Humboldt's restaurants are swirling with options for wine lovers. Let us help you pick out something from the menu — and the wine list.

Brick & Fire Bistro

The centerpiece of Brick & Fire Bistro is a wood-fired brick oven. Take advantage of it and the view of the staff working like a practiced dance troupe in the galley kitchen.

For starters, see what adding fire does for the grilled Romaine Caesar salad ($8). The charred hearts of romaine with a mini Parmesan panna cotta, anchovies, olives and a traditional red wine Caesar dressing with crostini is a little bit of heaven. Paired with a glass of Bergin–Sipila Vineyards Chardonnay 2013 ($11), it's a lot of heaven.

Wild mushroom cobbler ($9) with shitake, porcini, crimini and oyster mushrooms in a savory, reduced cream with a hint of sherry, topped with a cheesy biscuit and baked in the wood-fired oven is a stand-out starter. Pair it with the baked cherry and sandalwood hints in the Macrostie Pinot Noir 2012 ($12).

The obvious fare is pizza — less obvious are specials like the one with wild white prawns, sweet corn, padron peppers, raddichio, house-made goat and cow's milk ricotta and Parmesan ($15). Yes, please. Of the 25 wines by the glass, chef/owner Jim Hughes recommends a glass of the Italian Garganega Buglioni Blanca della Venezie "Il Disparato" 2012 ($6.50), an expressive, aromatic white, to match it.

Dashe Zinfandel 2012 ($11), which boasts the best of Dry Creek herbs and fruit with a bit of wintry spice, is the thing for the Brick Hen ($22). The split, brined, Cornish game hen is topped with a "brick" — more like a large, dark stone — and deeply pan browned before finishing in the brick oven.

Sunset Restaurant

click to enlarge California cioppino - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • California cioppino

Make your way through the busy slots and tables of Cher-Ae Heights Casino to the aptly named Sunset Restaurant. Along with vaulted ceilings and a free-standing fireplace, it's got arguably one of the county's most stunning views of the sun dipping into the Pacific.

Start with Asian Steak Skewers, ginger and soy-marinated beef atop a cucumber salad garnished with tobiko and sriracha aioli ($10). Add a glass of California Ancient Peaks Merlot 2011 ($9), a velvety, berry-flavored Merlot with a hint of tobacco and spice, and this appetizer could be dinner.

On the other hand, split the California cioppino — loaded with salmon, clams, mussels, prawns and Petrale sole in a fennel and tomato broth — with the accompanying garlic crostini ($20) and it works as an appetizer for the table. The perfectly steamed whole trout, fragrant with bay and thyme, arrives with grilled asparagus and fried risotto ($20). Sunset's Kevin Ralston, responsible for the simple, tasty list of more than 50 wines (16 are offered by the glass) suggests a glass of the dry, full bodied Italian Torre di Luna Pinot Grigio 2012 with its hint of pear ($8) to compliment the seafood.

Sea Urchin Pomodoro - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Sea Urchin Pomodoro


will satisfy your craving for traditional Italian food with hand-made, fresh organic pastas and sauces, but Chef Josh Wily also turns out inventive modern dishes. And it stocks local, regional and international selections featuring several Italian whites and reds to suit the menu. Look out for locally sourced specials like sea urchin pomodoro with linguini, plum tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and spinach (market price). Pair it with a glass of Cacciata Toscana Chianti Classica Riserva 2008 ($8). More delicate urchin turns up in the seared albacore with poached egg yolk, uni, Calabrian chili and basil pesto (market price) — it's well matched with a glass of Calabretta Etna Vino Rosato 2013 ($7), with hints of truffle and roses.

If you like crispy skin, try the Maple Leaf Farms duck breast on a pillow of Parmesan and herb polenta, topped with braised local greens and drizzled with a blackberry-port reduction ($29). Manager Lauren Vucci, recommends a vibrant, well-balanced Italian wine to go with it: Bussola Valpolicella Pipassa Superiore 2010 ($52 bottle). If you're having the halibut and clams with polenta, corn, pancetta, leeks, tomatoes and lemon ($32), she suggests the fresh, fruity Suavia Soave Classico 2012 ($28 bottle). And she's right.

Note: Abruzzi will reopen as The Basement in 2019.

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Lynn Leishman

Lynn Leishman

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