Kathleen Hill: From dawn to Duskie, pop-up dinner and fire memories

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Duskie Estes rides into Friday market

Duskie Estes, of Zazu Kitchen & Farm in the Barlow outdoor marketplace in Sebastopol, filmed a State of California food tourism video with Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, a Hong Kong singer-songwriter, at the Friday Farmers Market on Oct. 5.

A pre-med and pre-law graduate of Brown University, Duskie learned to love food while dining out every Wednesday evening with her father. She was a vegetarian until she married John Stewart, now a salumnist who, with Duskie, raises a wide range of – excuse the expression – table animals such as chickens, ducks, goats, ducks, sheep, rabbits and pigs, the latter for their Black Pig bacon products.

Estes has won several Good Food Awards and competed on the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef,” “Guy’s Big Bites,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and has been featured in the New York Times, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Sunset, Wine Spectator, Bon Appétit, and the Wall Street Journal. She is also a wildly funny character

Zachary Albright pop-up dinner

Saying, “I always sell out,” Zachary Albright is inviting people to his next pop-up dinner at the Springs Community Hall on Oct. 28.

Albright worked at Harvest Moon Café as chef de cuisine for about seven years, spent time as a sushi chef at Morimoto, and then began to work as a traveling chef from Oregon to Martha’s Vineyard. Albright says that currently he has invitations to cook in Croatia, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Jamaica and Russia.

Cautioning “no modifications,” Albright offers a menu of foie terrine with rye crisps and quince rose compote, Di Stefano burrata crostini with prosciutto, and wild mushroom tartlets with cream sherry and garlic confit purée as hors d’oeuvres.

Entrée choices include a Laura Chenel goat cheese and La Tur stuffed Indian blood peach with pancetta, seared Day Boat scallops with Granny Smith apple purée with braised pork belly, butternut squash agnolotti with housemade ricotta, or Turkish spiced crispy skin duck breast with Chioggia beets and Japanese sweet potato mousseline. Dessert will be a Mangosteen rice pudding with mango sphere, with an orange lace and longan berry relish. “$85 for food, $20 for alcohol per person.” 6 p.m. Reserve directly with Albright at

Nibs & Sips

Richard Reddington has closed his Redd restaurant in Yountville, citing 28 years in the business, not “killing it” financially, and wanting to spend more time with his family as reasons.

Restaurants are closing throughout California, partly due to high rents and labor shortages.

Lagunitas Brewing Company is cutting 12 percent of its staff, apparently thinking the craft beer industry has crested with a multitude of small craft breweries. Heineken recently bought the Sonoma County favorite with a taproom in Petaluma.

Flatbed Farm in Glen Ellen has hired Hayley Cutri as farm manager to replace Rachel Cohn-Obut, who has moved on to her own Little Moon Farm in Napa. Some of you might know Cutri as a server at Kenwood’s Salt & Stone restaurant. 13450 Highway 12, Glen Ellen.

Wendy Ruiz has left Exchange Bank to take over the Las Palmas location between McDonald’s and Happy Dog to start her own Mexican restaurant, Las Diablitas Taco Shop. Love the name. Watch for breakfast, lunch and dinner hopefully opening the week of Oct. 22. But you can already sample tastes of what they will be serving from their new taco cart out in front on Highway 12 in the evening.

Fire reflections

Many of our local chefs found the whole subject difficult to discuss. Here are a few of their reflections from this week. Most restaurants either cooked or donated their food in their refrigerators and freezers before it spoiled. All chefs, food providers, and food donors offered their skills and goods not expecting a penny in return. Simply to help our community.

La Luz Center

During the fires, La Luz served more than 2,000 meals to community fire victims, all of whom were invited to be together, share stories and share food cooked by Taqueria El Paisa this past Monday evening, Oct. 8. Nearly 300 people from ages 2 months to 92 celebrated being alive.

The Girl & the Fig

Owner Sondra Bernstein coordinated a commissary of more than 50 chefs who cooked out of her Suite D and catering kitchen to feed people everywhere and created the “Delicious New Chapters” cookbook collection and giveaway. We collected about 10,000 cookbooks, gave away about 8,000 on our April 8 giveaway day, and distributed the rest to Republic of Thrift and to fire victims in Santa Rosa, who thought the books were their first steps back toward normalcy. All 10,000 donated cookbooks were given away by three weeks ago.

“It is just too much to think about ... so many stories,” said Bernstein. “I have a new understanding what a catastrophe is and I couldn’t be more grateful for the life I am able to live today. I have a true appreciation for how our city can pull it together when really needed - in the time I have lived in Sonoma I have never seen such unity of a community as what I saw in the time of the fires.”

Ramekins Culinary Center

Ramekins manager Victoria Campbell, chef Kyle Kuklewski and owner Darius Anderson hosted many evacuees for several days at Ramekins.

Campbell said, “Last October is a week I will never forget for sure. Meeting and greeting strangers like I was inviting them into my own home. Some with cats, some with dogs, some with their older parents. I just wanted to wrap my arms around everyone.”

Campbell has now left Ramekins and works at Viansa.

The Epicurean Connection

Epicurean Connection owner Sheana Davis started the No Pay Café during the fires with food prepared for several cassoulet dinners that wouldn’t be used and which she and Ben Sessions served to evacuees at Sonoma Valley Inn. They expanded the café at the Springs Community Hall with food from Depot Hotel, Ramekins, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Rotary and Kiwanis, most of which donated food to other locations as well. Thousands of meals were assembled with food from Amy’s Fine Foods, Kendall Jackson Winery, Facebook chefs, Rainbow Grocery Coop, Aunt Momo’s Catering, Delicious Dish, Spread Catering and Ceja Vineyards. They continue to serve donated food on Saturdays at the Lighthouse Church.

“It is an honor to provide meals to our community,” said Davis.

Cafe La Haye

On Oct. 9 Cafe LaHaye owner Saul Gropman received an early morning knock on his door from Sonoma residents Bucky Peterson, who informed him that the windows at Cafe La Haye had blown wide open. When Gropman arrived at his off-the-Plaza cafe, he found ash and debris strewn across the floor.

“My staff had to evacuate,” said Gropman. Sebastiani Theatre manager Roger Rhoten “let us plug into the theater generator to keep all the perishables chilled.”

That week, Gropman decided to offer “a beacon of light” to the community. “I put out a post stating that on Thursday night I would offer wine to any neighbor who would like to come by,” said Gropman. “The next night I opened for a simple three-course dinner thanks to Roger’s generator.” And he ended up comping it to everyone.

This past Monday, the anniversary of the fist night of the fires, Gropman hosted the same group back for wine and conversation. “No matter the challenges we face,” said Gropman, “we are all Sonoma and the ‘love’ is stronger than ever.”

Basque Boulangerie

The Basque just kept handing out free coffee and pastries that they cranked out in the back bakery.

The Red Grape

Carole and Sam Morphy were in Hong Kong when daughter Megan and son-in-law Tony Moll called to talk about the fires and what to do. The Molls and crew cranked out more than 1,000 pizzas to donate to evacuees and first responders. They still almost choke up when talking about it and how happy they were to help.

Megan Moll posted on Facebook this Wednesday: “I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of love when I walked through the Red Grape doors the first day of the wine country fires. Members of our amazing community including, our staff, friends and Rotarians helped feed evacuation centers and first responders. I’ve never been so proud to call Sonoma my home.”

Cochon Volant

Rob Larman woke up smelling smoke, called CalFire to ask where he could help, called his crew and rolled his smoker trailer to Sonoma Valley High School evacuation center, the first to show up to feed people. Larman sums it up:

“None of us expected to be paid. Graziano, who has been with me for 17 years, showed up right away. It is still very emotional.

“Service is in chefs’ DNA. Look at José Andres – he is the best with his World Central Kitchen he takes from Puerto Rico to Clear Lake to feed the hungry in emergencies. We all want to make people happy and bring comfort and help people come back after suffering.”

Nexr week, Tips Roadside shares their stories.

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