Kathleen Hill: Turkey Day coming, crab in the markets and more...

Jack Benny, still looking good at 39, will bring the laughs again, as Silver Moon Theatre presents it's 'Jack Benny Holiday Special' Dec. 3 and 4 at Murphy's.


Thanksgiving next Thursday

The calendar makes our Valley-wide thanksgiving and gratitude official next week, which feels to me like a week too early. It really snuck up on me with all we are dealing with post fires.

Regardless of what we lost or didn’t, we all are thankful for being here, being alive, and having the occasional friend to lean on and trade stories.

It looks as if just being together with friends or family will be our favorite way to spend Thanksgiving this year, regardless of what we cook or eat. So invite someone over who might be alone, share with those who lost their homes, give lots of hugs, and listen to people who need to talk. They, too, will be thankful.

Dungeness crab is in

Sonoma Market received its first order of fresh Dungeness crab yesterday, Thursday, and the fish buyer told me it should start at $7.99 a pound. Of course they will clean and crack it for you. A new experience for me: When Sonomans Tony and Suzie Eglin and I were in England in May, I ordered linguini with crab on “Locals Tuesday” at a country pub and every bit of what we expect fishmongers to “clean” out – all that dark stuff – was included in the dish. Very fishy. It’s all in what you are used to. And the pasta was topped with a delicious cod filet.

Pop-ups and Friday farmers market

Sheana Davis’s Epicurean Connection will host a popup shop at Steiners Tavern on Friday Nov. 17 and Wednesday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 7 p.m. She will sell her jams, relishes, tapenades and cheeses, including her new P-1 Double Cream Brie.

The Friday farmers market will be open on Tuesday, Nov. 21 before Thanksgiving instead of Friday, Nov. 24.

Lori Goldman is again selling her best-ever fruit cakes at Chateau Sonoma at Cornerstone.

Nina Gerety, of Potter Green, will hold her annual Celebration of Color, Light and Jazz at Cornerstone’s Garden Barn to honor artists Shelley Masters, Susan Stark, Don Kellogg, Nancy Granger and Howard Weiner, all of whose work will be for sale.

A silent auction to raise money for the Sonoma Fire Relief fund will include wines from Cline, Meadowcroft, and Obsidian & Keating, spirits from Prohibition Spirits, Vella cheeses and baskets of local products assembled by Potter Green.

Mad and Eddie Duran will play jazz, while winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos will pour Cline wines to go with Vella cheeses, Basque Boulangerie breads, and herbals by Alison Kelley of Great Owl Herbs. Noon to 5 p.m.

Silver Moon Theatre brings back old radio

Local actors and impersonators bring their hilarious “Old Time Radio Show” back to Murphy’s snug for a “Jack Benny Holiday Special” show with vintage commercials on Sunday, Dec. 3 and Monday Dec. 4.

Plus, you can have dinner of fish and chips, bangers and mash or a pub burger at 6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit local fire departments. $30. 464 First St. E., Sonoma. Tickets at or at Murphy’s.

Murphy's to be sold

In other Murphy’s news, the pub is now for sale for $350,000, and as of Dec. 1, Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze will no longer be involved with the business. Apparently the property is already being shown.

Tips Roadside offers permanent art installation

Andrew and Susie Pryfogle of Tips Roadside restaurant-to-be in Kenwood and the already extant Tips Tri-Tips Trolleys that fed hundreds of firefighters, will commission an original art installation to memorialize the fires that raged through the Sonoma Valley in October.

They invite proposals from local artists who want to turn donated items into an original work of art. Residents who would like to donate memorable objects to go into this piece of art can call Susie Pryfogle at 509-0078 or stop by their offices behind the restaurant that used to be Vineyards Inn on Highway 12 in Kenwood. The Pryfogles hope to open Tips Roadside this spring.

Michael Bauer puts out Wine Country list

Probably not coincidentally, San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer came out with his Wine Country “favorite restaurants” column the same weekend as the Michelin Guide was released.

While Bauer mentions that he “takes test runs of new restaurants” in wine country, he also just lists the ones he returns to “again and again,” which is pretty obvious because, again, I recognize his writing. One has to wonder how recently he tried new dishes here in Sonoma.

But congratulations to Fremont Diner, Café La Haye, Oso, El Molino Central, and Glen Ellen Star for making Bauer’s list. Other Sonoma County restaurants mentioned include Madrona Manor, the Shed, Bravas Bar de Tapas, Brass Rabbit, and Single Thread, all in Healdsburg.

Bauer’s Napa reliables include Bistro Don Giovanni, Angele, Miminashi, Oenotri, Kitchen Door in Oxbow Public Market, Bottega, Ciccio, Redd Wood, Ad Hoc, Bar Terra, and Solbar.

Valerie Bertinelli’s ‘Home Cooking’

It wasn’t exactly home, and Valerie Bertinelli didn’t exactly cook, but it was a barn full of fun last Thursday at Liana Estates winery (where Acacia used) to be a few miles south of Domaine Carneros.

Liana is owned by the Péju family of Napa. Their winery chef, Alex Espinoza, throws in a few touches from his native Guatemalan cuisine on top of Bertinelli’s recipes, like adding a little soy sauce into the roasted beets.

Bertinelli, who lives with her husband, investor-manager Tom Vitale, in Scottsdale and Studio City and says she is 43 percent Irish, with some Italian and even Indonesian. When guests showed an interest in her and in her food, she exclaimed, “You make me feel like I’m doing OK!”

In writing her cookbook, which took two years, she kept reminding herself, “I want people to read my book and say, ‘I can do this. I can cook like a real chef.’”

After the arugula and fennel salad came four-cheese and crab mac and cheese in little ramekins, plenty since it was so rich. Bertinelli and Vitale carefully picked out the crab to keep from eating the carbs.

Glen Lyon/Two Amigos wine club pours into fire fundraiser

Saturday afternoon brought a fundraiser hosted by Susie and Squire Fridell at their Glen Lyon-Two Amigos winery off of Bennett Valley Road, which had been surrounded by fire.

Wine club members and other friends gathered and bought wine to benefit the Sonoma Valley Firefighters Association. John Burdick and friends played music while guests ordered whatever they wanted from the green El Coyote taco truck.

Just before Squire announced the event had raised $15,000, he told Rebecca and Chef Charles Holmes, who lost their house and Charles’ 40 years of personal recipes to fire in the Sylvia neighborhood of Glen Ellen, that the Fridells’ kitchen is being remodeled. They will have three stoves and will turn them over to Holmes for his private cheffing and cooking for the horse therapy group Rebecca organizes until they can rebuild their home. Tears all around, even when Charles proudly and humbly described his new and elegant tangerine colored Italian shirt and sweater someone gave him.

Kenwood village gathering

Organized by the Kenwood Press, the entire community of Kenwood gathered Sunday for “the biggest potluck ever” honoring each other and their fire department, led by Fire Chief Darren Bellach, son of Susan and Darryl Bellach.

As Julie Atwood posted eloquently, “For me, to be part of such a big gathering where so much love and gratitude filled the pretty, rain-washed park, felt like the essence of being an American. Seeing the lovely old church surrounded by gorgeous autumn color, set against the backdrop of charred hills brought me to tears (doesn’t take much these days!). Knowing so many neighbors present have lost homes and seeing the huge outpouring of generosity and welcome made me feel very honored to live here.”

Kevin Carruth’s birthday at Gundlach-Bundschu

Kevin Carruth’s big birthday at Gundlach-Bundschu’s Bungalow on Saturday night was also a fundraiser for La Luz and its emergency relief fund. Most of the guests were from his long career in corrections for the State of California and current consultancy with a private contractor. Those of us from Sonoma learned so much about the corrections business.

But before dinner, Nancy Bundschu, a close friend of Claudia Mendoza-Carruth from their Sonoma International Film Festival days, told the harrowing and horrifying story of hubby Jim and her escaping their burning home facing Napa Road.

Nancy still shutters at the sound of helicopters and sirens, as do many of us, but for her it was much closer and more personal. Eventually helicopters flew to and from their property every four minutes to scoop water out of their private reservoir. She said that, “As long as the helicopters kept coming, we knew someone’s home was being saved,” even though Nancy and Jim Bundschu lost theirs.

Happy Thanksgiving, and remember to share and listen.