Locals and visitors to Sonoma are very excited about chef Dustin Valette’s new restaurant, The Matheson, with its elevated dining experience, fun rooftop stage (Roof 106) and wall of 88 enomatic wine dispensers, but what he could become legendary for his 100% crystal clear modern margarita. “It’s tequila and science,” jokes Valette who, along with her wine and beverage director, Jon McCarthy, concocted what is arguably the most delicious, gorgeous and mouth-watering margarita in the world. ‘America.
Served in a highball glass, sporting a single strip of salt on one side and topped with a slice of dehydrated lime, the cocktail is a visual trick that masks the drink’s incredible concentration of flavors. It’s a blend of tequila, agave and clarified lime, but when asked how they did it, Valette is coy: “We protect the way we developed the recipe; it took a long time to come to fruition, to get the visually appealing crystal quality and that depth of flavor, and to scale it to demand.
One thing they recognize, the lime is completely deconstructed in a centrifuge. McCarthy and Valette, who spoke to me via conference call, explain that clarified lime juice is a holy grail in high-end bartending. Says McCarthy, “Some things are much easier to clarify, for example, tomatoes which you can just let stand, but lime is another story, and finding a workaround for lime juice was something on which we have been working on for some time.”
Valette chimes in here: “Jon underestimates the work the team did on this. They did SO much R&D; just a ridiculous amount, but I drank a lot so I wasn’t unhappy with that. And Valette adds, they go through a lot of limes, “mucho limes. We’re definitely keeping some citrus growers in business.”
There’s no doubt that you’ll be ordering food to go with your Modern Margarita, the culinary temptations are plentiful. Restaurant Valette is a three-part experience: fine dining on the mail level at Matheson, a sushi kitchen and wine lounge on the mezzanine and Roof 106, the rooftop space that serves a more casual menu of pizzas and appetizers.
Try the margarita with their classic pepperoni pizza (note: all of their pizza dough is made with a unique strain of yeast from the legendary Kosta-Browne winery) which is elegantly enhanced with smoked mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, honey and Thai basil. Ditto the soulful bites such as the delicate spiced squash with sage cream. McCarthy likes the margarita best with the Hawaiian pizza which is made with a nice sauce of habanero and pineapple to give it a tangy sweetness. “We finish it with homemade cured bacon, onions from our garden and local cheese,” says Valette.
The word on The Matheson is out and it’s good. Whether you come for a festive dining experience downstairs or for a wildly cool margarita and pizza upstairs, Valette and her team have created an all-in-one destination for food and drink lovers of all sides – it’s a feat.