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Satisfying Saturdays: Eating Well In Wine Country

By Charles Olken

There are three times when the Olkens like to eat at The Girl and The Fig, the Provençal-styled bistro on the Plaza in Sonoma town. The very first time we ventured in was on a weekend visit to wine country. We were taking a lazy approach to Sunday morning having spent all of Saturday running from winery to winery to winery and then some. Time to relax before getting back into the saddle. Brunch turned out to be one of the great treats with its choices of eggs, breads, meats, light salads. It was just what the doctor ordered, and the Rhone-oriented wine list was well-chosen and loaded with some of California’s leading editions of the genre. We chose the JC Cellars First Date blend of Marsanne and Rousanne and could not have been more pleased. For a wine country brunch, The Girl and The Fig deserves two-stars, somewhere around 91-92 points.

Our next visit occurred months later when we met a group of friends for lunch. I spend a lot of time in wine country on business, but I also spend a lot of time in wine country just enjoying the beauty and the wine without going on professional visits. Lunch turned out to be something of a glorified brunch, but pleasant enough and tasty enough. Duck confit and other meats appear, but the tone is still more light and countrified than big-city serious. Bravo for that, and, as an added bonus, if you go when the weather is inviting, you can eat in the tree-shaded backyard. So far, so good.

Last summer, we were on another of those combined weekends where part of the time is spent during “real work”, if one can call tasting at various wineries “work”, and part is spent wandering around anonymously, possible sitting on the veranda at the Ravenswood tasting room or dropping into Bartholomew Park for a peak at the fabulous grounds and small but interesting history museum. We opted for dinner in the backyard, and it was one of those fabulous nights with the sun setting low, the sky blue above and the warmth of the day hanging around to keep everything cozy. But, then came the one surprise. The dinner menu seemed not much more than the luncheon menu, and since the luncheon menu is essentially light and pleasant, but far from extending itself, the dinner menu simply did not go far enough to invite a leisurely two-hour sitdown. Dining is part recreation. Dinner at The Girl and The Fig, while very pleasant, especially in the backyard on a balmy evening, needs to be more than a glorified lunch. It is not that we went away unsatisfied with our choices, but cold, flaked tuna on toasted sour dough is not exactly an inspired offering. So, we have that small bitch. Now, we go for dinner when we want a light meal after a heavy day—nothing wrong with that, but not what we typically want for recreational dining in wine country.

So, bits of mixed messages add up to a good overall score but one that could have gone higher. And because The Girl and The Fig stands as a family favorite brunch, I strongly recommend that you consider that option fully on weekends in and around Sonoma town.

The Girl and the Fig
110 West Spain Street, Sonoma, (707) 938-3634

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the girl
by Sondra Bernstein
Posted on:1/9/2011 11:05:44 AM

I was delighted to find this post today about my restaurant and couldn't be more pleased that you have had some great dining experiences there.  We are excited for spring to come around again as we are doing some work on the garden patio that will make it even more inviting.

I also wanted to make mention that as we do serve the same menu all throughout the day, we do offer some wonderful entrees, including our reasonably priced Plat du Jour, and they do change with the seasons.  You would not be surprised to find Coq au Vin, Duck Confit or a Hearty Pork Shank served day and night.

At any rate - thanks again - we appreciate you sharing your experience with you readers.

The Girl of The Girl and The Fig
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:1/9/2011 11:41:43 AM


Thanks for stopping by. I could continue to wish for a somewhat more complex dinner menu--one that would attract me more often in the evenings.

But because we have family connections in Sonoma town, you can expect to see us for Brunch and lunch fairly regularly.

Oh, and we often choose Estate (Ms. Bernstein's Cal-Ital refined "estate house" just a few blocks down the street) for dinner when we want a two-hour sit-down dining experience.

The Girl and the Fig
by Daniel Lord
Posted on:1/9/2011 6:09:52 PM

My wife and I decided to do a Northern California Coast honeymoon and one of the restaurants we ate at was The Girl and the Fig. We've been back only once since and it is indeed a gem. We honey-mooned that way so we could re-visit sections of our honeymoon on the years when we could take a trips for our anniversary. We are planning a trip celebration this coming year and we'll take this as a reminder to include the Girl and the Fig. Looking forward to dining there again. Never tried Estate--we'll put that on our list to try.

recent visit
by pam
Posted on:3/1/2011 1:35:20 PM

I recently visited the Girl and the Fig and had a late lunch on Valentine's Day while I was tasting in Sonoma wineries. They have a great fig cocktail that should not be missed with Figcello, a local take on Limoncello, which is not available anywhere else. The quiche was delicious. The bartender a tad gruff, but oh well. I later tried their Glen Ellen bistro later that week and found it wonderful. The prix fix three course meal is a fabulous deal there! As is the no corkage fee policy.

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