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Taste of Sonoma

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 (Gates open at 11 a.m. for Club Reserve ticket holders)

Where: Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Cost: $180 for general admission; $255 for Club Reserve (with Visa Signature: $150 general, $225 Club Reserve.) Additional passes must be purchased for Sommelier Talks, Sommelier Tours, the Blind Tasting Challenge, and K-J wine and food pairing.

Transportation: Shuttle buses will run from five locations around the county, including Sonoma, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. Tickets range from $20 to $40.

Other activities: As part of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, there are winemaker lunches and dinners on Friday, Sept. 1, and winemaker barbecues on Sunday, Sept. 3.

To reserve: sonomawinecountryweekend.com.


The Taste of Sonoma, the most artistic and significant food-and-wine event in Sonoma County, will move from the bucolic MacMurray Ranch along the Russian River to Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center this Saturday as part of a radically revamped Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.

Veteran attendees will find all of the same attractions as before — the chefs and the vintners, the Marketplace and the grilling stations, the Bubble Lounge and Club Reserve — but it may take a bit more time to discover them. The pieces have been pulled apart like a puzzle, then put back together again to work in tandem with the sprawling, 300-acre venue, which features various lawn and courtyard spaces as well as air-conditioned indoor spaces.

“Our hope is that we’re creating a Sonoma County village that you can walk through in a day, and get the best of Sonoma County,” said Jean Arnold Sessions, executive director for the Sonoma County Vintners trade group, which is producing the charity event. “As you walk in, you’ll see the Bubble Lounge, and then you’ll walk down the path and discover something new around every corner … you can walk along the terraced area to taste wine, then get some food, and then go back and taste more wine.”

With the Taste of Sonoma kicking off of a three-day weekend, organizers hope that it will help guests decide what wineries they want to visit on Sunday and Monday.

“Come to Sonoma as a small village, and then expand out,” Sessions said. “It’s a big county — people can go out and discover it on their own.”

Although there will be smaller tents, the chefs and the vintners will no longer be integrated together under four, big-appellation tents. The wineries will be grouped together, in alphabetical order, on the terraced portion of the lawn behind Weill Hall, while the chefs will be located on the adjacent Garden Terrace, in front of Schroeder Hall.

“It’s a different setup completely at the GMC,” Sessions said. “You can’t replace MacMurray Ranch, and the beauty of being at the winery and in the vineyards. That’s hard … but this is so beautiful. It will be a new setting, and we’re very excited about it.”

While the venue will be fresh, there will be plenty of familiar faces running the show. In the Trione Courtyard dotted with ancient olive trees, Kendall-Jackson will once again offer its sensory garden and high-end food and wine pairings, with dishes such as Chilled Lobster with Green Goddess and Estate Baby Vegetables, Smoked Duck with Blackberry and Beets and Roast Filet of Beef with K-J Heirloom Tomatoes and Charred Eggplant paired with the winery’s estate wines.

Need to get out of the heat? Visitors can make a beeline for the Hospitality Center off Weill Hall to catch a wine talk and a blind tasting, or head to the Prelude restaurant for Club Reserve, where vintners are pouring limited-production wines that rotate every 90 minutes.

With temperatures known to soar at this time of year, organizers hope the venue will provide plenty of spaces where folks can just kick back, sit in the grass and cool off.

“There will be umbrellas everywhere, providing shade,” Sessions said. “Prelude is air-conditioned, as are the wine seminars.”

Local food and wine aficionados Marcy Smothers and Ziggy “the Wine Gal” Eschliman will emcee the Gallo Main Stage, set up in front of the hall’s removable rear door, where a few of the county’s renowned chefs — Carl Shelton of J Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg, Steve Rose of Rose Ranch in Kenwood, and Tom Schmidt of John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa — will be giving cooking demonstrations throughout the afternoon.

Taste of Sonoma

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 (Gates open at 11 a.m. for Club Reserve ticket holders)

Where: Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park

Cost: $180 for general admission; $255 for Club Reserve (with Visa Signature: $150 general, $225 Club Reserve.) Additional passes must be purchased for Sommelier Talks, Sommelier Tours, the Blind Tasting Challenge, and K-J wine and food pairing.

Transportation: Shuttle buses will run from five locations around the county, including Sonoma, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. Tickets range from $20 to $40.

Other activities: As part of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, there are winemaker lunches and dinners on Friday, Sept. 1, and winemaker barbecues on Sunday, Sept. 3.

To reserve: sonomawinecountryweekend.com.

Schmidt, who is serving as the Culinary Host of this year’s Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and the Sonoma County Wine Auction held at La Crema Estate on Sept. 16, will give a demo for a classic dish, Red Beet Cured Salmon, which showcases the Wild King California salmon currently being caught by local fisherman.

“They are starting to run again, right off the coast,” Schmidt said. “I’ll show people how to cure it, and show them how to pack the fish into the grated beets. You let it cure for three days.”

Schmidt will garnish the colorful, beet-tinged salmon with some horseradish cream, to bring up the spice, along with some refreshing watercress from Sausalito Springs in Petaluma. He plans to pair the salmon with a pinot noir.

“It tastes great, with the sweetness of the salmon and earthiness of the beets,” he said. “I use pickled golden beets as a garnish, to bring the acidity up to go with the wine.”

Over at the food-tasting area, guests will find all kinds of creative bites from veteran and newcomer chefs alike.

“Everybody’s out there … and there are all these new ideas from the young chefs and new restaurants coming up,” Schmidt said. “It’s great to see what they’re doing with all the local ingredients.”

Carrie Brown, owner of the Jimtown Store in the Alexander Valley, always comes up with interesting dishes for the late-summer food-and-wine gathering. This year, she is making an heirloom bean salad topped with tuna that showcases the Jimtown Store’s Artichoke, Olive and Caper spread as well.

“This is Tuscan-inspired by way of Sonoma County,” she said.

“At Jimtown, we’ve been getting this delicious, canned, pole-caught tuna from a cannery in Oregon that they sell at Oliver’s … it’s not packed in water or oil, it’s just fresh-packed in its own tuna juice.”

Brown hopes to source some heirloom white beans from Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa, then will add in some bright, garden herbs — such as mint, tarragon, parsley or basil — along with a splash of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

“To make it pretty and lighter, I’ll serve it on a bed of local greens,” she said. “As you eat it, you mix the greens in as you take a bite.”

Brown said she would eat the bean salad with a crisp, low-alcohol rosé, such as the one Jimtown pours from Smith Story Wine Cellars in the Anderson Valley, or a sturdier chardonnay, to match the buttery beans and tuna.

In the Visa Signature Lounge — where guests who have purchased tickets with their Visa card can enjoy special wine and food tastings plus live music — French chef Didier Ageorges of Pascaline Fine Catering in Forestville will be serving up an array of passed hors d’oeuvres, including Tomato Tartare on a Toasted Baguette, Goat Cheese/Mortadella Mille-Feuilles and Saffron/Mozzarella Arancini with Spiced Yogurt.

“I use sushi rice instead of Arborio,” he said of the arancini. “You cook off the rice, the mozzarella goes into it, then you make the balls and put them in a slurry of cornstarch and dip in bread crumbs, then fry it off … it’s pretty, easy to make, and people love it.”

His skewer station will featured Grilled Tri-tip with Chimichurri and a Black Tiger Shrimp with Moroccan Spices, Chickpeas and Eggplant dipped into Preserved Lemon Aioli.

“I like to spice it up with something different,” said Ageorges, who hails from Burgundy but cooked at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz for 10 years before moving stateside for a job at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlson.

Ageorges, who opened Pascaline French Patisserie & Cafe in Forestville in 2015, participated in the Taste of Sonoma for the first time last year.

“Last year was the last year at MacMurray Ranch, so that was cool,” he said. “I did grilled vegetable mille-feuille — think of ratatouille on a skewer — with tomato with bell pepper and eggplant and zucchini. Right now, it’s the best.”

___

The following recipe is from Tom Schmidt of John Ash & Co. Required equipment includes a perforated hotel pan plus two pans the same size, one for weighing the fish and one to catch the fluid.

Red Beet Cured Salmon with Watercress, Horseradish Cream and Pickled Beets

Serves 10 to 12 as appetizer

For salmon:

1 filet of wild salmon (about 3 pounds)

6 red beets, washed well to remove all dirt, coarsely grated

For cure:

1/3 cup sea salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh, coarsely ground black pepper

For horseradish cream:

½ cup cream

1-2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (depending on how spicy you like it)

— Salt and pepper

For pickled beets:

— Salt and pepper

— Extra virgin olive oil

2-4 medium size beets

1 cup rice vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 tablespoons pickling spice wrapped in cheesecloth and tied

For garnish:

— Watercress (preferably from Sausalito Springs)

— Extra virgin olive oil

— Pickling juice

— Fresh horseradish, grated

For salmon: Cut salmon filet lengthwise in half, following the natural lines of the fish. Remove all brown fat and bones. Season salmon all over with the cure mixture. Place the perforated pan in the other pan. Put half the grated beets on the bottom of the perforated pan, place salmon on top of the beets, and place remaining beets on top of the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap and place a same-size pan on top of the salmon with a weight on top (cans, bricks, etc.)

Place in refrigerator for five days. Take out, remove the beets, wash the fish and pat dry. Wrapped tight in plastic and stored in the fridge, it will keep for 3-4 days. When ready to serve, slice against the grain, perpendicular to the length, in ¼ to 3/8-inch thick slices on a slight diagonal. Start at the thicker end.

For horseradish cream: whip cream until stiff, fold in horseradish and adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Keep cold.

For pickled beets: Clean and season beets with salt and pepper and EVOO, then wrap individual in aluminum foil. Bake in a 300-degree oven until just tender, one hour to 90 minutes.

Cool, peel and cut into ½-3/4-inch dice. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and pour over beets while still hot. Let cool overnight.

To serve: Dress the watercress with some extra virgin olive oil, pickling juice and salt and pepper. Serve with the cured salmon slices, horseradish cream and pickled beets. Grate some fresh horseradish over the plate.

___

The following recipe is from Jimtown Chef Anthony Gallegos and Carrie Brown, based on a similar bean recipe from Steve Sando’s “Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans” cookbook. “Look for pole-caught tuna from American or Wild Planet that is hand-packed without additional water, oil or filler added. This tuna does not need draining,” Brown said. “These types of tuna are sustainably fished and have dolphin- and sea turtle-free symbols on the cans, and state that they have been tested for mercury.” Runner Cannellini beans work well.

Heirloom Bean Salad with Pole-caught Tuna and Jimtown Artichoke, Olive and Caper Tapenade

Serves 6-8

1 5-ounce container sustainable, pole-caught tuna

3 cups cooked, drained white heirloom beans (from Tierra Vegetables or Rancho Gordo)

½ cup of Jimtown Artichoke, Olive and Caper (from 7-ounce container)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

— Extra virgin olive oil to taste

— Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped chives

½ cup torn herbs including mint, parsley, and different colored basils

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

6-8 handfuls of mixed local greens (s baby red or green butter lettuce, little gems, arugula, frisée, mizuna)

2 halves of hardboiled eggs for each plate (optional for main course salad)

In a medium size bowl, break up the tuna with a fork into large flakes, add the beans and the Artichoke, Olive and Caper tapenade and mix together. Add the lemon zest, juice and vinegar and toss, give it a taste, add extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper as needed. You can prepare the salad to this point several hours before serving.

Tear the herbs into ¼-inch sized pieces, reserve some for garnish, and gently toss the herbs and chives with the bean salad. Add salt, pepper and extra olive oil or lemon juice to adjust the balance. Season the cut cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Place a handful of mixed greens on each salad plate, spoon the bean salad over the greens, scatter the cherry tomatoes and drizzle each salad with a little olive oil. Garnish with reserved torn herbs and the eggs if you are using them.

____

The following recipe is from Didier Ageorges, chef/owner of Pascaline Fine Catering in Forestville.

Mozzarella and Saffron Arancini

Makes about 40 large balls or 80 small balls

For rice:

2 cups short-grain sushi rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

1 cup white wine

1 pinch saffron

3 cups stock

— Salt

1 pound low-moisture mozzarella, diced

For bechamel:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup stock

1 pinch saffron

2 eggs, beaten

For balls:

— Canola oil for frying

— Breadcrumbs

For rice: Heat the oil over medium heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice and the wine and cook down. Stir in 2 cups of stock, add 1 pinch of saffron and season with salt. When liquid is evaporated stir in 1 more cup of stock and cook until it is all absorbed. Let cool off the heat and add mozzarella cheese. Texture should be like a porridge.

For bechamel: Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and the 3/4 cups of chicken stock and add 1 pinch of saffron. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until it is thick. Let cool slightly and then add eggs.

To make arancini: Scrape rice and bechamel into a bowl and mix together. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment and scrape rice filling onto each one, spreading it in a thin layer. Refrigerate.

In a bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water to form a smooth paste, then whisk in an additional 1/4 cup water to form a slurry.

Make rice balls and roll in the flour slurry, then transfer to bread crumbs and roll to coat.

Fry rice balls until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with yogurt spiced with espelette and cayenne.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.