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Sonoma Restaurant Scene


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Another stellar evening at The General's Daughter on Friday...

To begin, I was pleasantly surprised to see a little redecorating since my Thanksgiving visit. The pale, lipid apricot-toned walls are now a vibrant, dark burgundy. Black tableclothes contrast the silver and provide stately elegance. Very nice ambience.

Four of us descended and now that there are three-, four-, and five-course options, were able to taste through a good portion of the menu. Chef Preston Dishman outdid himself again and it is great to see his skill progressing into the exceptional.

We started with a selection of West Coast oysters on the half-shell with a tomatatillo mignonette. Shared starters included a spicy yellowfin tuna tartar with green apple cucumber salad and a not-on-the-menu crudo with fresh lima beans. Next were bourbon-braised sweetbreads in a dark mushroom sauce on creamy grits (amazingly rich). Sonoma foie gras caramels; the foie gras actually melted inside pasta pockets served with a truffled mushroom cream. Shamefully, there was a whole other course served that I am drawing a blank on...

Entrees for the evening included Diver scallops with a chorizo and roasted cauliflower hash, perfectly grilled skirt steak with pommes frites and bearnaise aioli, and short-rib special that melted in one's mouth. The absolute hit of the evening was a "dream" dish that Chef Preston created (literally, he said he dreamed the dish and made it for the first time that evening); a "Rack of Dover Sole" where the bones of the fish were Frenched as if they were a rack of lamb. The filets were served atop fresh asparagus, lima beans, and forest mushrooms with an elegant cream sauce. It was a stunning presentation with flavors that were understated to the point of sublimity.

Being quite overwhelmed at this point, the table opted to share a cheese plate but once again we were impressed; I grow so weary of restaurants only providing three selections of cheeses, often too much to really be enjoyed. Here, the chef put together a special platter of eight or ten choices with small-enough samples to truly experiment. Served alongside walnut-and-dried-fruit toasts, a 'sausage' of quince paste, and a spoonful of fresh honeycomb (I WISH I could remember the farm name as it was intensely floral and sedate!), a few glasses of Madeira completed a perfect meal.

Of course, the great company of fabulous friends only made the evening that much more special...

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I would like to add my praise to Generals Daughter as well. I ate there about 2 weeks ago, and had the most amazing meal. Chef Preston definitely outdid himself. The highlights of my meal included the Tuna Tartar, Venison, The Scallop dish, The Braised Pork, and the Meyer Lemon Cake. Preston is an awesome chef, and a cool ass dude. He gave me a tour of the kitchen and we BS'd for a bit about local produce, meyer lemons, and Mario's Salumi. I hope to make it back very soon.

Ian W

Former Chef / Partner, Cafe La Terre and Bistro V Express

Sebastopol, CA

Currently living the culinary dream in South East Asia.

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Can't wait for our special dinner there this month! Will report back when we return. Now, Meritage, Della Santina or El Dorado Kitchen for a second lunch? We changed our reservations from the Hotel El Dorado to the Sonoma Mission Inn where I found a great price on Orbitz! :)

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Can't wait for our special dinner there this month!  Will report back when we return.  Now, Meritage, Della Santina or El Dorado Kitchen for a second lunch?  We changed our reservations from the Hotel El Dorado to the Sonoma Mission Inn where I found a great price on Orbitz!  :)

I would recommend you wander the square, read menus, and eat at whatever strikes you. Seriously -- sometimes serendipity is the best plan of attack. Alternately, you could always shop at Sonoma Market (a most AMAZING grocery store), pick up some picnic items, and head to Gundlach Bundschu Winery for lunch!

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If you'd like something a little quieter and different, I'd recommend the Wolf House in Glen Ellen. It's not far from where you're staying, and we've always had terrific lunches there. If you have your hearts set on dining in the Square, then Carrie's advice can't be beat.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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I think Wolf House sounds wonderful, thanks so much for the tip. We haven't dined around Glen Ellen and I would love to see this property. I think it's just about five minutes from the SMI where we will be having those yummy lemon pancakes for an early breakfast before doing the spa stuff!

I'll let you know how it goes! :)

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GENERAL's Daughter is GREAT!!

We ate there for the second time this year last night, and the food was even better than before. There's a new menu (part one of it, old menu favorites are still there as well.) Plus Chef Preston was most gracious and a pleasure to talk with, as was his wife Nichole.

Just an idea of what we had: Appetizers -- tuna tartare, very fresh and delicious with slices of ahi tuna on the side; fabulous sweetbreads in bourbon sauce with creamy something in the sauce. Main dishes -- carbonara style pasta with quail egg yolk you mix in yourself; pasta pillows with foie gras filling and sauce; shrimp with creamy polenta in a wonderful spicy brown sauce; mediterranean sea bass with artichokes; lamb sirloin with vegetables; plus dessert. mmmmmmmmmmmmm And yes, there were only 2 of us! But we managed to do it.

At this point it's probably our favorite Sonoma restaurant, and we like a LOT of them. The chef has high ambitions for this new venture, and we think he will succeed if this food is any indication. The place itself is lovely as well. GO!!

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We just missed each other! We started out our Sonoma adventure with another great lunch at the girl and the fig. I was disappointed to see that the crabcakes were no longer on the menu which was really a fave of mine.

We had previously been wine tasting at Domaine Carneros, but still wanted a Viognier to share with lunch. We started by sharing the fig salad which is always wonderful. I opted for the Vegetarian pasta dish which was full of flavor and very nicely prepared. My husband had the Croques Monsier (sp) sandwich was he said was very good, served with a small green salad. The Viognier was from Stags Leap. No lavendar-infused creme brulle on the menu, but we enjoyed the chocolate pot de creme for dessert.

Dinner at General's Daughter exceeded our expectations. I started with the Yellowfish Tuna in Takati & Spicy Tartar, green apple cucumber salad which was truly amazing. Reminded me of of Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn when we dined there. The food here is of excellent quality.

My entree was the pan-seared Diver Scallops with roasted cauliflower hash and chorizo butter. Quite a large portion, very rich and very, very good. I tasted my husband's Hand-Cut Pasta, Parmesan Cream, Pancetta quail egg and wanted to dance around the table. I will be ordering this next time!! For dessert we shared a very good Meyer Lemon Pudding type dessert that was the perfect ending to a great meal. We will definitely return here.

Breakfast at the Big 3 Diner was again, great. The Lemon Cottage Cheese pancakes and the Chicken Fennel sausage is a great way to start the day. After doing the Spa stuff at the SMI, we headed to the El Dorado Kitchen for lunch. First of all I must say that the decor in the restaurant is gorgeous, reminded me of the Hotel Healdsburg, beautifully done. I had the Mixed Lettuces with shallots, carrots, citrus vinaigrette which was very good. My entree was the Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels with garlic, white wine saron broth and Pommes Frites. Loved this dish!!! For dessert I had the Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Coconut Ice Cream. My husband had some chocolate dessert that was beautiully presented. The desserts were the shining stars of the meal! It was great to be back in the Sonoma area again. We picked up some really great Pinot Noir, Zins and Sauv Blanc this trip. Oh, my wine with lunch was the Kunde Sauv Blanc which was excellent!

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I forgot to comment on some service issues. The Generals' Daughter service was professional, attentive and a perfect 10. Our waitress was excellent, water glasses were always full and really can't think of anything that needed improving at all. The newly painted walls and the black table cloths provided a very elegant, classy-feel to the place.

El Dorado Kitchen does need improving on their Sunday Brunch service. The place was almost full which is great, but our waiter was a bit overwhelmed and dazed. I waited about ten minutes for the wine to come out and when I asked him for some ailoi dipping sauce for the pommes frites, he said he would bring it out but never did. We waited about twenty minutes for desserts to come out. Maybe it was an off-day, but they appeared to be understaffed for the crowds they had. We will definitely return again, tho.

Dinner would be wonderful, to the left of the lobby there is a fireplace and very, very pretty area for dinner. The Duck a l'Orange Two Ways sounds very interesting. The starters are about the same as the lunch menu. :)

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Our waitress was excellent, water glasses were always full and really can't think of anything that needed improving at all. 

This is slightly off-topic but when people come to California, they sometimes don't realize that despite the rains, this is a drought state. I grew up never receiving water unless I asked and it was that way for years, probably because most people don't drink it and it's a complete waste, plus the energy for ice cubes that won't be enjoyed.

Most years there is no rain from April to October.

My long winded point is we should take water service out of the equation unless you specifically ask for it.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus about The General's Daughter. My friends and I had a fantastic dinner there Saturday night. Chef Dishman did a tasting menu for the five of us and couldn't have been nicer or more accomodating (we had a couple of people with dietary restrictions). Standout dishes included the afore-mentioned spicy tartar with green apple and cucumber "slaw" (although with salmon instead of tuna this night), shrimp and andouille sausage with creamy grits, and the single freshest, most sublime oyster I've enjoyed in quite some time.

In addition to the overall quality of the dishes themselves, it was clear that a lot of thought went in to the progression from one to the next. For example, the shrimp and sausage over grits (a very rich dish) was followed by a simple fillet of perfectly roasted halibut over a simple bed of leeks and carrots in a mild broth. I don't normally think of halibut as something light and refreshing, but that was the effect it had here. It essentially acted as a palate cleanser between the previous course and the next (dry-aged center-cut rib-eye with a red wine/peppercorn butter). After the meal, we were invited back to the kitchen and I asked chef Dishman about that and he confirmed that was exactly his intent.

Service was extremely professional and engaging. For the dessert course, we were each given a different dessert so we could try each and pass them around. Our waitress asked if we had anything in particular we would like to drink with dessert and when we said no, she disappeared and returned after a couple of minutes with a different dessert wine or digestif that she had picked to match each one. She just left all the bottles so everyone could try a little of each with the dessert it was intended to match. I had to check and yes, she had picked them all out at the spur of the moment once she saw what Chef Dishman had sent out.

In any event, a completely satisfying and enjoyable experience. And if Chef Dishman is still lurking out there anywhere, thanks again to you and Nichole for taking such good care of us.

I should have pictures of a few of the courses in a day or two. If so, will try to post.

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  • 1 month later...

Glad I ran into this thread: I was looking for info on the girl and the fig but found so much more! I've been planning a trip to food county for the better part of three months now, so my dining schedule is just about full (and yes... we'll be in the area for the wine, too). I need some help from anyone willing to respond: should I cancel a reservation at La Toque in Napa in favor of The General's Daughter? Based on this thread alone, the price/quality mix is more favorable at TGD, and since TFL is on my list, value becomes quite important.

My gut says TGD over La Toque for a number of reasons, the least of which being that Chef Dishman participates on this board (gotta love that!). We are also staying off Sonoma Square, which adds a little weight.

Just so I don't muddy the water any: cuisine type/style is unimportant to me: I just want high quality food prepared well. But I'm preaching to the choir here on that one--which is why I love the board!

Thanks in advance... and we might be seeing you soon, Preston!

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My gut says TGD over La Toque for a number of reasons, the least of which being that Chef Dishman participates on this board (gotta love that!).  We are also staying off Sonoma Square, which adds a little weight. 

Ken, the owner of La Toque, is active here as well -- just not as pronounced.

Why don't you tell us where else you are planning on dining? It is possible that the remainder on your list is remarkably similar to either TGF or LT!

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Glad I ran into this thread: I was looking for info on the girl and the fig but found so much more!  I've been planning a trip to food county for the better part of three months now, so my dining schedule is just about full (and yes... we'll be in the area for the wine, too).  I need some help from anyone willing to respond: should I cancel a reservation at La Toque in Napa in favor of The General's Daughter?  Based on this thread alone, the price/quality mix is more favorable at TGD, and since TFL is on my list, value becomes quite important. 

My gut says TGD over La Toque for a number of reasons, the least of which being that Chef Dishman participates on this board (gotta love that!).  We are also staying off Sonoma Square, which adds a little weight. 

Just so I don't muddy the water any: cuisine type/style is unimportant to me: I just want high quality food prepared well.  But I'm preaching to the choir here on that one--which is why I love the board!

Thanks in advance... and we might be seeing you soon, Preston!

I am a big fan of kens food at La Toque, two very different restaurants with very different atmospheres, if you are wanting to stay close to Sonoma, come see us, but La Toque is worth a drive as well.

Preston Dishman

p.s. If nothing else come chew the fat one day 996-0345

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Here's our list to date:

San Fran: Chez Panisse, Zuni Cafe, Jai Yun, Koi Palace, maybe Taylor's Refresher for a cheap Ferry Building experience, and two play it by ears (on the short list: Tokyo Go Go or Ino, burgers at Joe's Cable Car, Swan Oyster Depot).

Napa/Sonoma: picnic at a winery, Rutherford Grill for ribs, the girl and the fig, La Toque, the French Laundry, burgers at an un-named place that my uncle claims is the best burger in the states (Un-named because he knows the location only and not the name of the restaurant), and one play it by ear (maybe bistro jeanty).

This is a lunch/dinner mix only, and we'll prob. hit some bakeries for breakfast before the wineries. I'm this close to pulling TFL as some in our group doubt they'll enjoy it $300 worth... and I am honestly teetering on that line myself, particularly after speaking with a number of friends who have dined there and whom I trust. There's also the TFL jacket factor which I typically rebel against, but would be willing to make an exception for.

Obviously, we are trying to mix it up a bit with styles, and I'm quite psyched about Jai Yun and Chez Panisse. Most in our group (myself included) make it a point to eat in relaxed, non-pretentious establishments. Not knowing the atmosphere at either La Toque or the General's Daughter, I could use some guidance. I have no doubt the food at both are exceptional... but which has a more laid back atmosphere? Chances are that is the one that will end up with our business, particularly after a long fun day of winery tours.

[edited for spelling]

Edited by jwjon1 (log)
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  • 4 weeks later...

We just returned from an extraordinary trip to San Fran/Napa/Sonoma. There are many highlights which I will discuss elsewhere, but in keeping on topic with this thread, the most memorable and enjoyable dining experience all week was had in Sonoma at The General's Daughter. As you may recall, I teetered between La Toque (which I'm positive would have been an awesome experience, but we simply ran out of time) and TGD. We ultimately decided to go with TGD due to its proximity to our hotel on Sonoma Square. Thank heavens we made this choice and were able to experience this treasure of a restaurant!

The staff at TGD was very courteous and easily accommodated our relatively large group. While we would not have felt out of place in semi-formal attire, neither did we feel out of place in our business casual (with the emphasis on casual) outfits, which made for a relaxing atmosphere. More impressive was the menu, which all looked tempting to not only myself, but even to the most finicky (re., non-adventurous) eaters in our group--I'm sure it helped that we are all southerners by birth as the menu has a number of quintessential staples such as fried green tomatoes (out of this world good!) and shrimp and grits (ca. 40% of our group ordered this dish... and all were ecstatic to have done so).

I do not recall all the dishes that the group ordered, but my dishes included a tasty yellow fin(?) tuna ceviche served over thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes in a crisp and light citrus vinaigrette, a healthy portion of foi gras (if I had to guess, one side of the foi gras was crisped in rendered bacon fat and gave it an awesome taste/texture combo), and a hearty kobe beef ragu/roast for lack of a better descriptor served over polenta and topped with white truffle (quite a unique and tasty dish, reminding me of a tomato based chopped beef barbeque which is atypical of carolina barbeque--of course, vinegar would not have played well with the flavorful beef/truffle combo). There were others, including dessert, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, all were expertly prepared, quite original, and extremely enjoyable. And each was carefully paired with wine, but as I did not take notes and as it was a long week full of fine wine, I cannot comment on the selections. I do specifically recall an A.S. Kiken cab being served with the beef, but it was memorable for the unique winery name :-) and not because I felt the need to seek this cab out at the store.

After dinner, Preston obliged our request to personally thank him for an excellent meal. It only took a few minutes speaking with our group to understand why this was the best meal of the week: his love and passion for cooking coupled with the availability of exciting and excellent ingredients as well as fine local wines creates one heck of a synergistic combo. We are thankful that Preston spent so much time speaking with our group. He truly made us feel welcome into his restaurant and we are all convinced that if he so chose, he has the charm, skill, and overall personality to make for quite the entertaining celebrity chef. Fortunately for us, he chooses to create masterpieces in the kitchen instead! Provided the kitchen isn't too busy, I highly recommend spending a few minutes with Preston just to "chew the fat". His generous hospitality and amicable demeanor really will add another dimension to an already excellent culinary experience.

My only regret is that we did not have more time to spend in Sonoma valley as we were unable to return to the wonderful building Preston and his wife have breathed new life into. My own wife was particularly bummed about the lack of free time as she lives to explore unique landscapes and gardens, and the Dishman's many heirloom varietals would have been sights to behold.

One last thing in case this is not already clear: although we initially decided to eat at TGD due to its location adjacent our hotel, having now eaten there, I'd willingly commute to TGD even if we were staying in Napa, San Fran or elsewhere in the general vicinity. It really was that good!

Edited by jwjon1 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I'll add to the chorus of glowing reviews for General's Daughter. I scoped out this thread while researching dining options for our family stay in Sonoma and all the positive reviews for it caught my eye. Chef Dishman was accommodating and welcoming of my PMs to him and we ate there last Tuesday, 8/22. There wasn't a thing on the menu I didn't want. I finally got to taste foie gras done right and it was beyond words. Now of course it'll get banned . . . my wife's pork with "squealing pig" risotto was also a highlight of the evening, but honestly, everything we had was done perfectly; there wasn't a single misstep in the food all night. And the service was polished, helpful, and attentive.

Chef Dishman came out and spent some time talking to us after the meal, showing us around the grounds, and was overall an engaging and gracious host.

Fantastic evening and best meal I've had, not just on this trip, but in quite some time. Thanks to eG as always for the helpful resources, and most especially thanks to Chef Dishman, his wife, and all the staff at General's Daughter.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Add me to the list of definite cheerleaders for the General's Daughter. Based on recommendations on this board, made reservations for a week ago for hubby's and my Sonoma venture. Absolutely FANTASTIC!! Started with the baked oysters, which was paired with a Chardonnay (sorry, don't have my notes with me - so I can't comment on which one), followed by the scallops and risotto dished, which they paired with a Pinot Noir (which I wouldn't have initially thought of to pair with the dish, but it was perfect), and completed with the brulee, paired with a dessert white (I think it was a late harvest reisling, but I can't remember). Service was impeccable - with the servers explaining everything about each wine as it came, lovely atmosphere, just a wonderful experience overall. Can't say enough great stuff about it.

However, I can't say the same about the girl in the fig, which I think needs to step it up a little based on the fantastic new restaurants in Sonoma. Ordered the 3-course Bistro special and paired with wines. Food was fine (a roasted pepper and eggplant soup, hanger steak, and fig ice cream), but the service was atrocious. Servers knew nothing about their wines, and none of my three "pairings" arrived anywhere near the time of the food... so soup was lukewarm by the time wine appeared for first dish, wine was completely finished 10 minutes before my steak arrived, and I waited about 10 minutes after dessert arrived for the wine, then asked a server... waited... then asked ANOTHER server to please ask mine (who had vanished) for the wine... so needless to say, ice cream was essentially melted by the time I gave up on the wine (it came about 7-8 minutes after I'd finished dessert). Kind of defeated the purpose of the pairing. I remember a wonderful meal at girl and the fig last time I was in Sonoma, and I was just very disappointed.

So if you're wavering... definitely go with General's Daughter. Might be a little pricier, but it's well worth every penny...and then some!!! Hey Daughter... any thoughts to opening a sister restaurant in the Northeast so I can visit more often :wink: ??

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have made a reservation at the General's Daughter for our trip to Sonoma next month. I am looking forward to it. I haven't been in the area since I lived there in 98. It took our 10th wedding anniversary to get our butts back out West.

The positive comments here are very reassuring. I have never been let down by fellow gulleteers.

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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  • 8 months later...

BUMP

Heading to Sonoma area and then to SF for a few days week after next.

Is The General's Daughter still the cat's meow? Where else should we eat, and what is open on Sundays and Mondays in the Sonoma area?

We are coming from Vancouver, BC so we are spoiled by good eats and great Asian - but that doesn't mean we don't want to have more of that during our trip! I'll keep this post to Sonoma area but will be reviewing the SF posts and also looks like we will head down to Half Moon Bay for an excursion, so we might need lunch along the road somewhere if anyone has ideas they are much appreciated.

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BUMP

Heading to Sonoma area and then to SF for a few days week after next. 

Is The General's Daughter still the cat's meow?  Where else should we eat, and what is open on Sundays and Mondays in the Sonoma area?

We are coming from Vancouver, BC so we are spoiled by good eats and great Asian - but that doesn't mean we don't want to have more of that during our trip!  I'll keep this post to Sonoma area but will be reviewing the SF posts and also looks like we will head down to Half Moon Bay for an excursion, so we might need lunch along the road somewhere if anyone has ideas they are much appreciated.

I was taken to Half Moon Bay for my BDay two weeks ago and you might be better served getting a little cheese snack from The Cheesemaker's Daughter on the Sonoma Square versus stopping on the way. Within HMB, Pasta Moon has stunning pizza (seriously - my BF is still talking about it - house made sausage, speck, forest mushrooms, and fontina fonduta) and I had a Pappardelle with pancetta, mushrooms garlic, tomato cream, parmesan, pine nuts, mascarpone. The other place I would have been happy eating at multiple times is Cafe Gibralter. We ordered more than half-a-dozen appetizers, an entree, and dessert and all were fabulous. It is not on the main square but just outside of town in El Granada. Well worth the trip!

19

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BUMP

Heading to Sonoma area and then to SF for a few days week after next. 

Is The General's Daughter still the cat's meow?  Where else should we eat, and what is open on Sundays and Mondays in the Sonoma area?

We are coming from Vancouver, BC so we are spoiled by good eats and great Asian - but that doesn't mean we don't want to have more of that during our trip!  I'll keep this post to Sonoma area but will be reviewing the SF posts and also looks like we will head down to Half Moon Bay for an excursion, so we might need lunch along the road somewhere if anyone has ideas they are much appreciated.

I was taken to Half Moon Bay for my BDay two weeks ago and you might be better served getting a little cheese snack from The Cheesemaker's Daughter on the Sonoma Square versus stopping on the way. Within HMB, Pasta Moon has stunning pizza (seriously - my BF is still talking about it - house made sausage, speck, forest mushrooms, and fontina fonduta) and I had a Pappardelle with pancetta, mushrooms garlic, tomato cream, parmesan, pine nuts, mascarpone. The other place I would have been happy eating at multiple times is Cafe Gibralter. We ordered more than half-a-dozen appetizers, an entree, and dessert and all were fabulous. It is not on the main square but just outside of town in El Granada. Well worth the trip!

Yum, Cafe Gibralter looks very interesting! Pizza sounds good at Pasta Moon, we will check out the cheese shop and have at least one meal in Half Moon Bay, thanks Carolyn.

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