Sophisticated Sass

adhere to nothing. question everything. create something.

Restaurant Review: Dry Creek Kitchen

Last night was very underwhelming on all levels. We live in Healdsburg and don’t typically spend money like that so we were pretty excited to dine at Dry Creek Kitchen. I have to say, the evening seemed a little comical after having such high expectations. I think the hype surrounding Charlie Palmer did this restaurant an injustice after having read some of the other average/below average reviews.

We were seated on time, right upon arrival. The staff was very nice and inviting. Our server was attentive to the best of his ability, considering there are several servers you interact with at your table. We first ordered a half bottle of Merry Edwards 2011 Sauv Blanc - the best I’ve ever had so I highly recommend, despite it costing more than an actual 750, full size bottle of it. We gave in and it was worth it.

We then ordered an appetizer of Goat Cheese Agnolotti (ravioli). If you like goat cheese then you’ll love this. My personal opinion is that it was good but not great. We also shared the mixed green salad which was fresh, but very average…a little bit on the bitter side too.

We then moved on to the main course - I had the “picnic chicken” and my boyfriend had the halibut. He really liked the halibut, which we both thought was cooked and seasoned well. However, I don’t think it is something that someone couldn’t cook at home, assuming they are normally a good cook. 

My chicken was NOT good. Do not order it. Bland, no taste or seasoning. Dry, no juices running. It was fried, which I did not assume was the case just because it said “picnic”. Fried chicken is fine with me, I was just surprised. Regardless, the skin was not crispy. You bit into it and there was no crunch, no crisp, nothing. It came with a mustard jus, which was nice but there was hardly any actually accompanying the chicken. It also came with mini “caramelized” biscuits which were quite possibly the hardest, blandest, most dense biscuits I’ve ever tried. Caramelized? I don’t think so. I took one bite and stopped. 

Lastly, we had dessert. Oh boy. My dessert was quite possibly the worst dessert I’ve ever had. And I LIVE off of carbs and sweets, so for me to not like a dessert is very rare. It was the orange napolean, which is usually light, fluffy and easy to eat. Not this one. It just seemed like it was days old, sitting on a counter and had hardened over time. I couldn’t cut it with the side of my fork, and they did not give me a knife. They did give me a spoon also, why…I do not know? So I tried to get some sort of bite using the fork and spoon to separate it. Frankly, I didn’t ask for a knife because at that point I didn’t feel compelled to bother finishing it anyways.

The one saving grace of dessert was the chocolate peanut butter bar…kind of like a tiramisu but more rich and creamy. It was amazing. Delicious. I highly recommend it if you dine there and like peanut butter. They also dropped a small plate of petit fours at the end, which again, I usually love. Took a bite of everything and it wasn’t for me. The mini madeleines, again, were bland and hard. The other two caramel/jelly things just weren’t to my liking but I’m sure others would enjoy them.

I am really not the type to complain, send something back or ask to have anything comped. We made the best of the night and we still had a good time together, regardless of the food. The ambiance was stellar, I loved their music and would actually suggest turning it up because at the volume they had it no one could hear it. 

Our server was very nice, there were two guys in suits, the GM and manager perhaps, which were both very attentive and checked in on us. Nice guys. I did think it was odd that the hostess was sitting down the entire time and only stood to greet a customer. I’ve worked in restaurants my whole life, including several hosting gigs, and sitting was forbidden. You want to see someone when you walk into an establishment and be welcomed in by a smiling face, not someone just  getting up from their seat. Also found it odd that there were no restrooms in the actual restaurant. You have to leave the building and walk into their hotel next door and use the lobby restrooms. 

Overall, I would say the kitchen is having an issue with some of their dishes on the menu. Service was a bit slow in terms of food, not attentiveness, but perhaps this is how they run things there. They did also take a bit of walk-ins so they may have overseated the dining room. 

Overall rating:

Food - C
Wine list - A
Ambience - B+ 
Service - B+

I will still send people there because it seems like many people have had good experiences, but I hope they take notes from some of the other below average reviews to make improvements. For $140 bill, I wasn’t extremely happy but it’s not the end of the world. I don’t think I’d give it another try for that type of money, but maybe I’ll see how their lunch is next time I have a chance to go. I’m still somewhat of a fan despite the disappointment.

Best Ever Cinnamon Rolls

These are the most amazing cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted - perfectly moist, sweet and not too dense or heavy. If you’ve ever heard of Ann Sather’s in Chicago, these rival hers and that is quite the accomplishment! Because this recipe entails making your own dough with yeast (yes, yeast!), I was very hesitant to do so. I have never made bread or tried to take on a task very challenging but just had to give this a try. The result turned out amazing, and it was actually very simple. See below.

Dough

  • 1/4-ounce package yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk (just heat over stove until slightly steaming, stir continuously)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup raisins, walnuts, or pecans - if desired

Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons hot water

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 60 - 90 minutes.

When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Generously spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Sprinkle with walnuts, pecans, or raisins if desired. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned and puffy.

Meanwhile, mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Drizzle over slightly cooled rolls. You may need to double the amount of glaze depending on how much you like. 

Voila…simple process that will take just an hour or two before breakfast. See the original recipe here.

Apple Cider Snickerdoodles

Everyone loves a Snickerdoodle. A very simple cookie, however, in making these in the past, it is hard to find a recipe that will produce a soft cookie that STAYS soft. Well, Paula Deen’s recipes are almost always perfect so I took one of hers and slightly adapted it.

Recipe:

  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped apple chips (I used a cuisinart chopper attachment)
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice OR 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t. allspice, 1/8 t. ginger combined.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the cider in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 12 to 14 minutes. Keep on low heat until ready to incorporate into ingredients.

Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and the light brown sugar in a separate bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the reduced warm cider and the egg (the mixture may look slightly curdled). Stir in the flour mixture and 1/4 cup of the chopped apple chips until combined.

Stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and the apple pie spice (or substitution) in a small bowl. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls, using lightly moistened hands if the dough is too sticky, and then roll in the spiced sugar mixture. Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets with parchment paper. Bake until the edges are just set but centers are still soft, 11 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the baking time. Cool 2 to 3 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Verdict: Delicious. My boyfriend ate six in a row and couldn’t stop raving about them. It is three days later and the cookies are still moist and chewy. They were a tiny bit flatter than I had wished, so next time I may switch the light brown sugar for dark brown, which sometimes makes cookies fluffier. I might also try taking out the baking soda. 

To see the original recipe, click here.  Enjoy!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner…Literally.

Well, a few weeks back I posted about Sonoma County Restaurant Week and how excited I was. I only ended up reviewing Monti’s, however, I did get a chance to review Equus and Jack & Tony’s on Yelp.

In any case, they held a contest on their Facebook page and it went a little something like this: For every restaurant you go to, take a picture of yourself with the menu. Then, post it on the SCRW page with a description of your meal. At the end of the week, they will randomly pick a picture and that person will win 19 dining gift certificates.

Well, I happen to have extraordinary luck. Seriously. So I figured, why not give it a shot. We went to three places total, and each time I took a picture and submitted it to the official facebook page of Sonoma County Restaurant Week.

So last Monday, I am on lunch and see that I have a Facebook notification. They randomly picked a picture from the contest and my picture from Monti’s is what was chosen. No joke. It totally made my day. I won

So this weekend, Cam and I wrote down each of the restaurants on tiny pieces of paper and took turns picking them out of a hat. For the rest of the year, we will go to two places per month. Now that I am addicted to Yelp and because I am so involved in the hospitality industry, it will be fun to see what types of different experiences we will have.

Below are the restaurants we will be trying:

Saddles Steakhouse, Cafe 522, Cafe Citti, Bear Republic, Rendezvous Bistro, Dry Creek Kitchen, Fresh, Rocker Oysterfeller’s, Ume, Chinois, Glen Ellen Inn, Stark’s, Cafe La Haye, Piacere, Nonni’s, Riviera, Jack & Tonys, Viola Pastrie Boutique, Iron Stone

So excited!