What does it take a chef who previously worked with the French Laundry, and Picholine in New York, to give it all up and move to the tiny town of Glen Ellen? Call it love, for chef Ari Weiswasser. That’s love of his wife (and business partner) Erinn Benziger Weiswasser, of the Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma, but also love of the fresh boutique ingredients that are nurtured in Sonoma.
The result is the Glen Ellen Star, which takes over the small building where Saffron Mediterranean restaurant used to be. It’s been completely renovated and updated, and now, it bustles with life and love generated from the exposition kitchen that greets diners at the front door.
At the heart of the warm, rustic-chic eatery is a wood-fired oven that sends out wood-fired pizzas such as a white pie topped in guanciale and arugula, or tomato cream pie scattered in chili flakes. It turns simple fennel into a fennel seed-crusted knob dressed with Aleppo chile and Meyer lemon oil, transforms baby carrots into sweet gems moistened in orange flower honey and Argan oil, and morphs wood oven roasted hen of the woods mushrooms into meaty wonders swimming a la greque in veal jus.
The flames snap and sear roasted game hen over creamy cauliflower in a lemony dressing, or crisp-skinned sturgeon with snap peas, bacon and tarragon crème fraiche, while the finishes flat iron steak to a juicy turn alongside fingerlings and escarole with a dollop of tart Roquefort.
After all that heat, some chilly dessert is welcome, and the Star offers homemade ice creams like roasted peanut butter and malted milk chocolate.
What’s not to love?
Details: Glen Ellen Star: 13648 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384, glenellenstar.com.
Tip: Make it a French Laundry style evening, and treat your party to a stylish limo or Town Car ride to and from dinner.