AFCO Eats: Vanessa Gets Served at Santé
I was fortunate enough to visit Sonoma a couple weeks before the North Bay fires. To think that the picturesque rolling hills are now covered in ashes is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all of those affected by the fires. I decided to write about my experience at Santé with the hopes of encouraging tourism to the area to help promote a speedy recovery.
Sonoma may be known for its wine, but amongst the rich history and friendly locals, I rediscovered the art of good service and the beauty of properly savoring a thoughtful meal at the Fairmont Sonoma’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Santé.
Arriving at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is an experience in itself; one drives up to the hotel to find a cascading fountain, firepits perfect for welcoming a cold night with a craft cocktail and good company, and a lobby that is both chic and inviting.
We are seated in a classic-meets-modern dining room with rich velvet and leather details and an impressive wall of wines that extends beyond where the eye can see. An iPad is provided to us with a seemingly endless wine and beverage list – perhaps the only point of our experience that was a bit disconnected where technology seems to take a backseat to an experience that favors dining as a journey of the senses – an intimate communal gathering if you will.
The restaurant’s sommelier brings our wine, introduces the aromas, and welcomes us to Sonoma. A minute after he leaves, we are greeted with an amuse bouche of cucumber with local goat cheese and a still hot-out-of-the-oven quiche. Who doesn’t love to be greeted with a complimentary flavor bomb of deliciousness? We instantly had the impression that this was about to be an EXCELLENT meal. Takeaway: the amuse bouche is ready for a revival. Surprising and delighting customers will never go out of style.
But that’s not all. It may be common to receive a bread basket at the table, but after finishing off our amuse bouche bites, we were greeted with a tray of ten fresh-baked slices of bread, ranging from lemon poppyseed to 12-grain. Our server also brought a plate of two local kinds of butter and fresh sea salt, providing recommendations on which butter paired best with which bread. After exchanging looks of “this must be too good to be true” with my boyfriend, these, too, quickly disappeared off of our plates. I remind myself, yet again, that I need to learn how to bake my own bread.
After perusing the menu composed of seasonally-driven dishes with ingredients sourced from local farms, we decided on:
Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes from “The Patch” with burrata mozzarella, compressed and marinated melon, sherry & shallot vinaigrette, balsamic, petite basil
Filet Mignon of Black Angus Beef with Yukon gold pommes purrée, glazed seasonal vegetables, cabernet & black truffle bordelaise sauce
Pan Seared Pacific King Salmon with garden squash, sweet pepper pipérade, corn purée, Parisienne gnocchi, basil & garlic pistou emulsion
And last but not least…our waitress informed us of the Valrhona Chocolate Soufflé with chocolate Anglaise sauce. Due to preparation time, you have to order it at the beginning of the meal. We were sold on this item from the beginning and were not disappointed in the least. C’est superbe!
I would highly recommend visiting this Sonoma treasure. It is a true testament to the beauty of fine dining: being greeted with outstanding service, connecting with those you love over a quality meal, and slowing down for a few minutes to fully appreciate how a creamy, freshly-churned butter from a farm five miles away can put the biggest smile on your face.