Lady Gaga goes gaga
Artisan Cheese Fair huge success; Who were you wearing?
As you may have read many places, Lady Gaga was in town last week, ostensibly looking for a house in Armstrong Estates on our eastside, totally appropriate for a girl who went to school at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Interesting that Madonna also boasts of surviving Catholic school.
Apparently Lady Gaga, a good Italian and French-Canadian a.k.a. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, knows her food and likes plenty of it. Much has been written about her feast at the girl & the fig, but she and her entourage pigged out at Sonoma’s Best as well.
Co-owner Gayle Oberti Jenkins happened into her shop by chance and noticed the “smartly dressed young woman wearing stiletto heels with three young men.” It wasn’t until she heard the voice that Jenkins got up the nerve to quietly ask her if she were actually Lady Gaga. Gaga simply answered, “yes.”
Lady Gaga initially ordered four meatballs. After feasting, the entourage, which included Gaga’s boyfriend, Taylor Kinney, took off in a jazzy Audi R8 convertible.
But her guys came back several times during the weekend and bought lots of sandwiches and lots of Blue Bottle coffee. Jenkins gave her aide, Adam, one of Rob Larman’s brisket sandwiches loaded with sauce on a soft potato roll.
Jenkins reports that her husband, Tom, refers to the pair as Lady GayleGayle and Lady Gaga.
One must wonder what will happen to property values?
Sheana Davis’ Winter Artisan Cheese Fair was a monstrous success this year, filling MacArthur Place with good cheeses, macaroni and cheese, wine and beer and lots of happy attendees.
Every chef who entered the mac ‘n’ cheese cook-off was a winner, and it was difficult to decide. Next year perhaps we will have two categories, one for classic and one for most creative. Some people prefer old-fashioned mac ‘n’ cheese like what they grew up with, and many with restaurant backgrounds prefer jazzed up and experimental versions.
On Sunday, Hot Box Grill placed first overall and first in the unannounced creative category, with Two Rock-aged goat cheese, fennel, bread crumbs and tons of butter (oh, yes); while Depot Hotel Restaurant came in second and first for classic mac ‘n’ cheese featuring a big dose of Franklin Teleme cheese. Cafe 522 won third overall featuring Vella Jack, a white wine reduction, bacon, scallions and thyme.
The Red Grape’s new chef, Todd Thompson, is creating new exciting-sounding dishes for the super popular casual restaurant, and draws from a terrific and typical chef progression that includes stints at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega in Yountville, Cook and at The Farm or Farmstead in St. Helena and the Carneros Inn.
Thompson’s predecessor, Dagmar Carruth, has bought a house and moved to Saudi Arabia with her husband, which takes her slightly far from Sonoma kitchens. His mac ‘n’ cheese featured crispy truffled onions and was an Artisan Cheese Fair crowd favorite as well, as was Carlo Cavallo’s black truffle version.
Alec Stefanski’s Uncommon Brews, which he makes in uncommon Santa Cruz although he grew up in Sonoma, offered a perfect balance to the abundant pasta and cheese tastes.
Susan and Richard Idell poured their wines along with several other purist winemakers, and have one called “Oscar.” The cheese fair happened to be the day of the Academy Awards, for which the Idells were leaving to watch at the Rafael Theatre in San Rafael. Richard is former president of the Mill Valley Film Festival, and the couple have an apple orchard in Sebastopol next door to the former president of the Academy, who actually challenged the Idells’ use of the word “Oscar” on their wine.
When Susan explained that it was named for her father-in-law, all was understood and forgiven. Good thing his name wasn’t McDonald.
Becky and Tom Larson of Larson Family Winery are at it again: giving, giving, giving for children. They just donated their vineyard management company crew to prune all the ancient and neglected vines at the Valley of Moon Children’s Home, and if the vines don’t produce they will plant new ones. These are the same people who planted our 120-vine educational vineyard at Adele Harrison Middle School with FFA and 4-H students and are willing to install smaller vineyards at all Sonoma Valley High School’s gardens. Bravo and thank you.
Keith and Joanne Filipello held three weekends of sales recently to move out of their longtime location at the Westerbeke property on Railroad Avenue in El Verano. The Filipello family continues to cater to many clients throughout the Bay Area and will restart their “Dining Club Rive Gauche” dinners at Sonoma Valley Grange in April.
Minnesota based Malt-o-Meal breakfast cereal company, possibly the oldest in the country, is re-branding itself as “MOM Brands” to try to update its image. It might take more than that.
Margie Brooke’s Community Cafe has started new early bird meals and pricings both for “Grab & Go” or dine in breakfasts, including to-go scone and coffee, croissant sandwiches with melted sharp cheddar cheese, Benton’s bacon and scrambled egg with coffee, or veggie or sausage breakfast burrito and coffee ($4.25 to $6.96).
Dine-in breakfast customers will get free coffee and 10 percent off their orders if they ask for the early bird special. The deals run from 7 to 8 a.m. daily. 938-7779.
The Tuesday Farmers Market is looking for a new manager. Interested applicants should contact market vice president Emily Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Abate-Johnson has already left the Sonoma International Film Festival as food and beverage director, and the staff is actively pursuing a replacement. Catherine Venturini Driggers and I served as culinary directors of the festival for a few years until two years ago.
Don’t miss the screening of Casey Beck’s “The Organic Life” film this Saturday, March 3, at the House of Happy Walls at Jack London State Historic Park. It’s a fundraiser with silent auction and farm-to-table dinner created by the girl & the fig with food from Paul’s Produce, along with organic Coturri wines, local music and lots of good conversation. If you can, give toward the making of this important film about the tough life of our idealistic organic farmers in Sonoma Valley. 5:30 p.m. $150. 939-5735 or brownpapertickets.com/event/218459.
Home winemakers’ entries must be in by March 10 at Sonoma Valley Wine Shack for the annual Sonoma Home Winemakers judging.
Get entry forms at sonomahomewine.com or at Windee Smith’s Wine Shack. The Awards Banquet will be Thursday, March 26 at Vintage House. Entry fee $10 a bottle, banquet $30. Wine Shack: 525 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Entry forms at sonomahomewine.com.
George Webber has a new impersonation gig and Facebook facade as Agoston Haraszthy, founder of Buena Vista Winery. Having a proverbial ball in his new job, Webber says he is traveling the country promoting wine at wine meetings, writing a new play to perform at the winery and praising newish owner Jean-Charles Boisset, who hired him, as “one dynamic person.”
Viansa’s big Venitian Carnivale last weekend was great fun, complete with four dancers from Energia de Samba and ending with a Conga line that wound throughout the tables assembled in the winery’s big white tent. How could anyone not have fun after picking up masks to wear in the winery’s cellar and enjoying lots of Viansa wine and Italian food?
The CIA’s Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant has a new executive chef and general manager, Almir Da Fonseca, who studied culinary arts in Rio de Janeiro, followed by apprenticeships in France and Italy, served as executive chef at Lucas Wharf Restaurant in Bodega Bay. Da Fonseca has added a new raw bar featuring oysters, crab and other shellfish. ciachef.edu.
While San Francisco restaurateurs threaten to move to Oakland where the minimum wage is lower than the city’s new $10.24, we figure owners will eventually just pass the increase on to customers.
Say you have 10 employees working eight hours a day, which makes 80 hours. Multiply times the increase of 32 cents an hour, and we get a total increase of $25.60 a day, or $179.20 for a seven-day week, assuming your restaurant is open every day.
Often one can tell which restaurants pay workers well, or where workers make good tips, by how long employees have been with the establishment.
Joanne Hurley, who treated herself to a trip to New York and a stay at the famed Algonquin Hotel, brought back the First Class menu from American Airlines, which she flew the weekend before it filed for bankruptcy.
Called “American Gallery Collection,” the menu included warm mixed nuts or marinated cheese antipasto; salad cart selections; green Thai curried shrimp or chicken schnitzel panetini with prosciutto; an ice cream sundae or fruit and cheese, and “baked on board cookies.”
Wines selected by American’s wine consultant, Canadian Ken Chase of Toronto, included Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Carneros Brut, Geyser Peak Chardonnay, Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc, Onehope Zinfandel, and Pellegrini Family Blend Red.
Novato-based the Republic of Tea owner Ron Rubin just bought River Road Vineyards & Winery in Forestville, which includes a 41,000 case winery and 12 acres of vineyard. All staff will stay on including winemaker Joe Freeman. Gary Mills and his family sold to Rubin.
Rubin bought the Republic of Tea in 1994, and its sales of packaged and bottled tea topped $20 million last year. In October, he spun off a high-end tea division called Rare Tea Republic specializing in “small lot” and “single estate” teas from northern India and the Himalayas.
Rubin studied enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis while majoring in finance in the 1970s.