Kathleen Hill: Sonoma food reopenings and more

Girl & the Fig 'Phase 1' reopening

Sondra Bernstein opened her Girl & the Fig on the Plaza on Tuesday just for Wicked Slush, a sort of adult snow cone that some of us were lucky enough to sample at her Girls Night Out party at Suite D a few months ago.

Calling it her 'Phase I' opening, she is offering Pipsqueak size for $3.50, a Pipsqueak Split with half slush and half soft serve ice cream layered in a parfait for $5 to $7. Some sidewalk tables up First Street West for slurping slush. And, by the way, they also serve 'Slushtails,' which are cocktail slushes.

All this is part of Bernstein 'testing our waters' prior to a full opening at a later date. Bernstein was the first restaurateur to close completely as she looked ahead at the coming pandemic, and we welcome her back as the last reopener – always cautious. You can still get lots of takeout food at the Fig Café & Wine Bar in Glen Ellen and at the Fig Rig in front of Sonoma Valley High School.

Girl & the Fig just added Grab & Go foods to its takeout menu including cheese & charcuterie, cheese and fruit (both to serve two people at $20, a ham and Gruyere with butter baguette, grilled eggplant sandwich, Italian Hero on a baguette, chopped crispy chicken salad, a fig and arugula salad and chocolate chunk cookies ($3 to $13).

Swiss Hotel and Bay Area media

After two weekends of Bay Area television features on Three Fat Guys wines and the Picazo Food Truck, and then one with Saul Gropman at Café LaHaye last weekend, CBS-KPIX in San Francisco showed up at the Swiss Hotel for this past weekend's news.

After a few days of Bay Area media telling the world that, basically, 'Sonoma is open,' it seemed as if all those people with all those pent up needs to 'get out of Dodge,' wherever their 'Dodge' is, showed up here the minute restaurant doors opened.

Maybe Bay Area folks thought 'open' meant 'safe.' But was it? And for whom?

Swiss Hotel staff were able to tell the interviewer that people just rushed in, and others like El Dorado Kitchen had to turn away customers. The Plaza itself was loaded with picnickers not wearing face coverings, and about half those walking around wore something over their faces, by casual observation.

Restaurants and wineries reopen, mostly

Many wineries have been awaiting an announcement from Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase as to whether they still need to serve a meal to proceed with wine tasting – a requirement I never quite understood. Mase this week announced that, beginning June 12, wineries no longer have to serve meals with tastings.

Ram's Gate, which already has a chef and permit to serve food, has now opened to everyone and not just their wine club members.

Most restaurants have reopened while others are 'waiting to see how it goes.' What they mean by that is to see if people are ready to venture out into restaurants, or whether opening will result in more COVID-19 spread that could endanger locals and staff.

Some are ecstatic about the reopenings, including Gia Ghilarducci and Executive Chef Tony Ghilarducci whose Depot Hotel has one of the loveliest dining settings with pool in Sonoma. Others are still getting ready to reopen including Picazo Kitchen & Bar in Maxwell Village, where, incidentally, progress is being made to convert Payless Shoes into a Panda Express.

As far as we know as of now, those who were offering takeout and now outdoor and indoor seating include Salt & Stone, Café Citti, Tips Roadside, Palooza Gastropub in Kenwood, Les Pascals, Glen Ellen Star, Jack London Saloon, Yeti, La Hacienda Boyes Hot Springs, El Molino Central, Cochon Volant, Sonoma Eats, Shige, El Huerto, Sonoma Taco, Gourmet Taco, Reel & Brand, Mary's Pizza in Boyes and on Sonoma Plaza, La Casa, El Dorado Kitchen, La Salette, Tasca Tasca, Delhi Belly, Taste of Himalayas, HopMonk Tavern, and Plaza Bistro. Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is scheduled to reopen July 1.

Picazo on Arnold Drive offers only patio seating for now, as does Murphy's Irish Pub, Cochon Volant, and Layla and the Porch at MacArthur Place. Della Santina's is serving in its patio, while Enoteca Della Santina is serving food on the East Napa Street sidewalk across from Café La Haye.

As well, the Picazo food truck will serve Friday through Sunday all summer at Three Fat Guys tasting room on Broadway, noon to 5 p.m. Picazo Kitchen & Bar in Maxwell Village will be open for take-out dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. daily for another 10 days while they work on permits and architecture to hopefully add a patio, a dream former owner Bob Rice passed on to the Chavezes. So to get food from Picazo Kitchen & Bar, call the restaurant at 935-3287 and pick up at the table outside.

As Saul Gropman explained on my radio show last Friday, required spacing inside his dining room will limit him to 20 people. His sidewalk seating adds 10 seats, which totals 30, still fewer then he had originally, but helps make things almost work financially and keeps his crew working.

Serres Ranch Bleusé sparkling wine

Taylor Serres of Serres Ranch has produced a great-sounding new sparkling wine made from Serres Ranch Duke blueberries and their Aliatico grapes, which are fermented together to come up with this new taste in a can. The Serres have been farming their land for six generations and have always been extremely generous to the Sonoma community, from longtime support for FFA to repaving surfaces for nonprofits.

The result, Serres says, is an 'off-dry wine with bright natural acidity,' great for picnics anywhere. With alcohol content of 8.5 percent, 'It does have a kick,' Serres said by phone. She suggests you might like to add lemon slices and mint, or over ice with a little elderflower syrup. $24.99 (4-pack) to $139.99 (24-can case). or Also available at Delicious Dish, Baker & Cook, or Cochon Volant.

Sam Sebastiani releases 'Eye of the Swan Rosé'

Carrying on a tradition started by his father, August Sebastiani in 1975, Sam Sebastiani has released his La Chertosa 2019 Eye of the Swan Reserve Aleatico Rosé, just in time for National Rosé Day tomorrow, June 13.

According to Sebastiani, the Eye of the Swan name came from the copper color of a black Australian swan in his father's aviary at their home above Sebastiani winery.

The rare Aleatico grapes are from the same Serres Ranch vineyard that produces the grapes that go into Taylor Serres' new Bleusé grape and blueberry bubbly wine.

Tips hits the roadside running

Right after Susie Pryfogle and family celebrated her birthday with a great-looking meal at El Dorado Kitchen last Sunday, she sent out a lot of hot news of hot Tips Roadside events coming up.

Starting this Sunday, June 14, the Hillybilly Blues Duo will play for outdoor diners on Tips Roadside's Kenwood courtyard in back of the restaurant, which means it is on the shady side of the building after noon. Music from noon to 2 p.m., just the restart of their weekly Brunch & Blues on Sundays.

Then, on June 30, they host their Tips Test Kitchen dinner, ostensibly to test what they might add to their menu. Chef Tony will concoct four surprise courses and Steve Law of MacLaren Family Winery will be guest winemaker. $45. Wine pairing $28 extra. 6 p.m. 8445 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. Make reservations at 509-0078.

Meanwhile, the Pryfogles' Tips Tri-Tips Trolleys hang out at Larson Family Winery and Truett-Hurst Winery every weekend in June.

Father's Day is coming June 21

Possibly slightly more subdued since our lifestyles have changed substantially due to the pandemic and some efforts to control its spread, a few restaurants and caterers have offered ways to simplify your celebration if you choose to stay home. Let's celebrate the men we know or have known, and admire, whether or not they are fathers.

Tips Roadside: Father's Day on June 21 brings a Bottomless BBQ, but do wear pants. It's all you can eat and served family-style for parties of all sizes and starts with a family-size garden salad and grilled corn, followed by smoked brisket and pork spare ribs, with sides of deviled egg potato salad, baked beans and apple slaw. Save room for the blackberry crumble, all by newish chef Tony Calderon. You can 'upgrade' by adding hot links, fried chicken or bottomless house-made beer. $39 per person, $19 kids 12 and under, kids 5 and under free. Juice, coffee, and tea included. Full bar. 8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. Make reservations at 509-0078.

Elaine Bell Catering: Elaine Bell is offering a 'Family Style BBQ Dinner' for both Father's Day and 4th of July to include 'love-rubbed' barbecued St. Louis ribs, with blackberry barbecue sauce, Applewood smoked chicken thighs, apple cider slaw, summer corn pudding, fluffy buttermilk biscuits, followed by a mixed berry cobbler in a mason jar. Order by 2 p.m. the Wednesday before (June 17 for Father's Day) for Friday pick-up. Serves four people for $90. Order at More info at 603-1400. For July 4th order by July 1 for July 3 pickup. Pickup location to follow. Plus, Elaine Bell's barbecue dinner boxes will be available at Sigh at 120 W. Napa St. next Friday, June 19 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Sunflower Caffé: Sunflower Caffé has put together Father's Day grill kits that are meant to serve four to eight people and range from $150 to $300. For $150 you would get four 12-ounce Snake River Farm New York Strip steaks with Bordelaise Sauce, four twice-baked potatoes, and four ready to grill corn on the cob. The $300 version would serve eight, if you share corn along with one 12-ounce Snake River Farm New York strip steaks, four 8-ounce Snake River Farm filet mignon steaks, Bordelaise sauce, eight twice-baked potatoes, and four corns on the cob. You can add a pound of marinated head-on garlic chili prawns for $30, peach cobbler with ice cream for $35, or a vegan box at $20 per person with pasta, gazpacho, and garlic tomato focaccia.

Order by Thursday, June 18 at 5 p.m. and pick up either Saturday or Sunday, June 20 or 21 Order at

Good News from Emily's Kitchen

While several of us mourned the loss of Emily Nagan's Emily's Kitchen in Santa Rosa, she followed up a week later that her head cook, Pina, is taking over and it will now be Pina's Kitchen. Emily, now saying she is 'retiring,' says that Pina knows all of her recipes and techniques and will carry on for all of you regulars who traveled from here to Montgomery Village for Emily's scrumptious desserts that we first enjoyed at brother Matthew Nagan's Schellville Grill.

Max Rueda's Go Fund Me campaign for home gardens

Maxwell Rueda is a 12-year-old student at Adele Harrison Middle School in Sonoma and has been a student in science teacher Shirley Austin-Peake's science and garden class. His main teacher, Mary Beth Leland, guided him through the process of creating a Go Fund Me page with a generous goal to help others start home gardens.

On his page, Max got excited about gardening with his mother and has 'grown to love it even more during quarantine.' He wants to raise money to help '10 families in my school with gardening supplies so they are able to experience what it is like to start and raise a garden. I wanted more families to have the experience I have had, and to enjoy herbs and produce that they have grown themselves at the end of the summer.'

Many of the plants have been donated by the Dunbar Elementary School garden and its garden coordinator, Alissa Pearce. Shirley Austin-Peake also worked her magic and Swede's Feeds in Kenwood donated plants as well.

Both Ms. Leland and Max's mom help keep track of the money and applications.

On his Go Fund Me page there is an application for Adele Harrison families who would like to apply. He even asks applicants to send their application with a picture of their thumb dyed green. Go to the gofundme page to donate, too.

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