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Back from France; Ceja closes Napa tasting room; Sonoma 10th quirkiest in U.S.? Whole Hog Feast at Grange; Travels with Henri Episode No. 1

Back from France; Ceja closes Napa tasting room; Sonoma 10th quirkiest in U.S.? Whole Hog Feast at Grange; Travels with Henri Episode No. 1

September 24, 2014

Yes, we are back from our fabulous trip to France in quest of flea markets and farmers’ markets, all organized by Chateau Sonoma’s Sarah Anderson. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to add old French kitchen utensils, food signs, and cracker tins to my Kathleen Thompson Hill Culinary Collection, visit gorgeous local farmers’ markets and learn to cook a few dishes from a marvelous chef in a chateau. And yes, we did see fleas and farmers, sometimes together.

We did it all and ate it all and got home before Air France’s strike that began Monday. And I haven’t had so much fun and so many laughs in a long time.

To enjoy the trip vicariously, look to the end of my next few columns for short episodes of “Travels with Henri.” I will explain later. And if you already want to hear more about or sign up for the next trip, email chateausonoma@gmail.com.


Ceja Vineyards will close its downtown Napa tasting room this Sunday and will soon open one at the family’s Carneros Brewing Company on Burndale Road and Highway 12 in Sonoma.

After initially opening the “salon’s” door in February of 2008, they survived an economic downturn, and now an earthquake that damaged many neighboring businesses and buildings.

The Cejas also closed their downtown Napa Bistro Sabor restaurant and dance venue over Labor Day weekend in 2013 in what they called “a dispute with the landlord.”

They will say goodbye to Napa on Saturday, Sept. 20 with a bon voyage salsa party with DJ Tamayo spinning hot Latin beats. If you prefer, you can join them on Sunday, Sept. 21 for a farewell toast from 6 to 8 p.m. 1248 First St., Napa. 255-3954.


Sonoma Valley Grange presents its annual Whole Hog Fall Feast this Sunday, Sept. 21, an evening of locally grown organic food to raise funds for the Grange’s ongoing renovation and kitchen projects. The evening starts with local cheeses, seasonal dips, Grange-made pickles, and bread from the Bejkr.

Dinner features greens and heirloom tomato salad, followed by a Berkshire-Duroc pig from Wyland Orchards in Petaluma, slow-cooked in a “Caja” box and brined in Homebrew Chef Sean Paxton’s special recipe, John McReynolds’ stuffed Ron-de-Nice zucchini and a mixed potato gratin, a vegetarian option, and a special apple cake made by Yanne Campbell’s Foxfire Bakery (Friday farmers market croissants), supposedly originally served at the Toscano Hotel. All this and bluegrass music by locals Ed Neff and Friends. $45. Doors open 6 p.m. Dinner at 7 p.m. 18627 Highway 12, Boyes Hot Springs. Tickets at Readers’ Books, Pharmaca, or see Seth at Paul’s Produce’s farmers market stand. 934-7332.


Our Last Wednesday Food Group returns to Readers’ Books next Wednesday, Sept. 24 with the Chef Linda Carucci, former Julia Child Culinary Director of Copia and dean of several cooking schools. Carucci will talk about her book, “Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks.” This book is out of print and can only be purchased at Readers’, which gives us a 15 percent discount. Carucci really does share shortcuts and makes Ina Garten seem complicated. We welcome any tastes attendees wish to prepare and share with others. 7 to 8:30 p.m. 130 East Napa St., Sonoma. 939-1779.


WillMar Family Grief & Healing Center’s longtime supporter Jerry Biers will receive guests at her home for the “Guardians of Hope Martini Night” on Thursday, Sept. 25, honoring Marcie and Dave Waldron. The event is free so guests can learn about WillMar’s Guardians of Hope program.

WillMar provides grief support services to children ages 3.5 to 19 who are grieving the death of a loved one, or living with someone with a life-changing illness or injury, a most worthwhile cause in our community.

Gary Edwards will donate cheeses, and Executive Director Barbara Cullen’s husband, Michael Cullen, will serve as “Martiniologist.” In real life, he is a nationally known wood artist, all to accompany jazz music. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 1206 Castle Road, Sonoma. Reservations required at 935-1946 or willmarcenter.org/become-a-guardian-of-hope/


In partnership with 7×7 magazine and Jean-Charles Boisset, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa hosts its final summer pool Splash on Thursday, Sept. 25 at the spa pool. Guests can enjoy JCB Bubble Bar and small bites from Santé Restaurant. Their press release says “A sexy troop of breathtaking performers promises further dazzle!”

Music spinner DJ Cams performed with Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Jackson Browne. Cash bar including JCB bubbles. 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. 21 and over.


Sonoma Accolades:

The fabulous Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze of the girl & the fig enterprises have been named Business of the Year by the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, and will be feted at the Chamber’s “Tops in Sonoma” breakfast next Friday, Sept. 26 at Sonoma Golf Club. Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand under the giant Williams-Sonoma umbrella, will be keynote speaker.

Bernstein began her culinary career as a server at TGI Friday’s, and decided the uniform wasn’t for her but feeding people was. Fast forward to now and we all benefit from the girl & the fig in Sonoma, fig café in Glen Ellen, girl & the fig caters, and the “pop-up” events at her Suite D off Eighth Street East.

Bernstein said, “John and I are both honored and humbled to receive the 2014 Business of the Year Award. We have worked hard for 17 years to build a business we are extremely proud of. We certainly credit and share this award with all of our team members, both present and past, for their hard work and contributions to our businesses’ success.”

Bernstein’s businesses are among Sonoma Valley’s top employers and tax revenue producers.


Andy Davis’ extremely local Aglio di Mirabella (“Garlic of Mirabella”) just won two double gold medals at the recent Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Professional Food Competition. Davis, who is part of Sonoma’s Ferrando family, gained double golds for his Honey Dijon Roasted Garlic Purée and Jalapeno Pepper Roasted Garlic Purée. His Purée of Roasted Garlic got a gold, and his Lemon Butter Roasted Garlic won a silver.  These products are all available at Sonoma Valley local markets and are made with California garlic, are free of preservatives, gluten-free and Kosher without added salts, sugars, sweeteners, or fillers.


Emily Nagan, who serves part time at the girl & the fig, was triumphant at the Harvest Fair as well. Her Desserts by Emily lemon cheesecake won double gold and Best of Show, her gluten-free double chocolate walnut cookies got a gold medal, and then she received four silvers and a bronze, meaning she gained a medal for everything she entered.  Maybe Sondra Bernstein will start serving some of Nagan’s desserts.


Travel + Leisure magazine recently named Sonoma the 10th quirkiest town in America, citing the Dancing Jogging Lady and The Epicurean Connection’s goat-milk lattes as signs of our quirkiness. I guess they missed our short shorts cowboy who briskly walks his pony on a leash around town.

The magazine says “Readers love this wine country town because it hasn’t gotten too posh.”

But then Tiburon is on the list too, and how quirky is it?


Speaking of The Epicurean Connection, Sheana Davis brings new specials to her menu including fall crêpes, her burrata and heirloom tomato salad, new soups such as Tasso ham and black eyed pea, roasted chicken and tomato, and BN Ranch turkey and white bean. The specialty food shop is now closed on Mondays but open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.


Geordie Carr of Bump Winery proudly relays that Food & Wine magazine included the tiny winery’s 2009 Zinfandel from Hank and Nancy Bruce’s HB family vineyard in its list of “10 Best Glasses: California.”  Drop into Geordie and Mieko Carr’s tasting room for a sip. Bump occupies the former music store on Broadway, just one shop south of Sonoma Plaza.


The Red Grape has put its excellent Shrimp Louie back on the regular menu. Yippee.


Way back before our merry band of the “Sonoma Six” left for France, Pets Lifeline held a super successful fundraiser again at the elegant Vintage Kennels & Spa (for animals). On arrival guests were greeted by a pregnant camel and a pregnant pig, sure conversation starters.

Passed appetizers included rosemary flatbread with onion confit and goat cheese and spoons of Ahi tuna with cucumber slaw. The dinner buffet offered green salad, roasted squash and corn and tomato orecchiette with Vella Dry Jack, followed by a Tri-Tip Balsamic salad, grilled rosemary-lemon chicken breast and bread and butter.

Loyal Pets Lifeline supporters included Diane and Jerry Ackeret, Lars Asbjornsen, Mary Jo and Jay Ashe, Kathleen and David Ball, Al and Judy Bayless, Ellen and Greg Beck, Maria Biasetto, Kim and Tom Blackwood, Leslie Blankenship, Kate, Mandy and David Bolling, Phoebe Brookbank, Elizabeth and Bill Brugler, Chrystal and Craig Bryant, Kevin Burke, Steve Burns, Jeanne Capozzi, Lisa Carlsson, Anastasia and Steve Chiurco, Christy and John Coulston, Mary Catherine Cultcliffe, Mary Deely, Lisa and J.D. Dierking, Erin and Dale Downing, Susan and Joe DuCote, the Evans family, Millie and Tom Ferrando, Yvonne Hall, Robert Hamill, Marnie Heitmeyer, Troy and Steve Hightower, Bill Jasper, Tom and Gayle Jenkins, Cristen McFarland, Phil and Mara Kahn, Jennifer and Adam Kovacs, Rob and Robin Lyon, Jere Owen, David Pier, Elizabeth Ponsford, Gina Schwab, Jon and Carol Sebastiani, Carol and Hunt Sharp, Lorna and Barry Sheridan, Pat and Tannia Summers, and Dean Tannewitz.


Sonoma Mission Gardens suggests you can now plant onions, garlic, shallots, kale, broccoli, and other leafy veggies, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, and most lettuces for your winter gardens.


Comings and Goings:

Hunt Bailie has left Murphy’s Irish Pub, Honore Comfort is leaving Sonoma County Vintners, Tyffani Peters-Sedgwick has left the CIA-Greystone to do media relations for V. Sattui in St. Helena, and Manuel Merjil has left the Sonoma Index-Tribune.


Travels with Henri No. 1

Cathy Gellepis, Beth Buhler and I flew on Air France’s Flight 83 over night to Paris with a one-hour mad dash to our connecting flight to Toulouse, all beginning on August 28.  On the plane we found and met fellow Chateau Sonoma traveler and Sonoma resident Georgene Bonovich in the row in front of us. While Air France’s menu is eloquently written and exciting, and the food is many cuts above that of any American airline, it all fits in a tiny rectangular tray, pleasing as it was.

Somehow we accidentally evaded immigration or customs in France, first in Paris because of the rush to our connection, and then in Toulouse because we arrived on a domestic flight from Paris. Or maybe it helped that we ordered a wheelchair for me, and “my two sisters” and I all enjoyed the priority privileges.

On arrival at Toulouse airport, three of us shared a taxi (about 10 euros each) to the Grand Hotel de L’Opera, perfectly located right on the Place du Capitole where flea and farmers markets happen almost constantly. We regrouped for dinner in the hotel’s brasserie, indulged in champagne, scallops and Scottish salmon, and waddled upstairs to bed, to rise early the next morning to experience the fresh air of Toulouse and fabulous farmers’ market produce and baked goods, some grown or produced by people whose great-great-grandparents started their farms and bakeries. We watched Indian and Muslim weddings in front of city hall, rode a train on wheels around town, and bought licorice male parts from a bride-to-be whose bridesmaids ordered her to get at least a centime for each gummy bear representation.

In next week’s Travels with Henri you will meet my “Frenchman,” Henri Dumas.

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