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New menu at Petaluma’s Drawing Board

Mixologists make creative cocktails at the Drawing Board in Petaluma. HOUSTON PORTER FOR THE ARGUS-COURIER

HOUSTON PORTER, BY HOUSTON PORTER

Although I haven’t seen it yet, Rosie Wiggins of The Drawing Board informs me that the restaurant will launch a reworked menu in early January, thanks in part to a new chef she has brought on board. I don’t expect huge changes in style or ingredients, because of Rosie’s desire to offer healthy, international, paleo-centric (i.e. not processed), locally-sourced food items.

She is also going back to her original idea of offering a collaborative community-driven space dedicated to promoting wellness, which leads me to the upcoming classes offered at The Drawing Board.

The next two offerings in the restaurant’s “Folk Medicine” series of classes are Jan. 15 with a “Kimchi Making” class, followed by “Immune Tonics” the following Monday. Classes include a shared meal, complimentary wine, and of course, something to take home, which in this case will include either your personally created Kimchi or hand-crafted tonic.

Most importantly, guests will learn more about how what we put into our body actually effects our body. More information at www.tdbpetaluma.com.

SlamBurger

SlamBurger received a nice mention in BiteClub’s year-end Sonoma County food wrap-up for their Kale Salad. Admittedly, kale is one of my least favorite veggies, but SlamBurger’s lacks the normal bitterness that I object to.

SlamBurger has also recently added a few new items to their menu, to supplement our favorites, which include the Lamb Slam, Swiss Miss, and Shrooma-Luma. New to the menu are the Far East burger, created with organic grass-fed beef, coleslaw, white cheddar, bacon, sriracha mayo, tomato, red onion and house pickles, and the Slam Taco, which is organic grass-fed beef, chopped lettuce, tomato, house chimichurri and lime.

SlamBurger was developed because the owner wanted to offer Sonoma County affordable burgers from local, sustainable sources. No hormones, no GMO’s, and pickles, sauces and dressing are made in-house. Additionally, they used 100 percent compostable packaging produced by local vendors.

New local vodka

While vacationing over the holidays in Dillon Beach, we finally had a chance to try Sonoma Coast Spirits new line of vodkas. If truth be told, I am not much of a hard alcohol fan, but that seems to be changing with all the great local offerings. I always assumed it was the 30-second downing of a fifth of Jack Daniels at a party during my senior year of high school that turned me off of the hard stuff, however, in recent years, as I have tasted higher quality spirits, I’m starting to rethink that idea.

Last holiday season, I tried the very limited release Barber Cellars Rye Whiskey and was again pleasantly surprised that I liked it. Mike and Lorraine tell me they are working on the next batch, but aged spirits take time, so we won’t see this one again in the near future.

Then I had a few custom cocktails at the Drawing Board, where their “well” alcohol is the “top shelf” stuff you’d find in any other bar, with most of it being local. Certainly the rest of the all-natural botanical ingredients in their cocktails help, but the quality spirits always seem to compliment the drinks and I’ve never found any of them objectionable. Quite on the contrary, I have never had one of their cocktails that I wouldn’t have again.

Back to Sonoma Coast Spirits. While visiting Charley’s Wine Country Deli on the Boulevard, we saw a woman picking up two of Sonoma Coast’s special holiday baskets. She knew the owner of Monarch Bitters, which is part of the gift basket, and was thrilled to learn that the included vodka was also locally produced.

Although they have flavored vodkas, like Rosemary, Jalapeno Lime, and Citrus Basil, we played it safe with a bottle of their Original Vodka. I had to try it straight just to see if it was as awful as most vodkas I’ve tried in the past. Upon first whiff, there was a distinct lack of the pungent aroma I usually dislike with vodka.

The flavor is also quite smooth, which is saying a lot from someone who would never think to try vodka on its own. So far, we’ve tried it in a Bloody Mary and it was excellent, but I suspect that vodka can get lost within the horseradish, pepper and tomato. I suspect our next test will tell us more as that will likely be a vodka martini, which relies heavily on the quality of the vodka.

Yanni’s

I hate to tease about Yanni’s December sausage sandwich special, now that we’re moving into January, but it was so good that it was the first time I have ever had their special two days in a row. Of course, it helped that we attended the second annual Penngrove Lighted Tractor and Truck parade just a day after visiting for lunch.

It was a special treat to find Yanni’s open for dinner, so of course we took full advantage, and ended up watching the parade from out front of their shop while having an excellent dinner.

Much like Penngrove’s 4th of July parade, we ran into a lot of former Penngrovians, who like us, love to return to Penngrove for nostalgic festivities, and always love a chance to dine on Yanni’s. Last month’s sausage sandwich special was so good, that even just the basil parmesan pesto on Full Circle’s bread made for one of the better bruschetta’s we’ve had. Add the sausage and a red chili blackberry glaze and it definitely at the top of our list of favorites.

That being said, I feel like every month we are introduced to a new and wonderful flavor combination at Yanni’s, that not only surprises us, but seems to be better than anything else we’ve had there in the past. I guess this month Yanni’s special will yet again test that theory. January’s special is the Athenian, which is Yanni’s Loukaniko sausage, served on Sweet Italian bread, topped with grilled onions, a Roasted Red Pepper Feta Cream Cheese Spread and a Lemon Oregano Drizzle.

Cheese

Now that non-stop food news of the holidays is almost all behind us, I would be remiss if I didn’t post some cheese news from a couple months ago. For those that thought Jennifer Bice might fade into the sunset after selling her Redwood Hill Farm to Emmi, you’ve got another think coming.

Jennifer, in partnership with the California Artisan Cheese Guild (CACG) has awarded a grant of $10,000 to one of California’s outstanding new cheesemakers, in an effort to continue her work of helping to support and develop local cheese making. The recipient is Ericka McKenzie-Chapter of Booneville’s Pennyroyal Farm.

Chosen from a field of ten CACG member applicants, Ericka started making her farmstead goat cheese back in 2012 and now is home to more than 100 goats, who do the heavy lifting when it comes to Pennyroyal’s award-winning fresh and aged goat cheese.

“I remember how difficult it was when I started my own business many years ago,” says Bice. “I want to give back to the artisan dairy and cheese industry to help educate cheesemakers whenever I can.”

Pennyroyal is named for the wild pennyroyal mint that flourishes throughout the farm’s 60 Anderson Valley acres.

(Contact Houston Porter at houston@avant-larde.com.)