Kathleen Hill: Gravenstein Apples, new wine menus and cider is hot!

Food news from around Sonoma Valley.|

Two new menus at two wineries

St. Francis Winery, which has somehow won several Top 100 Restaurant awards from Open Table without being a restaurant, just appointed Chef Trevor Eliason as its new executive chef.

Eliason graduated from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon and did his externship at the French Laundry in Yountville, which placed him at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro as a pastry chef, and has created wine-paired dinners for the likes of Kuleto Estate, Chappellet Winery and Francis Ford Coppola. His last position was as head chef at Press Restaurant in St. Helena.

Eliason now creates St. Francis's multi-course food and wine pairings, estate dinners, weddings and seasonal dinners at the winery, and will oversee two acres of organic vegetables and herbs.

His debut wine-pairing menu at St. Francis includes medallions of free range organic chicken with housemade fettuccine and Brentwood yellow corn; pan seared California sea bass,

Nueske's double cut candied bacon and Tokyo turnip gratin; a grilled Dixon lamb chop with cheddar cauliflower puree, and Meyer lemon buttermilk pound cake. $72 public, $57.60 wine club members. Seatings at 11 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday through Monday. 100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa. 538-9463.

At Mayo Family Winery, executive chef John Locher and sous chef Oscar Perez offer a new menu of tapas sized plates including jumbo shrimp and white cheddar grits; Heirloom tomato salad with watermelon and red onion; soba noodle salad with sesame-ginger vinaigrette; St. Louis rib with zinfandel barbecue sauce; Taipei street corn, Armenian lamb khorovats; and prosciutto and melon with pickled watermelon rind. And plenty of Mayo wines to pair. $50. 13101 Arnold Drive at Highway 12, Glen Ellen. 938-9401.

Lu Luz's Noche In Mystic India

La Luz's Noche fundraisers seem always to be the best parties of the year, and are always conceived and produced by La Luz board president Marcelo Defreitas.

This year's extravaganza took place at the King family's K2 Ranch on Trinity Road in Glen Ellen, a former Arabian horse breeding ranch that has morphed into a horse boarding facility with riders' accommodations.

Most of the 320 guests made it through the sweltering heat for outdoor cocktails, happily distracted by henna tattoo and other body decoration opportunities.

The heat inside the barn where dinner was served was a little overwhelming for some guests, but Elaine Bell's catered Indian dinner kept most of us alive. This was the best Elaine Bell dinner ever, and a good reason to support La Luz.

During the cocktail time ample hors d'oeuvres such as fried padron peppers, corn cakes with cumin and green chilies, cardamom shrimp on melt in your mouth peppadum crackers, Sonoma Brinery pickles stuffed with curried chicken salad, and tiny pea samosas. There was also a station to make your own bbel puri with chopped potatoes, cilantro, onion, green chilies and fried kale leaves.

At our assigned tables we found flat bread and lots of Indian condiments such as scallions, chives and saffron cucumber mint raita. The entrées, served family style, included tandoori chicken with creamed curry, Indian lamb tenderloin kebabs with grilled red onion and peppers, spicy sea bass masala cooked in banana leaves (little dry but tasty and substantial), spiced potatoes in spinach with Indian gravy, and basmati rice steamed with star anise, fennel seed and cinnamon sticks.

Kanak Raj of Crown Cleaners and Sonoma Valley Rotary recited an Indian 'prayer of welcoming' in Sanskrit that suggested that when we get out of 'the whole,' we go back to 'the whole' to celebrate our all being one and to continue peace. Defreitas led the crowd in Om ceremonies and gave a speech of thanksgiving to the community for helping La Luz help those in need.

Dining at a table against the wall with many of us, Elaine Bell yelled out 'I made them myself' when Defreitas announced dessert was coming. Gulab Jamun, fried balls made of milk solids and drenched in almond syrup, mini pistachio eclairs, and miniature banana cream pies.

George Hamel kicked off the fund-a-need with at $25,000 donation. When Defreitas got to the $100 level, first longtime La Luz supporter John Story took the stage pledging to match all $100 pledges. Then Ken Stokes, who apparently beats Defreitas at tennis on Saturdays, climbed on the stage to match Story's offer to match, followed by Les Pinsoff who lives part time in Glen Ellen and partners with Sal Chavez in his Mexican liquor import business.

All in all, it appears that $550,000 was raised after charming tear-jerking videos, a forceful speech by executive director Juan Hernandez on La Luz's innovative programs, and a speech by Juan Cruz, in which he expressed deeply emotional thanks for all the help La Luz gave fire victims with his entire burned out family supporting him on stage,.

Mela Arts Connect, a North American and Southeast Asian arts endeavor, topped off the evening with a Bollywood style dance that left most of us with sore knees after just watching them. Wake up 49ers and Giants, these dancers can really move and don't even get winded.

Big zinfandel tasting at Cline

ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers association, has organized an event at Cline Cellars this Sunday, Aug. 12 called 'Zinfandel Stories of Sonoma County,' where wineries will be arranged by region.

Taste food and zin wines and blends from 50 county wineries and meet winemakers. Food from the Fig Rig will be available for purchase, including Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, tarragon aioli French fries, fried mac-n-cheese, Angus burgers on brioche buns, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Admission $40 to $55. 3 to 5 p.m. 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma.

Interestingly, ZAP lists Cline, St. Francis and Viansa under participating wineries from Sonoma County, Bordigioni, Jeff Cohn, Kunde and Ravenswood under Sonoma Valley wineries.

Ferrari Blues Jam at Muscardini Cellars

Michael Muscardini hosts a Ferrari Rally & Blues Jam at his tasting room in Kenwood featuring fab cars plus Catherine Venturini's divine food and John Burdick's band on the patio, on Sunday, Aug 12.

The traveling Ferrari rally will be in the Muscardini parking lot from 1 to 3 p.m., chef Catherine Venturini will offer roast pork and cranberry bean tostadas, fried green tomato BLTAs with side salad; local salmon Niçoise salad with egg, haricot vert, potatoes and greens; grilled Parmesan chicken sandwich; chilled corn soup and homemade cookies for sale from 1:30 to 4 p.m., and the John Burdick Band will play from 2 to 4:30 p.m. 9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 933-9305.

Gravenstein Apple Fair this weekend

Love apples, apple pie, apple cider (hard or soft), apple history, Gravenstein and Sebastopol traditions? Or even wonder how to milk a cow or make apple sauce?

Then the Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol is a great destination for this weekend, Aug. 11 and 12. While the demonstration kitchen stage has been eliminated, there will be plenty of food-oriented activities.

On Saturday, Michele Anna Jordan will talk and demonstrate 'Beyond Applesauce' at the Do-It-Yourself Arena, an Egg & Spoon Race, Cow Milking with Valley Ford Cheese, Water Melon Seed Spitting Contest, apple juggling, a grape toss, Potato Sack Race, Kid's Apple Eating contest, Backyard Chicks with the Western Farm Center, sheep shearing and spinning, the Art of Fermentation and Chicken Poop Bingo.

Sunday brings Composting with Worms, Herbal Teal Blends, animal tricks, more cow milking, apple jugging contest, a hay bale toss, pie eating contests and giant zucchini tosses. Clark Wolf will host a panel of farmers to include Bee-Well Farms, Let's Go Farm, Julie Atwood's Halter project and Fire Chief Tony Gossner. Check the full schedule for stage locations at gravensteinapplefair.com/schedule/

You will find two churches competing with sales of apple pies, local fried chicken, barbecue, organic apples, Estero Café's organic hot dogs and corn dogs, the Farmer's Wife Kendra Kolling with grilled cheese sandwiches, salads and housemade ferments, fried pies, ice cream, popsicles, smoothies and fruit bowls, apple fritters, fish tacos, shaved ice, Bulgarian food, apple juice and apple sauce, cider chicken wings, caramel apples fried apple pies chicken pot pies, Indian cuisine, Gravenstein apples and giant turkey legs. Gravensteinapplefair.com.

Sunday Supper pop-up

Sondra Bernstein's next Sunday Supper on Aug. 12 will feature Heirloom tomato toast with ricotta cheese, basil and corn salsa, roast porchetta with braised fennel, onions, garlic greens and fig clafoutis (basically a pie with no bottom crust). $38, $32.30 for Suite D members and wine club members. 5:30 p.m. sharp. 21800 Schellville Road, Sonoma. Figsuited.com.

Sonoma County Cider Week going on

There are just a few days left of the first Sonoma County Cider Week, which ends Sunday, Aug. 12. We had a decline in apple orchards while they were being replaced by wine grapes, but there seems to be a resurgence in interest and plantings of apples. And fermented apple cider.

Sonoma County cideries sport such great names as Ace, Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Horse & Plow, Ethic Ciders, Golden State Cider, Agrestic Cider, Leaky Barrel Cider Company, Specific Gravity Cider Company, Eye Cyder, Pauz Ranch, and Preston Farm & Winery. Check them out at the Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Sonoma Ashram offers Indian cooking class

Enjoy vegetarian cooking classes at Sonoma Ashram starting with Sunday, Aug. 12 for the fundamentals of Indian spices, Chana Dal Fry with Fenugreek leaf, fried plain Biryani rice with saffron, a veggie subji from the Ashram's garden. $25. Drop-ins OK. 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. includes lunch. 1087 Craig Ave., Sonoma. 996-8915 or info@sonomaashram.org.

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