Kathleen Hill: Trebek, crab, Thanksgiving and more

Food news from around the Valley|

Crab maybe, lobster yes

There has been such great demand for the lobsters being flown in by Soroptimist International of Sonoma Valley that they have decided to offer the 1.5 pound crustaceans either live or cooked.

Previously the group said they were only going to offer cooked lobsters, but possibly the lack of Dungeness crab available for Thanksgiving has some of us salivating for another oceanic delicacy.

And, yes, there will be limited Dungeness crab on our Thanksgiving tables this year. The commercial crabbing season has been delayed until at least Dec. 1 to avoid accidentally netting migrating whales in the process of crab fishing.

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has identified pods of humpback whales, blue whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles along the California coast. The delay effects commercial crabbing from Point Arena in Mendocino County to the Mexican border. The decision to impose this ban was reached between CDFW and the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the other hand, the recreational crab fishing season began last Saturday. And Sonoma Market just got Dungeness crab from off the state of Washington. It costs $13.99 a pound.

But back to the lobster you can pick up here in Sonoma. Place your order by Thursday, Nov. 19 and pick it/them up Nov. 21 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Once Soroptimist calls in the orders, the lobsters are flown live from Maine to San Francisco late on Nov. 20 and cooked immediately (or kept alive for you to cook), and delivered to Sonoma Soroptimist at 8 a.m. on Nov. 21. Order by calling Juliette Andrews at 338-1864 or Cynthia Morris at 363-5509. Give them a credit card number and pick up your no-contact lobster behind the Atrium building on West Napa Street.

Hopefully local fresh Dungeness crab will arrive for Christmas.

The late Alex Trebek, wine, and Sonoma cheese

Most of us around the world have watched Alex Trebek and “Jeopardy” over the show’s 37 years. We all felt we knew this nice guy.

In our family both “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” provided nightly before or after dinner entertainment for Jerry and me and our kids. Now they and their kids watch it and do better at it than I ever did. We were asked permission by “Jeopardy” producers to use a couple of our books as resources for questions.

But in the course of writing editions of one of our guidebooks, “Santa Barbara & the Central Coast – California’s Riviera,” we often stopped by Trebek’s Creston Vineyards in Templeton in San Luis Obispo County.

Trebek invested in Creston as principal owner with founders Stephanie and Larry Rosenbloom, and the Rosenblooms basically ran the winemaking part of the venture. Larry Rosenbloom made his money in the insurance business and after great success decided to go into the wine business. They transformed what had been Indian Creek Ranch into a wine estate.

As they say, “How to make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune.”

Two things surprised us about Creston’s tasting room in Templeton. The main decorative theme was lots of stuffed bears and dolls, which the tasting room host insisted represented Alex Trebek’s preference.

The other feature was that they sold Sonoma Cheese Factory cheeses, and this was back when Sonoma Cheese Factory was just that: a factory making cheese.

Parklet problem

While a few weeks ago parklets seemed to be a partial answer to help Sonoma restaurants keep operating in a time when Sonoma County still inhabits the purple zone of COVID infections, they have developed their own problems – mainly weather.

Many proprietors were excited to have great, sunny weather that attracted customers from throughout the Bay Area, but the weather changed this week to a little rain and lots of chill.

Only Della Santina’s planned and built a whole structure in parking places on East Napa Street that reminds one of a drive-through bus or train station, completely covered, with heat and decorative lighting.

Mary’s Pizza Shack and the Swiss Hotel already had built-in heating in their patios and the Girl & the Fig was ahead of the pack in foreseeing cold weather would come and ordered heat lamps early. And now EDK, Layla and Wit & Wisdom have erected see-through tents as well.

Suppliers quickly ran out of such heaters because parklets everywhere need them. Codi Binkley of B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille was told his order would arrive in two weeks, and then was notified they would be delayed several weeks, and then suddenly received some.

Café La Haye

After permitting and acquisition problems, Café La Haye owner Saul Gropman happily announced on Monday that “heaters at each table and canopy are on their way.” He emailed broadly to welcome people to bike, walk or drive to his Café La Haye. Gropman actually bikes to his restaurant daily.

Gropman and chefs prepare one a la carte menu a week. This week’s, which continues through Saturday, Nov. 14, includes starters such as cauliflower Gruyere soup, Little Gem salad, chopped iceberg salad, or burrata ($11 to $14). Main courses range from a grilled pork chop, porcini crusted Mary’s chicken, scallop risotto, hanger steak, Wolfe Ranch quail, and petrale sole ($26 to $36). Always excellent desserts. 140 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-5994

More Thanksgiving offerings

Layla at MacArthur Place

From Layla at MacArthur Place a dine-in (outdoors) offers first course choices of Brussels sprouts Caesar salad, butternut squash soup, or a spinach and walnut salad. Main course choices include roasted turkey breast and leg with croissant stuffing, sweet potato, Pacific Sea bass; housemade radiator with Butternut squash, vadouvan curry and pepitas; or an 8-ounce Creekstone prime filet mignon ($15 extra) with whipped potato, broccolini and steak sauce. Desserts bring pumpkin pie, apple galette or budno with biscotti. $85 adults, $35 children. Add black truffles to any dish $35, wine pairings $45. Reserve at 933-3198. Macarthurplace.com.

Wit & Wisdom

Wit & Wisdom, whose dine-in outside menu we printed last Friday, has added a take-and-bake turkey dinner with brined turkey with sides to reheat including mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, soup, and dessert. Serves four to six people. $225. Order a info@witandwisdomsonoma.com. Pick up Wednesday, Nov. 25 from noon to 4 p.m. or Thursday, Nov. 26 from 9 to 11 a.m.

El Dorado Kitchen

EDK decided to serve a three course prix fixe menu on their patio offering more choices than on their takeout menu including a gulf prawn cocktail, Caesar salad, pumpkin soup, fork belly al pastor, a crab cake and ceviche with avocado mousse.

Main course choices include turkey with potato and purée, Brussels sprouts; potato gnocchi with Maine lobster; roasted eggplant with farro, zucchini and beans, shaved coconut radishes, and kale; salmon with bacon lardons and sunchoke purée, or a short rib with carrot ginger purée, plus desserts. $65. Reserve at 996-3030.

What did you cook for the election?

Having culled the nearly 140 responses to my question among those who were celebrating, lots of people ordered or made pizza, many good steaks were grilled and smothered in mushrooms. Lots of chickens gave their lives for frying or barbecuing, especially by Canadian friends from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

Many local respondents drank lots of martinis, whiskey and especially Champagne or sparkling wine. Some just said, “Who’s cooking?” One posted martinis for dinner and dessert.

Eva Bertran, former executive at Gloria Ferrer, reported that local liquor stores had a huge run on sparkling wine.

Jo Toscana enjoyed pea soup with a drizzle of smoked olive oil on a Little Gems salad. Eva Bertran said “a liquid diet of sparkling wine.” Split pea and other comfort soups were consumed by many, and others joked “lame duck a l’orange” or “Trump Stew.”

Mara Levy Kahn said, “When we headed to the Plaza our intent was a fairly light lunch. But by the time we arrived downtown we decided on the Red Grape for a totally unhealthy lunch of Asian Cauliflower, Truffled Onion Rings and Gorgonzola Salad. Party on!

My dear friend Marlena Spieler, who wrote “a million” columns called “The Roving Feast” on food around the world for the San Francisco Chronicle and now lives with her Scottish husband in England, is an American who made corn dogs to celebrate. She shares her very personal recipe below. Keep in mind that England is again on lockdown due to coronavirus.

Corn dogs homemade, European style: polenta batter – USA treat! Mazal tov USA!

By Marlena Spieler

Makes 8, two per person, unless you want to use big hot dogs, in which case 1 per person, depends on size of your dawg.

I made for six hot dogs, and had leftover batter and threw in sliced onion, for a sort of hush puppy version of onion rings


1/2 cup all-purpose/plain flour

1/2 cup fine grain polenta, or yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder, plus a pinch or two extra (or use self-rising flour, plus about 1/2 teaspoon baking powder)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus up to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, as desired

1 green onion, finely chopped, or about 2 tablespoons grated white/yellow onion

1 egg

1/2 cup milky mixture: buttermilk, or, as I used: skim milk mixed with about half Greek full fat yogurt. Whatever you have on hand.

8 big fat hot dogs or sausages of choice; if they are really big, use 4 or 6; if they are smaller, use 10-12. whatever you have/want.


Stir together in a bowl the flour, polenta, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper, then add the onion, egg and milk mixture, stirring well to combine. Leave to chill in fridge at least 30 minutes but up to overnight is fine.

Batter should be the consistency of thick cream or cake batter, so if it seems to thick, stir in a little water until it reaches consistency you need.

Heat oil in a frying pan; dip sausages one at a time into the batter and then into the hot oil. You can use sticks if you like — I didn't have, so omitted them. If your batter is too thin and doesn't stick to the hot dogs, don't worry, just spoon in a hot dog shaped layer of batter, place the dipped hot dog on top, then as it begins to firm up, spoon a little more batter. Turn when it’s firm. You want the outside of the corn dogs to be golden and crisp.

Remove from hot oil onto wire draining rack, and either eat right away, or keep warm in the oven, until they are all done.

Eat with mustard: Yellow! Brown! Sweet and hot! Your happy choice.

You can double, triple, quadruple, etc. the batter and dogs ingredients, in case we ever get to hold big parties again! Or you're ready to open up a food truck.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.