Restaurateur gets a van-tastic gift, holiday memories and more

Remember last Christmas Eve?

Many of us were even avoiding family gatherings, opening presents “together” via FaceTime, ordering Christmas dinner delivered, or skipping it altogether. Not a happy one for many, and many people felt it was all weird, thanks to COVID-19.

People across the country lost relatives and friends. And lots of the country was just plain sad.

Things are a little better this year. We have vaccines and booster shots to ward of COVID variants or at least reduce their impact — that is for those who choose to get the gentle stabs of vaccine. So, we have become a little more relaxed and a little more cheerful.

But not so fast. Now comes Omicron, another prolific variant seemingly a little out of order in the Greek alphabet.

So many of us are again back to being more conscientious about gathering and with whom. Some people have been concerned about traveling to be with family, canceling parties, and some worry not at all. We shall see what happens.

Happily, I say out loud Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy New Year. And I guess the “Happy Holidays” covers them all too.

Hopefully, you have someone to share the day and food with. And be sure to invite someone over who might be alone, especially if they are vaccinated and boosted.

Restaurants with New Year’s Eve plans

As we all reevaluate parties and getting together, we do have a few things to celebrate.

We can toast being alive, living in Sonoma Valley, being blessed with some rain again, and having relatively clean air and water.

However you celebrate this weekend and Christmas, there is always next weekend, which happens to bring New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

We used to joke about New Year’s Eve as “amateurs’ night” out in our family. That was, of course, speaking from our advantaged viewpoint of having good food, good friends, and wine and booze available all the time.

But this year we do all have the aforementioned life factors to celebrate New Year’s Eve however we do that, or don’t.

Most Sonoma Valley bars and restaurants will be open to help you along, and some restaurants that served Christmas Eve or day will close for a week or two. So be sure to check with your favorite spot to be sure they are open.

For those of us not planning to go out New Year’s Eve, join me in vicariously enjoying the following special menus, in no particular order this time.

Sonoma Grille & Bar: Nima Sherpa and Executive Chef Saul Razo present a three-course New Year’s Eve special menu.

Among the first course choices are a trio of raw Royal Miyagi oysters with sriracha Champagne mignonette; chilled baby scallops with sweet and spicy sauce; or lobster bisque drizzled with basil oil; or blood orange salad with feta, pistachios, frisée, radicchio and Champagne vinaigrette.

Entrées offer three cheese ravioli filled with ricotta, Asiago and Parmesan with tomato sauce; spinach fettucine with sea scallops, lemon cream, and orange caviar; Blue Nose seabass with Tuscan lentils, and tenderloin filet with grilled asparagus and crispy shoestring potatoes.

Desserts to choose from include a chocolate torte with gelato and chocolate sauce; cranberry pie with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, or strawberry cheesecake with strawberry Champagne sauce. $80 per person. 5 to 10 p.m. They are also open New Year’s Day. 165 W. Napa St., Sonoma. Reserve at 938-7542

Kivelstadt Cellars Eatery: As of this writing, Kivelstadt offers truffle fries and a glass of 2020 Carignane Pet-Nat Wondering for $15 on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Josh Yenne will play live from 1 to 3 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. New Year’s Day. Reserve at or through Tock. 22900 Broadway, Sonoma. 938-7001.

Wit & Wisdom at The Lodge at Sonoma: Six courses to finish off 2021 should do it at Michael Mina’s Wit & Wisdom at the Lodge at Sonoma, kicking off with a caviar amuse of Yukon gold roti, with crème fraiche and Mina Reserve Osetra caviar and dill.

The first course, which is $15 extra, offers a choice of smoked burrata with Burgundy truffle and shaved Alba white truffles ($35) or Ahi tuna tartare with quail egg.

The second course will be seared Dayboat scallops, followed by wild mushroom tagliatelle; lobster pot pie, eye of ribeye steak with potato puree and creamed spinach. You can add a black truffle to any course for an additional $65. Since they have a reputation for not answering the phone, reserve at

The final course is their “Farewell to 2021 chocolate extravaganza,” which consists of Valrhona milk chocolate cream, a brownie bar, gold leaf, and Champagne Gelée. $145 plus add-on options. 5 to 9 p.m. The bar will be open late for a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma.

Picazo Kitchen & Bar: Check out this New Year’s Eve menu for something a bit new to many of us.

Start with a choice of small starter salads of a Caesar with hearts of Romaine lettuce, croutons, shaved Parmesan and Kina’s Caesar dressing or arugula salad with orange segments, pomegranate, avocado, caramelized pecans, feta cheese and Balsamic reduction.

For the main course guests choose between Chile en Nogada with poblano chili stuffed with veggie peccadillo, vegan walnut sauce, pomegranate, and parsley, all served with cilantro rice and corn flour tortillas; lobster tail pasta with fettucine, Alfredo creamy sauce parsley and chili flakes; or six-ounce steak frites with chimichurri.

For dessert select from a rainbow layer cake with cream cheese frosting, a blackberry empanada with vanilla ice cream, or two scoops of organic Açai sorbet with toasted almonds. $45 for one, $85 for two. Reserve ahead both for dine-in and take out. 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma. 935-3287.

Glen Ellen Star: Ari Weisswasser’s New Year’s Eve menu starts by greeting guests with a sparkling wine toast and housemade Parker House rolls with brown butter. Next, everyone gets a chicory salad with candied walnuts, pink flesh apple, and Roquefort dressing.

Guests can choose between wood-baked halibut with slow-cooked fennel and saffron, sultanas, toasted pine nuts and sauce Maltaise or New York strip steak with Romanesco sauce, caramelized shallots, and pomegranate bordelaise. These entrées are accompanied by rigatoni cacao e pepe, 24North Parmesan Reggiano, and grated Perigord truffles, served family-style.

For dessert, chocolate tart with hazelnut milk chocolate ganache and dark chocolate Armagnac glaze

Glen Ellen Star offers seats outside, in the dining room, and at the chef’s counter, where you can watch all the culinary creativity in action and even learn some secrets. $100 per person. 13648 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen. Reserve via Resy or at 343-1384.

Layla at MacArthur Place: New Year’s Eve dinner at Layla consists of Dungeness crab cakes, warm Berkshire pork belly, stuffed Sonoma quail, and a choice of “two seasonal desserts.” $110 with wine pairings available for $45 extra. 6 to 10 p.m. 29 E. MacArthur, Sonoma. Reservations at

Happy Christmas and New Year, and we can all hope that each year gets better. Let’s make it so.

Favorite dish?

If you need something extra to think about this weekend, please send me your favorite restaurant dish, whether it’s from Taco Bell or Wit & Wisdom or anywhere in between, and whether you had it in the restaurant or for takeout. Send it by Monday to

Local restaurant gets a gift

What did one owner/chef and husband get for Christmas? They got their van back.

As the restaurant owner and caterer wrote in an email, “It was stolen from the restaurant. A customer phoned me last week and said she spotted the van in Mill Valley on the side of 101. We phoned CHP, they logged it, had it towed and we got it out of impound. We had to replace the starter but our equipment was still in there. A net $1,000 loss but we’re grateful to have it back with relatively no drama.”

Jerry and I got our red and white Dodge van back once with square holes drilled through the metal floor as if someone had sunk a wooden bench into it to carry even more Little League Baseball and CYO basketball players — at least that was what we used it for.

As the restaurateur posted on Facebook, “home again, home again, jiggidy jig. Welcome back, old friend.”

Trestle Glen Vineyards sold

A small but cherished vineyard and winery started by Bruce Cohn of B.R. Cohn Winery, Trestle Glen has quietly achieved 96 and 97 points from Anthony Blue in Tasting Panel Magazine.

Recently Bruce Cohn let it be known that he was willing to part with Trestle Glen and longtime fans Brian Wheeler and family “officially assumed ownership of Trestle Glen,” in the name of TGW Holdings, LLC, according to their website. Wheeler said, “It is truly a labor of love for all of us, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead.” TGW Holdings LLC is a Washington state company located in Brewster.

Wheeler says longtime winemaker Tom Montgomery, who has been with Trestle Glen since its beginning 20 years ago, will continue “with us to ensure the tradition of excellence.’ Montgomery has been making excellent wines for 25 years in both the Sonoma and Napa valleys.

Trestle Glen makes just 800 cases of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel from 21 acres at their Olive Hill Vineyard.

Apparently, the name Trestle Glen refers to the historic train trestle tracks that traverse the estate as part of the old Sonoma Valley Railroad, once a connection between Sonoma and Glen Ellen.

The wine world’s loss of Philippe Cambie

Philippe Cambie, a frequent visitor to Sonoma, one-time French rugby player and beloved world-renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine consultant and collaborator, died on Dec. 18, just shy of his 60th birthday.

Cambie moved to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1998 to work as a technician at an oenology lab and worked his way up by learning from everything and studied oenology at the University of Montpellier in France. His mother’s family were grape growers, and he used to attribute his culinary talents to learning at her side.

When Cambie shared his expertise and taste with clients, he often advocated for organic farming and “to treat each vineyard plot differently based on its soils and microclimate,” according to Wine Spectator. He was a special devotee to Grenache and rosé wines and always tried to understand the thinking and soul of the winemaker behind the wine.

He often visited Sonoma’s Coturri family and collaborated generously with Phil and Sam Coturri. We had a great conversation with Cambie when he attended the Coturris’ Sixteen 600 tasting house on First Street West to celebrate their spring release.

Back in April of 2017, Sondra Bernstein hosted a dinner at Suite D featuring Philippe Cambie and several of his and her winemaker friends from France, all of whom brought their own best wines. Courses included gougères with spring radishes and charcuterie, smoked pea aformato, lamb with crispy sweetbreads, favas with morels, and risotto with baby beef cheek and baby root vegetables. A rare experience for sure.

On Jan. 21, 2018 Bernstein and Chef John Toulze (now president of The Girl & the Fig) prepared a special lunch for Cambe to celebrate his 55th birthday. The menu included some of his favorites such as pâté, mussels, frites, duck confit, and a cheese course.

Bernstein and Toulze also cooked a lunch for him and other wine and food leaders in France for the Hospice du Rhône, which features Rhône and Rhône-style wines.

Of losing their family friend and collaborator, Sam Coturri emailed, “We are all very saddened but grateful to know he was at home with his family when he passed. It's a devastating loss for our industry as a whole and Grenache lovers worldwide. Personally, he was a dear friend, a wonderful and fascinating man.

“Philippe did consult for some (of Coturris’) Enterprise Vineyards clients, including Lasseter Family Winery. However, our project with Mr. Cambie was truly a collaborative venture. The rosé from that spring release party back in the before (Covid-19) times, in June 2019, was from our ´Å Deux Têtes collection, single-vineyard Grenache grown by us, and made according to Philippe's exacting standards.”

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