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Aventine to open at old Grist Mill; “Paper or plastic” update; La Hacienda to replace Rudy’s; Grange pancakes Sunday; Pirate flag to change

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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Late breaking restaurant news:

Adolfo Veronese, son of Angela Alioto and the late Adolfo Veronese Sr., will soon open a third branch of his and partners Gian-Paolo Veronese and Rodrigo Nevado’s Aventine bar and restaurant at the 170-year-old Grist Mill, in Glen Ellen’s Jack London Village. The trio already has successful restaurants in San Francisco and Hollywood, so their arrival could help the entire Jack London Village.

Hoping for a May opening, chef Adolfo Veronese will specialize in “fresh farm to table dishes” at the Italian osteria, with inside and outside dining along Sonoma Creek, and a full bar. Veronese previously cooked at Wolfgang Puck and San Dominico in New York, and has been around Sonoma Valley for a while.

The arrival of Aventine enhances Glen Ellen’s image as Sonoma Valley’s “gourmet ghetto” with the wonderful Catherine Venturini’s Olive & Vine, Yeti and Wine Country Chocolates right next door, with Jack London Saloon, fig café, Glen Ellen Inn and Glen Ellen Star “downtown.”

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Staffers at both Sonoma’s Safeway and Lucky markets believe they have until Sept. 1 to eliminate plastic grocery bags. While Safeway was temporarily out of both plastic and paper for a week, they now have a good supply of plastic bags. The question of “paper or plastic?” has migrated to “plastic bag OK?” (They’re cheaper), to “paper OK?”

Employees at both stores said they expect to charge 10 cents for a paper bag and admitted that the bags will only cost the stores three to 5 cents depending on whether they have handles, another money maker for the stores. While we cut back on use of oil to make plastic bags, we cut down a lot more trees to make paper bags.

Sonoma and Glen Ellen Village Markets,and Whole Foods, have long encouraged customers to buy their cloth tote bags or to ask for paper bags. At Sonoma and Glen Ellen Village Markets and Whole Foods, customers get a 5-cent discount for bringing in their own bag of any kind. How about the string bags used in European and other countries that you can carry with you at all times?

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Filipe De Jesus Moreno, Delia Margarita Sahagun and Juan Gabriel Sahagun-Renteria have purchased the equipment and “business” of Restaurant Rudy at 522 Broadway.

Confirmed to me this week, the owners of La Hacienda Taqueria in Boyes Hot Springs and Plaza Tequila on Highway 12, will open another La Hacienda at the Broadway location just steps from Sonoma Plaza.

While leaves have blown inside from under the door, the tables are all set with silverware, napkins and glassware, along with all of Rudy’s mother’s feng shui.

The Sahagun family will offer a full bar with margaritas and the same food you enjoy at La Hacienda, from a menu shorter than their eight-pager in Boyes. The new owners will redecorate with colorful furniture from Mexico similar to what they have at La Hacienda, and plan to open “in a couple of months.”

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Sonoma International Film Festival is in mid-roll right now.

The Opening Night reception Wednesday evening in the Backlot Tent behind City Hall featured foods from Saddles Steakhouse, the girl & the fig, Café La Haye, the Swiss Hotel, Della Santina, Ledson’s Centre du Vin, Epicurean Connection and Smoke Open Fire Grill, with bubbles from Gloria Ferrer and wines from Envolve, Muscardini, Buena Vista and Chateau St. Jean.

Thursday evening brought the “Vintners, Growers & Groovers” party celebrating Casey Beck’s “The Organic Life,” about farming locally, and “The Fourth Noble Truth.” The girl & the fig provided a downhome buffet of locally-grown deviled eggs, wood-fired and fried chicken, barbecued riblets, green salad, shaved asparagus, vegetable coleslaw, roasted potatoes, and anise-scented pull-apart rolls, along with cookies from Crisp Bakeshop. Beverages were served by Chateau St. Jean and Angel’s Envy Bourbon, along with the music of the John Brothers Piano Quartet.

And tonight brings the Latin Fiesta honoring filmmakers from Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico with the Latino community, patrons and guests, with the fun Carlos Herrera Band, the fabulous Quetzalen dance group, and food by Rancho Viejo, La Casa, Maya and Bay Area Catering, all paired with Robledo wines.

Sonoma GayDar suggests you “dust off that cowboy hat, squeeze into those tight jeans, pull on those high heeled boots and polish up your buckles” for the party following the screening of “Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year On The Gay Rodeo,” Saturday, April 5, at 3:30 p.m. at Sebastiani Theatre. Party $30 includes entrance, food and drinks. 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets at sonomafilmfest.org. Sure to sell out.

Apparently, there will be a stand on the east side of City Hall, Friday through Sunday, where Smoke Open Fire Cooking will grill Fork in the Road sustainable meat sausages and sell New Belgium beer and Whole Foods’ 365 coconut water, all to benefit Sonoma Valley High School’s media Arts program.

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Don’t miss this Sunday’s Grange Pancake Breakfast, which many have come to know for its ground-that-morning organic grains pancakes, free-range egg and veggie frittata, free-range sausage, freshly squeezed juice, and organic dark roast coffee, espresso and tea. The price just went up from $10 to $12 for adults, inclusive, $6 children. Still a deal. 9 a.m. until they run out. 18627 Sonoma Highway, Boyes Hot Springs. 935-1322.

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Try new wine and food tastes with Élan and Julien Fayard of Azur Wines, both with extensive backgrounds in France and Napa, and Massimo from Berkeley’s Riva Cucina restaurant for terroir-driven wine and dinner on Thursday, April 10, at Ramekins Culinary School. Enjoy Belgian endive salad with sautéed Bosc pear and ricotta salata; Day Boat scallop baked in its shell with micro greens; potato gnocchi with slow-braised leg of lamb soffritto with tomato and herbs; and grilled New York strip and Balsamic caramelized Cipolinii onions and wild arugula, all with Azur’s wines. $125. 6:30 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 933-0450. Ramekins.com.

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Carlo Cavallo, chef/owner of both Sonoma Meritâge and Burgers & Vine, told Sonoma Valley Rotary last Wednesday that his Jolly Roger pirate flag will come down soon, and will be replaced by the Venetian independence flag, explaining that his family was from the Venice area of Italy.

Cavallo attributed the delay and problems in opening Burgers & Vine, in the old Creamery building on the Plaza, to City Hall and the Sonoma County Health Department. Positioning himself as an “adopted nephew of the Cuneos,” (Mary Ann and Richard Cuneo, who own the building), Cavallo said, “I’m Italian. I don’t get mad, I get even.” Cavallo seemed to want to get even with government at every level.
One of his complaints was that he was forced to build a small wheelchair ramp into the kitchen for either a wheelchair-bound cook or chef, or “for an inspector in a wheelchair.” Cavallo admitted that now that the ramp is there, he actually likes it.

In fact, other restaurants have been required to do the same thing and have been made to jump through similar hoops before opening.

Bottom line: Cavallo said government employees are “all union employees. That’s the problem.” He continued, “In New York, you pay off someone and it’s taken care of. In Las Vegas, it’s even easier. But not Sonoma.”

Cavallo’s solution: He wants “any licensed architect’s plans to be approved automatically.”

By the way, he has moved the benches and lower tables from the bar side to the food preparation side facing the mission, and the high bar tables and stools to the bar side of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, the place is packed in the evening. It will do well as a gathering place for people who like lots of noise, live music, karaoke and belly dancing.

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You can participate in the CROP Walk to End Hunger this Sunday, April 6, by showing up at the First Congregational Church at 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma at high noon. CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty, and is under the auspices of Church World Service, which works in 80 countries to provide famine relief and self-help development projects. Twenty-five percent of funds raised will remain in Sonoma Valley to support FISH and Sonoma Overnight Support (SOS – The Haven). Starting at 1 p.m., walkers will cover one or three miles, and the first 100 who register will get a free CROP Walk T-shirt. I am sure wheelchairs are welcome too. For information call Rich Hacker at 326-4742, richofsonoma@gmail.com, or BayAreaHungerWalk.org and click on Sonoma.

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Reserve now for Rob Larman’s Spring Lamb Dinner at Windee Smith’s Valley Wine Shack on Friday, April 11.

Larman, and his Cochon Volant, will serve a salad of Dino kale with roasted beets, citrus and goat cheese; wood oven roasted leg of Sonoma lamb with savory beans and mint pesto; and strawberry shortcake with lemon curd. Valley Wine Shack has a wide array of local and imported wines in all price ranges. $38. 5:30-8:30 p.m. 535 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Reserve at 938-7218.

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Speaking of Cochon Volant, Larman was just notified by the Tuesday farmers’ market folks that they turned down his application and won’t allow him to sell his pulled pork and ribs after three years of success in front of City Hall. And the rejection was done without explanation.

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Vintage House’s fundraising Moroccan dinner, honoring world-renowned cookbook author and Sonoma resident Paula Wolfert, was a hit last Friday. Wolfert offered to “be used” to help Vintage House senior center in thanks for all of the volunteer drivers who have picked her up at her hillside home and taken her to yoga at the senior center. Wolfert has never been able to drive because of eye problems.
A whole bevy of professional chefs and home cooks combined efforts, found authentic ingredients, shelled garbanzo beans or chick peas, and fretted over Friday’s dinner, all cooked from scratch from often-complicated recipes in Wolfert’s seminal cookbook, “The Food of Morocco.” That book won the 2012 James Beard Award for “Best International Cookbook,” her fifth James Beard Award.

Cooks in the kitchen included Susan and Don Gibbons, Vintage House president Marcie Waldron’s cousins, who have a restaurant and catering business in Salinas, Wayne Gordon, Sandy Hicks, Randy Derwingson, Carole and Bob Nicholas, Louise Massie, Sandy Cooper, Mary Evelyn Arnold, Jim and Garland Lamb, and Nancy Lang, who often assisted Wolfert when she taught at Ramekins.

Helping Jacquey Piallat to carry it all off were Marilyn and Bob Albright, Hope and Jack Nisson, Karen and John Foley, Deleyse Landale, Valerie Brown, Sandy Snorey, Barbara Monroe and Barbara Crow. In addition to all of the above, Piallat sends special thanks to Pat Benfer at Savory Spice Shop and Al Minero at Sonoma Market.

As I said introducing Wolfert that evening, huge thanks go to “Jacquey and Alain Piallat, the captains of the evening’s culinary ship.”

Appetizers included warm Marcona almonds and warm olives with preserved lemons from local Meyer lemon trees; Berber Mountain squash soup made by Breakaway Café, and sardine rillettes.

The entrée was what Paula Woflert labeled “Eclectic Couscous,” meaning that other dishes served came from various regions of Morocco, but the couscous combined traditions from all of Moroccan cuisine.

Bob Rice, of the Breakaway Café, made the cinnamon sweet potato salad that was served with roasted beet salad and cooked wild greens salad made by Keith and Joanne Filipello of Wild Thyme Catering & Events.

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Bon appétit!

  • Jack Shmollie

    So glad we now have yet another opportunity to eat Mexican food here in Sonoma .Joy to the world . And no more BBQ at the farmers market ? That sucks .Too many vegan nuts on the approval board I guess .