To say that Bernstein is a restaurateur is like saying Julia Childs knew her way around a kitchen.
With a new cookbook coming out, her businesses flourishing, and a recent move from Kenwood to Sonoma, Bernstein is crafting a dynamic foodie empire, in a uniquely Sonoman way.
“It’s the community that defines Sonoma’s particular personality,” said Bernstein. “It’s ultimately all about the richness of this ‘valley of the moon’ and those of us who live here feel a deep connection to that bounty.”
Bernstein opened her first restaurant in 1997 after four years at Viansa Winery and working in restaurant management in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
Today, she is Proprietor/CEO of and restaurants in Sonoma, and the in Glen Ellen.
Her gourmet FIGfood product line is available nationwide and locally at , Sonoma’s Best and .
She has her own wine label, Très Bonnes Années, and released an iPhone application and a new company website.
Bernstein is also a cookbook author; the girl & the fig Cookbook was published by Simon & Schuster in April 2004.
Her new book, Plats du Jour, the girl & the fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country, is about to hit the market. (You can pre-order it through December 10.)
Sonoma Patch: How did you end up in Sonoma?
Sondra: I came here on vacation and was immediately struck by a certain spirit of the place. It resonated with me and drew me to move here.
SP: You really capture the Sonoma magic.
Sondra: Sonoma is rustic and elegant at the same time.
SP: What makes your new cookbook different from the last one?
Sondra: We are self-publishing, which allowed us to set the tone and personality of the book. Also, Plats du Jour features amazing color photos by local photographer Steven Krause. It’s a coffee-table book.
SP: Did the recipes come from your restaurants?
Sondra: All the recipes are from the girl & the fig restaurant. Right now and through 2012 we’re cooking along with the book, so as we go through the seasons, our Plats du Jour menus will mirror what’s in the book. And what readers may be doing at home.
SP: How much time do you spend testing recipes?
Sondra: My business partner and our Executive Chef John Toulze and his team of chefs spend a lot of time creating and testing our recipes. I review their creations, and taste and edit the results.
SP: Do you host dinner parties at your home?
Sondra: Since recently moving from Kenwood to Sonoma, I finally have a beautiful dining room table, but only two mismatched chairs.
SP: I don't suppose that would put off potential guests.
Sondra: It’s much more fun to host my friends and family at the restaurants, which are an extension of my home.
SP: If you were dining at home alone tonight, what would you eat?
Sondra: Brown rice and veggies or toast with cream cheese and tomato. Or chicken salad.
SP: What's a favorite indulgence?
Sondra: When I allow myself to indulge in ice cream, which is a rare treat, I go for Heath Bar Crunch.
SP: Do you ever eat fast food? If so, where?
Sondra: I don’t do much fast food, but if and when I do, nothing beats an In and Out Burger.
SP: Do you recall the first thing you ever cooked?
Sondra: Chocolate chip cookies.
SP: What new venture do you have in the works?
Sondra: It’s still a secret, but now that the book is done, I am really “cooking” on it.