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Kathleen Hill: Pearl’s Diner closing, and other food news

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Pearl’s Diner closed

Last Sunday was the last day for Pearl’s Diner off Fifth Street West; sad day that it was. Sonoma has lost another little restaurant full of character and characters and reasonable prices.

Chuck the owner, who in 16 years at Pearl’s never wanted to reveal his last name and commuted from the Peninsula, said he told his wife he would retire at 50 and he is now 52. So his wife gave him an ultimatum – and he is “retiring.”

Pearl’s has always had a hot rod and Coca Cola motif, even though they sell Pepsi products, complete with spinning padded stools at the counter and questionable air conditioning. But many locals went there almost daily for their All-American burger, chili, plate-sized pancakes, and chicken fried steak.

Chuck hooked this writer with his fluffy omelets and, more recently, with his Hawaiian breakfast special, which he created to honor is Hawaiian mother. If you have ever had Spam and eggs in Hawaii, you should have tried this: three substantial slices of fried Spam, two fried eggs on sticky rice, and green salad with the best spicy Thousand Island dressing ever.

Even though I dashed over as soon as I heard the news and emailed Mary Deely to come join me, he told her and another friend that the kitchen was closed but he could make them a pancake, which made them both very happy.

Chuck made lots of people happy in his 32-year culinary career, starting as a sushi chef who later owned a Jewish deli, and with Pearl’s hamburger joints around the Bay Area. Now with one child graduated from UCLA and on her way to medical school and one just finished high school, Chuck is ready to visit his properties and family in Hilo, Hawaii, Marin, San Mateo and Korea. The backside of his Pearl’s business card says Sonoma Real Estate Co., Inc. on Orange Avenue. The website sonomarealestateco.com does not appear to exist.

Two sources say the location will soon become a Mexican street-food restaurant.

In fact, Tuesday Chuck was already in Hilo, and wanted this writer to, “Tell everyone I really appreciate everyone and all the friendships. I’ve had a blast for all 16 years here in Sonoma.”

As he said last Sunday, “Gone with the wind!”

Serres blueberries are back

Judy Serres’ blueberries from Laytonville are back at both Sonoma Market and at our farmers markets. While they are $7.99 a bulk pound at Sonoma Market, Judy sells them for $5 a basket or $60 for 10 pounds of berries. To speed up the math, that means $6 a pound from her at farmers markets.

Cindy’s Backstreet Diner closes

Cindy Pawlcyn announced on Tuesday that she is closing her popular Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena on Saturday, July 7. Cindy’s Backstreet is next door on Railroad Avenue to Terra and Bar Terra, which owners Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone closed in late May after 30 years in business.

Pawlcyn is closing for what she seems to consider a good reason, meaning she received an unexpected offer for her building that she “couldn’t refuse,” as she told the Napa Register. Terra closed because they could not find workers who could afford to live in the area.

Pawlcyn still runs Mustard’s Grill in Yountville and was founder of Fog City Diner, Go Fish and Brassica. Her “Mustard’s Grill Cookbook” won the 2002 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.

Badly injured in a head-on collision on Highway 121 near Duhig Road in 2014, Pawlcyn looks ahead to opening a second Mustard’s at San Francisco Airport late this summer. She also said she can’t imagine retiring and sees more new restaurants in her future. Good!

Jerry and I used to love to stop in for late lunch at Cindy’s Backstreet, always cool in every way with lovely reliable service and food.

B.R. Cohn and the Fig launch dinner series

B.R. Cohn Winery and Olive Oil Company and the Girl & the Fig have partnered to present two summer dinners in July in the winery’s new open-air barrel barn

The first dinner will be Saturday, July 7 and will pair the three-course meal with “limited production estate wines from B.R. Cohn.”

Girl & the Fig Executive Chef John Toulze will prepare passed hors d’oeuvres, a Little Gem wedge salad with housemade bacon, toasted tomato and buttermilk dressing; fresh corn polenta with spiced duck sugo (Italian tomato or meat sauce), preserved field onions, and garden summer squash; followed by dessert of Jumble berry pie and peach pie.

The July 28 dinner will include passed hors ‘oeuvres, summer salad with zucchini and Caesar dressing; Sonoma porchetta with grilled stone fruit with mostarda and bitter greens, and dessert of “seasonal pavlovas.”

B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Co. are now owned by Vintage Wine Estates, and the Girl & the Fig is owned by Sondra Bernstein. July 7: $95; July 28: $75. Includes wines. 6 to 8:30 p.m. 15000 Sonoma Hwy., Glen Ellen. Tickets at brcohn.com/events or Eventbrite.com.

Nibs & Sips:

Sweetwater Spectrum’s “Sonoma Farm” farm stand is now open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 730 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Luke the Farmer and Sweetwater residents specialize in microgreens, kale, tomatoes and much more that ripens weekly.

Paella master Gerard Nebesky, who has the booth closest to Napa Street at Sonoma’s Tuesday night farmers market, is new to our farmers market offerings opened a 65-seat restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa called Gerard’s Paella y Tapas. The new casual eatery opened Wednesday at the former Arrigoni’s Deli on Fourth Street.

Local Red Hen would serve Sanders

Napa’s 35-year-old Red Hen Bar & Grill has no relationship to the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia whose owner asked Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her guests to leave.

In fact, Napa’s Red Hen owner, Norm Sawicki, says he is a Trump supporter and would welcome Sanders to his restaurant, despite getting nasty phone calls and postings on social media. Sawicki and chef Juan Garcia (formerly of Uva) serve all-American and Mexican food and hope their restaurant survives the mistaken identity.