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Kathleen Hill: Lou's Luncheonette, winter closings, restaurants to come

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Martini Madness: Crazy as all get out!

Coming around the bend on Friday, Jan. 31 will be the 20th annual Martini Madness at the Lodge at Sonoma.

It all started 20 years ago when Wendy Peterson, then executive director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, was trying to think of an event to lure visitors here in the somewhat dark and (hopefully) rainy months of winter. Peterson’s brainstorm was that Sonoma’s second largest crop after wine grapes is olives. She used to put on a marketplace with olive tastes and music in a big tent behind City Hall, as well as a large olive-centered dinner at Ramekins to celebrate the olive. But some years, olives haven’t even been required to grace the competing martinis.

Prohibition Spirits, Spirit Works Distillery, Hanson Vodka of Sonoma and Domaine Charbay will provide the base for the martinis.

Gary Saperstein and Bill Blum are finalizing the details but assure us that there will be ample hors d’oeuvres and small bites to keep people on a wobbly path to relative sobriety. Saperstein and Blum are still taking sign-ups from bar and restaurant bartenders, who will compete with classic and creative martinis. They suggest guests take Uber, Lyft, Sonoma Taxi, or Vern’s Taxi to and from the event. $60. 5 to 7 p.m. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Get your tickets soon at Eventbrite.com.

***

EAT AT LOU’S

A new sign on Fremont Drive and the building itself both now sport new signage announcing Lou’s Luncheonette. Owners Erika and Chad Harris are giving their location on Fremont Drive yet another spiff up and menu – its third incarnation in the last two years.

The Fremont Diner succeeded with rave reviews throughout the San Francisco Bay Area until one day in June of 2018 Chad Harris went out during lunch service and told staff and customers the restaurant was closing immediately. This writer found some of the ejected customers at Schellville Grill, still looking for lunch.

The place sat silent until September of 2018 when the Harrises reopened as Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits, which closed this past November.

The Harrises’ newest idea is Lou’s Luncheonette featuring many of the same deep fried foods such as chicken and oysters and some inexpensive small burgers.

Their basic new burgers start with a 3-ounce all-natural beef burger for $4.50, with a double patty burger with cheese for $6.99. Patty melts and Impossible burgers run $7.99, and the fried chicken sandwich is $7.25.

Other choices include a hot dog for $4.50 and deep fried oysters on grilled bread for $3.99. A Cobb salad is $13.99 and a side salad $3.50. Sides run 25 cents to $5.50, with deviled eggs at $5.99.

Breakfast includes many buttermilk biscuit-based items such as a ham biscuit; egg, ham and egg at $6.75 and the Kitchen Sink with fried chicken, gravy, ham and egg on a biscuit for $9.25. There is also a buttermilk waffle at $4.99 and a kids menu. Don’t miss the organic milk milkshakes that come in 12 flavors at $5.50. Be sure to ask for what’s left in the canister.

They encourage ordering online at lousluncheonette.com for to-go orders. 2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma. 938-7370.

***

MUSHROOMS FROM THE EDGE

Stone Edge Farm will offer a mushroom enthusiasts’ adventure and meal, with Stone Edge wines of course, on Saturday, Jan. 25 at their Silver Cloud Vineyard overlooking Glen Ellen. It is okay to bring your boots and mush through the vineyards, possibly foraging for mushrooms with a local mycologist to guide you.

Sample wild and cultivated mushrooms starting with flatbreads, buckwheat dumplings, Dungeness crab, mushroom toast, Fiscalini cheddar and a charcuterie board to start.

Lunch begins with barley and mushroom consommé, followed by braised flat-iron steak, parsnip purée, charred onions, black trumpet gremolata, winter greens, and mushroom pasta gratin.

All of this is topped with chocolate and black truffle cake with almond genoise and chocolate ganache, all created by chef Fiorella Butron. Stone Edge’s finest wines will accompany each course. $125 wine club members, $175 general. Noon to 3 p.m.

Reserve at concierge@stoneedgefarm.com. 5700 Cavedale Road, Glen Ellen.

Frenchie sale today through weekend

Sarah Pinkin and Liz Payne announced last week that they are closing their Frenchie Picnics & Provisions on Broadway, leading to an “everything must go” sale starting now.

The Frenchie sale started Thursday and runs Friday, Jan. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 521 Broadway, Sonoma.

Annual restaurant spiff-up closure dates

Many Sonoma restaurants close for annual cleaning, floor treatments and general spiff-ups in January, a historically slow month in Sonoma Valley.

This year several are staying open straight through, have already closed and reopened, or are closing for shorter periods. All restaurants have suffered a slow period this year, ostensibly partly due to lingering publicity about fires and power outages, and occasionally increased menu prices to cover higher labor and food costs.

Swiss Hotel will be closed until Jan. 17. Girl & the Fig will be closed until about Jan. 17 as well. The Fig Café & Wine Bar in Glen Ellen will remain open throughout.

Baker & Cook, Swiss Hotel, El Dorado Kitchen and Cochon Volant already completed short closures for restaurant care. Glen Ellen Star and Café La Haye are changing hours to opening earlier at 5 p.m. some nights.

Cioppino and wine pop-up at St. Francis Winery

A three-course feast of Cioppino, an actual San Francisco treat, will include lots of wine on Saturday, Jan. 18.

Guests will be greeted with a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.

Everyone will proceed to the dining room for chef Trevor Eliason’s roasted beet salad with Belgian endive and avocado mousse; Cioppino with Dungeness crab, sea bass, lobster, mussels, potatoes, onions, and San Marzano tomatoes, all followed by Key Lime cheesecake. $85 wine club members, $102 general. 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. 100 Pythian Way, Santa Rosa. Tickets at 833-2148 or Eventbrite.com.

Kitchen tool loans

The Berkeley Public Library is loaning everything from potato mashers and whisks to slow cookers and sous vide machines to the public, just as if they were books. The kitchen gadget lending operation is part of the library’s Tool Lending Library, while claiming to be “one of the first libraries in North America and the first in California to lend canning tools, Instant Pots, pans and more, according to berkeleyside.com.

Instant Pot class Sunday

Speaking of Instant Pots, Williams-Sonoma’s Sonoma store offers an Instant Pot class led by chef Joanne Fusco on Sunday, Jan. 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. $60 includes an Instant Pot cookbook. 1 to 3 p.m. 605 Broadway, Sonoma. Reserve your place at 939-8974.

‘Second Helpings’ dinner and conversations

Brian Casey and Sondra Bernstein, who host “The Bite Goes On” podcasts, have started a dinner series at Suite D featuring some of their podcast guests on stage. Next up is Saul Gropman of Café LaHaye on Sunday, Jan. 19 featuring a live interview of Gropman along with his favorite foods.

Gropman, who has long taught classical guitar at San Francisco State University, will bring his guitar for a little music. Enjoy a glass of bubbles, chicken liver mousse, truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, roasted chicken, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, and vanilla bean ice cream. $45. 5:30 p.m. Reserve at thegirlandthefig.com.

The next Second Helpings will feature bean king Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo beans and three kinds of pozole and cherries and dulce leche ice cream.

Martini Madness: Crazy as all get out!

Coming around the bend on Friday, Jan. 31 will be the 20th annual Martini Madness at the Lodge at Sonoma.

It all started 20 years ago when Wendy Peterson, then executive director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, was trying to think of an event to lure visitors here in the somewhat dark and (hopefully) rainy months of winter. Peterson’s brainstorm was that Sonoma’s second largest crop after wine grapes is olives. She used to put on a marketplace with olive tastes and music in a big tent behind City Hall, as well as a large olive-centered dinner at Ramekins to celebrate the olive. But some years, olives haven’t even been required to grace the competing martinis.

Prohibition Spirits, Spirit Works Distillery, Hanson Vodka of Sonoma and Domaine Charbay will provide the base for the martinis.

Gary Saperstein and Bill Blum are finalizing the details but assure us that there will be ample hors d’oeuvres and small bites to keep people on a wobbly path to relative sobriety. Saperstein and Blum are still taking sign-ups from bar and restaurant bartenders, who will compete with classic and creative martinis. They suggest guests take Uber, Lyft, Sonoma Taxi, or Vern’s Taxi to and from the event. $60. 5 to 7 p.m. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Get your tickets soon at Eventbrite.com.

***

EAT AT LOU’S

A new sign on Fremont Drive and the building itself both now sport new signage announcing Lou’s Luncheonette. Owners Erika and Chad Harris are giving their location on Fremont Drive yet another spiff up and menu – its third incarnation in the last two years.

The Fremont Diner succeeded with rave reviews throughout the San Francisco Bay Area until one day in June of 2018 Chad Harris went out during lunch service and told staff and customers the restaurant was closing immediately. This writer found some of the ejected customers at Schellville Grill, still looking for lunch.

The place sat silent until September of 2018 when the Harrises reopened as Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits, which closed this past November.

The Harrises’ newest idea is Lou’s Luncheonette featuring many of the same deep fried foods such as chicken and oysters and some inexpensive small burgers.

Their basic new burgers start with a 3-ounce all-natural beef burger for $4.50, with a double patty burger with cheese for $6.99. Patty melts and Impossible burgers run $7.99, and the fried chicken sandwich is $7.25.

Other choices include a hot dog for $4.50 and deep fried oysters on grilled bread for $3.99. A Cobb salad is $13.99 and a side salad $3.50. Sides run 25 cents to $5.50, with deviled eggs at $5.99.

Breakfast includes many buttermilk biscuit-based items such as a ham biscuit; egg, ham and egg at $6.75 and the Kitchen Sink with fried chicken, gravy, ham and egg on a biscuit for $9.25. There is also a buttermilk waffle at $4.99 and a kids menu. Don’t miss the organic milk milkshakes that come in 12 flavors at $5.50. Be sure to ask for what’s left in the canister.

They encourage ordering online at lousluncheonette.com for to-go orders. 2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma. 938-7370.

***

MUSHROOMS FROM THE EDGE

Stone Edge Farm will offer a mushroom enthusiasts’ adventure and meal, with Stone Edge wines of course, on Saturday, Jan. 25 at their Silver Cloud Vineyard overlooking Glen Ellen. It is okay to bring your boots and mush through the vineyards, possibly foraging for mushrooms with a local mycologist to guide you.

Sample wild and cultivated mushrooms starting with flatbreads, buckwheat dumplings, Dungeness crab, mushroom toast, Fiscalini cheddar and a charcuterie board to start.

Lunch begins with barley and mushroom consommé, followed by braised flat-iron steak, parsnip purée, charred onions, black trumpet gremolata, winter greens, and mushroom pasta gratin.

All of this is topped with chocolate and black truffle cake with almond genoise and chocolate ganache, all created by chef Fiorella Butron. Stone Edge’s finest wines will accompany each course. $125 wine club members, $175 general. Noon to 3 p.m.

Reserve at concierge@stoneedgefarm.com. 5700 Cavedale Road, Glen Ellen.

Anticipating restaurants

As you read last week, we have lost and gained lots of restaurants (and other businesses) in the last year. In fact, there are four retail store vacancies in just on the south side of the first half block of East Napa Street. First to go was Saret Gallery, followed by Scott Lyall men’s clothes, Sonoma Love, and the Victor Hill Wines tasting room

But there are always hopefuls, hopefully.

Delicious Dish’s new and improved patio will open soon on Arnold Drive. Lauren Cotner already serves lunches and dinners to go to a large fan base.

Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts will open eventually in El Paseo in the former Hare & Hatter space. Lots of local donuts will be right next to Wine Country Chocolates of First Street East.

Panda Express will fill the empty space vacated by Payless Shoe Source, assuming their plans are approved by the Sonoma Planning Commission. Watch to see if the chain has trouble getting approval depending on how the number of outlets it runs, which happens to be nearly 2,000 restaurants.

Sausage Emporium, the new name for Hare & Hatter, will bring sausages galore, sandwiches, and breakfast to the former Kane men’s shop on Napa Street.

Miranda Ives says she will serve “breakfast and lunch and sell gourmet Sonoma goods, bottles of wine and bubbles, port, and our gourmet coffee to go by the pound as well as a selection of retail sausages to bring home. We will be open on weekend evenings with an evening menu and more bar like atmosphere.”

Ives submitted her plans to the city just before Christmas, saying “The city has been fantastic to us so far. Our next step is big one with PRMD. We are using all local tradespeople to make this a real local community effort. It was important to us to keep this project as ‘Sonoma’ as possible.”

Sweet Scoops to expand offerings from ice cream cones to ice cream cakes at the former Baskin-Robbins location in Marketplace Shopping Center.

Taub Family Outpost restaurant expected to have a restaurant and shop at the corner of First Street East and West Napa Street. They have now been remodeling for more than a year. A new external sign has been added to the second floor along with a temporary red and white sign that is illegible from the street.

Valley should be a wine tasting room, wine shop and, eventually restaurant replacing Harvest Moon Café on First Street West.

Changes around Sonoma food world

Besides all the closing and opening restaurants we presented last week, lots of other movements and musical chairs are happening in Sonoma’s food world.

Sondra Bernstein withdrew her plans for a ramen restaurant in Boyes Hot Springs, and tried out the former West Burgers location with a successful ramen pop-up.

We learned that General Manager David Daniel and chef Kyle Kuklewski left Ramekins Culinary Center. Pizza & Pinot customers were informed of their last Tuesday night gathering would be Dec. 17, and the forever closing of The General’s Daughter would be Jan. 31. The classic and historic Victorian building is to become restaurant Georgette.

A new farmer has been hired to farm for what had been Bob Cannard’s farm and barn (designed by Sonoma architect Adrian Martinez) behind The General’s Daughter.

Nikki Sommer has left Cornerstone as special events coordinator and as manager of Pizza & Pinot at the General’s Daughter. She believes “another door opens” and looks forward to growing her adventure and experience travel business.

And, finally, longtime Cornerstone horticulturalist Dawn Smith has left Cornerstone. Smith eventually became general manager of Cornerstone, overseeing the Cornerstone Gardens, the Sunset Test Gardens and Tomatomania, the tomato road show that always leaves leftover tomato plants for Sonoma’s school gardens. And Dawn Smith made sure the schools got those plants.

As she said on Facebook, “My last day at Cornerstone (was) Dec. 19, 2019. The lines on my face tell the story of many seasons in my life. I’m proud of my crow’s feet... I’ve earned them. Big life lessons learned in the last 15 years and growth happened, challenges as well. So much love I poured into that garden and that garden poured it right back into me. Many flowers and trees planted, habitats created and friendships made. I’ll never forget my time building Cornerstone Gardens. I’m now looking forward to the next garden so I can do it all again. I hope to share it with you soon.”

And Dawn Smith concluded with a quote from Rumi: “Let the beauty you love be what you do.”

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