5th Annual Taste of Petaluma this Saturday…immerse yourself in gourmet Petaluma, support Cinnabar Theatre
In case you haven’t noticed, the dining scene in Petaluma has changed dramatically and our city has become THE gourmet dining destination for Sonoma County and the wine country. With more than 75 restaurants, cafes, wineries and downtown merchants participating in this Saturday’s 5th annual Taste of Petaluma, the downtown area will be a foodies’ paradise and your chance to get acquainted with Petaluma’s abundance of fantastic dining opportunities. Last week, I accompanied Taste of Petaluma’s energetic coordinator Laura Sunday along on a pre-taste to several of this year’s participants and am delighted to report that Taste of Petaluma will have some real gems.
Taste of Petaluma is not your run-of-the-mill ‘Taste of… Fill-in-the-Blank…explained Laura Sunday. “Most of these taste events have you going from booth to booth to sample food that has been prepared ahead of time, or assembled on the spot and you never get to experience the ambiance of the restaurant which is a huge part of going out to eat.” Taste of Petaluma offers the unique opportunity to sit down, eat, and chat with the owners of these local eateries, all of whom have very interesting stories to tell about how they landed in Petaluma. There are also numerous samplings of locally-produced beers, brandies, champagne, ports, and wines, in many cases paired with cuisine.
The festive afternoon will also include loads of live musical entertainment (schedule) —jazz, folk, blues, rock, jug band, acoustic guitar, even Elvis—all over the downtown area and the opportunity to stroll
through the city’s numerous art galleries and shops, many of which are hosting multiple samplings.
A $60 ticket will buy you 10 dine-around tickets, enough to provide both lunch and an early dinner and no one will walk away hungry. For the hosts, who donate all the food and beverages, the effort and expense is well-justified. “Last year I served apricot chicken to 60 people,” said Gopal Gauchan owner/chef of Everest, 56 East Washington Street, in the Golden Eagle Plaza. “People came in all year long and brought their families and friends and everyone asked for apricot chicken. Taste of Petaluma is a way for us to get involved with the community.”
We began our culinary tour with dessert–traditional Turkish baklava from Afendi’s Turkish Grill restaurant in the Plaza North Shopping Center. Chef/owner Serdar “Joe” Besir greeted us with steaming hot tulip-shaped glasses of fragrant Turkish black çay (tea) that he had just brewed in his copper samovir. You may have heard about Afendi’s grilled meat—lamb, chicken or beef–doners or kebabs—or the belly dancing on the weekends. Their desserts are beautifully done too, very satisfying and not too sweet or syrupy. Joe will be sampling Pistacio Baklava (Fistikli Baklava), Walnut Baklava (Civilzi Baklava) and Sweet Semolina Cake (Revani). Baklava is eaten all over Turkey, Greece, and Central Asia. Joe makes his without shortcuts. His own handmade phyllo dough is layered with chopped nuts and honey, resulting in a rich, sweet flaky pastry that is addictive. Joe believes that tea is a crucial part of Turkish hospitality and
that Afendi’s will never charge for its tea. While Afendi’s is just a few months old, it is so popular that reservations are required on the weekends.
Be sure to cross the bridge to the Golden Eagle Shopping Center to sample the Everest Pizza at Everest Indian Restaurant and say hello to owner/chef Gopal Gauchan. Gopal describes his cuisine as a fusion of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan cuisines and stresses that while the flavor is intense, the food is not highly-spiced. (Those who want more spice can request it.) If you take a close look at Gopal’s Everest pizza, you will see that its crust is made of his own clay-oven baked nan (flatbread) and the cheese is not melted. Instead, he piles cooked chicken breast, crispy artichokes and mozzarella cheese atop a rich and sweet sauce he makes from local tomatoes and garnishes the pizza with sun-dried tomatoes. Come in for a 6 inch slice.
Teri Velasco owner/chef at Velasco’s North of the Border (190 Kentucky Street) has participated in all but one Taste of Petaluma and says it’s her favorite event of the year because she gets to meet so many people. She will be serving chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish of fried tortilla quarters topped with a special chilaquiles sauce that has been handed down through her husband’s family and on top of that chicken, onions, Mexican cheese (queso fresco) and sour cream. Teri utilizes as many fresh and local ingredients as possible and says it makes a difference—her customers have complemented her on the sweetness of her tomato sauce made from her own garden’s sun-ripened tomatoes.
Risibi at 154 Kentucky Street is serving a creamy mushroom risotto to die for—prepared with fresh local shitake and porcini mushrooms and Carnaroli rice, a short grain high starch Italian rice that retains liquid, holds its shape better than Arborio rice which is commonly used in risotto in the US. According to manager Joe Gamba, the secret to great risotto is slowly adding broth to the rice which both slowly cooks the rice and releases its glutens and stirring constantly. But why not let Risibisi take care of the work—their risottos change daily, they have an extensive menu of Italian delicacies and an inviting upscale atmosphere.
Gourmet desserts are my downfall but I don’t like them excessively sweet. Viva Cocolat at 110 Petaluma Blvd North has been in business for just 2.5 years but chocolatier/owner Lynn Wong was voted best chocolatier by Bohemian Best of the North Bay for 2009 and 2010. Wong offers freshly-
made chocolate desserts and a variety of premium chocolates from the world’s best chocolatiers. “We came to Petaluma 18 years ago, making the migration from Mill Valley to Novato to Petaluma to start a family. Chocolate was my passion and I wanted to do something I loved and to be involved in the community and model that to my kids.” Wong loves it when customers introduce her to new exotic chocolates.
Savory applications are all the rage right now in the chocolate world and Wong will be sampling her lusciously creamy Milk Chocolate Toffee Truffles, with Sonoma County Port from Valley of the Moon Winery (Glen Ellen) from 2006 Souzao and Syrah grapes. Wong says the secret to her artistry lies in the premium chocolate she uses– either Guittard (French conceived, based in Burlington, CA) or Callebaut (Belgian), depending on the application. 38% cacoa couverture is the foundation for the ganache in her Milk Chocolate Toffee Truffles which are hand-rolled in buttery toffee bits. Wong selected this truffle especially to accentuate the port which has aromas of currants, cherry and dark chocolate that carry through to with accents of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Walking in to Jacqueline’s High Tea, 203 Western Avenue, can be an assault on your senses—it’s unapologetically girlie–but get over it! IF you love tea and unforgettable homemade desserts, this is home central. Afternoon tea, cream tea, dessert tea, high tea, tea parties, a cup to just relax—Jacqueline offers it all in a relaxed bistro setting. Double Dark Chocolate Mate tea (Honest Tea) got my attention and will be one of several teas she will be sampling for Taste. At 5 calories per cup, it’s a guilt free match made in heaven of antioxidant-rich, organic, roasted Yerba Maté blended with aromatic organic dark cocoa.
Jacqueline will also be sampling her famous orange-cranberry scones—light, flaky, freshly-baked. Along with the scones, don’t pass up the chance to try her famous almond crème—an airy sugar-free, fat-free whipped concoction that will have you eating it with a spoon right from the bowl. There’s also homemade lemon curd, fresh jam and whipped butter. Few know this but Jacqueline also painted a lot of the gorgeous Trompe L’oeil wall panels that create the ambiance at Jacqueline’s. Men are more than welcome too—her husband Frank will greet and seat you but in all matters of tea and dessert he defers to the boss. Frank really won my heart when he told me that Jacqueline supported him through thick and thin in his forty years in the music industry and he’s happy and proud to help her. Yes!!
Tickets sales will be capped at 1500 and Taste of Petaluma’s proceeds will go to Cinnabar Theatre which was founded by the legendary Marvin Klebe in the early 1970’s in the old red schoolhouse that was the original Cinnabar School (near the intersection of Skillman Lane and Petaluma Blvd. North.) Over the years, Cinnabar Theatre, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging community participation in the arts, has grown to become the community’s most beloved opera and theatre company committed to community education as well. The theatre offers a highly regarded Young Repertory Program that trains youth as young as 4 years old in the dramatic and musical performing arts. Now in its 38th season, Cinnabar is opening “Travels With My Aunt” this Saturday (September 24 – October 17, 2010), Giles Havergal’s lively adaptation of the classic Graham Greene novel.
Anyone who twitters can join Cinnabar’s ”hash-tag” party #top2010 . Cinnabar will be giving away tickets to different shows throughout the day.
This year, Taste of Petaluma has partnered with the Petaluma Downtown Association to offer “Petaluma Packages,” geared to weekend visitors. Two-night hotel stays have been bundled with tickets to Taste of Petaluma, to Cinnabar’s Theatre’s newest play “Travels with My Aunt,” and to Petaluma’s 24th Annual Antique Fair (this Sunday), or breakfast.
$50 Advance-Sale Tickets are available until 5 pm, Friday, September 24th.
Tickets purchased after 5 pm will be $60. Sales are capped at 1500 tickets.
Advance Sale tickets can be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza after 10:30 a.m. on Saturday
Purchase: before event — online at Taste of Petaluma, or by calling Cinnabar Theater (707) 763-8920, or at the following downtown Petaluma venues: Gallery One, Haus Fortuna, I Leoni, Pelican Art Gallery, Hollingsworth Jewelers.
day of event— tickets sold at 10:30 a.m. on at Putnam Plaza (Petalma Blvd.), Haus Fortuna (111 2nd Street). No credit cards ticket purchases day of event.
Ticket Package Includes: • Book of 10 tickets – one sampling item per ticket. Additional tickets can be purchased throughout the day for $6 each.• Street Map of sampling locations • Menu of food and special events offered by participants • Taste of Petaluma tote bag to first 500 guests