OSO and Rocket Sushi opening; Lobster alert; More restaurant news; Travels with Henri Episode No. 6

November 10, 2014

Renowned Sonoma Valley chef David Bush hopes to open his OSO restaurant on Sonoma Plaza early next week. He plans invitation-only soft openings this weekend, that is if the Sonoma Fire Department gives him clearance. Bush’s logo plays on Sonoma’s Bear Flag history.

The chef who took St. Francis Winery to be voted the top restaurant in America by Open Table customers, Bush gave me a sneak peek at his menu and his restaurant, and they are definitely worth trying.

Serving as his own designer, Bush uncovered all of the old tin and wood materials used in the original building and re-used everything as flooring and walls, inside and out. He even has a wheelchair approachable section of the bar and a ramp to the garden.

On Oso’s Lounge menu you will find a selection of raw oysters with favorite sauces; pickled shrimp, kale and peanut slaw; shiitake and Kombu cured salmon with egg, Serrano ham, Tobiko and Kewpie sauce; grilled bread, ricotta, roasted mushrooms, wilted spinach and garlic chips; pork ribs and Thai chili, and beef tartar with housemade harissa, quail egg, shiso, pickled turnip and grilled bread.

The tasting menu ($65 plus $35 for wine pairings) may include a variety of specialties such as steamed egg custard, Dungeness crab, pumpkin, green onion and Tobiko; roasted sea bass, fermented black beans, soba noodles, bok choy and bacon; and syrah-braised short ribs, smoked gouda polenta, pickled red onions and spinach. Save me a seat. Corkage $20 up to two bottles. More bottles no corkage with purchase of a bottle. 9 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 494-9837. Ososonoma.com.

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The Last Wednesday Food Group cookbook club meets next Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Readers’ Books and will feature longtime San Francisco Chronicle cheese columnist Janet Fletcher. Genevieve Ladha has already offered to bring some Vella cheeses, and we welcome any other offerings of beer, wine or cheese (and maybe crackers).

Fletcher will talk about her latest books, “Cheese and Beer,” “Cheese and Wine,” and “The Cheese Course.” Readers’ Books has all of these books and gives LWFG attendees a generous 15 percent discount. Free and fun. 7 to 8:30 p.m. 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 939-1779.

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Kate Benziger has joined Mike Benziger and Danny Fay at Envolve Winery, which just hosted a hugely successful fundraiser for breast cancer and mammograms. They will try a “Paint & Taste” event on Thursday, Oct. 30 at their tasting room in Vine Alley.

In two hours local artists will guide you “on your creative voyage” and unleash all your talents that some art teacher missed way back when. They provide materials to paint and wine to sip. $50. 6 to 8 p.m. For more info call Kate at 721-1979 or kate@envolvewinery.com.

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On Halloween Ramekins chef Kevin Cess will guide people through the Friday farmers market, point out how to select vegetables and fruits, and then take you back to the Ramekins kitchen to prepare an appetizer, first course, entrée and dessert. $100 includes all food and lunch. Ramekins.com

For Halloween evening, you might try the “Sonoma Haunted Mansion Halloween Bash” at The General’s Daughter. When our kids were students at St. Francis school, they actually believed they saw mother and daughter ghosts in one of the upstairs windows of the pink house.

Costumes, DJ dancing, beer, wine and cocktails, “haunted bites, photo booth and plenty of tricks and treats as we transform The General’s Daughter to celebrate the night of the living dead.” Prize for best costume. VIP level gets unlimited wine and cocktails, passed hors d’oeuvres, mac & cheese station, chili station, 5th Street Farms veggies, sweets and treats. General Admission includes food and two glasses of wine or cocktails. General $50, VIP $90.  6 to 10 p.m. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Ramekins.com

On Sunday, Nov. 2, Ramekins Executive Chef Doug McFarland offers a tour of 5th Street Farms itself and will how you how to create your own kitchen garden. $45. Location given upon reservation. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ramekins.com

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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley recently staged an unusual “Fashion in the Vineyards” fundraiser.

Several things were unusual about it: It took place at Nancy and John Lasseter’s secret train barn; it was limited to 150 guests at $250 each; all of the food was donated by El Dorado Kitchen (EDK); it was fashion coordinator Dana Freudenberger’s last show for the club; and it benefitted the Boys & Girls Clubs’ newish “Future Focus” program to guide members to college, or prepare them to enter careers.

EDK Executive Chef Armando Navarro’s buffet was spectacularly good for a fundraiser, which one might expect from a star chef from Auberge du Soleil, Daniel Boulud, Jardinière, Masa’s and Redd. He brought in Pacific Plaza Imports to supply sturgeon, salmon and trout caviar.

Guests also enjoyed loads of cheeses and EDK-made charcuterie, seafood paella, and roasted pig tacos, all followed after the program by hamburger sliders, truffled fries, desserts, and dancing to “Tainted Love.”

In the supportive fun crowd were Dr. Rhonda Stallings and Rich Lee, Amanda and George Bevan, Dave and Kathleen Ball, Dr. John Emery (Deborah was modeling), Cee Cee Ponicsan, Charlotte and Al Vogt; former president Marchelle Carleton (Curt modeled), Barbara Adams, James and Tracy Chin, Marcy Smothers, Junny Gonzales, Rebecca and Gary Rosenberg, Toni and Chuck Cusamiento, B&G Clubs board president Larry and Ginny Krieger, Lars Asbjornsen and Cyndi Frank, Scott and Tina DeMartini, John and Clara Crean, Dawn and Kevin O’Neill, Daniel and Tery Parks, Sharon Cohn and Charles O’Neill, Tasha and Vallerie Cohn, Kathleen Channover, Paula Parks, Annie and Bill Paynter, Jeff Walter, Christy and John Coulston, Therese Nugent (Mike was recovering from back surgery), Alison and August Sebastiani, Kate and Donny Sebastiani, Carolyn Stone with Patrick Jude, Matt and Brooke Seveneau, Windee Smith, Maurice Tegelaar, Liz and Jeff Bundschu, Lorna Sheridan, and Manuel Merjil and Paul Correri.

And there were lots of Garcia family members with Erik Garcia who received the club’s Angel Award for his outstanding service and commitment to Sonoma Valley children. As a side note, Erik and Sonoma Materials have donated selflessly and enormously to our Sonoma School Garden Project.

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More restaurant goings and comings:

According to two staffers, Rudy Nahal, formerly of the former Rudy’s on Broadway, left his job at Rossi’s 1906 Dancehall & BBQ rather abruptly and hasn’t surfaced since. A bad couple of days preceded his exit. He didn’t even take his prized knives with him.

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Rocket Catering has reopened its former café space on Highway 12 as Rocket Sushi restaurant. Many Sonomans have sampled their sushi and poke at the Tuesday evening farmers market. You will find a few cheery flowers in front, and light fixtures by local glass artist Alex Leader.

Co-owner Liz Heyerly says she and sister Molly welcome new sushi partners, Camellia and Jacob Talbert, who has been rolling sushi for a good 15 years. Liz especially recommends “Da Bomb Tombo,” made with Hawaiian albacore, heirloom tomato, avocado, garlic chips, green onion and ponzu sauce, all served “sashimi style.” Chef Molly has also created great specials for those who might not want sushi.

The Heyerlys plan to continue to serve there for years to come. Rocket Sushi open 5:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 18812 Highway 12, Boyes Hot Springs. 343-1867.

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Meanwhile, Shiso Sushi owner Ed Metcalfe has brought in Kimberley and Manuel Azevedo of La Salette as managing partners of Shiso Sushi, which is now open Sundays. The Azevedos are also involved with Café Lucia in Healdsburg.

Now we have four sources of sushi in Sonoma (alphabetically): Rocket, Shiso, Sonoma Market, and Whole Foods. Tell me what you like and where.

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Thanksgiving before Halloween:

So there I was last Thursday briskly roaming the aisles of big box stores in Walnut Creek with our daughter, looking for some Halloween decorations I had not been able to find here, and found Christmas stuff everywhere. Wait. Isn’t it still October?

First out of the starting blocks for Thanksgiving dinner (a full month before Christmas) is Margie Brooke of Community Café on West Napa Street. You can order the whole dinner for four or eight people, or just order certain items.

The full dinner includes cranberry, ginger, date and pecan scones; whole cider-brined smoked turkey; chipotle mashed sweet potatoes; truffle scalloped potatoes; sourdough, sausage, apple and safe stuffing; giblet gravy; cranberry sauce with port and ginger, and cannoli cheesecake. All this for $125 for four people, or $200 for eight people for the complete dinner. Turkeys approximately 14 pounds for smaller orders, 16 pounds for larger orders. Just heat and serve. Call 938-7779 for info or to order.

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Travels with Henri Episode No. 6: Cordes-sur-Ciel

We all relaxed slightly on Tuesday with a slower schedule and a private flea market at Chateau Dumas near Auty, about 60 miles from Toulouse in southwestern France. After our luxurious breakfast, once again, filled with humor and ideas, we boarded our Bas-Quercy bus and basked in the warm sun streaming in the windows on our way to the hilltop village of Cordes-sur-Ciel. Little did we know that our destination had just been voted “French Village of the Year 2014” or “Village Préféré des Français.”

Cordes-sur-Ciel is primarily a 13th century town built on a small mountain top in the Tarn region of the Midi-Pyrénées. It’s one of those sites where you try to imagine how people, or animals, carried stones for buildings and streets up steep paths to even build the place.

Originally built by around 1222 by Raymond VII, the Count of Toulouse, as a “bastide” or new town built to resettle people and to stimulate more agriculture and trade in the region.

Because of its difficult-to-reach location way up a hill and lined by limestone cliffs, the town’s residents and buildings escaped some ravages of the Hundred Years’ War, leaving striking Gothic architecture for us to enjoy.

The Eglise Saint Michel is one of those buildings, with its many chapels and rebuilt sections burned by the protestant Huguenots in 1538. The brochure distributed by a devoted docent says (in my translated French) that “Saint Michel is the patron of France, of pastry chefs and of soldiers. He is the protector of the church, the introducer of souls to heaven…and the vanquisher of Satan.” Thank heavens for the pâtissiers.

While there is a pleasant relatively flat, newer and more modern part of Cordes at the bottom of the hill, it is a real challenge to climb the ancient stone streets. Some of us, including Henri, opted for the inexpensive tram that will take you up and down the hill. When we got to the top, the driver informed us in French that he and his colleagues were all going to lunch for 2.5 hours. Very French.

Cordes-sur-Ciel has become a center for artists, so a slow climb around the narrow streets  can be an exploration into interesting art galleries and shops. There is even a store dedicated to things made in the woad blue I mentioned last week, selling scarves, placemats, and anything else that can be made light blue, an industry that saved the town in the late 15th Century.

The 18th Century brought mechanical embroidery to Cordes where 300 looms were run by women while the men were away at war. Eventually the industry crumbled with the introduction of indigo dye and cheaper fabric production in India.

Cordes mothers and fathers changed its name to Cordes-sur-Ciel in 1993 to depict the seasonal fog that surrounds the hill and makes Cordes look as if it is above the clouds.

At the top of it all, we did find cafés in the town plaza and dipped into some local beer and Perrier before making out way down the hill again. And this was all before our five-course lunch at Hostellerie du Parc.

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