This Saturday’s 6th Annual Taste of Petaluma is a culinary journey you won’t want to miss
It’s no secret to those of us who live in Petaluma that our town is bursting with fabulous eateries—we now have over 140 restaurants─ and Petaluma is now recognized as the gourmet dining destination for Sonoma County and the Wine Country. This Saturday, the 6th annual Taste of Petaluma will offer samplings from over 60 of our town’s finest chefs, food purveyors, wineries and breweries. “Taste” is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with Petaluma’s culinary offerings by spending a leisurely afternoon visiting the eateries, hosting galleries and stores, (many of which are in Petaluma’s lovely Historic Downtown area) which will be serving generous tastes of signature dishes. The festive afternoon will also include live musical entertainment (schedule)—classical, jazz, folk, acoustic, rock─and belly dancers, an aspiring Elvis, a magician and more!
Over the past two weeks, I accompanied Taste of Petaluma’s coordinator Laura Sunday and a gung-ho group of local food writers to pre-tastes all around town and ate (and ate and ate). I have been asked to focus on a few tantalizing vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free offerings, along with my personal favorites.
“Taste of Petaluma” is truly unique in the roll-out of gourmet events in Northern CA,” explained Laura Sunday. “You get to experience the ambience of the restaurant or venue itself, chat with the owners, and the food is all prepared right on the spot─it hasn’t been sitting around waiting to be served in a booth.”
All of the purveyors generously donate their food to Taste, knowing that a sample is the best advertising that money can buy. And because the proceeds go directly to Cinnabar Theater, which so enriches our community, the entire event has a feel-good vibe to it, whether you’re on the supply or demand end of the equation.
Sunday is quick to point out that Cinnabar Theater is struggling to make up the funding it lost when the City of Petaluma’s TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) subcommittee cut Cinnabar’s annual TOT funding from $70,000 to zero over the course of two years. “That was a tremendous blow. Now, Cinnabar is even more dependent on its two main fund-raising events─the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff, Salsa and Beer Tasting (every May) and Taste of Petaluma (every
September). I moved to Petaluma because of Cinnabar Theatre and its tremendous youth programming. Both of my children have careers in the arts that are a direct result of the training they received at Cinnabar. Cinnabar’s productions are an integral part of our community’s rich offerings.”
Now, on to the food!
Wild Goat Bistro (6 Petaluma Boulevard North, Suite A5) in the Great Petaluma Mill, wowed me last year with its offerings of rustic artisan pizzas and, once again, owner Nancy DeLorenzo bowled me over by presenting an array of foods that looked and tasted so good, I literally got lost in taking photos of these magnificent gourmet artworks. This year, Nancy’s sisters are flying in to help out for Taste, and Wild Goat is offering three of it most demanded artisanal pizzas: Perfect Pair–pear, fontina cheese, smoked ham, topped with gorgonzola; Mediterranean Pizza—pesto base with purple onions, tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, artichokes, mozzarella cheese; and That’s a Meatball—tomato sauce, pesto, mozzarella and Niman Ranch Angus meatballs. Wild Goat is not offering any gluten-free selections for Taste but their regular menu does include several gluten free options, including gluten-free Neapolitan-style thin crust pizzas and several desserts.
(Be sure to check out ARThound’s slide show of an afternoon of pizza-making with Nancy, Laura Sunday and Houston Porter. We mastered the thin crust.)
Everest Indian Restaurant, (56 East Washington Street) in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center, owned and managed by Gopal and Shanti Gauchan and their daughter, Sunita, offers a tantalizing mix of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan dishes with sauces of sheer perfection. For Taste, Everest will offer a choice of Vegetable Tikka Masala or Prawns in Apricot Sauce. The Vegetable Tikka Masala is a perfect choice for vegetarians as it contains locally-sourced carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, Italian squash and a smattering of white turnip —all slowly cooked to
release maximum flavor in a sauce whose base ingredients include sautéed onions, tomato paste, garlic, and light cream simmered with a special blend of spices (including ancient fenugreek, cardamom, and ginger), and slices of dried Granny Smith apples. The result─a rich, sweet golden medley.
And in case you haven’t tried Everest’s signature Apricot Chicken or Apricot Prawns yet, the secret is in Gopal’s succulent apricot-coconut sauce─it’s sweet and creamy, but not too sweet. After living in California, Gopal noticed that people here love sauces but are weary of cumin-dominated flavoring. When he added the apricots, a beautiful orange fruit just loaded with that most people find delicious (that is actually categorized as a plum species), he had a winner. Everest will offer a lightly fried jumbo prawn simmered in this succulent sauce, garnished with dried apricot and lightly steamed broccoli.
And when you decide to come back for lunch or dinner, Everest’s Chicken Tikka Masala is consistently ranked by customers as the best they have had, ever. There are also several variations of freshly cooked naan, that sumptuous traditional Indian bread, ranging from unembellished Plain Naan to Garlic Basil Naan, which is topped with garlic and fresh basil—a staple when it comes to sopping up every drop of sauce on your plate. And, one of the best aspects of dining at Everest, is the chance to take in the artworks that grace the dining area. Right now, there are several charcoal works by Miguel Gonzales on display, and his portraits are very skillfully executed.
Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods, a newcomer to Taste of Petaluma, will be hosted at Pelican Art Gallery (143 Petaluma Blvd. North). Based in Fairfax, Lydia’s has three branches─Lydia’s Organics, Lydia’s Kitchen and Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods─and was founded by Lydia Kindheart. Kindheart was raised in France and lived in Petaluma “many moons ago,” before she started her highly successful companies some 15 years ago which specialize in high-end all organic and gluten free foods, and several raw food items. You may have seen a few of Lydia’s products in Petaluma Whole Foods, where they are sold in the refrigerated deli section. The big news is, within the next couple of months, Lydia is relocating much of her operations to Petaluma and will open Sunflower Center, an 8,000 square feet space on North McDowell with a café, gluten-free bakery and educational center which will host speakers and hold seminars, screenings and events geared toward teaching people about healthful foods and living. Stay tuned.
If you know me reasonably well, I may have sent you emails extolling the virtues of Lydia’s elegant and delicious Purple Goddess Salad. It encapsulates what I, a former Balkan journalist, stand for—namely cabbage, beets, kalamata olives and judicious use of the word “goddess.” This gorgeous, deep purple, hearty salad is dressed with a slightly tangy olive oil vinaigrette, and just bursting with beneficial flavonoids.
For Taste, Lydia will be serving several of her best-sellers: Raw Green Soup (an alkalizing soup with avocado, cucumber and seaweed), Kale-Seaweed Salad (with carrots, sesame seeds and a tamari-ginger dressing), Purple Goddess Salad (with beets, cabbage and Kalamata olives). She will also offer mini raw pizzas made with Cashew “Cheez” ( a delicious dairy alternative spread made from cashews, sesame seeds, tomato, olive oil) and marinated vegetables atop Lydia’s crackers. For dessert, there will be “Cheez” Cake, a light creamy healthy alternative to the traditional favorite made with fresh apples and served on a nut crust.
Hiro Yamamoto’s Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant (107 Petaluma Blvd. North) will be serving its signature California Roll—rice, vinaigrette-marinated seaweed, crab mix, avocado, diced cucumber, mayonaise─prepared on the spot by chef Shige Mori. Hiro’s house salad of organic greens topped with its amazing sesame-miso vinaigrette has such a following that they are asked over and over again to bottle it. For now, it’s only available on the house salad. When you enter, check out Hiro’s marvelous centerpiece—a stunning 7’ x 21’ woodblock print of a giant fish engulfing a crowd of people, which delighted this Pisces to no end. This epic artwork was created especially for the sushi bar by artist Naoki Tekenouchi, who also created the large abstract wood sculpture behind the bar for the restaurant and hand carved its lovely tables from exotic natural woods.
Let’s move on to dessert–
Bovine Bakery (23 Kentucky Street) has earned a special place in my heart for its inviting atmosphere, huge open kitchen where you watch the baking unfold, and their legendary hand-made baked goods—breads, French pastries, coffee cakes, muffins, scones, tarts, pies and cakes─and lunch items such as pizzas, soups, and fabulous salads. And then there’s the sheer bravado of Bovine’s Petaluma Manager, Carolyn Williams, whose first day in business in Petaluma last year was planned to sync with Taste of Petaluma. She was hit with “outrageous demand” all day long and emerged “exhausted but deeply jazzed” that Bovine was on the map. And on the map it is, Bovine has fast become a local hangout and the inviting benches and tables outdoors are usually occupied.
This year, Taste participants visiting Bovine will have a choice of sampling any muffin, scone or stuffed croissant─including their best-selling morning buns. And since “fresh, local and organic” is the Bovine mantra, every hearty and satisfying treat they make is top quality.
Bovine’s gluten-free Taste options this year will include a chewy dark chocolate cherry almond cookie, a coconut macaroon, or a muffin. And for those of you who are not gluten intolerant, these items are so delicious, and have such a wonderful texture, that you won’t even know they are gluten free. I sampled their sinful chewy dark chocolate cherry almond cookie, made with a minimal amount of rice flower, and then I tried their peach orange almond muffin, which was moist and bursting with fruit. Their sugar-free oat bran date almond muffin is sweetened only with dates was delicious. One of the best things about Bovine is their generosity—whether its dark organic chocolate, poppy seeds, nuts, or cheese─ they do NOT skimp on their fillings and that creates a lot of good will. And speak of poppy seeds, Bovine’s poppy seed pastry, a staple of my years in Eastern Europe, warms my heart every time I bite into one—rich (but not too sweet) and so satisfying with that glorious poppy taste. Bovine also offers healthy hearty lunches including a gluten-free quiche option with a polenta crust.
Petaluma Pie Company(125 Petaluma Blvd. North, Suite D, at Putnam Plaza) It’s no secret that filmmakers and bakers Lina Hoshina and Angelo Sacerdote have captured ARThound’s heart on many occasions. Their films are inspirational and their pies are heavenly. Their little shop is just packed with evidence of their artistic flair—a “pie story” board, chalk boards with lists (of ingredients, pie quotes), pie plate mirrors─and it has the BEST aroma in town. For taste, they will offer bites of their two most popular hand pies–chocolate crème and their cheeseburger pie. The cheeseburger pie is made with locally-sourced grass-fed
beef and the cheese is from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company. The chocolate cream pie is made with chocolate by San Francisco-based Tcho chocolate. Butter in the pie crusts is provided by Straus Family Creamery.
One of the secrets to Petaluma Pie Company’s fabulous pie crusts is that they are constantly tweaking the crust recipe to fit the filling and that means that that a pie that looks great in their shop will not sag once you get it home. In addition to pie, your Taste ticket will also allow you to try Kona Brewing Company’s beer which pairs wonderfully with any of their savory pies. And if you really want to test Petaluma Pie at their game, ask Angelo if he can assess your “pie face”—that is, accurately predict what type of pie you’ll order.
(Be sure to read ARThound’s feature storyon Petaluma Pie Company’s opening last December. It contains loads of information on the full scope of Lina and Angelo’s creative endeavors.)
Taste of Petaluma Details: Saturday August 27, 2011, 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
Pre-event ticket purchases: Packages of 10 tasting tickets are $35 in advance, available online and through Friday, August 26th, at Haus Fortuna (111 2nd Street in the Theater District) and Pelican Art Gallery (143 Petaluma Boulevard North).
Day of Event tickets: On Saturday, August 27th, ticket packages will be $40 and available at
Putnam Plaza (on Petaluma Blvd. North) and Haus Fortuna (111 2nd Street in the Theater District).
A maximum of 1500 ticket packages will be sold for Taste of Petaluma, so buy your tickets early.
Ticket Package Includes:
• Book of 10 dine-around tickets – One sampling item per ticket. You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each at Putnam Plaza or Haus Fortuna.
• Street Map of sampling locations
• Menu of food and special events offered by participants
• Taste of Petaluma tote bag to first 500 guests
Cinnabar Theatre’s fall season kicks off on September 9, 2011 with the musical, She Loves Me. This delightful romantic comedy is based on the play of the same name and the popular film, The Shop Around the Corner, on which the more recent film You’ve Got Mail is also based. (Book by Joe Masteroff/Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Based on Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo.) Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920.
“The V Concert” is September 10, 2011, and features works exclusively by composers whose last names begin with the letter V, including Vivaldi, and featuring Villa Lobos’ lush “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 for eight cellos and solo soprano and other “V” treats. Soprano Carrie Hennessey, of Cinnabar’s Emmeline fame, will sing the Villa Lobos solo. (listen here for Villa Lobos). The concert is a fundraiser for Cinnabar’s Opera Theater Program and will take place in the lovely West Petaluma gardens at 200 Queens Lane, Petaluma, CA. Tickets: $15 to 20 (purchase here)
Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA 94952, 707.763.8929.
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