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Kathleen Hill: National Tequila Day and other tall tales


Sonoma Springs turns 2 at new taproom

Sonoma Springs Brewing Co. will celebrate its two-year anniversary with a party on Saturday, July 22. Actually, it’s the anniversary of opening its taproom in the old Nicholas Turkey Farms building at Riverside Drive and Petaluma Avenue, next to Divewalk Café.

The party will offer two new beer releases and food. Bringing back their Hazy Cali IPA on tap. They will also release a new double IPA called “The General,” after Gen. Mariano Vallejo.

Jacob Talbert of Sushinoma will be there Sunday to make a special roll to pair with the release of the new beer.

Divewalk will serve tacos and Banh Mi sandwiches until 3 p.m., followed by Picazo’s food truck with its award-winning burgers and fries. 1 to 9 p.m. 19449 Riverside Drive, Sonoma. 938-7422.

Lobster in the Vineyards

Love lobster? Love dipping it in butter until it dribbles down your arms to your elbows?

Then Lobster in the Vineyards is for you.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley are holding the event Saturday, July 22, at the peaceful, natural estate of Judy and Les Vadasz.

Beside the setting by a lake, the boiling pots cooked by Lombardi’s of Petaluma will bubble up with artichokes, potatoes, sausages, prawns and lobster in a traditional lobster boil.

Lots of beer and wine are poured as the sun sets to the west on the vineyard and over the hills, with the mood set by live guitarists. $250. 5 p.m.

Tickets available at 938-8544, Ext. 122 or at bgcsonoma.org.

La Casa’s National Tequila Day

It really will be National Tequila Day on Monday, July 24, and La Casa Restaurant is the first off the blocks to celebrate it in style.

Cazadores Tequila of Jalisco will sponsor the event and pour samples of their tequilas and give away swag to guests. Cazadores tequilas are made from 100 percent blue agave and aged in new American white oak casks.

All day Monday, La Casa will offer Mexican Mule cocktails for $6 and flights of 1519 organic tequila for half price at $15. La Casa’s decades-long reputation for margaritas continues and they will be on special from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday. Cazaderos is pouring 3 to 5 p.m.;margaritas specials 4 to 6 p.m. 121 E. Spain St., Sonoma. 996-3406.

Brennan coming to Readers’ Books

Georgeanne Brennan, the revered food philosopher and cookbook author, will be at Readers’ Books next Wednesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. as a guest of the Last Wednesday Food Group.

Brennan is a James Beard Award winning author of several books including “A Pig in Provence,” and a journalist whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Food & Wine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Edible Marin & Wine Country. She will bring her newest book, “La Vie Rustic.” She also has “La Vie Rustic: Sustainable Living in the French Style” online store. She lives the life lots of us would love, dividing her time between a farming community north of Sacramento and her home in Provence. She grows all the vegetables and animals she writes about.

Brennan and her husband moved to France and she started a cooking school in an old convent. Later she and friend Charlotte Glenn launched Le Marché Seeds and they have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America. All this with a master’s degree in history.

Brennan wrote to me about a video in which Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo Beans interviewed her.

“One of the best things for me was his understanding of ‘La Vie Rustic Cooking’ and ‘Living in the French Style’ as a way to think about food and cooking, about the connection of the barnyard, the orchard, the garden plus wild things and rivers and oceans that provide what is at hand to cook with. It’s a way of thinking that both simplifies and glorifies what goes on the table. In that same vein, I interviewed the new chef at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, the Bastide de Moustiers. He pointed out that he starts with the vegetables – what’s in their garden or what the market growers have on offer (they have huge garden at the Bastide) and then goes from them, putting the emphasis on the vegetables, the other ingredients following.”

Bring tastes to share if you wish. Remember, Readers’ Books gives a 15 percent on Last Wednesday Food Group books. Free. 7 p.m. 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 939-1779.

Everyone, start your zucchinis

This year’s Friday Farmers Market’s 29th annual Zucchini Car Races will be Friday, July 28, at Sebastiani’s Winery’s Arbor Park.

If your zukes are growing well, or even if they aren’t, start planning and designing your race car. Take your vehicle to the park from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. The race begins at 6:30 sharp.

Here are the rules: Cars are categorized as small, medium, or large. No more than 10 inches wide. No skate boards. No roller skates. No doll buggies. The zucchini must represent three-quarters of the racecar. Free and all ages welcome. Next Friday should also be food truck Friday at Sebastiani, so you could bring a picnic, stick around and have dinner from the food trucks.

How short is Sonoma’s labor shortage?

Have you noticed “Help Wanted” signs in windows? Especially in restaurants?

Many restaurants are looking for help, from McDonald’s outdoor “Now Hiring” banner to Divewalk Café, the Girl and the Fig’s yellow hiring notice, and now the Teen Center is itself looking for staff. The soon-to-be Umbria Italian restaurant by Glen Ellen’s Jack London Saloon is trying to fill all sorts of positions, and Wine Country Chocolates is hoping to find new people too, as is Mamma Tanino’s by Sonoma Market.

Some restaurants are even considering dropping a day, or one meal service a day, because they can’t find enough help. Most of Teen Services members are already working, and the nonprofit can’t help fill positions like they used to.

And Paul’s Produce, which nearly sells out at both Tuesday and Friday farmers’ markets, had to cut out its Saturday farm stand because they can’t find workers to help alongside Paul Wirtz in the field.

So what is going on?

Several factors.

Many foreign workers have left the area, either to other parts of the country or back to their countries of origin.

Some foreign workers have found jobs or created businesses here that pay more than restaurants do. Even culinary school graduates often barely make a living wage, especially starting out.

Apartment and house rentals have skyrocketed as landlords and landladies raise rents to whatever they can get. Workers cannot afford to live here, as is true for some grown children who grew up here. So some workers, and even big city chefs, migrate to regions where they can live near their work.

Very few vineyard owners in Sonoma Valley provide accommodations for workers, whereas Napa Valley vintners assess themselves to help provide rooms in three workers’ housing facilities.

Business rentals in Sonoma Valley have gone up sharply too, with restaurants paying $6,000 to $10,000 rent per month around the Plaza. Their prices go up, but they say they can’t afford to pay some workers and try to get the same job done with fewer people. But that is a business trend throughout the Bay Area, leading young breakout chefs to look to small, rural towns, which Sonoma no longer is.

Restaurants, wineries, and other businesses that pay well and have good reputations have happy employees who stay with the same employer for years.

Currently some restaurants are quietly trying to “poach” workers from other restaurants by offering higher pay, which leads to a musical chairs effect, which leaves some owners constantly searching for good help.