Kathleen Hill: Sonoma Delicious, winter closures and a note from Maria Viviani

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Park 121 Café & Grill sold

Well known chef and caterer Bruce Riezenman has sold his Park 121 Café & Grill at Cornerstone south of Sonoma.

According to Riezenman, new owners Greg and Julianne Jones will call their version of the only restaurant at Cornerstone “Public Kitchen,” and Riezenman is under the impression the menu “will remain mostly the same. He also said the Joneses will have access to all of his recipes, and will take over in February with a new chef.

Riezenman continued, “I am excited to have fresh eyes on the restaurant and look forward to the positive changes that Greg and Julianne will bring. Park 121 and Cornerstone have given me an opportunity to get to know Sonoma better, and for that I am grateful.”

Riezenman says he’s had “a wonderful seven year run” and plans to focus his time now on Park Avenue Catering, located in Cotati.

Greg Jones has been a resident and businessman in Sonoma County for over 30 years, said Riezenman, having operated Coupons Galore and Best Values magazine, as well as the QZAR-ToobTown-Paradise Pizza family entertainment center in Rohnert Park, among other North Bay ventures.

Sonoma Delicious through January

Some Sonoma restaurants have partnered with California Restaurant Month, created to attract attention to California restaurants during slow January. This is not to be confused with Sonoma County Restaurant Week, which rolls into town March 1 through 10.

Some participating restaurants and what they offer through January includes:

La Salette’s three-course crab stew dinner for $49; the Girl & the Fig Wednesday night Ramen Nights at Suite D, two courses $15; Muscardini Cellars food and wine pairings on Saturdays and Sundays, $35 wine club members, $55 non-members; Ledson Winery & Vineyards offers two wine tastings for price of one; Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards hosts a crab boil with prawns, artichokes, potatoes, corn, hotlinks and sourdough baguettes on Jan. 28 to finish off the month for $135. And Gourmet Food & Wine Tours will give 20 percent off for their tours in January.

More from Sonoma Cheese Factory

After news broke in the Index-Tribune about Sonoma Cheese Factory’s decision to close for the winter, Maria Viviani emailed a passionate statement. It’s what you might read between the lines and paragraphs that could fill in the story. Here’s what she wrote:

“My sister and I are involved in every aspect regarding the business and our building. We have opted to hire store managers for the daily operations of the business and reserve our participation to high-level decisions. It is not the lack of leadership that has led us to the latest decision to close for the winter season, it’s the decrease in foot traffic and sales.

“We are just trying to survive in the wake of last year’s wild fires and the latest Paradise Fire. We look forward to a spring re-opening.

“I am not giving up hope that my sister and I will be able to realize our Dad’s dream of transforming our business into something new and exciting for our town.

“We are so lucky to have a partnership with (project developer) Steve Carlin.

“We are currently in a holding pattern with our plans, but I will let you know if anything changes in the coming months.”

Restaurant temporary winter closures

We all need to hibernate a bit in winter, especially when we are lucky enough to have dark rainy days. Some of us sort and donate clothes, books and other surpluses, and others even start their so-called “spring cleaning.”

Winter is traditionally a slow time for Sonoma restaurants, even when there are swarms of tourists slowing our crossing of Sonoma Plaza in vehicles.

So it’s a perfect time to close for a bit, clean, polish floors, paint, generally spiff up and give staff some time off.

Some restaurants have already completed their breaks or are not closing at all. Temporary closure dates remain for the following restaurants: The Girl & the Fig is closed Jan. 7 to 11 for spiff up. The Fig Cafe & Wine Bar in Glen Ellen will be closed Jan. 15 and 16 for cleaning.

Glen Ellen Star is closed Jan. 1 through 14 “to do some improvements and repairs and give a well-deserved break to our staff, reopening for business and dinner service Jan. 15,” according to co-owner and chef Ari Weisswasser.

Glen Ellen Inn Restaurant, Oyster Grill & Martini Bar is closed Jan. 2 through Jan. 16 for “employee (and employer) vacations.” Chris and Karen Bertrand will be finishing up a few small projects at the restaurant and cottages and creating and tasting some new recipes.

Swiss Hotel is closed Jan. 6 through 13 for its usual break, and will re-open Jan. 14 for regular business and dinner.

Rhône Room Studio and Farm party

Rhone Room owner Sondra Bernstein invites people to “join me at the Rhône Room to toast the New Year” with a Winter Open House on Thursday, Jan. 17 through Saturday, Jan. 19. Enjoy Girl & the Fig Caters nibbles, special pours, and 25 percent off on all wine purchases. Noon to 5 p.m. 20816 Broadway, Sonoma. 935-1233.

Starting Jan. 28, the Rhône Room will be open by pre-paid appointment only on Fridays and Saturdays. Bernstein has also made some exciting changes to the Rhône Around the World Wine Club with new perks, Suite D discounts and special dinners at Fig Farm. Check for upcoming member dinners and events.

Food news with a twist

We have Dungeness crab shortage due to high waves and dangerous crabbing conditions. When last seen at Sonoma Market Dungeness cost $15.99 a pound. And $20.99 in Los Angeles. And lots of people paid what could add up to $50 a crab. The latest sign at Sonoma Market said $10.99 but they were all sold.

Salmon prices have gone up because of water shortages and incoming damming policies. But on the other hand, José Setka, fisheries and wildlife manager for East Bay Municipal Utility District, says that King salmon are returning to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in the Sierra foothills in record numbers.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Pinnacle Foods of Washington state, for allegedly fooling people by calling their potato chips “Hawaiian.”

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is busy growing 70,000 acres of hazelnuts, adding thousands of acres annually, while its wine grape acreage tops out at about 34,000 acres according to the Salem Statesman Journal. Meanwhile, the Willamette Valley and the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau have stopped Copper Cane winery of St. Helena from labeling its wine as Willamette Valley, even though it uses Oregon grapes.

Next year’s Advent calendars might have alcohol or cheese or alcohol and cheese in the little slots instead of just chocolate.

Give me the chocolate.

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