Mother’s Day in Sonoma; John Ash and John Birdsall win James Beard Awards; Cinco de Mayo tamale winners; Deborah Rogers and Jean Arnold Sessions make changes

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill


Sunday, and every day, we celebrate mothers. We all had one, and some of us are one. Even more than gifts, let’s think about our mothers this weekend, wherever they are.

Mother’s and Father’s days can be difficult for those among us who wanted to be parents but for whom it just never worked. Let’s be sensitive to them, too. They have to look at the Hallmarkness of these holidays and really can’t escape the reminders.

Just showing up is plenty, if that’s possible. Plants and books that last are always good gifts, unless you have sweet ideas or want to cook or take mother out for a meal.

If out is your best option and she likes that, several Sonoma restaurants are preparing special dishes or feasts.

Alphabetically, except for the exceptional exception of Sonoma Overnight Support:

Sonoma’s Brown Baggers, who supply all sorts of food to undernourished locals, will use their culinary skills for the second annual Sonoma Overnight Support champagne brunch on Saturday, May 10, at Burlingame Hall. Guests will enjoy frittata, link sausage, potatoes, mixed fruit, breakfast pastries and mimosas. All funds go to feed the hungry and house the homeless, as well as toward opening a facility for women and children in crisis. Tickets $30 at Readers’ Books, 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Brunch 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 939-6777.

Breakaway Café:

Additions to the regular brunch menu include a mango, banana and berry smoothie; Marcia’s fabulous coffee cake, dungeness crab cakes, lemon sour cream pancakes, and brine cured pork tenderloin and eggs. ($4.95 to $13.50 Saturday and Sunday).

Bob Rice’s Mother’s Day Weekend Dinner runs Friday through Sunday, May 11, and includes artichoke bisque, seared day boat scallops with spring vegetable risotto and micro greens and Marcia’s citrus pound cake with strawberries and cream. ($25) No reservations. Maxwell Village Shopping Center.

Centre du Vin (Ledson Hotel):

Opening at 9 a.m. with a mimosa for mom, Centre du Vin will have new à la carte treats, such as smashed fingerling potatoes, frisée aux lardon with pork belly and poached eggs, a farmer’s market quiche, and a croque madame, meaning ham and Gruyère cheese on sweet sliced French bread topped with an egg. 480 First St. E., Sonoma. 996-9779 or ledsonhotel.com.

Depot Hotel:

The Ghilarducci family offers a Mother’s Day Brunch that includes a glass of champagne, mimosa or fresh orange juice; a choice of angus New York steak with farm eggs, potatoes and Béarnaise sauce, dungeness crab cannelloni, poached filet of salmon, tortellini with pork and turkey, asparagus Milanese with local farm eggs, or slow-roasted pork with white beans and spinach. Dessert tempts with tiramisu, sour cream cheesecake, limoncello cake or bittersweet chocolate decadence with mango sauce. ($42 adults).

A special children’s menu includes melons, French toast, scrambled eggs or tortellini and vanilla gelato with a cookie straw, or child-sized portions of main menu ($16). 241 First St. W., Sonoma. 938-2980 or depotsonoma.com.

Glen Ellen Fire Department:

Volunteers prepare one of the best pancake breakfasts around with guess what, plus eggs, sausage, fresh fruit, bacon, orange juice and coffee, with lots of friendly people at the fire station on Arnold Drive. $8 adults, $4 for kids 4 to 17, free 3 and under. Smoothies and fizzes $4. 8 a.m. to noon.

Ramekins Culinary School:

Enjoy Mothers Day Brunch in Ramekins’ beautiful courtyard with waffle and omelet stations, artisan pastries and desserts, a live cook-station, face painting and crafts for kids, and wine and cocktails for adults. $55 adults, $25 kids 11 to 18, ages 10 and under free. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Reserve quickly at 933-0450.

Saddles Steakhouse:

Enjoy a brunch of complimentary sparkling wine for moms, an assortment of pastries and cheeses for starters, a seafood buffet with oysters on the half shell, green lip mussels, king crab legs with drawn butter; a cold buffet with angel hair pasta with bay shrimp, Caesar and other salads; a hot buffet featuring crêpes, roasted turkey, prime rib, red potatoes, chicken apple sausage and eggs Benedict, as well as a plethora of desserts. $58 adults, $27 children. 29 E. MacArthur, Sonoma. 933-3191.

Santé at Fairmont

Sonoma Mission Inn:

The ultimate buffet in Sonoma with appetizers ranging from jumbo shrimp cocktail, duck and chicken terrine wrapped in Hobbs Applewood smoked bacon, terrine of spring vegetables, Fra’ Mani charcuterie and antipasti; salads such as Caesar, asparagus and hearts of palm, new potato, English cucumber, and Salade Niçoise; caviar selections; carving stations of Niman Ranch filet mignon and ham, English pea and ricotta ravioli, seared diver scallops, oeufs en cocotte with Yukon gold potatoes, eggs Benedict; lots of vegetables and breakfast meats, and never-ending desserts. $99, $49 children 5 to 12, free 4 and under. 939-2415.

Swiss Hotel:

A special Sunday brunch will include à la carte selections of lobster bisque, crab cakes with green salad, classic eggs Benedict, brioche French toast stuffed with strawberries and cream cheese with chicken apple sausage, vegetable quiche with salad, and lamb T-bones with scalloped potatoes and grilled asparagus. $8 on up. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 18 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 938-2884.


Bring your favorite old serving dish or kitchen utensil, like those you may have seen in the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s exhibition of the Kathleen Thompson Hill Culinary Collection, to SVMA for a Sonoma antiques road show on Thursday, May 15. Bonhams Antiques appraisers will value your treasures for $10 each, up to five pieces, including jewelry, furniture and decorative arts, Asian arts, fine books and manuscripts, and visual art of many kinds, all to benefit Sonoma Valley Fund, which gives to 22 nonprofits in our Valley. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 551 Broadway, Sonoma. Register by contacting Kimberly Blattner at kblattner@icloud.com.


John Ash, founder and former owner of John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, won the coveted James Beard Award for single subject cookbooks with his new, “Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook.”

Lucky us: Ash will be our next guest at the Last Wednesday Food Group at Readers’ Books at 7 p.m. May 28. Get your book now so you can try some recipes. Remember: Readers’ gives a 15 percent discount for our cookbook club books to keep your business local.

If you feel like it, cook something for us all to sample, but don’t worry if you don’t want to. Come anyway and enjoy the evening. Ash is one of the nicest people on earth. I have known him ever since I introduced him to M.F.K. Fisher at the Sonoma Community Center about 25 years ago.

As well, John Birdsall, whose mother, Barbara Birdsall, lives in Sonoma, also won a Beard Award in the Food & Culture category for his Lucky Peach magazine article called “America, Your Food Is So Gay.”

An Oakland resident, Birdsall currently is online editor of chow.com and, as a chef, cooked previously at Greens and Ironwood and interned in the kitchen at Chez Panisse.


Sheana Davis’ Epicurean Connection now offers a bottle of white, rosé or red wine to-go on Tuesday farmers market evenings, complete with cups and an opener for $10. And, the great Justine Filipello, who grew up in the food business with her parents’ Wild Thyme catering, will staff Epicurean Connection’s booth at the market.


Jean Arnold Sessions took the occasion of her seventh annual P.J. Party at EDK to announce her departure as president of Hanzell Vineyards. She will begin an advocacy group to mentor women in the wine business and stay on as a board director and brand consultant to Hanzell. Arnold Sessions succeeded her husband, Bob Sessions (now “winemaker emeritus”), in 2002. Bob Sessions is now in Hospice care. Let’s send good thoughts, strength and prayers to both of them.


Nion McEvoy, president of the lovely McEvoy Ranch in Marin County, west of Petaluma, just announced that Deborah Rogers has become McEvoy’s olive oil production manager.

Rogers, the multi-award winning master olive miller who co-founded The Olive Press in Sonoma in 1995, spent four years as its managing partner. And Nan Tucker McEvoy planted 1,000 olive trees from Italy on a former dairy farm in West Petaluma with the goal of creating California olive oil that could rival that from Italy.

Rogers serves on the UC Davis Olive Center Taste Panel, frequently judges olive oil competitions around the world and attended the first Culinary Diplomacy Initiative Partnership launch in 2012 at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State. McEvoy Ranch includes 80 acres of organic olive trees, 25 acres of vineyards, and huge flower and vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. mcevoyranch.com.


El Brinquito Market, best known for its weekend barbecued chickens in Agua Caliente, won both the Best Traditional and People’s Choice awards for its tamales made of shredded chicken, olives, carrots and potatoes at the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Cornerstone Sonoma. Whole Foods’ “Chef Lisa” won Most Creative, with a tamale using quinoa flour instead of corn masa, filled with kale, grilled chicken and corn.

The whole event was a spectacular success, attracting an estimated 1,500 guests, with fabulous dancing by local children and adults; great food; cupcakes and other sweets by Occasional Cakes; the plate lunch and a food booth by El Brinquito, with my favorite – an ear of corn with mayonnaise, crumbled Mexican cheese and citrus-chili powder. The gorgeous female dancers’ costumes were all made by hand by Noemi Vazquez, who just received La Luz’s first micro business loan to buy a new sewing machine. Good thing, because she did all this work with an old peddle sewer and broke her right foot.


Two events to benefit children’s nature education next weekend:

Quarryhill Botanical Garden hosts its second annual “Wild Collections Expeditions for Education” fundraiser on Saturday, May 17, to accommodate ever-increasing student interest on Quarryhill’s unique gardens and education programs.

Guests will receive a glass of champagne on arrival and will be escorted in a cart through flowering dogwoods, roses, irises and rhododendrons, past waterfalls, while enjoying nibbles by Bruce Riezenman of Park Avenue Catering along the way. At the center of the garden guests will enjoy cocktails and Asian-inspired cuisine celebrating the Asian origins of most of Quarryhill’s plants. Sir Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will speak on educating children about nature, followed by a fund-a-need to help finance the programs. $125 members, $145 non-members. 5:30 to 8 p.m. 12841 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. Reserve at 996-3166 or quarryhillbg.org.


Audubon Canyon Ranch, which includes the Bouverie Audubon Preserve in Glen Ellen where both owner David Pleydell-Bouverie and M.F.K. Fisher lived separately, will hold its annual “The Art of Eating” fundraiser as a Vintage Country Picnic on Sunday, May 18.

Members of Les Dames d’Escoffier’s San Francisco Chapter will prepare most of the food, while Dames Leslie Sbrocco, host of KQED’s “Check Please,” will emcee and Dame Carolyn Wente and Martin Griffin, founder of Audubon Canyon Ranch, will be honored.Wente, fourth generation winegrower and CEO of Wente Winery, will also give her wines to accompany the meal.

Inspired by Fisher’s book, “The Art of Eating,” Dame Wendy Brucker, of Berkeley’s Rivoli, will make a little gem salad with green goddess dressing, followed by the fried chicken and side dishes. Les Dames co-president Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland will model her fried chicken to be prepared by Dame Janet Griggs’ Taste Catering along with potato salad and marinated green beans.

Bonnie Tempesta, of Boncora Biscotti, will offer her crispy delicacies, along with Dame Eileen Spitlany’s Fairytale mini brownies and bars with fresh strawberries. Julie Atwood serves as event producer.

All of this benefits the Audubon Canyon Ranch’s effort to give more than 6,000 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students an opportunity to experience nature-based educational experiences at no cost to schools. Tickets $150. 12:30 to 4:40 p.m. More info at (415) 868-9244 or acr@egret.org.


Happy Birthday to our daughter Erin Hill Freschi, who just finished a week of being the same age as little brother Mack.