Welcome home, Chuck! Local Harvest Fair wine winners; Losing Bonnie Tempesta; Travels with Henri Episode No. 3

October 19, 2014

Wow! Chuck Williams is back home in Sonoma where he started it all.

And an emotional return it is, as it often is for many of us.

Ever since Chuck Williams left Sonoma and moved his burgeoning kitchen equipment store from a hardware shop on Broadway to San Francisco in 1956, he has wanted to come back to Sonoma, according to Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand, as opposed to the huge Williams-Sonoma umbrella which covers Pottery Barn and its derivatives, such as West Elm, and Mark & Graham.

Hayes gave an emotional and factual keynote speech at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast last Friday honoring Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze of girl & the fig enterprises as Business of the Year.

Bernstein sets a great example of caring for employees (many have been with her a long time), and together she and John, and John’s mother Judy Toulze planted one of the first actual producing gardens for their restaurant.

It’s rarely mentioned that Williams brought the first Le Creuset and Mauviel pots and pans into the United States, and made the KitchenAid, All-Clad, Calphalon, Wϋsthof knives, pop-up sponges, silicone spatulas, and Cuisinart popular throughout the country.

Remember the massive pancake breakfast Saturday, Oct. 4 on the two Napa Street quadrants of Sonoma Plaza featuring pancakes prepared by CIA students from their St. Helena campus, all free. Get their early and be quick. Breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Then walk or roll the block and a half to the official “re-opening” of the Williams-Sonoma store at 605 Broadway, Sonoma, with the door swinging open at 9 a.m..

HHH

Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine Judging results are out and here are Sonoma Valley’s top winners. Many received medals, but here are those that won Best of Class or Double Golds. The latter means a unanimous gold medal vote from all judges.

Best of Class winners: B.R. Cohn’s 2013 Carneros Chardonnay; Imagery’s NV Sonoma County Port; Imagery’s 2013 Russian River Valley Viognier; Loxton 2012 Sonoma County Shiraz; Muscardini’s 2012 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; and Viansa’s 2011 Sonoma County Vino Rosso.

Double Gold winners: B. R. Cohn 2010 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Franc; Gloria Ferrer Carneros Blanc de Blancs; Imagery’s 2012 Sonoma County Lagrein; and Sebastiani’s 2012 Sonoma County Gravel Bed Rd.

HHH

Last week “Queen of Biscotti” Bonnie Tempesta succumbed to her third round of cancer, which stole one of the country’s most creative and brilliant food entrepreneurs. She started making biscotti with her mother, Aurora Marcheschi in 1983, using aunt Isa Romoli’s recipe from Florence. They developed La Tempesta Bakery Confections, which became the largest biscotti maker in the U.S. Bonnie sold the company to Horizon Food Group in 1997 after her products had reached markets from Dean & Deluca to Nieman Marcus. Recently she restarted her baking career with Boncora Biscotti, first baked at Studebaker Cheesecake in Sonoma and then in her own bakery in Kenwood. Grab a tube of the triple chocolate biscotti at Sonoma’s Best if you can.

Tempesta was devoted to Pets Lifeline and held fundraisers for it at her home. Five percent of all of her sales went to Pets Lifeline. If you are so inclined, send a donation to PLL in her name.

HHH

Scott Lyall clothes for men will fill in the space vacated by The French Nest next to Heidi Geffen’s Tiddle E. Winks on East Napa Street. Scott is the son of Helen Lyall, and both began designing “upscale clothing” in Benicia and have enjoyed many successes since. With Deborah Emery as one of her mainstay models, Helen Lyall, as well as Scott, have had clothes featured for many years at our Boys & Girls Club Fashion in the Vineyards fundraisers, including Saturday’s sold out event at the Lasseters’ Train Barn.

HHH

Marcy Smothers and Clark Wolf launch their new radio show, “At the Table with Wolf & Smothers,” on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. on KSRO (1350 AM and 103.5 FM). Both great talkers, they will discuss food and food issues, and interview leaders and big names (some of whom have appeared on my radio show on KSVY 91.3 FM) in the food biz.

Wolf lives in Guerneville and Manhattan and consults with star chefs’ restaurants in Las Vegas and everywhere else. Smothers lives in Glen Ellen and has hosted radio shows with Guy Fieri and as a guest on KGO. Her first book is “Snacks: Adventures in Food Aisle by Aisle.”

HHH

If you missed Gen. Anthony Zinni at the Mentoring Alliance event, he will speak at the Wine Country Marines Birthday Ball on Saturday, Nov. 1 at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. After speaking here, Zinni was CNN’s expert on what is going on in Syria and Iraq, speaking from William & Mary College. $130 per person. Cocktails 6:30 p.m. Ceremony, dinner and dancing at 7:30 p.m. Black tie or best uniform “Ladies attire should meet similar standards.” Reserve by Oct. 20. (408) 210-7870(408) 210-7870. Winecountrymarines.org.

HHH

Plein Air’s fundraising dinner in the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn’s white tent was a great success, and organizers said they had raised even more money than last year to support the arts in Sonoma schools.

Former Index-Tribune editor David Bolling served as auctioneer, and one of the fun highlights of the evening was John Lasseter standing at every fund-a-need increment and pledging that amount at least once.

The dinner was excellent, featuring arugula with a perfectly aged wedge of Marin French Cheese’s Truffled Brie, a super tender short rib, and berry tian for dessert.

Among the throngs supporting student art education were Holly Bennett, Diane and Steve Bieneman, Kimberly and Simon Blattner, Suzanne Brangham and Jack Lundgren, Gerry and Bill Brinton, Charley Brinton and Mary Randolph Norton, Brenca Buckerfield and Tommy Mensing, Lorrain and John Buckner, Superintendent Louann Carlomagno, Dick Cole, Karla Conroy, Susan and Lew Cook, Tony Eddy and Ralph Osterhout, Karen and George Rathman,  Marcelo DeFreitas and Scott Smith, Jon and Jackie Early, Kate Eilertsen and Michael Muscardini, Susan and Mark Farina, Millie and Tom Ferrando, Gretchen and Robert Gardner, Diane and Todd Garrett, Cathy and David Good, Polly and Gary Hultquist, Phyllis and John Gurney, Kathleen Hawing, Ellen and Sid Hoover, Cherie and Keith Hughes, Polly and Gary Hultquist, Maite Iturri, Marilyn and Dan Kittleson, Nancy Kivelson and Tom Angstadt, Katharine Kunst, Holly Kyle, John and Nancy Lasseter, Sandra and John Leland, Maryon Davies Lewis, Dr. Joan Hawley and Penny Magrane, Wanda McAleese, Willa and Ned Mundell, Helen Pascoe, JaMel and Tom Perkins, Karen and Ambassador Ted Eliot, Nancy and Bill Pollock, Bev Raaka, Sara Radke, Deborah and Harvey Shein, Jacklyn Jordan Rezai and Zhian Rezai, Pam and John Story, Jackie and Dave Stubbs, Karen Ury and Carl Rogge, Judy and Les Vadasz, Marcie and Dave Waldron, Valerie Pistole and Jeff Walter, Lucy Weiger and Bob Crane, Terry and Plein Air founder Keith Wicks, Judy and Chuck Young, Barbara Young, Anne and Dennis Ziemienski, Laura and Jeff Zimmerman, and Caryn and Dr. Noah Weiss.

HHH

If you have the chance to dine at Edge, in the fabulously redecorated house where Rin’s Thai restaurant used to be next to Della Santina’s, take it.

Culinary Director John McReynolds is cooking up a storm in this new dining club reserved (for now) for Stone Edge Farm’s “Collectors’ Circle,” something like a wine club. McReynolds hopes to open occasional dining up to the public across from his Café LaHaye alma mater, but for now one must be a member of their Collectors’ Club. His intention is to serve a prix fixe menu of four small plates for $80 on Thursday and Friday evenings, hopefully by the end of this year.

McReynolds is working on a vegetable and herb garden in back next to the parking lot, but draws from Stone Edge Farm’s pure and organic gardens off Carriger Road.

Just as an example, Edge’s fall menu includes caramelized pears, green beans, Speck, and Little Gem salad; roasted beets with figs and hazelnut picata with Vella Mezzo Secco cheese; spicy lamb meatballs with cucumber-yogurt sauce, roasted cherry tomatoes, olives and feta; and a cabernet roasted short rib with whole grain mustard späetzle, parsnip chips and chard, all accompanied by Stone Edge Farm’s wines.

HHH

Travels with Henri Episode No. 3

Even though the lucky 13 of us, including organizer Sarah Anderson of Chateau Sonoma, had just arrived the night before, we were all up and relatively bright early Sunday morning. Chateau Dumas owner Lizzie Hulme had told us after Champagne and our three course Quercy dinner with local wines that we had to be back downstairs to enjoy a “cooked breakfast” from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. the next morning. She had arranged a special opening and visit at a “vide grenier in Caussade” for about 9:30 on a Sunday. Extraordinary.

By the way, the daily “cooked breakfast” always consisted of an egg dish, occasional bacon, loads of fresh fruit, granolas, local yogurt, a variety of teas, coffee, mounds of croissants and breads, jams and butters, and even gluten-free toast for those who need that.

I know lots of walking helps, but how we ate croissants and foie gras almost every day and lost weight is still a mystery. Back on that diet!

At that first breakfast, I suggested that we go around the table and share what we like to collect so we could spot things for each other. After all, this trip was a flea market, farmers market and cooking quest.

A couple of explanations:

A vide grenier translates to an “attic clearance,” which means it is a shop or market stall where someone sells almost anything, from junk to collectibles to antiques, with lines between those three often rather fuzzy. A brocante is a small step up from a vide grenier and is most likely an antique shop with some collectibles.

A Quercy dinner would include foods grown in the region. In the case of Chateau Dumas this means grown close to the chateau in Bas-Quercy, or lower Quercy. The English and French fought over this part of southwestern France for centuries. Food-wise, it is known for its truffles, poultry, fruit (divine melons), grains, saffron, and vegetables. These culinary resources were what attracted Chateau Dumas chef Charlotte Clement to the area.

Caussade is on a tributary of the Aveyron River, surrounded by white cliffs of limestone, north of the city of Montauban, which is actually where the Toulouse Airport is located. Caussade was once known as “hat city” for the large millinery or hat production, and still supports an annual hat festival. In fact, Christopher’s partner makes hats and teaches hat making in week-long retreats at Chateau Dumas.

So on our first Sunday morning we climbed onto a Bas-Quercy bus, equipped with nice cold water bottles but no working WC, and headed first for that vide grenier in Caussade. The owner opened specially for us, thanks to Lizzie’s powers of persuasion. When we left an hour later, he was waving goodbye with great enthusiasm, not because we were disruptive (well, maybe slightly), but because we as a group had invested in his wares.

Since we all knew each other’s tastes and quests, our gang was watching for goodies that might interest our new friends. As we inched carefully around loaded narrow little aisles, Joanne found oodles of old cameras, I collected cracker and other tins, and Tony quietly sneaked around to the owner’s workshop, found me outside, dragged me in to the man cave loaded with motorcycles and old bikes, and showed me a cracker tin where the shopkeeper kept his small spare parts. Obviously the owner thought the tin was worthless and we got it at a great little price.

I also found the restroom in back of the workshop, and ended up last to get back on the bus. Tony accused me being tardy because of meeting a Frenchman, which I did. His name is Henri. Henri Dumas.

Next week: Travels with Henri Episode No. 4 takes us to our first farmers’ market in Caussade, a town-wide vide grenier in Cazals, a picnic along the Aveyron, and beyond.

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