Restaurant Eloise Pairs NYC with Sebastopol

| September 11, 2008 | 4 Comments
  • 4 Comments

toast amuse at EloiseWhen people tell me they’re going to New York City I ask where they will dine. Then I make suggestions. Sometimes I’m even crazy enough to ask someone living there which restaurant is their favorite. People who love to eat get a pained expression on their face when they attempt to take in my queries. They tell me it’s impossible to choose just one. While I can see their point, I disagree.

My favorite restaurant in New York City is Prune. It’s on first street between first and second avenue, and it’s so small that a lazy blink will guarantee completely missing it. Prune is Paris small, and if you need a lot of personal space, it’s not the place for you.

Gabrielle Hamilton is Prune’s chef-owner. The first time I met her it struck me that she was unafraid of voicing strong opinions, but didn’t take herself too seriously. Her food is soulful, clean, clear, straightforward, homey, and humorous. While many chefs speak a rhetoric the media adores, Ms. Hamilton’s restaurant walks a talk unspoken, but felt down to your very toes, should you have all your senses open when you dine there.

Ginevra Ivorson and Eric Korsh

Prune’s tiny space presses disparate people against one another and the conviviality is sweaty and infectious. That close, familial feeling starts with the staff first, and many people who work at Prune were only going to stay there for a few weeks but are there year after year, still, when I make my pilgrimages.

Eloise Restaurant

Luckily for us, two Prune chef alums, Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsh have recently migrated West to Sebastopol and opened Eloise, in fact. After getting ahold of the news on EaterSF some time ago, I knew I would make the drive, and who I would take. My friend DB said, after looking at the menu for the first time, “Yeah, but the problem is we’re going to need to order everything on there. I will not be able to choose.”

Eloise outside menus

Luckily, DB and I are both famous eaters, and we didn’t have to do much choosing last night, because we ordered all the appetizers except one and for that we substituted a Hudson Valley free-range foie gras torchon with Eloise garden grown peaches and pears.

free range foie gras torchon at Eloise

What we ate, in order from extra ordinary to just great:

the most amazing tomato soup ever at Eloise

Chilled Tomato Soup, Heirloom Tomatoes, Mint & Chives; Mushroom Toast, Poached Egg, Black Truffle, Bordelaise; Roasted Bone Marrow, Parsley & Shallot Salad; The Foie Gras Special; Bibb Lettuce, Warm Feta, Scallion, Red Wine Vinaigrette; Puntarelle, Chopped Egg Vinaigrette, Candied Bacon; Octopus and White Anchovy Salad, String Beans, Fingerling Potatoes; Crispy Sweetbreads, Pickled Vegetables, Raisin-Mustard Vinaigrette.

Next time we’ll focus on entrees.

Roasted Bone Marrow Plate of Equisite at Eloise

If we could have ordered one it would have been Ricotta and Chard Gnocchi, Brown Butter, Sage. But after eight dishes, in three courses, we were happy to get the dessert menus and call it a night well spent.

Eloise restaurant interior- elegant antique whimsy

Eloise is aesthetically stunning. Seeing its understated sign on Gravenstein Highway South won’t prepare you for a restaurant both elegant and comfy, country and city, understated and decorated, whimsical and clean, open and intimate. Upon entering you’re greeted with small bar and a fabulous floor of Moroccan tiles. A number of vegetable gardens, currently in seasonal transition, flank the kitchen; and a wall blocking the old highway from the dining room’s view is terraced with herbs and wildflowers.

Lulu the fish in the Hoosier at Eloise

If you can get to Eloise before night, it’s one of the best restaurants to watch day turn to dusk and then thick inky blue sky. Sebastopol remains a mostly agricultural town and the air, especially as we Northern Californians gently enter autumn, is redolent of apples, grapes turning into wine, and cow pastures; sometimes all at once. Night skies are dense with stars when clear.

leetle lettuces at Eloise

Eloise’s dessert menu is tiny compared to it’s salty side. Three items were offered and Ginevra’s special of rhubarb crepes and vanilla ice cream was offered verbally by our gracious waiter. Off the menu we ordered Sugared Doughnuts with Raspberry Jam, and the special. While I can appreciate offering simple, straightforward plates in the last course category, I found desserts lacking. I’m a tough customer, though, and I was glad not to see San Francisco’s ubiquitous lowest-common-denominator pannacottas and molten chocolate cakes.

donuts and raspberry jam at Eloise

Cooking in and for New York City is a very different experience than that of Northern California. Chefs Iverson & Korsh have given birth to a bi-coastal restaurant, both in technique and inspiration, and my hope is their success makes way for other chefs inspired by farm-kitchens to journey West or East, depending, expanding our ideas about what ingredient-driven cuisine can be.

dessert menu at Eloise

Eloise, at its nascent six weeks old, is doing a great job. And my belief is that it will only get better. As leaves turn, and fall arrives, Sebastopol explodes with the fruit it’s famous for: apples. And perhaps these chefs, inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton’s unique humor, carry with them a mischievous secret: they’ve moved from the Big Apple to seduce California’s apple county.

Restaurant Eloise
2295 Gravenstein Highway South
Sebastopol, California 95472
707. 823. 6387

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About the Author ()

Shuna fish Lydon was whisked and baked in San Francisco but served and eaten in New York City. She's had a 16 year tumultuous love affair with professional cooking and has BFA in photography from CCAC. Working with and for some of the best chefs in NYC and California, Shuna's resume reads like the who's who of cooking today. She identifies as a fruit-inspired pastry chef and calls the many local farmers' markets her muse. Currently "at large," Shuna spends her time teaching baking and knife skills classes, consulting at local restaurants and writing for a number of outlets about deliciousness.
  • http://www.talkoftomatoes.com janelle

    Thank you; I adore the review and the insights into the chefs and these fine new digs!

    Count me in!

  • matt

    I’ve eaten here twice and it’s amazing. I’m a huge fan of the the gnocchi. Make sure you ask for a little extra bread to sop up the warm butter sage sauce. These folks know what they’re doing.

    The gardens are also fun to wander around before you go in for your meal.

  • http://www.sffoodmaven.com Alex C Rose

    Hi! This is a great write up! The photos are beautiful and I like your style. I can’t wait to drive out there to try it…

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