Starbucks redux? Valley of the Moon Winery 150; Ramen Burgers vs. cronuts; Max retires Kenwood Restaurant; Google Kit Kats; Fashion in the Vineyards times two

Max Schacher served his last meal at Kenwood Restaurant (pictured) Saturday to a packed house of Kenwoodites, Kenwoodians, Kenwooders and Kenwoodies (?) and just plain fans of his cooking. (Photo by Kent Porter/The Dress Democrat)

Max Schacher served his last meal at Kenwood Restaurant (pictured) Saturday to a packed house of Kenwoodites, Kenwoodians, Kenwooders and Kenwoodies (?) and just plain fans of his cooking. (Photo by Kent Porter/The Dress Democrat)

Kathleen Hill


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Rumor department:

Since Blockbuster video is moving out, primarily due to Blockbuster closing outlets throughout the country thanks to Netflix, rumors abound that Starbucks is eyeing the location. It would be a big café, for sure, with parking already a problem in what is known as the Sonoma Market parking lot. It does fit Starbucks’ sign exposure requirement.

And no Trader Joe’s. Sonoma Market already fills the grocery category as lead tenant of the shopping center and offers a Peet’s Coffee and Tea kiosk. As of my deadline, Sonoma’s planning department had neither heard of this possibility nor received any applications.


Valley of the Moon Winery celebrates 150 years and several owners Saturday, Sept. 14, and welcomes the world to join in the newest version. I remember when the Parduccis owned it and we used to get deals on four-gallon cases of red, the same red wine that showed up in unmarked bottles at North Beach family-style Italian restaurants. 5 p.m. 777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen.


Sheana Davis holds one of her monthly farmer dinners Wednesday, Sept. 18, at her Epicurean Connection featuring Christopher Landercasper, aka Farmer Landy, grower for Gott’s Roadside and Little Paradise Farms. Enjoy tartine of basil pesto with Delice de la Vallee, skillet padron peppers with Jenner sea salt, heirloom tomato salad, summer squash pasta with Le Trois de Fromage cream and Crème de Fromage cheesecake with figs and honey. $40. 6 to 8 p.m. RSVP to 935-7960 or Sheana@vom.com.


Ramen burgers? Are they the new cronut?

You ask, “What’s a cronut?” It’s a now-patented combination of a croissant and a donut that combine to make the latest food rage. That is until the ramen burger came along.

When and where the ramen burger came forth is in dispute, of course. Los Angeles native Keizo Shimamoto recently started to sell ramen burgers to long lines of fad-hungry New Yorkers at the Brooklyn flea market, almost simultaneously with San Francisco restaurant Nombe owner-chef Mari Takahashi’s serving her ramen burger experiment to sell ramen noodles in hot weather. On her behalf, Gil Payne made it all the way to ABC’s “Good Morning America” last Sunday with Nombe’s claim to be first.

Apparently Shimamoto’s buns, ramen ones that is, are somewhat pliable, while Takahashi’s are deep fried, crunchy and, presumably, crumbly. Both contain a beef patty with arugula and chopped green onions, with ramen noodles forming the burger’s “bun,” which basically falls apart on both coasts.


Skip the ramen burger and check out the Red Grape’s half-pound Thayer Burger II, now served in a fabulous Costeaux bakery brioche bun. This great one is served with rosemary potato wedges or their special cole slaw, which actually includes little bits of ramen noodles. It’s big enough for two or to take home for a second meal.

Before Elaine Corn’s “interview” of me last Saturday afternoon at Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, I hosted Corn, Pat and Russ Johnson and former San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner Travel Editor Georgia Hesse to extend Hesse’s big birthday since I missed her official celebration at Atherton’s Menlo Circus Club a couple of weeks ago.

At the Red Grape, three of us ordered the burger, with food writer and Capital Public Radio host Corn insisting on hers being cooked “on the rare side of medium rare.” We were all crossing our fingers on how it came out of the kitchen. When our server inquired, Corn said, “Wow! I don’t have to send it back. This is fabulous, perfect.” Incidentally, her husband, who is Chinese-American and a sixth-generation chef and restaurateur, is also Conrad Hilton’s personal chef on an island Hilton owns near Sacramento.

The Red Grape has also added baby back ribs and grilled salmon to its menu during September. 529 First St. W., Sonoma. 996-4103.


Max Schacher served his last meal at Kenwood Restaurant Saturday to a packed house of Kenwoodites, Kenwoodians, Kenwooders and Kenwoodies (?) and just plain fans of his cooking.

By the time Marchelle and Curt Carleton got there, the liver and onions were sold out. Who else serves that except your grandmother? That’s why everyone ordered it, including me.

Dining with the Carletons were Joan Dinner, Bob Jarvis and Cheryl Widdis, Marcy Smothers, Barbara Adams, Tom and Julie Atwood, Debra Devencenzi, Denise Nelson, Missy Kirchner and Nigel Hall.

As Marchelle said, it was a “very melancholy night with lots of emotions. When Max came out at the end the entire restaurant stood to applaud him. No one wanted to leave.”

Server John Wagner, who has worked at Kenwood for 26 years, danced on the bar. He and Sherry hope to continue with new owner, Bob Foss, a founder of Netscape and a co-owner of Fish Restaurant in Sausalito. Max and wife, Susan, will indulge in a vacation, hopefully where someone will cook for and serve them.


Google will name its 4.4 Android system after Kit Kat crisp wafers, showing the power of selling anything by attaching a food theme. Does Google take votes among workers to decide these names? People seem to love Kit Kats, and Sonoma Market sells an English version with dark chocolate. My thinking is that we feel less guilty munching into a chocolate covered crispy wafer rather than a straight through sugar bar.


Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley will hold two Fashion in the Vineyards events this year on Saturday evening, Oct. 5, and Sunday afternoon, Oct. 6. The Saturday show will be at Nicholson Ranch Winery with heavy appetizers by Lombardi’s such as a raw oyster and prawn bar, smoked pulled pork sliders, grilled vegetable skewers, flat breads and more, with local band Loosely Covered (titled for the occasion?) playing after the show.

Kelly Cleaver, Carole Sebastiani, Dolores DeAlba, Sarah Duran, Renata Virk, Dana Freudenberger, Stacie Elkhoury, Lisa Carlsson, Holly Kyle, Julie Atwood, Valerie Pistole Walter, Susan Lowe, Ginny Krieger, Deborah Emery, Jessica Farrington, Tina Metelmann, Cheyenne Turner, Laurie Nigliazzo, Cynthia Lema, Vanessa Rognlien, Amy Dougherty and Kandice Davis will model clothes from Helen Lyall, Scott Lyall, Nomad Chic, Sonoma Old School Skate and Surf and Half Pint on the female side.

Male models at both shows will include Sal Chavez, Jeff Christian, Dan Casabonne, Curt Carleton, Paulino Duran, E.A. Morgan, Marcelo Defreitas and Scott DeMartini. $175. 5:30 p.m. Tickets at 938-8544, ext. 106, or bgcsonoma.org.

The Sunday afternoon show will be at Gundlach Bundschu Winery with lunch by the Gott’s Roadside food truck and dance music by ’80s cover band Pop Rocks. Athleta will provide a peek at their new women’s athletic line, while local designer Lorna Goode will show her English equestrian apparel for women, along with Perle, Nomad Chic, the Loop, Studio 635, Sonoma Old School and Sister’s Consignment. $100. Noon to 4 p.m. Tickets at 938-8544, ext. 106, or bgcsonoma.org.


Plan ahead:

The Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs of Napa and Sonoma and the Société Mondiale du Vin will hold its next dinner, featuring the cuisine of India, at the San Francisco Financial District Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Oct. 12. Chef Steven Parker will create a first course of Tandoori chicken naan pizza, followed by a lentil dumping, a Pav Bhaji vegetable stew with pillowy bread, salt and pepper crab, curry spiced lamb sirloin and coconut crusted sea bass with chickpea mashed potatoes, and sweet rice pudding with an Indian doughnut.

All that plus a sparkling wine reception with passed hors d’oeuvre, fortune teller, magician, belly dancer and music. Dinner $195. Hotel room $225 including parking. For rooms email johnclove@att.net. Send dinner checks to Frank Espina, 19484 Riverside Drive, Sonoma 95476 before Wednesday, Sept. 25.


The Ceja family’s new Carneros Brewing Company will host an Oktoberfest Bier Garten and Marktplatz  on Sunday, Oct. 15, to benefit Sonoma Valley Teen Services, an excellent cause. Enjoy live music by BackTrax and SVTS Teens, a no-host bar, wine and hand-crafted beer, silent auction and “gourmet food vendors.” $25 includes 2 drink tickets. Noon to 4 p.m. 2475 Fremont Drive, Sonoma. 938-1880. Tickets at 939-1452 or carnerosbrews.com.


The Beltane Ranch Family and winemaker Kevin Holt will celebrate the release of its first ever Estate Zinfandel with a kick-up-your-heels Zinfandel Release Party Dinner and Barn Dance on Saturday, Oct. 19, with a ranch-to-table dinner by Beltane chef Greg Markey, along with a live performance by and dancing to western swing band the Saddle Cats.

This is a do-not-miss event featuring a six-generation tradition of sustainable agriculture. Dinner will include the Beltane’s grass-fed beef (available only at the Breakaway Café and Sonoma Market), estate olive oil and organic heirloom produce served under the shade of the ancient native oaks and the 1892 ranch house.

A rare treat, this will sell out fast. $75 or $55 for wine club members. Only 50 places available. A few rooms available at bed and breakfast. Reserve at 996-1103 or email Lauren@beltaneranch.com.


Elizabeth Hamon’s company, Hand Made Events, will launch a French pop-up dinner picnic party in the Wine Country (that’s us) on Saturday, Oct. 19, at a location to be announced just before it all starts. For the Sonoma pop-up, the girl and the fig will provide a catered dinner basket ($80 for two) if guests prefer not to cook with “a portion of our proceeds to the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance.” I always wonder what “a portion” means.

Hamon calls the whole event “Evening in White,” with tickets at $35 to attend. Menus to come next week. Tickets at popup.winecountry@gmail.com or at eventbrite.com.


Radio news:

Bruno Tison, executive chef at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, will be my guest on KSVY today at 10 a.m. when I will, theoretically, start to train him to host his own show.

Catch me Saturday as a guest on John Ash’s show on KSRO at 11 a.m.