Kathleen Hill: Plant sale, Mary’s honor and sayonara Sizzler

Plant sale helps school gardens

September through mid-October is the prime time to get perennial plants in the ground. Their roots will spread through the soil to help the stems and leaves grow in spring. Keep them watered between rains and you will be rewarded with beautiful flowers next year or vegetables all winter.

The Valley of the Moon Garden Club will hold its Autumn Plant Sale tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 26, at its new location, Altimira Middle School on Arnold Drive, just north of Boyes Boulevard, from 9 a.m. to noon. Garden Club members will be there to assist with choices and sales.

Get the new lineup of fall vegetable starts, annual flowers, perennials, succulents and pollinator plants at bargain prices, ranging from $2 for 4-inch pots on up.

Garden Club members ask that you bring some $1 bills. Cash and local checks are accepted. Altimira’s School Garden and farm program will have items for sale as well. Masks and social distancing are required. Park in Altimira’s front parking lot. Stay in your cars and a club member will get you when it is time to view the plants and purchase in order to have the right number of people shopping at one time.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit Sonoma Valley school gardens. 17805 Arnold Dr., Sonoma.

Larson Family Winery offers Halloween solution

Like everything else these days, Halloween on Oct. 31 just won’t be the same. While the CDC recommends not trick-or-treating, masked residents are trying to think up all sorts of projectiles to launch wrapped candies out the door to carefully watched kids.

Just to spook things up a bit, this Halloween will offer a “blue moon,” which occurs when there are two full moons in one month.

Larson Family Winery has come up with a fun alternative, if you can afford it. Larson will host a pumpkin patch brunch or lunch every Saturday and Sunday from Oct. 3 to 25. A kid- and dog-friendly winery, Larson lets guests bring them both along.

Each guest gets a boxed lunch from Basque Boulangerie and a glass of wine or other beverage that can be enjoyed at well-spaced picnic tables by Larson’s pumpkin patch.

Guests will be escorted to a table to have some private time in the patch where they can pick out a pumpkin. Each experience is 90 minutes.

The pumpkin patch will be open to other Larson guests from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; and 10 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Physical distancing rules will apply. Brunch or lunch and pumpkin patch: $55 adults, $35 children, kids under 2 free. Larson wine club members get 20 percent off. Book your reservation online at or call 938-3031, ext. 28.

Mary’s Pizza Shack wins big, adds to menu

Mary’s Pizza Shack’s Sonoma Plaza location just won the Traveler’s Choice Award for 2020 from TripAdvisor, placing it among the top 10 percent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor.

In 1959, Mary Fazio opened the original Shack up Highway 12 from Sonoma Plaza in Boyes Hot Springs, where she used her father’s recipes and her own home kitchen’s pots and pans. Mary created a warm and cozy place where friends and family gathered to enjoy her home-cooked meals.

Janet Nicholas and I still remember the evening years ago when we took our little kids to the original shack for dinner since our husbands were out of town and it snowed! Such a treat.

Over 60 years later, Mary’s Pizza Shack still uses the recipes, ingredients, love and care that they learned from Mary. The family-owned company operates 17 locations.

“We strive to give every guest the best possible experience. Your reviews mean so much and we appreciate the time you took to tell the world about your experiences with my grandma’s recipes and ambiance,” said Vince Albano, Mary’s grandson and CEO of Mary’s Pizza Shack, about the Tripadvisor honor. He continued: “We are so honored to receive this award, and we will work hard to continue to deliver the food and service that our visitors expect.”

Meanwhile, the Fazio-Albano families have introduced two new dishes seemingly aimed at different gustatory audiences, starting with a crispy chicken sandwich made with what they call “a giant chicken breast bulging out the sides and is served with cabbage and arugula slaw mixed with homemade Italian salsa verde and topped with tomato, Parmesan, and a Calabrian chili mayo served on a toasted brioche bun and garnished with slices of red pickled onion.” ($10 plus option to add soup, salad, or fries for $4).

Mary’s second new specialty is a super healthy looking ancient grain salad full of red and brown rice, black barley, and red quinoa mixed with Romaine lettuce and arugula, chickpeas, cranberries, walnuts, and feta cheese, topped with Mary’s new homemade lemon Dijon vinaigrette, available at all Mary’s locations. ($12.95)

Viansa Pizza & Pours on Patio Night

Enjoy an after hours evening full of Sonoma’s beautiful sunset colors on the Viansa patio next Wednesday, Sept. 30. You can select a wood-fired whole pizza of your choice from the Girl & the Fig and buy wines by the glass or bottle. $20. 5 to 9 p.m. 25200 Arnold Dr., Sonoma. (800) 995-4740.

Valley opens

Don’t get excited. Sonoma Valley has not reopened completely, the county’s virus infections are too high.

But Valley wine bar, wine shop, and restaurant have opened, with the lovely patio in back, created by Nick and Jen Demarest of Harvest Moon Café which occupied the same space for 13 years. Valley offers a “Valley in the Park” daytime menu to take across First Street West to Sonoma Plaza.

Emma Lipp and Stephanie Reagan serve as co-chefs, while Lauren Feldman, and Tanner Walle are in charge of the wine program and the front of the house. All are alumnae of Scribe winery.

The “Valley in the Park” menu might include chips, razor clams, white clams or mussels, Greek salad, shrimp salad with Green Goddess dressing, a mortadella sandwich, a pan bagnat, a sort of Niçoise salad sandwich on a baguette with tuna, egg, and salsa verde, or a Swiss chard melt. Olive oil cake, an Eton Mess sundae, chocolate mousse, and Guittard chocolate and cheeses.

While the regular menu changes often, as do many restaurants utilizing fresh local ingredients, they offer a half chicken with peppers and onions or salmon with Sungold tomatoes and corn (each $28, same price as Taub next door), pork sausage with beets, eggplant with miso and lime, and bread and butter extra ($6 to $28.) Dine in on their patio from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Great and interesting wine lists by glass or bottle.

Lunch (for take away/picnic): noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday; dinner: 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Bottle shop noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. 487 First St. W., Sonoma. 934-8403.

Reel & Brand adds specialties

With one of the easiest to distance patios in Sonoma Valley, Kevin Kress at Reel & Brand is making some changes, as are most local and independent restaurants, trying different dishes to figure out what will entice customers out of their home kitchens and dining rooms to venture elsewhere for a meal during these difficult times.

Kress just added his own ramen night every Thursday, evoking memories of Sondra Bernstein’s original Wednesday night Ramen Nights at Suite D. Reel & Brand’s includes ramen with pork belly, Dikon sprouts, watermelon radish and a soft boiled egg ($18).

Kress also moved his prime rib night from Thursday (replaced by ramen) to Friday and Saturday evenings. Served with a twice baked potato and creamed spinach. ($36) And then there is the “massive pork chop” on Sunday served with polenta, broccolini, and Asian pear chutney ($32). And don’t forget the big screen NFL football games in the patio on Sundays. 401 Grove St., Sonoma 938-7204.

Clover Sonoma partners with San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have formed an exclusive partnership with Clover-Sonoma, now under the guidance of third-generation farmer Marcus Benedetti.

Clover Sonoma will become the “Preferred Milk of the San Francisco 49ers,” which will include packaging, promotions, a holiday eggnog sweepstakes, advertising, and in-stadium and digital media. This will be even better when fans can actually get into the stadium.

Formerly known as Clover Stornetta, Clover Sonoma will be part of the 49ers’ Safeway Shopper program, to include holiday organic eggnog with in-store marketing through the end of this year. Additionally, the 49ers Facebook channel will conduct a fan caption contest where winners will see their caption featured on a co-branded billboard and receive two club seats to one future 49ers home game.

Kristel Corson, Clover Sonoma Vice President of Sales & Marketing, said that “aligning with the 49ers allows us the opportunity to make a bigger impact in the Bay Area and we’re excited to bring Sourdough Sam and Clo the Cow together for some laughable moments that will inevitably bring cheer to our dedicated fans.”

Miyoko frees meat-rescue dog

Miyoko Schinner, founder and CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery, has rescued a dog farmed for slaughter for food and bound for the meat trade in South Korea. She brought her rescue, Narnia, on a flight from South Korea to San Francisco on Sept. 18, out of her passion for saving animals’ lives.

Her fast-growing “creamery” makes only plant-based cheeses and butters and is supported in part by Ellen DeGeneres and Ellen’s wife, Portia de Rossi.

Miyoko’s animal rescue efforts coordinate with organizations called In Defense of Animals and Jindo Love Rescue. She has many rescued farm animals on her Rancho Compassión in Nicasio in Marin County.

Miyoko has visited Sonoma many times including for a dinner based on her foods at Suite D. You can purchase Miyoko’s dairy-free cheeses and butters locally at Sonoma Market, Safeway, and Whole Foods, and they are served at the Girl & the Fig and Three Sticks Wines’ tasting room.

Sizzler files for bankruptcy

Sizzler USA filed for bankruptcy this Monday in hopes of keeping its 14 company-owned restaurants open. They hope to renegotiate their leases with landlords during the bankruptcy process.

The company, headquartered in Mission Viejo, blamed their problems on COVID-19, which have similarly effected thousands of other chain and independent restaurants.

The only Sizzler we ever tried left San Rafael several years ago. We used to have dinner there occasionally before performances at Marin Center. The food got progressively worse and crowds got progressively smaller.

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