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Kathleen Hill: Copia changes, Oreo flavors and Taco Bell honors


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Sonoma Top Tens – complete with laugh track

Sonoma just found out we are one of Budget Travel’s “Coolest Small Towns in America.”

Budget Travel judges chose towns with fewer than 20,000 people that “offer travelers an unparalleled mix of culture, community spirit, natural beauty and great food.”

Experience Sonoma Valley, which is the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau’s marketing arm that communicates beyond Sonoma Valley, notified us of the honor.

SVVB acting Executive Director Gary Saperstein told me, “We are thrilled to be recognized as a cool city... who knew we were that cool to make the top ten list!”

On the other hand, WalletHub, which obviously needs on-the-ground reporters, just named Sonoma the fourth “Best California Beach Towns to Live In.” Mill Valley (no beach) was listed #1, along with Daly City (no beach), Eureka and Richmond.

Sonoma even ranked ahead of towns that actually have beaches such as Newport Beach (90), Santa Cruz (11), Monterey (14), Capitola (32), Morro Bay (34), and Malibu (38).

Would they be thinking of beaches along Sonoma Creek or Nathanson Creek?

Thursday nights on Edge

John McReynolds and crew’s fabulous Thursday night dinners at Edge continue July 12 with cold corn soup with scallop and caviar; seared New York steak with a cured egg yolk and potato purée; and apricot gallettes with ice cream and exclusive Stone Edge wines. The July 19 dinner includes Hopper shrimp salad, crispy chicken with carnaroli rice, carrots and raspberry and peach crepe with almond ice cream. Each dinner $150. 139 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Reserve at larry@stoneedgefarm.com or at 935-6520. Stoneedgefarm.com.

Larson Family Winery’s family photo day

Larson Family Winery’s annual Family Photo Day will be Friday, July 13, and they are taking reservations for appointments.

The Larsons say, “Bring your family, picnic, dogs and smiles and enjoy the afternoon at Larson together. Families will have professional photos taken in a variety of poses and locations at the winery. All photos taken will be sent to your email.”

Proceeds from the event will go to the Valley of the Moon Children’s Center. Remember that Larson Family Winery and crew planted (for free) the educational vineyard and donates their crew to teach Adele Harrison science students the seasonal upkeep of a vineyard. Each student gets to prune and pick a whole vine. They have also planted and taught at the Valley of the Moon Children’s Center as a donation, where proceeds from Photo Day will go. $75 wine club members, $90 others.

Make your Photo Day reservation at 938-3031, ext. 11. 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma. Larsonfamilywinery.com.

Larson also now features Food-Truck Sunday Fundays weekly. This Sunday, July 8, they will host Got Balls Meatball Factory, July 15 brings El Coyote Mexican food, and July 22 features Q Craft BBQ.

Gay Wine Weekend

Gay Wine Weekend co-organizer Gary Saperstein says that he has just added one more Winemaker Dinner with Corner 103 at El Dorado Kitchen ($150).

Great looking Friday night dinners that filled almost too quickly include Jeff Cohn Cellars at the Fig Farm with Chef John Toulze; Winery Sixteen 600 at Fifth Street Farm with Chef Kyle Kuklewski; Sonoma Loeb at the original Williams-Sonoma store; Mercury Wines at Carneros Bistro; and Hip Chicks winery from Portland at the Girl & The Fig.

Chateau St. Jean will again host this year’s Twilight T-Dance to celebrate the 10th anniversary of GWW with chef Chad Carlstedt of Classic Culinare as VIP Reception chef. The Fig Rig and Cochon Volant will have their food trucks and specialties available for general admission t-dancers.

There will also be a hot and cold Recovery Brunch at the Lodge at Sonoma on Sunday, July 22 with still wines donated by MacRostie Vineyards and sparkling wines by Corner 103 ($75). Hilarious auctioneer Michael Tate will stimulate everyone to give. All funds from the auction benefit Face-to-Face, Sonoma County’s HIV/AIDS Network. ($75) 10 a.m. outinthevineyard.org.

Pet Lifeline’s Paws for a Cause

Do not miss a chance to help Pets Lifeline, the region’s only no-kill pet rescue center located right here in Sonoma. Executive Director Nancy King, her crew, and a bevy of volunteers offer shelter to cats and dogs, as well as those who love them, dog training, spay and neutering programs, and chances for humans to read to the animals, become Foster Families to cats and dogs, and even care for feral cats.

You can have a blast helping Pets Lifeline on Saturday, July 21, with its annual dinner at Vintage Kennels on Bonness Road. The owners take the horses, camels and other loveables out of their stalls, clean everything, and strew straw around and load picnic tables inside and out. And occasionally, if you are lucky, a sweet horse will poke its nose back through the Dutch door to nibble your salad.

A stellar pair of chefs, Ari Weisswasser of Glen Ellen Star and Bruce Reizenman of Park 121 work together as Stellar Catering and will prepare the dinner for Paws for a Cause. Expect passed hors d’oeuvres of roasted fig with chevre and pancetta, abalone tostadas and watermelon gazpacho.

Dinner will be served “family style,” meaning lots of large platters to be passed among guests. At your table enjoy summer squash panzanella, salads, wood grilled New York strip, fried artichokes, roasted cauliflower, housemade gnocchi with Chanterelle mushrooms and Romano beans. Vegetarians are encouraged to enjoy the gnocchi which can be served without cheese. Dessert will come in four-ounce mason jars with a summer trifle, verbena panna cotta, peach marmalade and more. $150. 5:30 to 10 p.m. 22071 Bonness Road, Sonoma. Tickets at 996-4577, ext. 110.

America loves Taco Bell

Taco Bell has been voted “America’s favorite Mexican restaurant,” according to an online survey by the Harris Poll, which asked more than 77,000 people in the U.S. ages 15 and over.

How could this be? We forget that we in California are blessed with good Mexican food prepared in the traditions of our neighbors’ families in Mexico. I am guessing that Taco Bell might be the only Mexican food available in many locales.

Pina colada Oreos?

A fellow professor and writer who happens to have dual Canadian-U.S. passports feels compelled during each visit to the U.S. to check out new flavors of Oreos. Recently she found piña colada and kettlecorn flavors of the once classic cookies. How many of you still separate the “top” of the cookie and then eat the filling?

Ram’s Gate news

Joe Nielsen has joined Ram’s Gate Winery as Director of Winemaking. He comes to Ram’s Gate from Donelan Family wines in Santa Rosa where he received a 100-point score for his 2013 Knight’s Valley Syrah from reviewer Jeb Dunnick. Nielsen received a degree in horticulture and enology and viticulture from Michigan State and took a job at Black Star Farms in northern Michigan. In Napa he started at Merryvale Vineyards, then joined Donelan Family Wines.

Changes at Copia

Not only have Terra and Cyndi’s Backstreet Kitchen closed but now Executive Chef Polly Lappetito has left the restaurant at the CIA at Copia.

Lappetito left her Ciccio restaurant in Yountville after six years to become executive chef at the CIA at Copia in 2017. So her departure surprised even the staff at Copia.

A friend and I went there to see the “soft opening” of the Chuck Williams Culinary Museum and had brunch in the restaurant, which now has lots of rich food on the menu. Biscuits full of meats and sautéed artichoke bottoms, followed by Dungeness crab Benedict and bacon and eggs, all of which added up to lots of yummy leftovers for Monday.

Wine history weekend

Sonoma Valley Historical Society and Buena Vista Winery will present some free lectures and a play about the early history of wine and Sonoma Valley on Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29.

Saturday brings a lecture at 11 a.m. by Dr. Peter Meyerhof on the first viticulturalist at what became Buena Vista Winery, followed at 4 p.m. by a free new history play, “An Uneasy Future: General Vallejo, Count Haraszthy and Joaquin Murietta in Sonoma in 1852.” 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma.

On Sunday, July 29, Martha McGettigan, a descendent of Gen. Vallejo, will speak about “General Vallejo: Sonoma Winemaker” at the Depot Park Museum. 11 a.m. 470 First St. W., Sonoma.

For more info call Patricia Cullinan at (805) 801-6625 or George Webber at 260-9511.