Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
Tthe curtains have opened on the second act of Chef Jeffrey Madura’s culinary career. There is, it seems, life after 20 years as top toque of SoCo’s venerated John Ash & Co. — slinging hash and pancakes at 6:30 am.
The eponymous Jeffrey’s Hillside Cafe is a breakfast, brunch and lunch favorite at Santa Rosa’s Hillside Inn.
Though it may seem a strange sidestep from go from foie gras to dishing up Huevos Rancheros, the breakfast-set can’t complain: Rib-sticking comfort food with the know-how of a Wine Country chef.
Top picks: Cheese blintzes made with fromage blanc (a creamier kin to cottage cheese) and topped with lemon curd and berry puree ($7.25); sauteed organic chicken livers with caramelized onions and pancetta ($10.25); rich, cheesy grits and country ham ($12.50) or crispy chicken fried steak smothered in gravy rich enough to have its own offshore bank account ($10.50).
Taking inspiration from his Vintner’s Inn Days of lavish brunches, some of the more sublime dishes include sticky bun french toast and Eggs Benedict with ham and orange-scented Hollandaise. But there’s no shame in ordering a quick side of scrambled eggs and toast at the casual cafe. Old Hillside regulars may lament the loss of the airplane theme and much-loved buckwheat pancakes — the latter of which might be worth reviving, Chef Jeff.
Gears shift at lunch, when the cafe begins turning out burgers,
sandwiches and salads that defy everyday diner fare. Madura’s Sonoma Onion Soup ($7.50), is swimming with soft onions and a cap of gooey Gruyere. Diana’s Favorite salad ($8.50) has butter lettuce, slices of mango, avocado, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette and candied pumpkin seeds ($8.50) or the already popular Shrimp Poor Boy with sauteed gulf
prawns, sliced cucumbers and green godess dressing with crisp sweet potato fries ($11.50). Other choices include pot roast, turkey chili, a half-pound burger and pulled pork sandwich with chipotle bbq sauce and potato salad. Desserts are simple: Tapioca and fruit crisps that fall in with the diner theme. Wines and beers are available by the glass, as is a breakfast/brunch Bloody Mary made with sake.
It’s food good enough to fuel your day, but inspired enough to make dinner seem downright dull.
Jeffrey’s Hillside Cafe: Open 7 days a week from 6:30am to 2:30pm. 2901 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 546-6317. Entrance to the cafe can be a little confusing if you’re heading east on Route 12. Best bet is to turn left on Farmer’s Lane and follow the curve around to the entrance of the Hillside Inn. Directions