Eastside Road, January 10, 2010—Dinner with a couple of friends in Sebastopol tonight, at The French Garden, a curious establishment just outside town. I was here for lunch two or three weeks ago, and wrote about it here; but that was lunch: tonight it was time to try Mark's dinner, with Lindsey. The chef, Mark Malicki, has an extroardinary hand with flavors and textures, combining them in surprising ways but always respecting the traditional repertoire. No foam, no kiwi, no verticality. From a number of appetizers and entrées I chose a simple garden salad, perfectly dressed with a fine vinaigrette based on a subtle olive oil; and a braised lamb shank in a deep red-wine reduction and flavored with pomegranate and citrus — but so delicately you'd hardly know they were there. It came on a bed of polenta, with carefully buttered sautéed chard. We shared a serving of gnocchi, too; I found them soft and compelling, with delicious spinach and wild mushrooms accompanying them. There were four desserts, and four of us at table: I had a cheese selection, blue, Manchego, and Camembert; to set them off, a generous chunk of comb honey — from the same local garden that proved the produce. This place has embraced a new professionalism in its kitchen; we'll be back.
Viogner, Hawley, 2007; Zinfandel, Seghesio, 2007