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Kathleen Hill: Derby menu, fish stories, and golf ball goofs


CocoaPlanet opens for dinner

CocoaPlanet Modern French Café and Chocolate Factory opens tonight, Friday, May 5, for dinner, with all gluten-free entrées and desserts.

Owner Anne McKibben waited for the blessed rain to stop before launching dinner service. Check it out in the large back patio, festooned with soft blue flowers of many kinds, soft music, soft sofas, café tables, and lots of shade created my modernistic umbrellas and screens.

This weekend’s featured entrées are pork tenderloin with parsley, Rosemary and thyme (sounds familiar, but I can’t sing), prime rib, and chicken Provençal with rice and baked asparagus. Check out the local wine list. Cocoaplanet.com.

Gloria Ferrer ties for Best of Show

Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards’ 2013 Carneros Brut Rosé tied for Best of Show with Navarro Vineyards’ 2016 Anderson Valley Muscat Blanc Cluster Select in the 2017 North of the Gate Wine Competition.

Best of Show White wine went to Anaba, a close neighbor of Gloria Ferrer, for its 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. You can taste all of the winning wines during the 2017 Sonoma-Marin Fair from June 21 through 25.

Derby in the Vineyards menu

Check out Elaine Bell’s menu for Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley’s interesting and elegant fundraising event on Saturday, May 6. It might help you decide to go.

Deviled eggs, Low Country barbecued shrimp on white grits, mac ‘n’ cheese arancini, brisket sliders, strawberry and spinach salad, fried Fulton Valley chicken, potato soufflé tower, southern greens with bacon shards, vegetarian roasted Portabello mushrooms with Asiago polenta and veggie fondue. Plus a whole dessert buffet of strawberry shortcake layered in a jar and Mississippi Mud Pie.

Watch the Kentucky Derby on multiple screens at Terra de Belos Cavalos in Kenwood, compete or don’t in an attire contest by Julie Schindler Designs, race betting, premium wines, beer, full bar, mint juleps, and Dixieland Jazz by the Russian River Ramblers. $200. 687 Campagna Lane, Kenwood. Tickets at bgcsonoma.org or 938-8544, Ext. 122.

Do not eat plastic, golf balls

Do not eat Foster Farms ready-to-eat breaded chicken breast patties that might be in your freezer, because they might contain “pieces of plastic,” supposedly from the packaging for the chicken. The label says “100 percent All Natural.” The chicken patties expire next Feb. 15, but throw them out or take them back to the store where you got them right now.

Meanwhile, McCain Foods is recalling two-pound bags of Harris Teeter Brand Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns because they apparently contain golf ball pieces.

USDA’s recall notice said the golf balls apparently were “inadvertently harvested” along with the potatoes and chopped up. They say the pieces could be a choking hazard, but no injuries have been reported.

‘Chronicle’ Top 100 Restaurants

Not one Sonoma Valley restaurant made Michael Bauer’s Top 100 list of restaurants this year, while there were several in Napa, and Shed in Healdsburg was mentioned. The small book listing was inserted in Chronicle subscribers’ papers last Sunday.

But Ari Weisswasser’s Glen Ellen Star was highlighted by Esther Mobley in Paolo Lucchesi’s “Chronicle Eats” in the same Chronicle food section, saying “I’ve happily made an entire meal out of the great vegetable dishes at Glen Ellen Star,” specifically singling out the wood-fired whole cauliflower head. I totally agree and have done the same thing. On a recent Wednesday locals’ night, Sue Conley, co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery, and I indulged in a fish and that cauliflower, as well as Weisswassers best-ever clam chowder. Hope he brings it back soon. I would drive out there just for that.

Great news from Nancy Lilly

Nancy Lilly, who grew up on the ranch where she grows olives and blends her own Tallgrass Ranch olive oil north of Sears Point, just came home from Japan where she and Sonoma’s Deborah Rogers (miller at McEvoy Ranch) judged 600 olive oils from 24 countries in Olive Japan, an international olive oil contest. Both women serve on several prestigious olive oil tasting panels. They and Alexandra Devarenne of Petaluma represented the United States.

Tallgrass Ranch olive oil won a Good Food Award in 2014, and I had the privilege of accompanying Nancy and Tony Lilly to the award presentation. Tallgrassoliveoil.com.

Lilly’s son, Alec Stefansky, who grew up on the same ranch here in Sonoma, will open his tasting room for his Uncommon Brewers on River Street in Santa Cruz on Friday, May 19 in case you are in the neighborhood. He is combining efforts with Chris Leveque, who owns El Salchichero butcher shop and will be making charcuterie and other foods to go with Stefansky’s fine beers.

Fishy fish stories

So a couple of San Francisco fishermen have resorted to what their grandfathers and fathers used to do before there were distributors cutting up the pie, or fish, and they are selling right off their boats. We have seen this in many places, including in Marseilles, France and Victoria, British Columbia. The only secret is to know exactly what to say to get today’s fish or crab, as opposed to yesterday’s. Always make sure the fish’s eyes look damp and glassy, according to Julia Child.

I like this idea of buying directly through the fishers without middle men and women. That way you can look in the eyes of the folks who risked their lives on the seas and ask them questions about the fish and hopefully get straight answers.

Much like at our farmers markets, where we can ask the people who grow the food how they grow it, where they grow it, and even advice on cooking it.

One of those San Francisco fishers said he and his colleagues can’t make a living selling low to the distributors and brokers, who then sell to China, while they are also buying cheaper fish from China and Vietnam and then selling it here.