First Thanksgiving menu; Spice shop opens; Swiss Hotel new menu; Closings around town; Events, events, events

Kathleen Hill


When the Pilgrims and Wampanoag gathered at Plymouth Colony in 1621, they “dined” on wild fowl, corn in bread or porridge, venison, possibly wild turkeys, eel, lobster, clams and mussels, all according to Smithsonian.com.

Because they were more readily available, geese or ducks were the wildfowl of choice instead of turkeys. Swans and flocks of pigeons were plentiful as well. Apparently passenger pigeons “were so thick in the 1620s that you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them. A man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 100.”

Small birds were often roasted on a spit, while larger birds were boiled. Some were actually boiled first and then roasted to finish, or roasted and then boiled to achieve a darker sauce.

Since the Indians generously taught the invading pilgrims how to plant native crops, the English colonists seemed to have turnips, carrots, onions, garlic and pumpkins, although they lacked the wheat to make pumpkin pies. White and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce hadn’t arrived yet.

Thanksgiving as we know it, resulted from a long campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the trendsetting magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book. Starting in 1827, Hale petitioned 13 presidents and finally convinced Abraham Lincoln that an annual Thanksgiving would unite the country in the midst of the Civil War. Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, after which Hale published more than 10 cookbooks that included her ideas of Thanksgiving recipes.


Speaking of menus, Sonoma’s venerable Swiss Hotel’s much-rumored new menu is out and cooking. Here are some new menu items, although I might accidentally mention something that was already offered.

Check out new starters of wood oven baked meatballs ($9) and buratta with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil – nothing like being an extra virgin) and roasted peppers on crostini ($13.50 lunch and dinner).

Lunch brings a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich ($11.50). Butternut squash ravioli now served with a divine Balsamic drizzle; penne pasta includes sweet sausage, mushrooms and tomato cream sauce ($15); and they have added spaghetti and clams with toasted garlic, chili flakes and white wine sauce ($18).

New entrées at dinner include pork spareribs with spicy tomato sauce, Swiss chard and creamy polenta ($18); pan-roasted half chicken with lemon-caper pan sauce, Swiss chard, and fingerling potatoes ($19); and Brussels sprouts compliment the filet steak ($28). Corkage is $12. 18 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 938-2884.


Pat Benfer and Cheryl Ytreeide just opened Savory Spice Shop in the Marketplace Shopping Center near Vineyard Jewelers. The duo also has a Savory Spice in Santa Rosa, both stores being franchises of the master company started in Denver. Mike and Janet Johnston had the bright idea to franchise their successful retail store there, where all of the imports arrive and are packaged for distribution to the burgeoning spice franchise outlets. Sample tastes are encouraged from designated jars. When we accidentally poured too much into our hands, they said to just drop it on the floor, “The place needs to start smelling like spices,” which it didn’t yet.

You will find lots of spices from all over the world, including special sections for Moroccan spices and curry mixtures from various countries. Salts and salt mixtures abound. I bought the Herbes de Provençe Seasoning Salt and tried it on some Rocky, Jr. chicken thighs. The contents were mostly salt, but I found the coarse grains too large to fit through the sprinkle holes in the plastic under lid. Using the larger side of the lid, you have to be very careful to not over salt whatever you are cooking.

Free recipe cards are everywhere, and they already have a distribution arrangement with Sonoma’s Planet Organics CSA delivery throughout the Bay Area. 201 W. Napa St., Unit 5, Sonoma. 284-1310.


“Jansing & Co.” on MSNBC captured a photo of a page on McDonald’s website that lists “McResource Money Tips” for its employees, most of whom work at minimum wage.

While WalMart stores hold food drives to feed its employees, I was shocked to see McDonald’s recommendations to staffers without enough money to feed their families: “Visit thrift stores. Eat stale bread, bruised apples. Return unopened holiday purchases. Quit complaining.” All heart.


SVMA’s Wall to Wall committee received a record 160 art pieces Sunday, with two more days for you to give artwork that tires you on Sunday, Dec. 1 and Monday, Dec. 2. Don’t let this confuse you: My “Kitchen Memories” exhibition runs through Dec. 1, so don’t miss it. The fundraising sale of bargain art they have collected will be on Friday, Dec. 6, complete with wine and “cocktail food,” according to organizer Martha Rosenblatt. 5 to 8 p.m. 551 Broadway, Sonoma. svma.org.


Several local restaurants temporarily lost power and business last week during the windstorm. EDK and the girl & the fig were blacked out, and Sonoma Meritâge had a front window blown in on customers. Carlo Cavallo’s temporary replacement plywood is painted with a martini glass, a lobster and a bottle of wine labeled “Que Syrah, Syrah.” ????? In case you and your friends haven’t had enough to drink and eat, and drink, the Heart of Sonoma Valley Winery Association plans one of its seasonal open houses through Kenwood and Glen Ellen wineries Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30. Guests will enjoy lots of nibbles, caroling and wines from 26 wineries, many offering big holiday wine discounts. $45 includes wine tasting glass, $10 designated driver. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets, maps and more info available at heartofsonomavalley.com or (866) 794-9463.

Bonnie Tempesta of Boncora Biscotti will have a holiday open house to coincide with the Heart of Sonoma Valley celebration on Saturday, Nov. 30. Attendees can meet the highly successful Bonnie, try some biscotti, have a cup of coffee and see how chocolate-dipped biscotti are made. Free. Noon to 3 p.m. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood Village, Kenwood.


Sonoma’s Best just started weekly Vino & Vicolo (pizza) with Monday night football, and kicked it off this week with the 49ers vs. Redskins (are they still called that?). Nine-inch pizzas have crust made with freshly ground non-GMO corn meal, unbleached wheat flour and EVOO. Pizza flavors include roasted mushroom, Italian sausage and caramelized onion, quattro formaggi (four cheeses), and gorgonzola and onion. For only $15, you get the pizza and a glass of wine. Beer lovers can choose from Trumer Pilsner, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5, or Sonoma Springs Lil’ Chief Ale for the same price. $15. 1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 996-7600. sonomas-best.com.


Attention those who still have olives to press: The Olive Press’ final Community Press Day this year will be Sunday, Dec. 1. This is a great opportunity for small or backyard olive growers, with a 300-pound maximum, and no minimum quantity of olives, milled at 75 cents a pound. If you have more than 300 pounds of olives, get together with another grower and make an appointment for a custom crush, which requires a minimum of 800 pounds at 30 cents a pound. Check out the new Italian mill. Coffee, conversation and community. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 24724 Arnold Dr., Sonoma. 931-7587. theolivepress.com.


Closures: Wedekind’s Garden Center is having a huge closing sale. So sorry to see them go after decades. Hopefully they will have their colorful Christmas tree expo and party before they shut the doors. Speaking for the property owners, Steve Sangiacomo says his family hopes to find another nursery tenant for this historic location. “Wedekind’s is dear to us and to the whole community.” Current owner Janet Rude did wonders early in our Sonoma School Garden Project by hosting Thursday night concerts featuring local bands, great food cooked on site, and wine, with the evenings’ purchases going directly to school gardens. Thank you, Janet.

Sonoma is also losing Genevieve Ladha’s Sonoma Home Care, which provided in-home loving, gentle care for those who needed it. A real loss. Pandora’s Box import shop in East Napa Street’s location is for lease as well.


The new Bump Wine Cellars’ tasting room will introduce the photography of local artist and German native Thomas Speidel with “an evening of wine and art” on Thursday, Dec. 5. Speidel says “my work is purely digital and inspired by photographs collected through years of extensive traveling throughout the world. 5 to 7 p.m. 521-A Broadway, Sonoma. 228-9214.


Plan ahead:

Pets Lifeline’s Miracle on 8th Street performs its financial miracles Sunday, Dec. 8, at The Lodge at Sonoma. This important fundraiser for our only pet shelter will include special performances by Stephan Stubbins and Brooke Tansley of Transcendence Theatre’s Broadway Under the Stars, and a Pet Holiday Fashion Show of “doggie haute couture.”

Dinner will include a spinach salad with candied pecans and roasted pears; main course choice of sea bass with red lentil cassoulet, grass-fed beef tenderloin, or a vegetarian option. The chocolate bread pudding with warm fruit compote and vanilla bean sauce sounds nearly irresistible. $125 or VIP for $150 to include entry in an exclusive raffle. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Reserve at 996-4577, Ext. 110 or petslifeline.org.


Always family- and dog-friendly, Larson Family Winery offers photos with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 7, and Sunday, Dec. 8. Bring the family and even the dog. Photos are $10 or complimentary with wine purchase and always complimentary to wine club members. Make reservations for groups of eight or more. Photos will be emailed and could make your holiday card. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 23355 Millerick Rd., Sonoma. 938-3031, Ext. 25.


La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the Société Mondiale du Vin host its Holiday Dinner and Dance on Saturday, Dec. 7, starting with bubbles and appetizers at Bruce Riezenman’s Park 121 restaurant, followed by dinner at Dave Allen’s Artifact Salvage and Design in CornerStone (23584 Arnold Drive, Sonoma).

Dinner will include a terrine of three sea foods, celery root and fennel-orange salad; wild mushroom and farro ragoût; roast loin of veal with Lacinato kale, a potato and leek terrine, and Brussels sprouts; Andante Quarto Stargioni cheese, with and Full Circle Bakery’s walnut baguette; and a chocolate coupe with chocolate-mocha ganache, zinfandel gelée, Meyer lemon tartlet and French press coffee. Diego Garcia and The Little Big Band will play ’40s and ’50s dance music. $295. Paired wines included. 7 p.m. Send check to Frank Espina, 19484 Riverside Dr., Sonoma.


Ramekins Culinary School’s annual Santa’s Holiday Brunch will be Sunday, Dec. 8, for family and friends, complete with Santa Claus and cookie and ornament decorating for kids. Brunch will include sausage, a “Wine Country Scramble with farm eggs,” made-to-order omelettes; skillet potatoes, cinnamon raison French toast, housemade mini desserts station; coffee, tea and hot chocolate; mimosas, holiday cocktails and wine extra. $50 adults, $25 kids 11-through-16, kids 10 and under free. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reserve at 933-0450.


McEvoy Ranch, which straddles the Sonoma/Marin border, will host a Holiday Open House full of music, light refreshments, their new Olio Nuovo and specialty foods on Sunday, Dec. 8. Bring a non-perishable food donation for the local food bank. Only the 2 p.m. time slot is left, so register quickly at mcevoyranch.com/open_house_2013. After you register they will send you directions. Free, purchases extra.


Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to share.