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Rain dances work; New In-N-Out near Costco; Walmart food drive for employees; Thanksgiving menus

Kathleen Hill

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Rain, rain, stay please stay, and come again another day, or several.

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Today let us honor and give thanks for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and all those who have given their lives for our country. Someday I will write about my time working on Mrs. Kennedy’s projects in the Fish Room, now called The Roosevelt Room, just off the Oval Office.

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Please join us for fun, food and beverage this evening (Friday) for the “Closing Party” to celebrate my “Kitchen Memories” exhibition at Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. Enjoy food by Laura Chenel’s Chèvre, Marin French Cheese, and Crisp Bakeshop, and wines from Buena Vista Winery’s owners Jean-Charles Boisset and Gina Gallo.

We will play lots of vintage food music (“Blueberry Hill,” “Mashed Potatoes” and more) and award prizes to the champion guessers of items on the “What Is It?” table. $10 members, $12 non-members. 5:30 to 7 p.m. 551 Broadway, Sonoma. Limited tickets at 939-7862 or svma.org.

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Michael Muscardini poured his wines last week at his first New York City winemaker dinner at Paola’s on Madison Avenue at 92nd Street.

While he and Kate Eilertsen were in New York, they saw the new play “Betrayal,” starring Daniel Craig, who is best known for playing James Bond in “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” and for “jumping” out of a helicopter with “Queen Elizabeth II” at the opening of the 2012 Olympics in London.

The two Sonomans wondered what all the excitement was about with black SUVs, SWAT team guys, and Secret Service everywhere. Turns out Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, took in the same performance.

According to Eilertsen, “Biden was smiling, friendly to everyone, and seemed to be out on a date with his wife having a wonderful time.”

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The Epicurean Connection now uses Yenni Ranch beef and lamb in its soups and café and carries Nancy Lilly’s Tallgrass Olio Nuovo from her Carneros ranch, the first of this olive season. Tallgrass’s Ranch Estate olive oil from 2013 was just named a finalist for the 2014 Good Food Awards. Epicurean Connection has a few bottles of it left for sale, so run, don’t walk.

Proprietor Sheana Davis is taking orders for BN Ranch turkeys and uses them in stocks, café and catering menus. BN turkeys are grown in Marin County by Bill Niman (founder of Niman Ranch) and Nicolette Hahn Niman, an environmental lawyer and author of the “Righteous Pork Chop.”

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It appears that In-N-Out Burger has replaced Burger King at the Novato Oaks box store complex that includes Costco and Target off Rowland Boulevard in Novato. While “Café 1.50” at Costco appeared rather un-busy last Monday, the drive-through line at In-N-Out seemed to be a good 20 cars long, with a full parking lot.

Café 1.50 could serve the French fries Costco serves in British Columbia. That’s my gourmet recommendation for the day.

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Well-known international cookbook author and Sonoma resident Paula Wolfert is being filmed today for an appearance next week on PBS’ “News Hour.”

Wolfert “came out” recently on Facebook telling the world that she has early Alzheimer’s disease. She has attacked her research into the problem and any food, exercise, yoga, or anything else that could help slow the progress of the deterioration with the same intense research she used in finding recipes and ingredients in Mediterranean homes.

Coupled with medication from UC San Francisco, Wolfert has been proclaimed “stable” by her doctors. Her biographer, Emily Thelen, wrote a beautifully sculpted story about Wolfert for the Washington Post, which has attracted videographers and even PBS.

Wolfert expects her “nine minutes” to air one day next week, both on NPR radio at 3 p.m. and on PBS television at 6 p.m.

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Douglas Fenn Wilson recently opened his magnificent artistic project – his new home – for a dinner he and I co-hosted as an SVMA Wet Paint auction lot. The home was the main attraction, and something many Sonoma Valley residents have watched grow just south of Glen Ellen Village Market, along with a slightly wacky menu developed by yours truly.

Ramekins Culinary School allowed its chef ambassador, Lisa Lavagetto, her husband, Chris, and me to use the teaching kitchen to do advance prep work.

We all had the pleasure of christening Doug’s new kitchen, introducing smells of fish chowder, garlic, chicken and paprika, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and much more to begin to permeate the atmosphere.

Hopefully Suzanne Brangham and Jack Lundgren, JaMel and Tom Perkins, Dean Cavalho and Tim Freeman, Rick and Patsy Wynn, Sandy and Kent Larson, Bill Jasper and Kristen McFarland, Jean Simpson, Marty and Norm Buckhart, Chuck and Cathy Williamson, and Sharon and Bob Kahn had a great time.

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The first day of Hanukkah falls on Wednesday, Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Last Sunday, Michael and Barbara Heiman invited me over quickly to watch them make and sample latke. That would be pumpkin latke. The Heimans will serve traditional latke for Hanukkah, and pumpkin ones for Thanksgiving.

Here is Barbara Heiman’s recipe: Puree 4 cups pumpkin pulp, 2 to 3 onions, 3 eggs, and 1/3-cup potato starch. Add 3-to-4-cups grated Yukon gold potatoes. (Mix well with wooden spoon or hands.) Fry in grapeseed oil.

Personally, I preferred the well-done latke, because I think the longer cooking brought out the sugars in the pumpkin and made them tastier.

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Can you believe that a Walmart in Ohio is holding a Thanksgiving food drive to feed its employees whom Walmart doesn’t pay enough to live and buy food for their families?

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Dining out on Thanksgiving:

In case you and yours don’t want to or can’t cook, here are some possible outings.

Saddles is already sold out.

At my request of several restaurants, those listed below sent their Thanksgiving menus, which are shown in ascending order by price.

Breakaway Café offers an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing brunch before you cook or go somewhere else for dinner, either alone or in a group. Incidentally, Breakaway Café treats single diners royally. Besides special drinks from the bar, you can start with a berry, banana, mango, orange juice and yogurt smoothie or Marcia’s super duper coffee cake. Entrées included a Thanksgiving skillet with Applewood bacon, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, red potatoes and spinach, all topped with poached eggs and Meyer lemon Hollandaise; eggs benedict; enchiladas verdes filled with butternut squash, spinach, shallots, goat cheese and salsa verde with eggs; a pumpkin-pecan waffle, or salmon cakes and avocado Benedict ($5.50 to $13.75). Specials served 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 19101 Highway 12, Sonoma.

As usual, Black Bear Diner always serves a “traditional turkey” entrée with pumpkin and other pies available.

Depot Hotel Restaurant’s Thanksgiving dinner is priced by your entrée choice and includes housemade corn soup, a green salad, Bosc pears, candied walnuts and Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and a dessert choice of sour cream cheesecake with blackberry and raspberry coulis, pumpkin pie, or Kahlua chocolate decadence with mango sauce.

Entrée selections include roast turkey with root vegetables, stuffing and mashed potatoes, poached filet of salmon, or echiette pasta, Dutch Valley veal piccata, or beef short ribs braised in the owners’ cabernet sauvignon ($35 to $45 for three courses). Call immediately, as they were almost sold out at press time. 241 First St. W., Sonoma. 938-2980. depotsonoma.com.

The fig café & wine bar in Glen Ellen offers choices of fig and arugula salad or butternut squash soup; entrée choices of roasted turkey roulade with cornbread-fennel sausage stuffing, pork osso bucco, pan-seared flounder or chickpea panisse cake with delicata squash, and braised greens. Desserts include pumpkin pot de crème or chocolate-caramel nut tart. $45, wine pairing $15 extra, $20 children 10 and under. 1 to 6 p.m. 13690 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen. Reserve at 933-3000, ext. 13. thefigcafe.com.

The girl & the fig on Sonoma Plaza starts with an amuse-bouche of house-cured ham and a cheddar “bitewich.” Choose butternut squash soup, a charcuterie plate, roasted squash salad, or fig and arugula salad for starters. Entrées include roasted turkey roulade, prime rib, sautéed flounder, or wild mushroom ravioli with house-made ricotta and watercress. Pumpkin cheesecake with chocolate graham cracker crust, lavender crème brûlée, or a chocolate salted caramel trifle top off the feast. $57, $20 age 10 and under. Noon to 8 p.m. 110 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 938-3634. thegirlandthefig.com.

Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn presents a sumptuous buffet with a wide range of appetizers such as shrimp cocktail, pork terrine wrapped in Hobbs Applewood smoked bacon, a galantine of Fulton Valley chicken, and Sonoma Liberty Duck liver “faux foie gras.”

Expect loads of Fra’ Mani charcuterie and antipasti, smoked fish, caviars, and salad selections from Caesar to beets, wild arugula and shaved fennel, and heart of palm with fuyu persimmons. The carving station offers Diestel free-range turkey and Niman Ranch prime rib and pork osso bucco, Sugar Pie pumpkin ravioli, and lamb. Lots of vegetables and tons of dessert selections compliment the bounty. $99. $49.50 children 5 to 12, and free 4 and under. Reserve at 939-2415.

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The Heart of Sonoma Valley Winery Association plans one of its seasonal open houses through Kenwood and Glen Ellen wineries Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30. Guests will enjoy lots of nibbles, caroling and wines from 26 wineries, many offering big holiday wine discounts. $45 includes wine tasting glass, $10 designated driver. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets, maps and more info available at heartofsonomavalley.com or 866-794-9463.

Bonnie Tempesta of Boncora Biscotti will have a holiday open house to coincide with the Heart of Sonoma Valley celebration on Saturday, Nov. 30. Attendees can meet the highly successful Bonnie, try some biscotti, have a cup of coffee and see how chocolate-dipped biscotti are made. Free. Noon to 3 p.m. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood Village, Kenwood.

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Sondra Bernstein had a busy week last week. the girl & the fig caters provided delectable appetizers for Laura Chenel’s Chèvre’s celebration of receiving the Gold LEED certification. Always charming senior project engineer Charles Willard accepted the honor along with French manager of both Laura Chenel and Marin French Cheese and Sonoma resident Philippe Chevrollier. UC Davis has contacted Willard to advise several university departments to implement the cheese company’s conservation measures.

Bernstein’s Suite D served two pop-up dinners of southern fried chicken, with more than enough trimmings. Guests were greeted with crab cakes and sweet tea (Suite Tea for the occasion), spiced pecans, pimento cheese dip with celery slices and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Butternut squash soup arrived in tiny squashes with warm Matos St. George cheese biscuits and green tomato jam. The main course, served “family-style,” included your choice of buttermilk marinated fried chicken, crunchy crumb-topped “mac cheese,” creamy grits, perfect slow-cooked (days) brisket, collard greens topped with crisp pancetta, and tater tots, which executive chef John Toulze said were the hardest part of the meal to recreate. To my taste memory, they had perfect doses of grease and salt.

After all of that, everyone sampled the individual apple cobbler à la mode and pecan tartlets and waddled home.