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Kathleen Hill: The 10-pound fire, Corner 103 murder mystery and more


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Trying to recover

Some of us are in the sick-to-my-stomach, crying inside or out, just plain anxious, or even guilt stages now.

Last weekend I heard from friends that they still cannot return to their burned-out homes, one because there were too many deer carcasses on the property. That’s how fast the fire spread – faster than deer could run. And they were stocking up at Safeway to try to live at a succession of rentals they were lucky to afford.

Another at the Glen Ellen end of Warm Springs Road lost her house and her rentals, which were her total income, and can’t go home either. She and her daughter-in-law, Chris Everidge, garden coordinator at both Flowery and Sassarini schools, are staying at a local hotel while her tenants look for housing.

Sonoma Mission Gardens manager Lydia Constantini’s parents ran from their totaled home in the Mark West area of Santa Rosa, only for her mother to fall and break her hip and be sent to a Marin hospital because those in Santa Rosa were in the fire zone. But Lydia still brought loads of vegetable starter plants for each school to our School Garden Coordinators meeting this week, with extras for Dunbar School whose garden turned to ashes.

Those of us who still have windows and doors to open feel a little guilty that we can let the smoke out and the fresh air in.

I got to the guilt stage abruptly standing in a long line down the Halloween candy aisle at CVS. The lady in front of me turned and said, “Isn’t this horrible?” pointing to the candy. I said yes, and “It seems so irrelevant now.”

Actually, I was in line to trade in some black outdoor lights for orange ones because neighbors had asked where my lights were for this Halloween. So trivial.

She fingered two little tubes of Revlon makeup in her hands and said, “I lost my house in Glen Ellen.” And she was buying makeup. Good for her!

Personally I alternate between stomach churning to tearing up at almost anything – thinking of people or seeing people who lost their homes, for whom friends bought them empty purses, or trying to imagine what going to look at a pile of ashes formerly a home must feel like. I am only part way there. Maybe we all have just a little PTSD.

Friends have had their eyes go funny, some have been unable to eat while evacuated to friends’ homes elsewhere, and many of us now just don’t know what to do.

We are grieving and mourning our lost sense of place, as people who lost their homes are trying to develop action plans.

And often it feels good to do something to help.

One escape: Murder Mystery Dinner

Corner 103 will go ahead tomorrow night, Saturday, Oct. 28 with its 1950s Murder Mystery Dinner at Suite D. All to the sounds of 1950s music and flavors so guests can uncover the murderer. Period attire encouraged – leather jackets, Sandy and Rizzo, poodle skirts. Some contests. Dinner will include hors d’oeuvres of deviled eggs and oysters Rockefeller, followed by shrimp cocktail, “tuna casserole” of ravioli with seared tuna, pot roast with whipped potatoes and baby vegetables, and lemon chiffon pie, all served with Corner 103 wines. $80. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 21800 Schellville Road, Suite D, Sonoma. For tickets call Lloyd Davis at 212-988-2747 or ldavis@corner103.com.

Sonoma Bar Battle next Saturday

Sonoma Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 111 will hold its annual fundraising Sonoma Bar Battle Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Vets Building in an effort “to get back to normal,” according to Ronda Leen. This year’s “battle” will benefit fire relief “to help people affected by our recent fires including first responders, service industry workers and our community.”

Bartenders from Saddles Steakhouse, HopMonk Tavern, Mary’s Pizza Shack Sonoma Plaza, B&V Whiskey Bar & Grille, the Swiss Hotel, EDK, Town Square, Steiner’s Tavern and Carneros Bistro will compete. Gloria Ferrer will again host their Glorious Gloria Sparkling Competition with bartenders creating a cocktail using Gloria’s sparkling wine. Beam-Suntory will serve as spirit sponsor.

Train Wreck Junction will make the place rock, helped along with Illusions Lighting Design of Sonoma. $40 advance, $45 at door. 6 p.m. Tickets at Steiners, Town Square, Eraldi’s and Mary’s Pizza on the Plaza or at sonomabarbattle.com.

Chefs cooked their sadness off

When the fires started, Rotary of Sonoma Valley quickly started to organize with Ron Lawson offering his Field of Greens for a collection and distribution site, and Sam Morphy offering his Red Grape as a coordinating kitchen to feed locals and first responders.

Eventually the Red Grape could open and the prep kitchen needed a bigger space and moved to Sondra Bernstein’s Girl and the Fig catering kitchen. Bernstein, always humble, insists she simply worked through Rotary and helped coordinate a huge number of chefs to use food that restaurants needed to use before it spoiled, cook the food in certified kitchens, and distribute it to those who needed it.

Among those from out of town that helped was Facebook’s corporate caterer, Bon Appétit Management Company, which delivered 2,500 meals daily to the cities of Sonoma and Napa, meaning 5,000 meals daily total, and committed more. Distribution of those meals was coordinated in Napa by the Salvation Army and the CIA, and in Sonoma by the Springs Community Hall and the Epicurean Connection.

SF Fights Fire, a coalition organized by Traci des Jardins, State Bird Provisions, Bi-Rite, Off the Grid, Liholiho Yacht Club, Delfina, and Pizzeria Delfina approached feeding wine country fire victims as “a giant potluck,” according to Eater Sf. They gave chefs assignments, took everything to Traci des Jardins’ catering company in the Presidio, and then out it goes to where there is need in the North Bay.

Who’s cooking at the 10-pound fire?

Several people overheard first responders calling ours the “10-pound fire,” meaning they gained 10 pounds despite their strenuous efforts because Sonoma food was so good.

With the risk of leaving someone out, here is a list of restaurants and food producers that cooked and delivered where told, from food pantries to serving first responders. (Compiled with the help of Sondra Bernstein.)

Whole Food, Nugget Markets, Williams-Sonoma, the Red Grape, Maya, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Ramekins Culinary School, Cochon Volant BBQ, Tips Tri Tips Trolley, Picazo, Got Balls, El Dorado Hotel & Kitchen, Sunflower Caffé, Glen Ellen Star, Taste Catering, Café La Haye, Operationbbq, Nature Zone Farms, Arija Lee Catering, the Girl and the Fig, St. Francis Yacht Club, the Epicurean Connection, Shiso Modern Asian Kitchen, Breakaway Café, B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille, Sonoma Golf Club, Sonoma Grille, El Molino, Harvest Moon Café, Lasagna Ladies, Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Glemmy’s Pies, Crisp Bake Shop, Vella Cheese, Rancho Gordo, Paul’s Produce, Tony’s Fine Foods, Dandelion Chocolate, Guittard Chocolate and Sonoma school food manager Cody Williams.

Some of these restaurants and chefs cooked at the Girl and the Fig catering, others cooked in their own kitchens and took the food to service points, Cochon Volant rolled to Sonoma Valley High School the first day, Tips Tri Tips Trolley up to fire lines, Schellville Grill to the Kenwood Fire Station, and of course Ramekins cooking in their kitchen for those evacuated and finding a place to stay temporarily at the culinary school and inn.

Update from Sonoma Valley Vintners

Relatively good news from Maureen Cottingham, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance. We have all seen what appears to be devastation, but in many cases vineyards actually served as fire breaks.

So far, says Cottingham, “13 vintners report some degree of direct property damage due to the fires. Acreage of vineyards burned is still unknown, however, not expected to be significant. At least nine members have reported loss of their personal homes.” Summarizes Cottingham: “The damage to the Sonoma Valley wine industry, its wineries and its vineyards is not widespread. The quality of the 2017 vintage is expected to be excellent.”

Cottingham encourages all of us to communicate to wine lovers everywhere to come visit our wineries soon and help them recover.

Shop locally, please.

Ramen Nights restart Wednesday

Popular community Ramen Nights begin again next Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Suite D. Same thing: small salad and big bowl of ramen for $15. 5:30 to 8:30 or until they run out. Great gatherings.

Sonoma Lavender and Flatbed Farm flattened

Farming tragedies, beyond marijuana, include the loss of Sonoma Lavender near Chateau St. Jean and Flatbed Farm. Owners Gary and Rebecca Rosenberg sold the business but kept the farm, their home and barn, of which “every inch burned” according to Rebecca.

Maya Restaurant is “closed until further notice” to allow staff to recover from the impact of the fires. Will keep you posted.

Flatbed Farm, across Highway 12 from Audubon Canyon Ranch and MFK Fisher’s “Last House,” burned to ashes as well, except for metal walls leaning sideways. Certainly farmer Rachel Kohn-Obut will find another place to farm. Meanwhile she is trying to get crowdfunding sites to wave commissions for fire victims.

The old Gordenker turkey sheds are gone as well.

Important food recall

Packaged broccoli florets sold locally at Safeway under their Signature brands label have been recalled due to possible listeria, according to all major news networks. The florets, packed in Salinas, California, have been distributed nationwide to Safeway and Trader Joe’s stores.

If you have any of these packed between Oct. 11 and Oct. 20, dump them immediately.