Martini Madness and Throw-Down
French fries or Belgian fries? Homebrewers bubbling; Nix Chix no more
Martini Madness, the popular Season of the Olive martini mixing competition tonight, Jan. 11, featuring olives at Ramekins Culinary School and is, fortunately and unfortunately, sold out.
You can still go to the martini mixing class and the dinner afterward at what was, and is again, The General’s Daughter in the grand Victorian house, once the home of the large Scheiblich family, and more recently of Estate restaurant.
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.
You can still sign up to learn to perfect martinis – shaken, stirred, traditional or modern – from mixologist Jeremy Sommier. Class limited to 30 people. Class $15. Dinner $52. Dinner at 7:30 p.m. 400 W. Spain St., Sonoma. For tickets call Ramekins at 933-0450 or visit ramekins.com.
Speaking of martinis, the Martini Throw-Down held Wednesday during Ken Brown’s show at KSVY as a temptation to today’s Martini Madness resulted in a split decision. Realtor/vintner/winemaker Avram Goldman, “The Mad Russian Mixologist,” won in the classic martini category with his purist martini made with chilled the Botanist Islay dry gin from Scotland, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry and the classic British twisted lemon peel.
Michelle “Chutzpah” Heston of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn made the “Classic Santé martini” with dry gin and vermouth, with just a little help from Fairmont bartenders.
Heston clearly won the creative category, which turned out to target “breakfast martinis.”
Goldman delicately mixed his Earl Grey tea-infused gin with simple syrup and rimmed his chilled martini glass with sugar to create his “Duke of Earl Martini.”
Heston’s winner, an “Espresso Martini,” hit the morning soft spot with the judges. Following her recipe, she and Big 3 bartenders combined vanilla-infused vodka with a chocolate liqueur and chilled espresso. Thankfully, she brought pounds of mixed nuts to keep the sipping judges sober.
Emergency benefit for Jarrad Plaskett
Enjoy an ample spaghetti dinner and great music by Sonoma band favorites BackTrax, JoyRide and Train Wreck Junction Saturday, Jan. 12 to help raise medical care funds to help Jarrad Plaskett, the local who was doing tree work on Lovell Valley Court.
Working for Ironbark Arborists, Jarrad suffered serious spine injuries when a tree broke while a crane lifted it and fell on him, He is now home after weeks in some of the Bay Area’s best hospitals.
Mooneyhan Productions is organizing the event, which is also sponsored by Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor #111 at the Sonoma Moose Lodge. Bring the kids. 3 to 9 p.m. $20, kids under 8 free. If you can’t make it, give to Jarrad Plaskett Fund at Bank of America. More information via Katie at
Last Sunday Sheana Davis hosted farmers from Oak Hill Farm, Lunita Farms, Paul’s Produce, Robert Sinskey and The French Laundry for a vegetable potluck, wine and beer while they all read from Wendell Berry’s work.
You can join Davis, guest farmer Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead meats, and Chef John Lyle of Hardcore from Farm to Face for a three-course meal of Victorian Farmstead chicken and dumplings with 2010 Idell Family Vineyards chardonnay, Sonoma coast-raised porchetta with Bloomfield Farms vegetables with 2007 Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon, and a local fig tart with Delice de la Vallee with warm caramel sauce. $75. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Reserve at 935-7960 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glen Ellen Star
Apparently we got the facts twisted about Glen Ellen Star’s corkage and donations. Here is the sentence from their press release from Michael Coats which will clarify the situation: “Also the Glen Ellen Star has announced the Glen Ellen Firefighters Association as the newest charity to receive one-third of the funds from the corkage fee. There is no corkage for locals, those with 707 area codes, every Tuesday beginning Jan. 22.”
The restaurant reopens Thursday, Jan. 17, but will be closed Mondays through February. Expect chicken-fried quail, shaved Brussels sprouts, candied peanuts and Italian wedding soup, in addition to wood oven roasted beef short ribs and spaetzle. 13648 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. Reserve at 343-1384.
Always thinking of creative ways to attract diners, Ed Metcalfe of Shiso Sushi will host a “Winter Wine and Sushi Pairing” on Thursday, Jan. 17, in Shiso’s heated patio, with wines selected by Danielle and Tony Westfall of Invino. $35. 5 to 6 p.m. Reservations only at 933-9331. Next to the mini golf course in Maxwell Village shopping center.
Rob Larman will bring cassoulet to Windee Smith’s Valley Wine Shack on Friday, Jan. 18, always fun food events. Expect a green salad of butter lettuce with Dijon vinaigrette, classic cassoulet with beans, duck confit, duck sausage and garlic sausage, finished off with Valrhona chocolate mousse with crème Chantilly. $35 with beer and well-priced interesting wines available. Seatings at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Reserve at 938-7218.
At Transition Sonoma Valley’s recent potluck dinner and evening at Sonoma Valley Grange, several struggling local farmers gave updates about the state of farming in Sonoma Valley, with the whole event honoring Paul Wirtz, formerly of Oak Hill Farm, and again of Paul’s Produce.
Surprise of the evening was Nick Rupiper’s announcement that he had quit farming chickens and producing eggs, or gathering and selling the eggs produced by his hens. He explained that he simply couldn’t make it economically with only 1,000 chickens, and needed a much larger operation to turn a profit.
Isa Jacoby’s chocolate cake honoring Paul Wirtz was the other stunner, with the bottom layer blending root vegetables that come from the soil, to chocolate kale and other leafy vegetables (that grow) on top.
Belgian or French fried:
After all the kafuffle over renaming French fries “freedom fries” in government dining rooms and cafeterias during the George W. Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it turns out maybe they targeted the wrong country.
Lots of foodie chatter this week surrounded Belgians’ claims that the original fries were invented by people in their Wallonie region who customarily fried little fish as a staple in their diets. But when the local rivers froze over, they cut potatoes in the shape of the little fish and fried them instead.
Of course the French claim to have invented fries while cooking under bridges over the Seine River, which is why one version is called “frites Pont-Neufs.”
After all the baking, emailing, promoting, driving and voting, the results are in for this year’s Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance’s Gingerbread Contest. First Place went to Susie and Squire Fridell’s GlenLyon Winery and Two Amigos Wines with gingerbread baked by their mystery “crew.” Second went to B.R. Cohn Winery’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” entry baked and sculpted by divine Crisp Bake Shop, and Chateau St. Jean garnered third with Kelly Cleaver’s “Polar Express Departs from the Chateau.” Congratulations to all of the entries.
After four years of serving a terrific $5 cheeseburger during our country’s economic hard times, Bob Rice is raising the price a whole $1 to $6 at his Breakaway Cafe. It’s still one of the best regular burgers in town. Rice told me, “We have kept it all these years because the community has always expressed such gratitude for it and it makes us feel great to provide it,” also saying “as you can imagine, every ingredient has gone up in cost over those years and now we need to make it a $6 cheeseburger.”
Joe Aaron forwarded a Wall Street Journal story on the fate and future of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. and West Coast restaurants’ oyster supplies, noting that Carlo Cavallo of Sonoma Meritâge was quoted as saying he had to get oysters from Washington state since Hog Island Oyster Co. turned him down.
John Finger, president of Hog Island Oyster Co. told the WSJ that he has been unable to meet rising local demand for oysters over the last two years.
Apparently the government has extended Drakes Bay Oyster’s closing date to March 15 pending the Jan. 25 court hearing on owners Kevin and Nancy Lunny’s suit against the Interior Department.
Sonoma Valley Homebrewers will meet at a local favorite, Sonoma Springs Brewery, on Tuesday, Jan. 15. This group is serious about brewing, and serious about having fun. They will actually have a meeting agenda including a presentation on the pilsner style.
Member Matt Patane says “If you’re just thinking about getting into brewing or are a seasoned pro, come join us for a great night and a cold beer.”
Club dues are $30 a year, including a custom club pint glass with new and prospective members allowed three trial meetings to see if they like it. As the saying goes, “It takes a lot of beer to make good wine.” 6:30 p.m. 750 W. Napa St., Sonoma. More info: email@example.com.
Tobias Hartmann says that he was surprised to find the best food in Istanbul in the Turkish Airlines’ award-winning lounge for all. He found an “unreal” selection of pizzas, lamb and chicken kebabs, “the best mezze I had in Istanbul, fresh baklava and the most amazing cumin lentil soup. Quite an unexpected surprise.”
Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance’s “Glitz and Gatsby” New Year’s Eve fundraiser at the Lodge at Sonoma was a ton of dancing and good food. Yes, good food. Many of us are used to so-so food there, but Executive Chef Peter James Smith has really cranked it up several notches. Guests raved about the Bodega Bay dungeness crab served in a martini glass and the actually tender beef tenderloin.
Always generous Nancy Cline offered a large matching donation, which was met, from her late brother Chris Bunting’s foundation.
In the robust crowd were Jean Barnier and John MacConaghy, Stephen and Diane Bieneman, Juan and Renee Lorenzo, Gerry and Bill Brinton, Michael and Sue Warnock-Brooks, Brenda Buckerfield, Mike and Francine Brossier, Mike and Marilyn Cabak, Marchelle and Curt Carleton, Louann Carlomagno and Brian Wirick (he ran the fund-a-need), John and Marlene Ciatti (she possibly gets the prize for period costume), Sara and Bill Clegg, Fred and Nancy Cline, Terrie and Terry Cosgrove, Donn and Suejean Dabney, Lisa and Dan Deffenbaugh, Rick and Renee Dellar and Dale and Erin Downing.
Carole Downing and Charlie Terzian, Ruth and Gary Edwards, Deborah and John Emery, Bob and Gretchen Gardner (he wearing his grandfather’s bowler), Cathy Gellepis and Jim Ledwith, Keith and Cherie Hughes (she is president of the mentoring board), Richard and Susan Idell, Larry and Ginny Krieger, Rick and Lori Miron, Eletra Monna, Elsa and Gary Nelson (she is Eletra’s mentor), Jeni and Byron Nichols, Nancy Noleen, Barbara Nuss, Steve and Judy Page, Daniel and Tery Parks, Tom and Michelle Rouse, Jill Spencer and Dean Schultz, Laura St. Leger Barter and John Leighton, Patsy and Rick Wynne, Sandy and Armando Zimmermann and Marck and Alison Zuehlsdorrf were also in the crowd among others.
Another way to give to the Mentoring Alliance is to mosey on down to Anaba Wines, whose owners, Kathleen and John Sweazey, will give $2 a bottle sold during January, National Mentoring Month. Enjoy their special collection of winemaking photos lining the walls of their restored 100-year-old farmhouse tasting room. 60 Bonneau Road at Arnold Drive, Sonoma 996-4188.
The seductress/chef Nigella Lawson will be at Book Passage’s Cooks with Books at Larkspur’s Left Bank restaurant on Saturday, Feb. 16, with her new book, “Nigellissima.” $125 includes meal, wine, tax, tip and a signed cop of the book. 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. Reserve at bookpassage.com.