According to Petaluma Downtown Association's latest news-blast, one of our all time favorite South County dining spots, Central Market, is scheduled to reopen following its fall season closure hiatus that followed an unfortunate, but not calamitous chimney fire in August.
No doubt Chef Tony Najiola and team has enjoyed a bit of well-earned downtime getting back to the earth on the restaurant 'family' farm in between juggling extensive repairs and inevitable paperwork.
Suffice to say that although there are plentiful choices for eating out in the area, consistent quality, farm-to-fork, freshest of flavors and originality of Central Market have been greatly missed these past few months.
Bay Area Chinese/American author Amy Tan is beloved in this part of the world. And it certainly showed in the largest crowd I've ever seen at our local branch of Copperfields Books, gathered for anything other than a Harry Potter book release or possibly one from those teen-vampire-type series.
Thanks to my lovely friend Lori for my signed first edition copy of The Valley of Amazement. I can't wait to delve into this captivating tale, inspired, as we heard, in our back row seating among hundreds of Amy's book fans, by her own family's complex and incredible story.
Copperfield's site blurb describes The Valley of Amazement as: "Spanning more than forty years and two continents. Resurrecting pivotal moments of the past: the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty; the beginning of the Republic; the explosive growth of both lucrative foreign trade and bouts of antiforeign sentiment."
Expect to find yourself in the midst of the lost world of old Shanghai, recaptured through the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign “Shanghailanders” living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II.
Exposing the profound connections between mothers and daughters, The Valley of Amazement promises to return readers to Amy's territory, expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club.
There might have been only a handful of people in the bookstore that night, the audience was so hushed and in such admiration of Amy's slide show of old family photographs and candid recounting of her writers' process over the past eight years that it took for her to write this book.
I did pay special attention to the fact that her husband of over 40 years, by her glowing account, brought Amy three meals a day to her home office confinement in the final months of completing her manuscript!
Thank you Copperfields for continuing to bring us so many of the best American (as well as International authors of our day). Note to booksellers: I'd really like to hear of any upcoming visit from my favorite, Mr. Bill Bryson, whose latest 'One Summer - America 1927' I'm currenly in the midst of. I have several Bryson books signed by the author and would never miss one of his book tour stops in the North Bay.
Part of my family's annual Thanksgiving tradition each year has been to think up a collaborative art project that we are all able to participate in and to whatever extent we choose!
This year we enjoyed an hour or so of still life painting from the stunning 'loot' foraged on our hike into the hills of Helen Putnam Park.
It struck me, though, that this sort of natural goodness is equally applicable to a wide variety of winter holiday decorating styles.
Whatever the reason for the season you celebrate in your home, look to found and foraged twigs and foliage, chestnuts, feathers, persimmons, intricately crafted, abandoned bird nests as well as an abundance of late growing herbs, greenery and trailing ivy for table decor, wreaths, mantles, holiday trees and gift wrapping.
How many dollars are spent on faux holiday decorations each year that a morning or afternoon's foraging walk in the hills would so brilliantly outshine?
Here's one of our finds that doesn't quite fit with a Christmas theme, but winter solstice maybe?!
Join Nick's Cove GM Dena Grunt as she hosts the launch party for the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing's popular Images of America series, Tomales Bay by Anthony Raymond Kilgallan, on Tuesday, December 3rd.
Beginning at 4:30, join Dena and Tony in the enclosed patio for this community wide event. Guests will enjoy free appetizers and drink specials, an author presentation and book signing.
Locals' Night at Nick's - there will also be a musical appearance by Todos Santos; starts around 6:00pm. Locals’ night prix fixe menu is available for $25, including a glass of red or white wine or a pint of Lagunitas on draftand two courses.
Reservations for the launch party are highly recommended - RSVP to Dena directly at email@example.com. If you wish to make a dinner reservation for after the launch party, click here.
The book boasts more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by of this historic coastal area. Tony Kilgallin is a British born author who has been published in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain over the past 50 years. In 2001 he published Arcadia’s Napa: An Architectural Walking Tour. Tony has worked in radio, film and TV in Canada and the U.S. He taught Literature at the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia. Alexander Stitt Marshall, ancestor of Tony’s wife Patricia, was a prominent settler of Tomales Bay and motivation enough for the author’s ambition to write this new book. Tony and Patricia reside in San Francisco and Napa.
It didn't take much for my girlfriend Lara to twist my arm for a foray down the freeway South for a wee holiday season visit to iconic Bay Area Heath Ceramics' factory and mother-store in Sausalito.
This season's line of stunning red espresso cups, soup bowls, square platters, nested bowl sets and more are limited edition pieces - so if you're looking for something quite special for the holiday table and/or gifting, Heath has you covered in a quality selection of stylish, sturdy, California classics.
Vessels are my weakness and although I have been officially banned by the Italian husband for some time now for trying to sneak any more ceramic serving pieces into the house, you know and I know that rules are made to be broken (as long as the pottery stays in one piece!).
A beloved Bay Area tradition and one of the most elaborate, inventive and authentically-Victorian Christmas events anywhere in the world, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party presents a brilliant facsimile of London circa the 1840s-1860s - a Victorian Christmas Card Come to Life!
While you and I were busy baking pies and setting the Thanksgiving table, an army of talented staff, crew, performers, vendors and volunteers of the Dickens Christmas Fair were celebrating having put the finishing touches on this years event for a pre-Turkey Day opening.
More than three acres of old-world exhibition halls at San Francisco's legendary Cow Palace have once again magically transformed into a Victorian holiday world of dancing, feasting, entertainments and shopping for one-of-a-kind treasures.
An ever-changing, recreated slice of Charles Dickens' London, warmly lit and lovingly decorated, with winding lanes, shops, pubs, tea rooms, lecture halls, a grand music hall and the London dockside is brought to life by more than 750 authentically dressed actors.
FIVE WEEKENDS Nov. 23 ~ Dec. 22 from 10am to 7pm, including the Friday after Thanksgiving!
Make way for the Queen! Smartly uniformed soldiers lead young Queen Victoria and her Royal Consort Prince Albert through the streets of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Photo credit: Rich Yee
Four authentic English pubs - and the Bohemian Absinthe Bar - serve up hearty Christmas cheer at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Photo credit: Rich Yee
"Grandma, he had often wanted to say, Is this where the world began? For surely it had begun in no other than a place like this. The kitchen, without doubt, was the center of creation, all things revolved about it; it was the pediment than sustained the temple." - Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.
For me, as reader, I consider this scene in Bradbury's grandmother's kitchen not just as an American moment, but one that translates to all cultures in which the younger members of the family are, for now, so little aware of how the way we're introduced to cooking and communing serves to permeate the soul for a lifetime.
"Eyes shut to let his nose wander, he snuffed deeply. He moved to the hell-fire steams and sudden baking flour flurries of snow in this miraculous climate......Grandma of the thousand arms, shook, basted, whipped, beat, minced, diced, peeled, wrapped, salted and stirred."
A few more thoughts for the road:
"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."
"Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."
- William Shakespeare
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
It has been seven months since the launch of Healdsburg's ambitious, new, state-of-the-art grange, grocery, farm store, cafe, bar and event space, SHED. And it took me the entire summer and now most of the fall to finally find a free afternoon for a foray up the 101 to check it out.
I'd been hearing mixed reports from friends and fellow bloggers, one of which stated, to the point (as he is wont to do), that he just: "didn't get it". Still, it sounded like something that I'd appreciate, what with its enticing line up of coffee and fermentation bars, larder and pantries, housewares for the seasonal cook, cafe, farm and garden store, workshops, Sunday suppers, event and tastings space. And unlike Sebastopol's ambitious and extensive Barlow District roll-out for the passing foodie's delight, the Shed is all under one beautifully styled, lofty, well lit and convenient roof.
Ironically, I'd actually made a (jaw-dropping) first visit to the ultimate emporium of all things Italian-foodie focused, New York's Eataly, before a visit to the Shed finally topped my SoCo to-do list and I just can't help but compare the ambitiousness of the projects, despite the wildly different demographic of foot traffic in keeping such major enterprises bouyant.
Whereas with Eately, there is sheer magnitude of choice and sumptuous selection, you just want to dive right in and order a slice of pizza, or an espresso, initial reaction to the Shed is considerably more of a mixed bag of wondering what to focus on first while figuring out how it all quite works.
After browsing around for about 20 minutes, Lesley and I each bought a copy of Angela Boggiano's appealing British Pie Book, as well as my impulse buy of a beautiful, made-in-Sonoma-County, big, white pie dish. If there had been a basket of Gravenstein apples I'd have come home with the makings for my holiday pie, but I found the fresh food refrigerators and counter offerings to be a bit sparse and austere looking.
Price varied from super expensive, rustic-luxe kitchen items to reasonable deals such as jars of pickled red Fresno peppers and old-fashioned molasses.
Despite the plethora of choices for lunch in Healdsburg, we decided to give the Shed a whirl, at a table for two in its indoor/outdoor chic cafe.
Staffing seems to be a bit of a hard commodity to come by in Healdsburg, with so many competing eateries (tasting rooms & stores) in town, and though polite and friendly, our server forgot to mention that our modest salads selection had reached the kitchen at the wrong end of a large group order. Better late than never, our fresh sardine and smoked salmon salads were, though 40 minutes in the making, beautifully presented and delicious.
As a community resource for learning, I wish the Shed were in Petaluma. The South County could do with a facility that offers an event space of this caliber as well as a center dedicated to talks featuring noted thinkers, artists and authors with workshops on food crafts, gardening, farming and sustainable living.
Though Petaluma has a great Arts Center and stores such as The Seed Bank and Copperfields for some of these activities, the draw from San Francisco and the East Bay would be so much more feasible than driving all the way up to the northern reaches of Sonoma County.
The 9,700 square foot building is two stories high. According to media reports, the Shed has, at the seven-month stage, undergone considerable growth and change as it settles into wine country's wider community awareness.
For those who are in the vacinity and have their calendars organized to follow the Shed's event calendar, I'd say its wonderful addition to Healdsburg's offerings. Though somewhat envious we don't have one on our doorstep, I'd imagine it would take on more of a practical farmer's market atmosphere if it were located in the South County.
Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post described the recently released on DVD, French movie 'Renoir' as :"A seemingly desultory yet methodical meditation on art, war, love, life and death that takes place on the painter’s country estate in 1915, four years before his death."
For my many artistic readers out there in Southern Sonoma Country land, I'm recommending this sumptously slow (I thought, in all the best ways) movie for a spot of well-earned downtown viewing during the otherwise manic holiday season.
History, scenery, cinematography, World War I era french clothing, al fresco painting, and a strong cast, not to mention losing oneself in the language even while keeping one eye on the sub-titles.