Long before Anthony Bourdain ruined Sunday brunch
for, well, pretty much everyone, BiteClub had her suspicions. Frankly,
I think we all tend to be a bit too forgiving after a long, hard night
of drinking. We tend to overlook soggy toast and mushy eggs through the
fog of sleep still crusted in our eyes and the camaraderie of friends,
kids and dogs gathered ’round the brunch table. We get a little too
involved in sunny patio tables and crossword puzzles to pay much
attention to the canned orange juice and fishy salmon.
Which is why a good brunch — a well thought out, well-executed menu — is such a joy. It’s why people pack into already-overcrowded doorways and waste 45 minutes of perfectly good weekend waiting for a table.
It’s why BiteClub will pile the entire family into the car and drive 20
minutes to Graton (with McNibs whining the whole way) for the best
Benedict this side of my own double boiler.
I’m talking, of course, about the Willow Wood Market Cafe.
Tucked away in the tiny artists’ hamlet north of Sebastopol, it’s the
AM sibling to the Rive Gauche-y Underwood Bistro. Same ironic-tshirt
and artsy beret crowd but with lots more strollers and grandparents in
tow. I figured pretty much everyone around here had made pilgrimage out
to Groovy Graton at least once, but was shocked all week to find out
that many locals have never even heard of it.
Here’s the 411: The
ambiance is more than half the fun of the Willow Wood. You’re way off
the map in a town that is literally a block long but has a wacky-chic
creative vibe. If you don’t pick it up right away, don’t worry. You’ll
get it when you check out the “market” part of the restaurant stocked
with wind-up lederhosen, books about scary nuns and monster
finger-puppets. Gee-gaw gawkers wandering around the restaurant tend to
make servers’ jobs next to impossible on busy weekends, but it kills
the time while you’re waiting to eat.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, but brunch is by far my favorite time to go — mostly for the Monte Cristo and fresh OJ. Consider
Haagan Dazs-dipped challah bread, ham and Jarlsberg topped with fresh
strawberries and hazelnuts. Take a moment. It’s okay. Even better is
the luxuriously lemony Hollandaise with home fries. Brunch runs
from 9am until about 2pm on Sunday. You can get breakfast until 11:30
and lunch (the polenta and rock shrimp are quite tasty) after that. But
really, why would you?
Willow Wood Market Cafe, 9020 Graton Road, Graton, (707) 823-0233. Get to know more about Graton and all its wonderment here.
Boon Fly Cafe
is running in my blood these days. I’d nearly forgotten about spending
a recent birthday brunch jaunt (alone and loving every minute of it) to
the Boon Fly Cafe. Located inside the Carneros Inn compound, Boon Fly
has country-cousin aspirations with its quaint porch swing but is stark
and modern inside. Skip through the Napa-bound crowds and pull up a
chair at the bar if you’re flying solo (or duo) and wrap your lips
around their Boon Fly Benedict, made with a not-too-hot
Hollandaise. You’ll get toasty bird’s nest of hash browns along side,
but honestly, there’s always room for fresh donut holes, which come in groups of four or twelve and are made to order. Bloody Mary? Please.
Boon Fly Cafe, 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, 707-299-4870. Brunch 7am to 2pm Sat & Sun.