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Fill up on Fancy Fare: Sonoma County Restaurant Week Feb. 21-27

Sonoma chefs are preparing special dishes all week long

Seven days of non-stop eating at bargain prices. Basically, that’s the beauty of Sonoma County Restaurant Week. And if its inaugural year was popular, this event’s second celebration is doubly so.

In 2010, some four dozen of Sonoma’s top eateries banded together, with each restaurant offering a three-course prix-fixe menu at rock-bottom prices. In 2011, some 110 restaurants are sending out specials priced at $19, $29, or $39.

The deals start today, and run through Feb. 27, so pick up your fork and get busy.

Here’s the Why: If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got favorite restaurants that you visit often. But you’ve also likely got plenty of new places you’ve been wanting to explore. With the specially priced meals, you can venture out and discover that you love those new places with little wallet risk.

Here’s the Who: At Bodega’s elegant Duck Club, for just one example, the $39 deal brings multi-course options like starters of butter lettuce salad tossed with water cress, Asian pear, toasted pecans, Point Reyes blue cheese and Meyer lemon vinaigrette; or a seafood sampler of Bodega Bay Dungeness crab cake, oyster Rockefeller, and applewood-smoked Coho salmon. For the main course, it’s Zinfandel braised local short ribs over roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes in Zinfandel sauce; or housemade Bellwether Farms ricotta gnocchi with organic rainbow chard, Hen of the Woods mushrooms and organic beet puree. Finish up with Jeff’s Mom’s chocolate layer cake with cream cheese frosting, or apricot-cherry bread pudding with cherry caramel sauce and whipped cream.

All this deliciousness, for less dollars

Considering that the regular menu Duck Club entrees alone range from $18 to $34, it’s an incredible deal.

Just a few of the top restaurants around town include Santa Rosa’s John Ash & Co., Syrah, Zazu, and Pizzavino 707; Sonoma’s the girl & the fig and Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar; Windsor’s Ume Bistro; and the hot new Spoonbar in Healdsburg.

Another top pick is the high-end, highly acclaimed Estate in Sonoma, where you can score a $29 meal featuring an appetizer of ricotta gnocchi with spring peas, green onions and baby carrots in white wine butter; an entrée of roast lamb top round with borlotti beans and radicchio moistened in lamb jus; and tiramisu for dessert.

And it’s not just the big city eateries participating. What better reason to plan a trip to one of Sonoma’s delightful little towns, like the charming Rocker Oysterfeller’s in Valley Ford, or to Bistro Des Copains in Occidental, or Corks at Russian River Vineyards in Forestville? The lovely Applewood Inn of Guerneville is serving a $39 dinner of grilled New York strip with pancetta potatoes, asparagus and bone marrow bordelaise.

Special wine pairings are available with some menus

Here’s the How: It couldn’t be easier. Just go. While reservations are recommended, there are plenty of options to pick and choose from. For something a little different, try Cafe Nitro in Cloverdale, offering a $29 feast of Cloverdale slow beer-braised pork spare ribs with cowboy BBQ baked beans topped with applewood smoked bacon, Hawaiian pineapple coleslaw and house cut fries.

In Healdsburg, Bistro Ralph has a $39 cassoulet with cannellini beans, duck confit, sausage and wild boar, while Windsor goes exotic with Chinois Asian Bistro’s $29 Ha Long Bay lemongrass prawns wok tossed in white ginger, kefir lime leaves, butter and rice wine. The brand new Rustic: Francis’ Favorites in Geyserville, meanwhile, is sending out a $39 chicken Mattone of half a chicken under a brick with paprika and garlic.

Highlighted dishes are just a small sampling of what’s being served each evening, so check SonomaCountyRestaurantWeek.org for full menus.

Dig in!

Details: SonomaCountyRestaurantWeek.org

Tip: All that endless eating can be exhausting, so leave the driving to Pure Luxury Transportation. Plan a week-long extravaganza of restaurant hopping with friends, in your private limo or Town Car

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