California Zinfandel Braised Short Rib from Chef Steve Litke of Farmhouse Inn

Our waiter Robert, at Sonoma’s Farmhouse Inn, carefully places a tiny amuse bouche of Chanterelle mushroom essence and sweet onion foam in front of each of us. We inhale the earthy truffle scent wafting from the small cup, sip, and let its heady broth envelope our palates. Sensing our complete satisfaction, he says, "They are meticulous in the kitchen and their innovations are intentional."

The Farmhouse Inn is tucked along the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California. Owned by brother and sister Catherine and Joe Bartolomei — and garnering top accolades over the years from those that bestow such things — it is the diminutive scale of the property that allows its staff to provide inspired personalized service to guests.

A Michelin-starred restaurant stimulates expectation the moment you step through the door. The feeling of well-being continues with sparkling glasses and starched linens on a table carefully set. A waiter with a hint of life experience around the eyes welcomes you warmly, as you sit deep in your seat and surrender yourself to the experience.

Executive Chef Steve Litke’s menu changes nightly. What he finds in the farmer’s field on his way to work will be served that evening. Not all items are locally sourced; Atlantic sea scallop, Mediterranean octopus, or elk tenderloin from the hinterland and elsewhere, show up here, as Chef Litke favors variety. Honey and eggs from the Bartolomei’s nearby farm, local squashes, greens, persimmons, pears, and apples make an appearance throughout the menu, along with the imported fare.

Optimally, you’ll stay at the beautifully appointed Inn in one of the spacious well-decorated rooms. You may opt for a soak in the best jetted baths we’ve ever experienced or steam your tired bones in a high-tech shower before you wonder down the path to the Farmhouse Inn Restautant for dinner.

Your Inn stay will allow you to enjoy three or four courses, paired expertly with wine. The Inn boasts a Master Sommelier, Geoff Kruth, and Sommelier Emily Pickral. The latter does a splendid job pairing for our table, starting with a 2008 Baumard Savennieres, Chenin Blanc, from Anjou in the Loire Valley. The wine delicately supports beautiful gifts from the sea in our Masutake Mushroom and Crab Dashi, an ethereal knob of Dungeness crab meat, capped with a tiny cake of crab flan, sprinkled with crunchy roe floating on a sea of dashi broth. “But why,” we ask Emily as she pours, “are we starting with a French import while in California wine country?”

"Because, the delicate flesh and the minerality of this wine go best with crab.” We take a bite and a sip, reflecting on her meticulous and intentional selection, and confirm that Emily is right.

Zinfandel Braised Short Rib of Beef Compliments of Steve Litke, Executive Chef, Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn Sommelier, Emily Pickral, recommends pairing the obvious zin with this short rib. “We’ve had the most positive responses from pairing the 2009 Preston Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, with this dish,” she says.


  • 2 Cups Chopped Onions
  • 2 Cups Chopped Leeks
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples
  • 10 Cloves Chopped Garlic
  • 3 Jalapenos, Seeded & Chopped
  • Canola Oil
  • 6 Cups Zinfandel
  • Thyme, Sage, Coriander
  • 10 Beef Short Ribs
  • 8 Cups Chicken Stock
Method: To make sauce: Cook leeks, onions, apple garlic, and jalapeno in some vegetable oil until caramelized. Add the zinfandel. Bring to a simmer. Then add stock. Simmer again and set aside.

To make ribs: Sear ribs in Canola oil until brown. Place in baking dish. Cover with sauce. Top with parchment. Cover with foil. Bake at 325-350 until tender. The exact time depends on the size of your short ribs (Example: a 2 inch cut will take approximately 2 hours).

At the restaurant, we cook these in advance, strain the liquid, and reduce it to a sauce-like consistency, and reheat the ribs in a 400 oven covered with foil, until hot. It is best to do it this way, so you can de-fat the sauce after it comes out of the oven. We serve this dish with celery root and potato puree. We top this dish with a horse radish, celery leaf, and chive gremolata.

By Michelle Winner and Maralyn D. Hill

Michelle Winner

Michelle M. Winner is inveterate traveler whose goal is to land on all of the continents- in style. Enjoying her job as ' professional sybarite' she dutifully reports on the best hotels, wines, spas and chefs in her travels. She is past President of the prestigious worldwide IFWTWA and flys between her homes on the beach in Hawaii and the mountains of Oregon Michelle also write...(Read More)

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