What’s cookin’ Sonoma?
Summer, summer, summertime. I love summer in Sonoma, packed as it can be with outdoor movies and festive concerts at wineries, town bashes in the Plaza, plenty of farmer’s marketing, pig-filled barbecues and decadent lobster boils, and backyard dinner parties with close friends and plenty of local wine. As always, especially this time of year, there are a big, yummy handful of new foodie happenings here in town. So many in fact that I am behind on checking them all out for you. So, here is a bit of the most scrumptious food-based news, but stay tuned for more summer coverage on the new openings below and the upcoming events you won’t want to miss!
• The Hot Box Grill, the Springs eatery that pays homage to all things cozy and decadent – can anyone say, “Duck fat fries?!” – has once again started whipping up their amazingly affordable and outrageously tasty lunches Thursday thru Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. I literally fell out of my seat this weekend after taking a big bite of Chef Norm’s to-die-for Cuban sandwich, and believe me, I happen to be a Cuban sandwich aficionado. A slightly sweet, soft hoagie roll is layered with thinly sliced ham, sweetly caramelized grilled onions, plenty of tangy mustard, crunchy pickles, just the right amount of Swiss cheese, and a mojo-marinated shredded pork. The mojo pork was ridiculously good, marinated in orange and garlic overnight, braised until it is succulent and falling apart, with tiny flecks of pungent herb. The whole concoction is griddled, pressed until the outside edges of bread are crisp and golden, and the inside is completely and magically melted into a state of ooey gooey-ness. What appears to be a simple sandwich is actually a long, labor-intensive project, prepared over several days, and utilizing the best ingredients all for the crazy low price of eight bucks! The nine dollar burger is also killer and well worth much more. The patty, ground in-house, is eight ounces and grilled to order. The soft bun is homemade by the talented bakers over at Sonoma’s newest bakery, Crisp. Add cheddar and Swiss cheeses and tack on a side of the aforementioned duck fat fries and you could easily just die and head to heaven. Everything on the smallish menu is under ten bucks, made in-house and lovingly prepared….even the house-made Kool Aid! Just be sure not to leave without one of Addie’s just-baked, gargantuan chocolate chip cookies. Check out the Hot Box’s full menu at hotboxgrill.com or call 939.8383 for more information.
• As if it weren’t fun enough that every Tuesday at Café 522 Chef Alex fries up endless batches of his traditional Southern fried chicken, the gang is now offering “1/2 Price Bottle Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday every wine on the charming café’s already extremely affordable wine list will now be half price, including wines on their reserve list! If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to dine at this atmospheric little spot on Broadway and dig into a big bowl of their egg noodles happily tangled with sautéed chicken livers and meaty mushrooms or any of the rest of the comforting, skillfully prepared Wine Country meets Southern fare, then now is the time. Visit cafe522.com to see all of their menus, to make a reservation, or for more details.
• The Carneros Bistro at the Lodge at Sonoma has a new chef! Chef Andrew Wilson has been working diligently for the past five months to make some pretty delicious changes over there. A chic coffee and wine bar was built off the lobby which offers a cool spot to sip a glass of wine or coffee and possibly nibble on charcuterie, cheese, a sandwich or even something sweet. Diners can linger in the lovely space simply chatting with friends or take advantage of the free WiFi. I am super excited to have a new, fabulous place to cuddle up with my honey or while away an evening, laughing with the girls. I look forward to filling you in on the chef’s newest creations and plans for his first summer season in Sonoma! Check back here often for my full report and be sure to visit the hotel’s website at lodgeatsonoma.com for more information.
• I wish I could spend the next two hundred or more words describing, in detail, just how yummy my dinner at the newly-opened Glen Ellen Star was, but sadly, I couldn’t get a reservation this weekend. Or, Monday night for that matter. I am thrilled at the much-deserved, instant success of this new, stylish dining spot in little ol’ Glen Ellen, even though I ate take-out in lieu of über talented Chef Ari Weiswasser and wife Erin Benziger-Weiswasser’s rustic, market-inspired cuisine. I continue to daydream about his fresh, mint-infused, spring pea soup with a fluffy ricotta dumpling floating happily about. I am confident that anything coming from the wood oven will be mind-blowing to say the least. After swooning over a dish of perfectly caramelized, painstakingly hand-turned baby fennel at the practice dinner months ago, I could easily plan a meal consisting solely of sides of pristine vegetables such as hen of the woods mushrooms with a veal jus or baby carrots finished with orange flower honey and argan oil. All I know is that I will definitely save room for a dish of roasted peanut butter ice cream for dessert…if I can get a table! Swoon over the menu for yourself at glenellenstar.com.
Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Inspired by Glen Ellen Star
Makes 1 quart
1 cup chunky peanut butter (I like Laura Scudder’s best!)
1/2 cup sugar
Big pinch of kosher or fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Using a handheld mixer, cream the peanut butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add 1 cup of half-and-half and beat on low speed until well mixed. Add the rest of the half-and-half and the cream and whisk by hand—if you try to use your mixer you will end up with it splattering all over the kitchen. Pour the mixture into ice cream maker and process for 25 to 30 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s directions. The ice cream will be on the soft side but can be eaten right away or put into the freezer to “cure” or harden up for a couple hours. Stored in an airtight container, the ice cream will keep at least a week in the freezer.
On The Menu
On Saturday, June 2, the Ecology Center hosts their “Second Annual Tour de Coop.” From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. chicken owners in Sonoma are opening their “roosts” to tour ticket holders so they can visit with their chicken flocks and learn chicken keeping ideas. This is a self-guided tour which includes delicious refreshments along the way. This year’s Tour de Coop is a 17-mile loop and bicycling is strongly encouraged. All participants will receive a map of all participating homes and can tour the coops at their leisurely pace. All proceeds benefit Sonoma Garden Park, a working farm and model of sustainable agriculture, managed by Sonoma Ecology Center, located at 19996 Seventh Street East. To purchase tickets, visit brownpapertickets.com/event/244308 or call 996.0712, ext. 120.
• Audubon Canyon Ranch hosts it’s “Second Annual Art of Eating” event on Saturday, June 3 at Glen Ellen’s Bouverie Preserve. This year’s theme is “Women who change the way we eat,” and will feature more than 16 talented local chefs, 14 vintners, and 60 unique auction items. The proceeds from this event will benefit the education programs of Audubon Canyon Ranch, which annually provides more than 6,000 grade students with the opportunity to experience nature-based educational experiences at no cost to the schools. Tickets can be purchased at egret.org or by calling 415.868.9244.
• The Sonoma Community Center presents their annual “Ox Roast” also on Sunday, June 3, beginning at 11 a.m. This is the largest and most delicious local barbecue event during the Sonoma event season. A full day of events and live music revolve around a massive meal of perfectly grilled slabs of beef, held annually in the Plaza. For more information, visit sonomcommunitycenter.org or call 938.4626.
• Ramekins is hosting a delicious, food and wine filled event on Thursday, June 7, coined “Taste Thursdays.” They will be firing up their wood burning oven for wood-fired pizzas and local wineries – including Ram’s Gate, Audelssa, Long Meadow Ranch, and Scribe – will be pouring. A small farm market will offer fresh goodies grown in the Ramekins gardens, along with live music, and cookie decorating for the kids, all on their pretty outdoor courtyard. For more information, call Ramekins at 933.0450.
Kristin Jorgensen 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 at thecardiganandcook.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.