Easter in or out, or not; Front yard veggies; Pajama Party coming to EDK; Chefs for Alzheimer’s; Chasens Restaurant auction

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill


Some people see Easter as a day of family gathering and special meals at home, others love to be around kids and Easter egg hunts (a big candy day too), and others see it as a day of worship in church or at home, don’t observe it at all, or a combination of some or all of the above.

If you are not inspired to cook, here are some dine-out opportunities:

Breakaway Café will offer special Easter cocktails and brunch entrées including their Grand Marnier brioche French toast, Mexican breakfast bowl, and smoked salmon and avocado eggs Benedict ($10.50 to $13.95) plus its regular menu.

Bob Rice’s Special Spring Dinner will run all weekend, April 18 through April 20, featuring oak-grilled salmon bruschetta ($8.25) as an added appetizer. The dinner will include asparagus soup (divine) with ciabatta crumbs, lemon zest and Parmesan; roast spring lamb sirloin with potato leek gratin, pea shoot, radish and fennel salad; and carrot cake. A bargain, as usual, at $21. Maxwell Village Shopping Center. No reservations.

Depot Hotel offers an Easter brunch of a glass of champagne, mimosa or orange juice on arrival; starter choices of watermelon salad or roasted beet salad; and several main course selections of New York steak, dungeness crab cannelloni, filet of salmon, tortellini with pork and turkey, asparagus Milanese or porchetta with white beans and spinach. Desserts bring their famous tiramisu, cheesecake, limoncello cake or bittersweet chocolate decadence with mango sauce. $42 adults, $20 children aged 5 to 12. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner from 5 p.m. on. Reserve at 938-2980 or depotsonoma.com.

Saddles Steakhouse’s Easter brunch menu will again feature buffets of fresh berries, melons and tropical fruits with Sonoma County cheeses and cured meats, housemade oat granola, smoked salmon and mini bagels, yogurt parfait, croissants and muffins.
The seafood buffet will include king crab, jumbo prawns, oysters on the half shell and steamed Prince Edward Island mussels and clams. The cold buffet will feature asparagus with saffron aioli, chopped kale salad, Caesar salad, Sonoma greens with ruby endive, and chilled penne with tomato, Swiss chard, ricotta salata and poached salmon.

The hot buffet will offer leg of lamb, roast Sonoma turkey (not wild and shot), oven-roasted ham with brown sugar and bourbon glaze, crêpes with fresh ricotta, cheesy grits with fresh corn and sun dried tomatoes, chicken apple sausage, eggs Benedict and breakfast potatoes. And then you choose from an array of desserts. $55 adults, $27 children 12 and under, exclusive of tax and gratuity. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 29 E. MacArthur, Sonoma.

Ramekins Culinary School presents its first Easter brunch with an omelet station where you can specify exactly what you want, a waffle station, cinnamon French toast, artisan sausage, potatoes, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and mini desert bites. Face painting and cookie decorating for the kids in this family-friendly event. $55 adults, kids $25. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reserve at 933-0450.

The Swiss Hotel offers an à la carte Easter brunch with rock shrimp chowder, eggs Benedict with grilled Caggiano ham and country potatoes, vegetarian eggs Benedict with asparagus and grilled tomato, brioche French toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese, spring vegetable quiche with salad, eggs Enrico (named for Henry – or Hank – Marioni), meaning spinach fettuccini with pancetta, crimini mushrooms and poached eggs, and rack of lamb with grilled asparagus and scalloped potatoes ($7 to $28). 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 18 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 938-2884.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s Santé restaurant will serve a special buffet with omelets, smoked fish and carving stations, as well as shellfish and dessert presentations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the inn’s traditional children’s Easter Egg Hunt at 11 a.m. $99 plus tax and tip, $49.50 children ages 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.

Big 3 Restaurant on Highway 12 and Boyes Boulevard will serve its regular menu with specials of the day including their famous lemon pancakes and eggs Benedict.

The B.R. Cohn Winery will host the annual Kendall Cohn Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 19. Three official Easter Egg Hunts will take place from 10 to 10:15 a.m. for kids up to age 3; 10:30 to 10:45 for kids 4 to 6; and 11 to 11:15 a.m. for kids 7 and up.


Jean’s Pajama Party – The seventh annual Evening of Sharing & Caring will rock the El Dorado Kitchen corner of Sonoma on Thursday, May 1. The whole event benefits the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, with the fund-a-need to benefit digital mammograms for under-insured or under-served women. Organizer Jean Arnold Sessions says the guest of honor will be Melanie Young, the author of “Getting Things Off My Chest,” and former public relations representative for the James Beard Foundation Awards in New York.

According to Lisa Cavalli, the evening will again start with a dessert buffet and some male eye candy, followed by EDK’s sumptuous dinner buffet prepared by Armando Navarro and crew. $85. 6 p.m. Tickets at jeanspjparty.org.


Pet’s Lifeline presents its fourth annual “Tailwags & Handbags” fundraising event, this time at the grand Buena Vista Winery on Friday, May 2, and hosted by owner Jean-Charles Boisset. A fun, girls’ afternoon out event, you can sip, sup and shop for new and gently used designer, vintage and unusual handbags and some locally designed jewelry. Pets Lifeline is the only animal shelter in Sonoma Valley and works “to protect and improve the lives of cats and dogs in Sonoma Valley through sheltering, adoption and humane education,” according to Executive Director Nancy King.

Grapevine Catering will serve an arugula and poached fig salad, orecchiette with asparagus and fava beans, along with strawberry shortcake, all made with local ingredients, accompanied by abundant Buena Vista wine. $85. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma. Make reservations at petslifeline.org or call 996-4577, Ext. 110.


Anyone who wants to remove their front lawn and plant vegetables can do so in Sonoma, contrary to many other cities. Wendy Atkins, of the Sonoma Planning Department, assured me that Sonoma has no rules against it. The city just requests that people remove old vegetables or fruit so they don’t attract rodents, which I think is a very wise suggestion.

While there really aren’t any drought-tolerant vegetables, herbs use little water and you can save water by planting veggies close to each other, and only plant what you will actually consume or share with neighbors.

While many older Italians, who have lived here much longer than most of us, use to say, “Wait to plant tomatoes until after tax day (April 15),” Lydia Constantini of Sonoma Mission Gardens suggests you should wait even longer, to make sure they don’t get stunted by frost or pelted by hail in this weird weather.


For inquiring minds:

The Tuesday farmers market in Sonoma Plaza will open May 6. In the meantime, Mike the Bejkr, just back from representing the United States as an individual baker in the Paris competition, restarts his bread-by-bike deliveries soon, weather permitting. Thebejkr.com.


Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club will hold an Afternoon Tea fundraiser at their historic clubhouse on Saturday, April 26, to include “a traditional tea consisting of scones, savories and pastries,” according to Dorothy Lund. The entire event benefits the Woman’s Club’s high school scholarships and local elementary school libraries. $22. 1 to 3 p.m., 574 First St. E., Sonoma. Reserve today by calling Mandy Weil at 486-6284, or purchase tickets at Readers’ Books.


Paula Wolfert has announced all over the Internet that she has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, or early cognitive impairment, and seems to be doing very well, thank you.

News reports last week claimed that one in six women over 60 in the United States will get Alzheimer’s.
Wolfert is throwing her substantial research and promotional skills to the Alzheimer’s Association to research how to prevent and cure the disease, if it actually is a disease.

If you missed her at the Vintage House fundraising dinner a few weeks ago, there will be other chances to partake in Mediterranean Feasts honoring Wolfert and the Alzheimer’s Association, starting in Los Angeles Sunday, April 27. Organized by Susan Park and Farid Zadi, many other chefs, including Nancy Silverton, Susan Feniger, Matt Molina, Mary Sue Milliken, Robbie Richter and Bruce Kalman, are contributing food for the walk-around sampling at Sarkis Vertanian’s Daily Dose restaurant (good for breakfast) in downtown Los Angeles. Silent auction donations of restaurants and cookbooks came from Ottolenghi in London and Daniel Patterson of Coi in San Francisco. $75. $125 VIP ticket includes valet parking and sit-down tasting. 1820 Industrial St., Los Angeles. Tickets at mediterraneanfeast.tumblr.com.

Watch for other Mediterranean Feasts in Oakland and Chicago, both honoring Wolfert and raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.


What we missed:

Oodles of memorabilia from the Hollywood star hangout, Chasens Resaturant, was auctioned off last week in Beverly Hills, of course.
A favorite of Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Lana Turner, Groucho Marx, Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hughes, the joint attracted stars because it was famous and became famous because it attracted stars, along with fans who wanted to see them and be seen.

Even the restroom doors were popular because of the stories of who powdered their noses behind them. Lore holds that Donna Summer wrote “She Works Hard for the Money” in the ladies’ room, inspired by its attendant, Onetta Johnson.

Had you been there, you might have picked up the Mexican tapestry from Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood home, Katherine Hepburn’s self-portrait, Harry Houdini’s handcuffs and Farrah Fawcett’s custom shoe molds. See what we missed, both in the time warp and at the auction.


Earth shaking news:

Janine Falvo, former chef de cuisine at Carneros Bistro, who moved to Atlanta to be executive chef at a Renaissance Hotel there, came back west recently and was greeted on her first day at her new position at the Renaissance Long Beach by more than 100 earthquakes. Welcome back, Janine.


Rancho Gordo’s Benito Juarez dinner:

Hank Martinson and Hope and Jack Nisson traipsed over the hill to Napa recently to a fabulous dinner at Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo packing warehouse and retail store. The appetizers and dinner, prepared by staffers, their mothers and grandmothers, included some wonderful new tastes, including fried grasshoppers, spicy nuts, three varieties of Rancho Gordo beans, pork, chopped greens salad, thick corn tortillas and a dessert of roasted root vegetables and squashes.

Guests got to sample Craft Distillers’ artisan Mescals from Oaxaca State, such as passage-clearing Mezcalero and Los Nahuales. Craft Distillers is located in Ukiah. Check out their cool website at craftdistillers.com.

The evening attracted Rancho Gordo fans from throughout the United States, thanks to Sando’s Bean Club, which actually has a waiting list of 500 names just wanting to become a club member. Martinson is number 400 on the list.

Typical of Sando’s always helping communities, the featured speakers of the evening were young men who are part of a group in Napa’s Vintage High and Valley Oak high schools called Legacy, many of whose members have removed themselves from gangs, learned the value of education, improved their grades tremendously and played strong roles in Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new movie, “The Mask You Live In.”

By the way, partly due to Hope Nisson’s strong request, Sonoma Market now sells four varieties of Rancho Gordo beans. They are fresher and take less time to cook than other beans, with many grown in California. Rancho Gordo beans are also available locally at The Epicurean Connection, Bram and Sonoma’s Best. Ranchogordo.com.


Cinco de Mayo approaching:

The second annual Cinco de Mayo Festival & Tamale Cook-off will be Sunday, May 4, at Cornerstone Sonoma, with great tastes, fabulous music and dancing and a generally joyous afternoon, all organized by parents to benefit our schools. The 2014 Professional Competition for Sonoma’s Best Tamale will be limited to 10 participants, so contact organizers immediately if you would like to show your finest – tamale that is. Contact team@cincodemayosonoma.com or call 921-1859.