Benziger group buys Saffron
Michelin Wine Country results; Flowery turkeys and Soroptimists’ lobsters; Nibs & Sips
Mike Benziger and a group of family members, including son-in-law Ari Weiswasser, have purchased the Saffron restaurant site at the corner of Arnold Drive and Warm Springs Road in Glen
Married to Mike and Kathy Benziger’s daughter, Erinn, Weiswasser will be chef at the new Glen Ellen Star, having a great cooking and business background. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with a degree in culinary arts management, and received a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a rare combination for restaurant owners.
Weiswasser has cooked at New York restaurants Corton as chef de cuisine, Restaurant Gilt, Daniel and Picholine; and Pearl, Le Bec Fin and Striped Bass in Philadelphia. Most recently he served as chef de partie at The French Laundry in Yountville.
Weiswasser says, “We are currently developing relationships with local growers, dairies and wineries before creating the menu. About half the menu will come from a wood-burning oven. When the patio is finished, we will have a total of 50 seats, with 30 inside and 20 outside. The kitchen will be open, the décor is farmhouse and casual.” He adds that they hope to open in March, but “it depends on the county,” as most restaurant and café owners know.
Tom Barnett, of Santa Rosa Realty, represented both the seller and purchaser. The same company handled the sale of Glen Ellen’s Garden Court Café by Stacy and Rich Treglia to Rosemarie and Nick Ramponi.
Tonight at her Community Café on West Napa Street, Margie Tosch Brooke will host “An Evening of Wine, Food and Live Music” featuring the wines of Little Vineyards and the fascinating Chapman Stick music of Rich Little, all for only $29.95.
Run, don’t walk: Margie’s menu includes smoked turkey, brie and cranberry with New York strip and cambozola bruschetta; baby greens salad with roasted butternut squash; braised lamb shanks over cheesy polenta with root vegetables; and a dark chocolate mousse with port-soaked cherries. $29.95. 5 to 8 p.m. Reserve immediately at 938-7779.
The new “Michelin Guide San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country Restaurants 2012” is fresh out with some interesting twists and turns, including word-for-word copies of last year’s reviews. Does anyone actually try the restaurants or revisit a locale to try new spots? Or do they just fake it by repeating identical copy from the previous year’s book? Or does it matter?
What it all means, if anything: “Bib Gourmand” signifies “inspectors’ favorites for good value.” The “fork” symbols refer to “comfort” levels, ranging from one fork (quite comfortable” to three large forks and two small ones indicating “luxury in the traditional style.” One star means “a very good restaurant in the category,” two signify “excellent cuisine worth a detour,” and three stars suggest “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
Carneros Bistro fell out of the book for next year, reviewed before chef Andrew Wilson arrived. Café la Haye keeps its two forks and the review seems to highlight the rotating art exhibits even more than the food. The Della Santina’s review is copied word for word from the 2011 edition, retaining its two forks.
EDK’s write-up is part repeat, with the deletion of departed Chef Justin Everett’s name and a mention of a few new dishes. Estate kept its 2.5 forks with a mention of its divine artisinal salumi and some new dishes. Glen Ellen Inn’s review is nearly identical to last year’s, while Harvest Moon Café’s is copied completely from last year’s Michelin paragraphs.
Hot Box Grill is a new addition to the guide with a Bib Gourmand symbol and two forks, mentioning owner/chef Norman Owens’ duck confit ravioli and (my favorite) fried Cornish game hen with shells and cheese.”
La Salette retains its two forks and Bib Gourmand status with actual favorite dishes mentioned such as scallops coated with crisp sausage and saffron or pork tenderloin.
Maya’s and Rin’s Thai’s reviews are copied from last year’s Michelin, while The Red Grape was dropped from the list. Olive & Vine was too new to make the taste testing, if there was any.
Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn remains the only one Michelin Star restaurant in Sonoma Valley, with an actual new review that sounds as if the writer was treated well with the same photo used for the last three years.
The girl & the fig’s review is identical to last year’s, while the fig café enters the guide for the first time with two forks and great compliments to the food but no mention of owner Sondra Bernstein’s attractive “no corkage” policy.
Altimira Middle School will host Sonoma Valley schools for a district-wide Harvest Fair tomorrow, Nov. 5, in Altimira’s parking lot. Students will sell the produce they have grown in their respective school gardens, and kids can participate in garden crafts and other garden-related activities and demonstrations. This may be the last such fun event for the winter. Please support the students. Free admission. 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 17805 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. 935-6020.
Meet Sam Mogannam, owner of San Francisco’s famed organic Bi-Rite Market and author of the “Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food” at The Epicurean Connection on Saturday, Nov. 5. Chat, buy a book, get it signed and check out Sheana Davis’ new shop. 4 to 5 p.m. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-7960.
Breakaway Café introduces a new Saturday night special tomorrow that sounds great: two vegetarian (don’t let that scare you) enchiladas filled with butternut squash, shallots, spinach and goat cheese with tomatillo sauce and a Napa cabbage slaw, all for $8.50. 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma. 996-5949.
Scribe Winery hosts a dinner Sunday, Nov. 6, featuring Sicily’s famous chef and cooking instructor Fabrizia Lanza, who will be around promoting her new book, “Olive.” $125. 6 p.m. 2300 Napa Road, Sonoma. 939-1858.
Depot Sonoma Cooking School offers something new: an “American Southwest Family Holiday Dinner” cooking class on both Monday, Nov. 7; and Tuesday, Nov. 8. Learn to cook and enjoy easy-to-make empanadas filled with goat cheese and mushrooms; sopa de bambas of large prawns, vegetables, hominy and crisp tortillas; a brined boneless turkey breast with chorizo stuffing with a squash gratin, as well as southwest corn and zucchini sauté. Dessert finishes off the evening with a creamy pumpkin. $85. 6:30 p.m. each day. 241 First St. W., Sonoma. Reserve at 938-2980 or email@example.com.
Flowery School is selling Willie Bird free-range turkeys to benefit Flowery art and garden projects and field trips. Willie Bird donates $1 a pound to the school, according to Flowery principal Esmeralda Moseley. Prices range from $42 for an 11-pound turkey to $89 for a 26-pound bird; or $42 to $95 for smoked turkeys. Order at floweryschool.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, or pick up order forms at the school, 17600 Sonoma Highway.
Meanwhile, Soroptimist International Sonoma Valley is marketing “Save a turkey! Buy a lobster!” for its annual sale of live or pre-cooked Maine lobsters for $25 each. Order before Nov. 16 at Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, 651 Broadway; or at Grazia Bianchi Salon, 238 W. Napa St., Sonoma; on Fridays at Westamerica Bank; or call Amy Leader at 291-0753. Pick up your approximately 1.5-pound lobster on Nov. 19 at the Chamber of Commerce from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Brigitta Crewes’ Sonoma Valley High School Culinary program catered the City of Sonoma’s salute to commissioners in the Community Center’s Rotary Kitchen last week and did a fabulous job. Marina Medeiros, Jose Vasquez, Alonzo Jimenez, Leigh Jensen, Ana Dagio and Megan McNeely cooked and served oodles of appetizers (great crab cakes and stuffed mushrooms and potatoes). Volunteers Mara Kahn and Mary Ciocca enhance the program through Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Teacher Support Network.
The glamorous and fun fashion show staged by Boys & Girls Club supporters at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn last Friday raised more than $60,000. Attendees plied themselves with egg rolls, pot stickers, pasta and five gallons of Fred Groth’s “7 Sins” cocktails made of Limoncello, BelloCello, tequila and sweet vermouth, before moving to the white tent for the show and flowing wine.
In the crowd were generous sponsor Lise Sonnen, and are we ever glad to see her back; Ellen Holden supporting daughter Katie Holden; Marilyn Casselli; Junny Gonzales; Lee Jay Olness; Ken Brown with daughter Eden; Windee Smith; Bill and Annie Paynter; Larry Krieger; Dr. John Emery; CeeCee and Darryl Ponicsan; Julie Diamond; Lisa Cavalli and Pat Summers. Summers just joined Sonoma International Film Festival as director of sponsorship.
Beer and food lovers alert:
HopMonk Tavern is taking reservations for a Brew Master’s Dinner on Sunday, Nov. 13, featuring Trey White, president of Anderson Valley Brewing Co. HopMonk executive chef Billy Reid will prepare herb stuffed pork medallions with red eye gravy; seafood gumbo; potatoes three ways; southern fried turkey with stewed tomatoes, spicy greens and Cajun pilaf; followed by cinnamon sweet potato pie, all accompanied by Anderson Valley’s ales. $55. 691 Broadway, Sonoma. Reserve at 935-9100 or hopmonk.com.
Julie Atwood relays that Vintage House’s Vintage Holiday Saturday, Nov. 19, will feature great food by Olive & Vine’s Catherine Venturini, winner of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend’s “Steel Chef” contest. Artisan mixologist (formerly known as a bartender) Shane McKnight will concoct cocktails, and Charles Creek and Madrone Ridge wines will be served with dinner. Jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan will entertain. No live or silent auctions, just a fund-a-need and some interesting “buy-ins” via vintagehouse.org.
Venturini’s menu will include Parmesan zucchini crisps, roasted shrimp on fennel flatbread, and wild mushroom and cresenza galettes; Oak Hill Farms potato, leek and fennel soup; a salad of mâche, arugula and baby greens with roasted pears and warm Laura Chenel Cabecou croutons.
Main course choices include grilled angus filet with butternut squash and leek risotto cakes, Hen of the Woods mushrooms and Oak Hill Farms vegetables, or the vegetarian option of roasted eggplant, goat cheese, heirloom tomato sauce and herb gnocchi. Desserts are fall apple cake with chocolate nib brittle and fallen chocolate cake. $175. 5:30 cocktails, 7 p.m. dinner and show. 264 First St. E., Sonoma. 996-0311 or email@example.com.
Nibs and Sips:
Windee Smith of Valley Wine Shack will donate 5 percent of all November sales to the the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma. 535 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 938-7218 … Windsor Quality Food Co. of Los Angeles just recalled 11,390 pounds of chicken pot pie empanadas, a seemingly true blending of culinary cultures … Marc and Brenda Lhormer’s Napa Valley Film Festival will include pourings by 125 boutique wineries at various “pavilions” in Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga Nov. 9 through 13 … Rin’s Thai, Steiner’s bar and Sonoma Cheese Factory (now owned by a Korean company) were caught serving alcohol to minors in a Sonoma Police Department sting.