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Kathleen Hill: Les Pascals, Perch & Plow, Sushinoma and more restaurant news

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Les Pascals bakery opens in Glen Ellen

The much anticipated Les Pascals Pâtisserie et Boulangerie opened Saturday in the so-called “yellow building” in Glen Ellen, and was instantly crowded to the gills with happy new customers.

It is called Les Pascals because the married couple who own the bakery, Pascale and Pascal Merle, share the basic same name. They met in France where he made pastries and treats at multiple well-reputed patisseries such as Boulangerie Follet, Pâtisserie Vial, and Henon for nearly 40 years. Eventually he and Pascale moved to Carmel where they owned Lafayette Bakery, and then returned to France.

Christine Hansson, owner of “the yellow building” and the next door Chauvet Hotel across Arnold Drive from Glen Ellen Village Market, completely revamped the building, installed the finest state-of-the-art baking equipment, added a parking lot and lovely flower-accented flagstone patio with handicapped accessibility, et voila.

Pascal generously gave this writer a tour of the kitchen a week before opening, and it is very impressive. What was even more impressive, was Pascal’s deep passion for baking and setting out his art and craft for people to enjoy. His life and love are in his baking. Pascale, with an “e,” exudes her experience and love of hospitality by managing the “front of the house,” which is only a few steps from “the back of the house” where her husband creates sweet and savory delights.

Sean Perry bakes the bread in the wee hours of the morning, and the loaf I bought was wonderful.

On Monday I ventured out to Glen Ellen and tried a square slice of quiche Lorraine, which is loaded with French and Black Forrest ham. The macarons are brightly colored, and croissants, both plain and almond, might be the best in Sonoma Valley. 934-8378.

Local chef Michael Mullins makes it real

Kenwood native Michael Mullins is capturing the crowds at the new Perch & Plow, which is a second floor restaurant facing Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square.

You might recognize the name because his father, J. Michael Mullins, served as Sonoma County District Attorney and now as Dean of Empire Law School.

A couple of weeks ago, Liz Mullins – mother of Perch & Plow’s chef Michael – and Susan and Lori Miron and I all invaded the large restaurant to try as many items on the menu as we could. We are all old friends and neighbors. Liz reminded Michael and me that I was the first friend to see Michael when she brought the newborn home from the hospital.

Mullins graduated from St. Francis Solano School, Cardinal Newman, and the University of London. From London he ventured out to sample cuisines of several European cities, adding to his love of his Texas grandmother’s cooking.

Back in New York, Mullins graduated from the CIA-Hyde Park and did his externship at Park Avenue Café, then earned a degree in hospitality management from the University of San Francisco. Mullins praises his mentors including chef Mark Dommen of One Market, Max Schacher formerly of Kenwood Restaurant, chef Umit Ozkaya, Ben Davies of Russian River Vineyards Traci des Jardins, and Josh Silvers of various Santa Rosa restaurants. He also cooked for Google’s caterer, Bon Appetit Management, and at Cavallo Point in Sausalito.

The four of us tried the spiced almonds, Castelvetrano olives, Ahi tuna poke, Ceviche, beet salad, Little Gem wedge with blue cheese dressing, roasted Brussels sprouts, charred cauliflower, grilled octopus, loaded-with-fish fish stew, buttermilk friend calamari and a house burger. Everything was excellent. Hate to admit it, but we ate everything. ($5 to $22). Long bar with $12 cocktails, most draft beers $7. Open 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 90 Old House Square, Santa Rosa. 541-6896.

Stop the cookbooks, please!

Enormous thanks to the generous communities of Sonoma and Napa counties for cookbook donations for the Cookbook Raiser, initiated by Sondra Bernstein. We are full up to here, so please no more cookbooks for now to your local donation site. Please tell anyone you know who lost their home in the October wildfires that we will be giving away thousands of cookbooks free on April 8 at 1206 E. MacArthur (just east of Eighth Street East), Sonoma.

Many thanks to Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Ramekins Culinary School, Girl & the Fig, Sign of the Bear, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art store, the Shed and Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, Franchetti’s in Santa Rosa, Cameron Books and Sonoma Port Works in Petaluma, Rancho Gordo and Napa Valley Welcome Center in Napa, and Tips Roadside or Tips Tri-Tip Trolley in Kenwood. And monumental thanks to Wayne Schake and Mary Deely for picking up donations around the countryside.

Nibs & Sips

Bare root fruit trees, vines, berry plants are still available at Sonoma Mission Gardens. Now is the best time to plant bare roots which can spread their roots through cold weather to produce great fruit eventually.

Sushinoma pop-ups will pop up again. Jacob Talbert has just been accepted to the Tuesday night farmers market, serves his sushi Thursday evenings at Roche tasting room, and rumor is they might do sushi and bubbles soon at Sigh bubble lounge.

Suite D pop-up added on Sunday, March 25. Enjoy a Sunday supper of grilled asparagus salad with Laura Chenel Chèvre and crispy quinoa; Mt. Lassen Trout with spring vegetable ragout and Black Trumpet mushrooms, followed by the famous Crisp Bakeshop chocolate chip cookie bread pudding with vanilla gelato. $38 or $32.50 for Suite D or wine club members. 5:30 p.m. 21800 Schellville Road, Sonoma. Figsuited.com.

Food chain congloming continues

Albertson’s has bought Rite-Aid and already owns Safeway, Lucky, Vons, Super Saver, Save-On, and Grocery Warehouse. Rite-Aid seems to be offering more “healthy” snack-foods on the impulse racks next to where customers stand in line to pay. Interesting that Albertson’s previously pulled their own stores out of two locations here where Whole Foods and Lucky are now.

Since Amazon bought Whole Foods, some customers complain that a lot of what they used to buy there is gone, while some prices have been lowered and much has been written that Amazon would like to turn retail stores into distribution depots. Forbes.com reports that Amazon/Whole Foods is resorting to the industrywide practice of they pay-to-play of selling prominent display space, the lack of which was one of the features that distinguished Whole Foods from other food stores.

Reba’s secret recipe?

Country music queen Reba McEntire made her debut as the first woman and first musician to act the part of Col. Harland Sanders in KFC commercials at the Grammy Awards.

Aluminum and steel import taxes?

Recently President Donald Trump announced he is imposing 25 percent import tax on steel and a 10 percent import tax on aluminum. While food isn’t made from steel, it is transported in all sorts of vehicles across bridges and overpasses all made with steel. Can American factories handle this? It turned out that American manufacturers don’t make the pipes required to repair and re-build the water system in Flint, Michigan.

Beer and wine cans are made of aluminum. Thousands of Americans commute daily from the U.S. to Canada to work in (sometimes) American owned steel and aluminum plants. Having lived off and on over 15 years in Canada, it’s hard to imagine how our northern neighbor can be a “security threat.”

Tax costs on aluminum cans will be passed on to American consumers.

What Day is it?

Today is National Artichoke Heart Day and Saturday is National Eat Like an Irishman Day. Tell me what that is.