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Farm to table dinner at Stemple Creek Ranch in Petaluma

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We were lucky enough attend last year’s Stemple Creek Ranch spring farm-to-table dinner, and already have our tickets in hand for this year’s event on Saturday, April 14. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we were first introduced to local chef Matt Elias’s cooking while visiting Stemple Creek Ranch several years ago, and he is again bringing his skills to the grill at this year’s spring spectacular.

Since that time, we have grown into huge fans, almost literally, of both Stemple Creek’s meats and chef Elias’s mastery in the kitchen. This past year, he and front of house partner, Laine Ayre, opened the Bodega – CA food truck, which is so good, that it is rightfully up for best Mobile Cuisine/Food Truck in the current Petaluma People’s Choice Awards contest.

Matt Elias always brings his simple, yet elegant and tasty twist on locally sourced ingredients, including the best that Stemple Creek Ranch has to offer. There is something enchanting about how chef Elias respects the ingredients he works with. And there is no better source than Stemple Creek Ranch’s grass-fed and grass-finished meats for chef Elias to work his magic.

Join the festivities under the twinkling lights of Stemple Creek’s historic barn for a delicious multi-course meal, paired with the organic and biodynamic wines of Winery Sixteen 600’s. Visit www.stemplecreek.com for tickets or to order meat directly.

Oyster Fest postponed

Due to the impending inclement weather, the Petaluma Sunrise Rotary’s all-you-can-eat Oyster Fest, held at the Bodega Bay Oyster Company, has been postponed from April 7 to next Saturday, April 14. Still from noon to 3:30 p.m., this actually works out great for us, because we’ll make a beeline from the Oyster Fest, down Gericke Road, smack dab into Stemple Creek Ranch.

Although the change may be an inconvenience to some, keep in mind that this is a fundraiser, being run by volunteers, who want us all to have the best experience possible. This is a great outdoor event, so hopefully the weather will be a bit more cooperative next weekend. Tickets are $60 at www.eventbrite.com.

The end of the paillard

Crocodile’s fried chicken paillard is set to exit menu-left as chef/co-owner Michael Dotson continues to update the season’s flavors. I have written before that I am pretty sure this is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, and was lucky enough to have one of the first orders, after seeing a photo on their Facebook page.

It still blows my mind that it is only $16, so I highly recommend you get in to Crocodile before it is gone. It has been a must order at every meal we’ve had at Crocodile since it made its way onto the menu several months ago.

It is so good, that upon first tasting the chicken paillard, I threaten to boycott Crocodile if they ever removed it from the menu, but they have decided to call my bluff. And bluff it certainly is, because we absolutely love the food at Crocodile.

At first, Crocodile’s ever- changing menu caused me great anxiety, because what if I really loved something, and they removed it from the menu, never to return? Well, I quickly learned that an ever-changing menu can actually be a good thing, if the chef knows what he or she is doing.

Instead of being stuck on favorite dishes, we are stuck on favorite restaurants, which we know will always exceed our expectations, no matter what new dishes they introduce. Crocodile really has introduced us to the concept that it’s the chef’s prowess and innovation, not tried and true menu items, that makes a restaurant one of our favorites.

Although always a staple on the menu, and like his excellent octopus dish, chef Dotson is constantly experimenting with and updating the flavor of Crocodile’s poutine. Referred to as Canadian nachos by some, basic poutine is gravy and cheese curd covered French fries.

Stepping it up a half-dozen notches or so, Crocodile’s latest version is topped with bread and butter pickles, jalapenos, and oxtail gravy. As stated on their Facebook page, “From a French Canadian dish, we know, not really French, not really Canadian, but chef takes his liberties. #oxtail #poutine #breadandbutterpickles.”

Petaluma People’s Choice Awards

Vote for your favorite restaurants, businesses, and local professionals in this year’s Argus-Courier Petaluma People’s Choice Awards. The first round of voting helped the paper narrow the choices down to three or four favorites per category, and now it’s up to us to pick the finalist.

I certainly have my favorites, but am always pleased to see that in many categories, I have a hard time picking just one favorite, because Petaluma has so many great restaurants. Voting ends on April 15, so visit www.Petaluma360.com to cast your votes. Some of my personal favorites include Seared, 256 North, Faron’s, Wishbone, McNear’s, Everest, Old Chicago Pizza, Wild Goat, La Dolce, Barber Cellars, Quinua, Sake 107, Thai River, the Drawing Board, What a Chicken, and of course, the Bodega – CA.

Sausage dinner

The Corda Sausage Dinner at the Petaluma Elks Lodge 901 is so popular that advanced tickets are required, and are currently available at www.eventbrite.com for $15. This homemade Italian sausage dinner is served family style, which is one of my favorite things about dinners like these. We always meet new and interesting people and always have a great time, all while supporting a great local organization. It’s an added bonus that the dinner is also excellent. The Elks Corda Sausage dinner is Friday, April 13, from 6-8 p.m.

Gin & Taxes

To celebrate, or better yet to forget, tax day, local distiller Griffo will hold their 2nd Annual Cocktail Competition: Gin & Taxes on Sunday, April 15, starting at 3 p.m. Witness the North Bay’s best bartenders compete, using spirits from Griffo and bitters from Monarch Bitters.

Guests will get to sample and vote for their favorite drinks, join in the raffle, and enjoy some great food from local favorite food truck, the Bodega - CA. The competition ends at 6 p.m. but the after party runs until 8 p.m. Produced in partnership with The Good Time Bros and Edible Marin & Wine Country. www.griffodistillery.com

Cheesemakers

Barber Cellars will hold their first cheesemaker gala of 2018 on Friday, April 20, from 6-8 p.m. We have always enjoyed these events because they give us a chance to meet our local cheese makers up close and in person, all while tasting great cheeses, paired with Barber’s great wines and oils and vinegars from Petaluma’s ‘O’ olive oil company.

These cheesemakers will visit from Two Rock, maker of excellent extra aged goat cheese, Valley Ford Creamery, famous for their year-and-a-half aged asiago, and new comer W.M. Cofield, who offer Sonoma County proper British style cheeses, like stilton and aged cheddar. Tickets are available at aprilcheesemaker2018.eventbrite.com and include two glasses of wine, as many cheese tastes as you’d like, as well as accompanying breads, salumi, and oils and vinegars.

Keller mushrooms

Keller Estate will hold their Black Gold Mushroom Fest on Saturday, April 21, from 3-6 p.m. at their picturesque tasting room, overlooking the Petaluma River valley. Known as the King of Mushrooms, Chef Todd Spanier will prepare a six-course dinner that has been “specially crafted to highlight not only the most prized mushroom in the world but also how elegantly Keller Estate wines can be paired.” Dinner will include a discussion and wine paired tasting of black truffles and wild mushrooms. www.kellerestate.com.

Penngrove Market

A “Now Hiring” sign hangs in the window at the reborn Penngrove Market, which is a great sign that they will open soon. I have been watching their progress on Facebook, and know that the two couples who are behind this project are going to great lengths to make sure that this market does Penngrove proud.

Cooking classes

Also in Penngrove, Wind & Rye Kitchen just announce its spring class schedule, which includes Cooking with Mushrooms on April 8, from 1-5 p.m., Date Night: A Cooking Class for Two, April 14, from 6-9:30 p.m., and Charcuterie Series: Cured Meats, April 22, from 4-9 p.m. For a full list of upcoming classes, including Cooking an Auto-Immune/Anti Inflammatory Diet and Fish Butchery and Cooking Techniques, visit www.windandrye.com.

Restaurant reboot

The Patio Group, owners of Chicken Pharm, have rebranded Cultivate, their to-go salad shop, to Harvest Eatery & Gourmet Pantry. Still located just down from Sugo Trattoria and Gator’s, the Patio Group team was hard at work this past weekend for their April 2 opening.

“Committed to offering only the freshest ingredients, Harvest Eatery & Gourmet Pantry will work closely with a network of regional purveyors including Greenleaf, County Line, Zoe’s Meats, Tomales Bay Foods, and Costarella Seafoods to create stunning dishes for all to appreciate. The menu consists of an assortment of a la carte dishes ranging from a variety of salads, quinoa and brown rice bowls, sandwiches and smoothies, as well as larger entrees.” Harvest is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Moj San replacement

A member of the Petaluma Foodies Facebook group notified us that a gentleman named Eugene has reopened the nursery space formerly occupied by Moj San, at the corner of East D and Wilson Streets. He is offering, you guessed it, veggie and herb starts, in addition to flowers, succulents, and various garden supplies. We stopped in and Eugene is not only very nice, but is extremely helpful and has a great selection, from tomatoes to squash to beets to onions to fresh herbs.

Speaking of tomato starts, Mentor Me Cavanagh Rec Center, at 426 8th St., will hold their annual Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale fundraiser on Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They use organic seeds and no pesticides or herbicides.