Betsy Spann wins two Olympics; VinOlivo tonight; Big Petaluma beef recall; Cheese Conference next weekend; French president’s dinner

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill


Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Whether you see it as a fun day to give cards or a plant, or to cook someone a special meal, or you see it as a religious celebration, or Hallmark promotion, enjoy the day, all day.


Late breaking: After posting a sign saying she was opening at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sunee Petprasert delayed the opening of her Bangkok 9 next to Whole Foods to Wednesday, after the deadline for this column. I will tell you all about it next Friday. Meanwhile Carlo Cavallo seems to be close to opening Burgers & Vine, with big screen TV facing out to the street, apparently to show a sports bar atmosphere coming. Wine cask and copper features look intriguing. Last minute government inspections can be tricky.


Betsy Spann, winemaker of Spann Vineyards and world-class powerlifter, had a great weekend in the rain. She and husband, Peter, found out that their Cabernet Sauvignon Mayacamas Range 2007 won a gold medal at the American Fine Wine Competition at Florida International University School of Hospitality and Tourism in Miami. Since Spann’s cabernet beat lots of $250-per-bottle cabs from Napa Valley, run, don’t walk, to grab some of the last few cases of this fine wine ($35 a bottle) at the Spann tasting room, 111 E. Napa St., Sonoma.

On Saturday, Betsy won another gold medal at the United States Powerlifting Association meet in Vacaville, where she set two new U.S. records with a bench lift of 130 pounds and a deadlift of 270 pounds. Trick question: How many cases of wine does that mean Betsy Spann can lift?


As a torchbearer for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I am most respectful of any and all Olympic feats. Dr. John Emery and his brother, Victor Emery, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Winter Olympics Gold Medal triumph for Canada in bobsled with the rest of their team in Calgary, Alberta, then traveling to Lake Louise for some serious skiing and serious partying. John says, “When I am with Victor we tend to tear up the mountain both on downhill skis and cross country. We are both going to race in Ottawa in a 25 km classic that goes back to the old days of the fabled Smith Johannsen, a Norwegian pioneer who created the Maple Leaf cross country trails in Quebec.” Wife Deborah has a house full of guests here at home.


Bonnie Tempesta of Boncora Biscotti, now baked in Kenwood, will soon ship 40,000 of her biscotti to Google’s Mountain View campus. Apparently Tempesta’s biscotti were voted by Google employees as best cookie at a hotly contested food fair last year, resulting in the huge order going to Google’s several micro kitchens.

Tempesta and her mother started La Tempesta Bakery Confections and later sold it in 1997. Recently Bonnie gave birth to Boncora, which combines her name, Bonnie, with ancora, Italian for again.


Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance’s VinOlivo Grand Tasting rocks The Lodge at
Sonoma’s white tent tonight, Friday, Feb. 14, aka Valentines Day, with tastes from 60 of Sonoma’s boutique and biggest wineries.

Aventine Glen Ellen, Café Scooteria, Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, Crisp Bakeshop, Drums & Crumbs, EDK, HelloCello, Hopmonk Tavern, Krave Jerky, Olive & Vine, Scandia Bakery, The Epicurean Connection, the girl & the fig, The Olive Press, Three Twins Ice Cream, Valley Ford Cheese Co. and Whole Foods Sonoma will supply sobering and interesting food samples. As well, you can sample olives from the Olive Bar, sip sweetheart port wines, and nibble on pommes frites with sparkling wines. Tickets $75 before 3 p.m. Friday, $85 at door. 7 to 10 p.m. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Call 935-0803, ext. 1 for more info.


Rancho Veal Corporation of Petaluma has shut down its plant and recalled 8.7 million pounds of meat and meat bi-products, its second recall in a couple of months. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the company may have processed and sold “diseased and unsound animals” between Jan. 1, 2013, and Jan. 7, 2014. Since these products were not inspected, they are deemed unfit for human consumption, although no one in the recipient states of California, Florida, Illinois and Texas has been reported ill from the meat.

Some of the products included in the recall, which may or may not be high on your shopping list, are beef heads, beef blood, oxtails, cheeks, lips, omasum (the third compartment of the stomach of a ruminating animal such as cattle and sometimes found as a delicacy in dim sum), tripe, “mountain oysters,” sweet breads, liver, tongue, veal cuts and bones, feet, hearts and veal trim.

The only remaining slaughterhouse in the Bay Area allegedly sold the meat products to Del Monte Meat Co., which resells to grocery stores and restaurants, C&M Meat Co. of Berkeley, La Morenita Market of Napa, Vallerga’s Market in Napa, Prime Smoked Meats of Oakland, and RBR Meats of Vernon. Ask your butcher or meat clerk where their meat comes from.


Janet Fletcher and Lagunitas Brewing Co. pair up for an unusual class in cheese and beer pairing at Ramekins’ Cooking School on Thursday, Feb. 20. Fletcher is the weekly cheese columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the multiple
award-winning author of books, even some under other people’s names, and a sister member of Les Dames D’Escoffier.

A consultant to the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Fletcher was inspired by cooking for two years at Chez Panisse (who wouldn’t be?), and changed the course of her life from business to food, not that those two are disparate.

Besides her newest book “Cheese & Beer,” Fletcher’s other recent books include “Cheese & Wine” and “Fresh from the Farmers Market.”

Here is the beer and cheese menu for this unusual and fun Ramekins class: All beers are from the guys at Lagunitas Brewing. Weiss Beer with Redwood Hill Cameo, Pilsner with Point Reyes Toma, Censored with Carr Valley Aged Marisa, IPA with Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar, Hop Stoopid with Bellwether Farms Pepato, Hairy Eye Ball with Challerhocker, Imperial Stout with Point Reyes Blue cheese, all followed by a special Lagunitas Mystery Beer. $65. 6:30 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reserve at 933-0450.


The next day, you can visit Ramekins for a cozy “Winter in Paris” classic meal with chef Pierre Lagourgue to include watercress and endive salad, scallops with mushroom duxelles, duck confit with Brussels sprouts and mustard sauce, and vanilla bean pôt de crème. Sip a glass of wine, sit back, learn and taste. $95. 11 a.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reserve at 933-0450.


Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club will hold a western-theme luncheon to be catered by Margie Brooke’s Community Café to raise money for air conditioning in the lovely 98-year-old building, which would be greatly appreciated by building users. Show up at High Noon on Friday, Feb. 21 to help the cause.

Woman’s Club Trustee Chair Dorothy Lund invites people to dress up, or not, and enjoy vegetarian chili, tri-tip, coleslaw, and cornbread, with desserts by club members and music by the Rich Little Band of Cowboys. Expect lots of silent auction items from local businesses and a raffle grand prize of a three-day, two-night stay at Agate Cove Inn in Mendocino ($600 value). Raffle tickets are $10 for one and $25 for three. $25 lunch tickets available at Readers’ Books or by calling Liz at 815-5636. Other information at 235-5153.


Sheana Davis’ Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference runs here from Saturday, Feb. 22, through Friday, Feb. 28, at Sonoma Valley Inn and Ramekins Culinary School and Events Center.

The conference officially opens with welcomes by Davis, Sonoma City Council member Laurie Gallian, and Supervisor Susan Gorin at Sonoma Valley Inn.

Attendees will be offered some fascinating workshops, such as “No money? No farm? No problem!” by Bleeding Heart Cheese Co, followed by talks by New Leaf Market’s Nancy Weimar, Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farm, Al Baylacqu of Good Earth, Colette Hatch, Gordon Edgar of Rainbow Grocery and Janet Tarlov of Canyon Market. Attorney Richard Idell will discuss “legal work for your business.”

The next day, Carol Pranka will tell a history of cheese making in California, Judy Creighton will talk about the California Artisan Cheese Guild and Cheese Trail Map, social media, among other discussions.

Sunday, Feb. 23, brings the big 11th annual Sonoma Winter Artisan Cheese Fair at Ramekins complete with mac ’n’ cheese cook-off, a beer and cheese tasting with Alec Stefansky’s Uncommon brews and Denise Jones of Napa Cask with “Cheese and Beer” author Janet Fletcher at 2 p.m. $55. 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets at sheanadavis.com or 935-7960.

Davis has added a three-course dinner, open to the public, at her Epicurean Connection Sunday night, Feb. 23, to be cooked by Mathew Elias of Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, to include cheeses from Redwood Hill Farm, Roelli Cheese and Valley Ford Cheese Co. $45. Same contacts as above.


Chef Rob Larman will cook a lustful cassoulet dinner at Windee Smith’s Valley Wine Shack on Friday, Feb. 28. Expect a green salad of butter lettuce with Dijon vinaigrette, cassoulet of duck confit with sausage and heirloom beans, and a Vahlrona chocolate mousse with crème Chantilly. Wine and beer available at all prices. Yum. $38. 5:30 to 8:30. 535 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Reserve at 938-7218.



Depot Hotel Cooking School presents a class on Monday, March 3, and Tuesday March 4, of a “Dinner in Cremona,” the city of great violin makers, such as the Amati family and their student Stradavari, and also the heart of Italy’s rice-growing region. On the banks of the Po River, Cremona is the home of Grana Padano, less well known brother to Parmigiana Reggiano.

Father and son chefs Michael and Antonio Ghilarducci will teach and make celery root fritters, a green risotto with Porcini mushrooms, osso buco from pork shanks with fennel, and a frozen hazelnut custard. Same class both nights. $90. 6:30 p.m. Reserve quickly at 938-2980 or gia@depotsonoma.com.


Tom Jenkins now makes single-serving, gluten-free olive oil cakes ($2.50) to go with your Blue Bottle Coffee or wine at Sonoma’s Best, where you can taste great wines from Argentina and Chile Tuesday, Feb. 18.


To no one’s surprise, French president François Hollande showed up alone at the White House State Dinner hosted for him by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Let’s see. Hollande left partner Ségolène Royal, mother of their four children, right after she lost the 2007 race for president of France. Apparently he was already involved with journalist Valérie Trierweilerr, who became his partner/mistress for many years and de facto First Lady of France. She “took to her hospital bed” due to the shock that Hollande had cheated on her with actress Julie Gayet. The French response was amusing; “Well at least he is doing something!” 

This week’s State Dinner included American Osetra caviar farmed in Illinois estuaries and served with Pennsylvania quail eggs and potatoes from New York, Idaho and California. Next came salad of lettuce with little radishes and baby carrots from Mrs. Obama’s garden and vinaigrette made with honey from the South Lawn bee hive.

The main course was dry-aged rib eye beef from Greeley, Colo., served with blue cheese, charred shallots, oyster mushrooms and braised chard. Dessert brought chocolate malted cake, a sort of layer cake attributed to the president’s native Hawaii, Florida tangerines, and Pennsylvania vanilla ice cream, along with fudge made with Vermont syrup, shortbread cookies with lavender from the garden, and cotton candy with orange zest.

All three wines served were from American wineries with French winemakers, including a Morlet La Proportion Dorée 2011 from Napa Valley, Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009 from Columbia Valley, Wash., and Thibaut-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay from Monticello, Va.


Bon appétit, mes amis!


  • Mike Stephens

    Just what Sonoma needs, another tacky sports bar.. I give Burger and Vine 6 months max after they open to close down. I certainly hope some locals with vision can do a better job and make it a place locals and tourists will like to visit.