Posted May 2006
Farmhouse Inn Restaurant
FORESTVILLE, CALIFORNIA—The long country road that winds toward
the Farmhouse Inn is just about the perfect distance from town
to reset your brain from the hard day behind you. Just off Highway
101, acres open up to vineyards and pastures on both left and
right. Roll down the windows as you pass oak knolls, groves of
eucalyptus and redwood crowd toward the road, perfuming their
cool enclaves. Breathe in deeply as dusk sets in, cooling the
senses and filling them again with sweet hay and earth as you
meander into the rolling hills of Forestville.
Though it's just about 20 minutes northwest of Santa Rosa, the
quiet, country setting of the Farmhouse Inn feels worlds away--or
at least miles away--from everyday life: a rural retreat where
the dinner bell has just been rung. One of the most lauded restaurants
in Sonoma County, the Farmhouse has long been a favorite stop
for both visitors and locals seeking the truest taste of the
region in a setting that reflects the charm of centuries past.
Using only fresh, local ingredients on his oft-changing menu,
chef Steve Litke serves up French-inspired California cuisine
with ingredients like foie gras, local greens, asparagus and
rabbit in a family-owned ranch house that's nearly 100 years
The restaurant itself is little more than a few rooms in the
renovated main house, simple romantic and quaint with sunny yellow
walls and intimate white-linen tables and farm chairs taking
up most of the room. Near the ceiling, diners can see a painted
tableau of moments stolen from the family pictures.
The local tableau of ingredients is spun into creative, yet
simple meals. A soup is always featured—green garlic and white
asparagus ($10) when we visited and the pan-seared Sonoma foie-gras
($17), and tuna carpaccio ($15) are frequent guest stars.
Entrees change with the seasons as well, though Litke keeps
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit ($29) on the menu, which includes a smoky,
meaty bacon-wrapped loin, roasted rack and confit of leg with
mustard sauce. Dessert is a lingering affair that almost always
includes something chocolate or a dish spotlighting seasonal
fruits (we tried a rhubarb and strawberry tartlet).
Getting up from the table for the ride home can be a daunting
task, which is why the Farmhouse conveniently offers accommodations
onsite. The Inn, itself, is a quaint, cozy spot in which to ponder,
philosophize and—and most of all relax—after such a meal. With
eight luxuriously appointed rooms, the Farmhouse Inn offers additional
amenities including spa treatments, featherbeds, jet tubs and
just about every other room indulgence imaginable: a perfectly
civilized way to end your meal.
Tip: Ask in advance if the chef is in the kitchen. On both visits,
Litke was in the kitchen and we had superb meals, though we've
heard that quality can sometimes (understandably) suffer on nights
when the chef is elsewhere.
If you go:
The Place: Farmhouse Inn, 7871 River Rd., Forestville,
Open: 5:30pm, Thursday through Monday
Service: Highly attentive, but not overbearing. The
Farmhouse is known for its pampering service, and maitre d'
Andreas Willausch will bend over backward to accommodate almost
any request. Waiters are well-versed on what's on the menu
and are good at guiding diners to the best selections.
Celeb Factor: Chef Steve Litke is an alum of Healdsburg's
venerated Bistro Ralph and has been at the helm for several years.
Though he rarely seeks out attention and glitz, Litke is clearly
one of Sonoma counties most respected chefs…and always makes
the grade with Zagat, the San Francisco Chronicle and others.
Wine List: A well-thought out list that includes both locals and a
solid-lineup of French whites and reds. Sommelier Geoff Kruth is a whiz,
however, and a strong presence in the dining room. Use his knowledge to pair
the evening's dishes impeccably.
Dress: Business casual
Price: Starters are about $12 to $18; Entrees start
at $26 and top out around $35. Dinner for two, with wine: $120
Romance Factor: The intimate seating makes for a highly
romantic evening; the fact that you can extend the evening
and stay at the Inn makes it all the more convenient.
Kids: Not recommended