Chef Casey Thompson opened the restaurant in early December last year, and the goal was to offer elevated, fast-casual cuisine and an ever-evolving menu with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from its own organic farms, as well as from local purveyors and partners. “Sharing a meal means relishing in the abundance of Sonoma and the vivid flavors that can only come from the region’s singular terroir,” says Thompson, a former Top Chef star finalist. “Folktable strives to honor that sense of place in every menu.” A Texas native, Thompson rose to culinary fame when she earned “Fan Favorite” on Top Chef’s third season. Afterward, she traveled the world, learning techniques from places as far afield and diverse as Thailand and Argentina, then moved to Sonoma County and put her own spin on Wine Country cuisine.
Days after Folktable had opened its doors to business, indoor dining closed down once again in Sonoma County, but Cornerstone is a perfect venue for dining alfresco anytime, pandemic or not. So Alex and I ventured there for a day-trip getaway on a mild winter day. When we arrived, we placed our order for takeout, and then walked the grounds of Cornerstone Sonoma, looking for a place to enjoy our lunch since I’d planned ahead and packed a basket with our own cutlery, plates and napkins.
When our order was ready, I received a text and voila—just like that, it was time to picnic in style. We deconstructed our carryout order (packed in eco-friendly containers) and began our picnic with two small starters. The country ham spread and pimento cheese is great to nosh on and share, served with baby radishes, carrots and spring onions, as well as fried soda crackers—an unexpected star of the dish. More than a vehicle for the spreads, the crackers somehow manage to be rustic, yet light and extraordinarily tasty. We also enjoyed the onion rings, served with a smoked jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. Onion rings are the quintessential junk food side and one of my faves. When I noted on the menu that they were made with potato flakes, I knew I had to try them. It was love at first bite for both of us and obviously something magical happens when they’re coated with potato flakes. Forget everything you thought you knew about onion rings, these are superb and so light and crunchy that chances are you won’t feel guilty for indulging.
For the main course, Alex enjoyed one of the signature dishes—fried chicken goujans. A goujan is a small, fried strip of fish or meat (usually chicken) and coated in breadcrumbs. Cooked to perfection, the first bite offers a spicy crunch, and the chicken is so moist and tender, it’s no wonder this entrée is already a favorite with patrons. It’s served on Texas toast (which beautifully captures the sauce), along with chili-honey sauce, a quick pickle and cool ranch. This dish has heat, but it’s not overpowering and it’s a plate that can be shared, if you like. Since crab is in season, I opted for the Dungeness crab, simply dressed with drawn butter and a jalapeño giardiniera aioli, piled high on a roll and topped with radish sprouts and trout roe. Beautifully plated—even in a to-go container—this is a simply a masterpiece and delicious, too.
Along with the entrees, we shared a harvest salad, a beautiful concoction of kale, pickled apple, winter citrus, ricotta salata, pomegranate seed, vinaigrette and pecans. The ingredients are picked fresh from the garden and ingredients vary slightly, depending on the season. Another great choice is the grilled broccoli with Thai basil, puffed rice crunch and maple tahini.