General Articles

Share |
E-Mail ArticleE-Mail Article Printer-FriendlyPrinter-Friendly

2010 Best Business Restaurant: John Ash & Co.

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2010 Issue
When Thomas Schmidt assumed executive chef duties at Santa Rosa’s John Ash & Co. two years ago, he had some big shoes to fill—namely, those of the restaurant’s founding namesake and his popular replacement, Jeffrey Madura, who had led the kitchen for almost 20 years. Lucky for everyone—patrons included—the transition has been, in the words of Vintners Inn General Manager Percy Brandon, “a perfect match.”

A Bay Area native, Schmidt honed his culinary skills in France and other European countries before establishing his own restaurant in Bremen, Germany. After more than two decades overseas, Schmidt decided it was time to come home. A job at Pat Kuleto’s Epic Roadhouse in San Francisco put him in a perfect position when Madura decided to hang up his apron. (Kuleto designed John Ash & Co.’s Front Room bar and lounge four years ago.)

“The network kicked in and we all met,” remembers Brandon, who oversees the restaurant as part of the Vintners Inn property where it’s located. “Interestingly enough,” adds Brandon, “[Tom] had a lot of catering experience, not just running a restaurant, so he’s also taken over food for the [Vintners Inn] event center, and it’s become amazing.”

In addition to the luxury lodgings, event center and restaurant, Vintners Inn includes a small vineyard (60 acres) onsite and about two acres of sustainable vegetable gardens for use in the kitchen. You may also catch a glimpse of the goats that provide weed control and prep-food scraps removal.

“We always cook with the freshest food available to us,” says Brandon. “Tom loves that. He’s very interested in supporting local purveyors, who are spotlighted on the menu whenever possible, and he’s incredibly creative with international flavors. Tom has a vision for presenting food, so not only is it delicious, but the combinations are inventive and the plates are beautiful. And he loves pairing food and wine.”

The restaurant’s by-the-glass program features more than 20 wines, and flights and tastings are also available. A three-course tasting menu (available Monday through Thursday) changes weekly.

“We’ve changed our wine list to include mostly Sonoma County wines,” says Brandon. “It used to be an international wine list, but we have such fantastic wineries in Sonoma County, we’re going to support them.”

Things have changed a lot at the restaurant, Brandon continues. “We expanded the Front Room lounge. It’s now twice the size it used to be, which brings a more casual side to John Ash & Co.—no tablecloths, small plates, great cocktails, happy hour six days a week. People have recognized that, and they like that they don’t have to make reservations. They can just show up and have a good time at the bar. It also may be Sonoma County’s best kept secret that Vintners Inn serves breakfast daily at the Provence Room from 7:30 to 11 a.m.—and it’s open to the public!”

So now everyone’s favorite business meeting and special occasion destination is also a locals hangout. “There’s a lot of fun and creativity going on these days,” says Brandon. Not only that, but “either menu is available in either room, so if you have a favorite from the regular restaurant, you can come into the bar in your jeans and eat it.” 






In this Issue

If Old Vines Could Talk

When Edoardo Seghesio left Italy in 1886, little did he know that he was on his way to building an American winemaking legacy. Seghesio left his family’s vineyards in the Piedmont region to jo...


When the smoke cleared last fall in Wine Country after the most destructive firestorms in California history, the hospitality and wine industries quickly mobilized to bring back tourist dollars, esp...

The Arts

Travelers from around the world make Northern California’s Wine Country a coveted destination. Excellent wine is undeniably a powerful lure, but Sonoma and Napa counties have more to offer. Al...

See all...