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Aug Sebastiani gets nod for firehouse; Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to mostly close July 31; Haywood closes tasting room; Gloria Ferrer Catalan Festival this weekend; Foie gras to Supreme Court?

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill

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After many months of community curiosity, and city review of several bids, August Sebastiani and his The Other Guys won approval from the City of Sonoma for their bid to purchase the former firehouse at Patten Street and Broadway (see news story at http://tinyurl.com/qx58k69).

The winning bid of $1,650,000 was announced at the end of the City Council’s June 23 meeting. Other finalists were Mann Property Company, Caymus Capital and Frank de Michele.

The Other Guys’ bid was for the building as-is, with no contingencies, meaning they can do almost whatever they want to with the space, as long as it passes various Sonoma boards and commissions.

But according to City Manager Carol Giovanatto, the bid still needs to be approved by the Sonoma Oversight Board to the former Sonoma Community Development Agency, which makes a recommendation to the State of California Finance Department. The latter department gives final approval because it has authority over the property since redevelopment was disbanded by the state.

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According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light newspaper, Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been ordered by the federal government to “shut down the cannery and oyster shack and removed its personal property from the shores and waters of Drakes Estero,” as told to the paper by farm owner Kevin Lunny.

Apparently the “property” includes 20,000 oyster bags that contain millions of growing oysters. The Lunnys are negotiating with the Department of the Interior to be able to allow those oysters to mature, and to harvest and sell them.

Sonoma residents Audrey and Ron Chapman traveled to Drakes Bay on Monday, found an abundance of American flags around the company, and a constant stream of supportive customers.

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Respected winemaker Peter Haywood has closed his elegant tasting room in “Vine Alley” on Napa Street.

Haywood says, “The number of tasting rooms near the square in Sonoma have tripled since we opened three years ago, dividing the new customer base which every retail tasting room depends on. The hot market which was good for the real estate business was bad for our business because it gave confidence to our landlady to more than double the rent.”

Haywood, a former president of Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance, will share tasting space in Oxbow Market in Napa. He continued, “The cost is right and having a Sonoma winery in Napa might just provoke some curiosity and spread the news of Sonoma’s great wines … and Hog Island Oysters are just a few steps away.”

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Gloria Ferrer’s annual short trip to Spain via its Catalan Festival comes around this Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20, all to benefit the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, which received $15,000 from the festival last year. The winery also donates a portion of proceeds from each bottle sold of its gold medal-winning extra virgin olive oil, made from the winery’s estate-grown Catalan and Tuscan olives, to the foundation.

The Ferrer family of Spain launched the colorful and tasty event to celebrate opening the Sonoma winery in 1986, which is also the first Catalan-owned winery in California.

Visitors can stroll “Las Ramblas,” a replica of Barcelona’s main street, filled with wafting aromas of paella, loads of tapas and cooking and cocktail demonstrations. Gloria Ferrer executive Eva Bertran traditionally leads guests in learning the Sardana group dance. Makru Music and Sol Flamenco will entertain, along with the stilt giants representing the Catalan Medieval King and Queen that show up in every Catalan town festival. Plus lots of tastes from the Ferrer family’s Spanish wineries and even a grape stomp. $60 to $90. Noon to 4 p.m. both days. 23555 Arnold Dr. (Carneros Highway), Sonoma. Order tickets at 933-1917 or at gloriaferrer.com.

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After celebrating its 40th year in business a couple of weeks ago, with lots of free food for all comers, Broadway Market gave a huge discount to Schell-Vista Fire Department for 2,300 chicken halves barbecued last Sunday. They also donated all of the beer for the six-hour event. Way to go!

For those of you who were surprised by the traditional parking lot across the street being full of vines instead of cars, and having to walk further for your $10 feast, the five-acre vineyard has been planted by longtime property owners and residents Rich and Bob Kiser, according to Buck Sangiacomo.

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Enoteca Della Santina will present Pietro Straccia of Vinifera Imports, who will introduce Italian wines and a three-course Della Santina small plate tasting menu on Wednesday, July 23. Charles Whittaker, formerly tasting room manager at Nicholson Ranch, is now manager of Enoteca Della Santina. $60 or $ 40 for wine club members. 6 to 8 p.m. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma. RSVP to 938-4200.

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More musical

kitchen stools:

Bryan Jones, formerly chef at Sondra Bernstein’s fig café in Glen Ellen, will try to fill Chef David Bush’s award-winning shoes at St. Francis Winery in Kenwood, while Bush moved on to open his own small-plate establishment on Napa Street in the site of the former office of Coldwell Banker, currently under construction.

Jones is featuring tastes of St. Francis wines with a tasting menu of pickled peach and burrata, garden zucchini-wrapped local halibut, Chanterelle mushroom stuffed Mary’s Chicken roulade, seared New York strip loin, and “brûléed figs.” $50, club members $40. Seating times vary by day, Thursday through Monday. Reserve at 795-6674 or at opentable.com.

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Every year, Sonoma Raceway puts on its Eric Medlen Nitro Night Charity Dinner, this year on Thursday, July 24, at the Stone Tree Golf Club in Novato. The event honors the late Eric Medlen, a Funny Car race champion and member of the John Force Racing team, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a testing accident in March 2007. Proceeds go to Sonoma County youth organizations through Speedway Children’s Charities.

If you are interested in race cars, or even if you aren’t, the dinner also kicks off the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Eric Medlen’s mother and other family members will attend the dinner of vegetarian spring rolls, Asiago potato soufflé, chicken empanadas for appetizers, followed by a buffet dinner of organic mixed green salad, roast prime rib of beef carved to order, creamy horseradish, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, local breads and a selection of mini desserts. Sit with your favorite hot rod driver, if you have one. Texas Hold ‘Em Charity Poker Tournament starts at 6 p.m.$125. For tickets contact Cheri Plattner at 933-3950 or cplattner@racesonoma.com.

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Food and wine fans can enjoy a Gundlach Bundschu winemaker dinner at Ramekins Culinary School, on Thursday, July 31, hosted by Katie Bundschu, at least a fifth-generation Bundschuista. Guests will enjoy several GunBun wines with grilled ribbons of summer squash with squash blossom pesto, seared California King Salmon with wild blackberries and basil, roasted lamb sirloin with Early Girl tomato jam and dressed faro, and sliced New York strip loin with creamy polenta and red onion confit. Fun and delicious. $120. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reservations at 933-0450 or ramekins.com.

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Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers & Ranchers will meet Tuesday, July 22 at the Sonoma County Farm Bureau at 6:30 p.m. at 970 Piner Road, Santa Rosa.

Too bad we didn’t bid on its Abalone Dive & Dinner for 10 to be led by “experts John Serres Jr., Buck Serres and Matt Stornetta.” The winners will feast on abalone either at the Dutton Ranch in Graton or at the auction lot buyer’s home, accompanied by a donated mixed case of Paul Hobbs wines. Oh well, my fishing license isn’t up-to-date anyway.

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There are just a few tickets left for La Luz’s “Noche in South Pacific” party on Saturday, Aug. 2. La Noche chair Marcelo Defreitas has moved the whole caboodle from Jack London Winery Ruins to Cline Cellars.

Defreitas says this year’s exotic passion fruit bikini cocktails “are guaranteed to shake some coconuts.”

Elaine Bell will cater the always fun and lively evening, starting with appetizers of seared ahi tuna on black rice scallion pancakes with caviar and wasabi cream; Bermuda Triangle goat cheese on almond crisps; Asian braised pork belly spears on sticky rice pancakes; and curried chicken salad on tiny pita bread, in addition to a fresh caviar station and a shrimp ceviche station.

“The island-style dinner” will feature grilled tenderloin of pork with mango and chutney with roasted Weiser Farm marble potatoes; spicy roasted paupiettes of basa fillets with lemon juice and ancho chili powder; steamed basmati rice with red plum chutney, Samoan sweet buns (bread, I presume); and chewy coconut cake with pineapple glaze to top it all off. If Marcelo is in charge, it’s bound to be a blast. And he is. $200. 6:30 p.m. 24737 Arnold Dr., Sonoma. Reserve with Sharon on the Noche hotline at 938-5131, ext. 102.

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The Alzheimer’s Association reaped a generous profit of nearly $40,000 from a recent dinner at Camino Restaurant in Oakland that honored Sonoma cookbook author Paula Wolfert, diagnosed with early cognitive impairment. This included sizeable donations from famed food authorities Harold McGee and Gael Greene.

Chefs are lining up across the country to fete Wolfert and help raise funds for Alzheimer’s research, with upcoming Wolfert-centered fundraisers in Connecticut, New York, Chicago and Phoenix. Wolfert has thrown all of her sizeable energy and prestige into being a sort of poster girl for Alzheimer’s research to identify its early stages and a cure.

Amaryll Schwertner of Boulette’s Larder, Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse, Daniel Patterson of Coi, David Kinch of now temporarily closed Manresa, Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema, Mourad Lahlou of Aziza and, of course, Russell Moore of Camino combined cooking efforts to produce a memorable dinner. Tickets ranged from $350 to $1,500. Locals who attended included Nancy and Tony Lilly, Jean Arnold Sessions and Wolfert’s husband, Bill Bayer.

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According to New York magazine and LA Weekly, attorneys for California’s foie gras industry have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case that California’s ban on the sale and production of foie gras “raises an issue of extraordinary national importance,” according to attorney Michael Tenenbaum. Thirteen other states filed a brief claiming the ban “unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce.” The Supremes are expected to announce in September whether they will hear the case.

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Nibs & Sips:

Sonoma’s Best on East Napa Street has attracted cheese enthusiast Gail Bickett to advise on your cheese purchases and cheese pairings with special tastings Fridays through Sundays.

Picazo on Arnold Drive has added several planter boxes in back of the café where Sal Chavez and family are growing their own vegetables for use in their menu. They also are barbecuing their famous hamburgers every day and planning to open evenings very soon.

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Hmmm … Today is National Caviar Day. Enjoy!