Get a taste of Sonoma during Wine Country Weekend

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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Sonoma Starlight

Kickoff events include a sparkling reception and poolside dinner, featuring food from four restaurants owned by Mark and Terri Stark.

When: 6:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2

Where: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville

Cost: $125, plus $35 for the shuttle

___

Taste of Sonoma

More than 200 wineries and 60 local chefs will create perfect pairings, give wine seminars and cooking demos.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3

Where: MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Healdsburg

Cost: $165-$199

___

Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction

An elegant afternoon, with a reception, luncheon and auction catered by Sonoma County’s top toques.

When: 12:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4

Where: Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood

Cost: $500

Tickets: sonomawinecountryweekend.com

Many Sonoma County chefs find inspiration in the ancient cultures clustered around the Mediterranean, which share our mild winters and warm, dry summers. They’re ideal for producing complex, slow-ripened fruits like wine grapes, healthy olive oils and vegetables.

Since things that grow together go together, the Mediterranean can be mined for all kinds of delicious dishes to complement the wide range of Sonoma-grown wines, from crisp chardonnays to fruity zins.

At the Taste of Sonoma this Saturday, local foodies can learn about some of these classics first-hand from a handful of Sonoma County top toques who will give cooking demos, then hand out tastes with a wine pairing.

“The Taste is a great event, and I’m the first one to give a demo,” said chef Mark Stark, who with his wife Terri, serves as the honorary culinary chair of this year’s Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, held Friday through Sunday. “For locals, it’s a great way to see all the winemakers and chefs you know.”

When locals need a break from tasting this Saturday, they can sit down and watch a cooking demonstration from one of five chefs, then taste a small bite of Middle Eastern bread salad or Tortilla Espanola, Greek dolmas or Italian meatballs.

Stark will be demonstrating a dish from his newest restaurant, The Bird & the Bottle in Santa Rosa, which combines Southern barbecue and Asian cuisine, with a few Jewish twists. His Tomato and Watermelon Fattoush Salad, made with pumpernickel-rye croutons, grew out of the new farm launched by two of his employees and funded by the Starks. The farm now supplies specialty vegetables to the couple’s six restaurants.

“They both have worked for us for 10 years, and this is their dream,” Mark said. “We started planting on May 1 and are growing Padron peppers, Romano beans ... plus Early Girls and heirloom tomatoes.”

Fattoush is the Middle Eastern answer to the bread salad of Italy. It’s easy to make and perfect for serving a crowd. Stocking up on the authentic spices is the hardest part: za’atar for the croutons, sumac for the lemony garnish.

Steve Rose of Rose Ranch, who owned the now-closed Vineyards Inn in Kenwood for 35 years, will demonstrate one of the signature dishes of the Iberian peninsula, the classic Tortilla Espanola, a Spanish twist on the Italian frittata.

“I was raised on them,” Rose said of the savory egg and potato dish. “There was always one sitting on the table. My grandparents emigrated from Spain to San Francisco in the late 1800s.”

Next up, Chef Jesse McQuarrie of Feast Catering in Santa Rosa will give a demo of his famous Mac’n’Cheese Lollipops, a savory appetizer that is deep-fried for extra crunch. The whimsical starter will also be served with greens, heirloom tomatoes and a lemon-truffle vinaigrette in the Bubble Lounge, where guests can start the day with a trio of sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer.

Chef/owner Sofia Petridis-Lim of Taverna Sofia in Healdsburg will share her secrets for creating Greek dolmas, also known as stuffed grape leaves.

“I was taught by my grandma to roll them at about 7 years old,” she said. “It’s like rolling a fine cigar. You have to be delicate but firm at the same time.”

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Sonoma Starlight

Kickoff events include a sparkling reception and poolside dinner, featuring food from four restaurants owned by Mark and Terri Stark.

When: 6:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2

Where: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville

Cost: $125, plus $35 for the shuttle

___

Taste of Sonoma

More than 200 wineries and 60 local chefs will create perfect pairings, give wine seminars and cooking demos.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3

Where: MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Healdsburg

Cost: $165-$199

___

Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction

An elegant afternoon, with a reception, luncheon and auction catered by Sonoma County’s top toques.

When: 12:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4

Where: Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood

Cost: $500

Tickets: sonomawinecountryweekend.com

The pickled grape leaves are filled with a mixture of rice, fresh herbs and lemon juice, then rolled up and dipped into tzatziki, a tangy yogurt sauce.

“In Greece, we eat them with everything,” she said. “It’s mainly an appetizer, but you could make a meal out of it.”

Finally, Chef Adolfo Veronese of Aventine Glen Ellen will roll out a mini-version of his Aventino Meatball, a sweet and sour bite when served with a golden-raisin tomato sauce and basil pesto.

“Last year, we did 4,000 meatballs for the (Kendall-Jackson) tomato festival, and they got eaten in the first half,” he said. “For the Taste, we’re making 6,000 to 7,000 meatballs ... I hope I don’t run out.”

_____

The following recipe is from Chef Mark Stark, who serves it at his newest restaurant, Bird & The Bottle in Santa Rosa. Za’atar and sumac are available at Savory Spice Shop and Penzeys in Santa Rosa.

Summer Tomato & Watermelon Fattoush Salad with Barrel Aged Feta, Armenian Cucumbers & Pumpernickel Croutons

Makes 4 to 6 servings

For croutons:

2-3 slices pumpernickel bread (may substitute other bread or even pita bread)

2 teaspoons za’atar

For salad:

4 local tomatoes (Early Girl, Roma or medium size heirlooms)

1/2 small seedless watermelon

4 each Armenian cucumbers (or 2 English cucumbers), peeled

1/4 red onion

2 red radishes

4 ounces quality feta (preferably barrel aged)

2-3 heads of Little Gem lettuce

1/4 bunch basil

1/4 bunch flat parsley

2 teaspoons ground sumac

For preserved lemon vinaigrette:

1 shallot

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 preserved lemon, rind only, discard pulp

2 ounces champagne vinegar

2 cups olive oil

— Salt and pepper to taste

For croutons: Tear the pumpernickel into bite-size pieces. Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and the za’ atar spice.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until crisp and crouton-like. Set aside.

For salad: Cut the tomatoes and watermelon into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Split the cucumbers, remove the seeds if using the English cucumber and cut into ½-inch slices. Add to the bowl.

Thinly slice the onion and the radishes and add to the bowl. Pick the basil and parsley leaves and hand tear into the bowl. Crumble the feta and add. Separate the lettuce leaves and add whole to the bowl.

Add the croutons, enough dressing to coat the salad ingredients well, season with salt and fresh pepper and toss.

For the Vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and puree until smooth. While blender is running, drizzle in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Taste and adjust with more olive oil if too tart. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve: Plate the salad individually or on a platter, then sprinkle the entire salad with the sumac.

Note: This salad can be made 15 to 20 minutes before serving, so the croutons soak up the dressing.

____

The following recipe is from Chef Sofia Petridis-Lim of Taverna Sofia in Healdsburg. You can find the grape leaves at Whole Foods and other specialty markets.

Rice Dolmas

Makes about 80 dolmas

5 cups medium-grain, uncooked rice (washed)

4-5 medium onions, ground in a food processor

4 cups finely chopped scallions

11/2 cups chopped fresh parsley

1 cup chopped fresh dill

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

11/2 teaspoons pepper

10 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)

2 (1-pound) jars preserved grape leaves

5 cups vegetable broth

— Splash of olive oil

— Splash of lemon juice

Combine rice, onions, scallions, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Spread out some of the leaves to cover the base of a medium, wide heavy pan. Lay a leaf out flat on the work surface, shiny side down. Trim off the stem with scissors. Put about 1 tablespoon of the rice mixture toward the end of the stem, fold the sides over the filling and tightly roll up into a neat roll.

Continue making grape leaf rolls until all the ingredients have been used. Arrange the stuffed leaf rolls in the lined pan closely together, starting with a circle around the edge of the pot, then following with more circles all the way to the center. Always put the seam side down. Make 4 to 5 layers.

Carefully pour the vegetable broth, plus a little olive oil and lemon juice, into the pan. Make sure the dolmas are covered with liquid. Invert a heavy ceramic plate on the top of the rolls to prevent them from floating during cooking. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over low heat, then simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

_____

The following recipe is from Chef Adolfo Veronese of Aventine Glen Ellen.

Aventine Meatballs over Polenta

Makes 6 servings

For meatball:

— Half loaf baguette, diced small

1/2 cup milk

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground Italian pork sausage (mild)

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg

— Pinch salt

— Pinch pepper

For polenta:

1 cup polenta (Golden Pheasant)

31/2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon butter

— Pinch pepper

— Pinch salt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

For sauce:

3 cups tomato sauce

16 golden raisins (for garnish)

2 tablespoons pesto sauce (for garnish)

2 ounces shaved Parmesan (for garnish)

For meatballs: Mix bread and milk in a bowl and let rest. In a big bowl, mix all the other meatball ingredients, blending gently with your hands just until they come together. Make 5-ounce meatballs and cook in tomato sauce until tender.

For polenta: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray. Pour polenta, water, salt and pepper in the dish and stir to combine and remove any lumps. Cut butter into small cubes and sprinkle on top; butter will float

Bake, uncovered for 50 minutes. Stir polenta and return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in grated cheese. Allow to rest for a few minutes.

Serve the meatballs over a bed of soft polenta and garnish with golden raisins, pesto and shaved Parmesan.

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

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