Dining with Sandra Day O’Connor and Michele Obama, separately; Paul Wirtz to leave Oak Hill Farm; Halloween happenings; SmartMeter update

October 29, 2010

Traveling to Palo Alto last week with Jerry for his Stanford reunion, I saw my role as to “drive and smile.” Was I surprised when the weekend turned into a much more interesting adventure!

Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Stanford Law School graduate, told stories on two different panels that revealed her as a charmingly frank person who talks, looks, and sounds as if she is still on the Lazy B Ranch near Duncan, Arizona where she grew up.

And then there was lunch in a tent, at least for those who got into the tents before the rain did. O’Connor is definitely a carnivore, probably going back to her ranch days.

Accompanied by four or five secret service agents at all times, O’Connor headed indoors to the restroom when none of them was looking. Wearing telltale badges and plastic ear cords, they panicked and asked where she had gone. She had given them the slip for once. The scariest one of all was the woman agent.

When she got out of law school the only job Sandra Day could find in a law firm was as a secretary because she was a woman. Decades later, after serving as a judge and as an Arizona state legislator, President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Supreme Court, partly because she was a woman.

At Saturday morning’s roundtable moderated by Tom Brokaw one of the justice’s main points was that we should dedicate medical research to Alzheimer’s, which killed her husband, the way we did to polio.

Sonoma Sightings:
Kurt Krauthammer and his son spotted singer Tom Waits at Vineburg Deli at Eighth Street East and Napa Road.

Chef John McReynolds of Stone Edge Farm and friends created a super divine dinner to celebrate the Ecology Center’s 20th anniversary and CittaSlow Sonoma Valley’s first birthday and raise funds for both at the Pauline Bond Community Garden. Guests feasted on a variety of plattered salads, from farro to sliced heirloom tomatoes and green beans, and a hot buffet of sausages, perfect porchetta, vegetables gratin and killer mac and cheese.

Virginia Hubbell, in her new role as Director of CittaSlow USA, is off to Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and Slow Food’s Terra Madre conference where she will meet with Ethiopian honey farmers who have twinned with El Verano School. Hubbell will deliver funds raised by Julie Diamond’s Teen Leadership program at Sonoma Charter School for Ethiopia’s Wukro village bee project.

Julie Atwood and Ed Dufault won the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation’s sprited dance contest a couple of weeks ago with a lively, sexy cha cha cha. All teams worked hard and raised $90,000 for much needed new hospital beds.

According to Sunflower Caffé owner James Hahn, his November artist, Suzy Sansom, has her “Big Ass Grape” wine labels designed for Adler Fels on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Meet her at next Friday’s Artist Reception and sip some Adler Fels wine until 7 p.m. The Sunflower has returned to its 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. winter hours. 421 First St. W., Sonoma. (707) 996-6645.

Good Farmers Market News:
Mike Zakowski, “The Baker,” will sell his award-winning breads at the Friday farmers markets starting next Friday, Nov. 5. Rumor has it he will also have warm pretzels. Manager Hilda Swartz says “Sensational Soups” will offer sensational soups, and the market will stay open until 1 p.m. so customers can enjoy lunch.

Sonoma Valley Fire’s hugely successful first pancake breakfast was great fun last Sunday, partly thanks to Valley of the Moon Lions Club, who cooked the tasty sausage and eggs, and the Montgomery Village Lions Club, which brought their 25-year-old rotating pancake cooker that was a kick to watch.

Jon Sebastiani’s Krave Jerky enjoyed a tremendous story in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, complete with color photos and full descriptions of several of Krave’s jerky flavors. Sebastiani says they have had loads of calls and “hundreds of orders” as a result.

Paul Wirtz, who has been growing all sorts of wonderful food sustainably on Ann Teller’s Oak Hill Farm and at other sites, will leave Oak Hill Farm at the end of this growing season. Paul plans to return to his roots as Paul’s Produce, farmed extremely locally, so we will continue to benefit from his and Candy Edmonson’s talents.

So sorry to have missed lots of events last weekend while at Jerry’s Stanford reunion, especially the high kickin’ time celebrating King Daddy Johnn Murphy’s time here in Sonoma and sendoff to the Big Easy.

Not only is his music legendary, but so are his generosity and kindness. His EZKewl has been everywhere anyone needed them. They showed up at Wedekind’s whenever scheduled for our Sonoma School Garden Project Thursday night fundraisers, and he/they showed up when other people cancelled. Big John’s gentility shows through, and we all certainly hope he gets his fill of New Orleans (is that possible?) and rumbles on back to Slownoma sometime soon. By the way, if you like his purple Panama hat, check them out at South American Secrets. Mine is red.

We also missed Saddles’ Friday night beef award celebration but heard that the food was “out of sight wonderful.

The Basque Boulangerie now offers whole grain “Lo Carb Hi Protein” sliced sandwich bread loaves and dinner rolls. Owner Françoise Hodges even says a slice of the bread or one of the rolls has 1 Weight Watchers point. Check out her seasonal cookies of iced pumpkins, scary ghosts and cinnamon bats along with pumpkin bars and single-serving pies. 460 First St. East, Sonoma. (707) 935-7687.

Bill O’Neal debuted his cartoon book of the 60s last Thursday at Readers’ Books, competing well with the Giants game. Rotarians turned out loyally: Art Fichtenberg poured his wines and Gary Edwards donated excellent cheeses. If you survived the 60s, remember or not, or think another generation needs to enjoy the period in cartoons, O’Neal’s book is it. Jerry wrote the preface just to help out a buddy.

Ledson Winery & Vineyards just received a 92 and gold medal for its 2009 Chardonnay Carneros, a 91 and gold for its Tres Frais Chardonnay Russian River Valley, and a 90 and gold for its Chardonnay Russian River Valley from the Beverage Testing Institute’s (BTI).World Wine Championships.

Battle of the Bartenders’ Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine Cocktail Competition found Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s Sparkling Apple Pie in first, Sonoma Meritâge’s Asian Sparkling Mohito in second, and Mary’s Pizza Shack (on the plaza) in third with a delicious Kiwi Kiss.

Sunday’s first Jewish Winemakers taste and nosh was such a grand success that Congregation Shir Shalom might have to move it to another venue next year. Each nosh was a hit, all served lovingly by those who made each morsel with their own hands.

Sonoma Mission Gardens reminds us that now is a good time to plant cover crops that grow in the winter and fertilize soil and potential vegetable gardens naturally. Try fava beans (I plant them every year, and do they ever make tomatoes taste good), mustard, other legumes and vetch, which is used in vineyards but doesn’t sound very pretty.

It’s also good to plant onions, which you can get as tiny bulbs or as starter plants, garlic, and vegetables such as chard, spinach, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

Dinner with Michele Obama? We were invited by friends for “an early dinner” with the First Lady, not knowing 3:30 was the security check for a gathering of 700 folks at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. Guests heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Spier, Dr. Jill Biden and, yes, Michele Obama.

Rolls and salad were served before the speeches, then everything was cleared, dinner arrived around 7:45, and plates were scooped up before most people had finished. Some guests joked that the servers might put the chairs on the tables before dessert.

Other Sonoma residents at the Fairmont were Judge Patricia Herron (Ret.) and Chandra and Bob Friese.

Olde Sonoma Public House in Boyes Hot Springs now has an official “Dart League Night” on Tuesdays, starting at 7 p.m.

Condé Nast Traveler readers have voted the Kenwood Inn and Spa into its “Top Small Resorts U.S. Mainland” category for the third year in a row. The inn got an overall score of 94.7, which ranks it 48th on the “Top 100 Best in the World.” Andrea Di Loreto serves as chef.

Both Scandia Landscaping and Waldron Landscaping have generously offered their help to our School Garden Project following my presentation at Sonoma Plaza Kiwanis’ meeting last week. Thank you, Conny Gustafsson and Marcy Waldron.

Wedding specifics:
Kristin Dunlap, who recently married John Schantz, is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Dunlap of Santa Rosa and granddaughter of the late Ted and Helen Dunlap. Thanks to Laurie O’Leary for the update.

SmartMeter update:
While our personal PG&E bill continues to show a four-to six-times increase in KWH over last year since our SmartMeter was installed, comments and emails from other Sonoma Valley residents continue to flow in.

A Temelec resident wrote to say that PG&E representatives tell her the installation is mandatory. When she told their representative that she would file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, the fellow “rather snidely said it was the P.U.C. who ‘mandated the installations.’”

Another friend confronted her utility at her Tahoe cabin and said she didn’t want a SmartMeter and the service person said “fine” and left. Meanwhile, many locals are outraged, but others seem to be getting used to the higher rates.

Yet another Sonoma couple reports that when they got home from scattering her mother’s ashes last week, PG&E left a door hanger saying they had installed their SmartMeter, right outside the head of the couple’s bed.

Halloween weekend events:

Dunbar School Halloween Carnival occupies Atwood Ranch with loads of games, cake walks, lots of fun, dress up costumes, all a fundraiser for Dunbar School’s arts and science programs, tonight, Oct. 29. 6 to 8 p.m. Highway 12 between Dunbar and Trinity roads, Glen Ellen.

Nicholson Ranch harvest party, Saturday, Oct. 30 with seasonal food stations, lots of wine including dry-farmed 2008 Pinot Noir, deejay and the 85th birthday of Ramona Nicholson’s father, Socrates Nicholson. 5 to 8 p.m. $50 public, $45 wine club, $25 children. 4200 Napa Rd., Sonoma.

Day of the Dead cooking class with Agustín Gaytán at Ramekins features popular holiday dishes such as roasted tomato and pink bean soup, tamales with turkey, crab-stuffed chayote, pumpkin tarts, Day of the Dead bread, and Mexican chocolate. $99. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Ramekins.com.

Plan Ahead:

Dunbar Elementary School’s annual fundraiser, Moon Dance Baile de la Luna will be at Atwood Ranch’s great barn on Saturday, Nov. 6 featuring loads of Mexican food stations, wine and beer, dancing, silent and live auctions, and a raffle. Always a good time. $45. 5:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets at (707) 343-1422 or brownpapertickets/event/132904.

Sonoma Native Daughters of the Golden West and Sonoma Native Sons of the Golden West present a chicken cacciatore and polenta dinner at Vintage House on Saturday, Nov. 6 to raise funds for their annual high school scholarship. $25. No host bar at 6 p.m, dinner at 7 p.m. 264 First St. E., Sonoma. Tickets at Eraldi’s and Steiner’s. For more info call Pat at (707) 996-0926.

And finally, there will be a Celebration of Life for Michael J. Kelley, friend to many, radio host and helper to many musicians and event production teams, on Saturday, Oct. 30 at the Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club. Kelley died recently of pneumonia, never having recovered fully from the late night collision of Kelley on his motorcycle and young Brad Dreyer on his skateboard. Dreyer and his family face an extended and slow recovery period.

Lin Marie de Vincent, who coordinated the Center of the Universe Café with Kelley’s and Ken Brown’s support, will hold a circle of attendees. Johnn Murphy will play drums, Ken Brown will emcee, and all ask guests to bring food, beer and wine to share and a gift for the altar. Friends ask for donations toward Kelley’s final expenses be sent to West America Bank (Sonoma Valley Bank) Michael J. Kelley Fund or brought to the memorial. 4 p.m. 574 First St. E., Sonoma. JaniceKing@FICO.com.

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