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Kathleen Hill: Valentine’s menus for aphrodisiacs

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For lovers only...

Sommelier, food and wine pairing expert, and wine writer Natalie MacLean came up with a fun list of food and wine pairings that appear to have aphrodisiac properties, inherent either in the foods, the wines or the combination of both.

MacLean claims that some foods became thought to be sexy because they resembled male private parts, such as “avocados, which according to the Aztecs, grew on the testicle tree to their female counterparts such as oysters and figs.”

Others believe that chili peppers increase heart rates, make some people hot and sweaty and, thereby, increase passion.

Check out these matchups: oysters with crisp dry white wine or sparkling wine; asparagus with sauvignon blanc; soft cheeses with buttery chardonnay; pine nuts with sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio; Acai berry (thought to be a natural “blue pill”) with a full-bodied red such as shiraz or grenache; strawberries and whipped cream (maybe even dipped in chocolate) with ice wine; and chocolate with port. MacLean claims that Casanova used to drink a cup of hot chocolate a day. Message conveyed.

And finally, bacon with a full-bodied savory red wine. MacLean says that just the smell of food can stimulate desire such as pumpkin pie and lavender for men and cucumber and licorice for women.

Last minute Valentine’s treats

Les Pascals Patisserie

Les Pascals Patisserie in Glen Ellen just chimed in with its Valentine’s menu and it’s worth a trip to beautiful downtown Glen Ellen.

Try their homemade dark and milk chocolate hearts; chocolate tablets, French mendiants in white, dark, milk and ruby chocolate, and pink meringues.

French mendiants are a traditional French confection made of chocolate disks studded with mixed nuts and dried fruits, which Les Pascals says represent the four mendicant or monastic orders.

Relax and Eat Bread at the Panel

Sonoma’s almost underground bread bakers, Relax and Eat Bread, will offer grilled cheese sandwiches on their handmade bread along with a “lovebirds special” on Friday, Feb. 14, at the Panel Wine Lounge. Trivia at every table. Tea, beer, wine and espresso available. 4 to 8 p.m. 938-7152

Murphy’s Irish Pub Valentine’s Dinner

Murphy’s last minute entry into Valentine’s dining is a “four course prix-fixed menu” to include a crab cake, beet salad, entrée choice of grilled Day Boat scallops, buttermilk chicken breast, grilled loin of lamb or mushroom risotto, all followed by a strawberry tart. Sonoma band Shameless will serenade for a dinner and dancing evening. $40. 5 to 9:30 p.m. 464 First St. E., Sonoma. 935-0660.

Sunflower Caffé

Sunflower Caffé invites people to bring their dogs in for Valentine’s “Puppuccino” with their housemade dog biscuit made with oat flour, peanut butter, banana, olive oil, salt and pasture-raised eggs. First five customers will get a gift bag of these dog biscuits. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. winter hours. 421 First St., W., Sonoma. 996-6645.

Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts

Harvey Cohen resumes his Friday night donut pop-ups with “the best donuts ever” served hot. Loads of locals enjoy their donuts, coffee and root beer at these events. 19030 Railroad Ave., Sonoma. Harveysdonuts.com.

Ramekins to close temporarily May 1

Last Friday cooking instructors received emails from Ramekins Culinary School management saying the school would be “put on hold during major renovations” of the building – specifically, all would be “put on hold after the end of April until renovations have been completed.”

The purpose of renovating has several possibilities including actually remodeling of the teaching kitchen to the left just beyond the reception desk as one enters Ramekins.

The email also said that management has “some amazing plans going forward.”

Reactions from most instructors ranged from astonishment and shock to sadness. Many of the instructors simply love to share their knowledge of food from different countries and disciplines while earning a little money, and have been doing so at Ramekins for up to 20 years.

Built and founded by Sonoma developer and philanthropist Suzanne Brangham, Ramekins Culinary School never was a great moneymaker, but offered tremendous outreach to Sonoma Valley and to the food-curious throughout the United States.

This writer remembers interviewing several culinary stars at Ramekins during the Brangham years — from Jacques Pépin and Georgeanne Brennan to Michael Chiarello and Chuck Williams. In fact, Brangham hosted Chuck Williams’ 90th birthday party at Ramekins in 2005 to benefit the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art even though she had already sold the facility, and the nearby General’s Daughter, to Sarah and Darius Anderson. In 2019 they sold the property, as well as Cornerstone Sonoma marketplace on Highway 121, to Stacy and Ken Mattson.

For lovers only...

Sommelier, food and wine pairing expert, and wine writer Natalie MacLean came up with a fun list of food and wine pairings that appear to have aphrodisiac properties, inherent either in the foods, the wines or the combination of both.

MacLean claims that some foods became thought to be sexy because they resembled male private parts, such as “avocados, which according to the Aztecs, grew on the testicle tree to their female counterparts such as oysters and figs.”

Others believe that chili peppers increase heart rates, make some people hot and sweaty and, thereby, increase passion.

Check out these matchups: oysters with crisp dry white wine or sparkling wine; asparagus with sauvignon blanc; soft cheeses with buttery chardonnay; pine nuts with sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio; Acai berry (thought to be a natural “blue pill”) with a full-bodied red such as shiraz or grenache; strawberries and whipped cream (maybe even dipped in chocolate) with ice wine; and chocolate with port. MacLean claims that Casanova used to drink a cup of hot chocolate a day. Message conveyed.

And finally, bacon with a full-bodied savory red wine. MacLean says that just the smell of food can stimulate desire such as pumpkin pie and lavender for men and cucumber and licorice for women.

Under Brangham’s ownership, Ramekins earned the IACP Cooking School of the Year award, which was awarded personally by Jacques Pépin in Dallas, Texas.

Now the General’s Daughter has been closed for “renovations” and is planned to reopen this spring as a new restaurant called Georgette, while Ramekins Culinary School will go dark for remodeling as well.

Garagiste Festival reminder

Cynthia Cosco will pour her local Passaggio wines tomorrow, Feb. 15, at the 10th annual Garagiste Festival at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building before it moves on to Solvang, Los Angeles and Paso Robles.

The festival offers samplings from 40 micro-production commercial wineries pouring more than 100 wines from Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Sierra Foothills, Lodi, Santa Cruz and beyond.

This year’s wineries include 12 that have never participated at a Garagiste Festival before, including wines from Katie Bundschu’s Abbot’s Passage (she also has a shop here in Sonoma), 601 Cellars, Aesop Wines, Brombeere Wines, Carboniste Modern Sparkling, JonEVino, Oceano Wines, Ondule Wines, Purple Dragon Cellars, Ricci Vineyards, Sutro Wine Co. and Zo Wines. Tickets at door or at Eventbrite.com: $65 to $130 VIP. VIP includes Girl & the Fig box lunch, special tastes and chocolates.

Ty Caton new release party Saturday

Keep your Valentine’s treats coming and attend Ty Caton Vineyards February New Release Party on Saturday, Feb. 15 at his winery on Eighth Street East. Enjoy light appetizers, music and discounts while tasting new releases including 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Bench Merlot, Ballfield Syrah, Estate Petite Sirah and loads more. $20 public or $25 at door, free to wine club members plus three guests. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 21684 Eighth St. E., Suite 460, Sonoma. Reserve at 938-3224, ext. 1. Or wineclub@tycaton.com.

Japanese ceramics and cooking class

The Sonoma Community Center will host a Donabe clay pot ceramics workshop with master potter and chef Michiho Fukumori from Iga, Japan, where the local volcanic clay comes from. Apparently every household in Japan has one of these pots. Our son and daughter-in-law cook rice in one and swear that it’s the best ever. It’s Japan’s culinary equivalent to American cast iron pans.

Fukumori is a sixth-generation Donabe ceramicist and a trained chef and will bring unglazed Donabe pots from her Iga studio for students to glaze and fire at the Community Center’s kiln on Saturday, Feb. 15. On Sunday, Feb. 16 the class moves to Shige Sushi in Maxwell Village shopping center for Fukumori to teach Japanese one-pot cooking in the pots guests have helped create. $250 plus $75 materials.

Chili Bowl Express rolls through

The Chili Bowl Express fundraiser for the Sonoma Community Center rolls into town on George Washington’s actual birthday, Saturday, Feb. 22.

Guests get to choose their own bowl made by local ceramicists before they go into the kitchen to select a chili to fill the bowl, all the toppings imaginable and cornbread made by local bakers.

Chefs who will be making and donating the chili include John McReynolds of Stone Edge Farm, Kathy King and Denise Hazleton of Sonoma Overnight Support, Knights of Columbus, the Swiss Hotel, Sonoma Hills Retirement Center, Delicious Dish, Salt & Stone, Tom Jenkins (former owner of Sonoma’s Best), Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Picazo Café, Linda Goudy, Epicurean Connection, HopMonk Tavern, Lisa Lavagetto of Ramekins, the Ackerly Sisters of Sonoma Market, Lauren Wayson, Jacob’s Pizza, Wild Thyme Catering & Events and Teen Services. Vegan choices available. Silent auctions, ceramics demonstrations, fund a need, and desserts with beer and wine available.

Three seatings at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 6 p.m. $30 early seatings, $60 evening seating includes cocktail hour at 5 p.m. includes ceramic cup, cocktails, and chili with bowl. 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Tickets at 938-4626 or sonomacommunitycenter.org.

Beltane Ranch Pruning Party

Beltane Ranch’s annual pruning party is a super fun way to learn how to prune vines, understand what different cuts mean to the plant, get down and dirty, and consume great food and wine created at the ranch.

On Saturday. Feb. 20 you can have a role in “kicking off the growing season” by prepping the vines to do their best. Learn from pros and champion pruners, drink Beltane’s estate wines and learn about them, stop for a snack as you check in and get “tools of the trade.” It’s hard work (do as much as you can) and you will love it, rewarded with winemaker-led tastings, Beltane Tacos made by chef Greg and Evelia, and a pig roast on an open fire pit along with pineapple, organic winter vegetables and handmade-before-your-eyes tortillas.

As you finish your vineyard experience warm up by the fire and enjoy the Polo & Mariachi Azteca’s uplifting music. Guests also get to take home Beltane crew T-shirts and pruning shears that they use that day. Wear rubber boots, and if you don’t have any Beltane will get some for you at extra charge. Rain or shine. Wine club members $110, public $150. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 11773 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. Tickets at beltaneranch.vinespring.com. 833-4233.

Stone Edge Farm’s dinner series

Edge chef Fiorella Butron is a certified Ayuurvedic practitioner among other talents and she has planned a most interesting nine-course menu that “observes healing principles” for every body type and personality characteristic. She says the meal will delight your senses and leave you feeling restored with mindful eating and strong social connections to promote health.

On Friday, Feb. 28, the menu will include Yukon gold potatoes with stinging nettles and watercress; Mendocino uni (sea urchin) with citrus and coconut; beets with kelp, spiced pumpkin seeds and cherry syrup, Dungeness crab with fermented pepper afi Amarillo and purple celery; carrot soup with turmeric; quail with parsnip purée and black trumpet mushrooms and chicory root; persimmon sorbet with kir and vodka; purple corn crepes, dark chocolate, persimmon, honey pollen Jujube, maca, and more dark chocolate. Plant-based menu also available. $250 public, 20 percent less for wine club members. 6:30 p.m. 139 E. Napa St., Sonoma. RSVP to 935-6520 or concierge@stoneedgefarm.com.

Winning Breathless Wines

Congratulations to former Sonoma resident Sharon Cohn and her Breathless Wines for winning the Sparkling Wines Sweepstakes in the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Cohn and winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster triumphed with their Sonoma County Blanc de Noirs ($32),

Gadd-Coster has made wine at Jordan Winery, J Vineyards & Winery, and Rack & Riddle, specializing in the Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, and lists the famed André Tchelistcheff as one of her primary mentors.

The winning wines are available for public tasting Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion in San Francisco.

Sharon Cohn is also a member of the Cha Chas, who help with extracurricular activities at Valley of the Moon Children’s Center.

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