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Sonoma’s July 4th eighth best in country; rumor department; Gordon Ramsey calls it quits; Topsy’s Kitchen

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill

By

Travel + Leisure magazine’s June issue named the top Fourth of July celebrations in the United States. Sonoma’s came in as number eight. The short paragraph description reads, “This wine country town also made the top 10 for town squares, and its adobe-lined plaza is where you’ll find Sonoma’s 4th of July parade with marching bands – followed by a carnival and topped off with fireworks.” It then recommends Charles Creek and Adobe Road tasting rooms and Sunflower Caffé.

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So if you make it through the crowds July 4, enjoy the foods served in the Plaza as fundraisers for local nonprofits. Rotary Club will grill hot dogs and turkey legs on its new “The Howie” grill, named for the late super volunteer Howie Ehret; Girl Scouts will serve rootbeer floats; Sonoma Music Works will prepare shaved ice snow cones; St. Andrew Presbyterian Church will have hamburgers and ice cream sandwiches; Sonoma Volunteer Firefighter’s Association will grill tri-tip for sandwiches; Native Sons of the Golden West will pour iced coffee and fruit smoothies; and a booth will sell cotton candy, caramel corn, pink popcorn and old-style candies and treats.

Sonoma Community Center event manager Mary Catherine Cutcliffe suggests we “follow the backpackers’ motto of packing out what they pack in and leave no trace on our historic Plaza.”

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Good news from Sonoma Market:

Judy Serres’ Serres Ranch blueberries are in Sonoma Market and Glen Ellen Village Market from their farm in Laytonville. The best anywhere.

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On the subject of disappearing food, specialty cake baker Amazing Grace Amari dropped off two very similar boxes of Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate bars in squares. The older box contains 8 oz. of chocolate, and the new box only contains 4 oz., at the same price. The older box contains 8 individually wrapped, 1 oz. squares, while the new one has a “4 oz. Easy Break Bar.”

Amari added more culinary pricing wisdom: “I would rather that these companies just change the price so I can use my recipes without recalculating. The one-pound can of coffee is now 12 ounces, the five-pound (bag) of sugar is now four pounds. I have to buy two ice cream containers to make my ice cream pies, when a half-gallon used to be perfect.” To talk to Grace Amari about cakes, call her at 331-2277.

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Paula Dean Ventures hopes to resurrect her stardom after the Food Network dumped her show following her admission of using racist words. Her series of 90-minute, live cooking stage shows will kick off Monday, July 21 in Pigeon Forge, in the Smokey Mountains of east Tennessee. She knows her crowd.

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Sonoma Raceway/NASCAR trivia: Miki Sudo won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, downing 40, including buns. She beat all the men, while Juan Rodriguez came in second (as top male) by eating 26 dogs. Both Sudo and Rodriguez advance to the big contest at Coney Island on Friday, July 4. The champagne goblets from which NASCAR winners sipped bubbly and toasted the fans were made by local glass blower Alex Leader of Leaderglass.

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Many food folks gave to the very emotional farewell to revered winemaker Bob Sessions at his recent memorial. The Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building housed tons of winemakers, local folks, and friends of his, his late first wife, Molly, their children, Sarah and Ben, and his devoted widow, Jean Arnold Sessions.

Wild Thyme prepared sausages in mustard and pepper sauces with focaccia, Ramekins did flatbreads with hummus and tapenades, The Epicurean Connection assembled an excellent artisan cheese table, and The French Laundry and Epicurean Connection gathered desserts. Wines were donated by loads of wineries and guests, including Gundlach Bundschu, Swanson, Mayacamas, Hanzell, Merry Edwards and many more.

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Check the source of the shrimp you buy, and consider whether the shrimpers are actually slaves working for Thailand’s $7 billion seafood export business, as recommended in a recent New York Times editorial. Apparently thousands of workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand are forced to fish throughout Southeast Asia under horrible, human-trafficking conditions.

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Following the closing of Sonoma Meritâge, several chefs have looked at and talked about the space. The biggest rumor is that Ed Metcalfe will move his Shiso Sushi into the location. Not true, said Metcalfe by phone. He did say that he had considered partnering with a Japanese sushi chef and looked at the site, but that they decided not to work together. Metcalfe said there might be a remote possibility that the Japanese chef could go ahead, but he (Ed) didn’t know of any such plans.

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And what is G’s Modern General Store, going into the former Plaza Liquors building? Google shows it to be a chain of home décor shops, slightly repetitive in inventory and name to Craig Miller’s Harvest and Fat Pilgrim.

Has anyone else noticed that both front windows are tilting into the building? And this after Historic Plaza Liquors was told by landlord Chase Bank that they had to get out so the building could be sold.

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Hamel Family Wines has officially opened its state-of-the-art facility and tasting room to the public just east of the intersection of Madrone Road and Highway 12, where all of the construction is going on. They broke the place in with a heavy duty wedding two weeks ago of Catherine and Max Coturri, catered by Catherine Venturini, chef and owner of Olive & Vine in Glen Ellen’s Jack London Village.

Phil Coturri, father of the groom, serves as Hamel’s viticulture consultant, while John B. Hamel II serves as winemaker, George III as managing director, and Casey O. Hamel helps all of it happen in this truly family operation led by parents Pam and George Hamel.

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Sonoman Elaine Bell did a fabulous job of catering dinner for several hundred people for the Speedway Children’s Champions dinner at Cline Cellars’ barrel room Friday evening. I sat at the farthest corner table from the “kitchen” and the pork tenderloin and prawns with rootbeer sauce, turnip puree, Brussels sprouts and baby carrots and parsnips were all warm and interesting.Members of Rotary and Boys & Girls Club staff and board poured wines from Cline, Highway 12, Jacuzzi, Viansa, Larson, Morris Distributing, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Foyt and Richard Childress. The last of their NASCAR camping group, Marcy Smothers and John Lasseter, pitched an elegant “tent” and stayed the duration of the race, while John’s wife, Nancy, lucked out and dropped in via Barbara Banke’s helicopter.

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While Sonoma Raceway was already serving veggies from the on-site garden last weekend, AT&T Park just announced that they hope to serve kale, kumquats and avocados from their six planter boxes. Here, we have that many planters and added a new in-ground farm this year, much planted by the raceway’s chef. Avocados in San Francisco?

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Attention beef aficionados:

Sondra Bernstein’s Suite D will host a “Meet and Meat” tasting and educational evening on Thursday, July 17, brought to Suite D by the Twisted Horn Ranch and The Artisan Beef Institute. Guests will learn about beef producers, beef raised with different feeding programs, different cuts of beef and about local producers, known as “Grass Whisperers.” Guests will feast on beef from four local grass-fed, grass-finished producers of different breeds, with a multi-course, farm-centric, plated and family style meal of grilled peach salad, wood-fire roasted whole chickens and twisted Horn Ranch Longhorn beef, roasted Butterball potatoes, skillet-blistered Padron peppers, grilled thick-cut garden vegetables, sliced heirloom tomatoes with Balsamic drizzle, assorted miniature desserts and a gelato cart.

Beef producers include Kelly Condren and Cindy Pacette of Sonoma Natural Beef, Steven Kopp of Silver Springs Ranch and Alhambra Valley Farms, David and Kristine Beck of Twisted Horn and Guido Frosini of True Grass Farms in Valley Ford. $88 includes service, tax and wine. 6 p.m. arrive, 6:30 p..m. guided beef tasting, comparative analysis, questions and answers. 7:30 Dinner time. RSVP at figsuited.com, event page.

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Out of Towner: Topsy’s Kitchen

Petaluma has several good restaurants, most of which are more reasonably priced than Sonoma’s. One of the standouts is one of the newest: Topsy’s Kitchen on Kentucky Street.

Co-owner and Petaluma native Estelle “Topsy” Rand was a partner in Central Market with Tony Najiola for 10 years and a year ago joined with chef Annie Simmons, who treats food with a gentle touch, to open Topsy’s. Simmons has cooked around the world and graduated with honors from the New England Culinary Institute. Her classes at Ramekins are among my favorites because she explains everything in an easy-to-understand way, without any mystery.

Diners can order breakfast or lunch until mid-afternoon, while many customers are looking forward to their opening soon for dinner. Topsy’s offers plenty of choices for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Among the outstanding selections are the beignets with jam, apple fritters, organic eggs with crispy potato pancake and buttermilk biscuit, a roasted veggie scramble, chicken and waffles, tartines (open faced), buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and breakfast bowls, excellent salads and Simmons’ special fried chicken, either regular or spicy ($5 to $13). Save room for Simmons’ heaving chocolate chip cookie, a meal in itself. All this plus white linen tablecloths and outdoor café seating. Run, don’t walk. Reserve or order to go at 773-4743.

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Enjoy!

 

  • Ren Faiz

    That goofy clown picture, with the hat, the red boa, and the glasses and fake nose, says that you cannot be taken seriously.

  • Greg

    Gordon Ramsey calls it quits… huh? where is there any reference to that in the article?

  • Jack Shmollie

    Just don’t call her late for a free dinner .