Wine Country stars mix with fans at North Coast Food & Wine Festival

Beverly Seyfert of Sonoma deemed quite satisfactory the pizza she had just rolled and assembled herself Saturday at the North Coast Wine & Food Festival, where well-known Wine Country chefs and vintners mixed it up with scores of their fans.

“I love grilled pizza,” said Seyfert, who sampled her creation, with oyster mushrooms, cheese and chopped basil, after a crew of Worth Our Weight culinary apprentices finished it for her on a gas grill. On hand nearby was ?chef and author John Ash, who had prepared a recipe with detailed instructions for guests to make ?their own 10-inch pizzas at home.

“The crust is incredible,” said Seyfert of her preference for grilled pizzas.

She was one of an estimated 1,400 guests attending the fifth annual festival, sponsored by The Press Democrat and held at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park. The tickets ranged in price from $50 for a designated driver pass to $135 for entrance to both the regular festival and a VIP section.

The event featured ?90 wineries and chefs from 20 restaurants.

Among the white-canopied booths, Scottie Romano, executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, and pastry chef Lisa Kaufman were serving up 1,200 Liberty Duck ham ravioli in an heirloom tomato sauce.

The tomatoes “came from Charlie Palmer’s house” in Healdsburg, Romano said. “I went to pick them.”

Romano said he enjoyed getting to work beside other chefs at such events. “Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to get out of the restaurant,” he said.

At the booth for Backyard restaurant in Forestville, chef andowner Daniel Kedan was serving up ?800 buttermilk fried chicken sliders, plus sample after sample of candy cap mushroom kettle corn. The mushrooms gave the kettle corn a decidedly maple flavor.

“It’s actually great for all the chefs to get together and say “hi” to one another, Kedan said.

Teaming up with the Worth Our Weight crew at the personal pizza making station was Ash, one ?of Sonoma County’s most acclaimed chefs. He sought to reassure home cooks about the ease of pizza making.

“This is one of the most fun things to do with family,” Ash said. Cooks get “terribly intimidated about the dough” but in reality “it’s the simplest thing.”

At the Taft Street Winery booth, general manager Mike Martini was pouring the top winning wine, the “Best of the Best” award, from the related North Coast Wine Challenge. The wine was the 2016 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir.

The winery was honored by the award, Martini said, “but we also recognize that everyone here is pouring award-winning wines.”

Dustin Valette, chef and co-proprietor of Valette in Healdsburg, offered an insight while serving up 1,000 bites of a Hawaiian ahi poke, each piece sitting atop a wakame seaweed salad with soy kombu emulsion and finished off with “sesame snow.” Such events, he said, give guests a chance to meet the winemakers and chefs and to gain “a sense of what their passion is.”

“This is authentic, baby,” said Valette. “This is Sonoma County.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or On Twitter @rdigit.

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