Kathleen Hill: Victoria Campbell on the move, Umbria retirement plans and more

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SVMA Art Night tonight

Sonoma Valley Museum of Art invites everyone to Art Night tonight, Sept. 7 with fun art-making tables. Street food by Luis Bos will include quesadillas, tostadas, and churros! Unique signature cocktails provided by Puente Internacional. Live Latin rhythms by VL Trio and a last look at the exhibit “Private Landscapes and Public Territories: Botanicals, Archives and Libraries in the Work of Amalia Mesa-Bains.” $35 pubic, $25 members. 6 to 9 p.m. 551 Broadway, Sonoma. 939-7862.

Victoria Campbell leaves Ramekins

Ramekins’ General Manager Victoria Campbell has left the building to join Jon Sebastiani’s Sonoma Brands, where she will help relaunch Viansa Winery.

Campbell said when she joined Ramekins slightly more than four years ago that Ramekins was her dream “forever job.” Now she is “so excited to work with Sonoma Brands,” where she has “a true admiration of Jens (Hoj) and Jon (Sebastiani).” She looks to a new opportunity to help build another business to its potential.

Campbell repeated that her change is “so bittersweet.” She has guided Ramekins, the General’s Daughter and Cornerstone into growing companies with admirable reputations.

We first met when Campbell was Culinary Director at Sonoma Raceway, as she redid their café menu, and we worked together to plant an organic garden that we hoped would provide vegetables and fruit for the café and some of their raceway food booths.

Nobody works harder than Victoria Campbell. She could be seen setting up early, and folding chairs late at night after an event at Cornerstone, driving and unloading a U-Haul box truck to deliver food and goods during last October’s fires, making sure food was served appropriately at Ramekins or the General’s Daughter, and personally advising brides and grooms at weddings held at all three venues – all with grace, kindness and humor.

Umbria owner might retire

Giulio Tempesta, owner of Umbria restaurant next to the Jack London Saloon in Glen Ellen, might retire at the end of December and turn management of the restaurant over to a management company. After 42 successful years in the restaurant business in San Francisco and Glen Ellen, Tempesta says he loves Glen Ellen but maybe it’s time to do something else. And, yes, he is the former brother-in-law of the much-beloved late Bonnie Tempesta.

Market senior discounts

Whole Foods Sonoma announced that it is discontinuing its Tuesday senior discount (12 percent), which it had maintained to compete with Sonoma Market. It takes effect Oct. 1. If you want to voice your concern over this new policy please call 844-936-8255. It is the Whole Foods customer service, a real person. Sonoma Market told me by phone that “We have absolutely no plans to change our Tuesday senior-discount policy” at 10 percent.

Nomad Chic goes to South Africa

Linda Hamilton, owner of Nomad Chic at Cornerstone, will take 24 guests on a “South African Culinary Safari” dinner without leaving Cornerstone on Thursday, Sept. 13. Hamilton has shops in both Cornerstone Sonoma and in Todos Santos, Mexico and is a happy “nomad” world traveler herself.

Chef Elizabeth Binder will prepare shaved cured biltong (dried cured meat) with crispy chili bites, goat cheese miele bread with watermelon, peppadew peppers and watercress salad, smoky braised lamb shoulder with chakalaka relish and buttered pap, and Cape brandy pudding with red Rooibos tea, thought to have medicinal powers. Bring your own beer, wine or other. Vegetarians accommodated with notice.

Binder grew up in Durban, South Africa, and worked in restaurants in London, Sydney, the French Alps, and to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked with Traci des Jardina, Douglas Keane, Richard Reddington and Loretta Kellar, with stints at the French Laundry and Chez Panisse. She also co-owned Bar Bambino in the Mission District and now has Hand-Crafted Catering in Napa.

Hamilton has moved the dinner table to one long one down the center of the Cornerstone Courtyard between the shops, which is more protected and has good romantic lighting at night. Never fear for those who went last year and froze in the wind and dark of night in the Sunset test kitchen area. $125. 6:30 p.m. 23570 Arnold Drive, Suite B. Tickets at nomadchic.mx under dinner series or via linda@nomadchic.mx.

This was a rather different sort of Labor Day weekend

Whether making car parts, picking fruit, changing beds and cleaning toilets, pounding nails, washing dishes, stocking produce, fixing air conditioners, building cars, writing stories, or pouring cement, those who labor to make everyone’s lives better deserve respect. Let’s think of them, and all of us, whenever we enjoy the fruits of their or our labor.

Some people spent Saturday glued to televised memorials to the late Sen. John McCain and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. After those emotional experiences, we had to remember what it was we were going to do for the rest of the day.

It seems like several impromptu last minute birthday dinners, potlucks and picnics surfaced. Friday some of us feasted on roasted beet salad, mixed greens, perfect Julia Child-ish fileted chicken, barbecued beef, roasted potatoes and fresh peach tartlets. Saturday brought an al fresco potluck dinner under star-like lights hung in a large tree with the host preparing sous vide and then grilled steak, spare ribs, chicken, and a panzella (bread) tomato salad, platters of freshly picked tomatoes, peppers and green beans from guests’ gardens and (my) garlic bread, followed by one guest’s divine chocolate cheesecake.

And Sunday we ended up at a Bennett Valley home where we found guest Bret Sackett, whose official retirement as Sonoma’s Police Chief took effect this past Tuesday, making pizza with toppings such as arugula, thinly sliced pepperoni, sausage, various cheeses and loads of fun. Dinner followed with barbecued spareribs and sausages, macaroni salad and green salad, followed by a lavender Princess Cake and carrot cake for the birthday girl.

Much of the conversation was about last October’s fires, since some guests lost their homes, which everyone was reminded of the devastation as we drove up Bennett Valley Road from Warm Springs in Glen Ellen.

Paul Curreri talked about tomatoes growing where his and Manuel Merjil’s house had been in Glen Ellen and said they had never grown tomatoes. Susan Miron has pomegranate trees coming up where her house was in Kenwood.

Three Fat Guys Winemaker Dinner

Three Fat Guys Winemaker Dinners are one of the most fun winemaker dinners around, hosted by “Fat Guy” and former Green Bay Packer Tony Moll at the Red Grape. The next is Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Expect appetizers and a four-course dinner of salad, pizza, a short rib or salmon and dessert, each paired with Fat Guys wines. Moll is a fourth generation Sonoman on both sides. Other Fat Guys include Daryn Colledge, born at the North Pole, and Jason Spirtz from Jacksonville, Florida. $75. 529 First St. W., Sonoma. Reserve at 996-4103.

Workers, where are you?

Thinking about Labor Day brought back our local labor shortage. It is an increasingly urgent problem. And it isn’t just in Sonoma Valley.

In many conversations where participants are in the food or wine business, or in a retail businesses, whether during a meal or sitting on a bench somewhere, talk turns to everyone looking for help.

Recently Tony Correia, owner of Wine Country Consultants, spoke to Rotary on what some members expected would be a dry, boring topic: science and vineyard development and sales.

New vast vineyards are being planted from Frates Road near Petaluma to Kenwood and many other locations by “the Canadian pension fund” and other pension funds investing in pinot noir, according to Correia.

And many of them will be “farmed” by machines, not people. There is a shortage of people since many migrant workers have either fled, are in detention centers, found more lucrative jobs or were sent back to their countries of origin. And American workers don’t want to work that hard. The only jobs created by the machines are those for the people who assemble the machines.

According to Bill Swindell in the Press Democrat, Steve Sangiacomo said, “During harvest, wages can go as high as $30 an hour. During the rest of the year, pay rates have increased at many places from $15 to $17 per hour.” Sangiacomo is a partner in Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, one the largest vineyard owners in terms of acreage in Sonoma County.

We also have an extreme shortage of restaurant workers. Dishwashers garner substantial signing bonuses for just showing up. Wow.

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