Foster Farms chicken test failure; Gardeners/landscapers retaliate; Paris to Provençe at Ramekins; Lots of upcoming events

foster farms chicken

Kathleen Hill


As I started to write this Monday morning, I sat at my computer, thankfully about 10 feet from a bathroom.

Foolishly, I decided to test some frozen chicken I had in the freezer and consciously also decided that I might have to sacrifice my body for this test. And I did.

That would be Foster Farms chicken from Costco. Those nifty little packs of three thighs that you can break apart along serrated lines and freeze. I thawed them and washed them, under the skin, under the bone and all directions even though cautions suggest we not wash the chicken because we might spread salmonella in various forms around our sinks and kitchens.

I patted the thighs dry with paper towels and sprinkled salt, garlic and a secret Mexican spice on both sides (my usual), put them in a clay casuela given to me by dear friend Paula Wolfert, and cooked them to death in the oven. At least I thought I had cooked the salmonella and other bad guys to death.

Result: I was up from 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Message: Throw away any and all Foster Farms chicken, including house brands from Costco and Safeway.

Why the government is not closing down its contaminated plants mystifies me, unless the government can’t because it is shut down. Or does Foster Farms have lobbyists who have bought more slaps on the wrist than other poultry producers who get closed and often never recover or reopen?


Sara Remington and Ethel Brennan and Ethel’s mother, sister Dame d’Escoffier writer and cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan, bring their fabulous book, “Paris to Provençe,” to Ramekins Culinary School Sunday, Oct. 20, for a great conversation and demonstration with tastes.

The threesome will tell stories of creating the book and serve aperitifs, tapenades, rôti de porc, tomates Provençales and Iles Flottantes, all with French wines. $95. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reservations at 933-0450 or ramekins.com.


There are excellent reasons Suzanne Brangham was pictured with Chuck Williams on Tuesday’s Index-Tribune front page.

The Sonoma Community Center’s Muse fundraiser was held at Ramekins Culinary School, which contractor Brangham built, founded and ran for years before selling it to Sarah and Darius Anderson. Her friend Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma right here on Broadway, showed up to help Brangham launch and open Ramekins.

The Muse party this year was partly Brangham’s party. She came up with the idea, got Chuck Williams’ commitment to come with substantial cooperation from Williams-Sonoma executives, and rounded up all of the auction lots, many Williams-related. Then there were the decorations and centerpieces, which featured gigantic whisks. I bought one of them and it now stands at the entrance to Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

Fabulous job, Suzanne to you and to Toni Castrone and all of the Community Center staff and volunteers.

Among Sonoma’s generous in attendance were Dr. Brian Sebastian and Richard Mabe, Gretchen and Bob Gardner, Bill Jasper and Kristen McFarland, Marcie and Dave Waldron, Nancy and Tony Lilly, Cathy and Chuck Williamson, Phyllis and John Gurney, Joan Walsh and Mel Nashban, Susan and Joe DuCote, JaMel and Tom Perkins, Susan and Norm Goldstein, Carole and Bob Nicholas, Kimberly and Simon Blattner, Brenda Buckerfield and Tommy Mensing, Pam and Mark Gibson, Liz and Patrick Treacy, Dan Parks, Mabeth and Bill Sanderson, Jeanne and Chip Allen, Les and Judy Vadasz, Peggy and Mike Fuson, Paula Moulton, Diane and Henry Mayo, Linda and Jim Kuhns, Sondra Bernstein, Rosemarie and Steve Marks, Susan and Richard Idell, Millie and Tom Ferrando, Brock Arner, Sharon and Richard Nevins, Donna Halow, Ken and Karen Adelson, Lucy Weiger, and Holly and Steve “Scone Ranger” Kyle.

Steve and Joyce Pease, Christy and John Coulston, Nancy and Fred Cline, Ruth and Gary Edwards, Patty Daffurn, Marie Lambert, Michelle and David Heston, Vicki and Dave Stollmeyer, Mary Jane Arner, Steve and Judy Page, Bob and Kathy Leonard, Marcia and Jim Levy, Selma Blanusa, Desiree Stinson, Patrick Jude, Stephen and Diane Bieneman, Alan Berger and Kathy Gori, Anastasia and Steve Chiurco, Rod and Betty Snow, Karin Campion, Eva Bertran and Marcia and Gary Nelson, the latter of whose male body apron thankfully covered crucial parts with an oak leaf stuck on with a hat pin. Ouch.

Mary Lester sat with Chuck Williams as an honored guest. Williams basically sold Williams-Sonoma to her late husband, Howard Lester.


Speaking of Williams-Sonoma, the company is donating substantially to Sonoma Valley Museum of Art to support my “Kitchen Memories” exhibition and will hold a private company party there in a few weeks.


Do not miss Beltane Ranch’s party tonight, Saturday, Oct. 19, to celebrate the release of their first Estate Zinfandel with a Dinner and Barn Dance.

Meet several generations of “Beltane family” including winemaker Kevin Holt, and enjoy a performance and dancing to the Saddle Cats swing band. A bargain as these things go.

Beltane chef Greg Markey will start the evening with passed chèvre stuffed figs and curried pumpkin empanadas and create a dinner of toasted bread salad with ranch heirloom tomatoes and roasted gold beets, fire grilled New York steak with gold potatoes, peppers, chard and kale, and a dessert of lemon fig pudding cake, with everything grown on the Beltane Ranch, a six-generation sustainable endeavor. $75, $55 for wine club members. 6 p.m. Reserve immediately at beltaneranchwine.com/zinrelease.html or call 939-5616.


Muscardini Cellars presents its last tasting event this season featuring Michael Muscardini’s sparkling Pinot Grigio Rosato and the Oyster Girls’ excellent traveling oyster bar Saturday, Oct. 19, during which Michael says you can “learn the history and art of enjoying raw oysters” with his sparkling wine. $20 or $15 wine club members. 1 to 5 p.m. 9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 933-9305.


Gardeners and landscapers retaliate:

Sonoma’s gardeners, landscapers or “mow, blow, and go guys” seem to have united against the City Council’s gas leaf blower ban. Several have announced that their charges “will go up because it will be harder and will take longer.”

Last year in deep fall, it took two men one hour to blow the leaves off an eastside front lawn. That meant one blowing and chasing leaves that blew further away, and one watching. The next Sunday, the day before they were due back, the homeowner timed himself raking the same quantity of leaves, scooping them up and putting them in the yard waste can. It took 27 minutes.


Crescent Montessori School recently hosted its first “International Student Salad Competition” at the Sonoma Community Center’s Rotary Kitchen. According to parent Dulce Silvi, students formed teams and created salads from the students’ garden at Sonoma Garden Park. Each team also created an original salad dressing. “Winners” received $10 gift certificates to Tiddle E. Winks, many kids’ favorite local candy store.


Plan ahead – next weekend:

Sonoma International Film Festival stages a 007 Masquerade Ball at Buena Vista Winery on Friday, Oct. 25, to benefit the outstanding Sonoma Valley High School media arts program. I have dibs on Dame Judi Dench, but the rest of you can dress up as whatever other character you might choose.

Guests will be greeted with sparkling wine or sake-based Cosmos and martinis and trays of Shiso sushi. Park Avenue Catering will fill the new “appetizer wall” in Buena Vista’s tasting room. Don’t miss James Bond’s Aston Martin and Audi R8 parked outside, two of the fastest sports cars in the world according to speedy Kevin McNeely. Watch for Bond girls, tarot card readers, shadow dancing and 007 movies will fill the Bubble Room, along with multiple food stations, gaming tables, live music, belly and fire dancers. $150. 6 to 10 p.m. Get tickets via sonomafilmfest.org or call 933-2600.


Sonoma Chili Cook-Off stirs the pot again on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Carneros Brewing Co. to benefit our local Meals on Wheels, an always worthy cause that feeds a hot meal and a bag lunch to 60 house-bound clients daily.

More than 20 chili cooks have entered, leaving space for five more contestants. Judges will include John Toulze of the girl and the fig, Norman Owens of Hot Box Grill, Jesus Ceja of Carneros Brewing Co., and Sue Holman and Susan Weeks of Meals on Wheels Sonoma.

All of this is organized for the second year by Roger Declercq of Sonoma Gourmet Specialty Food Company, with chili categories of classic, open and vegetarian. Besides the juried winner, the public will selected the People’s Choice Award. Soft drinks and Carneros Brewery beer available for purchase. Admission is free, but donations to Meals on Wheels are encouraged. $25 to enter your chili. Noon to 4:30 p.m. 22985 Burndale Road at Highway 121, Sonoma. More info or to enter contact roger@sonomagourmet.com.


Wine lovers (and other lovers) should not miss the upcoming Jewish Winemakers’ Tasting and Nosh: Kugels, Knishes and Cabernet with music by fabulous Stephanie Ozer and Shameless on Sunday, Oct. 27. The event has expanded from Congregation Shir Shalom’s home at the First Congregational Church to the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building.

Anyone who wants to help cook ahead should gather at Burlingame Hall kitchen Saturday, Oct. 19, (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) to make kugels, latkes, mini matzoh balls and bite-sized desserts. Guests will also enjoy gefilte fish sushi, matzoh ball shooters, mini Reuben sandwiches and much more.

B.R. Cohn, Blue Rock, Cline, Coho, Hagafen, Hobo, Honig, Idell Family, Judds Hill, Kamen Estate, Longboard, Orpheus, Paint Horse, Singer, Stein Family and Tres Hijas (Avram Goldman) will pour their fine wines. $45 advance at Readers’ Books and Tiddle E. Winks, $50 at door. 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. 126 First St. W., Sonoma.


Lusting for lobster? The Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center offers a traditional New England lobster bake with wine, beer and music at Cornerstone Gardens on Sunday, Oct. 27.  Giant Steps works to “enrich and change the lives of children and adults with disabilities through the extraordinary benefits of therapeutic horseback riding and related equine-assisted therapy,” according to executive director Beth Porter. Enjoy a delightful feast and walk or roll through Cornerstone’s nine acres of gardens. $200. 4 p.m. 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. For tickets or to make a donation visit giantstepsriding.ejoinme.org/lobster. 769-8900.


The Wine Country Marine Corps Birthday Ball, which is attended by veterans, spouses and partners from all U.S. military branches, will be Saturday, Nov. 2, at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. This year’s event will honor Gen. Richard D. Hearney, USMC (ret.), former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

Expect a big traditional prime rib dinner (vegetarian option available) to include a fabulous Marine Corps birthday cake crafted by Javier Lopez of La Mixteca Bakery (behind Palms Grill), all followed by dancing.

Dinner will be catered by the Lodge at Sonoma. As they have for many years, Nancy and Fred Cline will donate their Barrel Room and Jacuzzi wines. To honor Benziger Family Winery’s late founder Bruno Benziger, a Marine and original member of Wine Country Marines, Benziger pours special label wines as well. Gary Edwards, who stores and ages his cheeses at his Carneros Caves at the Clines’ winery, donates yummy cheeses. Vietnam veteran and former Sonoma Mayor Doug McKesson donates free shuttle service from the Lodge at Sonoma and El Pueblo motel for out of town guests’ safe travels.

The invitation says “Black tie or best uniform (coat and tie required). Ladies attire should meet similar standards.” $130 per person. No-host cocktails 6:30 p.m., ceremony 7:30 p.m., dinner follows. Reserve by Oct. 21 by calling Katie Kearney at 537-8576 or winecountrymarines.org.


Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day.