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Kathleen Hill: New openings, and be wary of romaine!


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Frenchie Picnics and Provisions opens wide

Co-owners and chefs Sarah Pinkin and Liz Payne opened their Frenchie Picnics and Provisions last weekend after the usual permit delays, but are we ever glad we waited. Pinkin was executive chef at Murphy’s Irish Pub and Payne was executive chef at Williams-Sonoma’s Sonoma store before they each took time out to have a flock of children.

Run right in for all sorts of healthy food, and don’t let that scare you. Choose among lunch and dinner sized containers loaded with salmon Niçoise or chicken salad with kale and avocado, Vietnamese noodle bowls, charcuterie trays, sushi, apples, cheese sticks, PB&J sandwiches for kids of all ages, and the closest thing to a real French baguette sandwich (mine included good ham, brie, Dijon mustard and salted butter – although the butter wouldn’t be salted in France). ($10 to $15.)

Find lots of regional food products including Girl & the Fig chutneys, June Tayler conserves, cookbooks from State Bird Provisions and others, Clif Family nuts, and French imports to come. Love the old bikes.

But there is one problem – guests are not allowed to sit down. A friend and I sat on a bench (part of a table set Pinkin and Payne purchased at Sonoma Country Antiques) just to chat for a second and Payne had to tell us we could not sit at all because they don’t have any parking spaces.

Readers have asked about a restaurant going in at the corner of First St. West and West Napa, which also does not have any parking spaces. While there is precedent for food sales at the Frenchie location, there is no precedent for food service at the would-be restaurant location.

When the Frenchie location was Shone’s Market, the last men to own it had picnic tables with benches inside and it was our kids’ favorite place for sandwiches at the time.

Besides, the yogurt shop on one side of Frenchie has tables and chairs inside and out, and Bump Wine Cellars has sofas and comfortable chairs inside.

So why not a permit for a few stools and tables and chairs for people to eat their salads and sandwiches at Frenchie?

A call to Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison helped explain. The proposed corner restaurant gets a “parking credit” because it “fronts on the Plaza.” Tasting rooms have different permits with restricted food service and therefore don’t need parking places. Goodison was unaware of a computer-generated sign posted on a pole in the driveway beside the yogurt shop saying those spaces were for customers. A yogurt staff person said, “We do not rent those spaces,” and hung up.

Possible positive resolution: Planning Director Goodison suggested that Payne and Pinkin come in to see him and file a use permit to have some seating, which would be welcomed by them and loving local customers alike.

Tips Roadside opens officially this weekend

Most locals are aware of the Tips Tri-Tips Trolley, which we watched being built out adjacently to Scooteria in front of Safeway on West Napa Street.

It was a slow and painstaking process of converting an old trolley car to a kitchen on wheels.

The conversion of what was last the Vineyards Inn and one-time a “filling station” was just as slow and painstaking.

But, wow, Andrew and Susie Pryfogle did it and did it beautifully. Now their Tips Roadside is open for lunch and dinner and soon for daily brunch.

You wouldn’t recognize the place.

Find a full bar to the left as you enter, loaded with only local hard liquor including Hansons vodkas, Hobs and Griffo gins, Sonoma Brothers bourbon, Spirit Works rye, Raff Barbary Coast rum and La Luna mezcal among others. At the end of the lower level outdoor/indoor dining area is what Andrew calls “my brewery,” two tanks where he makes Roadside IPA and Roadside Pilsner.

Now for the food. Culinary Institute of America graduate Thaddeus Palmese contributes a southern touch to his food and has served as executive chef of the Tips Tri-Tips Trolleys for a few years. Last weekend the Pryfogles hosted three “soft opening” evenings with friends and family and one to honor first responders. Everyone was given three tickets stapled together with your three courses selected for you.

This writer’s first course included pickled shrimp and vegetables cocktail in a jar, while favorites at our table were the tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons and the housemade charcuterie board. We would still like to try the escarole arugula salad, “sort of Niçoise salad,” and crispy oysters.

Next course brought the Fisherman’s stew, seared rock cod, meatballs, fried chicken. The cod was excellent and some preferred the meatballs. Another table loved the burger (grass fed) and the braised short rib with polenta fries. Additional housemade tater tots, grilled seasonal vegetables, house gnocchi and polenta fries can all be ordered as sides.

The Pryfogles were vital in feeding first responders during the October wildfires. At 12:35 a.m. they ran to the trolleys, took them to Glen Ellen and Kenwood fire departments, and cooked throughout. Meat came from restaurants and Laura and Steven Havlek of Sign of the Bear made trips to Costco to buy pounds of meat that they took to Suite D where volunteer chefs cut it for the trolleys.

Catch the gas pump that was left from the old “filling station” that once occupied the building.

Be sure to check out the emotional artwork at Tips Roadside. In the courtyard, gaze at artist Helena Nash-Donzelli’s commissioned “Tree of Life” made with burned and melted kitchen utensils left behind when people fled their homes in the neighborhood.

As Susie says, “We also wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their homes with permanent art installations from pieces that were left behind. It is our hope that you will feel the love of community, passion for food and the comfort of home every time you walk through the door.” 8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 509-0078. Tipsroadside.com.

Homegrown Bagels celebrates First 40 Fiesta

Homegrown Bagels owner Stuart Teitelbaum, his grown kids, friends and customers will celebrate both his birthday at the bagel shop’s First 40 Fiesta on Sunday, June 10. Everyone is welcome to the restaurant deep in the southwest corner of the Marketplace Shopping Center.

Homegrown was born on West Napa Street where Tasca Tasca is now, and in 1999 moved to a larger space with more tables in the Marketplace. Enjoying many longtime loyal customers, Teitelbaum and Kathy Hargitt welcome everyone to join in the fun Sunday evening. 6 to 10 p.m.

Sam Badolato new chef at Valley of the Moon

Just returned from filming an episode of “Chopped” on the Food Network, chef Sam Badolato has immediately launched a food and wine pairing program at Valley of the Moon Winery.

First he shocked local chefs by winning Bodega Bay’s 2017 Chowder Day “Best Recipe for Chowder.” Badolato moved his culinary talents into Canadian-owned Valley of the Moon Winery and Madrone Estates.

Badolato cooked the entire community dinner recently for Glen Ellen fire survivors and families, with fabulously innovative touches to cowboy food that belied his Sicilian-Pittsburgh roots.

Once his grandmother lined him and his brothers up and told them to touch her hands. Sam’s were the warmest, so she made him her dough assistant forever, including at family restaurants, delis, pizzerias and even Bado’s Cucina.

Later Badolato studied at Italian cooking schools and worked as a private chef in homes in Calabria.

Fast forward to this week and guests can enjoy Badolato’s creations in the new Window Block Kitchen facing 120-year-old zinfandel vines at Valley of the Moon where you can either taste the chef’s Wine and Food Pairing four-course menu or small plates à la carte, all paired with Valley of the Moon or Madrone Estates wines.

The four courses ($55) might include burrata with grilled apricots, mussels Provençal, Roman-style sausage, and wood fired duck breast with brined vegetables and leeks.

A la carte offerings include the above plus stuffed grilled artichoke, salmon sliders, Sonoma Mountain Beef hanger steak, and fabulous regional artisanal cheese plates and charcuterie boards ($12 to $25.) Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, Friday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen. 939-4500. Valleyofthemoonwinery.com.

Romaine lettuce still a concern

CBS radio said Saturday that “the lettuce growing season around Yuma, Arizona is over,” suggesting that the e coli danger is over if all the contaminated romaine lettuce came from there.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control says five more people have died from the e coli associated with eating Romaine lettuce. Symptoms include diarrhea, which can be bloody, severe stomach cramps and vomiting. It usually takes an average of three to four days after eating contaminated food for people to begin experiencing symptoms. See your doctor immediately if you have eaten Romaine lettuce and have these symptoms.

Nibs & Sips

Auction Napa Valley raised $13.6 million last weekend… Mary’s Pizza Shack has added an Italian chopped salad, an Italian chopped wrap, a barbecue bacon burger, barbecue chicken and chicken chimichurri pizzas, a Marco Polo salad, buffalo chicken wrap, eggplant fritti, and shrimp alla zucchini noodles ($.,85 to $16.75) to its seasonal menu.