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At first bite, the idea of throwing a Derby Day party in Wine Country sounds a bit off the mark.

Mint juleps go down easy in the steamy lowlands of the South, but out here in the cool coastal hills of California, folks prefer a juicy zin or a crisp chardonnay to wash down those baby back ribs or chicken with three sides.

During the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels Derby Day this Saturday, however, Wine Country denizens get to taste the best of both worlds: a Southern-inspired menu, created by top Wine Country chefs, paired with wines from Sonoma-Cutrer and Domenichelli.

Live jazz music, a smokin' hot chef's competition and a big-screen simulcast of the 2010 Run for the Roses round out the festivities held at the picture-perfect Sonoma-Cutrer Winery west of Windsor.

This year, Paul Schroeder of Monti's Rotisserie is defending his title against up-and-comers Bruce Frieseke of Applewood Estate in Guerneville and Patrick Tafoya, chef/owner of Resturant P/30 in Sebastopol.

"Paul has won for three years in a row," said Marianne McBride, president and CEO of the Council on Aging. "Every year, we say we have to get somebody to unseat him. The guy is wildly competitive."

The judging panel for the competition includes Carrie Brown, chef/owner of the Jimtown Store; Ziggy "The Wine Gal" Eschliman; and Renee Mengali of the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce.

Besides the chef's competition, the high point of the day is the four-course luncheon inspired by the homestyle cooking of the South, with a Wine Country twist.

This year, a new batch of chefs is warming up in the ring, ready to unleash their culinary creativity when the bugle call launches the 11th annual fund-raiser on racing day.

Chris Greenwald, owner of Bay Laurel Culinary and former Iron Horse Winery chef, will be first out of the gate with a quartet of appetizers showcasing local ingredients such as Dungeness crab, Sonoma Jack cheese and Willie Bird smoked chicken.

Greenwald will stuff limestone lettuce cups with rock shrimp, capers and cornichons, then finish them with an English pea remoulade and pea shoots. For a second appetizer, he will spread smoked chicken pat?on a crostini, then finish it with a fresh asparagus salad with red onion and mint.

Mini Monte Cristo sandwiches, made with Sonoma Jack and Dungeness crab, and Fried Red Bean and Rice Balls — a play on the arancini of Italy — round out the hors d'oeuvres tray.

Next up, Liza Hinman of Santi restaurant in Santa Rosa will flaunt her Italian flair with a Roasted Delta Asparagus and Frisee Salad, finished with candied applewood bacon, nasturtium blossoms and a black pepper bourbon zabaglione.

As a seafood course, Rick Bruno of Bruno's on Fourth will prepare Voodoo Rock Shrimp, a variation on the popular Voodoo Prawns served at his Santa Rosa bistro.

"The voodoo comes from New Orleans and means devilishly hot and spicy," Bruno explained. "We make a blackened seasoning .<TH>.<TH>. coat the shrimp, saut?it in olive oil, then add butter and cherry tomatoes."

Bruno, who cooked at All Seasons Cafe in Calistoga before opening his own restaurant three years ago, said he's added his own twist to the dish, which originated with Greg Markey, the original chef at Brannan's in Calistoga.

For the main course, Jan Salisbury of the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club will serve up a Smothered Chicken Breast stuffed with country ham, tomatoes and cheddar cheese on grits. Fresh cornbread from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg rounds out the savory spread.

Diners with a sweet tooth will want to save room for the decadent dessert baked by pastry chef Casey Stone of John Ash & Co. restaurant: Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with bourbon caramel buttercream chocolate sauce, spicy pecans and toasted marshmallow fluff.

Over the years, the Derby Day party has become infused with a true Southern spirit, embodied by the big floppy hats, ruffled skirts and sparkling jewelry adorning the crowd.

"What's so neat about this event is that the clothes and the hat thing has really grown over the years," McBride said. "Last year, about 50 percent of the women wore the big Derby hats."

Emceeing the event will be hospitality guru Betsy Fischer, a native of Kentucky, and Josh Silvers, chef/owner of Syrah and Jackson's restaurants in Santa Rosa.

"This event really touches my heart," said Santa Rosa chef/owner Jeffrey Madura of Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe, who has cooked for the event, competed in the cook-off and now serves as its chair. "You start doing this event, and you really fall in with what it is all about .<TH>.<TH>. raising money to feed the elderly."

Madura's job is to help Pacific Market's Ken Silveira procure food donations, support the chefs in the kitchen, coordinate each of the lunch courses and gather the ingredients for the mystery bags used in the cook-off.

Like the other chefs, Madura views the event as a way to give back to his community while supporting a cause that touches everyone.

"We're all aging. We're all going in the same direction," he said. "Going out on deliveries is very special. .<TH>.<TH>. It could be any one of us."

<EL6><IP0><HRCUTOFF,72,0.3,0,0><EL-4><IP9><QC>

You could use either rock shrimp or prawns for this spicy dish from Rick Bruno of Bruno's on Fourth in Santa Rosa.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Voodoo Prawns

<MC>Makes 6 to 8 servings

[RECIPE_00]1<MC><TB>pound prawns

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon Cajun seasoning (made from equal parts cayenne, chile powder, garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano)

<MC>2<MC><TB>tablespoons olive oil

<MC>1?<MC><TB>onion, chopped

<MC>?<MC><TB>basket cherry tomatoes

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon butter

<MC>For aioli:

<MC>2<MC><TB>egg yolks

<MC>?<MC><TB>tablespoon garlic, chopped

<MC>?<MC><TB>red bell pepper, chopped

<MC>1<MC><TB>cup extra virgin olive oil

<MC>?<MC><TB>orange, zested and juiced

—<TB>Kosher salt and pepper to taste

—<TB>Watercress or baby greens, as garnish

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon Italian parsley, as garnish

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon chives, as garnish

[NEWS_RAG_00]For prawns: Dredge the prawns in the Cajun spices. Heat up a saute pan, add the olive oil, heat the oil, then add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the prawns. Cook on both sides, and when they turn color and start to caramelize, add the cherry tomatoes and the butter.

For aioli: Emulsify the eggs with the garlic, red pepper, orange zest and juice in a food processor, adding olive oil until thickened. Add kosher salt andd pepper to taste.

To plate: Put the watercress or baby greens on the plate, top with the shrimp, then add a dollop of aioli. Garnish with the parsley and the chives.

<EL6><IP0><HRCUTOFF,72,0.3,0,0><EL-4><IP9><QC>

This recipe for Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with a bourbon caramel buttercream, garnished with chocolate sauce, spicy pecans and toasted marshmallow fluff, is from Casey Stone, pastry chef at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

<MC>Makes 1 cake

[RECIPE_00]2<MC><TB>cups all-purpose flour

<MC>1?<MC><TB>cups sugar

<MC>?<MC><TB>cup cocoa powder

<MC>2<MC><TB>teaspoons baking soda

<MC>1<MC><TB>teaspoon salt

<MC>1<MC><TB>cup canola oil

<MC>1<MC><TB>cup sour cream

<MC>1?<MC><TB>cup water

<MC>2<MC><TB>tablespoons vinegar

<MC>1<MC><TB>teaspoon vanilla

<MC>2<MC><TB>eggs, at room temperature

[NEWS_RAG_00]Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and parchment line 2 8-inch pans. Sift dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix together and pour into prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out wiht moist crumbs, about 25 to 35 minutes. Cool completely. Ice with the Bourbon Caramel Buttercream below.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Bourbon Caramel Buttercream

<MC>Makes icing for 1 cake

[RECIPE_00]?<MC><TB>cup sugar

<MC>2<MC><TB>tablespoons water

<MC>?<MC><TB>cup heavy cream

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon bourbon

<MC>3<MC><TB>egg whites

<MC>?<MC><TB>cup sugar

<MC>1/8<MC><TB>teaspoon cream of tartar

<MC>8<MC><TB>ounces unsalted butter

[NEWS_RAG_00]Cook sugar and water in a heavy saucepan until it turns a light amber. Add in heavy cream along with bourbon. Whisk until mixture comes together. Set aside. Whisk egg whites with sugar in mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water until mixture reaches 140 degrees. Add in cream of tartar and mix on high until mixture is cool. Slowly add in butter. Add caramel into buttercream and mix until well combined.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Marshmallow Fluff

[RECIPE_00]3<MC><TB>egg whites

<MC>2<MC><TB>cups light corn syrup

<MC>?<MC><TB>teaspoon salt

<MC>2<MC><TB>cups powdered sugar

<MC>1<MC><TB>tablespoon vanilla

[NEWS_RAG_00]Beat first three ingredients until thick, around 10 minutes. Add sugar and beat until blended. Beat in vanilla. Spoon onto one side of the plates and burn lightly with a torch.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Chocolate Sauce

[RECIPE_00]2<MC><TB>cups water

<MC>10<MC><TB>ounces sugar

<MC>?<MC><TB>cup light corn syrup

<MC>4<MC><TB>ounces cocoa powder

<MC>1<MC><TB>pound bittersweet chocolate

[NEWS_RAG_00]Bring first three ingredients to a boil and mix in the cocoa. Slowly pour over chopped chocolate and mix until well combined.

[RECIPE_HD_00]Spicy Pecans

[RECIPE_00]12<MC><TB>ounces pecan pieces

<MC>1/3<MC><TB>cup maple syrup

<MC>1/3<MC><TB>cup sugar

<MC>?<MC><TB>teaspoon cayenne pepper

[NEWS_RAG_00]Toast pecan pieces on a parchment lined sheetpan at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Pour immediately into a bowl and mix in maple syrup. Mix in and coat with sugar and cayenne pepper. Put back onto sheetpan and continue baking for 10-12 minutes or until center of nuts are a light brown.

To plate: Put chocolate sauce on the other half of the plate, across from the fluffs. Set a piece of cake on the chocolate sauce, drizzle with more chocolate sauce, and place the pecans around the plate.

<CF102>[END_CREDIT_0]You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com