The Farmhouse Inn Restaurant

After many discussions about what, for me, defines a good meal, a friend gave me the wonderful birthday present of dinner at the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma County. We took advantage of the nice weather and loan of another friend's M5 - the perfect highway cruising car - to make the two hour drive for an early dinner last Saturday. The drive itself is a pleasure. It was clear and sunny and a little cool and windy, so the fog was rolling in over the hills as we drove to San Francisco. The Bay was clear and filled with sailboats for a few perfect moments crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Lush green hills, not much traffic, and some fun curves made for a great second half of the trip.

     The Farmhouse Inn itself is a picturesque little old Victorian with lovely flowers all around and a small vegetable garden in back. We were greeted warmly by the owner and his sister, who were both working since the maître d' (and master of the cheese course we'd heard so much about) was out sick. We chose a table by the window looking out on the front porch and garden - a wonderful spot for a leisurely spring dinner.

We started with a split of A. Margaine Brut Premier Crus Champagne, NV, from Villers. Perfectly refreshing and celebratory of nothing in particular.For starters:

Parfait of Hamachi and Yellowfin Tunaspicy avocado mousse, green peppercorn-citrus vinaigrette

Crispy Soft Shelled Crabsummer corn salad, shellfish remouladeVery nice presentation of both dishes. The tartare was tasty with a good citrus kick and the avocado mouse adding an interesting richness. While good, not all that different overall. The soft shelled crab had what I think was a semolina crust that was light and crunchy without tasting greasy. Though it's not usually high on my list, this really showed off what soft shelled crab is supposed to be and I would gladly have had more than my half.Oren took our waiter's recommendation for "best dish on the menu":

Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Rack Chopfresh plum-star anise sauce, arugula whipped potatoesHe was impressed. I had a tiny taste and got mostly a nice salty flavor, nothing that particularly said "meat" to me, which I suppose is a good thing at this stage in my slow transformation to not-always-vegetarian.

Sauteed Alaskan Halibutpetite ratatouille, sauté of summer corn, lobster-watercress sauceThe ratatouille was mild and the precision of the cuts showed great care from the kitchen. The fish was perfectly cooked and all the flavors were good, if not particularly memorable.

I always like cheese, and even though the charismatic maitre d' and master of the cheese course was absent, we figured we'd give it a shot. We shared a plate with a little of everything, which included two very nice cheeses from the local (Santa Rosa) Andante Dairy - I think it was one cow's milk ("Nocturne") and one sheep's ("Acapella") - two ages cheeses from France, and 2 blues. Nice spread, though I'm partial to cheese courses that include "toppings" to complement the cheeses.For dessert (really we were too full at this point, but had to get the full experience and it's hard for me to resist a souffle), we shared:Valhrona Chocolate SouffléKentucky-bourbon spiked crème anglaiseYum! Perfectly puffed, light, steaming hot, just right right sweetness, and the right amount of bourbon. Very nice with an unusual red dessert wine the sommelier recommended that, unfortunately, I did not write down.The sun was just setting as we started out drive back home and the light was just right to make me feel like I was in Italy, or that there was enough of what I love about Italy here in California (and other good things too), to make this a really perfect place to live.The details:The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant7871 River Road, Forestville, CA 95436(About an hour drive North of San Francisco)Dinner Thursday - Sunday · 5:30 - 9:00 PMFor dinner reservations, email or call 707-887-3300.