102 S. Cloverdale Blvd.
Cloverdale, Calif. 95425
Restaurant & Bakery
Open for Dinner
5 – 9 p.m. (Wednesday-Sunday)
Originally a stagecoach stop known as Markleville, Cloverdale was incorporated when the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad arrived in 1872. Today, it’s part of Wine Country, within the Alexander Valley AVA, and over the years has maintained its charming small-town feel. On the corner of S. Cloverdale Boulevard and First Street in downtown Cloverdale, you’ll find the Trading Post—also known around town as “The Post”—a restaurant and bakery.
When Erik Johnson, executive chef and owner, opened the Trading Post in 2016, his goal was to bring an authentic farm-to-table experience to Cloverdale. At the time, the bakery had already gained a reputation for its breads and pastries, produced by Aaron Arabian.
While The Post is a popular place for out-of-town visitors, it’s also becoming a community gathering spot for the locals and this was felt most recently in the aftermath of the Pocket Fire, which threatened the homes of the neighboring community on River Road. “When we opened for business on Thursday night, following the firestorm, we weren’t expecting too many people to be out dining, but we wanted to get back to our normal routine,” says Johnson. “We were surprised and touched that a group of about 30 people from the River Road neighborhood came in together for dinner. They gathered here to thank those neighbors who helped stave off the fire, and find community in processing the scary events of the week. “
At The Post, food is cause for celebration, and it’s evident as soon as you walk through the front door. A table displays the bounty of harvest—pumpkins, squash and autumn flowers. The restaurant is modern, yet warm and offers a low-key dining experience. I arrive with my dinner companion, Alex, at five-thirty on a Sunday, and the place is already humming with guests.
Our server for the evening is Rachel Genthe, who brings us each a glass of the 2014 Porter Creek Chardonnay and recommends we begin with the deviled eggs and duck fat potato tots. The deviled eggs are rich and creamy comfort food, but elevated with a garnish of mustard seed and sunflower sprouts. The potato tots are oversized and delicately fried to a crisp, served with a dill aioli. We enjoyed the tots along with a squash salad that is best described as a celebration of autumn on a plate—made with greens, fuyu persimmons, sibley squash, turmeric ricotta cheese, toasted walnuts and a brown butter pomegranate dressing.
What’s unique about the Trading Post is that while it offers an elevated fine dining experience, the dishes are whimsical and artfully plated with surprising combinations of flavors, yet simple and satisfying. The artisan breads are showcased in their signature bread basket. We passed on the basket, but tried the rye bread, which was light, fragrant and served straight from the oven.
Married to Marissa Alden, Johnson and his wife have twin daughters who sometimes accompany him to the restaurant, so Johnson knows something about creating dishes that are approachable and unique. Says Johnson, “The twins’ favorite dish is roasted chicken, but they can never say ‘no’ to pasta.”
“Erik Johnson has a great style for incorporating unique flavors, but it’s comforting and not extravagant,” adds Genthe. What’s more, Johnson and crew scavenge and forge for the freshest ingredients. “The menu is built on produce and seasonality,” says Johnson. Meats and fish are locally sourced, and produce is mostly from farmers markets or the restaurant’s garden.
For the main course, Alex orders the short rib tartine, a braised short rib, so tender it practically melts in your mouth. It’s served with pickled turnips, crispy leek and a fresh horseradish crème fraiche. At Genthe’s recommendation, I ordered the Mt. Lassen trout—a potato-chip crusted trout with beautifully crisp skin, yet the fish is moist and tender. The trout is served with broccollini, and a cherry tomato and red wine reduction.
For dessert, we share the apple-caramel semifreddo, made with mousses of gravenstein apple and salted caramel with an almond crunch. Tart and sweet, it was the perfect end to an autumn meal. Next time you’re in Cloverdale, be sure to stop by The Trading Post. On Wednesdays, the restaurant offers a Midweek Market Menu. Three courses are offered for $30—a great way to get a taste of the menu at The Post.
As for the future, Johnson plans to continue doing what he does best, create farm- to-table creations with locally sourced foods and serve as the local hub in Cloverdale. “We hope to continue serving as a community gathering place,” says Johnson, “while also helping to establish Cloverdale as a culinary destination.”
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