Diners at the finest restaurants in California's coastal cities and wine country have long enjoyed the best produce grown in the state's Central Valley. But now inland restaurateurs and chefs have jumped aboard the local-and-seasonal bandwagon, and stylish restaurants are thriving in the valley from north to south.
RED TAVERN Chico. At this friendly eatery, owners Maria Venturino and Craig Thomas serve dishes such as a house-smoked duck salad with figs and walnuts and corn soup with pepper relish. (530) 894-3463, www.redtavern.com.
MASQUE RISTORANTE El Dorado Hills. House-made pastas shine at this opulent Tuscan-style restaurant on the valley's east edge. Chef Angelo Auriana works with growers to procure perfect produce. (916) 933-8555.
THE WATERBOY Sacramento. Chef-owner Rick Mahan won't serve tomatoes out of season, and he changes the menu every six weeks at this airy midtown restaurant emphasizing organic produce, natural meats, and local olive oil. (916) 498-9891, www.waterboyrestaurant.com.
WINE & ROSES Lodi. Set in an emerging wine region, this romantic spot features local wines and seasonal specialties such as salmon with morels, asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and aioli or, at lunch, a prosciutto and asparagus sandwich. (209) 334-6988, www.winerose.com.
ECHO Fresno. Bright murals and farm-direct ingredients give Echo its flair. Chef Tim Woods serves delicious New American fare including wood-grilled morels with fava beans and strawberries with damask rose crème anglaise. (559) 442-3246.
Illustration by Mary Lynn Blasutta
This article was first published in May 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.