My good gift guide
As I sit pondering this week’s column, “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus,” has now officially been stuck in my head for the third day in a row and I’m tempted to switch up my daily morning routine with a pumpkin spice or egg nog latte at the Sunflower Caffé or possibly an oversized, generously buttered piece of panettone toast from the Basque. It seems that purée of butternut squash is everyone’s soup du jour and gingerbread or peppermint has found it’s way onto most dessert menus around town. I guess this means the holiday season is officially here. As you have probably already guessed, the holidays for me are really all about the food. The season’s first Bourbon milk punch is anticipated greatly, while I’m planning weekly crab feasts excitedly. For Christmas, gifts of local cheeses and bubbly are always appreciated in my book although, I would be utterly thrilled with any of the following presents, all found locally of course.
Us Sonomans love to eat – and drink! – particularly around the holidays. To help work off the extra calories I couldn’t think of a more helpful and motivating gift than a gift certificate to work out at EA’s Cross Fit (343.1102) or Energy Studio (en-er-gy.com or 217.4584).
Sondra Bernstein’s gorgeous new cookbook, Plat du Jour, is literally crammed full of delicious recipes and stunning photography, and is based on the daily three-course menus at the girl and the fig. I’d love to spend the winter months cooking from its beautiful pages. (thegirlandthefig.com)
Almost all of our local restaurants offer gift certificates. Not only would it be a huge treat to enjoy a long, leisurely meal at one of my favorite Sonoma spots without the thought of paying the tab, but what a fabulous way to support our small businesses during the quiet winter season!
Winter meals in my home almost always include slow-cooked heirloom beans from Napa’s Rancho Gordo and nothing makes me happier than cooking them in one of the lovely clay cooking vessels from the Plaza retailer, Bram. Find a unique selection of clay pots, cookbooks and other interesting gifts, not to mention those killer dried beans, all at this charming shop. (493 First Street West)
The gift of sunshine is always appreciated this time of year. If you can’t afford to treat the ones on your list to a round trip ticket to Sunny Florida, then a cheery bottle of Hello Cello Limoncello di Sonoma is the next best thing. Locals Amy and Fred Groth painstakingly source the best available, all-organic ingredients for this slightly sweet lemony aperitif and digestive. An ideal gift for the wine snob in our lives – who wants the anxiety of gifting them wine? Find Cello Limoncello di Sonoma locally at Plaza Liquors or at Sonoma Market.
On THe Menu
This Sunday, December 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is Ramekins’ “Annual Santa’s Brunch.” Bring the whole family to celebrate the holiday season with Santa and indulge in a delicious, bountiful brunch buffet. Children can participate in holiday cookie decorating and pictures with Santa while parents sip mimosas. Seating for this popular event is limited, so be sure to make your reservations soon! For more information or to make reservations for either of these events, contact Ramekins at 933.0450.
• This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sonoma Valley Teen Services, Lovin’ Oven and Art Wednesday present the Holiday Art Boutique & Bistro at the No Name Cafe on the Sonoma Valley High School Campus. The event will feature a counter service bistro with a menu of tasty sandwiches, soups and holiday sweets. The public is invited to come peruse the boutique of teen-crafted arts and delicacies for a “must have” item or gift. Hours are: Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
• Don Landis’ annual “Home Olive Curing Seminar” takes place this Sunday, December 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cline Cellars. Don will talk about the history of the olive, the history of the olive in California and give a thorough description of how to make olives edible with out lye. Discussion of the many varieties of olives, when to pick and other important tips will also be covered, followed by a tasting of olives with cheese and crackers. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Cline Cellars is located at 24737 Highway 121. Call 940.4030 to reserve your space.
• The Centre du Vin at the Ledson Hotel is now open for Sunday brunch. What a lovely spot to linger over a latte – or a mimosa – feasting from the restaurant’s creative brunch menu. Enjoy a delicious selection of dishes such as a crab and asparagus omelet, Brioche French toast, crepes, or my favorite choice, biscuits with a duck confit gravy! Brunch, Sundays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. 480 First Street East.
Most delicious event this week
Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze celebrate the launch of their gorgeous new cookbook, “Plats du Jour” during their “Holiday Open House and Book Signing Party” at ESTATE this Saturday, December 10 beginning at 11:30 a.m. Guests will enjoy pre-release pricing on the book, have the opportunity to meet the book’s photography team, sip wine and enjoy festive nibbles all while shopping with a great selection of area artisans. Pet’s Lifeline will also be on-hand accepting donations of blankets, cat and dog toys, and food. For details, visit thegirlandthefig.com.
All I want for Christmas is…
A handful of local chefs and food-obsessed locals share, what “their dream ‘foodie’ gift to receive this holiday season” would be.
Saul Gropman, owner of Café la Haye: “As much All-Clad cookware as I could possibly want!”
Norman Owens, chef-owner of the Hotbox Grill: “A world culinary tour! Although, more realistically, every cook needs to have a Vita-Mix blender. That is what I would love to receive this holiday season, the Cadillac of all kitchen tools, a Vita-Mix Professional 500.”
Candi Edmondson, Paul’s Produce: “Too many things, but mostly a Vita-Mix blender, a gift certificate to Sign of the Bear, a piece of the beautiful black clay cookware from Bram, new steak knives and fancy olive oil. If I weren’t me, I’d want a subscription to our CSA! What could be better than a box of fresh ingredients every week?”
Ed Metcalf, chef-owner of Shiso Sushi and Grill: “For me it would be a custom designed home kitchen, with a full sushi bar for all my free time!! I could entertain friends and family at home.”
John McReynolds, culinary director of Stone Edge Farm: “I gave myself a San Francisco Fishing Tour with ‘Kirk’s Classic Inner City Coastal Foraging Tour!’ I’m excited to learn the tricks of the urban fishing trade on this two-and-a-half hour tour that combines science, history and gastronomy. In addition, knives from the San Francisco cutlery store, the Town Cutler, would be the ultimate gift for a serious cook!” Here’s the link to John’s fishing tour: www.goldstar.com/events/san-francisco-ca/kirks-classic-sf-inner-city-coastal-foraging-tour
Rob Larman, chef-owner of Cochon Volant BBQ: “I would love an all-expense paid trip to Paris! Although, a sous-vide machine would be fun, too.”
Sarah Pinkin, chef at Murphy’s Irish Pub: “I would love a tapas tour of Spain. Just a week or two with a local foodie or restaurateur who knows Spain to take me to the best eating spots…and maybe a little weekend trip over to Portugal!”
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Cider Cream
5 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
(about 6 cups)
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1/2 cup chopped peeled carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon diced fresh sage leaves
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh chives
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add squash, leeks, carrot and celery; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Mix in apples, thyme and sage. Add stock and 1 cup cider and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, purée soup in blender. Return soup to pan. Boil remaining 1/2 cup cider in heavy small saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Cool. Place sour cream in small bowl and whisk in reduced cider. Bring soup to simmer. Mix in whipping cream. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with cider cream. Top with chives.
Kristin Viguerie is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Find her blogging daily as the Cook (thecardiganandcook.com) or via email at email@example.com.