Friday, August 21, 2020

Safely Enjoy These Five Events at Home This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2020 at 12:45 PM

World-renowned musician Cory Pesaturo is one of several virtuoso performers appearing online as part of the Cotati Accordion Virtual Festival.
  • World-renowned musician Cory Pesaturo is one of several virtuoso performers appearing online as part of the Cotati Accordion Virtual Festival.

Now that the North Bay is adding wildfires to it's 2020 roulette wheel, going outside is not recommended for health reasons even beyond the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which was already forcing social distancing to become the norm.

Instead of getting out this weekend, try these online events; featuring music, food and poetry offerings streaming on Saturday and Sunday, August 22 and 23.

Virtual Music Festival
For three decades, the town of Cotati has been synonymous with the accordion, thanks to the internationally-known Cotati Accordion Festival that takes place each summer in the town's Plaza Park. This year's 30th annual event is not happening in the park for health and safety reasons, though the organizers are pivoting to an online format to present the Cotati Accordion Virtual Festival. The two-day online fest will be free to view, and the lineup includes internationally acclaimed virtuoso musicians such as Cory Pesaturo, Alex Meixner, Pietro Adragna and Gary Blair; all of whom will be performing live alongside streaming chats, interviews, raffles and more on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22 and 23, from 11am to 3pm each day. Free, donations accepted. Get the full lineup at

Virtual Food & Wine Pairing
People constantly ask Chef Gerard Nebesky, of Gerard’s Paella, how he makes his authentic Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Now, the popular chef and winner of Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay demonstrates his cooking for curious culinary minds in “A Taste of Spain: Pinot and Paella Virtual Event.” Join Chef Nebesky virtually as he cooks up several delectable offerings at Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyard, with wine pairings that bring out the Spanish flavors. The virtual event takes place Saturday, Aug. 22, at 2pm. Register for the event, find recipes and purchase wine to pair at

Virtual Fundraiser
Nonprofit organization Food For Thought feeds nearly a thousand people living with HIV, Covid-19 and other serious illnesses in Sonoma County. To do so, the organization depends on community fundraising, though this year’s signature benefit, Our Long Table, was canceled due to the pandemic. In place of the live event, Food For Thought moves to the web for Our Virtual Table, a livestream event featuring music performances, a keynote speaker and a chance to participate in an online auction that is open for bidding now. Our Virtual Table comes together on Sunday, Aug. 23, at 7:30pm. Register online at

Virtual Auction
The dedicated team at the Bolinas Museum collects, preserves and displays the art and history of coastal Marin with exhibitions and events that provide cultural enrichment and inspiration for locals and visitors alike. Each summer, the Bolinas Museum hosts a benefit art auction and party to raise funds for their thought-provoking programs and inspiring shows. This summer's party is going virtual, and the Bolinas Museum's Art Auction opens online this weekend, featuring works by dozens of artists and experience packages from local restaurants, wineries and more. The online bidding opens on Saturday, Aug. 22, and remains open online until the museum's virtual live auction on September 12. Register for free at

Virtual Reading
For more than 30 years, the Marin Poetry Center has brought the craft of writing and poetry to the Bay Area with a regular schedule of readings and workshops, and big gatherings like the popular Summer Traveling Show, in which poets perform at venues throughout Marin. This summer, the traveling show could not commence as usual due to sheltering orders, though the Marin Poetry Center used YouTube to broadcast the 2020 Virtual Summer Traveling Show. The virtual series includes eight videos online now, and the show concludes with its final video presented on Sunday, Aug. 23, at
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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Dream of the ’90s Comes Alive at Bear Republic Lakeside Brewpub

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 3:16 PM

Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA for 1995 prices during Bear Republic's throwback event on Aug 21. - PHOTO COURTESY BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING COMPANY
  • photo courtesy Bear Republic Brewing Company
  • Enjoy a Racer 5 IPA for 1995 prices during Bear Republic's throwback event on Aug 21.
The year is 1995. Space shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian Mir space station; Steve Fossett becomes the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean solo in a hot air balloon; millions watch the O.J. Simpson trial; the San Francisco 49ers win their fifth Super Bowl; and third and fourth generation Sonoma County locals, the Norgrove family, establish the Bear Republic Brewing Company.

Twenty-five years later, Bear Republic Brewing Company has become one of the most awarded and beloved independent brewers in the North Bay and across the U.S., best known for their hand-crafted, time-tested beers like the Racer 5 IPA.

In addition to their main brewing facility in Cloverdale, Bear Republic showcases their brews at their Lakeside Brewpub, located at Roberts Lake in Rohnert Park. Visitors to the brewpub enjoy the company’s wide selection of beers, specialty cocktails, pizza, burgers and more.

This summer, in the wake of Covid-19, the Bear Republic Lakeside Brewpub reopened its massive outdoor seating area on the lake for safe and socially-distant dining, and the brewpub now also offers curbside pickup and beer to-go, as well as a home-delivery option.

Now, in commemoration of Bear Republic’s 25-year anniversary, the company is turning the clock back for an anniversary event featuring a ’90s throwback menu on Friday, Aug. 21.

Old-school fans of the brewery will happily welcome back menu items from yesteryear including the Rocket Burger, featuring fire-roasted mild green chili and cilantro aioli, and The Press grilled chicken sandwich with brie, bacon and caramelized onions.

The special menu also features throwback prices on menu items such as the BRBC Wings and garlic fries, as well as Racer 5 IPAs. The ’90s menu is available on Aug. 21 until supplies last. The Lakeside Brewpub is open for outdoor dining, socially-distant indoor dining and to-go service daily from 11:30am to 9pm. Visitors are asked to wear a mask or facial covering and respect social distancing recommendations to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

For those who can’t make it to the 25th anniversary throwback event on Aug. 21, Bear Republic Brewing Company offers an easy way to find BRBC beers closer to home with its online “Bear Tracker,” which lets users search by Zip Code to find bottles and cans at a store near them.

In addition to classic beers like the Racer 5 and the Hop Shovel IPAs, Bear Republic is still creating new, tasty brews, such as the “Hoppy Pilsner” and “Bear Necessities.”

The latest addition to the company’s Brewmaster Series, the “Hoppy Pilsner,” blends clean malt flavor, classic Pilsner bitterness and hoppy aromas, and is described as a “decidedly West Coast take on the classic lager beer.”

The simple and straightforward “Bear Necessities” is an American-style ale brewed with cascade hops and pale barley. Bear Republic says the release “pays homage to the people who show up daily to keep us going.”

Bear Republic Brewing Company’s Lakeside Brewpub is located at 5000 Roberts Lake Rd., Rohnert Park. Open daily, 11:30am to 9pm. 707.585.2722.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

‘Grav & Go!’ Pop-Up Replaces Canceled Gravenstein Apple Fair

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  • photo courtesy Sonoma County Farm Trails

Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair has celebrated the locally grown Gravenstein apple for more than 40 years with a weekend gathering every August that always features entertainment, education and lots to eat and drink.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the fair to cancel its in-person event for 2020. Agricultural organization Sonoma County Farm Trails, host of the fundraising fair, officially announced the cancellation in June, writing on the fair’s website, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times.”

Even though the Gravenstein Apple Fair is canceled, Gravenstein apples are still falling off of trees in West Sonoma County this month, and Sonoma County Farm Trails is setting up its first-ever “Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up” event in Sebastopol this weekend so that Gravenstein apple lovers can at least get the fresh Gravenstein apples and related products they love.

The pop-up will take place at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, the same weekend the fair was originally scheduled. Anyone interested in purchasing apples or apple products must preorder online by Thursday, Aug. 13, at Noon.

Sonoma County Farm Trails farmers and producers make all the available products from local Gravenstein Apples. The apple and apple-related items that can be purchased include fresh organic Gravenstein apples, applesauce, apple juice, apple butter and hard cider (note: cider must be ordered on the Tilted Shed Ciderworks’ site due to alcohol sales rules). Other available apple treats include apple pies, hand pies, cider apple doughnuts and much more.

Upon checkout, shoppers will be guided to select which day and time they would like to pick up their order. Show up at your reserved time for contactless curbside pickup of your Gravenstein apples and related items, and enjoy.

For the health and safety of customers and Farm Trails staff and volunteers, facial coverings, social distancing and thorough hand-and-surface sanitization will be implemented at the “Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up.” Additionally, Farm Trails asks customers to abide by all County and State public health requirements.

Established in 1973, Sonoma County Farm Trails is a nonprofit promoter of local agriculture, and the Gravenstein Apple Fair is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. Without the benefit of the fair this year, Farm Trails is in need of financial help to continue its efforts to preserve Gravenstein apples and keep farms a vital part of Sonoma County’s culture.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”

“Grav & Go! Gravenstein Pop-Up” takes place on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15 and 16, at Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. Online orders must be placed by Thursday, Aug. 13, at noon.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Champion Chefs Compete in Benefit for Napa Food Programs

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Chef Chris Kollar of Kollar Chocolates will compete in a virtual cook-off to support families who are experiencing food insecurity. - PHOTO COURTESY KOLLARCHOCOLATES.COM
  • photo courtesy
  • Chef Chris Kollar of Kollar Chocolates will compete in a virtual cook-off to support families who are experiencing food insecurity.

Five months into the Covid-19 pandemic, and the North Bay is still largely under sheltering orders that have forced many popular events to cancel their plans for the summer.

One of the most impactful financial fallouts of the canceled summer is the loss in fundraising revenue that these events generate for many local nonprofit organizations.

Case in point: Each year Oxbow Public Market's Fork It Over benefit and the Hands Across The Valley fundraiser in St. Helena each raise money for the Napa Valley Food Bank and other local safety-net food programs such as Meals on Wheels.

These two benefit events are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic this summer, meaning that the Napa Valley Food Bank and Meals on Wheels stand to lose approximately $250,000 in funding at a time when the number of families using these programs has nearly tripled due to the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.

In place of these canceled live events, the organizers behind both Fork It Over and Hands Across the Valley are working together to create a new virtual event to help close the financial gap in funding.

“Participating in Fork It Over is a way of supporting local people who need help at one time or another in their lives,” Steve Carlin, founder and managing partner of Oxbow Public Market, says in a statement. “This year is different in that there are more of us confronting food insecurity challenges. At Oxbow, we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution, and we’re proud to partner with Hands Across the Valley on this creative new fundraising effort.”

On Sunday, August 23, Fork It Over and Hands Across the Valley host the first-ever virtual Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off, pitting two acclaimed Napa Valley chefs against each other in a friendly challenge. Both of the participating chefs have won national televised cooking contests, and now North Bay viewers are invited to watch the live streaming event that will determine the ultimate champion chef.

“We were very disappointed when we had to cancel our annual benefit event due to the pandemic,” Hands across the Valley founder and board president George Altamura says in a statement. “This is a great way to engage some of our talented culinary stars, have some fun and raise money for these very important programs.”

Chef Elizabeth Binder and Chef Chris Kollar are slated to appear in the showdown, and both have plenty of experience cooking in front of a crowd.

Chef Binder, owner of Hand-Crafted Catering in Napa, helped her team “Beat Bobby Flay” on the popular cooking competition show’s seventh episode of Season 23, which aired on January 26, 2020.

Chef Kollar, recently named Yountville’s 2020 Business Leader of the Year, is best known as the owner of Kollar Chocolates. Chef Kollar was named a 'Chopped Champion,' winning a sweet and salty challenge on an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped” that also aired in January of this year.

The upcoming Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off will be held at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia’s large teaching kitchens, ensuring the chefs and crew can maintain social distancing.

Radio personality Liam Mayclem, known as the Foodie Chap on KCBS Radio, will host the streaming competition. Chef Ken Frank (La Toque in Napa), Chef Anita Cartagena (Protéa in Yountville), and Chef Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland) will all be on hand to judge the event.

The Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off will be free to watch via Facebook Live, and viewers will be encouraged to donate money throughout the approximately hour-long program to support The Napa Valley Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. Donations received during the event will be eligible to win $500 in OxBucks, redeemable at any Oxbow Public Market merchant.

The Napa Valley Champions Cook-Off streams online Sunday, Aug 23, at 2pm. Free.
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Monday, July 20, 2020

Seghesio Family Vineyards Selects Artist for Anniversary Mural

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2020 at 12:46 PM

Artist Angie Mattson's proposed mural, "Night in Zinfandel" will be painted at Seghesio's Healdsburg tasting room later this year.
  • Artist Angie Mattson's proposed mural, "Night in Zinfandel" will be painted at Seghesio's Healdsburg tasting room later this year.
Founded five generations ago, Sonoma County’s historic Seghesio Family Vineyards is preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary this fall, and in addition to planned parties and events, the winery’s tasting room in Healdsburg will receive an artistic commemoration courtesy of acclaimed artist Angie Mattson.

Mattson is the winner of the Seghesio Family Vineyards’ recent online Anniversary Mural Contest, and her design, “Night in Zinfandel,” won out over hundreds of entries submitted by artists from across the country. Mattson will turn her design into a large-scale art mural at the tasting room later this year.

Mattson’s design is a monochromatic illustration of grape-picking with symbols of nature interwoven throughout. She says it reflects the people, places and values of Seghesio Family Vineyards.

“Since Seghesio is so well-known for Zinfandel, I did a lot of research to get the shape of the leaves and the grapes just right,” Mattson says in a statement. “I also did a lot of research into the flavors of Zinfandel and tried to incorporate those elements into the design. I love the idea that wine is influenced by the land it comes from—the mountains and the sea, the wild herbs, flowers, and plants that grow in and around a vineyard. I wanted to capture the way it feels when you’re in a vineyard and especially at night under the stars when it’s very peaceful but there is still a lot happening—that’s when the animals are coming out and there is some mischief.”

Seghesio Family Vineyards launched the online mural contest in April, and received over 100 submissions from artists of all backgrounds. The entries were viewable online, and visitors were encouraged to comment on their favorite designs, with each comment counting as a vote. The votes were considered when choosing the finalists, along with input from a panel assembled by Seghesio Family Vineyards.

“We were humbled by the outpouring of interest by talented artists across the country who desired to participate in our 125th-anniversary celebration with a mural design inspired by Seghesio’s incredible wines and story,” Stephanie Wycoff, estate director of Seghesio Family Vineyards, says in a statement. “There were many stunning designs, but Angie Mattson’s submission was visually striking and captured the essence of our charm and history with many thoughtful details.”

Contest finalists included acclaimed artists such as Amanda Lynn for her design, “Taste of Life,” Monica Tiulescu for her design, “Zen of Zin,” ELLE for her submission “Vineyards Poetry” and Kimberly Yaeger for her unnamed design. All works can be viewed on the contest website.

Mattson, who also goes by her artist moniker Uto X, is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her art has increasingly been defined as a minimalist folk-art style for the past several years. Also a musician, Mattson began making art by designing merchandise for her band, In The Valley Below, splitting her creative time between music and visual art inspired by her life on the road.

The Seghesio family has been a part of the North Bay’s wine culture ever since Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Zinfandel vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley in 1895. Today, the winery’s 400 acres of vineyards in Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys produce award-winning Zinfandel and Italian varietals under the direction of winemaker Ted Seghesio.

Due to Covid-19 health and safety restrictions, Seghesio Family Vineyards’s tasting room in Healdsburg is currently opening up its adjacent grove for outdoor wine tastings Thursday through Sunday. Reservations are required and are available on
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Monday, June 29, 2020

Several North Bay Fall Events Already Planning Pandemic-Related Postponements

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 1:50 PM

The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.
  • The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.

Last March, Covid-19 forced California to cancel most social gatherings and events through the spring of 2020. Soon after, it was clear that summer 2020 would follow suit as fairs, festivals and other fun events were postponed or called off in the wake of the virus’s continued spread.

Now, autumn 2020 looks to suffer the same fate socially as the last two seasons. Many North Bay–based events and harvest celebrations are postponing their fall gatherings before July even begins, as Covid-19 continues to gain ground in the state and the Bay Area with increasing numbers of new cases each week.

In Sonoma County, fall traditionally begins prior to Labor Day—which is scheduled for Sept. 7 this year—as harvest-related events get rolling in August. One such event, now canceled, is Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Agricultural organization Farm Trails hosts the fundraising fair that celebrates the locally grown Gravenstein Apple. On the fair’s website, the Farm Trails team writes, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times. We are also appreciative of the sacrifices our entire community is making by staying at home to help flatten the curve.”

The fair organizers also note that Gravenstein apples will still be falling in Sonoma County this fall, and they hope to find ways to mark the occasion with virtual events or DIY activities.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”

Other popular harvest and culinary events canceling their 2020 gatherings include the massive Taste of Sonoma wine-tasting extravaganza, the annual Heirloom Expo of food providers and enthusiasts best known for its giant pumpkin contest and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Grand-Tasting and World Championship Grape Stomp Competition—though the Harvest Fair’s professional wine and food competitions will still be held remotely.

In Marin County, the arts are often a major part of the fall season, with festivals and fairs showcase both international and local artists and crafters.

One of Marin’s largest gatherings each fall is the Sausalito Art Festival, taking place on Labor Day weekend for more than 60 years. This year, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation will pause production of this signature event due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and other current challenges associated with event production. On the festival’s website, the Foundation says it will plan a new iteration of the event “to meet a shifting arts and entertainment landscape.”

In addition to pandemic concerns, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation writes that restrictions to access of the waterfront venue, competition for headlining musical talent and increased security costs and concerns are also factors in their decision to reimagine the event for 2021.

Another Marin fall staple, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, also recently announced its 2020 fest would be canceled due to Covid-19.

“For over sixty years our little festival has been a wonderful celebration of Mill Valley’s unique culture and community,” says festival executive director Steve Bajor, in a statement. “This year the responsibility to act prudently to ensure everyone’s safety is our top priority. Like so much we are missing, we are hopeful that the festival will return next year for us all to enjoy.”

Artists previously juried into the 2020 show will instead be featured on the festival’s website and will be invited to show their work in person at the next event, now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, in Old Mill Park.

Other fall arts events in the North Bay forgoing 2020 include Open Studios Napa Valley’s self-guided art tours, usually planned for two weekends in September, and the Sonoma County Art Trails, normally scheduled for two weekends in October. Still other major events canceled this fall include the Sound Summit music festival that celebrates Mount Tamalpais State Park each September at the historic Mountain Theater, and the Napa Valley Film Festival that was slated to happen in November.

“We appreciate the tremendous support and well wishes from our community during these uncertain times,” said Cinema Napa Valley Chairman Patrick Davila, in a statement. “Rest assured we will use this time to strengthen our commitment to our mission and develop new avenues to fulfill our vision. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2021 for our 10th year anniversary.”
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Friday, May 1, 2020

Desserts Go Digital For LBC Fundraiser

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  • Will Bucquoy; courtesy Luther Burbank Center for the Arts

Luther Burbank Center for the Arts’ long-running and super tasty benefit, The Art of Dessert, was originally scheduled for early last month, though the Covid-19 pandemic put the plan on hold, until now.

In the spirit of social distancing, the Art of Dessert Virtually takes the annual event online with an extravaganza featuring digital auctions for first-class wines, delectable and beautifully designed desserts and cakes, and one-of-a kind gifts and experiences to enjoy in the future.

Proceeds from the online auctions go towards LBC’s Education and Community Engagement programs, which currently provide virtual events and classes until the center’s campus re-opens.

Registration is open now to view auction items, bidding begins online, Sunday, May 3, at noon and runs until Saturday, May 9, at 9pm at
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fork & Shovel: Speed Dating for Farmers and Chefs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM


All photos courtesy Jil Hale of Barndiva

Late Feb's drear rain and wind did not stop a group of some 60 chefs and farmers from gathering at Healdsburg's Barndiva on Tuesday, Feb. 23, for the second Fork & Shovel"Speed Dating" event. Unlike the whirl that singles might subject themselves to in order to find sex and love and shared towels, this speed dating event matched food providers with the chefs who adore—and need—them.

What co-founders Jil Hale (of Barndiva) and Randi Seidner (of the Slow Food Russian River convivia) remain somewhat surprised by is how difficult it has heretofore been to bring together these two interdependent groups. In establishing the website, they hope to bridge that gap and indeed, Hale reported to those gathered that there is interest from other foodsheds around the country in bringing this very idea to their own tables.

Terming itself an "Internet grange," Fork & Shovel has  proprietary software that allows farmers and ranchers to post the details of their crop/harvest/livestock while allowing member chefs to order from that slate. Purveyors gain the relief of knowing that a set portion of their reap will be sold; chefs gain the relief of obtaining foodstuffs grown locally and often, organically or even biodynamically. It allows the local foodshed to flourish while allowing local restaurants to flourish while allowing local purveyors to flourish. It's that kind of a win-win-win thing.


Canvas Ranch's Deborah Walton (with carrots) and Sonoma chef-restaurateur Sondra Bernstein (in striped shirt with her back to the camera), play out a short skit at F&S' Speed Dating. "They made us do it," Bernstein said, almost helplessly.
There certainly were no losers at Tuesday night's slate of serious fun. In groups of five, farmers grouped near Barndiva's bar. Each had 30 seconds to state their name, the name of their farm and what they specialize in. Gleason Ranch's Nancy Prebilich assured the chefs gathered that all they had to remember was the Honeymooner's line, "To the moon, Alice, to the moon!" in order to remember her family's century-old-plus ranch. Tim and Karen Bates with their daughter Sophia, traveled down from Mendocino County and their Apple Farm to pitch their cider, juice and even blemished fruit (useful if it's incorporated into something else). Others in attendance included Oliver's Market general manager Tom Scott, farm market honcho Paula Downing, Carrie Brown of the Jimtown Store, chefs from Cyrus and Nick's Cove, Matteo Granados, Ralph of Bistro Ralph and many more.

After the "dating" concluded, the schmoozing began. Guests had brought wine and dessert while Rosso Pizzeria provided a multitude of piping hot pies and bowls of cool salad. Amid slices and napkins, the real courting happened, with chefs telling purveyors what they wanted and purveyors considering the challenges of planting to order.

Fork & Shovel's next order of business is to launch a series of Sunday suppers, possibly beginning as early as April, that would encourage diners to eat at F&S-affiliated restaurants as spring eases into its fullness. Expect to hear more about this innovative nonprofit. For a full list of Fork & Shovel producers, go here. for participating restaurants, here.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Date Night at Vinolivo

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 4:00 AM


From the Sorry You Missed It files, last Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 found the Lodge at Sonoma's Carneros Bistro hosting the Sonoma Vinters and Growers Association in the Lodge's large reception area and a humid packed tent set up alongside. Like the much larger summer dine-and-walk-around Taste of Sonoma event, Vinolivo featured a yowza selection of area restaurants offering tastes ably complemented by the 50+ wineries on hand, many of them small boutique shops not ordinarily pouring for the public, in a free-for-all of fun.

The best way to enjoy these kinds of events is with a friend, be they a spouse, lover, blind date or, as I did, with a girlfriend. Drifting from table to table, waiting patiently if your companion can't have the cheese at that table but can definitely have the beef at that one, Vinolivo featured a live jazz soundtrack, plenty of people-watching, great homemade fries courtesy of Carneros chef Janine Falvo (above), plenty of good sparkling wine to match the frites and an easy way to swan around eating small bites while drinking great wines and chatting.

Unlike Taste of Sonoma, which last summer seemed to feature nothing more toothsome than gazpacho—and that would be, some 20 styles of gazpacho—Vinolivo offers guests a chance to actually have dinner by foot. Ramekins had artisanal sandwich halves on offer; the Girl & the Fig, hot cauliflower gratin; and the Swiss Hotel, a meaty ragu topping white beans. Those wise ones stopped first at the Wine Country Chocolates table as their confections were soon gone, and we lucky wise ones were indeed smart enough to start with sparkling wine and French fries, move directly to the chocolates and then solace our palates with actual food-food in the form of the cheesy gratin, the beefy ragu and other comestibles, all while sipping from Robert Hunter, Roche Carneros, Clarbec, Paint Horse and other wineries.

Meanwhile, my friend and I caught up on men, work, pets, family and films in between rafts of strangers, tables of delicacies and—thanks, I'd love some—another sip of good wine.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Artisano 2009

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 4:00 AM


The first annual Artisano event, held Nov. 14 at the Geyserville Inn, was one of those rare afternoons where giddy patrons greeted each other by saying,"I sure hope that this never gets popular!" Alas for them, as Artisano is destined to be hugely popular—and why wouldn't it be? Small-production cult wines rarely enjoyed by the public married well with gorgeous food from local purveyors in a hidden setting on a stellar fall day. Such goodness is bound to eventually attract a crowd. Unlike this summer's Showcase of Sonoma, which is now so huge as to resemble a tent city and which this year featured at least 15 different kinds of gazpacho and little else to eat, Artisano found patrons sitting at tables with forks thoughtfully grazing through small plates of creamy polenta with goat shank, fresh made flatbreads from a portable oven, barbecued lamb with a nutty pilaf and nuggets of fresh toffee made in nearby Healdsburg.

The small crowds made for easy access to the winemakers, all of whom were glad to chat while they poured. Douxup Wine Works co-owner Andy Cutter being a case in point. An affable man of a certain age, Cutter explained the pronunciation of his label. It's not some fancy French lisp with the "oux" sounding like "ew." Rather, it's pronounced "Duck Soup," like the Marx Brothers film, a small semantic joke that he and his wife, Douxup co-owner Deb Cutter, devised to give themselves a private chuckle with their first personal brand after decades of making wine for others. But, Andy explained, the weird spelling gave pause to his San Francisco wine broker. The guy just couldn't sell the stuff, no matter how toothsome. So the broker got creative, telling customers that Andy was Harpo Marx's illegitimate son and the unintelligible name a secret reference to his parentage. The wine sold out and sold out and sold out. As for the story? It took on its own bowed legs, eventually appearing—to Andy's immense delight—as the answer to a question in the Trivial Pursuit Wine Edition.

I dare you to name another public food and wine festival where a winery staffer even has time to tell you his or her name, let alone a long rambler like that one. Let's hope it doesn't get popular.

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