Kathleen Hill: Wine Garden sprouting, crab season woes and more
After all the problems Dungeness crabs and crab fishers have had from domoic acid and migrating whales delaying the crabbing season, another problem has been that something was inhibiting the hardening of the crabs’ shells and keeping meat from developing. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory attribute the changes to water temperature and currents that effect availability of calcium carbonate, which goes into the shells of crab, oysters and other shellfish. Scientists before and now suggest that these crabby problems stem from climate change leading to increases in acidic conditions as oceans warm and attract more carbon dioxide.
Jordan Kivelstadt is tearing the place apart, and in a good way. That would be at the former Schellville Grill, soon to be called Kivelstadt Cellars Wine Garden & Eatery.
Just to give you a picture of what Matthew Nagan started with when he took over Ford’s Café nearly 20 years ago, we once wrote in our first Sonoma Valley guide book: “The walls tilt slightly, the people tilt slightly, the American flag gets stolen, and the building floods when Sonoma Creek overflows… A big sign at the end of the kitchen warns ‘Beware. Mean Junk Yard Dogs. Will Bite’ A chicklet machine and an empty chewing tobacco dispenser hang from the wall. The walls are covered with old signs, photos and bad jokes, a side of Sonoma history unhung in museums. The waitresses are local and appropriately surly, and everyone knows them and loves them. The restroom is filthy so plan ahead.”
No more filthy restroom. Nagan fixed that and the septic system to sell his Schellville Grill and, after three previous escrows, finely found Kivelstadt, with money and imagination, to take the bait with optimistic eyes wide open seeing what the property could be.
Kivelstadt and friends are remodeling. Already gone are most of the roses along with that huge scary cactus facing the parking lot. Rotting exterior wood has already been replaced. No more pink and green trim that Nagan added after his Guy Fieri Food Network period ended. Watch for a more Restoration Hardware look of beige and brown.
Executive Chef and new General Manager Matt Tucker, most recently of Pangloss and Repris wineries and La Toque in Napa, and Kivelstadt have ambitious plans for four different “experiences” they will offer guests. In what was the diner room, the repositioned long table becomes a bar for a prix-fixe wine and small plates tasting experience; what was the beer room in back becomes a comparative tasting room featuring Kivelstadt and other wines; the patio becomes the main restaurant, with a wine bar on the patio as well.
Nagan left his photo albums and meat smoker behind so Tucker will smoke meats to make tri-tip and porchetta sandwiches and will feature super seasonal salads with vegetables grown at Kivelstadt’s parents’ property.
Watch for a real opening April 18 followed by lunch service Thursday through Sunday and brunch eventually.
Kivelstadt says, “This is an investment for my kids. I’m playing the long game here.” He can, and he will.
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.