Roaches close Foster Farms plant; Chef Elizabeth Falkner joins VOM winery; Beer class at CIA; Aphrodisiac menus for valentines

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill


Late breaking:

All the pounding, drilling and other intensified dentist-like noises next door to Sole Desire on Napa Street, across from Sonoma Plaza, means the storefront will morph into the long-discussed tapas and wine bar in the old Coldwell Banker DeAnza real estate office. Might take a few months to remodel.


Foster Farms bugging you?

Last Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered suspension of operations at Foster Farms’ Livingston plant, meaning shut it down. Federal inspectors found cockroaches running around the place in five visits over four months.

The polished marketing writers for CEO Ron Foster said the cleaning and sanitation of the plant was finished the same Wednesday. Then they “voluntarily” closed it again over the weekend because of more roaches.

This closure followed the threat of one three months ago when salmonella was found in chicken parts at this plant and two other Fosters Farms plants in Fresno.

USDA spokesman Adam Tarr said, “The suspension will remain in effect until the establishment provides adequate written assurances of corrective and preventive measures to assure that meat and poultry products will be produced under sanitary conditions.”

Foster said “No products are affected.”


Valley of the Moon Winery just announced that chef Elizabeth Falkner will be the winery’s spokesperson for its “2014 promotional campaign aptly titled ‘A Slice of the Sonoma Lifestyle – the Search for the Perfect Pizza.’”

A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute with a BFA in fine arts, Falkner was best and first known as a pastry chef. She created Citizen Cake and Orson restaurants in San Francisco, both of which closed in 2011. Falkner left California for New York and a new start and new life at new restaurants, including a stint at Krescendo. Currently she is executive chef at Corvo Bianco on the upper west side’s Columbus Avenue. Falkner also cooked her way up at Café Claude, Masa’s and Elka in the Miyako Hotel.

According to Valley of the Moon Winery president Dan Zepponi, Falkner is “the reigning champion of the International Pizza Competition in Milan and the first American and only female to have ever taken that throne …”

A longtime soccer player, she has also competed and judged on several Food Network and Bravo cooking contest shows.

It’s a little unclear whether she is going to create the perfect pizza or find one here in Sonoma Valley. Apparently she will share her pizza recipes.


Michael Muscardini will celebrate his first full year in Muscardini Cellars’ digs at the Red School House in Kenwood this Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy a complimentary glass of bubbly, hors d’oeuvres by Catherine Venturini of Olive & Vine, raffle prices, and artwork by Dick Morisawa. Noon to 5 p.m. 9380 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. 933-9305.


Burgers & Vine chef Carlo Cavallo won’t say exactly when the Old Creamery Corner restaurant will open, but he confided in others that he is aiming for Super Bowl weekend.


Josie and Erik Garcia of Sonoma Materials will open a new garden center at the Wedekind’s site on lower Broadway to include demonstration gardens, a nursery, a kids play area, potting station and a lecture series. Erik says, “It will be what Wedekind’s has always been, with a fresh spirit.”

By the way, Sonoma Materials’ latest contribution to the Sonoma School Garden Project was to have a member of their crew use their super duper auger to dig holes for the fruit trees given to our schools by Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR, UPS and the Arbor Day Foundation.


Jim Anderson, chief concierge at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, was just awarded a Les Clefs D’Or lapel pin, or “the keys of gold” in French, to signify outstanding “training, service delivery, community outreach and involvement.” Two other Sonoma County concierges received the coveted awards, including Eric Edenfield of Kenwood Inn and Spa and past president of the Northern California Concierge Association and Tegan Wilson of Hotel Healdsburg.


Check out the Native Sons of the Golden West’s version of surf and turf with rib eye steak and shrimp, tossed green salad, dinner rolls, cheesecake, wine, a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, and great music by BackTrax, all at Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building on Saturday, Jan. 25. All proceeds go to the Native Sons’ High School Scholarship Fund. $40. Doors open 6 p.m., dinner 7 p.m. Tickets at Eraldi’s and Town Square and Steiner’s bars.


Apologia confusium:

I need to apologize and correct something I wrote last week when I said that Peter and Marie Young will open a tasting room featuring wines of Bennett Valley Cellars.

How I went wrong: The ABC Notice in the window next to Enoteca Della Santina says applicant is Bennett Valley Vineyard (singular) & Winery. I did not find anything via Google under that name, but I did find Bennett Valley Vineyards (plural). Bennett Valley Vineyards (plural) is/are owned by Peter and Marie Young.

Bennett Valley Vineyard (singular) & Winery and Bennett Valley Cellars are owned by Luca Zanin and family, all of whom have been great supporters of the wine industry and of Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance.

Just to complicate matters further, Marie Young, acting as a real estate agent, actually facilitated the Zanins’ purchase of one of their vineyards, Simpatico Ranch.

I hope my apology makes everything simpatico.


Emily Nagan, formerly of Schellville Grill and now an independent pastry chef, just agreed with Steve Page of Sonoma Raceway to make the cakes and other goodies for raceway employees’ birthdays.


Let’s face it, executive director Kathy Witkowicki of the Mentoring Alliance wins the prize for innovative fundraising.

During the month of January, Anaba Wines will donate $2 for each bottle of wine sold at its tasting room. Owners John and Kathleen Sweazey have been strong contributors to the Mentoring Alliance since they moved to Sonoma.

Envolve Winery offers 25 percent off on their 2012 pinot noir, bringing it down to $44, and will donate $10 a bottle to the Mentoring Alliance. Envolve also will donate $150 to Mentoring for any sale of a whole case of the 2012 pinot noir.


Filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and her husband,Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will appear in conversation with former television journalist Sydnie Kohara on Monday, Feb. 3, at the Sebastiani Theatre to the kick-off of Mentoring’s new Speaker Series, which replaces their New Year’s Eve Gala fundraiser. $25 adults, $15 ages 13-18. 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets at sonomamentoring.org.


Since “it takes a lot of beer to make good wine,” The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena offers a new class for beer enthusiasts called “Grain, Water and Hops: The Basics of Beer.” The first class will be Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Greystone Campus of the CIA. Another class will be scheduled for May.

Traci Dutton, instructor and manager of CIA’s public wine and beverage studies programs says, “Just like fine wine, artisan beer is a complex beverage that can be evaluated in terms of color, aroma, mouth feel and finish.

Guests will learn how beer is made, sample several domestic and imported brews, learn the differences between ale, lager and stout, and will receive pointers on beer and food. $95. 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sign up at 800-888-7850.


As long as we are in the Napa Valley, Oscar-winning actor, singer and songwriter Jeff Bridges and his band, The Abiders, will play on Friday, Feb. 28, at the newly re-named Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater to kick off the first CabFestNV, which will be a three-day weekend featuring more than 100 Napa Valley cabernet producers (March 1 and 2).

During that festival, “The Wine Bible” author Karen MacNeil will give two presentations, and there will be tastes from boutique and corporate producers. You can attend the Jeff Bridges concert without consuming the rest of the program. Concert and CabFestNV tickets at lincolntheater.com or at the box office 944-9900.


Whether flaunting or flouting, hosts of a recent holiday party had two indoor fireplaces blazing with burning oak on a “Spare the Air Day.” The smoke was heavy and many guests went out on the deck for air.

Let’s see: flauntist, floutist and flautist.


Women for WineSense’s Napa-Sonoma Chapter, led by Sonoma resident Chris Mueller, invite everyone to “Bubbles, Brix and Buzz III,” again at Gloria Ferrer Vineyards & Caves on Thursday, Feb. 6, where the group will announce its 2014 plans and schedule.

You don’t have to be a member (yet) to attend and enjoy Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Noirs 2005 Royal Cuvée and 2008 Jose S. Ferrer Pinot Noir while hearing how sparkling wine is made, about the Ferrer family’s history, and enjoy tantalizing bites from Park Avenue Catering to accompany the bubbles.

Gloria’s glorious vice president of marketing, the energetic Eva Bertran, will be the special guest speaker.

Bertran has also served as president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance. Originally from Barcelona in the Catalan region of Spain, Bertran has a master’s degree in international management from Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas University.

Of course there will be a silent auction to benefit WWS scholarships for students enrolled in wine and viticulture studies at UC Davis, Sonoma State University, Napa Valley College and Santa Rosa Junior College. $30 members, $45 non-members, $20 students, $49 at door. Registration deadline Jan. 29. Check in 5:30 to 6 p.m., program 6 to 8:30 p.m. Register at: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/women-for-winesense-napa-sonoma-chapter-2370103396 or call Chris Mueller at 996-8740.


Aphrodisiac menus for Valentine’s Day, just in case …

Ledson Hotel’s Centre du Vin will feature its Parisian décor, roaring fireplace and aphrodisiacs prepared by executive chef Justin Bruckert. The special menu will be available Friday, Feb. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 16, with or without wine pairings.

The menu will include a fresh raw oyster with mignonette, roasted sun choke soup, panzella (bread) salad with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic vinaigrette, 8 ounce filet mignon with truffle brie potato and grilled asparagus or scallops over roasted garlic and saffron risotto and grilled asparagus, all followed by a trio of chocolate desserts. $75, $95 with wines. 480 First St. E., Sonoma. 996-6208. CentreDuVin.com.


Brilliant Sondra Bernstein will have a PopUp Valentine’s Dinner at her Suite D off Eighth Street East. She says “executive chef John Toulze and his team will lovingly prepare a multi-course tasting menu featuring some of our favorite luscious and sexy ingredients, paired with a wide variety of local bubbles.” Guests can bring their favorite wines with no extra charge, all on Friday, Feb 14.

A harpist and flautist duo will musically seduce on the Suite D Oblique Stage to accompany a seductive duck liver mousse served with Sharon Cohn’s Breathless NV Brut, trio of oysters on the half shell with Roederer Estate NV Brut, a poached egg with smoked salmon and truffles with Hugo 2012 Sparkling Rosé, asparagus and avocado salad paired with Domaine Carneros 2009 Brut, lobster mac and cheese with Gloria Ferrer 2005 Brut Royal Cuvée, sea scallops with vegetable ragout with J Vineyards NV Cuvee 20, pan seared duck breast with carrot purée with roasted chestnuts and Schramsberg 2008 Brut Rosé and a Coeur à la crème with chocolate truffles. $325 per couple. 7 p.m. Reservations at figsuited.com.


Warming the cockles of your heart: Suntory of Japan is buying all-American Jim Beam Bourbon of Kentucky, along with its Maker’s Mark, Booker’s, Knob Creek Bourbon, Laphroaig and Teacher’s Scotch, Courvoisier cognac and Canadian Club whiskey. All for just $13.6 billion, according to the New York Times.


Reminder: Last Wednesday Food Group cookbook club starts Jan. 29 at Readers’ Books.




  • Debra Friedman

    So nice to see your write up about Traci Dutton and CIA and the new wine and beer classes. Traci is amazing! You always bring the whole Wine Country into the column. Very special to hear about the entire Culinary Valley through your eyes.
    I am very proud to say that I have been working at the CIA as a Buyer. What a job! I hope you come on over and look me up-I would love to visit with you!
    Debra Friedman

  • duboce

    Just remember folks as you read these delightful blatherings, that Sonoma is really just a small country town and all this fancy stuff is just a facade. Why just yesterday I saw Ma and Pa Kettle shopping in town with their buggy tied up and saw the Walton family all lined up for ice cream cones on the plaza.
    If I read this column correctly, wine is not an alcoholic beverage but really sunshine in a bottle, a nectar from the heavens. And now we have brewing of beer, home grown of course, organic, sustainable, and renewable. How long is it going to take for our food farms to be replaced by pot farms, that is medical marijuana for the growing sickly population?