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Where to Go Next: Napa & Sonoma

Cyrus Chef Douglas Keane and maître d' extraordinaire Nick Peyton first teamed up to open Market in Napa. Now they've reunited to create this exceptional new Sonoma restaurant. Somehow, despite its old-world decor (ornate Austrian window shades, Venetian plaster ceilings and gold-and-dark-wood accents), Cyrus manages not to be stuffy. Dinner begins when the hostess picks up a faux antique French phone to announce each guest's arrival to the kitchen and continues with the Champagne and caviar cart. Keane's bold-flavored prix-fixe menu follows: silky salt-cured foie gras offset by a sweet-tart rhubarb compote; lobster and melon salad with fragrant Thai basil; and creamy risotto made with red wine and served with a foamy Parmesan broth. Then comes the cheese cart, with local choices like star-anise-topped Goat's Leap Eclipse. Desserts include an unlikely but alluring combination of chocolate, hot caramel sauce, salty corn sorbet and popcorn. Gregarious sommelier Jason Alexander touts a list that emphasizes Sonoma bottlings as well as worldly choices like crisp Austrian, German and Alsatian whites. DETAILS Les Mars Hotel, 29 North St., Healdsburg; 707-433-3311.

Press The menu at winemaker and Dean & DeLuca partner Leslie Rudd's new Napa restaurant name-drops farms the way red-carpet walkers reference fashion designers. F&W Best New Chef 1997 Keith Luce roasts Fulton Valley Farms chicken over a rotisserie set in the dining room's giant fireplace, and sends out massive, well-marbled Black Angus bone-in rib eyes from Kansas's Creekstone Farms, which he serves with béarnaise aioli. Press has instantly become one of Napa's most stunning restaurants, with a soaring barnlike ceiling and a garden overlooking vineyards and hills. DETAILS 587 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena; 707-967-0550.

El Dorado Kitchen Sonoma's sleepy town square has a sophisticated new bistro, where Ryan Fancher, a former French Laundry sous chef, prepares straightforward seasonal dishes: chicken breast with potato gnocchi and favas; beef sirloin with roasted hen of the woods mushrooms. On warm evenings, the patio is a lovely place to try one of the inventive cocktails, such as the refreshing gin-based Cucumber and Thyme. DETAILS 405 First St. W., Sonoma; 707-996-3030.

Published October 2005
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