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Lillys win Good Food Award; Doug Keane closes Casino restaurant; Cookbook Club next Wednesday; Saddles Steakhouse’s Old Fashioned Nights return; Robert Irvine wows

Kathleen Hill

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Recycling caution:

Clearly our recycling bin was scavenged Monday night. When I went out to get the newspapers Tuesday morning, the day garbage is picked up in our neighborhood, I noticed that the blue can’s lid was open and the whole bin was in a different location than we had left it.

When I looked inside, the volume of recycling material left was about one-third what was in it the night before. Things were on top that were not the last things we tossed in there.

I can’t say if other cans were also pilfered because none had open tops and I didn’t want to prowl into other people’s garbage.

Perhaps we should all be careful what we put in recycling bins. Such scavenging has become big business in big cities.

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Tony and Nancy Lilly just won a prestigious Good Food Award for their Tallgrass Ranch Estate Blend olive oil, grown on their ranch, milled by Deborah Rogers and blended by Nancy Lilly. Nancy, an original investor/owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, serves on the California Olive Council’s tasting panel and helped host its booth at last weekend’s Winter Fancy Food Show at Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The Good Food Awards were hosted this year at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, especially gorgeous at dusk, and possibly a location George Lucas might consider for his eponymous museum.

Besides the pleasure of being invited to attend the awards with the Lillys and Nancy’s sister Sandra Donnell (apparently I was the only one in the car who didn’t know they had won), we were all inspired to listen to many of the speakers, one representing each category of winners. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who happens to be the brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, served as emcee, with the title “Co-Creator of the White House Farmers Market,” while his brother served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

Ironically, but to the thrills of award recipients, Ruth Reichl and Alice Waters, who did not get to develop the White House vegetable garden, served as honorary hosts and draped all winners with their impressive large medals.

Nell Newman, articulate daughter of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, fascinated everyone with her life story of creating Newman’s Own Organic foods with her father.

A young, third-generation farmer from Colorado gave a heart-rending talk about “pace of place,” and how his grandfather kept telling him to slow down and do things the tried-and-true way, and he kept telling his grandfather to get with it and get into the modern technical farming era. Finally, the grandson realized that there is a pace to every place, and that we must be sensitive to that pace for best farming practices. He slowed down and learned from his grandfather.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese’s Toma cheese also won an award.

After the presentations, attendees received mason jars and bamboo utensils to forage among food purveyors, including A16, Bluestem Brasserie, Epic Roadhouse, Greens Restaurant, Hi Lo BBQ, Merigan Sub Shop, Tacolicious, Waterbar, Whole Foods and Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. Winning brewers offered beers, and Wente Vineyards provided all wines. Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods were the biggest sponsors.

When it’s available, you can purchase Tallgrass olive oil locally at Sheana Davis’ Epicurean Connection in Sonoma, at The Pasta Shop on Fourth Street in Berkeley and at Beyond the Olive in Pasadena.

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Chef Douglas Keane suddenly closed his D.K. Wings food court restaurant at Rohnert Park’s Graton Resort and Casino. The chicken wings resto and the casino had only been open for two months before the wings specialty place was boarded up and the sign removed.

While most food purveyors at the casino enjoyed a big rush of business, with people trying foods spots for the first time, both the business at the casino and at the food stalls has slowed a bit since. Apparently the Mexican restaurant La Fondita is doing well, and M.Y. China (Martin Yan’s outpost) is waiting for business to level out.

Keane had been chef/owner of the two-Michelin star Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg until it closed following a long dispute about the lease. Keane has admitted he had conversations with investors in the hotel proposed for the site of the Sonoma Index-Tribune about opening a restaurant there.

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Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s Presidents’ Council (former presidents of the board) served a fun “modernist” dinner to “winners” of a Wet Paint silent auction lot recently. Former presidents Jim Callahan, Harriet Derwingson, Martha Rosenblatt, Kathe Hodgson, Jane Milotich and Gerry Snedakker served the meal within the current Aidlin Darling modern architecture exhibit. I was amused by the irony and delighted to loan my 1950s avocado green Presto pressure cooker (the one displayed on the green stove during my “Kitchen Memories” exhibition at SVMA) to the Derwingsons to make “modernist” butternut squash soup.

Guests enjoyed gruyère and Parmesan infused gougères and salmon bites; pressured-caramelized butternut squash soup; fennel and arugula salad with crimini mushrooms; sous vide lamb skewers with Turkish-inspired apricot glaze and Israeli cous cous with oven roasted vegetables; and scarlett poached pears with goat cheese rolled in edible vegetable ash and chilled cucumbers.

Guests, who apparently loved the experience, included Dr. Brian Sebastian and Richard Mabe and Sebastian’s mother Gail, Penny Magrane and Joan Howley, Carole and Bob Nicholas, Phyllis and John Gurney and Stanley Abercrombie and Paul Vieyra. As well, the Aidlin Darling firm gave a huge sort of “company party” at the museum last Saturday with clients, suppliers, contractors and designers finishing off cases of Scribe wines.

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Saddles Steakhouse has resurrected its fun winter, “Old Fashioned Nights” menu, served Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through March 25. Expect $5 martinis, old-fashioneds and Manhattans, classic Caesar salad for two prepared table-side ($12), and entrées of chicken picatta, trout almandine, or Bavette steak with sauce Bercy ($13.95 to $16.95). Desserts include cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream, Boston cream pie, or a banana split (yes!) for $7 each. Guests who dare to wear vintage attire get a free champagne cocktail. 29 E. MacArthur, Sonoma. Reservations at 933-3191.

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La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs of the Greater Bay Area will hold its 2014 Induction Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 26 at The Cliff House, which happens to be owned by part-time Sonomans Dan and Mary Hountalas, who bravely reopened their restaurant during the federal government shutdown and then the National Park Service ordered them to close again.

Wide open now, The Cliff House hangs over the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco’s Land’s End and sits on federal, Golden Gate National Recreation Area property.

We used to go there for their elegant Sunday brunch buffet, using a reservation and our daughter’s charms to get a window table. Jerry would always start with the dessert buffet, of course. One Sunday, a Blue Angel plane rocked the building with a thunderous practice flight below our table level and barely above the waves.

The dinner will include passed hors d’oeuvre, charred octopus salad, Maine lobster gnocchi, a squab shop, pistachio crusted rack of lamb, and frozen Meyer lemon soufflé. 6 p.m. wine reception, 7:15 dinner. $195. Black tie. Send checks to David Hoiem, 385 Urbano Dr., San Francisco 94127.

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We look forward to seeing you at the first session of the Last Wednesday Food Group Cookbook Club, next Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Readers’ Books. Bring ideas of food books that interest you. Call 939-1779 for more information or to sign up.

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In the The Wall Street Journal last week, Lettie Teague wrote a large feature on Bob and Jean Arnold Sessions, in which Jean discussed Bob’s 10-year diagnosis with dementia and now Alzheimer’s disease and their “room” in assisted living and the fact that she still actually lives at home. The point of the story was how people deal with crises while dealing in business, particularly featuring former winemaker Bob Sessions who created the brand’s reputation and then forgot how to make wine. Jean’s posts on Facebook about their lives have been clear, passionate and heart-rending. Love to you both.

A while ago, prominent cookbook author Paula Wolfert “came out” on Facebook as having early Alzheimer’s or similar “mild cognitive impairment.”

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If you missed Santa Rosa chef John Ash and his flying culinary birds at Ramekins a couple of weeks ago, you can catch him at the Left Bank in Larkspur on Sunday, March 30, at one of Book Passage’s “Cooks with Books” events.

The restaurant’s chefs will prepare dinner from his new book, “Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook,” that features chicken, turkey, quail, game hens and pheasant. $115 single, $175 couple with one book. 507 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. Reserve at bookpassage.com.

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Guy Fieri and Duskie Estes, the latter owner of Zazu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow in Sebastopol, teamed up last Sunday on the Food Network for a “Taco Night Done Right.” They cooked up al pastor tacos with pork shoulder and pineapple-chipotle marinade; Tex-Mex rice with fire roasted tomatoes, sweet corn and carrot; and Duskie’s Backyard Gigante Beans and Pumpkin.

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Although they all arrived back in Sonoma yesterday, Tom and Gayle Jenkins sent greetings last week from aboard the Oceania Riviera docked at St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, where they were lucky not to have access to the 49ers-Seahawks game.

According to Gayle, “Despite this deprivation, we are blessed with the company of three past and present alcaldes: Judy and Les Vadasz and Suzanne Brangham who, in her inimitable fashion, is bossing everyone on board to get whatever is right for our group of 40. John McReynolds (with Brigetta) is wowing everyone taking his cooking classes. Jeff Baker (with Diana Lee Craig) is doing the same with his presentation of Stone Edge Farms wines, while Tom and I are showcasing some 20 of Sonoma’s Best wines.”

Other Sonomans aboard include Craig and Kristin Adryan (Craig is the travel agent who put together this cooking-wine tasting cruise), Jack Lundgren, Patrick Jude, Gabriel von Stephens, Stan and Marlene Rosenberg, Charles and Patricia Willard, and Tom and Laurie Sebesta.

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Robert Irvine, star of the Food Network’s “Dinner Impossible” and “Restaurant Impossible” shows, came to Santa Rosa’s Wells Fargo Center for the Arts oozing kindness and love, and void of the occasionally brusque exterior we see when he tears down a restaurant and its owners, only to rebuild them by the end of the program.

Irvine called up to the stage a young girl who had survived leukemia, only to get another diagnosis, but who got through her treatments by looking forward to and watching Robert Irvine’s shows, according to her mother. In an extended tender moment, the girl got to laugh and joke and even cook, as the 100 VIP ticket purchasers relished the experience.

Before Irvine even got around to cooking, his phone rang with a call on speaker from his “dear friend” Guy Fieri, whose birthday they celebrated this weekend and who surprised VIP ticket holders and the larger audience, later, with a slightly raucous appearance. Along with culinary students from Santa Rosa Junior College, Irvine’s “corporate chef,” Shane Cash, who told me he is “a fourth cousin of Johnny Cash,” prepared a tender rib eye steak with perfectly divine sauce, cheesy polenta and sautéed kale, all served by students to the audience.

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Chris and Lisa Lavagetto, she Chef Ambassador at Ramekins Culinary School, missed the whole Robert Irvine experience. A real fan, Lisa had to give up the VIP tickets she bought last July because of a chance to teach a cooking class and enjoy a week in a cabana at Rancho La Puerta. Gosh – big decision.

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I wasn’t able to stay for Irvine’s whole performance because I had committed to Rob Larman, Cathy Gellepis and Jim Ledwith to enjoy Larman’s cioppino dinner at Windee Smith’s Valley Wine Shack. I did get my fill of raw kale though, in a generous kale salad, followed by a bowl of crab, white fish, and shrimp in an excellent, slightly-thick broth. All of this was followed by a cinnamon-raison bread pudding. Be sure to sign up for Larman’s next feast, whenever it is. I will let you know.

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Those of us who helped pack food and clothing, for Philippine typhoon relief, at the home of Dulce and Greg Silvi, noticed that at one point we were sending containers of anchovies packed in tomato sauce that originated in, you guessed it, the Philippines.

The Silvis will happily receive any non-perishable food or clothing donations. Their relatives can get these goods delivered to the people who need them in Tacloban, the area of Leyte most devastated by the recent typhoon.

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 Bon appetit!