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Kathleen Hill: Hot chocolate with burgers, E.coli and more

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E. coli outbreak and Romaine lettuce

The Center for Disease Control issued a warning that people should not eat Romaine lettuce and should choose other salad greens due to E. coli having caused illness in several states and provinces and two deaths in the United States and Canada.

Some Sonoma grocery stores have removed Romaine lettuce from their shelves but others have not.

The Canadian government first identified Romaine lettuce as the potential source of outbreak, but the cause of contamination is still under investigation. This particular strain of E. coli (O157:H7) is known to cause hemorrhagic diarrhea, kidney failure – and death in young children, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. It is transmitted by animal feces that come into contact with vegetables, raw meat and milk.

In-N-Out adds hot chocolate

If you saw the movie “The Founder” on the unfortunate history of McDonald’s, in which they show how they made milkshakes from some questionable packaged powder, that is not In ‘N’ Out’s new hot cocoa package mix.

In-N-Out uses San Francisco’s Ghirardelli’s hot cocoa mix, an alleged return to owner Lynsi Snyder’s grandparents serving hot chocolate when they started the burger joints in the 1950s.

Making this new addition to their uncomplicated menu seems timely, given unprecedented cold, snow and rain across the United States. Not sure how hot chocolate goes with cheeseburgers or “animal” fries, or even a protein burger, but we shall see.

Martini Madness coming

This year’s body-to-body Martini Madness will be Friday, Jan. 18, and is now run by Brian Richards of MacArthur Place.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Carneros Bistro at the Lodge, Steiner’s Tavern, Hopmonk Tavern, Saddles Steakhouse, Starling Bar, Sonoma Grill, and B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille have agreed so far to compete. As well, representatives from sponsors Grey Goose Vodka, Angels Envy Bourbon, Bacardi Rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin, and Danger will be pouring their finest.

While Saddles always supplies lots of tummy lining appetizers, guests can also enjoy a combination of Martini Madness and a special three-course Saddles dinner of salad, 14-ounce New York steak and garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables or halibut on saffron risotto, followed by Dana Jaffe’s bourbon apple fruit crisp with vanilla ice cream and Barking Dog coffee. $65 Martini Madness, $125 for Martini Madness and dinner package. Tickets at macarthurplace.com/saddles. Twenty-five percent of profits will go to fire relief via redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief.

‘Sonoma Valley Delicious’ happening now

As part of California Restaurant Month and Visit California, the local version is “Sonoma Valley Delicious,” running through the month of January.

Sample special events, tastings, and meals include

• The Girl and the Fig: Fridays, Jan. 12 and 26, from 6:30-9 p.m., enjoy “Suite D” prix-fixe pop-up dinners, featuring six ingredients and three courses for $42.

• Santé Restaurant at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn: Enjoy a chef-selected seven-course tasting menu for two, with a glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine each, for $195 Sunday-Thursday, or $235 Friday-Saturday.

• Petroni Vineyards: Try a rare three-course farm-to-table food and wine pairing for $95, or five-courses for $195, following a tour of the culinary gardens, production facilities and wine caves, glass-in-hand. 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

• Saddles Steakhouse at McArthur Place Hotel: Relish an $89 three-course dinner for two, served with a bottle of Leese & Fitch cabernet sauvignon or Sebastiani chardonnay.

• Mayo Family Winery: Enjoy two-for-one Reserve Wine Tastings, featuring seven Mayo Family Reserve wines, paired with seven artisan bites.

• B.R. Cohn Winery: Take advantage of 50 percent off the “Tastes of B.R. Cohn” tasting, which pairs four estate wines with bites that integrate the olive oils and vinegars produced at the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company.

Participating Sonoma Valley restaurants include Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Saddles Steakhouse at MacArthur Place, Mayo Family Reserve Room, Shiso Modern Asian Kitchen, Glen Ellen Star, Petroni Vineyards, B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille, Carneros Bistro & Bar, the Girl & The Fig, Tasca Tasca, La Salette, and Cochon Volant BBQ.

Tasting rooms offering specials include Sigh Champagne & Caviar, Three Sticks Wines, Kunde Family Winery, Passaggio Wines and MacLaren Wine Company.

Check participants’ websites or sonomavalley.com/delicious for more information.

El Dorado Kitchen events

Has two “pop-up” events scheduled this winter. Check out their three-course Fried Chicken and Bubbles dinner on Tuesday, Jan. 30 “curated by sommelier Chris Blanchard.” Not sure how you “curate” a fried chicken dinner, especially with a vegetarian option available. Could be fun. $60 inclusive. 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. Reserve at lsommier@eldoradokitchen.com or 931-6022.

Then on Tuesday, Feb. 6, EDK will host a multi-course meal by Chef Armando Navarro paired with Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery’s wines. Marimar Torres founded west county Marimar Vineyards and Winery in the elegant Catalan style of his heritage. $130 inclusive. 6:30 p.m. Reserve at edkmarimarwinedinner.bpt.me or lsommier@eldoradokitchen.com.

Epicurean Connection pop-up dinner

The Epicurean Connection will host a pop-up cassoulet dinner Jan. 31 at the General’s Daughter featuring its cheeses. Dinner will be cassoulet of white Rancho Gordo beans and wild duck, salad from Stone Edge Farm greens with Meyer lemon vinaigrette, breads, and the new Epicurean Connection olive oil. Dinner finishes with chocolate brownies and blackberry pomegranate jam. Bring your own wine, no corkage, or purchase wine from Epicurean Connection, which will serve the same dinner to the Rural Chicks the following evening. $35. Register at Eventbrite.com or sheana@vom.com.

Figalicious updates

The Girl & the Fig’s next Sunday Supper will be Feb. 4 at Suite D with butternut squash soup, coq au vin with winter vegetables and marble potatoes, topped off with a pear tart with red currant sauce and hazelnut cream. $30 club members, $38 nonmembers. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Ramen nights are multiplying. Popular and slurpy Ramen Nights continue on Wednesdays at Suite D from 5 to 8 p.m., move to the Fig Café in Glen Ellen on Thursdays from 5 p.m., with the Fig Rig at the Lanning building in Boyes Hot Springs on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m., and at Sonoma Springs from noon.

Walt Hall elected to Winegrowing Alliance Board

Kathryn Walt Hall, lifelong vineyardist and vintner, was just elected to the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance board of directors.

Hall is proprietor of Walt Wine, with its tasting room and popular trivia nights on Sonoma’s First Street West, as well of the art-filled Hall Wines south of St. Helena. She and her brother managed their family’s Mendocino County vineyard from 1982 to 1992, and she served as Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to Austria from 1998 to 2001.

CSWA is a subgroup of the California Wine Institute interested in long-term sustainability of the wine industry. Mike Sangiacomo served as chair of CSWA from 2014-1016 and has been a board member for several years.