Best of food porn: “The Hundred Foot Journey;” Robin Williams’ Sonoma side; Sam Sebastiani returns a winner; Hot Box Grill reopens; David Viviani: Mr. Cheese O’s

Best food porn on film:

“The Hundred Foot Journey” is a must-see film for fans of Helen Mirren, food, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon, Manish Dayal, Indian music, France, Indian food, romance, French food, triumph over tragedy – just about anything,

It’s a film about food and love, love of food, food love, the romance of food, food as romance, food’s attractions – both substantive and visual, shared love of food, food as bond, and food lust, all resulting in blending of food and food families. Got the picture?

You will learn something about making both Indian and French dishes, blending spices and cuisines, as well as Helen Mirren’s ability to blend cultures, languages and accents into one fiercely dominating restaurant owner who is softened by food and romance.

Laugh and cry and appreciate the expert and accurate job that set designer David Gropman, brother of Cafe LaHaye owner Saul Gropman, created to design and construct such authentic period decor throughout the movie. This time, Gropman should win the Academy Award.


The late Robin Williams had many ties to Sonoma and lived here in the Mayacamas for a while with his kids in local schools. Several Sonoma residents posted photos of themselves with Robin Williams on Facebook, and it was easy to run into him, even at 7-Eleven. A.J. Riebli became friends at age 15 with Williams when the latter rented movies at Joan Riebli’s Movie Merchants. Sharon Somogyi knew Williams well as a frequent customer and friend at La Casa restaurant, and Celeste Winders caught a photo with him when they were bonding somewhere in the Valley. Just a brilliant “regular” guy.

Sonomans Margarita Ramirez and husband Rev. Peadar Dalton organized and performed Williams’ third and final marriage to Susan Schneider at Meadowood in 2011. Ramirez said via email that people at the wedding “could not say enough about his compassion for others …” Williams was previously married to Valerie Velardi and Marsha Garces Williams.

Ironically, Rev. Dalton wore the same stole that Robin and Susan gave him to wear at their marriage to perform the wedding last Saturday of Len Handeland and Byron Hancock.

According to forbes.com, Robin Williams listed his vineyard and villa on Wall Road in the Maycamas Mountains between Napa and Sonoma for sale in April 2014 for $29.9 million. Apparently Williams designed the house himself and included 20,000 square feet, tennis courts, wine cellar, horse and hiking trails and 18.4 acres of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot vineyards, with most grapes sold to Robert Craig and Rombauer.


Sam Sebastiani, “Old World Winemaker,” has returned to winemaking and Sonoma in triumph with his La Chertosa brand wines. He named his brand La Chertosa after a 14th-century Renaissance monastery in Farneta, Italy, where he says the Sebastiani ancestral roots began and where his grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, learned to make wine in the “Old World” style. Hence, “old world winemaker” Sam.

Sam says he makes and ages his chardonnay and sangiovese wine in caves at Kunde, and stores the zinfandel at Napa Barrel Care.

At the 2014 California State Fair, Sam won “Double Gold – Best Micro Red Award and best of Class Region for his 2012 La Chertosa reserve Amador County Zinfandel, and his 2012 La Chertosa Sonoma Valley Chardonnay won Best of Class Region. The same zin won a gold from the 2014 Critics Challenge, and a 90 at the San Diego International wine competition, and a gold at the 2014 Denver International wine competition. More locally, his 2012 Sonoma Valley Sangiovese won gold at the 2014 Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge.

Sonoma designer Patti Britton created La Chertosa’s labels. La Chertosa will be served as the house wine on every table at the upcoming Red & White Ball.


David Viviani was spotted handing out samples of Mr. Cheese O’s at Sonoma Market recently, as part of a new product from what was originally his family’s creamery, founded by Celso Viviani and Tom Vella.

After the Viviani family sold Sonoma Creamery (aka Sonoma Foods) to Monterey Gourmet Foods, the American branch of a South Korean company, Pulmuone Co., Ltd., John Crean of Sonoma led an investor group to buy Sonoma Creamery back from Pulmuone.

Again called Sonoma Creamery, the company recently “rolled out” Mr. Cheese O’s, mini donut-shaped intensely flavored, almost pungent savory crunchies that are gluten free and made with “ancient grains,” listed on the back of the package as “pasteurized cultured milk, salt, enzymes, organic quinoa, oat bran, organic brown rice, garlic, spices and herbs” – in that order.

Catch John Crean on “The Kathleen Hill Show” next Friday, Aug. 22, from 10 to 11 a.m. on KSVY, 91.3 FM or ksvy.org.



Pets Lifeline’s Paws for a Cause fundraiser will be Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Vintage Kennel Club Dog Ranch & Spa. The event and dinner take place in an elegant barn, with straw in the horse stalls where you feast on dinner. The horses occasionally poke their noses in from outside to check out your salad.

All to save animals’ lives, attendees will mingle with goats, sheep, horses and a camel and feast on a vast buffet created by Grapevine Catering, augmented by tastes from Krave Jerky and Fat Pilgrim. Ten Foot Tone will play original music, followed by a silent auction and a brief fund-a-need, led by Bill Jasper. $95. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. 22071 Bonness Road, Sonoma. Quickly call Nancy King at 996-4577, ext.102, or nancyking@petslifeline.org.


La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and Societe Mondial du Vin Napa-Sonoma chapter, invites you to a James Bond Dinner Affaire at Patz & Hall Tasting Salon on Saturday, Aug. 16, Bruce Riezenman of Park 121 will cook dinner to be paired with Patz & Hall’s chardonnays and pinot noirs. Dress as your favorite Ian Fleming character or black tie. $215. 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner. 21200 Eighth St. E., Sonoma. Send checks to E.J. Heinzer, 341 Sailfish Isle, Foster City, CA 94404.


Esteemed architect and former dean of the School of Architecture at UC Berkeley, Richard Peters, gathered his dearest and finest friends and associates a Sunday ago to celebrate his first 85 years in his fabulously designed home across from the Teeter (Little League) Field. Locals, such as Stanley Abercrombie and Paul Vieyra, Mary and Adrian Martinez and Hope and Jack Nissen, enjoyed Peters’ many cheerful and artful collections in his cinder block home that was once a warehouse.


Len Handeland and Byron Hancock’s wedding was elegantly staged by Melanie King of Dreamers & Heroes, something of a challenge on a hillside with four terraces and driveway and a three-story house.

The event was a huge and elegant celebration of their love and 31-year commitment (so far), as well as the California law that now allows people of the same sex to marry each other. The garland that lined the railing of the stairs the bridal party ascended was dedicated to the memory of both men’s parents. Guests sat in chairs along the driveway and looked up at the stair landing where Len and Byron said their vows. Candles and flowers floated freely in the swimming pool.

Attendants Jonathan Triebwasser, Nancy Handeland, Kim Voy, Kathy Leonard, Terri Miller, Bob Leonard and Kevin Shanahan led the grooms up the stairs, accompanied by Deirdre Egan on piano and harp. Len sang part of his commitment to Byron with Tony Bennett’s “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The capper of the ceremony was Hillary Wicht’s performance of Leonard Cohen’s moving “Hallelujah,” which she sang from a corner of the third-floor balcony, with wind blowing her dress and long blond hair, reminiscent of Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On” over the ship’s railing in the movie “Titanic.”

Designer to stars and part-time Sonoma resident Andi Espina created the grooms’ elegant champagne suits.

Local artist of many talents, Pat Meier-Johnson, gifted them with a portrait she painted in oil from a photo taken the year they met.

A hungry crowd of about 160 dined on Bruce Riezenman’s Park Avenue Catering stations of vegetarian Italian ravioli with focaccia topped with blue cheese, a California station that featured sliced tender tri-tip with corn salad and other salads, and an Asian station in the Zen garden with loads of scrumptious snap peas, meats, tofu, noodles and rice.

Crisp Bake Shop made the tall three-tiered cake of carrot cake with vanilla bean frosting and chocolate cake with chocolate mousse frosting, representing both men’s favorites. Crisp also made mini cupcakes, handmade Oreo-style cookies, and peanut butter thumbprint cookies with chocolate frosting.

The couple is now officially Byron and Len Hancock-Handeland.


Hot Box Grill is not gone, it just has a new owner and just reopened. Daniel Ebrahemi of Danville has purchased the restaurant from Norman Owens, who has stayed on to help Ebrahemi learn the menu, which remains the same. When I called Hot Box’s number (939-8383) to get information, the recording said to call 939-8383 to get information or reservations. I just did. Anyway, they are open Wednesday through Sunday, dinner only. 18310 Highway 12, Sonoma.


According to Lewis Perdue of Wine Industry Insight, “smash and grab” robberies are increasing in Sonoma Valley winery and other parking lots. Apparently items left visible in unsuspecting visitors’ cars are prey for slick and quick thieves.