(post unedited)

(the third in a series on the 2010 Taste of Petaluma)

The 2010 Taste of Petaluma (TOP) is finally upon us! 

It isn’t too late; grab the wife and kids and head down to Haus Fortuna or Putnam Plaza to get your tickets and enjoy a great day experiencing the best that Petaluma has to offer.

I can’t think of another day of the year that I look forward to quite as much TOP…even though I spend countless hours helping Laura Sunday (The Queen of Cuisine) put the event together.  You would think my glee was because the event was almost over but honestly, having to wait an entire year for the next TOP is a bummer.  Being a big fan of food, from the good stuff all the way down to PB&J in the same jar, I attend a lot of food events and none are as good as the TOP.  Most are grossly overpriced and you are normally tasting in a non-descript tent or pavilion somewhere, with no connection to the restaurant or the town that is supposedly being represented.  With TOP you are walking all over downtown tasting food fresh from the oven while getting to chat with the owner and getting to experience the full ambience of their location.  Plus, there is wine, beer, art, shopping, and live bands sprinkled all around downtown Petaluma.  And don’t worry, there are quite a few restaurants and catering companies from through-out the area that although not represented with a permanent location downtown, are being hosted by one of the downtown galleries.  Are you looking for a caterer for your upcoming wedding or a place to have your holiday party?  This is a perfect way to shop around and see what is available locally.  Think globally; shop locally, right?

My intent for this blog was to keep it short and only mention the locations that I have dined at and leave the rest up to you to report back to me on.  …but, after perusing the menu I find that I have eaten at just about every entry, so this may be longer than planned.  (I would highly recommend printing out the menu and map and making a plan…www.tasteofpetaluma.com   There are a lot of great choices but the portions aren’t small, you only have so much time, and them eatin’ britches of yours will only stretch so far.)

Due to the sheer volume of offerings, I would strongly suggest visiting Haus Fortuna, Town Center (Sugo’s parking lot), Tuscan Garden, andI Leoni.

…and please, if you end up frequenting any of the restaurants or shops that particpated in this year’s TOP, mention that when you visit them.  We want to show them that their involvement in our community events is not only appreciated but also pays back dividends.  I love it when I can tell the owner of a restaurant or shop that I first tried them at TOP.

In alphabetical order by host location:

Art Without Labels hosts: Roy’s Chicago Hot Dogs & Beef Shop  I have been a big fan of Roy’s ever since they opened out at the Livestock Auction Yard.  As mentioned in many of my blogs, a good hotdog is like steak – no “parts” in there; just good meat.  Roy’s imports their dogs from Chicago and they are made from beef brisket – you can’t beat that kind of quality.  Don’t kid yourself; this ain’t no hotdog to be passed up plus they will also be serving Pastrami Bites. 

Athletic Soleshosts: Point Reyes Blue Cheese paired with some fine red wine from C. Donatiello (Cinnabar Theater’s major donor and official wine sponsor.)  I want to make a special mention about Athletic Soles and their owners, staff, and products.  Not only are they heavily involved in the community but they sell great sports gear.  There are few things that I won’t shop for online but when it comes to my feet I don’t like to mess around.  And you might be surprised to find out that Athletic Soles’ prices are quite competitive but most importantly they will fit you properly.  Buying a cheap pair of shoes from a big box store isn’t going to cut it.  Even if you buy a reputable brand, until you have a pro analyze your walk or run (A.S. has a treadmill for just this purpose) you will never know the pleasure of a good fitting shoe.  I have been a runner for a few years (even ran a few half-marathons) and won’t buy my shoes anywhere else.  And let us not forget about flip-flops.  Most of them, although deceptively comfortable, are pretty bad for your feed.  Well, go in and talk to Dame or Holly about their killer flip-flops.  On a recent three week tour of Europe I blasted my feet out with bad shoes (not bought at A.S.) and it was my A.S. flip-flops that saved me.

The Barry Singer Gallery is hosting a whole plethora of food and wine options as well as showcasing their killer fine art photography.  Wineries include their very own vintage, Singer Cellars, as well as several other local boutique vineyards – Azari Winery, Pfendler Vineyards, and Imagery Winery.  Food will be served by Food Glorious Food Catering and will include Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho Shooters as well as Tartlet Bites (filled with seasonal figs, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and toasted walnuts).

Bovine Bakery has come to Petaluma!!!  If you haven’t visited them out in Point Reyes, you have been missing out…but now you can taste them at their new location at 23 Kentucky Street.  I was lucky enough to come home last weekend to a kitchen full of BB baked goods.  One thingy had almond paste in it, another was filled with chocolate, and yet another was some sort of peanut butter blondie.  WOW where they good.  Much to the GF’s chagrin there wasn’t much left by the time I was finished “sampling” the wares.  Houston’s Rule I – If you set it down, that means you don’t want it.

Boulevard Antiques is joining TOP for the first time, having just opened up next to Pelican Art Gallery at 145 Petaluma Blvd. No.  They will be hosting long time local favorite Papa Taverna who will be serving Muossaka as well as Sonoma Valley Portworks, another Petaluma favorite.

Brixx Pizza, Wild Goat Bistro, and Everest Indian Restaurant will be serving some of the best pizza in town.  These thin crust pizzerias are really turning up the pizza oven heat on some of our old Petaluma standbys.  (If you think your favorite pizza joint makes the best in town get them to join us for next year’s TOP; I’m talking to you, New Yorker, Pinky’s, Old Chicago, and Fregene’s.  –I could rant and rave about menu items of theirs other than pizza but this blog is about the restaurants that are participating in TOP so that will have to wait for another day. –TOP isn’t just about getting your food into potential customers’ mouths, it is about joining the rest of the community to show off the best that Petaluma has to offer as well as support a good cause – Cinnabar Theater.)  Brixx will be serving their Sweet Heater and Green Veggie pizzas.  You can read more about Wild Goat Bistro and Everest’s offerings in my two previous blogs.  All three are worth a visit but I want to make special mention of Everest since visiting them will mean walking across the foot bridge – but it is well worth the extra walk (which is shorter than you think.)

I also recently blogged Cordoza’s Deli and Sugo Trattoria (two of my favorites) so for more info scroll back through my last couple of posts.

Dimensions Galleria will be hosting Nick’s Cover (Endive w/ Crab, Louis Dressing & Drake’s Bay Oysters w/ Jalapeno Mignonette) along with Cline Cellars wine.

Gallery One will host Casual Caterers (Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin & Grilled Asparagus) and Clos Du Bois wines.

Haus Fortunahas once again outdone themselves.  But don’t just rush in and out for the food.  Carla has put together a great shop and after my recent tour of Italy I can attest to the fact that she has a truly unique selection of Italian gifts, artwork, kitchenware, glassware, ceramics, gourmet foods, books, and all things Italian…as well as a wedding registry.  Get on the Haus Fortuna email list and Facebook page for updates, coupons, and giveaways.  And like the owners of many of the TOP participants, Carla is heavily and most appreciatively involved in the community.  For food she will have Biscotti Bari, Preferred Sonoma Caterers (roasted pumpkin risotto with parmesan and white truffle oil –***I have had PSC’s risotto before and it holds a tie for the best risotto in town with Sugo, in my humble opinion), Lungarotti Olive Oil, Petaluma Coffee & Tea, and two types of Korbel Champagne.

Hiro’s is back again with the best California Rolls in town but make sure to check out the rest of their menu.  For more on them check out my previous TOP blogs.

Hollingsworth Jewelers will have chair massages and free spa goodies courtesy of Massage Envy Spa.

I Leonihas huge list of reasons to visit, starting with Glop!  Read my previous TOP blog for more info.  This stuff is awesome and is going to take off like wildfire so get your taste early.  Also serving is KitchenGretchen Catering (Crispy fresh Cakes w/ garden Ratatouille & Lemon Basil Pesto), McEvoy Ranch (Olive Oil with Strauss Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Celtic Sea Salt) and DeLoach Winery.  And the piece de resistance…Bijoux Cupcakes.  I have written a lot about them because they are the best cupcakes I have ever tasted – most recently was my blog titled TOP II.  And stop buying crappy kitchen crap at Targee and Wally-World; I want my kitchen crap to hold up over time and that is the kind of stuff that I Leoni specializes in. 

TOP II also has mention of Jacqueline’s High Tea and how enthralled KSRO host Steve Jaxon was with their Almond Cream covered scones.

Jennie Lows will be serving egg rolls, crab puffs, and pot stickers.  If you haven’t been here for their lunch special check out the menu when you visit for TOP.  They are good and affordable.

Afendi’s Turkish Grill (located in the Kmart shopping center) will be serving Baklava at Louis Thomas clothiers (150 Kentucky St – across from Maguire’s Pub.)  Unfortunately, Afendi’s can’t bring any of their meat so take a look at their menu and plan a trip across town to try the best offering east of Hwy 101.

Maguire’s Pub is really doing us up right this year with a choice of either their Shepherd’s Pie or a taste of their fish & chips w/ cole slaw.  Both are excellent but the fish & chips is my all time favorite.  And the slaw that comes with it is incredibly unique and is half the reason I order the fish and chips.  I will actually go as far as to say that if you like fish, chips & slaw, definitely use one of your tickets at Maguire’s.  Don’t believe the hype concerning the F&Cs from another downtown “C” food place – Maguire’s is the best there is.  They will also be serving a Korbel Brandy Cocktail to wet your palate.  Maguire’s is still running their half-off everything special on Monday and Tuesday.  HALF-OFF EVERYTHING…that means you can order the good wine and maybe some of their killer bread pudding for Zert since everything in your order will be half off!

Mayfield Company (127 Kentucky St) will host Petaluma Valley Athletic Club and Rolling Hills Club who are offering chair massages, bottled water and healthy snacks.

McNear’s, our hometown hero, is back again anchoring downtown with Island Sliders (Pulled Pork with Island Cole Slaw and a Mini Mai Tai).  I never pass up on sliders!  Those who have lived here for a while might be surprised to learn that McNear’s food has improved drastically over their old bar food days.  After skipping them over for years because all I could remember were their overly greasy dishes, I started eating their again upon the recommendation of some friends.  I have found the food to be great and if the truth be known…many of the TOP organizers end up at McNear’s for dinner after the event, if that tells you anything.

Mi Pueblo will be serving Beef Enchiladas.  As my favorite Mexican in town I don’t need to TOP here because I know they are great but if you want a great taste and a huge portion, this is the place to go.

MoYo’s Frozen Yogurt Lounge (across Theater Square from Powell’s) will be serving low-fat frozen yogurt.

Pelican Art Gallery will be the main event tomorrow, as the hosting site for KGO’s live broadcast of “Dining Around with Gene Burns” from 10am-1pm.  The Gallery will only be open to VIPS until 1:15pm so don’t try to get in any earlier.  Pelican will be hosting Della Fattoria, Dempsey’s Restaurant/Brewery, Cowgirl Creamery, McClellands Dairy and Keller Estate Winery.

Petaluma Market is always off the hook and this year will be no different with Prawns & Polenta in a Mediterranean Cream Sauce.  I have yet to miss one of their tastes.  And just an FYI – their meat/deli counter is my favorite in town and offers high quality, locally grown meats for a very comparable price even against the big grocery stores.  Check out their handmade snausage selection and meats while you are there…as well as their cheese section.  The cheese lady knows her stuff!  (Yes, I said “snausages”.)

Petaluma Paella (the dude with the huge portable Paella dish) and Bros BBQ are serving seafood and sausage paella, dry rubbed pork spare ribs and slaw.  Wow, that is the first time I have noticed that on the menu.  With all the other happens in the “Town Center” area I am sure to use a few of my tickets there. 

Other locations in the Town Center area are:

Sugo Trattoria – Classic Bruschetta (I never miss a chance to eat Sugo’s bruschetta)

Wild Goat Bistro – Neapolitan style pizza

            (I wrote about both Sugo and WGB in recent blogs)

Zoe’s Meats – see below

…and relative new comer High Tech Burrito is joining the fray with their Chicken Street Taco.  I would like to give a special shout out to these guys.  Not only do they make high quality food but it is nice to a see a chain restaurant getting involved in local events.  It shows a true sense of community, which I for one truly appreciate.  (Punjabi, well known for their community work at their other locations decided not to participate – if you eat there encourage them to participate next year.  I think there are a lot of people who would like to try their food, and would love it if they did, but aren’t adventurous enough to commit to a whole meal right out of the starting blocks.)

Risibisi will be serving wild mushroom risotto paired with Kenwood Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Riverfront Gallery was a huge hit last year and so they return with Trader Joe’s ½ Crème Brulee in an edible Chocolate Cup (freakin’ awesome!!!) and Springfield Place cooking up Ceviche Tostadas.  When I get old enough to move into a retirement community I will pick one like Springfield Place, where they care about cuisine.  These guys will surprise you and leave you wondering what their minimum age requirement is.  I wonder how often they would let me visit my mom for meals if I talked her into moving there…  “Of course I am hear to see you mom, …but shouldn’t we get in line for dinner???”

Sienna Antiques will host DeSchmire again with their ever popular Chicken Cordon Bleu.  This is another location worth wondering around in.  I am not much of an antiquer but have gotten lost in their place wandering around looking all the cool stuff.

Starsturck Boutique will be serving Bella Luma Caffe focaccia smothered with all kinds of good stuff as well as a healthy tasting of Cinnabar Theater’s official beer sponsor, local favorite LAGUNITAS!!!

TAPS is well worth the walk across Washington Street so don’t miss their specialty mini dogs and garlic fries.  As far as fries go, TAPS makes the best in town.  I actually haven’t had their garlic fries but have tried four or five of their other varieties and they have all been excellent.  My personal favorite are the salt and pepper fries.  I think they fry the salt and pepper first…whatever they do, the fries are great.

Tres Hombres is back after a year away from TOP and will be serving Carnita and Chicken Tacos.

Tuscan Garden, like Haus Fortuna and I Leoni, is a must visit location with a ton of great offerings as well as some superb shopping.  They are hosting Rocky Mountain Chocolate, Achadina Cheese, Kona Brewing Company, C. Donatiello Winery (Cinnabar Theater’s official wine sponsor) and two excellent local boutique wineries – Flo Wines and Armagh Vineyards.  I have tasted both boutique wineries and they are excellent but due to short supplies you may want to get their early in order to get your taste.  If you like what you taste I would make arrangements directly with them to purchase more (although no purchases are allow at the event – it is an alcohol licensing issue): they are hard to find in stores.  And as I told Laura, “I’m not helping with TOP unless Clo the Cow is there and sure enough, she is back and she is bringing Clover cheese with her.  (and no, contrary to popular belief, I am not Clo the Cow…I swear…even if no one has ever seen us together.)

Vine & Barrel always comes through with a great selection of wine and this year is no different.  They will be hosting Heck Estates and their Lake Sonoma wines as well as Clary Ranch Wines, and James Family Cellars.  Whole Foods Market (another major Cinnabar Theater sponsor) will be serving a selection of cheese and fresh fruit.

Teri over at Velasco’s will be serving a traditional Chilaquiles.  This dish is very popular in the Mexican Riviera Resorts.

Viva Cocolat (Voted Best Chocolatier in Sonoma County for 2009 and 2010…and for good reason) will serve some of their great chocolates (I just had a couple of them today – I can’t walk by without stopping in for a little sumpin’ sumpin’.) They will be paired with Valley of the Moon Winery’s Sonoma County Port.  I am a huge fan of port and other than a few very VERY high end ports, V o’ da M port is by far my favorite.  From what I understand, you can only taste this port at TOP and their winery so this is your shot to taste California’s very best port.

Water Street Bistro will be serving French cheese puffs and Valrhona dark chocolate brownies.  (You can read more at my previous blogs about TOP)

Rounding out the list is Zoe’s Meats, an environmentally attentive, health conscious, and flavor concerned local purveyor and creator of quality meats.  Hands down, they make the best meats around.  That’s right, you don’t have to pay for imported salamis and charcuterie, Zoe’s makes their very own.  And the owner’s 5 year-old daughter, Zoe, will even be making a special appearance.  Her dad George has spent time in Europe learning his craft and according to their website, “Zoe loves meat so much that we created a company to ensure she is always eating the healthiest and most palate pleasing meats available.”  I just spent three weeks porking my way through Europe and can attest to the fact that I was hard pressed to find meats as good as Zoe’s.  I know what you are thinking…with all the great options at TOP why spend a ticket on lunch meat?  Just do it – trust me.  DO NOT MISS ZOE’S!!!  Once you taste their meats you will have a whole new appreciation for high quality meats and will rejoice every time you see their name listed on a menu.  For that matter, get on board the pro-quality meat train and start asking your local delis, restaurants, and sandwich shops to start carrying Zoe’s, even if only in a selected quantity.  They are a healthy alternative to the normal chemical filled, less than healthy meats we normally eat without out even thinking about.  People know quality and once it is available, they will almost always choose Zoe’s; I do.   

Well, I think that just about rounds it out.  Tickets will be available the day of the event at Haus Fortuna and Putnam Plaza.  Proceeds from Taste of Petaluma benefit Cinnabar Theater, which includes professional performances as well as kids’ performance and classes.

One last favour — If you eat at a restaurant that doesn’t participate in TOP but you think their food is TOPs, encourage them to participate next year.  We like to support our local businesses and nothing is better for business than getting people to try their food.  For the cost, it beats paying to produce coupons or ads. 

…and if you see a guy walking around in a straw cowboy hat, looking dazed and confused, but well feed, that is probably me, unless Clo the Cow unexpectedly decides to wear the same thing…and then it might not be me.  Say ‘hi’ and let me know what you think of my blog and if there are any new restaurants you know about or even old haunts that you want me to try out and report back on.