Three restaurants and “Haunted House” sold; Robert Irvine coming; Curtis Dorsett leaves Sunflower Caffé; Feast of the Olive dinner; Non-GMO Cheerios?

Kathleen Hill


Late breaking:

Hear Food Network star Robert Irvine at 10 o’clock this morning on KSVY-91.3 FM or ksvy.org for my interview of him on “The Kathleen Hill Show.”

Host of “Restaurant Impossible” and “Dinner Impossible,” Irvine turns around bleeding restaurants and heals lives in the process. He is also a nutrition and fitness expert, who appeared recently at the Mr. Olympia convention in Las Vegas.

Irvine brings his multi-media, multi-sensory culinary experience to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa on Friday, Jan 17, at 8 p.m. It’s a family show and children are welcome to the culinary series sponsored by Bellwether Farms.

Tickets and information for all Bellwether Farms Culinary Series shows are available through Wells Fargo Center for the Arts by calling 546-3600, at wellsfargocenterarts.org, or in person at the ticket office at 50 Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa (noon to 6 p.m.). Robert Irvine tickets are $55 and $40. VIP tickets are sold out.


Velveeta shortage?

Or is the claim a brilliant marketing ploy by Kraft foods two weeks before football’s Super Bowl, the ultimate dipping event of the television year?


Vineberg Deli, Doce Lunas and Hot Shots coffee café have all been sold.

After years on her feet making sandwiches and serving others, Christine Valente has sold Vineburg Deli at the corner of Napa Road and Eighth Street East to John and Michael Khoury, who grew up in Rohnert Park.

Hoping to open on Monday, Jan. 13, the Khourys have done some painting to “update” the decades-old stopping place for on-the-run good food. They will keep the name but “change the signs.” I wonder why.

While John Khoury seems to be the spokesperson, he says quieter brother Michael, a Sonoma State graduate, will actually own and run the place. John owns Economy Market on Imola Avenue across from Napa State Hospital, and Taqueria Zapata within his market, although the brothers have no Latino blood. That doesn’t mean their burritos aren’t good.

They promised to continue the barbecue segment at Vineberg Deli with Niman Ranch burgers and make “burritos with chicken and steak right off the grill.” Expect Taylor Made coffee and tea and Columbus salami and meats. They also plan a produce stand. When I asked how local the produce would be they obviously weren’t sure, so I recommended they contact Paul Wirtz at Paul’s Produce who, with wife Candi Edmonson, closed down their Arnold Drive stand for the winter more than a month ago. We look forward to trying the “new” Vineberg Deli.

Christine’s and Sylvia Bernard’s mother, Lenore Gordenker, still owns the corner property.


Alex and Jackie Purroy have sold their popular Doce Luna restaurant in Kenwood Shopping Center to Jeff and Suzette Tyler, owners of the Chicago Style Hot Dog food cart seen at private events and at Food Truck Fridays at Sebastiani Winery.

The Purroys were early culinary fusionists who blended American, French and Hawaiian cuisines, culminating with a sticky toffee bread pudding. Not sure which cultures that blends, but Kenwoodians loved it.

The Tylers’ new restaurant, rumored to be called Palooza, will feature ribs and burgers. Their food truck Chicago dog includes a (slightly fatty) “Vienna Brand all-beef hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun with tomatoes, yellow mustard, peppers, onions, celery salt, a pickle spear, and neon green relish.” It sounds a lot like what Tom Jenkins was serving as the hot dog of the week at Sonoma’s Best. The celery salt was the tip-off.


Hot Shots will become an outpost of northwest drive-thru coffee chain Dutch Bros. Coffee.

Dairy farming brothers Dane and Travis Boersma founded Dutch Bros. in southern Oregon in 1992 with one espresso pushcart in Grants Pass, and now claim to have the country’s largest privately held drive-thru coffee company, although many of its outlets are franchises. The company boasts, with evidence, that it gives $1 million a year to local youth organizations, including lots of Boys & Girls Clubs and food banks.

Among their company-wide specialties you will find innovative flavored coffee drinks, all available hot, iced or blended, or sugar free, dairy-free or non-fat, fruit smoothies, “Blue Rebel” energy drinks, infused teas and Italian sodas, and not-so-hot cocoa, steamers, cider or apple juice and mini-smoothies for kids.


Meanwhile, Bill Jasper has sold the “Haunted House” at Fourth Street East and Brazil Street to Arthur and Margaret Grandy. According to Jasper, the Grandys have lived abroad for more than 40 years, most recently in London, while he was active in banking. They just might be moving in today.

Jasper invested heavily in the restoration and expansion of the decades-old house, and found scads of bees and other creatures inside when he first acquired the property. Generations of children might now miss the rumors about the old “haunted house.” Hopefully its new occupants understand their responsibility. Just kidding.


Widely admired, and quietly nice, executive chef Curtis Dorsett has left Sunflower Caffé on First Street East. We have known Dorsett during decades of his fun cuisine, including when he owned Peterberry’s, first in the Victorian that most recently housed Rin’s Thai and the future home of Stone Edge Farm’s Edge, and then across Napa Street where Café LaHaye now reigns supreme. Jerry and I loved Dorsett’s airplane mobiles.

Dorsett is not retiring. After a breath or two he is eager to cook again in his always-innovative way, in case you might know of the perfect culinary match.

Interestingly, both the Sunflower and Schellville Grill were featured on Santa Rosa resident Guy Fieri’s Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and I happened to have been present for both tapings.

Both restaurants get inundated with new customers every time re-runs of their segments air. Both have raised prices, and both have lost key people who helped put their places on the map, including Emily Nagan, sister of owner/chef Matthew Nagan of Schellville Grill. She made all the desserts and waited tables with cheer. And now Dorsett leaves the Sunflower and the attractive menu he created.


Another Plaza tasting room:

Bennett Valley Cellars, now owned by Peter and Marie Young, will soon open its tasting room on East Napa Street next door to Enoteca Della Santina. According to her website, Marie Young arrived in Truckee from Sweden to be an au pair and eventually got into real estate, now specializing in vineyard and rural properties.


Chefs from Hot Box Grill, Glen Ellen Star, Café LaHaye, Santé, EDK, Olive & Vine, the girl & the fig, Ramekins, Carneros Bistro, Epicurean Connection, Sonoma Meritâge, Crisp Bakeshop, Saddles, and the Depot Hotel will combine efforts to cook the annual “Feast of the Olive” dinner Saturday, Jan. 25, at Ramekins Culinary School.

Gary Saperstein and Joel Riddell, of “Dining Around,” will emcee. $150. A few tickets available at 996-1090 or olivefestival.com.


Farmer Rachel Kohn Obut offers Sweetwater Spectrum Farm veggie boxes on Tuesdays. Get on her list, she will email you Fridays, and send in your order/claim for a box to be picked up Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Lots of winter veggies for $20 a box. To sign up and get the address, email  Rachel@sweetwaterspectrum.org or call her at 494-9210.


Every year Heidi Insalata Krahling’s Insalata’s restaurant in San Anselmo issues a fun women winemakers’ calendar, with a monthly evening featuring the winemaker and her wines. The winemaker makes a one-night appearance, and then her wines are featured during the whole month. Guests order from Insalata’s regular Mediterranean menu. Diners who visit Insalata’s Tuesday through Thursday can select a three-course prix fixe menu that includes two half-glasses of the featured winemaker’s wine.

The 2014 series kicks off with local “Calendar Girl” Amelia Ceja. She is always entertaining and you can enjoy her and her wine at Insalata’s on Thursday, Jan. 16.

The rest of the schedule includes Marimar Torres, of Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery, in February; Milla Handley, of Handley Cellars, in March; Kirsty Harmon, of Blenheim Vineyards, in April; Jennifer Marion, of Sonoma’s Anaba Winery, in May; Susan Pey, of Pey-Marin Wines, in June; Denise Shurtleff, of Cambria Estate Wines, in July; Heidi Maul, of Cannonball, in August; Nicole Abiouness, of Abiouness Winery, in September; Allison Green-Doran, of Siempre Vive, in October; Chrissy Wittmann, of Wild Horse Winery & Vineyard, in November; and Kristy Melton, of Clos Du Val, in December. 120 Sir Frances Drake Blvd., San Anselmo. Call (415) 457-7700 for reservations and specific dates.

According to manager Beth Casey, “Mrs. Patmore” (Lesley Nicol) dined at Insalata’s following “Downton Abbey’s” season four debut Sunday. She and her husband, Da’aboth Te’He’ling, enjoyed the mustard-glazed grilled pork chop and triple-layer chocolate torte.


Cha Chas (Children’s Home Auxiliary) held its holiday party across Pythian Road from the Children’s Center and Juvenile Hall at St. Francis Winery. The winery’s executive chef, David Bush, had just enjoyed the winery’s new rating as America’s #1 Restaurant by OpenTable.com readers.

Actually, St. Francis neither has a “restaurant” nor a permit for one. You have to make an advance reservation for a few or several people to enjoy the wine pairings and small plates.

We started with appetizers of saucy braised bacon, shrimp and cheese grits on toothpicks and interesting kale falafel in the tasting room. Once seated for dinner, we enjoyed a divine cauliflower custard topped with caviar, followed by a shaved fennel, persimmon and arugula salad with avocado, tangerine pieces and fried cashews.

A small plate of mushroom and ricotta agnolotti with seared mushrooms and mâche came next. The entrée was a small grilled filet of salmon on a dungeness crab “hash,” bites of fingerling potatoes, mixed pepper and onions and a dollop of Béarnaise sauce. The poached pear and cranberry upside down cake made you eat it, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and Cointreau sauce. All with St. Francis wines.


Local national history:

“Hap Arnold, the General Who Invented the U.S. Air Force” has just come out, written by Bill Yenne. Watch for a publication party in early February at the Swiss Hotel, where Hap Arnold’s 5-star hat still hangs in the bar of his favorite local restaurant.

In the meantime, interested persons can attend a book event at the Pacific Air Museum in Santa Rosa at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, where old Arnold family friend, Christina Olds, is executive director. Readers’ Books carries the new book.


“The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement,” a newish book by Adam D. Shprintzen, chronicles the vegetarian movements from the Civil War through “Bible Christians to Grahamites, the American Vegetarian Society to the Battle Creek Sanitarium,” founded by the Kellogg brothers. Check it out.

It could be one of the Last Wednesday Food Group’s books to read. Join us at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 at Readers’ Books, 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma.


General Mills’ press release last week said that “General Mills, Inc. has started producing Cheerios free of genetically modified content, making the 73-year-old breakfast cereal one of the highest-profile brands to change in the face of growing complaints over such ingredients from activist groups and some consumers,” affecting only original Cheerios and not other flavors.

Then the company claimed that oats is generally not genetically modified anyway, and they use non-GMO corn for filler and non-GMO sugar and always have. So, nothing new.


Bon appétit!