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Kathleen Hill: Avocados, MacArthur Place, Larson Walkabout

The tastiest news in town from our longtime food and wine columnist.|

As many of you know, I have to turn my column in on Tuesdays for the Friday edition of the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

A few hours after you read about the suspension of avocado imports last Friday morning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services ended the suspension of imports of Mexican avocados from the state of Michoacán into the United States.

There were some concerns about the first avocados to arrive after the suspension of the suspension and whether the first avocados to arrive in California would have been inspected or “clean.”

Probably by the time you read this a week later, avocados in Sonoma grocery stores might be fine.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma supporter Carolyn Stone at a prior Sweetheart Gala. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma supporter Carolyn Stone at a prior Sweetheart Gala. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Sweetheart Gala & Auction next weekend

Our Boys & Girls Clubs’ important annual fundraiser, Sweetheart Gala & Auction, comes up next Saturday, March 5.

The event is later than usual due to the board and staff decisions to postpone to March 5 out of COVID-19 caution, and now all are ready to go.

Each year the Boys & Girls Clubs honor “Sweetheart” locals who have helped keep the Club open in the toughest of times, which we have all just been through.

This year’s honorees are Mike and Mary Schuh. Previous Sweethearts include Deborah and Dr. John Emery, Marchelle Carleton and Larry Krieger, the Sangiacomo family, Dub Hay, Matt Sevenau, Bob and Bill Lynch, Bob Stone, Helen Fernandez, Jeanette and Whitney Evans, Jim Lamb, Marcia and Gary Nelson, Judy and Les Vadasz, Don Sanchez, Kay and Kevin Austin, Holly and Steve Kyle, and Lisa Sonnen.

With this year’s theme “Bohemian Rhapsody” Elaine Bell will again cater the dinner in the Maxwell Clubhouse starting with a French butter lettuce salad with shallots, herbs and Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

The main course will be a grilled Bryan Flannery prime hanger steak with roasted root vegetables, trumpet mushrooms, a potato galette, micro greens and cabernet demi-glace. The alternative entrée is a seared cauliflower steak with chimichurri sauce, Calabrian chili, creamy whipped potatoes and roasted rainbow carrots with mircro celery, all accompanied by assorted artisan breads and sweet butter.

Bryan Flannery is the same high-end meat purveyor whom Elaine Bell got to donate more than 100 pounds of ground beef to Sonoma Overnight Support (SOS) for Elaine and staff to turn into several weekends’ meals to feed unhoused clients SOS had placed in local hotels in the colder month of February.

Great wines to accompany the meal come from Stone Edge Farm, Patz & Hall, Ram’s Gate and Silver Oak.

Wines from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Idell Family Wines, and Gundlach Bundschu will be served during the opening reception.

Local sponsors include Michael and Mary Schuh, Lyn and Dub Hay, Carolyn Stone, The Lux, Vadasz Family Foundation, Silverado Contractors, Boden Plumbing Heating and Air, Sonoma Raceway, Dr, Judy Bjorndal, The City of Sonoma, Ginger Martin & Co., and The Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Some tickets are still available, starting at $300. Cocktail reception and silent auction at 5 p.m., dinner, Sweetheart presentation and live auction at 7 p.m. Sweet and savory dessert bar and After Party with dancing at 9 p.m. Tickets at bgcsonoma.org/sweetheart. More info at 938-8544.

Knife sharpening today at Sign of the Bear

According to energetic Sign of the Bear co-owner Laura Havlek, Mike or Sean will drop into our gorgeous local kitchenware shop this afternoon, Friday, Feb. 25, after 2 p.m.

Bring your knives to be expertly and carefully sharpened. They performed magic on the one knife I had in my single days. 2 p.m. 435 First St. W., Sonoma. Be patient finding parking. It’s worth it. More info at 996-3722.

Layla has new executive leadership at MacArthur Place. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)
Layla has new executive leadership at MacArthur Place. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

Leadership changes at MacArthur Place, again

MacArthur Place, the much-storied inn developed as such by the great and sensitive local developer Suzanne Brangham, has again changed chefs and food and beverage leadership. That could be a good thing.

The new culinary team includes Executive Chef Jordan Hoffman and Food and Beverage Director Joshua Nudd.

Hoffman will develop new menus for Layla, The Bar, and The Porch, while Nudd will try to improve operations of the three culinary endeavors, plus room service, weddings, and other social events.

Originally from Michigan, Hoffman first worked in a small local diner, then at country clubs through high school. After graduating from Schoolcraft College in Detroit, he took off for Las Vegas. There he climbed the kitchen ladder partly in Joel Robuchon’s kitchen at the MGM Grand and later at The Iconic Collection. He is also an avid painter at home.

Judd worked his way to the top of kitchens starting at Spago in Los Angeles, the Peninsula in Beverly Hills, Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco and Hong Kong, and eventually as food and beverage director at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay in the Bahamas.

MacArthur Place has two new associated endeavors, one to bring in up to 40,000 bees via Marin Coastal Bee Co. which will provide two new honey bee apiaries to the property.

As well, the resort has affiliated with Bohemian Highway Travel Co. for extra special elegant off the beaten path experiences and picnics for hotel guests, all in 1980s or new Land Rovers.

Meanwhile, MacArthur Place is still under the ownership of Lat33 Capital (formerly IMH Financial) and JP Morgan, with URGO Hotels & Resorts in charge of overall management.

Pronounced 'SHAY-voo,' Chevoo was an artisan brand of goat cheese in infused olive oil made by Sonoma-based SonomaBelle. (chevoo.com)
Pronounced 'SHAY-voo,' Chevoo was an artisan brand of goat cheese in infused olive oil made by Sonoma-based SonomaBelle. (chevoo.com)

Chevoo closes its doors

Gerard and Susan Tuck began their jarred goat cheese business five years ago right here in an eastside Sonoma neighborhood.

Very quickly they became the darlings of the food business with their innovations and polite enthusiasm.

Chevoo outgrew their digs here, they sold their house, and moved both their home and business to Healdsburg where it thrived for a while with compliments and endorsements in many regional magazines as well as Sunset, and Culture.

While it isn’t on their website yet, the Tucks announced on social media that they “have made the difficult decision to close our doors,” thanking everyone for “all your support and love beyond our expectations.”

Some of their goat cheese flavors included creamy black truffle, dill or fennel pollen and garlic, herbes de Provence, and smoked salt and rosemary, all in jars that could be closed and refrigerated.

The Tucks suggest you might buy what’s left in local stores, which include Nugget (Sonoma Market) and Whole Foods in Sonoma, and at Glen Ellen Village Market.

Come back to Sonoma -- we still miss you.

Olympic rings near the finish area of the alpine skiing course at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Olympic rings near the finish area of the alpine skiing course at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Oh! Olympics!

As a former competitive swimmer I always wonder what athletes are eating, with or without superstitions, or ingesting in any way.

Unfortunately dominating the athletes’ enormous and honest efforts and personal sacrifices to prepare to even qualify for any Olympics was the “doping scandal” involving a 15-year-old ice skating sensation from Russia.

She tested positive for a banned substance and later for two un-banned heart drugs, for which someone among the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) concocted the excuse story that she accidentally took her grandfather’s heart medications. If so, what else did she get from his medicine stash?

Still she was allowed to skate in the final free dance as a “protected person” because of being under 16, although her coaches did not seem to be protecting her at all, and were seen admonishing her for falling a few times in that final performance, causing her to dissolve in tears.

Many athletes of every sport have ways they believe enhance their abilities, whether it is racecar drivers eating “organic salmon,” and pasta and other carbs, secret soups, or several high caffeine sodas. In fact the American gold medal winner in cross country skiing said afterward that she was suffering from food poisoning throughout her race. But that can happen anywhere.

Even back when I was swimming for the Berkeley City Club we were given dextrose tablets to suck on along with honey mixed into orange juice, obviously to create sugar-laden high energy stimulation.

So I researched what Beijing Winter Olympics athletes were eating this month in their Beijing “bubble.”

First, those who were quarantined in a “hotel” for COVID-19 positive tests, all described the food with one word: “Disgusting.” Several athletes, particularly from Russia and Belgium, reported that the food, consisting of small portions of plain pasta and charred meat, with no vegetables or fruit served at all, for all three meals a day, called the food “impossible to eat.” Many lost weight, were released to compete, and then put back in isolation just before their events.

In the Olympic Village dining hall, there seemed to be a consensus on everyone’s favorites: “hot pots” and “dumplings.”

These hot pots have been described as a hot pot of boiling broth into which athletes could choose generously and among meats, seafood and vegetables and cook in their hot pots.

Also popular among the 2022 Winter Olympic athletes from many countries were dumplings, a.k.a. dim sum, filled with various meats and other ingredients. In fact a downhill skier was spotted pulling one out of her jacket at the end of her race to munch into it.

The rodeo-themed tasting room at Larson Family Winery in Schellville on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)
The rodeo-themed tasting room at Larson Family Winery in Schellville on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Larson Family Winery Walkabout tours

Have you wondered about where Sonoma’s famous rodeo used to be and want to see where it was? I would even like to recreate it.

You can learn more about Larson Family Winery’s fun and never-a-dull-moment history during Larson Family Winery’s new casual Winery Walkabout Tour, available as a complimentary add-on for their wine tasting guests on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays this spring, starting Friday, Feb. 25.

Farming in Sonoma since 1877 and on this land since 1899, the story of the Larson and Millerick families spans decades and includes steamships, racehorses and rodeos. Learn how their history and marriages shaped them into what Larson Family Winery is today.

This Walkabout includes a stroll through the production facilities of their working winery, seeing the tanks and tasting wine directly from Larson’s barrels, while gaining insider insight on their wines and how they grow and flow from grape to glass.

Starting Friday, Feb. 25, and running through April, Larson’s Winery Walkabout will be available as a tasting add-on at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., weather permitting. Walkabouts are available to book now.

Tastings are $30 for the Daily Flight or $40 to upgrade to the Reserve Flight. This tasting plus Walkabout offering is complimentary for Larson wine club members (limited to four per visit). Reservations can be made on the visit page of larsonfammilywinery.com , on Tock, or by emailing reservations@larsonfamilywinery.com.

While Larson is known for being dog and kid friendly, they ask that you leave the pups and little ones at home for this experience as a matter of safety since as guests will tour areas with working machinery and winery equipment.

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