ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Say cheese!—the CA Artisan Cheese Festival is Saturday at Grace Pavilion with cheese and accompaniments

Tomales Farmstead Creamery’s Atika is just one of the cheesy delicacies at Saturday’s California Artisan Cheese Festival. Atika, a blend of sheep and goat milk in roughly equal parts, smells like warm melted butter and crème fraiche.  This a farmstead cheese: the goats and sheep are raised and milked on the same farm that the cheese is made and the milk is as fresh as it can possibly be. Aged at least 5 months, Atika has a buttery and tart flavor. ARThound loves Farmstead Creamery because it reached out to Marin’s beloved artist, Tom Killion, who created the woodcut that ultimately became their beautiful label. Photo: Kelly J. Owen

After a two-year pandemic pause, the California Artisan Cheese Festival returns live to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Grace Pavilion and Shade Park with a single event, an Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace, this Saturday, May 7 from 11 to 4 p.m.  Traditionally, this popular cheese tasting extravaganza and marketplace has concluded the weekend long festival, providing a chance for cheese enthusiasts to buy all the fabulous cheeses they’re tasted along with new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses as well as other amazing products. This year, over 60 award-winning cheeses will be offered for tasting and sold at this event, along with all sorts of accompaniments including wines, ciders, beers, chocolate, crackers, salts, spices and other artisan products.  The Festival will be expanded to include the adjoining outdoor Shade Park area so guests will have more room to relax and enjoy the experience, including live entertainment by local Sonoma County-based Jazz band, King Street Giants. “We are excited to be back in-person this year and featuring so many local favorites and over a dozen new purveyors,” said Judy Groverman Walker, the Event Producer of the California Artisan Cheese Festival.   Here are this year’s participants.   Tickets: $30-75; purchase directly at venue.  

May 5, 2022 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 25th Sonoma International Film Festival will honor Jacqueline Bisset and screen her new film, “Loren and Rose,” Friday, March 25

Jacqueline Bisset, Golden Globe winner, who has appeared in over 50 films, will receive SIFF’s Cinematic Excellence Award on Friday, March 25. The special program includes the Northern CA premiere of her newest film, “Loren and Rose,” and an on-stage Q & A with Bisset and director Russell Brown.  Photo: GUILLAUME COLLET/SIPA/Shutterstock

SIFF (Sonoma International Film Festival), hasn’t yet released the full programming for its special 25th anniversary edition, March 23-27, but it’s started dropping announcements like well-paced hors’d ouvers. Its latest delectable—Jacqueline Bisset will be honored with the festival’s Cinematic Excellence Award on Friday, March 25, at the historic Sebastiani Theatre on Sonoma’s plaza.  The award celebrates Bisset’s five plus decades of cinematic achievement and will be presented following a special screening of Bisset’s new feature film, “Loren and Rose,” and an on-stage Q&A with Bisset and director Russell Brown.

“I am thrilled to be seeing Loren & Rose in this environment after such difficult years of waiting for genuine cinema screens. Thank you to SIFF for this recognition,” said the legendary star of “The Deep” and “Day for Night”.

A truly international film star, the British-born Bisset has undertaken a diverse range of dramatic and comedic challenges in the more than 50 films in which she has appeared, winning raves from critics and fans alike. She has worked consistently since her debut nearly 60 years ago as an extra in “The Knack and How to Get it.” Her 2014 Golden Globe for her supporting role in the acclaimed BBC mini-series “Dancing On The Edge” reflected acting skills honed through collaborations with some of our era’s greatest directors. Bisset’s career includes roles in John Huston’s “Casino Royale,” Peter Yates’ “Bullitt,” George Seaton’s “Airport,” François Truffaut’s Day for Night,” Sidney Lumet’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” Peter Yates’ “The Deep,” J. Lee Thompson’s “The Greek Tycoon,” and George Cukor’s “Rich and Famous”. Over the expanse of her career, she has appeared in more than 100 films and television shows and has been nominated for a Golden Globe five times. In 2010, she was awarded France’s Legion of Honor. Based in Los Angeles, Bisset divides her time between America and Europe.

“We are honored to present international film star Jacqueline Bisset with the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award during our historic 25th festival,” said SIFF Artistic Director Kevin W. McNeely. “She has lit up the screen from the moment she appeared in some of the most memorable films of our collective conscience, and continues to do so to this day.”

Jacqueline Bisset stars in director, writer, producer Russell Brown’s latest feature drama “Loren and Rose,” in which a single meal frames the story of an indelible bond forged between Loren, a promising young filmmaker (Kelly Blatz), and Rose, an iconic actress (Bisset) looking to reinvigorate her career.  

SIFF prides itself on its poignant dramas, many of which weave food and wine into the story. “Lauren and Rose” is set around a pivotal lunch from which a friendship develops between two women whose love of art, understanding of grief, and faith in life guide them through personal and creative
hardships. I can’t wait to see Bisset on screen again…her acting is real, so vital, inviting you inside her characters. She is often quoted for saying: “There is an eternal humanity that crosses through all people, and it’s more interesting often when it’s about struggle – not people with champagne glasses.” (Screens Friday, March 25 at 6PM at the Sebastiani Theatre and Saturday, March 26 at 11:30 AM at Vintage House. Both screenings include Q&A’s with Bisset and Brown. Bisset will receive the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award after the Q&A on Friday, March 25.)

SIFF Culinary Events: Beloved chefs Jacques Pépin and Joanne Weir, who are best known for their PBS television shows, will also be at SIFF to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Tickets to these sumptuous events are going fast and were first offered to SIFF passholders. Don’t dally in purchasing.

Chef Pépin will attend SIFF Thursday, March 24 to receive the first SIFF Culinary Excellence Award and a $10,000 donation to the Jacques Pépin Foundation during its highly anticipated SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Culinary Event Honoring Chef Jacques Pépin. This is the third collaboration between SIFF and Devour! The Film Food Fest. The evening includes a five-course dinner from five prominent chefs who will each prepare one course that will be paired with a food short film and wine. Participating are: Ken Frank (La Toque), Michael Howell (Devour!), Roland Passot (La Folie, Left Bank), Seadon Shouse (Timber Cove Resort) and Ari Weiswasser (Glen Ellen Star). Wines: Anaba, Bee Hunter, Breathless (Sparkling Brut), Chateau St. Jean (Cinq Cépages), and Viansa.

Chef Joanne Weir will host a special Plates & Places Lunch on Friday, March 25, at the festival’s Backlot tent, during which she will share segments from her PBS show, “Plates & Places,” filmed on location, to bring the flavors of Spain, Morocco, and Greece to diners’ plates, along with wonderful wines and Thomas Adams Chocolates.

Details: The 25th Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday, March 23 and runs through Sunday, March 27, 2022.  Buy discounted passes and tickets to special culinary events at sonomafilmfest.org

February 13, 2022 Posted by | Film, Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rancho Gordo’s Steve Sando has a new bean portrait by Jason Mercier

Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando commemorated 20 years of glorious beans with a portrait from Jason Mercier. Image: Rancho Gordo

Pop trash artist Jason Mercier fascinates me with his meticulous mosaic portraits. He’s outdone himself with his new portrait of Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo beans—he’s captured Steve’s essence in heirloom beans.  As materials go, the humble heirloom bean is just about perfect, varying in color, size, and texture and it has great karma.

A pic of the artwork arrived in my email this morning in Steve’s e-letter celebrating his 20th anniversary selling beans.  As Steve points out, glamorous celebs of a certain era used to appear in print, draped in Blackgama furs as part of Blackgama’s “What becomes a legend most?” ad campaign (1968-94).  Today’s legends are captured in Jason Mercier’s mosaics—Snoop Dogg sculpted out of weed, Steve Jobs’ 2006 portrait revisioned from 20 pounds of e-waste, Amy Sedaris out of her own trash, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus out of candy.  Amazing how blobs of material in deeply saturated colors, arranged just so, can cohere into vivid likenesses.

Steve Sando is an artist in his own right: his heirloom beans look like gems, taste fabulous and have the most interesting names—Cicerchia, Vaquero, Alubia blanca, Mayocoba, Yellow Eye. It’s hard to buy just one bag when confronted with these enticing beauties. Sando has traveled the world in search of rare and delicious artisan beans, written passionately about his finds, respectfully crediting the farmers he collaborates with and created a gourmet brand that has become a staple in the culinary world.  He started selling at the farmers’ market in Yountville two decades ago and built Rancho Gordo slowly.  He now sells direct to consumers all over the US, Canada, to restaurants and retail stores.  He grows in California, all along the West Coast, Mexico, Italy and Poland.  He’s planning a 20th anniversary celebration at the his storefront in Napa, after Covid.  If you’d like to know more, he’s been profiled wonderfully in the New Yorker by Burkhard Bilger (The Hunt for Mexico’s Heirloom Beans).  Even better: subscribe to his newsletter and check out them beans for yourself: https://www.ranchogordo.com.

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Art, Food, Gardening | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Sunday: stream the California Artisan Cheese Festival

This Sunday, La Crema Winery Chef and Cheese Specialist, Tracey Shepos Cenami, will be firing up the stoves to demo three brunch dishes to a Zoom audience cooking along at home while sipping La Crema bubbles. Chef Tracey played a pivotal role in developing the culinary program at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard and created their popular VIP wine and artisan cheese pairing experience. Photo: Artisan Cheese Festival,

The first event of the California Artisan Cheese Festival (CACF) takes place virtually this Sunday (March 15) and features La Crema Winery Chef and Cheese Specialist, Tracey Shepos Cenami hosting the festival’s beloved Bubbles Brunch. Instead of the usual three day extravaganza of cheese seminars and tastings at the Flamingo Hotel, the festival is offering its top two crowd-pleasers, revisioned for the pandemic. The haute Bubbles Brunch, which always features a celebrity chef, has become a cook and toast-along at home event and the festival’s opulent Grand Tasting now comes in a box delivered to your door. While it’s not the usual festive celebration of our local bounty, this year’s events have been curated expertly by executive director, Judy Groverman Walker, who founded the festival 16 years ago. CACF is essential for sustaining our celebrated cheesemaker community and the non-profit California Artisan Cheese Guild until the in-person celebration returns in 2022. Last year’s festival was cancelled. The 2019 CACF, the 14th iteration of the beloved event, attracted more than 2,500 guests, who participated in events held all around Sonoma and Marin counties.

Bubbles Brunch: Sunday, March 14, 10:30 to noon, PST: The audience can cook alongside Chef Tracey Shepos Cenami or sit back and enjoy the show while sipping La Crema’s limited-edition La Crema Russian River Valley Brut Rosé. Cenami will prepare three brunch dishes — Bitter Greens with Anchovy Vinaigrette & Grilled Cheese Crouton Crunch (Beehive Cheese Promontory, Pt. Reyes Toma Cheese croutons); Shakshuka (Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning Cheese); and Orange Scones (Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Cheese, Laura Chenel Cabecou ). Recipes and a complete shopping list will be emailed to participants in advance. Shopping is required. As a special bonus, these $50 brunch tickets include free access to next year’s CACF’s Marketplace.

Order your tickets HERE by Friday, March 12.

Grand Tasting, Friday March 26, to 6 pm PST: Instead of gathering round tables laden with our region’s beloved artisan cheeses and the latest locally-produced accompaniments, this year’s Grand Tasting comes in a big box, delivered in advance to your doorstep. Boasting to include ten samplings of delectable artisan cheeses (at least four pounds), participants can stream CACF while enjoying an extravagant selection of pairing goodies from the festival’s marketplace, including Volos chocolates. Grand Tasting Kit cheeses will vary, but everyone will receive at least one of the newest cheeses to be released: Qunita from Point Reyes Farmstead Chees Co. and Little Giant from Cypress Grove. Remaining selections will come from the following cheesemakers: Beehive Cheese, Bellwether Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove, Laura Chenel, Marin French Cheese Co., Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Rumiano Cheese Co., Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.

Gloria Ferrer put together three winery exclusives to pair with these cheeses: Vista Brut, Royal Cuvée, and Demi-Sec. The hour will be hosted by Food Network star and Sonoma County restaurateur, Duskie Estes (Zazu, Black Pig Meat Co., Farm to Pantry). It will include insider tours of regional farms and creameries, pro tips on building a photo-worthy cheese board and Duskie’s favorite cheese recipes. Tasting kits are $150 and include free 2-day UPS shipping within the contiguous U.S.

Order your tasting kit HERE by Friday, March 19 at 5pm

More about California Artisan Cheese Festival
A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, the California Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California. In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival has donated more than $135,000 in grants to nonprofit partners that support local sustainable agriculture including the California Artisan Cheese Guild.  For more information about the California Artisan Cheese Festival, visit http://www.artisancheesefestival.com/or follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

March 11, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SIFF2020 is postponed due to COVID-19 risk

“Born a King,” SIFF2020’s opening night feature, was slated to screen at Sonoma’s historic Sebastiani Theater on March 26.  Shot in the UK and Saudi Arabia, the Spanish co-production is the coming of age story of the future King Faisal (played by Abdullah Ali), who in 1919 was sent to on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to England by his warrior father, Prince Abdul Aziz.   His task was to resolve issues around the unification of Saudi Arabia.  At the time, England was fostering dissent by selling weapons to numerous Saudi tribes to encourage warring among themselves instead of collaboration.  The story follows the 14 year-old Arab prince from the Arabian desert to cosmopolitan England where he encounters Lord Curzon, Winston Churchill, and Princess Mary.  SIFF2020 will feature over 90 films, including indie features, docs, world cinema and shorts.

Originally scheduled for March 25-29, 2020, the 23rd Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF2020) has joined the ranks of North Bay cultural organizations that have postponed programming due to COVID-19 concerns.  The move makes sense for this beloved high-end festival which prides itself on film shown in intimate venues and partying in close quarters.  SIFF’s renowned Backlot tent features lavish self-serve buffet tables with local delicacies as well as wine from Sonoma vintners and trendy beverages.  Festival Director Kevin McNeely promises “We’ll be back.”  For those who have purchased passes or tickets to special culinary and wine events, the festival is asking for patience instead of requests for refunds. Check SIFF’s website for updates on the new date: http://www.sonomafilmfest.org

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 22nd Sonoma International Film Festival kicks off Wednesday—here are your must-see’s

Luminous, emotional, dazzling…if you see just one of SIFF’s 123 films, see Yuli!  Directed by Catalan filmmaker Icíar Bollaín (Take My Eyes) and written by Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) with cinematography by Alex Catalán, this bio-pic follows Cuban dance super-star, Carlos Acosta, from his early life in an impoverished Havana neighborhood as he defies all odds and becomes the first black artist to perform as Romeo at the Royal Ballet in London. Acosta goes on to dance in the world’s leading companies and form his own dance company in Havana.  Bollaín masterfully conveys the pride, frustration and contradictions of living in Castro’s Cuba.  Wonderful performances by Carlos Acosta and the participation of the Acosta Danza Company will raise your heart beat.

Ask anyone who makes the film festival circuit and they’ll tell you that the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) tops their list for the “best time” fests–good film, incredible atmosphere, great parties and music, and the Backlot tent’s superb food and unending flow of wine and craft booze.  The 22nd edition of this gem kicks off Wednesday, March 27, with an opening-night reception at the Backlot Tent from 5 to 7 pm, followed by two screenings of Bruce Beresford’s new period drama, Ladies in Black. SIFF continues in full force Thursday through Sunday offering some 123 films from 31 countries with an anticipated 200 filmmakers in attendance who will participate in on stage interviews and audience Q&A’s.  All films are shown at seven intimate venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza so there’s no driving, just meandering charming streets where all the plants are beginning their glorious spring bloom.

SIFF has lots to offer both locals and destination visitors.  Festival passes are the way to go if you’re interested in easy access to films, the marvelous parties, and the Backlot tent.  If you want to see a few films, single tickets are $15 when purchased in advance.  SIFF caters heavily to pass holders and offers just a limited number of individual tickets for many of its films.  Lock in those tickets right now before they are snapped up.  Click here to read about all the pass options and price points.

Here are ARThound’s festival recommendations:

OPENING NIGHT (WED):  Ladies in Black

Australian director Bruce Beresford’s drama Ladies in Black stars Julia Ormond and Angourie Rice and powerfully recreates the postwar culture of 1950’s Sydney.  It took Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Tender Mercies (1983)) 24 years to bring the story to the big screen but it has become Australia’s highest grossing film, ever.  Photo: Sony Pictures, Lisa Tomasetti

Based on Madeleine St. John’s 1993 debut novel The Women in Black, Ladies in Black is set in 1959 Sydney at a time when European migration and the women’s movement are starting to impact Australiaand offers an upbeat reflection on the impact of immigration and integration.  Julia Ormond (Mad Men) stars as Magda, a wise and sophisticated Slovenian emigre who heads the evening wear section of a large department store.  She, along with several other immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, are vital to the store’s success.  Angourie Rice plays the fresh faced and adorable student, Lisa, who lands a temporary job at the store and ends up working alongside these glamorous and self-assured women who encourage her to embrace fashion and to empower herself.  SIFF always pairs shorts with features.  Screening first is Domee Shi’s 8 minute animated film Bao about a dumpling that springs to life as a lively growing boy and gives a weary Chinese mom a life lesson.

Beauty and Ruin (THURS)

A still from Marc de Guerre’s feature documentary Beauty and Ruin of school children at the Detroit Institute of Art. Photo: courtesy Subject Chaser Films

How much does art matter to a city on the verge of distinction?  Canadian director Marc de Guerre’s latest feature documentary explores the fate of the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), one of America’s great art museums, in the wake of the city’s 2013 bankruptcy.  With a debt approaching $18.5 billion in 2014, and the DIA the largest asset the city of Detroit owns outright, a bitter brawl emerges over whether the city-owned artworks should be sold to pay down the debt.  DIA housed 66,000 artworks, including an irreplaceable collection of European masterpieces from Titian, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Bellini, Brueghel, Tintoretto, Fra Angelico and dozens of others. Most of these were bought during the 30-year period, a century ago, when Detroit was the center of American industry.  No other American museum the size of the institute has ever confronted such a threat to the integrity of its collection.  Emotions and racial tensions reach their zenith when it is revealed that the pending bankruptcy has put the pensions of retired city workers are at risk.  This thorough unpacking of the museum’s story includes interviews with all the key players—the DIA director, the Emergency Manager of Detroit, the retirees, an activist Baptist pastor and acclaimed artist Charles McGee.  Screens: Thursday March 28, 6:30 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. Open to festival pass-holders only.

Botero: (THURS and FRI)

A still from Don Millar’s documentary, Botero, the definitive documentary profile of the life and work of Fernando Botero, one of the world’s most recognized living artists.   Image: Hogan Millar Media

Directed by Canadian film and television director, Don Millar (Oil Slick, Full Force, Off the Clock), Botero offers a poetic behind-the-scenes look at the life and art of the 86-year-old self-taught Colombian painter and sculptor whose unique style always evokes strong reactions.  Art critic Rosalind Krauss of Columbia University calls his work “terrible,” while others offer praise and penetrating insight into his oeuvre, calling Botero’s critics intellectual snobs.  Don Millar lets you decide.  Either way, Botero’s story is fascinating.  Born in provincial Medellin, Colombia, in 1932, he arrived in New York as a young artist with $200 in his pocket.  Through a stroke of luck, he meets a curator whose connections get him into MOMA and, all of a sudden, he is famous. “I like fullness, generosity, sensuality” says Botero.  “Reality is rather dry.”  The audience learns that, even today, Botero is happiest in his Monaco studio where he says he is still learning as he strives to be the best painter in the world, because “my life is to paint.”  The film weaves together original footage shot in 10 cities across China, Europe, New York and Colombia, with decades of family photos and archival footage alongside unprecedented access to the artist.  Screens:  Thursday, March 28, 4:14 p.m., Landmark Vineyards at Andrews Hall and Friday, March 29, 3:30 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

 

Yuli (THURS & SAT)

A still from Icíar Bollaín’s Yuli with Edilson Manuel Olbera as the young Carlos Acosta.  Yuli won the Best Screenplay Award at San Sebastian and has gone on to receive five nominations for the Spanish ‘Goya’ awards including Best New Actor for Carlos Acosta, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.

It’s very difficult to pull off a drama about dance where the acting is an engaging as the dance itself.  Icíar Bollaín has done it with a riveting drama set largely in Castro’s Cuba with astonishing dance scenes and bursts of family drama.  Sit back and soak in the artistry of the astounding Carlos Acosta.  (In Spanish with English subtitles) Screens: Thursday March 28, 1 p.m., Burlingame Hall and Saturday, March 30, 11:30 a.m., Meyer Sound & Dolby Hall at Vets I)

 

Yellow is Forbidden (FRI and SAT)

Chinese designer Guo Pei’s international breakthrough moment was designing Rihanna’s golden gown for the 2015 Met Gala. The 55 pound dress took 100 workers 50,000 hours to create and became one of the most talked about dresses in history. Pietra’s Brettkelly’s documentary explores Guo Pei’s rise to fame and her unique way of interpreting her aesthetic history.  Photo: Getty Images

New Zealand documentarian Pietra Brettkelly (A Flickering Truth, 2015) has created a fascinating and intimate portrait of fashion designer Guo Pei that also speaks to the energy and aesthetic of a rapidly evolving China.  She tracks Guo Pei just as she has burst onto the international scene—when Rihanna wore her hand-embroidered canary yellow gown to the Met Gala in 2015—through her remarkable 2017 show “Legend,” presented at La Conciergerie, in Paris, where Guo Pei proved to the world that she had penetrated haute couture’s most elite circle.  The film takes us into Pei’s life, connecting the dots between her life experiences and aesthetic expression—her upbringing in the Cultural Revolution; her relationship with Cao Bao Jie, her husband and partner; her elderly parents who don’t grasp the scope of her talent, her A-list clients, and her team of craftsmen and embroiderers.  Her world is one of struggle, passionate dreaming and a constant balancing of her artistic passions with the financial reality of running a business.  Ample attention is devoted to her atelier, where she obsesses over the handcrafting of garments that can take over two years to create.  Pei is a curious mix of old and new, a balancing of East and West with an absolutely unique way of interpreting her aesthetic history.  (97 min, in Chinese and French with English subtitles.) Screens:  Friday, March 29, 2019, noon, Andrews Hall, and Saturday, March 30, 2:15 p.m., Vintage House

 

Restaurant from the Sky: (FRI and SUN)

A sill from Yoshihiro’s food drama, Restaurant in the Sky (2019). Photo: SIFF

Yoshihiro Fukagawa has made a number of dramas that tenderly explore human emotions against the gourmet food backdrop.  Restaurant in the Sky unfolds on a bucolic cattle ranch in Setana, Hokkidao where Wataru (Yo Oizumi) lives with his wife Kotoe (Manami Honjou) and his daughter, Shiori.  He inherited the cattle ranch from his father and he also runs a cheese workshop but he lacks passion.  He enjoys hanging out with his sheep farmer friend Kanbe (Masaki Okada) who moved to the area from hectic Tokyo.  After a chef from a famous Sapporo restaurant visits and praises Waturu’s produce and creates a masterful farm-to-table meal with ingredients sourced the ranch, Wataru has his ahh-hah moment.  He will open a restaurant for only one day to let people know about Setana’s wonderful food.  This is a goal that unites the family and community but suddenly a tragedy occurs.  (126 min, in Japanese with English subtitles)  Screens: Friday, March 29, 9 a.m., Sebastiani and Sunday, March 31, 1:45 p.m., Sebastiani

Details: The 22nd Sonoma International Film Festival is Wednesday, March 22 through Sunday, March 31, 2019.  For information, tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.

March 22, 2019 Posted by | Art, Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 13th California Artisan Cheese Festival is this weekend: cheese and all the wonders that pair with cheese

Petaluman Phaedra Achor, founder of Monarch Bitters, will be sampling her craft bitters and flavored syrups at Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace at Grace Pavilion.  Last September, Monarch Bitters was ranked second place in a USA Today people’s choice competition for the nation’s top 10 Best Craft Mixers and in November 2018, the Press Democrat ranked it #6 of top Sonoma County businesses.   Achor’s bitters, potent extracts, are handcrafted from organic and wild harvested roots, barks, aromatic herbs and flowers which are sourced in Sonoma County and bottled by hand in Petaluma. Achor operates out of a rented space in an industrial park in Petaluma, so the Artisan Cheese Festival is an opportunity to meet her in person, learn all about bitters and taste her wondrous concoctions.  Her newest flavors include Smoked Salt & Pepper Bitters; Honey Aromatic Bitters; and Honey Lavender Bitters, which join her famous Bacon Tobacco, Citrus Basil, Cayenne Ginger, Celery Horseradish, Cherry Vanilla, California Bay Laurel, Orange, Rose Petal, and Wormwood bitters.  Photo: courtesy Monarch Bitters

Bring on the cheese and please, bring on the cocktails!  For the first time, specialty cocktails will be served at the California Artisan Cheese Festival’s Sunday Marketplace at Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.  Of course, cheese is front and center as the California Artisan Cheese Festival kicks off this Saturday morning with eight fabulous full-day Farm and Producer tours all around Sonoma and Marin Counties (there are a few remaining spaces in five of these tours) as well as educational seminars and pairing demos in the morning and afternoon at Santa Rosa’s historic mid-century Flamingo Hotel.  Led by cheesemakers, cheese experts, bestselling authors and luminaries of wine, craft cocktails, ciders, and beers,  these seminars ($75-$85) are a convergence of expertise and passion.  Each seminar entails informed tasting, useful science and lots of ideas for inspired pairings.  This year’s Seminar #5 “Cheese & Cocktails: The Basics of Bitters, Booze and Cheese,” promises to demystify the universe of bitters and help identify the cheeses that will round out cocktails like Manhattans and Mai Tais.   Saturday evening’s new event, “Cheese, Bites & Booze!” at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar at the Sonoma Jet Center is sold out as is Sunday’s celebrity chef gourmet brunch.

Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace, from noon to 4 p.m. at Grace Pavilion, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, is the event’s grand finale ($50).   If you never attended the festival before, it’s an excellent introduction.  The soirée is abuzz with energy, bringing together over 125 leading artisan cheese and food producers, winemakers, brewers, specialty spirit producers and makers for a final round of indulgence as participants chat, taste, sip, shop while meandering through a delightful epicurean maze.  Everyone brings home an Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag, a wine glass, and oodles of ideas for elegant home gatherings.  And most importantly, new and dear cheese friends.

 

Phaedra Achor, owner of Petaluma-based Monarch Bitters. Photo: courtesy Monarch Bitters

It was ARThound’s pleasure to speak with Phaedra Achor about Monarch Bitters, which will be featured in Saturday’s seminar, “Cheese & Cocktails,” Saturday evening’s swank “Cheese, Bites & Booze” event at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar, and Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace.

What are bitters?

Phaedra Achor: Bitters are high ABV (alcohol by volume), mine are 40-44%, and extracts that are created by macerating alcohol with any number of botanicals and aromatics such as spices, barks, roots, fruits.  My syrups have no alcohol content, and are infusions.

What’s behind the name “Monarch Bitters”?

Phaedra Achor:  I’ve always been very drawn to the monarch butterfly, its beauty and place in the world, its journey and metamorphosis, all of which are very symbolic for me.  Another piece fits in with my logo—a woman wearing a crown of wild flowers.  Since this is a botanically based product, I really wanted to convey the message of a strong and purposeful woman, a monarch of the forest, who is using the power of botanicals to create.

When and how did you start Monarch Bitters?

Phaedra Achor:  I love flavor chemistry, especially working with plants and botanicals to create flavor profiles.  In 2015, I hosted a cocktail party and wanted to do something very different, so I started planning a few months early.  My idea was to create five unique cocktails.  In my research, I came across these wonderful pre and post-Prohibition cocktails, all of which called for bitters.  I remember looking into bitters and thinking ‘I can do this.’  I ended up using barks and roots and herbs and spices and I created five bitters, one for each of the cocktails I served.  It was a huge hit.  At some point during this gathering, I walked into my living room and found this woman, a guest of a guest, someone I did not know at all, sniffing my tincture bottles.  She asked where these bitters came from.  I told her I made them all and she was blown away.  She explained that she was a bartender and that my bitters were far superior to what she was using and she offered to connect me with the owner where she worked.  I never followed through on that, but she planted a seed at just the right moment.  She left and I never saw her again but she was vital.

After that party, I started researching who was making bitters in Sonoma County, no one, and the craft cocktail industry.  I learned that people were using bitters like cooks use spices in the kitchen, so I thought this was a very interesting niche.  I was surprised that no one was doing this in Sonoma County because we are such an artisanal community.  I spent all of 2016 researching and reformulating and that’s because a lot of the botanicals I had chosen to use were considered dietary herbal supplements by the FDA.  I had to decide if I wanted my business to be categorized as a medicine, a dietary herbal supplement, or if I wanted it to be food bitters.  I’m not an herbalist and wasn’t interested in making herbal medicine, so I had to make some changes.  I launched in 2017 and from there, it just taken off.  Those contests which have recognized my bitters have been such a complement and honor and really fueled my business.

How do you come up with your flavor profiles, which are so unique?

Phaedra Achor:   The ideas just come to me.  I think this comes from my culinary background.  It’s taken a long time for me to own this and to state it out loud but I have ‘flavor wisdom.’  I just know how flavors will come together and taste.  Aside from the orange, lavender and aromatics, which are quite common bitters flavors, I have very intentionally created flavor profiles that didn’t previously exist outside of my brand, such as cayenne ginger, bacon tobacco, and honey aromatics.  I recently created a smoked salt and peppercorn bitters, which is also a fantastic culinary bitters.  Bitters can be used widely and people just aren’t aware of their versatility.  Aside from alcohol, bitters can be added to sparking water, lemonade, teas, coffees and in baking and cooking to replace an extract.  I’ve added my cherry vanilla bitters to whipped cream and it creates a wonderful cherry cordial whipped cream with a gorgeous flavor.

Is there a reason why you use dropper bottles?

Phaedra Achor:  Yes, it’s for accuracy and it recalls the history of bitters, which were initially used as medicine.  When I’m using the dropper and drawing up the bitters, it feels healing and right.

What the best way to taste bitters?

Phaedra Achor:  If people want to taste bitters straight, I will have them make a fist and hold out their hand upright, like they were holding a candle.  I’ll put a little drop right into that little divot between the thumb and index finger and they can taste it with their tongue.

Your ideas for bitters and cheese.

Phaedra Achor:  I tend to like softer, creamier cheeses, like bries.  Typically, the astringency of high fruit alcohol can be challenging with foods, so for a cocktail, I tend to go with a lower AVB  (alcohol by volume) content found in sherries or brandies and add my bitters to that when I want to indulge in cheese.  I’ve also taken my Citrus Basil Bitters and mixed it with honey to create a bittered honey to use as a pairing with cheese.   Bitters, adding bitter to the palate, can create wonderful opportunities to pair with food and cheese.  When it comes to cheeses, I work more with my citrus and aromatic flavors.

What’s next for Monarch Bitters?

Phaedra Achor: I am working on opening up a little apothecary in downtown Petaluma that will be a storefront for all of my products and hope to be open in June.  Right now, I am one of three bitters companies in the North Bay (King Floyd’s, Bitter Girl Bitters) and on Sunday, March 31, we will all be competing in The Bitter Brawl at Young and Yonder Spirits in Healdsburg.  This is a benefit for Compassion Without Borders.  We’ll each be paired with a bartender and will compete to create the best cocktail.

 

Details:  California’s 13th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 23-24, 2019 at various cheese country locations in Sonoma and Marin counties. Tickets for all festival events are sold separately online.  All events take place, rain or shine.

Click here for full information. Chick here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets

 

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connoisseur’s quest—13th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 23-4, 2019

Farm tour participants at Tomales Farmstead Creamery, learning all about dairy goats and cheese-making.  This year, nine farm tours are offered at the California Artisan Cheese Festival.   In Tour E,  “Farm Forward, ” Farmstead Creamery will showcase their new Daily Driver SF venture by providing a gourmet brunch to participants.  This tour starts out Saturday morning at Tamara Hicks and David Jablons’ Toluma Farms dairy in West Petaluma, where guests will meet “the kids.”  Afterwards, it’s off to historic Tomales to Jan Lee’s AppleGarden Farm, where grazing pasture has been transformed to an orchard where apples are dry-farmed for cider. The tour wraps at the Marin French Cheese Company, the country’s oldest continuously operating cheese company.  All along the way, there are bites, drinks, and photo ops. Photo: Kelly J Owen

It happens every March—people from round the country gather for the California Artisan Cheese Festival and a weekend of cheese and all it can be paired with.  Tickets are on sale now for the two-day festival, which turns 13 this year, and is now headquartered at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa.  If you are interested in a farm tour, buy your tickets now.  Who wouldn’t be?  Nine wonderful tours kick off this year’s festival on Saturday morning and they all include an upscale lunch as well as lots of interaction and sampling.  You get to meet innovative local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats in bucolic abodes, as well as sample and learn about artisan delicacies that pair well with cheese.

Back in town, at the Flamingo Hotel, the festival offers five interactive seminars with bestselling authors, cult cheesemakers, and luminaries of cocktails, ciders and craft beers. On Saturday evening, a new event, “Cheese, Bites & Booze!” at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar, promises nonstop fun as cheesemakers, chefs and cheesemongers compete to create the best cheesy bite.  Regional artisan wine, cider, spirits, and beer are on the house!

Get up early Sunday morning for a scrumptious brunch, at Saralee & Richard’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, featuring cheese in every course and a live cooking demonstration by chefs/owners Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire of Michelin Guide awarded Backyard Restaurant in Forestville.  The weekend concludes with the renowned Artisan Marketplace which brings together leading artisan cheesemakers, authors, and dozens of specialty food, beer, wine and spirit producers for a final round of cheese and shopping.  This year, the marketplace will be serving specialty cocktails too.  And did I mention samples galore?  The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability.

For those of lucky enough to live in the heart of cheese land, this is an event that is too good to pass up.

Details:  California’s 13th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 23-24, 2019 at various cheese country locations in Sonoma and Marin counties. Tickets for all festival events—farms tours, seminars, Saturday evening “Cheese, Bites & Booze,” Sunday morning “Bubbles & Brunch,” and Sunday’s Marketplace—  are all sold separately online.  All events take place, rain or shine.

Click here for full information. Chick here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets.

February 3, 2019 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 21st Sonoma International Film Festival kicks off Wednesday…a long list of great short films

Stanford students Cameron McClellan and Jacob Langsner’s short film, Going Home, addresses the Sonoma wildfires of 2017 and screens twice at the 21st Sonoma International Film Festival, March 21-25, 2018.   The film is paired with the world premiere of producer Stephen Most and director Kevin White’s full-length documentary, Wilder than Wild (2017) which explores the central Sierra’s Rim Fire of 2013 and the wine country’s wildfires of 2017.   SIFF’s line-up includes 110 films from around the world, 6 SIFF-curated shorts programs, the LUNAFEST traveling festival of shorts celebrating female filmmakers, and the annual “Student Showcase” of shorts from Sonoma Valley High School’s Media Arts Program.  Image: still from Going Home, courtesy Cameron McClellan.

Stanford freshman Cameron McClellan, who hails from the UK, never dreamed that his first film ever would be accepted as an official selection of the Sonoma International Film Festival and that his subject, the Sonoma fires of October 2017, would hit so close to home.  Shortly before McClellan completed the interviews for Going Home, a 6:33 min short, which he co-produced with freshman Jacob Langsner, he learned that his 83 year-old grandfather’s home on Calistoga’s Franz Valley School Road had been burned to the ground by the infamous Tubbs fire which wreaked havoc from Calistoga to Santa Rosa and remained unstoppable for days.

McClellan and Langsner’s film will screen twice at the 21st Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), March 21-25, which is dedicated to the Sonoma Firefighters, First Responders and the rebuilding of our Sonoma Community.

“Going Home is a special film not only because of the Sonoma fires, but because it covers the subject from a unique perspective and is succinct,” says Steve Shor, SIFF’s chief programmer.

Cameron McClellan co-produced and directed Going Home as a project for his first film course at Stanford, Film Production 114: Intro to Film and Video Production.  The short film screens twice at SIFF. Image: Geneva Anderson

Going Home is among 15 shorts that have been paired with feature films and one of dozens of shorts that the four-day-long festival will screen in its line-up of 110 films from around the world.   The prevalence of shorts demonstrates SIFF’s regard for emerging and student filmmakers and for the art of the short format itself.  Limited only by their truncated run time, shorts embrace the best of traditional story-telling and have become a vital and budget-conscious way for filmmakers to connect with audiences.

McClellan’s film project got rolling when he and Langsner managed to hitch a ride from Palo Alto to Napa with some students from the Stanford Storytelling Project who were going there to interview families impacted by the fires. “We drove down and pretty much shot all the footage we could over the course of a day,” said McClellan.  “Our idea had been to interview several families but we really had no idea how many families we would have access to or the visuals that we would be able to get.  We ended up with access to two families, who we stayed with.  We did a very long interview with Dale and Kathy Albin from Santa Rosa who had lost their home in the fire and that’s how the whole film emerged.”

McClellan said that he was nervous about how to speak with the victims of such trauma but was relieved that the conversation carried itself and their story just spilled out.  In terms of creative choices, the two directors debated about how to best use the footage they had.  They selected a haunting shot of a burnt out car for the film’s poster.  They went with just showing a single image of the Albin house before the fire, and placed that at the end of the film, as a reminder of what had once been.

McClellan found about the status of his grandfather’s home just a few days before his visit to Napa.  “The smoke had blocked the mobile signal.  There was a long period when we just hadn’t heard from them.  Then, after we established contact, no one knew what had happened with the property as they weren’t allowed to go the site and there was no information.  Doing this project first, before I managed to get out to my grandpa’s place, prepared me for what I would see and his reaction to the loss.  Since I didn’t really live in the house, I didn’t have a huge connection to everything that was lost but you do find the loss hits you in waves…you’ll think about times you spent there with family and realize…oh, that’s gone.”

McClellan has never attended a film festival before and is excited to participate at Sonoma and to continue with film-making.  His short will screen before with the world premiere of  producer Stephen Most and director Kevin White’s full-length documentary,  Wilder than Wild (2017) which journeys from the Rim Fire of 2013, which burned 257,000 acres in the central Sierra, to the wine country’s wildfires of 2017, which destroyed 9,000 buildings and killed 44 people.  The film reveals how fuel build-up and climate change have made Western wild-lands vulnerable to large, high intensity wildfires, while the greenhouse gases released from these fires have accelerated climate change.   The result is a vicious cycle that jeopardizes forests and creates extreme weather and even more wildfires.

This year, in addition to its pairing of shorts with feature films, SIFF is offering six  90-minute-long curated shorts programs—Animated Shorts, Comedy Shorts, Delicious Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Dramatic Shorts, and World Cinema shorts.  A new SIFF addition, inspired by the immense popularity of its longer films that embrace diverse culinary cultures, artisan chefs and vintners is the Delicious Shorts programming—five international food and wine shorts from six countries.  The festival also welcomes back LUNAFEST, the popular traveling film festival showcasing women filmmakers, which is always hosted at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and features a fabulous gourmet spread featuring LUNA bars.

Polish filmmaker Bartosz Dziamski’s The Chef at the Palace (2017, 6 min) is part of SIFF’s new “Delicious Shorts” program. The film introduces Maciej Nowicki, executive chef at the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów, who researches and reconstructs the world of Polish flavors in old Polish cookbooks re-published by the museum.  Dziamski tracks him in the library and in the garden as he harvests sunchokes, whose baby stalks used to be known as Polish asparagus.  We learn that the first rule of reconstructing long forgotten recipes that lack precise weights and measures for ingredients is keeping things in perspective, which Nowicki gains by reading historical texts.  The film leaves us craving a full length feature on this extraordinary character.  Image: Bartosz Dziamski

SIFF’s pride and joy—the “Student Showcase,” which is presented twice this year, will feature over three hours of shorts from student filmmakers in Sonoma Valley High School’s lauded Media Arts Program.  Since 2002, SIFF and its members have donated nearly $500,000 to SVHS’s Media Arts Program which creates opportunities in the digital arts through film-making classes, animation, script-writing, film theory, and storytelling.   The program has become a launchpad for students interested in pursuing film in college and film school.

Shorts at SIFF 21:

Animated Shorts (11 films, 96 min) Thursday/March 22, 6:30 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and Saturday/March 24, 2:15 p.m., Vintage House.

Comedy Shorts (7 films, 77 min) Thursday/March 22, 3:45 p.m. and Friday/March 23, 1:30 p.m, both at SF Chronicle House of Docs and Shorts at Vets II.

Delicious Shorts (5 films, 91 min) Thursday/March 22, 2 p.m., Celebrity Cruises Theatre at Burlingame Hall and Friday/March 23, 6:30 p.m., SF Chronicle House of Docs and Shorts at Vets II.

Dramatic Shorts (7 films, 94 min) Thursday/March 22, 11 a.m., SF Chronicle House of Docs and Shorts at Vets II and Saturday/March 24, 9 a.m., Celebrity Cruises Theatre at Burlingame Hall.

Documentary Shorts (4 films, 96 min) Friday/March 23, 9 a.m., Andrews Hall and Saturday, 7:15 p.m., SF Chronicle House of Docs and Shorts at Vets II.

World Cinema Shorts (5 films, 85 min) Sunday, 9 a.m., Andrews Hall.

Lunafest (9 films, 90 min) Saturday, March 24, 4 p.m., Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

Sonoma Valley High School Media Arts Program, Thursday/March 22, 8:45 a.m.- 1 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday/March 25, 11:15 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Andrews Hall.

 

Details:

The Sonoma International Film Festival is Wednesday, March 21 through Sunday, March 25.  All films are shown at seven intimate venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic plaza so there’s no driving, just meandering charming streets where roses, lilacs and irises are in glorious spring bloom.  The best way to experience the Festival and ensure stress-free access to all films and the Backlot Tent’s wonderful food and wine is by getting a SIFF pass. Cinema Passes are $280 (Good for all films, panels and Backlot Tent during daytime hours); Soiree Passes are $850. (Priority access to all films, Backlot Tent VIP area, Opening Night Reception, regular events & parties & priority offerings for special receptions during Festival).  Punch Cards: $35 good for any 4 films with access only after all passholders and reserved ticket holders have been admitted.

For information, tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.

March 18, 2018 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce!— tickets on sale now for Devour! Sonoma Chefs & Shorts Gala Dinner at the 21st Sonoma International Film Festival

SIFF21’s five-course dinner and film shorts event, “Devour! Sonoma Chefs & Shorts Gala Dinner” is Thursday, March 22, 2018, 6pm, at the Sonoma Veterans Hall.  A unique collaboration between SIFF and Devour! The Food Film Fest, the evening will celebrate cinema, food and wine.  Image: courtesy Phototype

The Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), March 21-25, 2018, celebrates its 21st anniversary this year and has just announced its first special film/food/wine event, Devour! Sonoma Chefs & Shorts Gala Dinner, Thursday, March 22, 2018, at 6pm the Sonoma Veterans Hall.  SIFF is partnering with Canada’s renowned Devour! The Food Film Fest to bring this unique experience to SIFF film and food aficionados.

The evening will feature an extraordinary five-course dinner, with each course taking its inspiration from short food films from around the world.  Lia Rinaldo, managing director of Devour! will serve as curator.   Culinary collaborators include luminaries such as Dominique Crenn (first woman to earn two Michelin Stars and named Best Female Chef in 2016, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco), Evan Funke (Felix Trattoria, Los Angeles), Michael Howell (Founder of Devour!, Wolfville, Nova Scotia) and Sonoma Chefs John McReynolds (Edge) and John Toulze (The Girl and The Fig).  Each course will be paired with Sonoma’s finest wine, including Gloria Ferrer and WindVane, as well as Benjamin Bridge from Michael Howell’s backyard in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  The films are screened simultaneously with the dinner.  This unique offering has sold out in many locations around the world, and with this combination of award-winning chefs, great local foods and wines, it’s sure to please SIFF’s savvy foodies.   “SIFF is thrilled to work with Devour! The Food Film Fest to bring this first Chefs & Shorts culinary experience to our festival attendees!” said SIFF Executive Director Kevin McNeely.

Details:  Devour! Sonoma Chefs & Shorts Gala Dinner is Thursday, March 22, 2018, at 6pm the Sonoma Veterans Hall.  Tickets are $120 for Soiree pass holders, $150 for all other pass holders and $200 for general public.  Click here to purchase tickets for this event or visit  www.sonomafilmfest.org to first purchase your festival pass.

 SIFF Pass Information:
SIFF21 is Wednesday, March 21 through Sunday, March 25.  The best way to experience this very popular festival and to have access to all films is by getting a SIFF pass. Currently, Cinema Passes are $225 and Soiree Passes are $725.  All Cinema pass holders will have day access to the Backlot Tent in SIFF Village.  Soiree pass holders will have day VIP area and evening party access.  For information about tickets, festival passes, prices, and benefits visit www.sonomafilmfest.org.

More about Devour!  Combining cinematic talent with extraordinary gastronomic activities, Devour! The Food Film Fest is the world’s largest film festival focused on food and drink. This annual five-day festival hosts 100+ events, high profile chefs & celebrated filmmakers from around the world and, just this past season, attracted almost 11,000 food and film lovers to Nova Scotia, Canada. The eighth edition of Devour! is slated for October 24-28, 2018.

 

January 31, 2018 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment