Next Iron Chef’s Duskie Estes to Close Zazu, Reopen Nearby in Artisan Compound
Chef Duskie Estes might be best known outside of Sonoma County for her skillful performance on season three of Next Iron Chef, but her true claim to fame is the Santa Rosa, Calif., restaurant she runs with her husband John Stewart, Zazu, which opened in 2001 and has never stopped raking in the accolades: It was named one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in Northern California by Zagat and one of the top 50 restaurants in the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine, was Michelin Guide-recommended in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and Estes and Stewart were crowned "King and Queen of Porc" at the Grand Cochon at Aspen Food & Wine 2011.
The restaurant has always had a farm-to-table approach, but has been hindered by its small size and a kitchen that didn’t allow Estes to work with Stewart, who makes all the restaurant’s charcuterie. They recently signed on to take over a space inside the under-construction The Barlow, a Sebastopol, Calif., compound of breweries, winemaking facilities, and other food- and drink-related craftsmen, and have confirmed to The Daily Meal that when they make the move into the new space, which they’re hoping will be in early August, they’ll be closing down the original Zazu.
"We’re really excited about moving into a larger space and being surrounded by this community of 'makers,' and we’re really glad that John and I will be able to work together," Estes told us. "It’ll be authentically farm-to-table, and that’s not just a marketing term. Guests will even be able to go outside and pick the tomato or cucumber that will be used in their meal!"
The new space will increase the indoor seating from 43 to 60, bar seating from 11 to 22, and outside seating from eight to 30. They’ve also acquired a liquor license, so new cocktails will include the "pig-na colada," which will include bacon-infused rum and bacon sugar-salt on the rim, as well as herbs grown on the property, including lemon verbena, anise hyssop, and fennel.
As for food, some other changes are in store as well. "We’ll bring a lot of what we succeeded with, but we’ll be adding a lot of porky bar snacks," using Red Wattle pigs supplied by Walnut Keep’s pig rancher T.C. Gemmell, Estes added. "Buffalo pig tails, smoky paprika pig ears, chicharones, and bacon caramel popcorn will definitely be on the bar menu." They’ll also be able to serve lunch five days a week and brunch on the weekends, featuring dishes like the "U-Pick BLT," which allows diners to actually pick the tomato that will be used in the sandwich, right off the vine.
Stewart will also be able to sell his charcuterie and other cuts of raw meat on-premises, thanks to a special Department of Agriculture permit. "We can’t wholesale it, but we can produce it and sell it over the counter, which is great," he said.
"A lot of small restaurants go into a funk when they hit the 10-year mark," Stewart added. "They either get stale, or transition into an institution. This is a great way for us to reinvigorate Zazu."
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.