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Kathleen Hill: A dinner you'll really dig


Let’s All Dig In is a benefit on Saturday, March 11, for the Sonoma School Garden Project. It's spearheaded as his senior project by Cardinal Newman High School student Michael Daly, whose mother uses school garden vegetables while cooking lunches in the school district.

Goals of the Sonoma School Garden Project include teaching students where food comes from, how it is grown, how to prepare food, how to nourish plants and themselves, aspects of science, English, math, and social skills, and introduce them to new vegetables and a clean healthy lifestyle.

All Sonoma Valley public school students get to participate in the 10 school gardens across the district. Many students have gone from elementary school gardens, to participating in middle school gardens, to enrolling in the agricultural program at Sonoma Valley High School.

Many gardens contribute to their school lunch programs, led by the district’s food manager Cody Williams. Some schools grow their own seedlings and donate seedlings to others, some schools hold on-campus farmers markets, and Altimira even sells vegetables at the Friday farmers market at Depot Park.

More than a dozen chefs will be contributing to the dinner including local talent from Glen Ellen Star, Saddles Steakhouse, Shiso, Epicurean Connection, Cafe la Hay, Ramekins, Renaissance Lodge, Crisp Bakeshop, Scandia Bakery, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Harvest Moon. Fabulous silent auction items will be up for bid. $75 includes two drink tickets. Saturday, March 11; 6 p.m. reception and silent auction, 7 p.m. dinner. All funds go to school gardens. Go to ramekins.com's Classes link, click on March 11 and go to Eventbrite for tickets.

Wine 101

Dan Noreen, sommelier and former proprietor of the Wine Exchange on First Street East, now holds nightly wine tasting sessions from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Lodge at Sonoma, as well as wine education events every Wednesday.

March 8 brings “syrahs and sirahs” by “the famous father and his upstart son.” Taste Irish whiskeys to brush up for St Patty’s Day on March 15. Try new spring sauvignon blancs on March 22, and classic bourbon whiskeys on March 29. Free. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. 935-6600.

Beltane Pruning Party and Pig Roast

Last Saturday Beltane Ranch wine club members and other locals reported to the Beltane house for coffee, housemade scones, new rubber boots, long sleeve shirts, and new pruners, followed by a sloggy fun walk down to Beltane’s vineyards.

A creek divides the sauvignon blanc and zinfandel vineyards, and another unofficial stream surprised us running through the zin vines they trusted us amateurs to prune with professional teachers leading the way. Hence came part of the fun. My boots show dried mud five inches up the leg, and a couple of women landed on their keisters and laughed at the experience like a badge of honor.

Each team had a pro instructor and then nominated a team member to compete for a magnum of Beltane zin.

When we got down to the vineyard, chef Lauren Kirchner and friends, including Lupita Fernandez, a St. Francis Solano graduate, had been roasting the two suckling pigs over oak wood from a tree fallen on the property. Beans were cooking in a huge iron pot over another wood fire, and Evelia and Teresa Torres were rolling out, patting and pressing corn tortillas and cooking them over their own little fire, while Victor Torres supervised.

Fran Meininger, a “member of the Beltane family” as is everyone who even works there a few hours periodically, passed chips with fresh white fish ceviche and guacamole with almonds and queso fresco served with Drummond Block Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Everyone sat down to garden salad picked from their garden with Estate Rosé of Zinfandel, and then we lined up for the buffet

The meal featured piles of the suckling pig with or without skin, frijoles de la olla, salsa verde cocida, and roasted pineapple that had cooked hanging over the pig-roasting fire. Winemaker Kevin Holt talked about the wines and charmed the crowd. Then came loud thunder to seemingly introduce Mariachi Azteca, a band that includes three women, who sang “Happy Birthday” in Spanish and English to guest Chuck Arnold to celebrate his first 80 years.

Locals snipping and sipping included Susie and Andrew Pryfogle, who are going through the County permitting process for their Kenwood Tips Roadhouse restaurant, Samantha and Richie Reed, and Kelli and Lucas Thomas.

What did you nibble during the Oscars?

While we were eating popcorn, pizza, artichokes, chicken, ribs, chips and guacamole, the Academy Awards attendees were having Dots, Mike & Ikes, Red Vines, Milk Duds, and Good & Plenty from “the sky.”

Wolfgang Puck and crew created another over-the-top trendy menu for the the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ post-Oscars celebration. Still one of the hottest chefs in Los Angeles or anywhere else, Puck has been whipping up the after-the-show edibles for the last 23 years, topping it this year with 50 separate dishes on the menu.

The cocktail hour, started at 9 p.m. with gallons of Piper-Heidsieck champagne, a magnum of which was given to each guest to take home. Sonoma County’s Francis Ford Coppola bottled special label red and white wines for the crowd.

The three-hour after party featured what Puck’s chicken pot pie and lots of options for people who can’t eat nuts, gluten, dairy or meat.

Just like at your house, the stars can indulge in gold-dusted truffle popcorn, lobster corn dogs made from 250 Maine lobsters, parsnip agnolotti, taro root tacos with shrimp, Wagyu short ribs with Parmesan funnel cakes, 60 side filets of smoked salmon, 10 kilos of American farm-raised caviar, 6,000 Kobe beef sliders, 400 pounds of Snake River Farms Wagyu short ribs, 325 pounds of sticky rice, 250 pounds of Parmesan Reggiano. And 4,250 pieces of handmade gnoccetti.

Three hundred chefs and 600 waiters served all of this and baked potatoes with caviar, Dover sole, poke and sushi made to order, red velvet waffles, lava cake, and a chocolate buffet, plus 7,000 chocolate Oscar statues dusted with 24-karat gold dust.

Winner Viola Davis told ABC that she was heading for the macaroni and cheese, ribs, and champagne, apologizing to her mother for not drinking club soda.

Just like home, right?