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Kathleen Hill: Holiday shopping and the Larmans go to Chico

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Shop around

Who sandwiched Thanksgiving?

And I don’t mean the turkey.

Many people took off Thanksgiving Day and that Friday from school and work to be with family and friends and to relax together, or even alone. This year, partially due to smoke from tragic fires, schools throughout the Bay Area were closed all week.

Now Thanksgiving seems to be sandwiched between competitive shopping days.

Let’s see. We have pre-Thanksgiving or “holiday” sales, Thanksgiving Day shopping sales (although fewer big stores were open), Black Friday which is the ultimate sharp-elbow competitive shopping day, Small Business Saturday shopping day, football on Sunday, Cyber Monday and now Cyber Week and Giving Tuesday.

Many wineries, shoe shops and magazine and newspaper publishers throughout the country sent out “Happy Thanksgiving” and buy-my-stuff emails, with a quick first sentence hoping our Thanksgivings were great.

Our family braved Black Friday shopping once, and have never returned. Do we really need all that stuff or are we seduced by commercials and the competition of “winning” whatever it is we went after? But these sales really do help parents who can get clothes, school supplies and shoe bargains for multiple kids.

Small Business Saturday seemed to be a great success judging by the crowds of people strolling Sonoma Plaza sidewalks. Sunday seemed a little more quiet except for at Readers’ Books where former “Daily Show” head writer Elliott Kalan told stories and read his first children’s book, “Horse Meets Dog,” which Andy Weinberger announced had out-sold Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” on Saturday.

Cyber Monday hype has gone so far as to endanger purchasers’ identities, apparently, whether you are buying a hard to find toy, an “ugly sweater” or a laptop.

No stats are in yet for Giving Tuesday, when most nonprofits appeal to our “Thanksgiving” instincts to give thanks for their good works. We certainly hope giving and receiving went well.

And if you shop at Williams-Sonoma, which was packed all weekend, their “cyber” day goes on all this week. And don’t forget Sign of the Bear for scads of kitchen doodads.

Oh yeah, hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and leftovers days.

Romaine Lettuce update

As of Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have narrowed the source of the e. coli-laced Romaine lettuce to California’s central coast and Northern California.

They claim that the harvesting season is over there, advising that Romaine lettuce is again safe to eat if it is newly labeled with its place of origin and that growing region is not on the central coast.

Menu changes at Mint & Liberty

Every new restaurant needs to work out the kinks, get their staff working together as a synchronistic team, and find out what its public might like.

Obviously responding to customers’ comments, Mint & Liberty has taken some long strides toward pleasing locals in the last week or so, which is a very good thing.

The biggest step is that they have created a breakfast menu, served daily from 8 to 11 a.m. They are serving two “Dutch Baby” dishes: one is sweet, topped with lemon marmalade; the other is savory, with smoked salmon shallots and crème fraîche. Instead of being puffy, these are flat and served fresh from the oven in a hot cast iron pan.

We have not yet tried the organic coffee cake, the coconut chia seed pudding, or the whole grain pancakes under the “buns, cakes and pudding” section of the menu.

The seasonal vegetable omelet comes with three organic eggs, smoked mushrooms and kale and fontina cheese, or you can get a kimchi pancake with an organic egg, sambal dip and tamari vinegar.

The Liberty Breakfast is now served with two eggs, two slices of bacon, housemade rye or challah toast, and well-done crispy hash browns as a full breakfast ($13). Meat lovers might enjoy a country fried steak made with 5-Dot Ranch beef with gravy and an egg.

The Sonoma Farmers Breakfast comes with two eggs, four slices of bacon, kale and smoked mushrooms. Biscuits and gravy means sausage gravy, an egg, and Togarashi. Eggs Benedict includes pork belly and lemony Hollandaise sauce on an English muffin topped with rocket greens.

The vegetable omelet, Liberty Breakfast, pastrami hash, and country fried steak are served all day ($12 to $14).

The all-day menu has changed slightly as well. Basically, they raised the price of the many burgers and included the fries instead of making them à la carte, plus some other additions and subtractions.

Manager Thomas Painter writes a whole section of the new menu to explain that “Smaller and lighter fare is located at the top of each section, and larger and heartier fare is near the bottom.”

While the Liberty Burger started out at $12 with fries extra at $3 or $7, it now costs $16 with fries included.

The Sonoma burger went from $18 to $21, China Town from $18 to $20, the New York burger with pastrami, coleslaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing went up two dollars to $20, and the Chicago, topped with an all-beef hot dog increased to $20 as well.

Lizzy and Rob Larman to Chico

We reached Rob Larman, owner of Cochon Volant, on Monday sailing up the Napa River with a friend on the way to a relaxing recovery lunch at Angèle restaurant at the base of Main Street in Napa.

The Larmans met Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network reality show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” through fire-relief cooking in Sonoma County a year ago, and the two bonded further during the filming of Cochon Volant’s recent segment in Fieri’s show.

Fieri’s business manager called Larman on Wednesday and asked if he could bring his two smokers up to Chico to help cook Thanksgiving dinner for Camp Fire victims.

Local philanthropist Judy Serres loaned the Larmans her new diesel Ford truck, so the Larmans took off for Chico to help out feeding fire victims in the Paradise area of Butte County.

Lizzy and Rob each drove a truck towing a smoker up to the Chico State University parking lot. Inside, chef Tyler Florence and another crew were preparing all the side dishes.

Larman said the whole operation was orchestrated by chef Jose Andrés and his World Central Kitchen, which provided the turkey breasts. The Larmans got up at 3 a.m. Thanksgiving morning and were able to smoke 180 turkey breasts at a time, with more cooking on rotisseries.

Asked where they stayed while they were there helping, Larman said, “Lizzy and I made a bed and slept in the back of my truck. We plugged a Nespresso machine into the smoker and we didn’t suffer much.”

Larman also commented that, “Jose Andrés is my hero,” as he is to many since he took his World Central Kitchen to Puerto Rico to feed thousands after the hurricanes.

Glen Ellen Stroll Saturday, Dec. 1

Three “downtown” Glen Ellen wineries will again sponsor the Glen Ellen Stroll on Saturday, Dec. 1. Guests can sip, savor and shop their way around the delightful one-block Sonoma Valley community. Taste wines at Kivelstadt Cellars, Laurel Glen Vineyards and Talisman Wines, all accompanied by bites from Les Pascals, a treat anywhere. $30 at the door of any of the three wineries. 2 to 6 p.m.

Stop into Jack London Saloon, Garden Court Café or Yeti restaurant for lunch before you imbibe. Or try the Fig Café, Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen Inn or Yeti or the Saloon for dinner afterward.

Glen Ellen is alive and well, so let’s help local business rise again from the ashes.

Noodle Spring starts at Suite D

Wondering where Sondra Bernstein’s Noodle Spring gourmet ramen shop is in Boyes Hot Springs?

Still waiting for the go-ahead to open, Bernstein has launched it for now at her Suite D. John Toulze will offer a chef’s special each week while they test recipes for the eventual brick and mortar Noodle Spring. Gluten free noodles available. Perfect for these cold nights. Pop-ups start at 5 p.m. with last service about 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday. 21800 Schellville Road, Sonoma.

Meadowcroft wine-tails

Tom Meadowcroft, of Meadowcroft Wines, will offer wine-tail Saturdays in collaboration with Prohibition Spirits every Saturday in December, starting Dec. 1. Wine-tail tastes will include concoctions such a Merry Mulled Mistletoe with Meadowcroft Syrah and Prohibition Spirits’ Apple Brandy, the Ugly Sweater or the Countdown. No reservation or appointment needed. Complimentary with the purchase of any wine tasting flight, which range from $15 to $20. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. 934-4090. Meadowcroftwines.com.

Sister Cities holiday party Dec. 7

To taste “Holidays Around the World” in foods, check out the Sonoma Sister Cities Association’s holiday food celebration on Friday, Dec. 7 at Vintage House Senior Center. This party is for all ages and features holiday traditions, wine and fun from countries where Sonoma has Sister Cities.

Members, including some who came from Sonoma’s Sister Cities, will prepare special holiday foods from Aswan, Egypt; Chambolle- Musigny, France; Creve in Chianti, Italy; Kaniv, Ukraine; Patzcuaro, Mexico; Penglai, China; and Tokaj, Hungary.

Free to SSCA members, $10 for nonmembers at the door. No-host wine bar $5 per glass. Cash or checks only at door. 6 to 8 p.m. 264 First St. E., Sonoma. For more info contact Diana Short at 337-0178 or greve@sonomasistercitiesassociation.org.

Join me at Williams-Sonoma’s store on Broadway this Saturday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. for a history and demonstration of cooking with cast iron of all prices from Lodge to Le Creuset. Lots of tips on what to buy and how to maintain it. Tastes of food by W-S chef Randy and Valley of the Moon wines. Free. 605 Broadway, Sonoma. Reserve at 939-8974.