For those of you that missed it, Laura Sunday (The Queen of Cuisine) and I did an on-air Tuesday with Steve Jaxon of KSRO’s “Drive Time” in order to promote the 2010 Taste of Petaluma.  The Taste of Petaluma is a culinary walking tour of downtown Petaluma, with art galleries, shops, and many street musicians as appetizer and dessert.  Participating restaurants are invited to send a selection of their food with us for our yearly on-air.  Every year we surprise Steve with the breadth and depth of selection that we truck up to his studios in Santa Rosa.  I would like to think it was the free beer from Lagunitas that was putting a tear in his eye, but it may have been the over stuffing.

After driving up to Santa Rosa with a car packed with good smelling food, Laura and I were dying to dig in.  As we unloaded and laid everything out we tasted bits and pieces, although we have both eaten multiple times at most of the restaurants represented.  As Steve ran in to greet us during one of his on-air breaks, Laura stuffed a few pieces of Hiro’s sushi down his gullet.  Hey, we only had an hour to get 15-20 different flavors past Steve’s palate so we had to get started right away.

Hiro’s sent us with a huge quantity of sushi.  We had Spicy Tuna, Sunrise, Nebraska, and some sort of tempura shrimp roll.  The Spicy Tuna, as with all Hiro’s fish, is incredibly fresh and tasty …and SPIIIIIIIII-SEEEEE!!!  If you like heat, this is the sushi for you.  The Sunrise roll contains some egg omelet with cucumber and is topped with two different types of fresh tuna.  The Nebraska is for you non fish eaters; its main ingredient is a tempura style asparagus, and according to our veggie eaters (not me!) it is excellent.  My favorite was the tempura shrimp roll topped with crab salad.  Hiro’s will be serving their California Roll for Taste of Petaluma but all of their other selections will be available for purchase if you want to return for dinner after the event.  Hiro’s Sushi – 107 Petaluma Blvd. N. (Yelp – 3.5 Stars on 73 reviews)

The next plate we put in front of Steve was all about the pizza.  Wild Goat Bistro had sent us with all three of the pizzas they will be serving at TOP.  If you haven’t yet eaten at WGB this is a must visit location during the TOP.  Actually, I might go so far as to suggest that you save your TOP tickets for other locations and commit to a full meal at WGB on another day.  Their food is just THAT good.  The pizzas (as well as their salads, burgers, pork chops, etc.) are delicious and made from the finest local ingredients.  A lot of local restaurants claim the same thing but at WGB you get two added bonuses; Nancy (the owner) has a passion for what she is serving and she comes up with innovative flavors based around the season’s crops.  Meat is always in season (as far as I am concerned) but you won’t find veggies on and in her food outside their natural season.  For a more expanded review of WGB’s pizzas read my blog Taste of Petaluma Recommendations from earlier this week.  (WGB is so good that they deserve a full length review, which they will get just as soon as I clear my plate of my TOP obligations.)  Wild Goat Bistro – 6 Petaluma Blvd N., Suite A5 (Yelp – 4 Stars on 22 reviews)

…and then there was Everest’s naan pizza.  (Naan is an oven-baked flatbread.)  Laura tasted this earlier in the week during a Mini-Taste and wouldn’t stop raving about it.  After hearing so much about it I suspected that my tasting experience would be anticlimactic…but, Everest always amazes me with their full bodied and diverse flavors so I held out hope.  Well, they did not disappoint.  I have had nothing but incredible meals at Everest and this was no exception.  The savory and sweet flavors pair perfectly with the crispy thin crust.  It may seem that Indian restaurants are popping up all over the place, and much like Thai, they all seem to be pretty good but Everest is head and shoulders above the rest.  They are well worth the short walk across the foot bridge.  And when you dine with Everest don’t forget the drinks.  I don’t know of another restaurant where I enjoy the drinks quite as much as at Everest.  On a hot day NOTHING beats their ginger mint iced tea.  Their mango lassi is also incredible.   Everest Indian Restaurant – 56 E. Washington (Yelp – 4 Stars on 18 reviews)

The next course was dogs and sandwiches.  Cordoza’s outfitted us with Pulled-Pork sandwiches, which were excellent.  Having just opened prior to last year’s TOP, this is Cordoza’s rookie year on our menu and it promises to be a good one.  Cordoza’s will be serving teriyaki chicken skewers with roasted pineapple, which Laura and I tasted during one of last weeks “Mini-Tastes.”  You can read all about it at Taste of Petaluma Recommendations.  And if you are wondering who that woman is standing behind the counter with the huge smile on her face, that is Yovonne Cordoza, the owner, and she clearly loves what she is doing and loves serving great food to her hometown of Petaluma.  Cordoza’s Deli – 25 Petaluma Blvd. S. (Yelp – 4 Stars on 5 reviews)

TAPS sent us with their infamous Reuben dog.  TAPS is one of our Cinderella stories.  They rushed to open their business in time for last year’s TOP and smartly so.  Their Reuben Dog was a huge hit and they ended up with over 300 people visiting their location that day.  TOPers were telling other TOPers, “don’t miss TAPS…that is a dog unlike any you have ever had before.”  In case you are wondering, yes, a Reuben Dog is exactly what it sounds like…take pastrami, swiss, Thousand Island dressing, and ‘kraut out from between its bread and slide it gently on top of a high quality hotdog and voila!…perfection.  And for those of you that are suspicious of dogs because they often times make you feel oogy, that is because you have been eating low quality dogs.  Quality dogs are made of high quality meats, not scraps off the floor, and shouldn’t leave you feeling any more oogy than after devouring a good steak.  (The GF and I developed a bit of a Reuben Dog addiction after last year’s TOP and were hard pressed to pass by TAPS without stopping in for one…along with one of their 30+ craft brews.) TAPS – 205 Kentucky St. (Yelp – 4 Stars on 35 reviews)

We all got to taste a new product called Glop.  According to their site it is a, “lively blend of Parmesan and Asiago cheeses with extra virgin olive oil”…but it so much more than that.  According to their packaging you can use it for everything from a dip to adding on top of your burgers.  Do you know how you go to your fridge looking for a condiment to add some life to whatever bland food you just heated up?  Unless it is a hotdog or burger, ketchup is no good.  Unless it is sausages or pretzels, mustard is no good.  Mayonnaise only goes so far…  You try the BBQ sauce, the teryiaki sauce, and maybe even some jam and by the time you have figured out that nothing seems to fit with what you are eating, you have finished your meal and it has been anything but satisfying.  Well, Glop fixes all that.  It is wonderful.  Although we only tried it on crackers, I took the extra home and have big plans for it.  I am going to see just how far it will go…and am guessing the answer will be, “pretty far.”  Glop will be hosted at I Leoni (120 Kentucky St) and I would say that they are a “must taste.”  Although all the other food is good, most of it is about dining out.  Glop is about what you do at home and will give a major aid in flavoring your upcoming dishes.

 

Jacqueline’s High Tea  rounded out our pre-Zert course…and as far as I am concerned (even with my love of all-things-meat) all meals are just precursors to Zert.  Jacqueline and Frank actually showed up in person to make sure they could bring Steve some of their fresh scones.  I, along with most of the guys I know, are not scone eaters.  I have eaten way too many hockey pucks in my day to have anything but disdain for this food item, which isn’t quite bread but isn’t quite Zert.  Luckily, I have previous knowledge of Jacqueline’s scones so I pressed hard for everyone to taste them.  I would say that it was the surprise hit.  Nobody could believe how good they were, especially when they added their HEAVENLY almond creme on top  (Their almond creme has no added dairy or sugar and is truly divine.  I could eat spoonfuls of it.)  All I had to do was suggest the scone to one person and once he tasted it he started telling everyone about how good it was.  Steve had reached his breaking point just prior to JHT’s arrival on his plate but his producer swore up and down that these scones were “the best in the history of all scones.”  Steve not only took his first begrudged bite, but even while talking about other foods was still sneaking bites of JHT’s scones. Even if you aren’t a scone person (and I am not) you owe it to your taste buds to give them a try.  They have converted me.  Jacqueline’s High Tea – 203 Western Ave. (Yelp – 3 Stars on  10 reviews)

 

Alrighty…now we get to the best part – ZERT!!!

I know it's not Zert - but how good does this look???

We started with cheese balls and brownies from Water Street Bistro.  The cheese balls have a fancy french name but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is…plus I prefer to avoid using french whenever possible.  No, they aren’t Zert but they were tasty just the same and came from the same location as our first Zert hero – WSB’s brownies, which are definitely Zert.  They are made with some fancy chocolate and were almost like chewing on a cup of melted chocolate.  I was just in San Sebastian (a Basque town in the north-west corner of Spain)  and was more than pleased to discover that they serve melted cups of chocolate for breakfast.  Brilliant!  Zert for breakfast?  What could be better?!?!?!  Anyway, when you want to imbibe your sweet-tooth during your TOP tour, head over to Water Street Bistro for a brownie or two.  WSB isn’t just about Zert though.  I think Forrest G. from Yelp put it perfectly when he wrote, “Don’t let the cheap and cheerful fool you.  Order one of the special and you’ll be blown away.  Foodies paradise. The staff is supper nice and Stephanie, the owner, is always around.  When she has time she generally stops by the table to say hello.”  Water Street Bistro – 100 Petaluma Blvd. N. (Yelp – 4 Stars on 35 reviews) 

Afendi’s Turkish Grill sent us with baklava, which they will be serving at Louis Thomas (150 Kentucky St – across from Maguire’s).  It is delicious!  I wish they could serve some of their meat dishes but that is hard to do outside of their restaurant.  I have eaten at Afendi’s several times and their 4.5 Star rating on Yelp is well deserved.  I rarely find a restaurant worth traveling to the “east side” for;  Afendi’s is an exception to the rule.   Afendi’s Turkish Grill – 299 N. McDowell St. (Yelp – 4.5 Stars on 19 reviews)

 

We rounded out Zert with my all-time favorite – cupcakes.  As you can tell, I am a fan of Zert and a huge fan of cake.  Although I can sit down and taste multiple cakes at any given time, that can become dangerous to my waistline as well as my pocketbook (okay…I don’t really use a pocketbook but you know what I mean.)  I think that the cupcake’s recent popularity revolves around the fact that one can try a variety of flavors without upsetting their doctor or their banker.  The only problem I find is that most cupcakeries put all their work into the frosting, leaving the cake in the dust.  Most professionally made cupcakes are dry and flavorless once you have worked past the frosting.  Not so with Bijoux Cupcakery.  I could eat just the cakes all day long and be perfectly happy.  They are ever ingenious in their work, inserting a blop (yes, that is a technical baking term) of flavoring into the center of their cakes, making sure that every bite will be just as good as the last.  How does this work out?  Awesome…that is how it works out.  Genius, pure genius.  The peanut butter

...this is a Betweenkie!

cake not only has excellent peanut butter frosting but also has a blop of peanut butter at its center.  Same goes for the chocolate, the red velvet, and the Triple Threat Lemon – the three flavors we brought with us.  I can’t remember all the names because quite frankly I never pay much attention to their name tags; I have gotten to where I just ask for what is new, knowing that whatever they serve me is going to be excellent.  And the piece-de-resistance is their Betweenkie.  Although not nearly as impressive as the other selections, it was a smash hit.  Everyone’s eyes lit up when they bit into this unassuming Zert.  To read a full description of the Betweenkie check out my review at “What is a Betweenkie?”  Bijoux will be hosted at I Leoni (120 Kentucky St)  Bijoux Cupcakes – 929 Lakeville St. (Yelp – 4 Stars on 12 reviews)

The 2010 Taste of Petaluma is selling fast so get your tickets before they are sold out.  For the first time, there will be a cap on the total number of tickets sold and this is one event you don’t want to miss.   To see the entire menu (over 70 participants) as well as buy tickets visit www.tasteofpetaluma.com