Some of us are Irish every day, and some of us are especially Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. If you are into green beer, green top hats and the occasional corned beef in various forms, March 17 is your day.
You can even stay home with your own big pot of boiling brisket, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, and, perhaps, a Guinness, and enjoy all you want with your own favorite mustards. Sonoma Market has the full American Irish meal cooked and available Saturday through next Monday in case you don’t want to cook or go out. Or you can skip the whole thing.
Getting an early start:
On Saturday, March 15, Meadowcroft Wines’ Irish chef, Darby Trarantino, will serve a multi-course lunch to include roasted beetroot and rocket salad, Ballymaloe lamb stew with Green String Farms onion and leek colcannon, Irish farmhouse cheeses, and Banoffee pie (bananas, cream and toffee), served with abundant Meadowcroft wines. Stephen O’Malley will serenade guests with Irish ballads. Tickets $35 for wine club members, $45 non-members. Noon to 3 p.m. 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. 934-4090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley hosts its St. Patrick’s Bash Saturday, March 15 at the Sonoma Moose Lodge with appetizers by Community Café and Sage Foods, a buffet slow-cooked corned beef dinner with wilted cabbage and bacon salad, baby carrots in tarragon butter sauce, “Irish Dairyman red potatoes,” cookies from Anastasia’s Bakery, drawing of raffle tickets including that annual prize of a trip to Ireland or $10,000, Los Angeles comedians (not sure what that means – bring on Paula Poundstone) and dancing. Ticket includes one drink ticket, more drinks at no-host full service bar with Irish coffee. $40 tickets from any Rotary member or call 938-4626 or the Sonoma Community Center’s ticket office at svbo.org.
It seems as if Murphy’s Irish Pub is the general downtown headquarters for St. Paddy’s, and many other days as well, for lots of locals. Starting at 11 a.m., manager Hunt Bailie and crew will serve a limited menu of corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, Shepherd’s Pie, chips (french fries), and frickles at a backroom buffet. $6 to $14.
The Sweet Penny royals start the music at 3 p.m., with the terrific Kennan School of Irish Dancers performing at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Gentleman Soldiers at 5:30 p.m. and the Jami Jamison Band at 7:30 p.m. This event will be so family-friendly that a special space will be cleared for kids to watch the Irish dancers, most aged 7 to 14. Limited seating. 464 First St. E., Sonoma. 935-0660. sonomapub.com.
Breakaway Café cracks it wide open with its annual Limerick-athon, for which you should bring your limerick to share and be judged (winner receives a $25 gift certificate). Serving a special St. Paddy’s dinner in addition to the regular menu on Monday, March 17, owner/chef Bob Rice’s special menu includes sweet pea and mint soup, corned beef and cabbage with traditional boiled vegetables and strawberry-rhubarb compote and vanilla ice cream. And you should see Rice’s “Celtic Breakaway Cowboy.” All this for $19. Cocktails and salmon cakes extra. 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma. 996-5949. No reservations.
Also on Monday, March 17, Ramekins Culinary School will offer “traditional fare with a twist” to include green cocktails, Guinness, a mashed potato station, corned beef and sauerkraut sliders, pesto (green) flatbread with shaved Parmesan, 5th Street Farms crudité station with Green Goddess dressing and Irish-inspired mini cupcakes and shamrock cookies. Kids can decorate cookies and get their faces painted, while parents indulge in a glass of wine or other. $25 adults, kids free. 5 to 8 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Tickets at ramekins.com.
Carlo Cavallo of the new Burgers & Vine and Sonoma Meritâge says that he and Cody Binkley have now named their new beer (ready by St. Paddy’s Day they say) after their pirate flag (first mentioned in this column), which has brought them priceless front page photographs and attention, and will debut their new Pirate Burger this week. According to Cavallo, the burger will include “Jamaican jerk spiced beef, Scotch bonnet peppers, ale-soaked cheddar cheese and rum demi-glace.”
He also says that he makes “adjustments between lunch and dinner based on customer feedback, server feedback and kitchen feedback after every meal, period.” Currently he is trying out a whole chicken smoked with a wine bottle up its middle containing a cup of chardonnay to steam the chicken during the cooking process. I can’t guarantee it will be available when you get there, but it sounds interesting.
“I am operating under soft opening parameters,” he told me, which means adjusting the menu constantly until he arrives at something that will make everyone happy, based on his experience and involvement in “opening 20 plus restaurants” in his career.
As a jab at Sonoma City Hall for requiring adjustments to his plans, and a controversy over his wine barrel flower boxes, Cavallo, a Napa resident, likened his new revolt and black flag, saying, “Let’s not forget our history, that on this corner of the Plaza, there was the Bear Flag Revolt! A little rebellion is a good thing!”
If you want to try an event this weekend that is not Irish, join in Jazz at Jacuzzi to benefit WillMar Family Grief and Healing Center on Saturday, March 15, and sample Jacuzzi, Gloria Ferrer and Benziger wineries’ best. Doug McConnell of “Bay Area Backroads” will emcee.
This year’s gala will feature a reception in Jacuzzi’s “Grand Piazza” with Gary Edwards’ Carneros Cave cheeses, appetizers by Petaluma’s Water Street Bistro, and a silent auction with many collector wines.
The Dorian Mode Quartet will play jazz and a New Orleans gumbo dinner will be served in the barrel room. $175. More info and tickets at willmarcenter.org or 935-1946.
Restaurant Rudy on Broadway appears to have closed, not having been open for a couple of weeks, with no posting in the window. No one responded to my phone or email messages, and neighbors say they think chef and co-owner Rudy Mihal is catering out of the former Little Switzerland. The phone message is old, saying they are open Tuesday through Sunday, which has not been the case for a while. Apparently Mihal and his mother are trying to sell the business.
At Sunday’s fundraiser to help Judy Baker with her cancer treatment expenses, Jeni Nichols won first prize with her chocolate pecan pie, after which her husband, Byron Nichols, bought a chocolate chip pie and Irish soda cake during the pie auction. The other top pie auction bidder was Manuel Merjil.
Elaine O’Malley’s classic apple pie came in second (fabulous crust), while Jane Joost’s gluten-free pear and rum pie got third. Tina Hinkley, Mark Curtis and I served as judges, tasting lots of pie.
The reason Baker needs to raise funds is that she did not have health insurance when she was diagnosed with cancer and incurred initial treatment expenses of about $10,000. She signed up with Covered California as part of the Affordable Health Care Act, which would not allow insurers to discriminate against her because of a “pre-existing condition,” and now Baker has insurance. Again, only in the United States, among industrialized countries, do we have to sell fall-off-the-bone ribs, gumbo, rice, beans and pies to pay for our health care.
If the Bakers hold another fundraiser, the food is terrific and available for whatever donation you wish to make. To make a donation, contact Judy’s husband, Garry Baker at 938-8844.
This weekend also brings “Savor Sonoma Valley,” a seasonal promotion by the Heart of Sonoma Valley Winery Association, that represents wineries in Glen Ellen and Kenwood. During the event, you get to taste samples from barrels, meet winemakers and taste good food at 26 wineries.
Many wineries offer nibbles, including Chateau St. Jean’s oysters, Charles chocolates and The Farmer’s Wife’s grilled sandwiches; En Garde wines’ chocolate and bacon tidbits; the new Palooza restaurant’s chardonnay and pinot hot dogs; Mamma Tanino’s Italian food at Little Vineyards; great tastes from Catherine Venturini’s Olive & Vine at Loxton Cellars; Chef Clayton Lewis’ bites at Mayo; mushroom polenta and meatloaf at Pangloss Cellars; Palooza’s pizzas at Paradise Ridge; Valley of the Moon’s own brick oven pizzas; and Maria Belmonte’s pasta and gelato at VJB Cellars, with 1 p.m. performances by Sonoma’s Three Tenors. Kenwood Education Foundation will sell winemaker-signed posters to fund special programs and the HOSV association will donate to Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Weekend pass $65, designated driver $20; Sunday only $50, or $10 for designated driver. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets at 431-1137 or heartofsonomavalley.com.
Sheana Davis’ February Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference was a huge success, as are her specialty dinners at her Epicurean Connection.
Most of the fascinating seminars were open only to professionals who paid to attend, but the Sunday tasting at Ramekins Culinary School was well attended. Guests got to sample lots of cheeses, wines and beer, as well as some excellent macaroni ‘n’ cheese concoctions entered in the mac ‘n’ cheese contest. Just before the judges ventured out to sample, Davis instructed us to judge on “fun,” meaning how much fun the chef is having, how fun the presentation is and how much fun the serving is.
On this basis, Doug McFarland of Ramekins placed first, serving his dish in a paper cone and topped with fried parsley and pumpkin seeds. Kendall-Jackson won second and Kenwood Restaurant came in third with a mac ‘n’ cheese made with four Vella cheeses and Wise Acre Farm eggs. Andrew Cain, of Santé and 38 North, did not place with his rich and divine adult mac ‘n’ cheese with lobster and black truffles, partly because it is on his regular menu.
Sonoma GayDar is planning a huge party at the new Graton Casino in Rohnert Park on Sunday, March 23. Members and guests can arrive at 2 p.m., play around so to speak, and show up for the Meet and Greet at 5 p.m. in Sky, the casino’s central bar.
Organizers “encourage everyone to ‘go all in,’ meaning come early, stay late and, in the spirit of Gay Days, wear red to make the group’s presence more visible.” Make your own reservations for lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants. Check them out at gratonresortcasino.com. 2 p.m. on. 288 Golf Course Drive West, Rohnert Park. More info at email@example.com.
Chef Keith Filipello returns to favorite meals with Wild Thyme’s next Dining Club Rive Gauche on Thursday, March 27, at FAHA’s Heritage Hall. Enjoy one of his always-interesting appetizer salads, spring greens lasagna, capers and cod with potato and pumpkin croquettes, and ricotta cheesecake. Sheri Mignano and Michael Van Why will perform Italian songs to add to the ambiance. $35 or 30 euro. 7 p.m. BYOW, no corkage. Reserve at 996-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nibs & Sips:
A Chocolate Discovery Center just opened at St. Helena’s Culinary Institute of America, a combined effort of the cooking school and Ghirardelli Chocolate. Even the ribbon cutting was done with chocolate scissors. Students learn the science of chocolate and how quality chocolate can be used in baking, pastry, culinary and beverage settings. The new center also welcomes professionals who want to perfect confectionery and chocolate making and sculpturing skills. Culinary.edu … And to top it off, Slim Chillers sells Skinny Freezer frozen vodka martinis. Yes, vodka martini popsicles at 100 calories. They even come as Appletini and Lemon Drops to lick or thaw.