Elaine Bell turns 40, new chef at Reel & Brand, Sunday Suppers

Pomme Cider Shop is working on opening where many Sonomans used to frequent Top That Yogurt at 531 Broadway.

Owners Rick Tranchina and Jessica Olson-Ealy are waiting for their beer and wine license to be approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and then their subsequent posting of their application since the business will basically be a hard cider tasting bar and retail cider and food establishment.

Watch for ciders from Sonoma County as well as from France and Spain and other French sparkling wines (maybe even real Champagne) and rosé wines, some sandwiches and charcuterie.

It still baffles me that they will be able to seat customers, as is Bump Cellars, but in between the two storefronts, chefs Sarah Pinkin and Elizabeth Payne were not allowed to let people sit down in their Frenchie deli and import shop. Our kids used to love the sandwiches made by the last owners of Shone’s in that location and sitting at picnic tables to consume them. Different rules for different folks?

By the way, “pomme” means apple in French, whereas “pomme de terre” means potato. I guess potato cider would be vodka.

Pomme hopes to open in January. 531 Broadway, Sonoma.

Margaret Hatcher created a special living artwork to celebrate the annual Lighting of the Plaza, which can be seen at Pets Lifeline’s Miracle on 8th Street. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Margaret Hatcher created a special living artwork to celebrate the annual Lighting of the Plaza, which can be seen at Pets Lifeline’s Miracle on 8th Street. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Fun updates to Pets Lifeline benefit

In addition to some luscious pre-dinner appetizers, Pets Lifeline has added some sparkles to their Miracle on 8th Street fundraising dinner by girl & the fig caters on Friday, Dec. 10, guaranteed to make you wake up and giggle.

The three ladies in LED costumes that lit up the Plaza Lighting last Saturday will be there, as well as a Partridge in a Pear Tree and a “walking very elegant and beautiful Christmas tree,” according to Mary Catherine Cutcliffe, well known for behind the scenes event organizing.

And if you have ever been to Sonoma Community Center’s Trashion Fashion Show, or even if you haven’t, you can safely expect some super costumes on local characters, all designed by the talented Margaret Hatcher.

Are you missing Cornerstone’s snowmen and all the fun Sonomans had at their lighting? To the rescue comes Dave Allen of Artefact Design & Salvage who will bring some of the snowmen to Pets Lifeline’s garden for the event.

Fun raffle prizes will include a week in Cabo San Lucas, two Soiree Film Festival passes, a wine-paired dinner for 10 at Kivelstadt Cellars, and 14 magnums of wine donated by members of the Pets Lifeline board of directors. If you can’t attend the dinner, you don’t need to be present to win as there will be a live broadcast. Dinner $275. More info and tickets at

Karen and Chris Bertrand, the proprietors of the Glen Ellen Inn on Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen, hope to reopen their popular bar soon. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Karen and Chris Bertrand, the proprietors of the Glen Ellen Inn on Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen, hope to reopen their popular bar soon. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Glen Ellen Inn hopes to reopen bar soon

Chris and Karen Bertrand of the Glen Ellen Inn plan to reopen their cozy bar soon and welcome back their martini fans among others.

The Bertrands closed the bar and restaurant during COVID-19’s intensity and focused on their hidden cottages behind the restaurant.

The delay is the usual: waiting for permits from the County of Sonoma, having filed their permit applications in 2020. Remember that they served at their bar for years before COVID closed them down. So what could be the problem?

Karen Bertrand tells me “We are waiting patiently for the county to complete their evaluation so we can get going. We’re really hoping they let us get to work soon. We really miss our locals. I even have the bar menu ready and can’t wait to pour some cocktails.”

Glen Ellen Inn will join Jack London Lodge and The Mill with full liquor licenses in Glen Ellen, the latter of which has not opened a bar for lack of staff. If you are an experienced bartender, contact Dana or Sanjeev at The Mill at Glen Ellen.

Reel & Brand on Grove St. and Riverside Drive has a new chef in Aurora Bojorquez. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Reel & Brand on Grove St. and Riverside Drive has a new chef in Aurora Bojorquez. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Reel & Brand news update

Not only has managing partner Keven Kress brought back Reel & Brand’s clam chowder and chili bread bowls along with prime rib, he has a new executive chef who is creating a new menu and perking it up a bit.

Meet Aurora Bojorquez, native of Zapotillo, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Like many of the best cooks in Sonoma Valley kitchens, Aurora credits her mother and grandmothers in Mexico for passing on their skills, principles, traditions of working with natural foods, and “the strong character of my dad, including honesty and optimism and seasoned above all with a big heart,” she told the Index-Tribune.

Coming from a large family, she soon learned through family love that they had a real need and hunger to survive. Aurora quickly figured out that the trade that would fill the hunger and need of her family was cooking.

Aurora is very proud that she worked first as a dishwasher for several months and has gradually worked her way up the usually patriarchal ladder of restaurant kitchens progressing first to making salads and desserts.

She worked for two years each at Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant and Gaetano’s Ristorante, and then five years at Valentino Italian restaurant – all in Las Vegas.

On arriving here in Sonoma Valley she cooked for four years at Adolfo Veronese’s Aventine in Glen Ellen, and now six years at Reel & Brand. She feels like “it is like coming home again” returning after the pandemic and hopes to “provide the best service.”

As the first female executive chef from Mexico in Sonoma Valley, she joins other women at the kitchen helm including Lauren Cotner at Delicious Dish, Jen Demarest at Baker & Cook, Dana Jaffe at The Mill, and Fiorella Butron, originally from Peru, who is culinary director at Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Edge restaurant..

Ti-Tip Bites with three dipping sauces: garlic aioli, chipotle and creamy horseradish from Tips Roadside in Kenwood. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
Ti-Tip Bites with three dipping sauces: garlic aioli, chipotle and creamy horseradish from Tips Roadside in Kenwood. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Tips Roadside restarts Sunday Suppers

Last Sunday Tips Roadside in Kenwood re-started its Sunday Suppers, that time featuring a tri-tip chili with cornbread and mixed green salad, both for dine in and take out at $25.

Owner Susie Pryfogle says, “Each Sunday throughout the fall/winter season, we will have a special that will warm your heart and your stomach.” Each Sunday will bring a different special, all within the same price range.

Burger & Beer Thursdays continue with a different burger each week, as well as live music Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday morning brunch. And their mercantile features attractive fair trade goods made by women and women’s businesses, including fashions by Susie’s late mother.

Important: On Dec. 2, Tips Roadside will give a portion of their take for the day to Food for Thought, an important effort to end HIV and help Sonoma County people to live. 8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. Sunday Supper starts at 4 p.m.

Chef Kyle pauses service

Due to the sale of the farm where he has been using the kitchen as his catering venue, private chef Kyle Kuklewski has had to pause his “Simple Gesture” dinner service while the new owners go through various inspections, deep cleanings and more before anyone can use the facility.

The sale of the property (not to the Mattsons) apparently also ended a very successful microgreens business until farmer Jerome Cunnie can find another location, if he wants to. Meanwhile, he is lead farmer at Haystack Farm here in Sonoma.

Certainly many Sonomans will miss both businesses and we wish Chef Kyle the happiest possible of Thanksgivings. He says he will continue to send his emails and “a heartfelt thanks for all the support” of the community since he started it in March.

Prior to that, Kyle was executive chef at Ramekins Culinary School & Inn until shortly after Ken and Stacy Mattson purchased the property along with The General’s Daughter.

Sonoma Raceway and friends donate 1 ton of food

Once again Sonoma Raceway rounded up about 2,000 pounds of non-perishable food items in an effort initiated under the presidential leadership of Steve Page. All of it is going to Friends in Sonoma Helping (FISH).

The food was donated by Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority, Broadway Market, and The Save Mart Companies, owners of Lucky markets. The Lucky store in Sonoma gave $1,000 to the effort this year.

FISH lead volunteer Sandy Piotter says that this year’s donation will result in 550 baskets of mostly canned food to be distributed Dec. 18 to people in need.

Plaza Lighting’s generous food

While every restaurant around Sonoma Plaza hoped to have a healthy bump in business after the fabulous Plaza Lighting ceremonies and performances last Saturday night, and the Black Piglet, Tips Tri-Tip Trolley and Di Fillipo Pizza offered fun food for sale, kudos to those who provided free tastes to the crowd of kids and adults.

The office of Lindsey Stone of Edward Jones provided hot chocolate, Sonoma Market offered cookies, and The Lodge at Sonoma gave out cups of apple cider, and thanks for those donations.

Elaine Bell launched her business 40 years ago. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021
Elaine Bell launched her business 40 years ago. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2021

Elaine Bell Catering hits 40

Forty years ago, at age 25, Elaine Bell signed a lease with Dr. Mark Ryan to rent 980 square feet in his building on Seventh Street West and West Napa Street, which is now Papa Murphy's Pizza. She eventually expanded to include what is now KSVY and SVTV.

Her first catering job required her to haul her own kitchen stove out into the vineyard of Beaulieu Vineyards. Eventually she saved $8,000 to open a real business. Bell commented, “He was so kind and put in a tile floor and sound proofing wall for me to move in. That was the beginning.”

“How times have changed. Thank you, everyone, for all of your support over the years. All I ever wanted to do is feed people delicious food and give them more than they expected.”

Now a great success with her own catering building in Napa, Elaine Bell is known well here for her generosity and support of fundraisers for the Boys & Girls Club, Friends of Jack London Park, La Luz and the Sonoma Community Center. In fact I have sat with her at fundraisers when she has bid more than she could possibly have made in the organizations’ auctions. Congratulations, Elaine Bell.

Forty is the new 25.

Thanksgiving dinner – where and who did it come from?

Some people like to argue about the origin of Thanksgiving, but I am not one of them. So much of its history is indistinguishable from lore.

Putting the two together, Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth got together with local Wampanoag tribe members to celebrate the harvest by sending tribal members out to hunt turkey, waterfowl and whatever else looked good.

As well, the Pilgrims were celebrating their freedom to pray as they wished upon escaping, in a sense, from England.

Turkeys were plentiful so they came to dominate the Thanksgiving Day feast, although other regions outside New England often featured what was available, such as partridge and venison.

Today we have tofu shaped and flavored like turkey, and turduckens, made from a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck stuffed into a d-bone turkey, and salmon or short ribs featured in some parts of the country.

Rarely do we shoot and cook wild turkeys these days, even if they are climbing on cars in Berkeley and other Bay Area cities.

Sonoma’s Nicholas Turkey Farms were once the largest turkey suppliers in the country, even selling turkey eggs and sperm in other countries, but they did not start the poultry production here.

But in interviewing Lenore Gordenker for our Sonoma Heritage Food Institute, a turkey friend partner of the Nicholases, I learned that Russian immigrant Princess Olga Gordenker started the turkey business here when she had a ranch next door, so to speak, to Jack London’s Beauty Ranch.

Keep in mind that the genetically engineered big-breasted white turkeys we sometimes purchase are a long way from the wild black-feathered birds served at the first Thanksgiving.

Let us remember, though, that relations between “the invaders” from England and Europe and Native Americans have not always been so good. Eventually many Native Americans were made sick and died, sometimes of alcoholism, were killed, were generally mistreated and isolated, all while the new settlers stole their native land.

Supposedly there are seven foods developed by Native Americans according to Dave Roos on His definition of “Native Americans” stretches to all of the Americas.

Roos includes chili peppers, potatoes, squash, beans, and maize or corn on that list. And currently there are apparently 500 million acres of corn harvested every year.

Native Americans taught the Pilgrims, who were mostly trades people, how to farm, what to plant together, how to preserve crops, fish, and dead animals, and what to do with acorns, both to make bread and feed animals.

Some of the foods Native Americans taught Pilgrims how to farm and value include the following:

Maize: a form of corn allowed to dry on the stalk, and then ground. It dates to 8,000 years ago in Mesoamerica and its cultivation grew to furnish food and money to the Olmecs, Maya, Aztec and Inca cultures. In North America, the Pueblo people in the Southwest were the first to grow corn from when corn arrived in 1200 B.C. and became a staple for the Creek, Cherokee and Iroquois tribes.

Beans: Beans draw nitrogen out of the air and into the soil to help grow corn and maize, which is why we and vineyardists often plant fava beans during the winter to benefit the soil. And beans can grow up the corn stalks.

Squash: Native Americans planted squashes such as pumpkins and other winter squashes with beans and maize because they taste good and their large leaves provide shade and suppress weeds for the benefit of the corn and beans, thus this cooperative growing trilogy is called the “three sisters.”

Potatoes: Potatoes basically came from the Peruvian Andes 8,000 years ago, became an important crop along with maize and beans for the Inca, and eventually became a staple in many European diets as well.

Tomatoes: Originally tiny like small berries, tomatoes were considered a fruit in South America and domesticated in Mexico about 7,000 years ago.

Chili peppers: Chili peppers apparently were first discovered and “domesticated” in central-eastern Mexico as a spicy fruit. The Aztecs called it chili, and Columbus added the word pepper since he thought they tasted like black pepper.

Cacao: Reportedly cacao was first domesticated in Ecuador about 5,300 years ago and has traveled back to Europe and to Mexico mixed with sugar and cinnamon and occasionally chili.

We have lots to thank Native Americans for: our food and our existence. And we have lots to learn from their environmental practices and reverence for Mother Earth and her soil.

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