Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 20─eat your way through town!
Elly Lichenstein, Cinnabar Theater’s artistic director, savors a chocolate cream bite at Supreme Sweets in downtown Petaluma, one of the new participants in Taste of Petaluma. In addition to creating one-off custom desserts that “wow” with imagination and artisanship, Supreme Sweets stocks oodles of homemade sweets at their bakery. Supreme Sweets offers so many delectable flavor combinations of cupcakes that their webpage instructs visitors to call if they can’t find exactly what they want. Photo: Geneva Anderson
The 11th annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 20, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s all about connecting with Petaluma’s small-town charm and wonderful cuisine—bite by glorious bite. Taste is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma’s beloved professional theater, which opens its 44th season in September with The Most Happy Fella, a heartwarming musical romance set in the Wine Country. If you’ve ever attended one of Cinnabar’s remarkable performances on the old schoolhouse atop the hill, you know what a treasure Cinnabar is. This year’s Taste features over 80 Petaluma restaurants and food, wine and beverage purveyors at 42 locales scattered across Petaluma’s historic downtown. Over 60 musicians and dancers will be performing too, offering just as promising an entertainment menu (full performance schedule here). This culinary walking tour draws people from all over the Bay Area and $40 gets you 10 generously portioned tastes of your choosing.
Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s founder/organizer, in the lobby of the Hotel Petaluma. The baby is her arms is a plate of espresso ganache brownies by Out to Lunch Fine Catering. Photo: Geneva Anderson
“We have more new restaurants here than some towns have restaurants,” says Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s founder. “Taste will guide you through the dozens of eateries that call Petaluma their home. It’s a great day to wander around eating, sipping and hearing music with friends or family. There’s something delicious at every turn.”
Recently, I was invited to attend two “mini Tastes” along with a number of the North Bay food writers. Together, we visited eight downtown gems that represent Petaluma’s ever-changing food landscape─ Quinua Cocina Peruana, Out to Lunch Fine Catering, The Shuckery, Supreme Sweets, Thai River, Speakeasy and The Big Easy, Sonoma Spice Queen and Corkscrew Café and Wine Bar.
Two of our tastings took place within the newly restored Hotel Petaluma, which I recommend you get take a peek at during Taste. The restoration isn’t quite complete but the lobby is finished and is so harmoniously appointed you’ll find yourself wanting to plop down and have a drink. The spacious formal dining hall, with its tall ceilings and pastel blue plaster walls, fired my imagination, taking me back to times spent in Europe. Its places like this and our beloved Petaluma Seed Bank and historic Cinnabar Theater that coax me to invite friends to Petaluma. And then there’s the food!
The newcomers to Taste of Petaluma are previewed first; then the tried and true─
Quinua Cocina Peruana
Juan Guiterrez, owner of Quinua Cocina Peruana with his father/chef, Mauro Guiterrez, putting the finishing touches on their signature Ceviche de Pescado─fresh raw red snapper marinated in lime juice mixed with thinly sliced red onions and the traditional Peruvian hot Rocoto pepper. Quinua opened six months ago and is located at 500 Petaluma Blvd. South. For Taste, it will be hosted by Urban Elements Salon, 140 2nd Street, near Theatre Square. The salon will also host Kearsten Leder Photography which will take your complimentary photo for “People of Petaluma in Pictures.” Photo: Geneva Anderson
Quinua’s Ceviche de Pescado is served garnished with camote (sweet potato), Peruvian white corn and crispy darker corn kernels from the Andes so that diners can experience that synthesis of flavors and textures distinct to Peruvian cuisine. Key to the flavor is a tiny amount of Rocoto pepper, an heirloom native to the Andes, which Guiterrez sources frozen from Peru. The pepper has relatively thick flesh, like a bell pepper, velvety leaves and resembles a small apple or pear. Before the heat kicks in, it has a sweet, citrus taste. In parts of South America they are referred to “el mas picante de los picantes.” Quinua uses it sparingly and effectively. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Out to Lunch Fine Catering
Bethany Barsman, owner of Out to Lunch Fine Catering, puts finishing touches on tasting plates of Coconut Prawn with Mango Aoli; Sausage-stuffed Mushroom with Roasted Peppers, Caramelized Onions & Cheeses; Vegetarian Samoza with Mango Chutney, garnished with thyme, rosemary and sage; and Vietnamese Rice Roll with chili sauce. Out to Lunch catering is the preferred caterer of The Petaluma Hotel, 205 Kentucky Street, which is hosting Out to Lunch for Taste of Petaluma. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Out to Lunch Fine Catering will offer a Sausage-stuffed Mushroom w/ Roasted Peppers, Caramelized Onions & Cheeses (second up from bottom) and a Vegetarian Curried Potato & Pea Samosa with Mango Chutney (third up from bottom). Hosted by Hotel Petaluma, 205 Kentucky Street. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Jazmine Lalicker, co-owner of The Shuckery, the newly-opened 54-seat oyster bar and restaurant, housed in the Petaluma Hotel. The Shuckery features exquisite fresh oysters and seafood from pristine waters all across North America, local wines, and Chef Seth Harvey’s cuisine, inspired by our local bounty. Jazmine is in partnership with her sister Aluxa Lalicker. The duo has been enormously successful as The Oyster Girls, the Tamales Bay-based traveling oyster bar that has been delighting the Bay Area since 2007 with oysters and pizzazz. The Petaluma Hotel’s atmosphere is an added boon. The Shuckery is at 100 Washington Street. Photo: Geneva Anderson
For Taste of Petaluma, The Shuckery will offer Ceviche Misto─ rockfish, shrimp, bay scallop, piquillo pepper coulis, citrus, and cilantro on a white corn tortilla. The Shuckery is at 100 Washington Street
Christina Danner, owner and confectionery artist behind Supreme Sweets, is a temptress. Her mouthwatering cupcakes and cookies, all baked from scratch, urge customers to break all their resolutions. This Sonoma-born mother of three and former admin assistant, used to bake special cakes for fun. She so wowed people with her artisanship that she was convinced to open her own business. Taste offerings will include a variety of freshly-baked sweets to choose from and a cup of coffee or tea. Gluten free options will also be available. Danner is holding her salted caramel cupcakes, her most popular item right now. Supreme Sweets is at 228 Petaluma Blvd. North. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Hay Bales─moist cake coated with white chocolate and rolled in crispy toasted coconut, a delectable homage to our county’s farming traditions. Supreme Sweets also does a mean Buckeye─ round peanut butter balls dipped in dark chocolate. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Langlet Sawaluck (“Louise”), manager of Thai River, with Mango Prawn Panang. Langlet opened Petaluma’s beloved Thai Ginger restaurant in 2003 which she left after 7 years to open Novato’s Thai Bistro in 2011. She so missed Petaluma that she jumped at the chance to open Thai River with her husband Frederic Langlet (owner), and sister, Chef Jantra Tokratok. Langlet is especially proud of her curries; the curry pastes are blended on the premises and she takes advantage of seasonal offerings, like mangos, to create authentic Thai delicacies. Every dish is bursting with color and often topped with orchids. Thai River is at 35 East Washington Street, just across the street from the Golden Eagle Shopping Center and offers an extensive take-out menu. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Thai River’s Red Curry Chicken. For Taste, Thai River will offer an Imperial roll (deep fried egg roll stuffed with shrimp, pork and silver noodles and homemade sauce) and a choice of Red Curry Chicken or Tom Kha (coconut milk soup w/ vegetables). Photo: Geneva Anderson
Speakeasy and The Big Easy
Amber Driscoll and Roger Tschann, have built their reputations on serving elegant tapas-style delicacies sourced from fresh local ingredients. Speakeasy has been so successful as Petaluma’s only late night gourmet restaurant that, recently, the couple expanded across American alley with The Big Easy. This underground restaurant and jazz club delivers live music six nights per week, a palette-rocking dinner menu (from Speakeasy) and an extended list of wine by the bottle─all until 2 a.m. every day. At The Big Easy, the sound is clear and the ambiance is enhanced by vintage wooden booths and a long elegant bar. For Taste, the Big Easy will host Sonoma Cider and Best Damn Rootbeer serving a variety of Sonoma Cider Stillwater Spirits in delicious cocktails. Petaluma’s Morris Distributing will serve non-alcoholic drinks including Guayaki Yerba Mate, Hint waters, Cock n’Bull Ginger Beer, Sprecher’s Root Beers and Marley’s Mellow Mood teas. Located 128 American Alley. Photo: Geneva Anderson
For Taste, Speakeasy will serve Crab, Mango & Green Papaya Salad with curry mayonnaise dressing and fresh herbs (top). Also shown is their refreshing Rock Cod and Mango Ceviche over homemade tortilla chips. Speakeasy offers a scrumptious brunch on Saturday and Sunday and their Creamy Lobster Mac and Cheese with Bacon has become a classic. Located at 139 Petaluma Blvd. North, Suite B, at Putnam Plaza. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Sonoma Spice Queen
Petaluma’s Wind McAlister turned her life-long enthusiasm for spices and different cultures and cuisines into a booming business, Sonoma Spice Queen, the only 100% organic spice shop in the county. Her spice boutique offers a dazzling array of small-batch organic spices, all selected, prepared and handsomely packaged by McAlister herself, who is always adding new mixes and rubs to her offerings. When you enter her shop, be prepared for intoxicating aromas and the impulse to grab one of everything. McAlister recently obtained a commercial kitchen license for her C Street store front and will be offering cooking classes in the near future. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Sonoma Spice Queen will offer a Caribbean-themed taste─Jamaican Jerk Chicken or Spiced Farm Greens (vegan) topped with a spiced Mango relish, over Cuban-style black beans in a bed of Haitian-style sweet savory rice with coconut cream and lime. A Caribbean-inspired chai is also included─black tea, organic vanilla sugar, coconut, caramelized cut pineapple, McAlister’s organic Chai mix and milk. Traditionally, Jamaican jerk is extremely hot but McAlister will offer a toned-down version. The Jamaican jerk mix sold at her shop, however, is culturally appropriate and packs a lot of spicy heat. Located at 407 C Street. Photo: Geneva Anderson
CorkScrew Wine Bar
CorkScrew Wine Bar Owner Basha Quilici long dreamed of opening a wine bar, especially after designing them for clients. Petaluma’s welcoming atmosphere inspired her to create a bar of her own with a European vibe. CorkScrew is nestled in the charming cobblestoned pedestrian walkway where one end of Western Avenue meets the bustling boulevard and the river, and it offers both indoor and open air seating. Quilici takes pride in the variety of fine wines and beers offered and in food prepared from locally sourced ingredients and vendors such as Full Circle Bakery, Sonoma Brinery and our area’s treasured artisan cheesemakers. There is live music on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Every fourth Thursday of the month, Corkscrew offers its Sunset Winemaker Series with thematic wine tastings or featured winemakers. Photo: Geneva Anderson
For Taste, CorkScrew will serve Vegan Avocado Coconut Toasts ─avocado & toasted unsweetened coconut with red pepper flakes on Full Circle Bakery baguette. The avocado toast pairs very nicely with their white tap wine, an unfiltered and unfined Sauvignon blanc. Photo: Geneva Anderson
Taste of Petaluma Details:
The 11th Annual Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 20, 2016 from 11:30 AM to 4 PM. Ticket packages are $40 and consist of 10 tasting tickets, good for 1 taste each. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event from 10:30 AM onwards at Helen Putnam Plaza. Only 1500 tickets will be sold. Advance Tickets can be purchased online here (with surcharge) and must be picked up on the day of the event. Advance tickets can be purchased in person until Friday, August 19, 3 p.m. at the following venues in Petaluma—Blush Collections (117 Kentucky Street), Cinnabar Theater (333 Petaluma Blvd. North), Gallery One (209 Western Ave.), and Velvet Ice Collections (140 2nd Street, Theater Square). All Advance tickets need to be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (129 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 AM on the day of the event.
All participants receive a plastic wine glass. You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each.
Parking Alert: Parking downtown is 2 hours. Just a couple blocks out of downtown there are no restrictions. The Theater Square garage has unlimited, free parking. The Keller St. garage is 4 hours, except for the top floor which is 10 hours. Parking tickets are $50. Be forewarned and read the signs.