, I let them guide the way for the meal. They always lead you in the right direction. They know what they’re particularly proud of at a given moment and are excited to share it with you if you give them the chance. But I’m not a sauce on the side, no blue cheese, extra tomato kind of girl. I will eat just about anything under the sun. I have Her to thank for it.

These are some of the things we ate:

Hamachi with Meyer lemon oil.

Shrimp and scallop and asparagus with… a lobster beurre blanc… I think.

Crispy pork belly with black eyed peas!

Pig parts, I forget which kind, wrapped in caul fat. YES.

Duck breast with fois gras, spaetzle and sour cherries. BIG YES.

I was the annoying girl snapping pictures of them while they very intensely and masterfully got the food to diners in the packed restaurant.

A cheese plate with their homemade crackers, nuts, honey, quince paste. As you can see it was so good that I destroyed it before I could take a decent picture.

The chef’s counter has all kinds of food books and magazines to browse between courses. I was near delirious from the wine and food at this point. I’m such a light weight.

But then this came out. And I was toast.

Raspberry and mango and passion fruit sorbet, fudge with house made ice cream, and a lemon square with marscapone mousse.

Luckily, before they air lifted me to my car, he signed my book. I’m going to give away a copy of this wonderful book Friday, so stay tuned!

And if you find yourself even close to Santa Rosa, Syrah and Jackson’s are both worth a special journey.