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Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, Capitol Hill - Chef Drew Trautmann is Back in the Saddle!


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'FunnyJohn said:

Had a mini-HH last Friday with Shogun at Mendocino Grille. Although I desparately wanted to have the rack of lamb, Chef Drew kept bringing out some killer apps -- scamorza filled raviolli with ramps, risotto flecked with bits of speck and topped with jumbo gulf shrimp, and my wife had the tempura soft shell crabs. Got filled up and never got to an entree. The speck/risotto was most excellent - very unusual flavor. (Speck, a smoked Prosciutto from Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy.) We stayed til the place shut down. Can't wait for the new project to open on the Hill.

Ooh! Call me out of the loop, but what new project on the Hill? Do tell!

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Yes it is going to be called Sonoma, and despite the apparent lack of progress noted above, it is progressing and will open (hopefully) in about 3-4 weeks. they have the paperwork, but just need to finish the refurbishing. Stay tuned to this space...

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I filled out the form so we will see what happens. I think Chef Trautmann might be on the site. Maybe he will chime in...

I filled out the form too (as did my wife, independently of me). I guess that shows how eager we are to see and taste this place.

We had a fire drill at work about an hour ago and I walked by the space. For the first time I actually noticed some construction going on. The door was partly open and there was some serious toolbelt action.

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It sounds like they will have some tasting evenings to get feed back on food, test out the kitchen, help generate a buzz etc.

Perhaps if we ask nice enough Chef Trautmann can do a DR.com tasting evening...what better source for ideas then us! :lol:

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It sounds like they will have some tasting evenings to get feed back on food, test out the kitchen, help generate a buzz etc.

Perhaps if we ask nice enough Chef Trautmann can do a DR.com tasting evening...what better source for ideas then us! :lol:

Remember, they don't want to be too discouraged before opening. We can be a cranky bunch sometimes.

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Tease... dry.gif

Elias Hengst and Jared Rager sent email greetings telling us they are planning to open the downstairs "bistro" in the next "couple weeks" and the upstairs cocktail lounge and fine dining shortly after that.

They are still promising 200 California and Italian wines, (40 by the glass) through their "certified Winekeeper Cruvinet."

Still no details on preview events - but expect them soon too. smile.gif

And their menu is posted already - that spaghetti with venetian anchovy sauce has my name on it. biggrin.gif

Edited by DonRocks
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Here's what I heard in an email from folks at Sonoma:

"We hope to be "mobbed" as you put it, but think we'll have enough seats

to handle everyone. Downstairs, our bistro will seat around 60, plus

20 at the bar (and outdoor seating!). Our upstairs lounge will hold

another 40, plus a formal dining room/private event space for another

50. Our main concern is providing superior service to all our guests,

and we will probably limit our capacity to 20-30 guests at a time for

the first week. I'd rather have people wait and receive excellent care

and food once seated, than have people wait for service at their table.

As you might imagine, we're busy putting the finishing touches on the

space, and are planning to open our doors to the downstairs "bistro" in

the next couple weeks. Our upstairs cocktail lounge and fine dining

will follow shortly."

Sounds good to me!

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I walked past today at about 2:30.

Windows are uncovered; people were inside eating what apppeared to be dessert. I resisted the urge to press nose to window and whimper.

It doesn't really look open yet though...

No sign, no menu, and the door that leads upstairs is still partially covered.

Jennifer

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Got the invite and the menu looks great. Five courses with 2-3 choices per at $25 and two wine choices at $4/glass or $14/bottle. They are running 2 seatings a night tonight, tomorrow and Sunday and are asking you to submit 2 preferences for seatings for up to 6 people.

I would be interested in either Sunday, May 15 times of 6pm or 7pm if 5 of you want in on this. I'll duplicate this post on the on a whim section. PM me if interested until 4:30 today.

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I got one too.

Sigh...

Alas we have dinner at Ray's tonight, Cubs tickets for tomorrow and a long-standing potluck dinner set for Sunday.

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn...

Very tempted to ditch something for this but I just can't justify it.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a second round of previews next week when life is slightly less crazy.

Jennifer

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Heads up to those of you who only read eG infrequently:

Sonoma's Jared Rager posted on eG that they are planning to put together a special eG preview event for a later Sunday or Monday and they are asking that those who are interested in doing that (instead?) to let them know when they rsvp to be put on the "appropriate" list.

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Heads up to those of you who only read eG infrequently:

Sonoma's Jared Rager posted on eG that they are planning to put together a special eG preview event for a later Sunday or Monday and they are asking that those who are interested in doing that (instead?) to let them know when they rsvp to be put on the "appropriate" list.

Me thinks that Jared might be making a similar comment on this thread, as soon as his registration is validated.

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Me thinks that Jared might be making a similar comment on this thread, as soon as his registration is validated.

Ah yes... sorry I intended to post them at the same time as to not favor one board over the other, but my plan was foiled by my lack of validation. But now I am legitimate and happy to be here, so thank you.

Here is my repeated offer for a coordinated event, but I suggest we try and pick a time with some advanced notice so people can plan for it... especially industry people. I'm guessing it's not cool to quote oneself, but I'm going to try anyway...

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven't been posting lately, I've been pretty busy working on getting Sonoma up and running (as quickly as possible?!?). We are excited to be opening our second restaurant/wine bar and very excited to be in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Thank you for all of the encouraging posts over the last few months, they've been nice to read throughout this process. We are sending out the first round of email invitations to some "preview" events and I'm guessing that many of you were early subscribers on our website. I think it would be great it we could organize a "preview" event for many of you. Since there are a lot of industry people, I'd probably arrange it for a Sunday or Monday night... So, if you get an invite, when you respond, mention that you'd like to be involved in the eGullet, um I mean Don Rockwell event, so we put you on the appropriate list.

I'm not saying that this group would get any special treatment, but then again...

...maybe I am.

Looking forward to hosting you all and many thanks again for all of your support and encouragement.

Warmest regards,

Jared Rager

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar

Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar

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In order to keep Jared from being inundated with pm's and email's about the dinner I offered to organize the dr.com part for him. When I have more information you will be the first to know.

For those of you who are dining there this weekend {cough} Al Dente {cough} we expect a full report. :lol:

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In order to keep Jared from being inundated with pm's and email's about the dinner I offered to organize the dr.com part for him. When I have more information you will be the first to know.

For those of you who are dining there this weekend {cough} Al Dente {cough} we expect a full report. smile.gif

Tomorrow (Sunday) preview dinners have been cancelled, so that the staff can regroup. sad.gif Maybe that will help dr.com regroup at another preview as well. smile.gif

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For those of you who are dining there this weekend {cough} Al Dente {cough} we expect a full report. smile.gif

I'll write up one of my college specials-- 5 pages, double-spaced, 3 inch margins...

FYI-- as of 5:04pm Saturday, there were still a few seats left for both of tonights seatings according to Eli at Sonoma.

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Things were so-so at Sonoma last night, but I'm optimistic about its future. I loved the charcuterie plate to start. San Danielle prosciutto, bresaola, mortadella, and salami were all nicely presented with a few slices of hearty bread and grainy mustard. The plate also came with something I had never had before, baby peaches marinated in truffles. Man, those were tasty. I gotta find a place to buy them.

We then had a good arugula and fennel salad with pecorino, lemon, and tuscan olive oil. We tried the grilled asparagus which tasted as though the grill could have used a good scrubbing as it was just too sooty.

Two pasta dishes came next. The wild boar sausage that came with the bucatini was dry and crumbly and the pesto sauce was rather bland. The most disappointing dish of the night was whole wheat spaghetti with Venetian anchovy sauce. I don't know where they were going with this. The "spaghetti" came in all sorts of uneven sizes, so it came out unevenly cooked. The sauce tasted like fishy pickle juice that had been thickened somehow.

For entrees we had a Sunnyside Farms ribeye which was delicious and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It came with a few wonderful poached garlic cloves and some roasted potatoes that were a bit overcooked. If I was to have this again, I'd ask for more garlic—they were tender and loaded with flavor. We also had the "red" pizza with scamorza and wild mushrooms. The crust on the outer part of the perimeter was golden and crispy, but the center was too mushy and watery. The sauce is good, but I think the mushrooms gave off too much water and caused the sogginess problem.

We ended the night with a well thought out selection of cheeses and had a tour of the restaurant with Eli—one of the owner managers. He told us that the bar would have a snazzy top soon, and the numerous shelves behind the bar and in the downstairs dining room would be filled with wine and olive oil bottles, and whatever else they come up with. Upstairs they're working on a lounge in the front and either a fine dining or private party area in the back. When it's all done, I think it will have a striking look.

I'll return in a couple of weeks to sit at the bar, peruse the full wine list (only a handful of bottles were available last night), and try a dish or two. I'm excited to have another sorely needed good restaurant to enjoy nearby and I'm certain that Sonoma will improve considerably as they iron out some wrinkles.

Thanks to hillvalley for letting us use your reservation!

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I went to the 9pm seating and thanks to some input from Al Dente, who we saw on the way in, had an enjoyable meal. The charcuterie plate was a good start, but ours came with marinated olives. I would have loved to try the marinated peaches.

My grilled asparagus was well prepared and was topped with finely chopped hard boiled egg and aged balsamic.

When we tasted the steak two of us commented on how it had a wonderful woodsy/smokey flavor. We inquried and were told that the grill was fueled with oak. And that poached garlic was delicious!

We enjoyed the cheese plate and one of the crowd favorites was an aged Fontina.

Not much else to add from what Al said, and I am looking forward to seeing the restaurant in full swing.

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Thanks for the posts about Sonoma's "preview" seating, I appreciate the well thought out comments, but I'd like to post a request to all future foodies who visit us during any of our pre-opening preview events. While these events are, in part, designed to give you a small taste of what Sonoma hopes to bring to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, guests at the events are also in no small way 'foodie guinea pigs'. We are really counting on the people who join us to share any feedback and comments with us, on site and in the moment. A pizza deemed soggy in the center should be pointed out, so we can take it back into the kitchen and figure out why, how or what went wrong. (for example, mushrooms are sautéed before being placed on the pizza and then cooked, so were they the cause for sogginess or not?!?) Naturally, Drew and his staff are trying to break it down and recreate the problem, but it's always easier to see it directly.

No restaurateur in their right mind would allow patrons "off the street" to come in and try menu items before they are ready for mass consumption if there wasn't a huge advantage of getting their impressions and feedback in exchange... (especially such a vocal and discerning group such as you all.)

We are please with the response so far and we are committed to getting it right. So, by all means post on this board (or others) but please don't make us wait to read online to get your feedback, we want it while it is still fresh!

Thanks all! We will hopefully pick an appropriate date/time with HillValley shortly and get many of you in en-masse!

Oh and mdt, I've confirmed with Chef Drew, we didn't send out any olives with our charcuterie plates on either evening, but those tasty truffled baby peaches do look A LOT like big fat olives... is it possible you didn't bite into one of them??? Now you'll have to come back again!

See you all soon.

Jared

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Oh and mdt, I've confirmed with Chef Drew, we didn't send out any olives with our charcuterie plates on either evening, but those tasty truffled baby peaches do look A LOT like big fat olives... is it possible you didn't bite into one of them???

Well that certainly explains why I thought they were 'strange' olives! ;) It is amazing what you taste when thinking that you are eating a certain thing. Of course truffled baby peaches would have been my second guess. :lol:

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Well that certainly explains why I thought they were 'strange' olives! ;)   It is amazing what you taste when thinking that you are eating a certain thing.  Of course truffled baby peaches would have been my second guess. :lol:

At first I thought they were olives but I was asking myself "where's the pit?" Then when I was told they were truffled baby peaches, I was amazed and again I asked "where's the pit?" I guess the pit hadn't had a chance to develop yet. I loved their nutty taste, texture, and above all, trufflicity*.

* Yes, it is in the dictionary. Look it up.

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We also went for the 9 p.m. seating on the 14th. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the atmoshere and the feeling of space that the architechture and layout inspire. I loved the wines we had -- especially the Amethyst Vinalia Meritage -- yum yum. It was light and airy, especially for a red, and I would be happy to have a couple cases in my closet! :-)

I had the arugua salad, which was nice, if perhaps a little overdressed? The fennel was a nice touch. Personally, and maybe it's just that I've gotten overused to doing this at home, I might have added some dried cranberries or something to add to the flavor just a bit.

I enjoyed the very flavorful boar sausage. I did think, and again this is entirely subjective!, that the pasta was just the littlest bit undercooked. Also, I was getting grit of some sort mixed in with the sauce. Not much -- a couple, three pieces -- but enough to make me hesitant with each mouthful.

My least favorite part of the evening was the chicken -- it was almost completely flavorless and had lost most of its skin somewhere in the kitchen. That and the greens served with it were just plain blah. The polenta, however, was delicious! Creamy and flavorful (!), it struck just the right note with me.

The cheeses were also lovely, though we all would have appreciated some coffee with them. I liked the Humboldt Fog and the ricotta (I think that's what it was!). Yum.

In short, for $25, not a bad meal. I look forward to seeing what they can do when they're ready :-) Also, I LOVE the wine spigots! I want one in my house!!! :lol:

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I went back to Sonoma last night and sat at the bar with a buddy of mine. This time I had the opportunity to chat with Jared (jrage) and Chef Drew (all the while I was thinking I called one of his sauces "fishy pickle juice", oy, and yes, they knew who I was). They were genuinely interested in feedback from everyone in the restaurant, constantly roving around and chatting up the customers.

They're still in pre-opening mode, but we were able to scarf down a few courses from the expanded menu despite not having reservations. Try the Amethyst Nebbiolo/Sangiovese blend-- during this pre-opening it's only $20/bottle. We had the charcuterie plate again, but this time there were no baby peaches. They were replaced with some tasty and highly aromatic olives. My friend had the Sunnyside ribeye which he said was delicious and perfectly cooked. It looked like there were more poached garlic cloves on the dish this time. I tried an excellent roast chicken on a bed of polenta. Drew said the bird was rubbed only with rosemary, lemon and s&p, but somehow the flavor had even more dimensions than I would have expected given the simple preparation. The skin was perfectly crisped as well. My only complaint was that the pan juices sort of broke up the consistency of the polenta. We finished up by enjoying the cheese plate-- Humboldt Fog, Taleggio, Gorgonzola dulce, etc.

If they have space available, make a reservation for this weekend-- it's a bargain and you might just see one of your suggestions make its way on to the plate.

Hey Jared-- remind me where I can order those truffled peaches!

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Inspired by Al Dente's recent visit and commentary, I wandered by Sonoma today on my lunch hour and took a peak in, which became a four course lunch with two colleagues who had happened to have the same idea.

First off, a big thank you to Jared, Drew and the rest of the Sonoma team, who welcomed us so warmly and took the time to describe their vision of the restaurant. It is difficult to convey to non-Hillbillies, who are fortunate to have their Palenas and Fireflies (and Mendocinos!), what a restaurant opening like this means for such a culinarily starved neighborhood as the Hill.

As Signor Dente has mentioned, the space is still a bit raw and in its pre-opening phases, but the choice of colors and materials already shows that it will be wonderful space.

Salad 1: Arugula, fennel, Pecorino, with lemon and Apulian olive oil: This was a simple and wholesome starter, and the ingredients say it all: what you see is what you get. Everything was tip-top fresh and crisp. One of my colleagues raved about the fine balance of acidity in the dressing and the quality of the oil. I would have liked a bit more character in this dish--not fussiness, but something that would show me the craft and creativity of the chef.

Salad 2: wood grilled local apples, watercress, toasted pistachios, gorgonzola, red wine vinaigrette: A savory blend of smoky, peppery, sweet, and tart flavors. It was obvious that the greens were of first-rate quality, and the pistachios had a fresh, toasty crunch. We emphatically told Drew, "Don't change a thing in this dish!"

First: homemade wild-boar sausage, bucatini, spaghetti squash, arugula pesto: This dish transported me to the Tuscan countryside. The sausage was perfectly seasoned (with perhaps a bit of fennel?) and its texture was addictive. The only fault was some occasional grittiness, which I suspect came from the arugula in the pesto not having been thoroughly cleaned.

Second: Grilled wild King Salmon, pancetta-leek compote, baby spinach: The salmon was a medium rare, delicately grilled morsel that showed off the beauty and quality of the fish. I'm from the Pacific Northwest, but I haven't had salmon that good in a long time. All the better that it was left very natural. The compote added interest, with chunks of crisp but chewy pancetta that really came through to accent the overall dish. The spinach was fresh and high-quality, like all the ingredients at Sonoma, but struck me as an ornamental afterthought.

Cheeses: Drew told us he gets his cheeses from Artisanal in New York. They were all perfectly kept and simply presented, with a little pot of varietal jellies.

Wines: We stuck with a Montepulciano that just begged to be quaffed with the wild boar, and a Napa Pinot turned out to be surprisingly fragrant and went well with the salmon.

Jared told me a bit about the upstairs, and I think they are still feeling their way around how best to configure it. He mentioned the idea of a tasting room with a five course pris-fix, which would be a fantastic thing to see on the Hill. All the more reason to wish the Sonoma team well and hope they get the patronage they clearly deserve.

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I'm there Friday at six... very excited! Thanks everyone for your notes, and thank you to Jared et al. for bringing this to the Hill. As Banco notes, we are starved for quality options. Yes yes, we can just Red line it to Palena or Firefly, but having a place like this so close to home is wonderful.

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