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Kathleen Hill: Restaurants slowly re-opening under Newsom's rules

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Restaurants re-open?

Earlier this month, Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s public health officer, allowed some businesses to reopen for curbside delivery.

Bay Area media reported that all Bay Area counties were basically closed, except for Sonoma and Napa counties.

Yes, a few more cars parked around Sonoma Plaza and unloaded city dwellers who felt the need to get out of their homes and go for a drive to the wine country.

We saw lots of people walking around and through the Plaza, sipping beverages from cups, and picnicking at tables in the park. Most of these visitors were not wearing face coverings, which demonstrates both the benefits to local businesses and the dangers of opening local businesses. A very fine line.

After Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting (all from members’ homes) Mase announced that Sonoma County has not met the criteria for re-opening since numbers of new cases of COVID-19 in the county have actually increased and we had one more death from the virus.

So it will be a few weeks at least before Sonoma restaurants can open to sit-down dining. The loosening of the health order will only apply to dine-in eateries, meaning bars and other businesses that serve primarily alcohol will remain closed for the time being.

On Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom released his new guidelines for restaurants once they re-open:

All staff and customers must wear face coverings.

Servers and bussers must wear gloves.

Tables must be six feet apart.

Every object and surface in a restaurant that could be touched by more than one person must be sanitized, from door handles and toilets to light switches and credit card readers.

Menus must be disposable.

Cutlery must be wrapped in napkins before placement on tables. Table cloths must be removed after each seating and carried away (with napkins) in a plastic bag.

There is a suggestion of installing Plexiglas between tables (producers are out of stock) and some restaurants are hanging shower curtains instead.

Customers must wait in their cars for their tables to be ready.

Local restaurants won’t know how to proceed until Mase evaluates the state guidelines and makes her recommendations.

NBC News in Sonoma last weekend

Saul Gropman and his Café LaHaye became Bay Area television stars last weekend when NBC News came to Sonoma to check out what Sonoma is doing creatively during the pandemic. The cameraman took a few shots of the Plaza and focused primarily on East Napa Street, with lots of words of wisdom from Gropman.

According to Gropman, on Friday “The NBC anchor stopped by and asked a few questions, then asked if he could call over his cameraman. I think they were looking for open businesses due to the lifting of restrictions that were announced that day.”

Gropman happily suggested to the crew that Sonoma offer the Plaza for an outdoor dining area for Sonoma restaurants and maybe even close the streets around the Plaza as is being done sporadically in Europe and is being seriously considered by the San Jose City Council.

Gropman said he had been thinking about street closures at the beginning of the shutdown since officials had talked about drastically reducing the seat capacity of restaurants upon reopening.

Café La Haye, Della Santina’s and Maya are all open for takeout with orange cones and even a little windmill at Maya to designate curbside pickup parking spaces on East Napa Street.

Fig Rig parks at the high school

The Fig Rig is now parked in front of Sonoma Valley High School daily. Offerings include: Kimchi fried chicken sandwich with chili aioli, kimchi and white cheddar; top sirloin burger with Balsamic onions and black pepper aioli; and a fig and arugula salad (each $10); grilled cheese sandwich with tomato confit, blue cheese fries, and herb fries (each $8); and their sea salt chocolate chunk cookies ($3). Order at truck for now, noon to 4 p.m. 20000 Broadway, Sonoma.

Fig Rig owners Sondra Bernstein applied for a temporary use permit from the City of Sonoma several weeks ago, hence the Fig Rig popping up in the high school’s bus turnout starting this week.

Restaurants are doing everything they can imagine to create and survive and keep their employees working. Chef entrepreneur Tom Collechio said on MSNBC on Monday that 25 percent of job losses in the United States are losses of restaurant jobs, the largest segment of unemployment claims in the country.

Dine, donate for Popo the Clown

Generations of kids and their parents have enjoyed Popo the Clown, aka Penny Byrd, and her funny party acts, face painting and balloon tricks that she has used to entertain thousands of Sonoma Valley residents. Her Banana Dippers have given a little sweet perspective to farmers markets and fairs.

Incredible energy has this lady, who takes care of her kids, grandkids and “Papa,” the latter of whom works hard to beat serious on-again-off-again bouts of cancer.

Now all of her gigs for the next few months have been cancelled, from Sonoma’s Tuesday night farmers market, various county fairs and in-person birthday parties.

Picazo Cafe is partnering with Three Fat Guys tasting room for a dine, drink and donate for Popo this Friday, May 15. Popo will received 30 percent of Picazo’s sales and 10 percent of Three Fat Guys’ wine sales.

Kina Chavez of Picazo said, “Popo is a great customer of ours and we would love to help her during these difficult times. Let’s put a smile on her face, the way she has been putting a smile on our kids’ faces all these years.”

Tony Moll, of Three Fat Guys, commented, “We have to take care of family.” 4 to 8 p.m. 20816 Broadway, Sonoma.

El Molino Central makes us smile again

Remember El Molino Central owner Karen Waikiki’s Christmas cats peering over the edge of her restaurant’s roof this past December? Well here she goes again.

This time Waikiki has pretty little cheery flowers popping up out of the roof along with her two terriers, Molli and Loto, right above her red and white banner informing us of “Car hop service. You park. We come to you.”

And she actually has servers who come out and take your order to go and bring it out to you. You can also order frozen food to take home for another day.

Some of us remember drive-ins, right? Now all El Molino servers need is roller skates.

Nibs and sips

Glen Ellen Star started home delivery of its daily dinner to homes in Glen Ellen and Boyes Hot Springs this week, available Wednesday through Sunday. Owner Ari Weisswasser hopes to add Sonoma to the itinerary soon (917-821-8154).

Sweet Scoops is selling ice cream to go from its shop, the Red Grape is selling Sweet Scoops ice cream by the pint, and Sweet Scoops will deliver your ice cream order to your front door. Yummy! 408 First St. E., Sonoma. 721-1187.

Sebastiani Theatre offers Friday night curbside pickup of your favorite movie nibbles from popcorn to candy and sodas. Perfect for watching their online movie offerings or anything else if you are a Friday Movie Night household. Or even if you aren’t watching movies. Friends had a ball picking up all their faves on Mother’s Day. Order at sebastianitheatre.com.

Helping SOS for our homeless

Several people are creating ways to help feed our homeless neighbors, and most of them have been our neighbors here in Sonoma Valley.

Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club

Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club will deliver a sign to your door that says “You Can’t Quarantine Love” for a donation of $15 to $50, all of which goes to our Sonoma Overnight Support, the homeless services nonprofit. Locals can no longer make casseroles and donate them, so restaurant chefs are providing the food, which is now being distributed at Burlingame Hall.

Even General Vallejo has his own sign on his bench on the Spain Street side of the Plaza. To get yours, go to SonomaValleyWomansClub.org.

Kivelstadt Cellars

Jordan Kivelstadt, owner of Kivelstadt Cellars who bought the former Schellville Grill, has spent lots of time creating partnerships with SOS and Coastal Dispensary.

For several weeks now during the shelter-in-place, Kivelstadt and crew have been cooking and donating 100 meals a weekend to SOS. The food they give to our homeless is the same meal they sell to their 75 corporate clients, which might range from meatloaf sandwiches to burritos.

Devon Wardlow of Coastal Dispensary’s Coastal Cares philanthropic arm, with whom Kivelstadt has partnered in its endeavor to secure the retail cannabis dispensary license being considered in Sonoma, considers its contributions to be a “pro-active investment” with the goal of serving 10,000 meals to those in need in the next five years. Coastal already has dispensaries in Santa Barbara, Lompoc and San Luis Obispo.

La Salette and Tasca Tasca

Manuel Azevedo reopened his two Sonoma restaurants, La Salette and Tasca Tasca, for takeout food this week. Azevedo says that most of his regular “azores” food menu is available including some favorites such as his great salad, braised pork belly, cod cakes, Day Boat scallops, oven roasted sardines, mac and cheese, pot roast, salt cod casserole, pork and clams, and the Brazilian stewed beef with pork and smoked sausage ($11 to $26). Clientele Kristin and Craig Adryan wrote to Azevedo: “The food was spectacular and deserved to be served at the restaurant, but we thank you that it was available in spite of world events. The pork and clams were actually better than I remembered the dish (didn’t think that possible) and certainly more generous than a restaurant serving. Kristin’s scallops and cod cakes were immensely popular with us. We must confess we have small portions remaining for an anticipated excellent lunch tomorrow.”

Don’t forget the flan or chocolate mousse. 452 First St. E., Sonoma. 938-1927.

Tasca Tasca offers most of Manuel Azevedo’s tapas menu including those fabulous la Salette rolls, fried green beans with almonds, potatoes with truffle butter, salt cod cakes, Portuguese soup, pork sliders, Piri Piri potatoes or chicken wings, goat stew, Shishito peppers, and kale salad with anchovy dressing. ($1 to $9). Order a few, because tapas are “small plates.” 122 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 996-8272.

Starling Bar

Starling Bar, once the location of Pasali’s card room saloon, now serves creative craft cocktails and lots of local alcoholic beverages. Current co-owners Fred Johnson and Elizabeth Takeuchi-Krist bring in the Girl & the Fig’s portable quick fire wood-burning pizza oven and are open for to-go cocktails and pizza Thursday through Sunday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. Don’t miss their pimento cheese (not what you remember). Contactless pickup with pizza and cocktails place in your trunk at 19380 Highway 12 at West Spain Street, Sonoma. 938-7442.

Sunflower Caffé

The Sunflower has reopened with an abbreviated menu including lots of baked treats, coconut chia seed pudding, strawberries and cream waffle, buttermilk biscuit sandwich with scrambled eggs, cheddar, chives, shallots and aioli, avocado toast, steak and eggs sandwich, soups, bean and kale salad, salmon salad with watercress and little gem lettuce with asparagus and fava beans with Green Goddess dressing, a roasted beet tostada, and a spicy chicken confit sandwich. ($9 to $21). No tipping. 421 First St. W., Sonoma. 996-6645.

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