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Kathleen Hill: Martini Madness, Miyoko’s Creamery and more in Sonoma

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The Cochon Volant Verses

A complete and delightful surprise to Rob Larman, chef and owner of Cochon Volant along Highway 12, it turns out that Salman Rushdie mentioned the Boyes Springs smokehouse and barbecue in his new novel, “Quichotte.”

Rushdie’s most controversial book, “The Satanic Verses,” resulted in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa, or call for Rushdie’s assassination. Other of his novels have resulted in the highest awards for literature in both the United Kingdom and France. He now lives in the United States and apparently dropped into Cochon Volant in Boyes Hot Springs.

The quote from Rushdie’s “Quichotte” is as follows:

“Dr. Awwal Sant. I’m with a desi friend. Can we come in? Three of us. It is a party.

“The place is surrounded. You know that. Tell me what to do."

“Don’t come anywhere near CentCorp. Follow the highway to Boyes Hot Springs. I’ll send a car to meet you at Cochon Volant BBQ."

“There’s a back way in?”

“There’s a tunnel. Go down the tunnel toward the light.”

Well, locals know that there is no tunnel near or under Cochon Volant or, presumably, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

But everything helps our local restaurants.

Caddis Wines replacing Victor Hill

Caddis Wines of Livermore is moving into the narrow and cozy tasting room recently vacated by Victor Hill Wines on East Napa Street.

Chris Sorenson, winemaker and co-owner of Caddis, told the Index-Tribune that they are only allowed nine special events per year and tastings by appointment in their Livermore tasting room and hope to get more exposure in Sonoma.

His spouse Courtney Sorenson is an event designer and wedding planner with A Savvy Event production company here on Broadway in Sonoma, while living here.

Like many proprietors of tasting rooms around Sonoma Plaza with wineries elsewhere, Sorenson says they hope someday to have a vineyard and winery here, but for now their winery is in Livermore.

Caddis produces small lots of syrah, merlot, a red blend and cabernet sauvignon with grapes from Livermore Valley, and a chardonnay from Sonoma Valley vines, according to its website.

Free fruit tree and rose pruning clinics at Sonoma Mission Gardens

Do it yourselfers, Sonoma Mission Gardens manager Lydia Constantini will give a free fruit tree pruning clinic Saturday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m., rain or shine. The afternoon brings a rose pruning clinic. 851 Craig Ave., Sonoma. Reserve your place by calling the nursery at 938-5775

The Butcher of San Quentin

So there I was at Reclaimed Antiques on Eighth Street East looking at some leftover kitchen utensils from the Chalet estate sale when I noticed a tall man in a top hat and waist coat.

Eventually he came over to the counter to ask about a Log Cabin syrup tin. He was wondering if they could look up why this Log Cabin tin had a groove in the bottom of it. While they did that, everyone there got to chatting over owner Sharon Ivanoff’s tortilla soup that she serves just to keep customers warm.

Turns out the gentleman collects Log Cabin syrup tins. Some think my kitchen utensil collection is a bit quirky, but this was a step further.

The man started to talk about spending his life in the food business, which perked up my ears. Of course I asked him what he does in the food business.

“I’m a butcher, I’m the Butcher of San Quentin.” Prison, of course.

And then flowed stories of contraband he and his prisoner assistants, all butchers-in-training, had found over the years.

Imagine – scores of baggies of tobacco in a steer brought in for dinner. Just how did they get there?

Thanks to his stories, everyone, including the butcher, lost track of the search about the groove in the bottom of the Log Cabin syrup can. He bought it anyway.

Martini Madness update

Martini Madness is taking place on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Lodge at Sonoma.

According to organizer Gary Saperstein, the Girl & the Fig, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, HopMonk Tavern, Salt & Stone, Tips Roadside, Layla, the Lodge at Sonoma, Reel & Brand and Picazo Kitchen & Bar will all send bartenders to compete for the best and most creative martinis.

Prohibition Spirits, Spirit Works Distillery, Hanson Vodka of Sonoma and Domaine Charbay will provide the base for the martinis and offer their own. Saperstein and Bill Blum are still taking sign-ups from bar and restaurant bartenders if someone else wants to enter.

The Cochon Volant Verses

A complete and delightful surprise to Rob Larman, chef and owner of Cochon Volant along Highway 12, it turns out that Salman Rushdie mentioned the Boyes Springs smokehouse and barbecue in his new novel, “Quichotte.”

Rushdie’s most controversial book, “The Satanic Verses,” resulted in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa, or call for Rushdie’s assassination. Other of his novels have resulted in the highest awards for literature in both the United Kingdom and France. He now lives in the United States and apparently dropped into Cochon Volant in Boyes Hot Springs.

The quote from Rushdie’s “Quichotte” is as follows:

“Dr. Awwal Sant. I’m with a desi friend. Can we come in? Three of us. It is a party.

“The place is surrounded. You know that. Tell me what to do."

“Don’t come anywhere near CentCorp. Follow the highway to Boyes Hot Springs. I’ll send a car to meet you at Cochon Volant BBQ."

“There’s a back way in?”

“There’s a tunnel. Go down the tunnel toward the light.”

Well, locals know that there is no tunnel near or under Cochon Volant or, presumably, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

But everything helps our local restaurants.

The Lodge at Sonoma will provide the substantial appetizers.

Saperstein and Blum suggest guests don’t drive themselves to and from the event. 5 to 7 p.m. 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Get your tickets soon at Eventbrite.

New catering partners

Ari and Erinn Benziger Weisswasser have bought 50 percent of Bruce Riezenman’s Park Avenue Catering, a blend of talents and business that all three are very excited about.

Ari Weisswasser, chef and owner of Glen Ellen Star, says he looks forward to “modernizing” catering everywhere. He and Erinn opened their Glen Ellen restaurant in May, 2012 with all dishes cooked in clay or cast iron in a wood-burning oven, earning enthusiastic reviews from locals. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Ari cooked at several fine restaurants there and in New York and was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s best new chefs of 2015.

Bruce Riezenman, a New York native who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), started the New Deal restaurant in New York in 1982 and eventually made his way to Sonoma County where he founded Prospect Park, Buona Sera, and Park 121 restaurants, the latter formerly at Cornerstone Sonoma.

Riezenman created Park Avenue Catering in Cotati in 1989 and has cooked and consulted around the world. Weisswasser has been honored three times as guest chef at James Beard House in New York.

Riezenman’s latest creation is his Park 101 Mobile Kitchen, which definitely is not your average food truck. It is a totally environmentally sustainable self-sufficient and moveable entity that can produce anything from an oyster bar to menus from Tuscan, Korean and other Asian, Petaluma chicken, beef specialties and more. Watch for Glen Ellen Star influences and what the pair call “Park Avenue Catering, the New Generation.”

Both men will continue their joint operation of Stellar Catering as well.

Ari and Erinn Benziger Weisswasser remain sole owners of Glen Ellen Star restaurant in Glen Ellen.

Meaning of vegetarian, vegan and plant-based

When some people heard that a “plant-based” dinner was served at the Golden Globe awards last week, several of those viewers thought, “What? Why would they do that?”

Lots of reasons, maybe saving the planet, caring for the planet, reducing methane gasses (emitted by cattle) and interest in feeding a world running out of resources.

So why do some foodies need to self-identify as vegan or plant-based, or as a member of the wisdom club. The market and political power are growing with groups of passionate believers lobbying restaurant and winery owners and event organizers to offer plant-based or vegan choices on their menus, if not a wholly vegan menu.

Petaluma-based Miyoko’s Creamery is owned by Miyoko Schinner, who actually sent a pallet of her plant-based cheeses ordered by Golden Globe organizers to be served at the ceremony’s dinner, which certainly is a huge step to the big time.

Unlike some plant-based food producers, Miyoko did not suddenly see a potential fortune to be made by filling a vacuous food category. She emigrated from Japan at age 8, and decided long ago at a lamb dinner that she could not eat the meat while thinking of sheep. Her vegetarianism began then, and she has devoted her life to “making vegan food people will like.”

In a recent dinner and on-stage conversation hosted by Girl & the Fig owner Sondra Bernstein, Miyoko posed the question: “What is a foodie?”

There seemed to be a feeling in the room that vegans or plant-based eaters are not respected as foodies, and “that the definition of foodie has to change,’ said Miyoko. But what is a foodie?

Definitions from Webster to Wikipedia more or less agree that a foodie is someone truly interested in food, so much so that one might plan a trip around food – which vegans and plant-based eaters said Sunday evening is what they do.

So doesn’t the foodie definition already include them?

But their lack of options on many menus is what they are trying to change.

A rather convincing fact shared by Miyoko was that “for every 25 calories that go into a cow, only one calorie for humans to eat comes out of a cow.”

Miyoko’s Creamery business has doubled every year since she opened it in 2014 and has outgrown its warehouse next to Tomales Bay Foods in Petaluma. Her plant-based cheeses are now available in Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and Sprouts, and soon expanding to Hong Kong and Singapore, so she is definitely ahead of the wind and is a terrific speaker and ambassador for her crusade.

Miyoko also hosts an animal sanctuary for rescued cattle, sheep with clef palates, and many other animals on her Nicasio ranch.

Since her cashew-based butter presents allergic reactions for some people, Miyoko is now developing an oat milk butter.

I am looking forward to her mushroom bacon.

Locally, El Dorado Kitchen was among the first to put a fully vegan dish on its menu, a colorful plate of exotic mushrooms, asparagus and several other vegetables. Currently the vegan dish is a lot of the same ingredients in a bowl.

The Girl & the Fig now offers vegan items in each category of appetizer, entrée, and desserts, while Three Sticks Winery serves Miyoko’s plant-based cheeses with wine pairings.

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