Located in Healdsburg, Sonoma Cider opened its doors in October last year and is gaining a reputation for its craft ciders. Founded by David and Robert Cordtz, a father-son team who’ve mastered the art of cider making, the taproom showcases their small-batch ciders with gourmet pub cuisine, created by Dominique Rooney, executive chef and granddaughter of the late actor, Mickey Rooney.
What’s a hard cider company doing in Wine Country? Says Cordtz, “Cider is a segway. It’s for people who want something different.” I planned to try the crab mac n’ cheese, and being a vino lover, I usually scan the wine list first. But at Sonoma Cider it’s all about the apples, and I was curious what cider would pair well with my favorite comfort food.
The cider menu includes 23 taps total. As I was pondering the menu with my dinner companion, Robert Cordtz and Nicky London, general manager, brought a mega flight tray so we could sample them all. The core ciders include The Hatchet Apple (fresh, sweet and tart), The Pitchfork Pear (a note of apple with a smooth pear finish), The Anvil Bourbon (cider with slight bourbon kick) and one of my faves.
Next, we moved on to The Wimble Rhubarb Gose (cider with a splash of rhubarb)‑another fave, and I enjoyed that with the wild yellowfin poke: a raw, diced tuna marinated in tamari and sesame oil, topped with scallions and wasabi micro greens, served on a sesame wonton crackers, which gave it a great crunch. Like the cider, it was light, simple and refreshing. Says Rooney, “The menu is based on my world travels and specifically, cider pairings with hints of Sonoma County cuisine. It’s a bit of many cultures wrapped into one, using the bounty of what is around us.”
The French onion soup, one of their signature dishes, is a memorable experiencesweet onions caramelized in Sonoma Cider Brandy, topped with croutons and a velvety, perfectly browned Gruyere cheese.
Sonoma Cider sources its food locally (with one exception, more on that later), and is 80 percent organic. What’s more, their menu notes the items, which are gluten-free and vegan. “We’re mindful of having options,” Robert explains.
After the soup, our server, Chris Krakauer, recommended the California Burrata, a silky smooth confection of cheese, and the only ingredient not locally sourced. The Burrata (from Los Angeles) was served on a board with baby arugula doused lightly with a champagne vinaigrette, housemade oven dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, olive-caper tapenade. The presentation was beautiful, and the flavors fresh, savory and distinctive.
The French dip is another Sonoma Cider specialty. The barbecued tri tip is served on a buttered Costeaux French loaf with caramelized onions and horseradish crème fraiche, with fresh handmade pickles on the side. My dinner companion‑a sandwich aficionado and tough food critic‑was in a state of rapture. The bread. The onions. The horseradish crème fraiche. Days later, he was still talking about this sandwich.
Finally, the crab mac n’ cheese arrived, and it was everything I hoped for‑a rich, creamy blend of three cheeses, topped with bread crumbs, fresh parsley and truffle oil. Comfort food perfection, but not heavy and plenty for two. It paired well with the Dry Zider (a Zinfandel barrel-aged cider).
Desserts are also house-made at Sonoma Cider. We tried the dark chocolate torte with pistachios and drizzled with salted caramel. A slice of heaven, but if you’re up for another hard cider, try The Jax (made by Robert and reminiscent of Kellogg’s Apple Jacks cereal), or the Bananaweizen, a tangy tropical cider with notes of pineapple.
Sonoma Cider offers indoor-outdoor seating and has a fun, hip, cool ambience‑perfect for date night, or dinner out with friends, but it’s also a great place to take the family. There are plenty of games to keep the children occupied such as Skeet-Ball, Giant Connect Four, table tennis and more. On Wednesdays, you might even catch Robert in the midst of a drone race. “Sometimes Robert flies his drone around the restaurant,” says Rooney with a smile. “He and his father are like big kids.”
Expect the unexpected at Sonoma Cider where you can relax, and enjoy great food in a casual environment. We’ll be back soon, and hope to catch Robert flying his drone.
Karen Hart is the new editor of NorthBay biz, where she’s been working on a freelance basis for the past six years. Originally from the Midwest, Hart moved to the North Bay 16 years ago, and she’s here to stay. She’s the mother of two (grown) sons, lives in Santa Rosa, and is happy to take over this column and dine her way around the North Bay.
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