Translation: I’m in love with the El Dorado Hotel and its in-house restaurant, El Dorado Kitchen. I’m certainly not one who falls in love frequently or easily and there isn’t an industry that holds more truth in that statement than the hotel/travel sector. It seems every time I travel, something goes wrong; like Murphy’s Law of Travel or its equivalent. So when I say I love a place, rest assured it’s the real deal.

I was lucky enough to visit Sonoma at the end of my adventurous 7-day runner’s trip with Wine Country Trekking which began at the steps of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and ended miles away in a quaint square of Sonoma. After seven days of having my entire trip planned for me (including everything from food, lodging, entertainment suggestions, guided hikes and more), I got a little anxious at the seemingly daunting task of planning my extra night without the help of those wonderful guides I had relied so heavily on.

After a helpful call to the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, I ended up in the far corner on the northwest side of the infamous Sonoma Square. The entire plaza had this utterly historic feel that prior to I thought only existed in McGraw Hill textbooks from my middle school days. The El Dorado Hotel (EDH because acronyms make everything so much cooler) had morphed this picturesque historic and homey feel into a place of modern luxury that still made you feel right at home.

The rooms were of the utmost simplicity, which is endearing, especially when you travel for a living. Amidst the simplicity, the rooms still managed to exude an immense amount of charm outfitted with an iPod docking station and a flat screen TV comfortably aligned from any angle of the four-poster queen size bed. But my favorite part of the room undeniably were the French doors which opened in varying directions – mine was just above the ivy-laden courtyard where just enough street noise struggled to come into my room. Something about those doors and the scene underneath made the simplicity of life, along with that entire vacation, that much more enjoyable.

Although a rather small property (27 guest rooms including 4 bungalows), EDH still boasts the feel of a more sizable hotel with their offering of amenities such as the outdoor courtyard and pool that lay just steps from my room. The pool itself (barely heated) wasn’t much to brag about (although word on the street is it’s one of the only properties in the area with a pool), but the poolside cabana beds were perfectly fit for basking in the Northern California sunlight.

Literally just downstairs from my guest room sat the illustrious El Dorado Kitchen (EDK), which by the time I arrived at 7pm was already teeming with locals and tourists alike. Apparently EDK is not only a favorite for locals, but also a wedding/bachelorette/birthday/fill-in-the-blank-party hotspot along with being on almost every tourist’s “must try” list. Two of the couples I chatted up during dinner had tried to reserve a room at EDH but had to settle for “just dinner” because the rooms were sold out. I opted for a spot at the bar so I could ask questions about their “farm-driven” kitchen and flirt with the bartender – both of which paid nice dividends.

The best way I know to start off a great dinner is by serving up a delicious cocktail. The signature cocktails at EDH truly set the tone for the meal I was about to devour. (And when it comes to food, devour is not a term I throw around loosely.) Being from Texas, land of all things Tequila and margaritas, I felt bound to try their signature Watermelon Margarita. If the menu copy alone hadn’t sold me, watching the bartender carefully craft this alcoholic masterpiece into a mason jar would have surely sealed the deal. Though I’m not a big fan of watermelon rolled in salt, it definitely made a unique and Texas worthy type garnish that I had never before experienced. Unique, tasty and tipsy – A+ all around.

The second best way I know to start off a great dinner is when the bar “accidentally” orders an appetizer and has no where to put it except in front of your face. Especially when your face happens to be right next to a quickly refilled Watermelon Margarita described above. Enter the world’s best truffle fries topped with parmesan cheese piled so high sharing was practically required. These truffle fries have long been a staple at EDK.

For my meal, I opted for the Alaskan Halibut ($29) prepared with corn pudding, spinach, chanterelles, spring onion and lobster emulsion. Definitely a meal I’d recommend to anyone.

Having an entire meal from start to finish with no complaints is a rarity so I decided to find out a little more about this Armando character behind this meal of mine. His bio:

Armando Garcia has had an illustrious culinary career. His resume includes the role of Executive Sous Chef at Auberge du Soleil. After five plus years at Auberge, Armando wanted to further master his culinary skills and went to New York where he trained under the best chefs at Le Bermardin, Jean Georges and Daniel Boulud. He returned to California and worked in two award-winning restaurants – Jardiniere and Masa’s – before moving up to REDD in Yountville as the Chef du Cuisine. The last three years, Armando has been the Executive Chef at Larkspur in Vail, Colorado. Armando took over as Executive Chef at EDK in August and fans just like me have been screaming rave reviews.

The El Dorado Hotel | 405 First Street West | Sonoma, CA 95476 | 707.996.3030