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Jennifer Siebel Newsom visits; Last minute Valentines; Larson Limericks; Feast of Olive Dinner; Dining Club Rive Gauche returns

Kathleen Hill

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Personal note:
If you get an email from me that mentions Viagra (a product I don’t need) or any other out of the ordinary oddities, please disregard. Apparently my email was hacked, but all has now been fixed. Thanks for your patience.

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Jennifer Siebel Newsom, filmmaker, entrepreneur and wife of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, brought herself and her son, Hunter, to Sonoma Monday evening to help raise funds for Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Former television reporter and new Sonoma resident Sydnie Kohara conducted the casual interview at Sebastiani Theatre.

Jennifer’s grandmother, Jean Fritzer, lives at Merrill Gardens here in Sonoma (and loves it), and was accompanied by Jennifer’s parents, Ken and Judy Siebel and their nearly lifelong friends, who actually invited the Newsoms for the event, Valerie and Steve Arelt.

At the VIP party at Ledson’s Centre du Vin, guests enjoyed Ledson wine and appetizers of lovely light Asiago and phyllo-wrapped asparagus, lamb ragout croquettes and bite-sized crab cakes. Actually, Dian and Bill O’Neal and I dropped into Ledson’s after seeing “Nebraska” Saturday evening, and their crab cakes were excellent and large, and my favorite French onion soup is as close to what used to be served at Paris’ Les Halles as we are going to see anywhere near.

Sponsors who attended the pre-party included Steve and Amy Ledson, Supervisor Susan Gorin, Sarah and Darius Anderson with son, Tyge, Anne Ching and Jim Cashel, Cherie and Keith Hughes, Lizzie Nuss and Barbara Nuss, Kevin and Rosemary McNeely, Kelly and Hal Stober, John and Pam Gibbons, Nancy Lilly, Sydnie Kohara, Laura and Jeff Zimmerman, Judy Page and Jane Siegel, Kathy Witkowicki and Jon Parker, Suzanne Brangham and Rosie Trescott and Nancy Lang.

While some guests bemoaned the fact that Gavin Newsom was grounded in New York by the weather, after he took in the Super Bowl, others were excited to be able to hear Jennifer. At the pre-party, Jennifer actually told me with a giggle that, “I can actually really say more since he isn’t here!” Mentors and mentees graciously welcomed attendees to the Sebastiani, and executive director Kathy Witkowicki, who had just returned from a National Mentoring Summit in Washington, D.C., introduced a lovely video on the organization and thanked Hughes Family Winery, Envolve, Highway 12, Sangiacomo and the Heart of Sonoma Valley Association for donating wine. (See David Bolling’s article for the rest of the story.)

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Stone Edge Farm Culinary Director John McReynolds will sign copies of his gorgeous new cookbook on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Gayle and Tom Jenkins’ Sonoma’s Best, at the corner of East Napa Street and Eighth Street East.

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Larson Limericks are back:
Larson Family Winery has launched its limerick contest for ages 21 and up. Contestants must enter their limericks by March 1.

The “I Got Lucky at Larson Limerick Contest” is great fun, especially for us judges who get to read and laugh at them all, good and bad. If yours is best, you can win the grand prize of a Larson Family Winery Circle M Wine Club membership for a whole year.
Visit larsonfamilywinery.com for the official rules and instructions on how to write a limerick, in case you haven’t tried before. For more info, email erinb@larsonfamilywinery.com, or call Erin Bush at 938-3031, ext. 25.

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Friday farmers market

If you haven’t been to the Friday morning farmers market at Depot Park lately, check it out for fabulous fresh veggies. But a newish stand that we tried last Friday was astonishingly good.

The Green Grocer, no relation to San Francisco’s late Green Grocer Joe Carcione, has a brief menu of sandwiches, salads, protein bowls and other goodies. Beth Hadley, Rhonda Stallings and I shared a grilled cheese sandwich, which comes with tomatoes and avocados, either on sprouted wheat or sprouted sourdough bread ($8). Fabulous! Green Grocers Joe Rueter and friends even set up tables with tablecloths and chairs, and offer silverware. Caterer Isa Jacoby told us that when these guys show up at the Sebastopol market, a long line forms immediately. And so did one last Friday in Slownoma.

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Even more Valentines to treat someone else or ourselves:
Hopefully you have saved your Index-Tribunes, or can access my column in archives at sonomanews.com, to get the whole running list of Valentine’s menus, as restaurants have gradually sent them to me.

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On Friday, Feb. 14, Bob Rice’s Breakaway Café offers a Dungeness crab salad ($7.95) and a special Valentine’s dinner menu, in addition to the regular menu. Always a great deal, the special menu includes “roasted beet love potion,” braised short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe, or seared Day Boat scallops with spring pea risotto and citrus pound cake, with strawberry rhubarb compote with Chantilly cream. $23.50. Full bar. No reservations. 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma. 996-5949.

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Crisp Bakeshop bakes yummy-sounding, handmade desserts for your special person, who might be yourself, including “cakes for two,” such as strawberry cake with cookies and cream filling ($12) and a naked chocolate raspberry cake with raspberry buttercream filling, topped with fresh raspberries ($10).

You can also feel less guilt, and maybe more pleasure, with petite or full size cupcakes such as red velvet with cream cheese frosting or pink Champagne cake shooters ($2.50 to $3 each or by the dozen.) And there are heart shaped black cocoa shortbread cookies with vanilla bean cream or Linzer hearts, meaning almond cookies with raspberry filling. ($2.75 each or $30 per dozen.) Order 48 hours in advance at 933-9999 or koko@crispbakeshop.com.

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Ramekins Culinary School chefs will provide a “Love to Go Dinner for Two,” with duck-wrapped asparagus, poached prawns, stuffed polenta cakes, beet salad, apple and parsnip soup, beef short ribs, grilled salmon, celery root and potato gratin, broccolini and chocolate tartlets. $115. Order at 933-0450.

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On Abraham Lincoln’s real birthday, Wednesday, Feb. 12, sommelier Christopher Sawyer will lead guests through tastings of Muscardini wines and food pairings at Michael Muscardini’s tasting room at the Red School House in Kenwood. Sawyer is the award-winning sommelier at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar at The Lodge at Sonoma, judges lots of wine contests and writes for several national publications. $40, $35 wine club members. 6 to 8 p.m. 938- Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. Reserve (only 20 seats available) at 933-9305.

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Just up the highway, Ty Caton Vineyards will host a wine club pick-up and new release party, on Saturday, Feb. 15, in Kenwood Village Plaza. Wine club members can pick up their orders, and they and other guests can sample four new cabernet wines along with light appetizers prepared by the new nearby Palooza restaurant. Free. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. RSVP by Wednesday, Feb. 12, to info@tycaton.com or call 938-3224, ext. 1.

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Paradise Ridge Winery will serve pairings of wine, strawberries and chocolate truffles, along with birds-eye views of their interesting garden sculptures all weekend. 8860 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 282-9020.

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Dining Club Rive Gauche returns!
Joanne and Keith Filipello restart their popular Dining Club Rive Gauche dinners for the year on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at FAHA Heritage Hall, with Caribbean music and cuisine.

Extraordinary Haitian musician Diego Jameau, who whistles like a flute and plays a 12-string guitar, will entertain while guests enjoy a “Taste of Haiti.” Chef Keith Filipello will make a tropical salad, Haitian fish fritters, cashew chicken with island rice and beans and bread pudding with rum sauce. Still a bargain. Dinner, without tip, is $35 or 30 euro. BYOW, no corkage. 7 p.m. 197 W. Verano Ave., Sonoma.

Vegetarian option available with reservation. 996-0900 or wildthyme@vom.com.

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Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau’s Feast of the Olive dinner, a couple of weekends ago, seemed to offer its best food ever. Diners at all three room-long tables were enthusiastic about what they received. Sonoma Valley chefs worked together in Ramekins’ kitchen, and each table had one of three menus.

Fred Groth made the best vodka martini ever, and Gloria Ferrer poured Blanc de Noirs generously to accompany potato leek soup, Kalamata olive and Sonoma jack tartlets and Don Landis’ olives.

At our table, Saul Gropman and Jeffrey Lloyd, of Café La Haye, served a tasty hand-chopped steak tartare, a raw meat delicacy I haven’t tried in years. Armando Navarro, of EDK, cooked generous scallops, sautéed perfectly with roasted grapes. John Toulze and Jeremy Zimmerman, of the girl & the fig, made a tender roast pork tenderloin with divine Castelvetrano späetzle. Gary Edwards, of Carneros Caves, donated Parmesan crisps with Mascarpone and Italian gorgonzola, all followed by Carneros Bistro’s Peter Smith and Andrew Wilson’s collaboration of a gianduja pâté with a Castelvetrano macaroon and blood orange meringue gelato. Gloria Ferrer, Cline Cellars, Landmark, B.R. Cohn, and Jacuzzi donated all wines to accompany this menu.

Another long table received Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star’s barley risotto with shaved fennel, Bruno Tison and Andrew Cain of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s terrine of wild salmon with cucumber salad, a square short rib of beef that looked like a chocolate brownie, by Smith and Wilson of Carneros Bistro, a lovely looking goat cheese timbale with winter berry pesto, from Sonoma Meritâge’s Carlo Cavallo, and Antonio Ghilarducci of The Depot Hotel’s pistachio and olive oil cake with white chocolate crèmeux and mango fruit pâté. Cline Cellars, Roche, Larson and B.R. Cohn gave the wines for this part of the Visitors’ Bureau fundraiser.

And the third table enjoyed couscous salad from Norman Owens’ Hot Box Grill, Catherine Venturini’s pan-seared local Black Cod and ramp risotto with baby kale, from Olive & Vine, pork osso bucco with celery root and Brussels sprouts from Doug MacFarland of Ramekins, handmade cheeses from Sheana Davis and Nicole Stanowski of the Epicurean Connection, and chocolate olive oil cake with pear cream, from Andrea Koweek and Moaya Scheiman of Crisp Bakeshop. This came with wines from Highway 12, Roche, Ravenswood and Jacuzzi.

Manette Fairmont and Ken Ruff, Frank Figone, Denise and Rey Silver, Sandra and Leonard Leib, Norman Krug, Eric Markson, Kendall Comfort, Rachel Ward, Mike Crumly, Carolyn Craig, Erin Bush, Dan and Tery Parks, Bill Blum, Supervisor Susan and Joe Gorin, Charlie Tsegeletos and Nancy Granger, Don and Marian Landis, Ruth and Gary Edwards, John and Brigitte McReynolds, siblings ‘Zanne and Macon Clark, sisters Tasha and Vallerie Cohn, and Stephan Stubbins, with several Transcendence cast members, were among the local guests.

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Both Sonoma novelist William Bayer and his wife, renowned cookbook author Paula Wolfert, will be among the many authors to be honored at the Berkeley Public Library Foundation’s 12th annual Authors Dinner tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 8.

Bayer’s books have been published in 14 languages, winning several international fiction prizes, and some have been made into movies. Bayer will be recognized for his book, “City of Knives,” and also writes under the name David Hunt.

Wolfert will be honored for her, “The Food of Morocco,” which also won the 2012 James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook.