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Kathleen Hill: New Year’s food news, from crabs to Spam


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Murphy’s Irish Pub is wide open

Contrary to what you might have read in this column last week, Murphy’s Irish Pub is wide open. Some of us had found it closed occasionally.

So my giant apologies to everyone involved. I corrected and apologized for erroneous information on the Index-Tribune’s Facebook page, Murphy’s Facebook page, as well as my own Facebook page and made seven statements of corrections and apologies on two radio shows on Saturday. Fortunately it looked as if many people found the 4 p.m. Dublin New Year’s celebration after all.

According to partner Bob Smith, Murphy’s is open with their full menu from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, with Locals Night specials on Tuesdays and Trivia Night on Wednesdays. 454 First Street East, Sonoma. 935-0660. Sonomapub.com.

Salt & Stone adds Happy Hour

Kenwood residents and those from Sonoma who have ventured north on Highway 12 to Salt & Stone in Kenwood (or south from Santa Rosa) are loving it. On Tuesday, Jan. 2, the LaMonicas launched a great-sounding Happy Hour menu, which is now available 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Watch for $5 well cocktails, mostly $5 pints on tap from Ballast Point, St. Florian’s, Bear Republic, Henhouse, Moonlight, Lagunitas and Stella Artois. Lots of fine bottled beers and a crisp apple cider. A glass of red wine is $6 and white is $5.

All Happy Hour eats are $6 and include crispy curry calamari, a half-pound of steamed PEI mussels, blackened fish tacos, peel-and-eat prawns, Kennebec fries, crispy duck confit spring rolls, grilled flatbread, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and a quarter-pound house-ground burger with cheddar and aioli on a brioche bun. Plus oysters three ways. Check it out where Kenwood Restaurant used to be, 9900 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 833-6326, 5 to 9 p.m. daily.

Pot in restaurants

And we are not talking pots in the kitchens.

Now that recreational marijuana sales are legal with at least three stores in Sonoma County, Lisa Mattson posed some interesting questions and thoughts on Facebook Monday in which she brought up the effect of pot smokers’ leftover odors on their clothes and hair overwhelming restaurant customers at nearby tables in other states where she has tried to dine.

She wonders whether chefs have considered the effect on customers’ dining and wine-tasting room experiences and the effect of staffers smoking pot on breaks, not that they all abstain now.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

Dungeness crab is back, and pricey!

After delayed and halted crabbing seasons, crab fishing is back on track on California’s north coast, with crabs looking (unofficially) larger than in recent years – perhaps since they have been in the ocean longer to grow. Over New Year’s weekend they were priced at local markets at $12.99 a pound, much of which is shell. If you indulge, you can always boil the shells to use in soups or sauces.

Some families’ traditions include crab on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and some Sonoma Market customers said they were going to bite the bullet and use some of the meat in soup and the rest in salads the next day –stretching a local specialty.

Winter spiff-ups

Some restaurants take a break in what used to be Sonoma’s slow time (winter) to do deep cleaning, sometimes painting, carpet cleaning and more and, in some cases, to give their hard-working staff a little down time.

Glen Ellen Star will be closed from now through Thursday, Jan. 11, and will reopen for dinner service on Friday, Feb. 12. Ari Weisswasser, Erinn Benziger Weisswasser and friends look forward to seeing everyone again then.

The Swiss Hotel will closed on Sunday, Jan. 7, and reopen on Friday, Jan. 12 at 11:30 a.m. for lunch, and at 5 p.m. for dinner.

The Girl & the Fig will close Monday, Jan. 8, and reopen when they are finished with their touch-up.

The Fig Café & Wine Bar in Glen Ellen will remain open Wednesday through Sunday nights. Santé at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn will be closed through Jan. 16, but the 38 North lounge will be open with Santé-level bar food, all reasonably priced. Hint: try the French onion soup.

Guy Fieri’s New York closure

Santa Rosa area resident, Guy Fieri, apparently served his last meal at his Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, according to Eater New York.

Fieri opened the restaurant in 2012 and suffered a scathing review by the influential Pete Wells in the New York Times. But Guy’s was one of the country’s highest grossing restaurants in 2016, well after Wells’ negative review.

Fieri, the star of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and all of its Food Network spinoffs, cooked his tail off to feed Santa Rosa fire victims during our October fires.

Food news update

The year’s food news ended nationally with the invasion from Canada of the InstaPot, the new rage in quick, effortless cooking developed in 2009 in Ottawa.

A team of tech brains got together under the leadership of Dr. Robert Wang to create a device to “prepare quality food in less time, promoting better eating and reducing the consumption of fast food,” according to instapot.com.

As a culinary historian, I can say that every “new” kitchen utensil or tool was developed with almost those identical goals, but this one seems to do it all, or most of “it.”

InstaPot (Instant Pot) allegedly can serve as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice and porridge cooker, yogurt maker, sauté and browning pan, steamer and warmer.

Accessories include a steam rack, recipe booklet, serving spoon, soup spoon, measuring cup and user manual, with the caveat that “To maximize performance of cooker only use genuine Instant Pot accessories.”

Sign of the Bear sells InstaPot cookbooks, but never carried the actual device, and Williams-Sonoma said they ran out of them quickly. Most were sold via amazon.com.

If you have an InstaPot and aren’t sure what to do with it, Ramekins offers an Instant Pot Workshop given by Molly Molofsky and Brigitte Theriault on Sunday morning, Jan. 21. Learn to make curried butternut squash soup, six-minute mushroom risotto, braised short ribs in red wine, spicy garlic greens, and cinnamon applesauce over vanilla ice cream.

Only seven places remain as of this writing. $95. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Ramekins.com.

Spam is flying off shelves

Cans of Hormel’s Spam “Hawaii collector’s edition” have been snatched up from Safeways in Hawaii, causing some stores to put Spam in cases under lock and key and hire Spam Patrol private police.

Apparently there’s a black market for Spam in Hawaii, if you can imagine. True confession: I have a small Spam collection and have never found this special can of Spam in any Safeway or independent store on the mainland.

Spam, which was thought to be just inexpensive meat, became popular during World War II when meat was scarce and soldiers ate it as lunch meat. Now it comes in various degrees of reduced sodium, several flavors, and is served as Spam fried rice, Spam stew, or Spam and eggs. The latter I discovered and loved at the Maui flea market near the Maui Art Museum, served with sticky rice. A divine first-taste treat!

New day for Sunset

Sunset magazine has been sold by Time, Inc. to Regent, a California private equity firm, a day after Time announced it had sold itself to Meredith, publisher of many magazines such as Better Home and Gardens and Martha Stewart magazines, according to the New York Times.

While there were many layoffs involved, good friend and sister member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Margo True, will stay on as Food Editor.

Sunset’s publishing offices are at Oakland’s Jack London Square, with its outdoor test kitchen and gardens located at Cornerstone in Sonoma.

Truffling around

Truffles growing near Santa Rosa? Jackson Family Wines harvested 17 truffles grown in an orchard in one of the real attempts to grow the European delicacy in California, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

That is if you can keep the local gophers (which don’t exist in Europe) from eating them first.