Even on a Tuesday night the Michelin Star shines brightly at Santé, the highly acclaimed restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa in Boyes Hot Springs, Sonoma County. In summary, this fine dining experience combines wine country casual and easy elegance and is punctuated by three attributes: Excellent Service, Excellent Food and an Excellent Wine List.
Chef Bruno Tison, Executive Chef of this hotel property, has been making memories in Sonoma since leaving the Plaza Hotel in New York nearly 10 years ago. Head Chef Andrew Cain, creator of FSMI’s Michelin star menu commands the kitchen day to day at Santé and you will like the result.
Tuesday’s are no different than the busiest Saturday night when it comes to the ‘special’ feeling you get at Santé. Of course, the food is the center piece of any restaurant that survives under the same chef and management longer than 3 years. Santé clearly excels in this area. Each dish begins with only the freshest local produce, meats, poultry and seafood to create elegantly developed and presented dishes. Add in Chef Cain’s creative simplicity, easy elegance and wonderful flavors and you have achieved that core objective.
The wine list, recipient of Wine Spectators’ “Award of Excellence” makes ones eyes water as it goes on and on with over 500 wines from Napa and Sonoma. If you cannot find a perfect pairing, by the bottle, half bottle or the glass on this list than you aren’t trying. And if you can’t, then Renée, the brilliant Sommelier, whose training included a stint at the Michael Mina Group in San Francisco, can be of assistance! Of course, you can bring your own wine, which was the case here, for a fair corkage fee of $25 per 750ML bottle.
A 2002 Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet properly decanted and served with the entrees made this evening exceptional. The wine had great structure – notes of plum, cassis, spice, and distinct vanilla on the finish (American oak aging – I am guessing). The alcohol was a bit lower compared to some of the other ’02, ’05, and ’07 Cabernets yet still very elegant despite it’s full body. 10 years of bottle age seemed to be perfect to enjoy this wine – the aromas, flavors and tannins were all in beautiful balance.
The Tasting Menu offered a wonderful array of tantalizing treats but this evening was reserved for a la carte dining. Chef offered a delightful amuse-bouche of Butternut Squash Soup with a 5 spice foam floating on top and Cranberry and Banana Compote on Brioche. My mouth is still smiling.
A house staple, the “Grown-Up Mac and Cheese made with locally hand made Orecchiette, Maine Lobster, Black Truffle and Fontina Val D’Aosta is to die for. The Mac and Cheese was a perfect beginning to a ‘winter’ evening and quite lovely with a Roederer Estate Rosé, Anderson Valley (NV) and a Domaine Carneros Brut, Carneros (2007). An elegant combination of comfort food and bubbly!!
For entrees, the Duo of Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Beef Roasted Sirloin and Braised Pavé á la Bourguignonne, Black Truffle Coulis with Caramelized Cauliflower and Chanterelle Mushrooms atop a wonderful Pomme Purée and the Butter-Poached Maine Lobster prepared with Sunchokes, Cipollini Onions, Melted Leeks, “Yorkshire Pudding” and a Lobster Bisque Emulsion were tantalizing and wonderfully prepared and presented. Balanced and savory flavors proved very satisfying.
A wonderful selection of breads and corn muffins were provided along with two very different butters and kosher sea salt. The French butter was unsalted while the Petaluma butter did have salt. Both were rich and smooth with the best mouth feel possible for butter.
The finishing touches were added through a selection (3, 5, 7, etc) of cheeses from France, Italy and, of course locally handcrafted cheese from Petaluma. Two French soft cheeses and an Italian (Piedmont) cheese made with milk from cows, sheep and goats were accompanied by marmalades and crostini. Mouth is watering as fingers strike keys!!
An exquisite weekday evening of wine country causal dining was made perfect by the very well trained, passionate and engaged staff. Each of the principals; hostess, server and sommelier greeted us by name and recognized our special event. Their attentiveness, personality and clear intent to please only complemented and enhanced the food. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You should try it!