Bistro Des Copains, Occidental, Sonoma, CA
A new dining choice in the small Sonoma town of Occidental is Bistrot Des Copains (Fred's translation: 'Buddies Bistro'). As soon as our host for the weekend, Tina Wolsborn, at The Occidental Inn heard we had a Frenchman in our party, she encouraged us to book a table there.
We arrived for their latest reservation at 9pm and the small room was packed and buzzing. Living up to its name - this place is certainly friendly - we were on first name terms with our server and the owner Michele in a matter of minutes.
Our waitress was practising her newly learnt French on Fred. She explained to us that Michele, who only opened the Bistro last summer, had recently closed up shop for a couple of weeks and taken several members of the staff team on an inspirational field trip to France. How cool is that - seriously?
For Francophiles, the choices on the menu are familiar and homey. I started with a Goat cheese in puff pastry with celeriac apple remoulade. I am certainly no mustard whimp but the hot, pungent, eye-watering wholegrain mustard (sourced from Fabrique Delice, I was told) that dressed the celery root, unfortunately overwhelmed everything else on the plate.
My main course of Rabbit braised with a much milder mustard pan sauce and served over wide noodles was far more successful. The rabbit was tender, the portion was generous and the pasta was perfectly al dente.
We washed the meal down with a bottle of 2004 Cuvee Les Petis Plats Nuit-St-Georges Rouge from their large and very reasonably priced wine list featuring many local wines too. Although chocolate cake is not my usual choice of dessert, I am glad I ordered Bistro Des Copain's version which was as light, fluffy and as good as they come. I really didn't like the bitter 2005 Mayo Family Winery Zinfandel Port from Ricci Vineyard that was recommended to us as a pairing. Next time I would something stickier and sweeter. Yes - there is always a next time...
This review was a first impression.