Basque Boulangerie selling; Great Grange updates
Epicurean Connection connecting; school market successes; Foie Gras encore? Nibs & Sips
Françoise Guerra Hodges confirmed that the Basque Boulangerie & Café is in escrow and being purchased by experienced baker and manager Harman Singh Bajwa and his wife, Harleen Bajwa, who have formed Basque of Sonoma, LLC.
The Bajwas have committed to keep all staff, all historic photos and everything on the menu in the long tradition created by the Guerra and Hodges families. Françoise’s parents, Lily and Gratien Guerra, first opened their bakery in 1956 in the stone building in the back of what is now Della Santina’s.
They moved to their First Street East location in 1960, becoming a social center of Sonoma, with Gratien’s bread and Lily’s pizzazz and jewelry, great smile and welcoming ways among the attractions.
Every baker gets tired of standing on his or her feet starting in the wee hours of the morning, and the Guerras sold the bakery to Charlie Cho in 1989. It passed through many hands including those of Alan Ota, who moved the baking operation to Vallejo and eventually sold the Sonoma French Bakery label to Franco American, which in turn sold the label to Mezzaluna.
Meanwhile, the Guerras developed the Place des Pyranées alley way where Taste of Himalayas and Murphy’s Irish Pub are today. Françoise created and ran a delicious and successful restaurant, Café Pilou, for many years where Murphy’s is today.
Then in 1995 Francoise, her husband Ron Hodges and “Jack in the Back” Montaldo, who had baked bread for years for her parents, opened the Basque Boulangerie & Cafe in her parents’ building that had previously housed the Arts Guild of Sonoma.
Starting with 1,100 square feet, the Basque had a goal of baking for locals only. Eventually local restaurants started to call and order bread that reminded them of Gratien Guerra’s loaves at Sonoma French Bakery. Then Rachel Ray included it in one of her books and shows, and it’s been even more crowded every since.
Françoise says that the whole operation has become so big that she and her husband decided it’s time to pass it on to another family so they enjoy more time with Françoise’s parents and have some fun together. “Of all the people who have approached us in the past year, this was the family we felt best about.”
Actually, Harman Singh Bajwa has lots of bakery experience, having worked “in the back,” behind the counter, and as a store, regional and district manager for the Noah’s Bagels. No bagels are expected.
Françoise says, “This is very emotional for us. It’s time for another family to continue the tradition.”
Bryter Estates holds a new artist-in-residence reception tonight, July 20, at their tasting room in Vine Alley, near Haywood, Two Amigos/GlenLyon and Envolve. San Francisco photographer David B. Page will showcase his photos from five continents and 37 countries. Page’s work has appeared in many nature magazines and corporate publications.
Join him and owners Terin and Bryan Ignozzi for some of winemaker Terin’s California State Fair “Best of California” cabernet sauvignon and San Francisco Chronicle gold medal winning wines accompanied by hors d’oeuvres from Café 522. Bryter won medals for all three wines they submitted to the Chronicle awards, a double gold, a gold and a silver. 5 to 7:30 p.m. 501-8272.
Our Thursday afternoon school garden farmers market at Murphy’s Irish Pub had its best day ever last week. Chefs from Murphy’s and Taste of Himalayas bought lots of veggies and plums.
Starting last Thursday, participating schools have agreed to donate all of their “leftovers” to Elizabeth Kemp and the Brown Baggers for the free meal they prepare and serve at La Luz Center every Friday evening.
Sonoma GayDar celebrates summer on Sunday, July 22, with Bachelor Ben Flajnik, Mike Benziger and Danny Fay at their Envolve Winery tasting room (“envolved” in what?) in Sonoma Court Shops’ Vine Alley off Napa Street. $10 includes one glass of wine, 15 percent discount on more. 5 to 7 p.m.
Petar Kirilov just officially became winemaker for Tom Meadowcroft’s Meadowcroft, Thomas Henry and Foyt Family labels, all made in Sebastopol. Kirilov is also founder of vinoenology.com.
Kirilov grew up in Bulgaria, graduated from its University of Food Technologies with a master’s in beverage technology, and first worked at a Bulgarian factory making high alcohol beverages. Sample Kirilov’s wines at Meadowcroft’s tasting room at CornerStone, 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma
Michael Acker, artist and president of Sonoma Valley Grange, reports that Garnet Hyde is installing a new heating and air conditioning unit, donated by Barbara Heiman, as part of the long range effort to update the building and the Grange’s role in the community.
Hopefully contractor Thomas Bridges will be able to start remodeling the kitchen in January, which would then be available to caterers and food producers.
The Grange’s next organic Pancake Breakfast comes up on Sunday, Aug. 5. Don’t miss it. Great food, great conversation and great people.
Maggie and Peter Haywood hosted a bucolic evening of wine education and tasting last weekend for their wine club members, culminating with dinner served by their private lake. Maison de Concierge presented divine oysters, crostini with ricotta, a pate choux with sliced beef and wasabi, and chicken bastilla with chickpeas for appetizers. Peter Haywood paired one of his wines with each hors d’oeuvre and dinner course.
Dinner included a buffet of grilled chicken and beef skewers with vegetable skewers; black bean, corn and red Poblano pepper salad; Greek salad and a light baby spinach salad.
A generous free raffle, a Haywood library wine tasting and another buffet of fresh fruit, brownies and Haywood Zinfandel chocolate truffles finished the evening.
In the happy crowd were Celeste and Randy Ferguson; Karen Collins’ cousins from Vancouver, Wash., Mike and Lynn Foster; Randy and Harriet Derwingson; Scott and Phyllis Frazer; Hope and Jack Nisson; Gerrett Snedaker and Diane Krause; Jim and Siga Webber; Mark and Pam Gibson; Dottie and Bill Lynch; Tom and Bonnie Herman; Jim and Garland Lamb; Janet Richman; Claire and Jack Bock; Jane and John Robb; Norman Gilroy and beekeeper Shelley Arrowsmith; Joe and Susan DuCote; Tom Tjerandsen and Vlademir Faybusovich. Thirteen of the guests had been on Karen Collins’ trek in and around Crete a few months ago.
Sheana Davis’ Epicurean Connection has been hopping lately. When I indulged Monday in her yummy grilled cheese sandwich (actually two sandwiches made with three-year-old cheddar on Costeaux bread), a steady stream of visitors walked in from all over the Bay Area, along with Creekside residents who took the bus into town.
Davis says she has been hired by the Gran Fondo bike tour to provide healthy food for all of its races next year. She brings in a balance of food vendors, which has included Hot Box Grill, Depot Hotel, Community Café, Shiso and Costeaux Bakery and café of Healdsburg. Check out her case of 30 subtly flavored sweet butters, such as the chocolate butter she recommends for croissants, or even bagels. Recently Davis catered events for Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, UCSF Medical Center and Google.
Next Wednesday, July 25, Davis will host a public Bread and Baked Goods tasting with guest baker Wil Seppi of Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg, whose products she sells. Free. 4 to 6 p.m. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-7960.
Sonoma raceway and Speedway Children’s Charities again honors the late Eric Medlen with its Nitro Night Charity Dinner at Stone Tree Golf Club on Highway 37 on Thursday, July 26. Medlen, a native of Oakdale in the San Joaquin Valley, considered Sonoma his home track, won the Funny Car Championship there in 2006, and later died from injuries incurred during an auto testing accident.
The famous and glamorous Ashley Force-Hood, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas will all be present at the full prime rib dinner (vegetarian option available) in the elegant golf club.
Drivers will compete in Petaluma’s 101 Casino and Pacific Truck Repair “Texas Hold ‘Em Charity Poker Tournament” at 6 p.m.
The casino will present a check for $3,500 to Speedway Children’s Charities for Sonoma County youth groups in the name of the driver/player who holds the most chips after one hour. Nitro Night kicks off the 25th NHRA Sonoma Nationals, which run July 27 to 29. $125. 6 p.m. For tickets contact Denise Silver at 933-3950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foie gras developments:
Combining an amendment proposed before the U.S. House Agriculture Committee that would negate any state’s (California’s) farm laws on animal welfare and food safety with an assertion that foie gras can be served on federal property and foie gras may rise again.
Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment eradicates states’ rights to regulate agriculture, including pig and chicken raising standards, and well might include duck raising. Meanwhile, legislation is brewing in the California legislature to overturn the foie gras ban as well.
It isn’t over till it’s over, and it isn’t over yet.
After lawsuits and rumors back and forth, Bill Foley, owner of Sebastiani Winery and Chalk Hill in Sonoma County and the Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, finally reached a departure agreement with Michelin starred Cyrus restaurant owners Nick Peyton and Douglas Keane. Foley bought out their lease, but Peyton and Keane will keep the Cyrus name and recipes. Cyrus will close in October.
Nibs & Sips:
Get ready! Friday farmers market’s annual Zucchini Races race up on Friday, Aug. 3 at Sebastiani Winery … Sonoma Valley Democrats gather for their monthly “Thank Goodness It’s Thursday” on July 26 at Murphy’s Irish Pub at 5:30 p.m. right after the Sonoma School Garden farmers market … Deborah Friedman, former proprietor of Robin’s Nest discount kitchen store, now manages Kanaloa Seafood Market at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market.
Muscardini Cellars and Deerfield Ranch Winery will put on their first annual “Mercato di Vino” on Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, at Deerfield Ranch Winery. Olive & Vine restaurant and Buon Gusto Wood Fire Pizza will serve appetizers on the crush pad. You can listen to Jason Bodlovich’s music, stroll through the art-festooned caves, enjoy barrel tastings of wines paired with Truffles Gateau chocolates, cigars from Americana Cigar and conversation with winemakers Michael Muscardini and Robert Rex. $25 wine club members, $35 non-members. Noon to 5 p.m. both days. More info and tickets at muscardinicellars.com or 933-9305.