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2012 Best Business Restaurant: John Ash & Co.

Author: John Abbott
May, 2012 Issue

Spectacular food, impeccable service, an air of discretion and the chance to rub shoulders with a who’s-who of local movers and shakers—those are the things that define a great business restaurant. They’re the same qualities that have made John Ash & Co. a consistent champion of business dining in the North Bay for more than a decade.

“It’s an honor to have won the Best Business Restaurant award so many times,” says General Manager Percy Brandon. “It’s a validation of our commitment to excellence. We strive to provide excellent food and service. It’s our goal to create a warm and inviting experience that each guest will remember.”

Located next to the Vintner’s Inn, John Ash was the first restaurant in Sonoma County to introduce the concept of seasonal cooking with fresh, local foods and produce. It’s become an icon of gourmet dining and Wine Country living, offering an ambiance that appeals to executives hungry for great food in a prestigious setting as well as younger, scruffier hipsters who like a little edge with their extravagance. On any given night, you’ll find them both rubbing elbows in the Front Room Bar and Lounge (designed by famed restaurateur Pat Kuleto) over wine, signature cocktails and mouth-wateringly delicious small-bite appetizers.

“The Front Room has become a very popular place to meet for an after-work libation, before-concert appetizer or late-night snack,” Brandon points out. “We offer a happy hour menu seven days a week with a great cocktail list. This spring, we’ll be designing a lounge area complete with fire pits on the east terrace adjacent to the restaurant, perfect for gathering over cocktails and appetizers.”

Executive Chef Thomas Schmidt’s menu choices are eclectic, inspired and brilliantly unexpected. For instance, he’ll give calamari fritti an Asian twist by pairing it with a delectable Thai basil dipping sauce, or accentuate a beef tenderloin steak with caramelized Brussels sprouts, Medjol dates and sauce bordelaise. He also features executive “quick lunches” for $15 that provide value, convenience and plenty of palate pleasure. Virtually all of the produce is grown onsite, from the salad fixings to the spices accenting the gourmet fare.

Schmidt is locally grown himself, growing up and studying culinary arts in the Bay Area. But he made a name for himself in Europe in the late 1980s when he opened his own restaurant, Topaz, in Bremen, Germany, which became famous for its small plates of German, French and Italian fare.

He came to John Ash & Co. in 2008 with a reputation as a maestro of multicultural cuisine who wasn’t afraid to combine flavors, textures and colors in new and exciting ways. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to draw on my experience in a perfect environment of abundance,” says Schmidt, who always cooks with the freshest foods available and goes out of his way to support local providers, even name-checking them on the menu.

Starting in April, the restaurant reopened for lunch on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. “We’ve also expanded our breakfast menu at the Vintners Inn Café and are open to the public for breakfast, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., seven days a week,” Brandon says. “It may be Sonoma County’s best-kept secret.”



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