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Kathleen Hill: Jacques Pêpin visit M.F.K. Fisher’s Last House

According to M.F.K. Fisher’s daughter Kennedy Golden, Susie Allen, Kennedy and her husband Vinnie made lunch for Jacques Pêpin’s visit to his late old friend’s home in Glen Ellen.

Kennedy said, “Our goal was to have something that guess who might have served. I believe we hit it out of the park. Fresh French baguettes from Les Pascals Patisserie in Glen Ellen made into Railroad Sandwiches.

Susie Allen, Last House program coordinator, “made a beautiful green salad partially from her garden, with a great vinaigrette (complimented by Chef Jacques), as well as a wonderful cheese board.”

Vinnie and Kennedy made the Railroad Sandwiches, which he graciously sat upon (per M.F.K. Fisher in “With Bold Knife and Fork,” and written about by Chef John Ash in the Press Democrat). The sandwich usually includes sweet butter and sliced ham, along with cheese and mayonnaise in some cases.

Fisher prescribed that someone sit on the sandwiches for an hour to warm them with their body heat, just to soften things up.

According to Kennedy, the guests included chefs Jacques Pêpin and Michael Howell of Devour. “We were a table of eight, a small private luncheon, with two wonderful toasts by chef Pêpin to M.F.K. Fisher.”

Here as honoree of the Sonoma International Film Festival, Pêpin’s visit to Last House and Sonoma coincided with the launch of the third annual M.F.K. Fisher Last House Writing Contest.

This year’s writing contest theme is “Renewal, rebirth, reemergence and the many inspirations of life and nature in spring – new growth in all forms.”

Always encouraging those who see themselves as “emerging or inspired writers, contest entries should be an original un-published essay or short story. Length should be 300 to 500 words for children and youth, and 750 words for adults. Age categories include children (6 to 12), youth 13 to 17, and adults 18 and up.”

This year’s contest judges include Mitchell Davis, M.F.K. Fisher’s daughter Kennedy Golden, Michelle Anna Jordan, Carolynn Jung, Krishnendu Ray, Ruth Reichl, Kathleen Squires, Randall Tarpey-Schwed and Alice Waters.

Get all of the contest entry rules and forms at bit.ly/3thmjWR. Deadline for entries is May 31 at 6 p.m. Entry fees range from free for children and youth to $40 for adults, with no entry fee if you join Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) for $65s, which goes to ACR for restoration projects, including Last House itself. For more info on ACR and Last House check out egret.org.

Bring your own box to this plant sale.
Bring your own box to this plant sale.

Food plant sale April 9

The Valley of the Moon Garden Club will have its annual organic vegetable plant sale tomorrow, Saturday, April 9.

Following my and others’ premise that we need to learn to grow our own food, club organizers have started more than 20 varieties of heirloom and specialty tomatoes, mostly from saved seeds. They also offer peppers, eggplants, and zinnias -- all in four-inch pots.

To plant by the seasons of the moon, the Club suggests planting these baby plants between April 8 and April 16 this year.

Bring your own box or tray to carry away your “babies.” $3 per plant donation to VOM Garden Club to support School Gardens and scholarships. Please bring cash in small bills.

Details: Open to VOM Garden Club members 9 to 10 a.m., public 10 a.m. to noon. 720 Fifth St. E., Sonoma. Park on Fifth Street due to lack of parking in small cul de sac.

A former Tailwags and Handbags luncheon at Buena Vista Winery.
A former Tailwags and Handbags luncheon at Buena Vista Winery.

Tailwags & Handbags luncheon April 29

Rejoice!

After two years of remote events, we are back to the lovely in-person Pets Lifeline (PLL) outdoor fundraising luncheon at Buena Vista Winery on Friday, April 29.

Mary Catherine Cutcliffe of PLL says “We love working with the girl & the fig caters, which will prepare the food while Buena Vista Winery is providing all of the wine.

The girl & the fig’s menu includes a Little Gem salad with roasted baby carrots, shaved radish and Nantes vinaigrette; goat cheese gnocchi with cultivated mushrooms, English peas, and green garlic pesto or pan-seared chicken with morels, smashed peas and citrus vin blanc.

Dessert brings a chocolate caramel tart with almond praline, mint syrup and mascarpone.

If you have extra bags (not under your eyes) to donate for the auction you can take them and purses to donate at PLL “Purse Princess” Lynne Strohm on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at 19686 Eighth St. E., Sonoma or any other day.

Vaccinations are required for all attendees at the outdoor luncheon.

This is one of Pets Lifeline’s biggest events so you can help by purchasing a ticket, donating purses or jewelry, and bidding on auction items either online starting April 15, or in person at the luncheon, which is always fun and slightly competitive.

“Doors” open at 11 a.m. with wine service as you enter, and auction items on display tables for bidding.

Tickets are $100, Sponsorships start at $1250 and go to $15,000. The $1,250 sponsors Tailwags with two seats, and for $2,500 one can sponsor Tailwags & Handbags and Miracle on Eighth Street (set for Dec. 3) and receive four seats at each event. The higher the level of sponsorship, the more guests the sponsor can invite to attend.

There will not be a “human fashion show this year, but you may see some furry faces in costumes strutting around the luncheon. Participants of ‘Dogs on the Catwalk’ that is this Saturday (April 9) at Sonoma Community Center will be invited to participate,” all according to Mary Catlin Cutcliffe.

Reel & Brand operates out of a historic 1906 building, a 100 seat outdoor patio and a stage for live music on weekends. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)
Reel & Brand operates out of a historic 1906 building, a 100 seat outdoor patio and a stage for live music on weekends. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Hot Dog happy hour

Kevin Kress has a new offering to attract fans, hot dog aficionados and potential customers to the Reel & Brand Happy Hour.

Many of us love the forbidden fruit of a hot dog but also love to indulge in them once in a while. Even I do occasionally, having once toured a sausage plant in Indiana (not recommended).

According to Kress, these are all a quarter pound of 100% all beef dogs.

The “Regular Dog with fries” is $8; Chili Cheese Dog is covered in R&B house beef chili, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions and is served with fries at $12.

The Chicago Dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. Also served with fries also $12.

Kress claims the dogs are already “flying out the door.”

They will also be served from 9 p.m. until “the end of music.” Possibly they can be a good remedy to re-supply the tummy with salt after an evening of drinking. I actually found that out (true confession) as a student at Cal Berkeley when I would walk down the hill to now long gone Casper’s Hot Dogs on Bancroft Way for just that purpose some weekend mornings.

R&B’s hot dog menu sounds a little like Steiner’s on Sonoma Plaza, but on the other side of town with much more outdoor seating and music.

Reel & Brand happy hour 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, plus weekends 9 p.m. to closing. 401 Grove St., Sonoma 938-7205.

Culinary student Lynn Martin, right, getting some assistance from Erik Mejia owner of Ta'Bueno Co. during his tamale class taught at the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, Calif., on Saturday, December 11, 2021. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)
Culinary student Lynn Martin, right, getting some assistance from Erik Mejia owner of Ta'Bueno Co. during his tamale class taught at the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, Calif., on Saturday, December 11, 2021. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat)

April cooking classes

Elise Gonzalez-Sahota moved back to Sonoma, dropped into the Sonoma Community Center and proposed a new culinary program.

Executive Director Charlotte Hajer gave Gonzalez-Sahota the go-ahead and she has gone ahead. Soon after a few of us met and began to share some ideas.

After a slow start with on-again-off-again restrictions on gatherings, she has now developed a real schedule of classes for the month of April, and many beyond this month.

Here are this month’s classes to start.

Saturday, April 16, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Instructor: Cookie Queen Courtney Clifton

Location: Room 110 and Rotary Kitchen

Ages 8+ $20/person

This professional cookie decorating class is for parents and children to attend together. In this class, you will learn how to decorate three different Easter themed cookies. You will be provided with cookies, icing, and all the necessary tools to make your cookies look beautiful. Courtney will walk you through how to decorate each cookie step by step, and answer basic questions about cookie decorating and royal icing techniques. You will also receive the instructor’s royal icing recipe to take home and try out for yourself.

Saturday, April 16, 3-5:00 p.m.

Instructor: Chef and Baker Heidi Cullen

Location: Rotary Kitchen

Ages 12+, $75/person

Join Heidi Cullen, a master baker, will show how to bake like a professional. You will learn to produce carrot cupcakes that will look and taste like a master made it and delight your Easter guests- bunnies and humans alike. Heidi’s classes are designed to give the home baker confidence through applying those extra touches that refine a spectacular dessert.

Wednesday, April 27, 6-7:30 p.m.

Instructor: Chef Ed Metcalfe of Sushimotos

Location: Rotary Kitchen

Ages: 18+, $60/ person

Learn the delicious art of Yakitori, Japanese barbecue, Miso soup and authentic Japanese pickles with chef Ed Metcalfe from Sushimotos. This class is great for beginner Japanese food enthusiast and a great dish to learn right before barbecue season launches in full force.

Saturday, April 30, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Instructor: Signorello Winemaker Priyanka French

Location: Rotary Kitchen

Ages 21+, $75/ person

Relish in the delicious flavors of Indian cuisine and Sonoma wines paired perfectly together. Learn to make a Goan fish which is the perfect summer night dinner. While the fish is cooking, Priyanka will lead everyone through how to pair your next Indian meal with wines from our Mayacamas Mountains here in the Sonoma Valley.

Jordan Kivelstadt, founder and CEO of Free Flow Wines and owner and winemaker of Kivelstadt Cellars, both of Napa, receives one of North Bay Business Journal's Forty Under 40 awards in 2017. (JEFF QUACKENBUSH / NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL)
Jordan Kivelstadt, founder and CEO of Free Flow Wines and owner and winemaker of Kivelstadt Cellars, both of Napa, receives one of North Bay Business Journal's Forty Under 40 awards in 2017. (JEFF QUACKENBUSH / NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL)

Kivelstadt Cellars update

Jordan Kivelstadt and crew are completely updating his Kivelstadt Cellars & WineGarten with new patio surface and furniture including sofas and fire pits, updating the kitchen and restrooms, and adding a new bar.

Thinking they are about “50% there” they still don’t have an ETA for reopening.

But get this: They removed Matt Nagan’s green trailer and are replacing it with a pool for poolside service. April Fools! Thanks, Jordan. You had me there for a sec.

Spread Kitchen news

Spread Catering owner/chef received the keys to her Spread Kitchen restaurant on April 1 at Sonoma Eats’ former location on Highway 12. Topham celebrated on site with bubbles brought by buddies and began renovations.

She also added Kyle Gonzales as a new cook to her team last week, saying “He comes to us from Ramekins - trained by one of my besties and chef extraordinaire, chef Kyle Kuklewski. My sous chef, Nick, trained Kyle K. when they were both at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. The world gets smaller every day. Kyle G. will be training under Nick in our Napa kitchen and then moving over to our restaurant when we open in Sonoma - which, if the stars align, should be sometime around late April, early May. But what's that saying about deadlines? Something about loving the whooshing noise they make as they fly by...”

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