Dungeness crabbers back; Eau de Pizza Hut?
Oyster farm gets shucked; Latke Throw-Down; Slow Cookie Exchange
Area dungeness crab fishers returned to the sea Wednesday after getting distributors to honor their original $3 a pound agreement for the season. Crabs should be a little bigger due to the couple of weeks’ strike delay. You can still expect prices around $7 a pound retail.
Gross gifts not to give:
My first nomination in this category is the new “Eau de Pizza Hut,” developed by corporate Pizza Hutters for devoted customers, I guess. Other nominations?
Regardless of your position on the environmental values surrounding Drakes Bay Oyster Co., formerly Johnson Oyster Co., on federal land and water, it would appear on the surface that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar did not treat the Lunny family what used to be referred to as “nicely.” Not that the role of government is to be “nice,” but decent would do.
Before denying the Lunny family an extension of the property’s 40-year lease on the Point Reyes (Marin County) shore, Salazar visited the oyster farm and seemed quite jovial and friendly, giving the family hope. Then came his call, devastating the large group of relatives and employees who live in the area. Together they produce around eight million oysters a year, having grown to a $1.5 million annual business since the 1930s.
But the Lunnys are fighting back and have retained Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C., firm whose website (causeofaction.org) says they are advocates for government accountability. With attorney Stoel Rives, Cause of Action has filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and Secretary Salazar.
The Women of the Moose at Sonoma Valley Moose Lodge present a free children’s breakfast buffet with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 15. Bring your cameras. Free. 9 to 11 a.m. 20580 Broadway, Sonoma.
“Glitz & Gatsby” will greet the New Year on Monday, Dec. 31 to benefit our example-setting Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, whose executive director, Kathy Witkowicki, just blogged about the importance of mentoring on Huffington Post.
Keeping with the Gatsby theme should be fun throughout the cocktail reception, three-course (called chapters) dinner, the silent auction, music and dancing to David Martin’s House Party band and midnight champagne toast. A block of specially priced rooms ($139) at the hosting Lodge at Sonoma are available.
The evening’s menu includes appetizers of small beef Wellingtons with béarnaise sauce, veggie spring rolls and coconut prawns. “Chapter one” will be a dungeness crab “martini” with Seagram’s VO whisky dressing, followed by “chapter two” of bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin with caramelized onion goat cheese potato gratin and vegetables or a flakey vegetable strudel with roasted pepper sauce. Desserts, or “the final chapter,” will be lemon meringue tarts, hot chocolate fondue, vanilla bean and lemon ice cream, and hot Meyer lemon “adult lemonade.” $250. 7:30 p.m. For dinner or room reservations call Kristina at 938-1990 or email Kristina@sonomamentoring.org.
Crisp Bake Shop has added a Bûche de Noel, red velvet Christmas cupcakes and French macarons of red with pomegranate filling and green with pistachio filling to its menu. You can also still get their trademark layer cakes and mini versions from Thanksgiving and the regular menu are still available. Order 48 hours ahead. 720 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 933-9999.
Martini Madness, the popular martini mixing competition featuring olives, will move this year from MacArthur Place and Saddles to Ramekins’ General’s Daughter Victorian house, once the home of the large Scheiblich family, and more recently Estate restaurant.
Gary Saperstein and Bill Blum (general manager of MacArthur Place) will again chair the riotous and yummy event on Friday, Jan. 11. Saperstein says “We decided to shake it up a bit,” a martini metaphor about moving to the larger General’s Daughter space.
You can either just attend the martini cocktail event or pay extra for a three-course dinner at the General’s Daughter. The dinner menu includes poached pear and chicory salad with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and candied pecans; bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with polenta and Swiss chard; and pumpkin bread pudding with spiced caramel and whipped crème fraîche.
Ramekins has added a VIP ticket where purchasers can join mixologist Jeremy Sommier (not sommelier) for a cocktail class in making martinis, shaken, stirred, traditional or modern. Limited to 30 people. $15 extra. $40 event only, $92 event and dinner, $105 VIP demo, event and dinner. Party 5 to 7 p.m., dinner at 7:30. 400 W. Spain St., Sonoma. For tickets call Ramekins at 933-0450 or visit ramekins.com.
Restaurant Rudy, in the Café 522 location on Broadway, has brought in pastry chef Amber Simpkins, formerly of Spoonbar in Healdsburg where she was known for using lots of fruit and citrus in her desserts, to bake tempting treats and all of their buns and brioche bread. Rudy is now open for brunch and lunch Wednesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, both Hot Box Grill and Shiso Sushi have discontinued lunch until next spring or summer.
Artist, script writer and novelist Darryl Ponicsan held an opening at his First Street East studio, featuring paintings and objets d’art inspired by lots of time spent in Reno. Besides his fun paintings, Ponicsan spread lots of kitschy Reno souvenirs, newspapers and memorabilia from restaurants, diners, casinos and lots more around the studio.
In keeping with the glitzy Reno theme, Ponicsan and wife, Cee Cee, a great cook, decided to forgo some of her specialties and provided “Reno-style” food, more or less. Everyone gobbled the thinly pre-sliced cheeses, salumi and other goodies served on a buffet table right in their plastic trays from Costco. A great and honest success!
Was I ever lucky while sick recently to make Cee Cee’s get-well organic chicken enchilada delivery list. Fabulous!
Don’t miss the Red Grape’s new zeppole, a dessert that resembles something between donut holes and beignets. One at a time, they seem lower calorie. The Grape and Mary’s Pizza Shack both currently feature arancini, which are basically fried risotto balls, with different and excellent flavors and sauces.
Bonnie Tempesta’s Boncora Biscotti are featured in Vogue magazine. Last month the New York Times highlighted her crunchy, light Italian cookies (great for dipping).
Losing Patty Westerbeke: Sonoma Valley and the world lost a great inspiring friend when Patty Westerbeke passed away recently following a fall. She was such a giving person, allowing and helping hundreds of souls re-start their lives, whether meditating or cooking, or maybe they’re the same thing. She turned her birthdays turned into fundraisers for world causes. She even offered us an acre of her land for the School Garden Project. A purist and great leader from whom we can all learn.
Eric Goode, Patty’s nephew and her sister Marilyn Goode’s son, appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday evening. In the family tradition of environmental leadership, he spoke about conservation of turtles.
Latke throw-down: Last Wednesday Michelle Heston of the Fairmont Hotels and realtor Avram Goldman, co-host of Mayor Ken Brown’s Wednesday radio show, held a hilarious latke cooking contest as a sort of kick-off to Chanukah.
Both brought electric fry pans, poured in peanut oil, sizzled away and blew the radio station’s green room fuses. Latke (potato pancakes) recipes vary by family tradition and country of origin, so as the sole judge, it was really hard to pick a single winner.
Goldman carefully and lovingly made potato flour at home, added matzo meal and “avoided the hash brown look,” serving his on paper plates with ample sour cream and apple sauce. Heston started grating potatoes at 4 a.m., added a little green onion and finished with a small dollop of clarified butter and just-ground kosher salt, using her grandmother’s recipe, mixing spoon, spatula and silver tray to serve. They both won first place.
Both Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo Boisset showed up to host the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s “Soirée” at their restored Buena Vista Winery, with dinner prepared and served by Boisset’s truly French chef, Michel Cornu. The “lentil cappuccino” had duck confit and foie gras in the bottom of the large white espresso cup with lentils floating on top; which preceded the beef short rib Bourguignon with mashed potatoes and winter vegetables, and the brioche pudding and vanilla bean ice cream topped it all.
Most of the wines tasted are unavailable, such as Boisset’s 2001 Vougeraie Reunion, which he only makes every 15 years from an organic and biodynamic vineyard in Burgundy. His 2010 JCB No. 3 (representing wife Gina and their twins), is the first wine to combine 40 percent pinot noir from France and 60 percent Russian River pinot from Boisset’s DeLoach Vineyards, all followed by a Buena Vista Cream Sherry with dessert.
The dinner attracted lots of SVMA supporters including Laura and John Benward, Diane and Stephen Bieneman, Brenda Buckerfield, Catherine and Francis Collins, Christine and Jon Curry, Ethel and Gene Daly, Harriett and Randy Derwingson, Gretchen and Bob Gardner, Cathy Gellepis and Jim Ledwith, Phyllis and John Gurney, Nancy and Tony Lilly, Richard Mabe and Dr. Brian Sebastian, Alison and Michael Mauze, Carol and Jon Sebastiani, Kevin and Rosemary McNeely, Michael Muscardini, Birgitta and Dom Paino, Teresa and Dan Parks, Christine Russell and Mark Schlesinger, Mabeth and Bill Sanderson, Melanie and Fred Schwartz, Deborah and Harvey Shein, board President Gerrett Snedaker and Diane Krause, Cal Vander Woude, Paul Vieyra and Stanley Abercrombie, Caryn and Noah Weiss, Ronda and Brion Wise and winery neighbors Fred and Barbara White-Perry, the latter of whom presented Boisset with her elegant line drawing of the winery’s old press house.
Sondra Bernstein, proprietor of the girl & the fig various businesses, is applying for a liquor license at her Suite D location next to her catering kitchen off Eighth Street East. If she gests the license, Bernstein plans a pop-up venue to be called D Café, which I hope will be open for lunch and dinner. What a brilliant use of a triangular pointy room, which only she could turn into a true attraction.
Slow Food Sonoma Valley hosted a fun Cookie Exchange last week at Sonoma Valley Grange across from Mary’s Pizza Shack in Boyes Hot Springs. Slow Food leaders Kathy Leonard, Julie Atwood, Eric and Nancy Peterson, Lauren Parkhill, Mark Feichtmeir and Nancy Lang brought all sorts of soups, all of which were excellent and heart warming. Many members of both Slow Food and the Grange brought a wild variety of cookies, from Nancy Lilly’s traditional Linzer cookies to Vicki Whiting’s chocolate covered crispy Chinese noodles. Lilly said that for years she made cookies all December for her kids’ teachers, and Whiting confessed that she got the crunchy recipe off the package of Chinese noodles. And it was all free with dozens of cookies going to Brown Baggers and Sonoma’s Meals on Wheels.
Margarita Ramirez organized the whole evening and brought music by her brother Robert Ramirez on congas, and Mario Ramirez and Mark Wilson on guitar and vocals.
A good season to count our blessings and to help those less fortunate.