Classy & Fun Stay… 

David & Brian

Nothing puts me in a better mood then staying at a luxury hotel while having dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. After a long, hot day of running around, attending a pair of food and wine events in Sonoma, it was marvelous that the valet assisted the webgal with bringing our luggage to our very nice room at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and unwound with some pre-dinner drinks that included the Benzinger Cab the hotel had provided. We appreciated the room’s fire place, because it would be great for a cool & romantic January night, not a hot June one. 

After freshening up in our room, it was time to stroll across the beautiful courtyard and pull up a couple of chairs in Santé, the Fairmount’s fine dining restaurant. Kicking off our meal was a fine, small loaf of their Della Fattoria Sourdough bread with house made butter. I don’t know when bread and butter got so demonized cuz it’s rarely featured on menus now, but I sure wish restaurants would bring it back. I was delighted with Santé’s sourdough bread and creamy butter.  

Pork Chop

We skipped the appys and went straight to the mains. The web gal went for the Seared Wild Black Cod and was very happy with her choice, as it came to the table expertly seared with lots of juice still in her fish. The web gal loved the flavor combinations with her fish dish. But my Llano Seco Pork Chop was another matter. Our waiter, Jonathan, had warned me it was cooked sous vide and I should have taken his warning and ordered something else, but then I thought this is the perfect opportunity for me to try a pork chop cooked sous vide.   

About six or seven years ago when the sous vide craze was at its height, I was utterly mystified what chefs and customers were raving about. To me, there’s is nothing more perfect, both visually and taste wise than a perfectly seared piece of meat. All those gorgeous grill marks, and provided it’s not overcooked, the meat is usually, juicy, tasty perfection.  


Reminds me of an old J-school chum who was utterly frustrated and outraged that Bob Dylan had so thoroughly mangled Like a Rolling Stone at a concert he attended, that he couldn’t even recognize it. I pointed out that Dylan is known for changing his songs around and he replied, you don’t mess with perfection.  Exactly, that’s the way I feel about meat and fish that they should be grilled. Ironically, in our room before dinner, we were watching old Shark Tank reruns and a gal was pitching a sous vide cooker that was supposedly way cheaper than restaurant ones. But none of the sharks were buying it and neither was I.  

David & Jonathan

Our waiter, Jonathan, was right on top of it and offered to replace my meal with something else, but I didn’t want to be a pain the neck as I had gone into it with my eyes wide open for a sous vide experience. Sous vide was not the experience I was expecting. Plus, the chop itself was way too fatty. Don’t’ get me wrong, I love my fat and marbling, but there was a good half inch of fat on the outer rim of my chop and my veins can only take so much fat, especially if it’s not grilled.  But the sides of Double Garlic Mash potatoes and the Grilled Broccolini were excellent and the web gal and I had no problem polishing them off.  It was great to order Duckhorn’s tasty Merlot to accompany my meal. The Violet Mustard Crusted Lamb Rack will be my main next time.

38° North Wine Bar

I’m not big on dessert, but the web gal is and she was drooling at the choices, so we had fun splitting a Lavender Créme Brûlée with blueberry compote and candied lemon. And yes, it was as tasty and fun as it reads. Next day, before we hit the road, we had an excellent brunch on the Santé patio and loaded up on carbs and proteins with a couple of Eggs Benny. And staff were beyond cheerful and took my pain in the neck order of swapping in bacon and sourdough bread, while the web gal had the traditional ham and English muffin. Didn’t have a chance to visit the Fairmont’s 38° North Wine Bar but it is on my radar to experience. Just a great stay and had a fine, fun interview with the resort’s head sommelier Brian Casey where he happily did the NSI quiz despite being run off his feet attending to needs throughout the resort. Cheers and enjoy…

What was last night’s dinner? Had chicken fried steak with white gravy in the staff cafeteria and it was delicious. Just what I needed to finish the night. 

What’s your favorite music? I love everything, from Cole Porter to my daughter’s hip hop.  

What’s your favorite drink? A well-made margarita. It’s got to be in perfect balance between the citrus, salt and my favorite silver tequila. 

Lavender Créme Brûlée

Favorite thing about living and working in Sonoma? The community and people. Not knocking Napa, but they plant what, maybe seven varietals? Sonoma plants like 43. They’re farmers at heart and are dedicated to putting out their best grape crops.  

What makes a great wine list? You’ve got to have a list that guests actually want to drink. I’ve seen it time and again, where somms put all these esoteric or obscure wines they think are great, but just leave customers cold. Put the classics on your list and save the obscure for your own cellar.  

Favorite restaurant besides Santé in Sonoma?  I love to go to the Girl and the Fig. Just pull up a chair at the bar and have their cheese and charcuterie plate.  

Californo Food Truck

Any brush with celebrity? When I was the beverage director at the Four Season in Maui, I turned Oprah Winfrey onto my Mai Thai concoction which she loved.  

Any wine, trip or restaurant on your bucket list?  I’d love to go to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wineries in the Rhone Valley in France. I’ve been to Italy, Spain and some parts of France, but that would be a nice bucket list trip.  

Final thoughts? I remember a crochet saying on a wall in a kitchen that said, eat dessert first, which is so true. Life is so uncertain, go for the sweet stuff first.