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Giants pizza, Betty Ann’s birthday, Kiwanis closes, new menu items

Just for the fun of celebrating the San Francisco Giants’ huge win of baseball’s 2021 National League West title, Mary’s is offering a one-topping large pizza for $20.21. The Giants’ 107 wins broke a long-standing record as well.

Is that a deal? Yes. I did the math for you.

According to their menu at maryspizzashack.com, a large cheese pizza costs $23.95. One regular topping adds $3.15, so that adds up to $27.10. That’s a saving of $6.89 for a one-topping large pizza.

The offer is good for sit down inside or outside, for take-out or delivery now through Oct. 22, “or sooner pending box supply,” according to Mary’s grandson and CEO Vince Albano.

Betty Ann Bruno’s 90 years of fun

Betty Ann Bruno, famous for her fame and energy, celebrated 90 years of making others happy at her 90th birthday party at the Moose Lodge last weekend.

An original Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz” at age 7, she grew up to study political science at Stanford and worked briefly in the CIA’s personnel department, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Bruno was born Ann Ka’ihilani Bruno in Hawaii to a Chinese Hawaiian mother and a Dutch Irish father, leading to an occasionally confusing mixed identity.

As an activist in Oakland, she and her husband, Craig Scheiner, a KTVU cameraman, producer and editor, started a family. Betty Ann ran and narrowly lost a race for a seat on the Oakland City Council.

She started at KTVU as host of “On the Square,” a community affairs program, and then became a news reporter from the 1970s to 1990s.

Here in Sonoma she has been teaching hula dancing, fun, and respect for Hawaiian culture and its people for many years and created the beloved Hula Mai dance classes and dance group.

Hula Mai, in fact, means Come Dance. Betty Ann Bruno was named Sonoma Treasure Artist in 2020.

For Betty Ann Bruno’s 90th birthday party, friends decorated the Moose Lodge and turned it into “a tropical paradise” with flowers flown in from Hawaii, according to guests and volunteers.

The party was a lovely success that included mai tais at the bar for all.

According to Bruno, “The menu was a complete Hawaiian luau: Appetizers of sweet juicy fresh pineapple and mixed nuts including macadamias from the Islands. The island buffet consisted of Kalua pig, teriyaki chicken, laulau, poke, lomi salmon, poi, rice and green salad. The dessert of assorted shortbreads came from Big Island Cookies in Kona.

“Patrick Landeza prepared the buffet. Patrick was the first and maybe the only Mainland-based musician to receive a Na Hoku Hanohano award, the Hawaiian equivalent of a Grammy.”

She added, “Craig was the evening’s emcee for a ‘show’ which consisted of 16 different numbers. Faith Ako and Liko Puha played and sang Kaulana Na Pua for me to dance. Pam Gilberd, who has danced with Hula Mai for three years, choreographed an original hula to the Harry Owens’ well-known ‘Sweet Leilani,’ but by changing just a couple of syllables Sweet Leilani became my Hawaiian name, ‘Sweet Kaihilani.’”

She added, “Cynthia Tarr sang ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ a capella and with so much feeling, Frank Sinatra had to be rolling over. Kimo ‘Cowboy’ Kamahele played his ukulele, as did others who brought theirs. One son, Kalani, led a sing-along with lyrics he wrote for me. Another son, Steve, did a funny and loving stand-up comedy routine based on some childhood memories.

“Wendy Shepard, a four-year veteran of Hula Mai, put on her jazz hat to become, with her husband and son, The Shepard Family’s Jazz Trio. Stephanie Brucker (five years in Hula Mai) danced Raks Sharki an Egyptian-style belly dance and then drafted me and several other friends to shimmy along.”

And to top that off, Betty Ann Bruno led a few dances, still gorgeous and graceful at 90.

Kiwanis leaves the stage with style

Kiwanis of Sonoma Plaza held its “Last Gathering” at Sonoma Grille on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

After 35 years of dedicated work in the community, the club decided to disband and go out in style, which they certainly did.

Some of the club’s charitable highlights included loads of scholarships to Sonoma Valley High School seniors, supporting the Mentoring Alliance led by founding executive director and Kiwanians Kathy Witkowicki and Niels Chew, serving as mentors, supporting the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, their high school Key Club, Meals on Wheels, the Sassarini School Makers Lab and Sonoma Overnight Support.

The invitation said, “Dedicated for the past 35 years to improve Sonoma Valley one child at a time, one community at a time, (Kiwanis) has closed its chapter.”

As a guest invited because of my husband’s past Kiwanis presidency during which the club adopted Flowery School, I can say that a great time full of laughs and tears was had by all.

Sonoma Grille & Bar’s food was fabulous, starting with abundant passed appetizers of Himalayan momo dumplings and warm frittata squares. Followed by mixed green salads. Guests could choose wild King salmon, pasta primavera or filet mignon. The filets of salmon were gorgeous and the filet mignon was at least two inches high and extremely tender, served with asparagus and potatoes. Bob Albright organized the menu and dinner itself that ended with a warm chocolate torte with a chocolate center and topped with a scoop of vanilla gelato.

Among the 60 guests attending were living former presidents Bob Albright, Howard Gorbach, Conny Gustafson, Sy Lenz, Peter Nova, Lea Ronald, Steve Wolf, Roger Wright, and the one remaining founding member, retired architect Reiner Keller, still looking like a Swiss athlete at age 95. Flo Beth White, the first woman president of Kiwanis here, has moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia to be with family.

Kiwanis of Sonoma Plaza was formed as a lunch club by a group of men who were not into heavy drinking at dinners at Sonoma National Golf Course. Both our late former Mayor Jeanne Markson and I were invited to be the first women to join the night club and, after attending, we both declined.

Margaritaville?

A recent story in Sonoma Magazine on the best margaritas in Sonoma County included those shaken not stirred at four Sonoma restaurants: Maya, Oso, Taqueria la Hacienda and La Casa.

Maya has been well known for years because of stocking more than 100 different tequilas available at the bar, and hence a wild variety of margaritas. Oso on Napa Street also makes a good margarita while not a Mexican business, and Taqueria La Hacienda in the Springs makes an excellent one too and began by offering wine margaritas before they had a full liquor license.

Unfortunately the story also calls La Casa “the oldest restaurant in Sonoma,” which it is not. Actually, the Swiss Hotel wins that race by nearly 100 years.

David Viviani, former president of Sonoma Cheese Factory, says that “The upstairs area of La Casa was called the milk receiving platform of Sonoma Creamery where the cans were sampled, weighed, emptied and washed. The trucks with milk cans would unload on the west side and drive around the cheese plant to the east side to pick up the clean cans for another milk run. Eventually Joe and Tom Vella moved their cheesemaking to the stone building where Vella Cheese is today on Second Street East.

According to El Paseo architect Adrian Martinez, Al Gordon purchased the property in 1967 and created El Paseo de Sonoma and founded La Casa Restaurant with his wife, Betty.

La Casa has long been known for its great margaritas and several generations of locals have gone there for birthdays, special events, or just margaritas and nachos. In the 1970s Joe Bergeron, son of Trader Vic’s founder Vic Bergeron, and I came up to advise La Casa founder Al Gordon on his menu and décor. At that time I was handling public relations for Trader Vic’s restaurants and Trader Vic’s Food Products, the latter then headed by Joe Bergeron.

New menu items

Many locals have mentioned that they wished Sonoma’s restaurants would get a little more creative and add new interesting dishes to their menus. Sometimes their suggestions are accompanied by a remark such as “They don’t care, they just rely on tourists.”

On the other hand, having a consistent menu tells customers that their favorites will be there on their next visit.

As it happens, I have two menus in hand that have added newness: Garden Court Café and The Mill, both in Glen Ellen.

Garden Court Café

The Garden Court adds an eggs and bacon sandwich with two over easy eggs, cheddar cheese and tomatoes on a brioche bun ($17), as well as a Veggie Hash with sautéed vegetables on country potatoes with choice of cheese and toast ($17). Or ask for the special pumpkin bread made personally by owner Jazmin Vargas. 13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen.

The Mill at Glen Ellen

While the grist mill wheel itself isn’t turning because there is no water to pump, Dana Jaffe and Sanjeev Kumar are still pumping out the refreshing food. They offer a duo of sliders with barbecue pulled pork with creamy slaw or Baker’s Farm Baconator BLT with slaw ($13). The special pizza is often vegetarian, and the mushroom-stuffed Impossible Burger includes Jack cheese and green chili, which add lots of flavor. The vegan edamame bean hummus comes with pizza chips as an entrée. Out of health caution, they are still using “eco-friendly compostable disposables” to serve food. 14301 Arnold. Drive, Glen Ellen.

Marin French Cheese releases Golden Gate

That Golden Gate is the name of Marin French Cheese’s newest cheese.

As the company’s former culinary historian, I received a complimentary sample of their new Golden Gate, so named for the bridge and for the cheese’s natural edible hand-washed “orange” rind. Even though it is billed as a triple-cream cheese, I was not sure if it was meant to be a soft cheese or a solid cheese.

I tried everything. One 4-inch round arrived packed in a huge box with several layers of ice and thermal padding. At that point the cheese was pretty solid.

Eager to try it (the smellier the better) I left it on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours and cut into it. Solid but not hard like cheddar. So I put it in the fridge for a while – same thing. Next day I took it out again and let it set for most of the day. Still rather solid and barely spreadable. Try it for yourself. Some of our guests raved about it.

On the where to find it section of marinfrenchcheese.com it says it is sold in Sonoma at Whole Foods, Safeway, Glen Ellen Village Market and “Nugget,” which apparently is the same store formerly known as Sonoma Market. Double checking at press time, their website says it is now “under construction.” Enjoy!

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