Lady Gaga’s good taste

HILLS NEWSPAPERS: March 16, 2012

I never thought I’d say it, but Lady Gaga has good taste. She had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants recently, ordering just what I would have ordered — muscles, frites and a Fig Kiss.

Can’t a girl get a martini without the world knowing about it? Apparently not, as Twitter and Facebook erupted with Gaga sightings across the Sonoma Valley.

“I’ve never seen so much social media in one week in my life,” said Sondra Bernstein, the celebrated owner of The Girl & the Fig. “She was so lovely with the fans. She sat right in the middle of the bar.” She even signed her autograph on a young man’s chest.

Two weeks later, I seem to be following in her footsteps. It’s not my intention; it’s just that the Fig Kiss is “to die for” with its fragrant Figcello (locally made), cranberry juice and Elderflower liquor. “The fig is exotic, sexual and biblical,” says Bernstein, who sees the fruit as a symbol of living richly.

But what Lady Gaga may not realize is that Girl & the Fig has a sister cafe called Estate, in the home General Vallejo gave to his daughter. Fruit trees punctuate well-manicured lawns and the garden is a sensual place for Sunday brunch, dining under a canopy of vines in the warmth of a wine country sun.

“Food is like our art,” says Bernstein, who points to the property’s olive trees and says they crush their own olives at Estate, along with making their own cured meats and bread-and-butter pickles, amongother delights.

“Farm-to-table” is the buzz phrase in food circles these days. We’ve returned to the days when our ancestors lived this way naturally. How funny to think that it’s cutting-edge, now.

And yet Sonoma Valley has long focused on farm-fresh foods. It’s not unusual, then, to see why someone who made more than $67 million last year might look to move here.

Gaga could take classes at Ramekins Culinary School, then serve her creation to friends in the adjacent event center. She could leave the Audi convertible in her garage and take the Wine Trolley to celebrate her Italian heritage with a glass of 2008 Estate Aglianico at VJB Vineyards & Cellars. If she timed it just right, she could be serenaded by the Three Napa Tenors as she sipped deeply from the fruit of the vine.

Life is rich in the Sonoma Valley. Luckily for us, we don’t have to be famous to enjoy it.

Email bag: Reader Kathleen Nagel says her recent trip to Nashville was planned with the help of the musical venues I highlighted in my column, including the famed Bluebird Café and Robert’s Western World honky-tonk. “I used your itinerary, and it was great!” Speaking of western, Glacier Country is giving away a free vacation in western Montana on their Facebook page. The trip includes airfare, lodging and rental care, plus adventure activities and even whiskey tasting. To enter, log onto

Here at home, reader Judy Jacobs says this is the last weekend to get in on Yelp’s Free Oakland Field Trips, which include weekend coffee tastings at Highwire Roasters, pasta-making at Baia Pasta and tastings at Nuubia Chocolat. See


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