Williams-Sonoma update, sort of
Sante dinner for ag garden; More Ben man-ia; Martin Yan at Jacuzzi tomorrow
At the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance annual meeting Tuesday, Executive Director Maureen Cottingham made two significant announcements while articulately describing plans to "brand" Sonoma Valley and its wines.
SVVGA hired BHC Consulting to take them through branding needs analysis and have also hired a Swig creative agency in San Francisco to help execute the resulting plans.
Good news for local service organizations: Cottingham pledged that SVVGA will soon present $350,000 to local nonprofits from last year's Harvest Wine Auction at Cline Cellars. As reported here earlier, this year's event will be a Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood.
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Following my mention here two weeks ago that a Williams-Sonoma executive had been in town wine tasting and talking, one newspaper wrote that the building at 601 Broadway is in escrow, and another said it is not in escrow. One of the property's owners did not answer my emailed inquiry.
What we do know: According to Sonoma City Manager Linda Kelly, "We met with them and they did express that they are pursuing the original building that housed W-S back in the '50s."
Broadway Catering, one of the two tenants of the building and one of Sonoma's original Slow Food and organic caterers, is still very much in business and "going strong" cooking and catering and plans to stay put, with catering commitments well into 2013. Broadway Catering volunteers cook at the Sonoma Valley Grange and provide cooking classes for Mentoring Alliance kids.
Frame Factory owner John Brians plans to stay put as well, earning his living as he has for many years, framing photos, pictures, memorabilia, posters and paintings for all of us.
We certainly hope that, whatever the City Council, seller and buyer decide, they will find equally priced and equally good locations for both very local businesses, both of which do tons for our community.
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HopMonk Tavern proprietor and Sonoma resident Dean Biersch just started "Hoppy Hour" Monday through Thursday, which includes house beers for $3, well drinks for $4, martinis $5, and Buena Vista pinot noir for $5 and Kenwood Yulupa sparkling at $4. Check out the choice of a beef or pork slider or two fish tacos for $3, from 3 to 6 p.m. 691 Broadway, Sonoma and in Sebastopol. 935-9100.
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Santé, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn's Michelin-star restaurant, will host a five-course dinner Thursday, Jan. 26 featuring B.R. Cohn wines to benefit Sonoma Valley High School's thriving agriculture program, school garden, orchard and educational vineyard. Five-hundred students are now involved with agriculture at our high school.
Much awarded chef Andrew Cain will create the special dinner on Thursday, Jan. 26 to feature a canapé reception in the hotel lobby. Once seated, guests will enjoy a salad of dungeness crab, hearts of palm and Hass avocado mousse, roasted Sonoma duck breast with root vegetables and crispy croquette of duck confit leg; a saddle of Cervena venison with water chestnut purée, mushrooms and butternut squash, and white wine poached granny Smith apple and almond tart with ice cream. A delicious way to help our schools. $145. 6:30 p.m. Reserve at 939-2415.
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Responding to my year-long request for some restaurant - any restaurant - to serve real fried chicken, both Olive & Vine and Café 522 have jumped into the frying pan.
Everyone has their idea of the best fried chicken, which often resembles what their mother or grandmother used to make. My mother shook chicken pieces in a brown paper bag containing flour, salt and pepper, and then cooked the pieces in Crisco. I still use her cast iron skillet, which was the only place to fry chicken.
Owner/chef Catherine Venturini of Olive & Vine in Glen Ellen's Jack London Village was first out of the blocks and serves fried chicken every few Thursdays as her neighborhood special, which includes a salad, potatoes and veggies, with a couple of pieces of Mary's organic chicken. You can even request light or dark meat. Venturini uses a delightful secret ingredient (she might kill me if I pass it on) that lends a crunch to the chicken without thick battered crust. Both nights she served the chicken the place sold out and no one wanted to leave. $22, no corkage. 996-9150.
Café 522 just launched "Café 52-2sdays" and has aside its regular menu on Tuesdays to feature family-style real Southern fried Rocky Jr. chicken (full chicken for each two diners) with buttery mashed potatoes and gravy, bacon-braised greens, Jalapeno corn bread with chili butter with a lime wedge to squeeze, and warm lemon chess pie (lemon curd and blueberry preserves). Believe me, this is great fried chicken, possibly because it is cooked in 75 percent canola oil and 25 percent duck fat. $35. 522 Broadway, Sonoma. 938-7373.
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Tom Meadowcroft will lead a wine blending class at his Meadowcroft tasting room Sunday, Jan. 29, at CornerStone Sonoma, south of town. Meadowcroft will provide the wines to blend, beakers and all equipment you might need to create your own blend. $15 wine club members, $20 public. 2 p.m. 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Reservations at 934-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sonoma GayDar holds its first 2012 event Friday, Jan. 20, at the HKG (Hop Kiln) Estate Tasting room, featuring rare wines and paired food tastes such as cheese and charcuterie plates, flatbread pizza, chocolate tastings and "sweet temptations." 6:30 to 9 p.m. 13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 938-7622.
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Isn't it curious that the Food Network's popular southern queen of fat and sugar, Paula Deen, apparently waited until she had an endorsement deal with Denmark's huge Novo Nordisk, producer of Victoza, to "out" her Type 2 diabetes?
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Famed PBS chef Martin Yan will help celebrate Chinese New Year at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards tomorrow, Jan. 21, sponsored by Sonoma Sister Cities Association to foster relations between Sonoma and Penglai, China. Yan will give a cooking demo (1:30 p.m.) at Jacuzzi, along with performances of traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances, silent auction, dim sum tastes and wine. 1 to 4 p.m. $60. 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Tickets advance only at sonomacommunitycenter.org or 938-4626, Ext. 1. No tickets at door.
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Sonoma Valley High School's music department presents its annual Pancake Breakfast, organized this year by Lauren Popenoe, called "Taste of Star Quality," Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, to include multi-grain blueberry pancakes, live music, silent auction and raffle. Whole Foods Sonoma will donate the food. $10 adults, $8 children. 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 299-8492.
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Sonoma Valley Democrats and Organizing for America will hold a "State of the Union Watch Party" on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Round Table Pizza. Order your own pizza, salad bar and beverages and have a good listen and chat. 5 p.m. 201 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Contact Beth Hadley at email@example.com for more information.
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Attendees at the Sonoma International Film Festival's screening of "Anita" at the Sonoma Community Center next Tuesday, Jan. 24, will enjoy pizza, salad and GlenLyon wine along with a moving and important film from Argentina. $20. $12 film only. 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. film. 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 933-2600 or 938-2646.
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Don't miss the Feast of the Olive dinner on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Ramekins Culinary School where you can look forward to some of the best of Sonoma cuisine available, focused on Sonoma Valley's second largest crop, the olive.
Guests can look forward to many courses prepared by 18 of Sonoma Valley's top chefs including Café La Haye's Jeffery Lloyd making appetizers, Bruno Tison of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and its Michelin-stared Santé restaurant will prepare a fish course with Manuel Azevedo of La Salette, and John Toulze and Erin Smith of the girl & the fig and Estate. Toulze, Brian West, Carlo Cavallo of Sonoma Meritage and Andrew Wilson of Carneros Bistro, will make the salad. Antonio Ghilarducci of Depot Restaurant, Doug MacFarland of Ramekins and Armando Navarro of EDK, will co-cook the meat course. Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection, Gary Edwards of Carneros Caves and Norm Owens of Hot Box Grill, will combine efforts on a cheese course, while Dana Jaffe of Saddles, Lisa Lavagetto of Ramekins and Jason Rose of Ram's Gate Winery, prepare dessert.
Akoma Zoume, Benziger, B.R. Cohn, Cline Cellars, Gloria Ferrer, Imagery, Jacuzzi, Landmark and VJB will pour their wines generously. $150. 5:30 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reservations: 996-1090, ext. 108.
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Bachelor Ben man-ia:
Several local businesses hope to celebrate and capitalize on Sonoma's and Sonoman Ben Flajnik's new found fame. Sonoma Market has a "Bachelor Ben Wine Centre" where you can buy both his and Mike Benziger's Evolve (limit two bottles per customer) and newly-named Envolve wines.
Ramekins Culinary School plans a dinner with Flajnik and Benziger to be cooked by executive chef Doug MacFarland on Friday, Feb. 10. In the Benziger family tradition, Ben and Mike's wines are biodynamic. Expect passed canapés, house-cured salmon salad, smoked ham hock ravioli with red kale, cabernet braised boneless short rib with crispy Yukon potato and cauliflower purée, followed by petit fours and chocolate truffles. $120 general, $150 VIP reception. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 933-0450.
Enoteca Della Santina will host Ben Flajnik, Mike Benziger and their partner Danny Fay of Envolve Winery on Monday, Feb. 13 to pour their new release wines. Neighbor businesses will have a block party the same evening and stay open until at least 7:30 p.m. $15 advance. $20 day of event includes appetizers at Enoteca. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 938-4200.
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Martini Madness tasters voted HopMonk Sonoma Best Use of the Olive, host Saddles Steakhouse won Most Creative with its "Gin Martini Project" using liquid nitrogen, gin and "olive air," and Murphy's Irish Pub triumphed with Hunt Bailie's "Sonoma Sunset" for Best Overall Martini for the third time. Bailie used Skyy Vodka, fresh raspberries and a squeeze of lime; while HopMonk bartender Jen Crowe made a "Macontini" adding apple-smoked bacon, organic apple and lemon juice and maple syrup.
Other restaurants whose bartenders competed included the girl & the fig, Estate, Mary's Pizza Shack, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, El Dorado Kitchen, Sonoma Meritâge, Carneros Bistro and Centre du Vin at Ledson Hotel.
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Cary's Sports Grill, which replaces La Dee's Diner and Rob's Rib Shack next to the driving range on Arnold Drive near Craig Avenue, has opened for dinner, with lunch launching in a couple of weeks.
We haven't tried it yet, but they have a Wagu steak sandwich with fries or salad for $13, lasagna with garlic bread and salad for $9, half-pound burgers with add-ons such as fried egg and bacon on the breakfast burger; bacon, cheddar and onion rings; meat ball subs; blue cheese burger, a chicken club sandwich and Chinese chicken salads. Kids menu available ($5.50). Beer and wine on their way, whenever the ABC comes through. 18709 Arnold Drive, El Verano. 996-9110.
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Mara and Phil Kahn hosted their multi-annual New Year's Day open house, with their usual great meatballs, sliced ham and turkey, salads, dessert tables and a yummy tortilla soup. Mara hired helpers from the Sonoma Valley High School culinary program, which helps everyone. As usual, it was a warm and fuzzy afternoon with lots of friends.
Enjoying the food, wine and each other were Amy Alper and Mark Hummel, Kate Eilertsen and Michael Muscardini, Gail and Jim Stroupe, Beth and Joe Aaron, Patricia and Charles Willard, Dr. Mike Brown, Jane and Al Milotich, Marcia and Jim Levy, Jane and Rick Wicklund, Cam and Kim Fraser and loads of Merrill Gardens residents invited by Mara's mother, Cyl Levy.