Springtime is lovely for an 8-hour road trip to the Sonoma Wine Country.
Pulling into Sonoma Square late in the day, our road-exhausted selves were starving, thirsty… and miffed because we couldn’t find parking. (Thanks, Sonoma Film Festival.) So when we finally got out of the car, we ducked into the first restaurant we saw: The Girl and the Fig.
Our first thought as we walked through the front door was, “gee, the yellow walls and wood bar remind us of being back in Provence.” Realizing the lounge was mostly full, we darted towards the last unoccupied sofa, plunkered down, and perused the menu.
Our suspicion of the restaurant’s Provençal theme was confirmed a few minutes later when Mr. RGBistro inquired about chardonnay being absent from a menu containing mussels, cheeses and charcuterie. The official reply, “we only offer Rhone varietals.” You mean like the Rhone River that cuts through Provence? Where one could get a glass of Viogner, Roussanne or Mourvedre… just like what you have on your menu?”
So there on the sofa, while peering into the kitchen, and absorbing the ambience, we sipped on some wine. And we dined on some Pernod-scented mussels, served with a side of shoestring fries and house made aioli.
Our late-afternoon snack was outstanding.
With our souvenir of a signed cookbook, we are now fortunate enough to recreate this whenever the Provençal mood strikes.
We highly recommend a glass of Viogner to go with the mussels; not unlike the case of 2008 Chateau St. Jean we happened to pick up the same weekend.
Pastis: oui ou non?
Pernod-scented mussels with fennel, leeks and garlic in a broth of dry white wine; paired with a crusty French baguette and a glass of Viogner.
- • 3 pounds mussels (preferably Prince Edward Island)
- • 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
- • 3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
- • 1 fennel bulb, sliced lengthwise in very thin strips
- • Salt and pepper
- • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- • 2 cups dry white wine
- • ¼ cup Pernod
- • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- • 1 French baguette
- • 1 tablespoon salted butter
- Minute 1: Clean the mussels under cold water, removing the beards and any dirt on the shell, and dry thoroughly.
- Minute 5: Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the leeks and fennel. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until the leeks start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Minute 10: Add the garlic and mussels and stir well. Add the white wine and Pernod and cover the pan. Cook slowly over medium heat until the mussels start to open, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Minute 11: While the mussels are cooking, slice French baguette lengthwise, then cut into 6” sections, smear with butter and heat cut-side on grill or skillet until brown and crisp.
- Minute 15: Remove the lid, add the herbs and the butter, and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Minute 17: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. (Mussels can hold saltwater inside, so be careful not to oversalt.)
- Minute 20: Plate and serve immediately, preferably with a bottle of Viogner.
Cost per serving: $6.60
Source: Adapted from The Girl and the Fig Cookbook, 2004, p. 41.