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Fire department BBQ and other Petaluma Father’s Day ideas


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San Antonio Volunteer Fire Department will hold their only fundraiser of the year this Sunday, June 18. Their Father’s Day Chicken BBQ has been a local favorite for 51 years now, relocating to McNear Park a few years ago, where they now serve food from noon to 3 p.m., with fun and games continuing until 4 p.m.

The chicken is great, and with sides and Clover ice cream is quite a bargain at only $12 per person (only $8 for kids.) We like to stick around for lunch and visit with whomever we end up sitting next to, but also buy a couple of extra meals to make lunches and dinners for the rest of the week.

This year’s event will include a corn hole tournament, as well as an always-sizable silent auction, along with raffle prizes including a Go-Pro camera, a Cruiser bicycle, and an iPod Mini. More info at www.savfd.com.

Blueberries for dad

I’ll bet you’ve never taken your dad blueberry picking on Father’s Day, but that’s exactly what True Grass Farms of Tomales Bay invites you to do on Sunday, June 18, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Space for this blueberry “U-pick” is limited, so reservations are recommended, and as an added bonus, those who plunk down the $20 deposit will receive a 25 percent discount, making the berries only $6 per pound. Lunch will be available for purchase, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., from The Bodega food truck.

Lagunitas bash

For those looking to taste a bite or two of The Bodega’s food closer to home, they will be rolling up to Lagunitas Brewing Co. on Monday, June 26, for the KWMR 90.5 FM Birthday Bash. DJ Barbarella will be on hand, along with the Detroit Disciples, weird raffle prizes, and beer and cake for all the “friends of real radio.”

Seared dinner

“Beer, Bourbon, & Beef” is a once only dinner being offered by Seared on Tuesday, June 20. This prix fixe dinner will feature 101 North Brewing and Stillwater Spirits and will start with a charcuterie and local cheese board, paired with barrel aged Stillwater negroni, followed by surf and turf crudo, paired with 101’s Indigo Pale Ale.

Next up is an heirloom tomato panzanella, paired with 101’s Belgian Pale Ale, which will lead into the main course of Heroine IPA braised whole beef shanks. Rounding out the five-course meal, guests will dessert on bourbon black cherry ice cream, paired with a Moylans bourbon black cherry old fashioned. Dinner is $85 and reservations can be made either through Seared, or through Eventbrite.

We have been eating and drinking at Seared since they opened, so it is nice to see that Chef Joe O’Donnell never rests on his laurels. We found this out the stuffed and satisfied way on a recent visit to Seared to research an upcoming article.

PAWS for a Cause

Sax’s Joint will host a special dinner on June 24, starting at 5 p.m., to benefit the Petaluma Animal Services Foundation. PAWS for a Cause will feature live music, beer and wine, raffle prizes, a silent auction, and of course, Sax’s Joint food. The ladies at Sax’s Joint are experts when it comes to comfort food breakfasts and lunches, so this event gives us all a rare opportunity to experience what they can do with a dinner menu.

Ribs for Kids

Ribs for Kids is also on for Saturday, June 24, and will run from noon to 4:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. Presented by the Petaluma Active 20-30 Club, this event raises money to help disadvantaged youth.

I have been lucky enough to judge this event both years, and look forward to returning for a third year to sit alongside some of my favorite Petaluma personalities, which this year will include award winning chef and local TV personality Laurie Figone, Ana Keller of Keller Estate Winery, former city councilman Mike Harris, Dan Ancheta, President of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce, Nariman Manoochehri, co-founder of Xandex, Inc., John Chase, First Presbyterian’s pastor, and past Active 20-30 Club president, Chadwick Anderson.

As a certified Kansas City BBQ Society judge, and food writer, I am invited to judge many food and drink events, from chili cook-offs to pizza challenges, to beer competitions, but the Ribs for Kids event is my favorite, by far. Not only does it help a great local cause, but my fellow judges are a genuine pleasure to work with. But best of all, the ribs at this competition are the best I get to judge all year, and that includes judging KCBS competitions, which draw in national competitors. Apparently, Petaluma’s backyard barbecuers know a thing or two about turning out great ribs.

Samuel Heights Lowbrow Chili

Speaking of local backyard barbecuers doing good, Samuel Heights Lowbrow Chili is asking for our help to get them to the next level. SHLC took home top honors at last month’s Great Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa, and Beer Tasting event, which earned them a “Golden Ticket” to this year’s World Food Championships.

Thanks to local food celeb Laurie Figone, who is herself a World Food champ, the Chili Cook-off has been awarding the Golden Ticket for the past few years. The recipient of the Golden Ticket does not have to go through any other preliminary rounds in order to compete at the big show this November in Orange Beach, Alabama. Those interesting in making this team’s dreams come true can visit SHLC’s Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/goin-to-da-world-food-championship.

SHLC came about when neighbors Sean and Mike, of Petaluma’s Samuel Drive, would sometimes mockingly refer to their street as Samuel Heights. After attending the Chili Cook-off for several years, including one year as one of my chili judges, Sean decided to put together a team of friends and family members to compete.

“It just looked like everyone there was having so much fun, and we had some liquid courage about our cooking ability,” says Sean. “To contrast the hoity-toity sounding ‘Samuel Heights’, we added ‘Low Brow’ to the name just so people wouldn’t think we took ourselves too serious. It’s more about hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. But as we like to say, what we lack in refinement we make up for in taste.”

In 2015, they took home 1st place in the individual category for the first time, but were beat by TAPS for the Grand Championship. In 2016 they had some trouble on cook day when they misplaced about five pounds of smoked chuck, but still landed 2nd place in their category, and also took home a 3rd place for their chili, as well as the “Best Booth” award for their decorative digs.

But it was 2017 that brought them the real glory, taking home 3rd place for salsa, 2nd place for the People’s Choice awards for Chili, and 1st place from the judges in the individual category. This judges’ award put them in the running against the winners of the restaurant/catering, service and business category winners. As the Chief Justice of the Chili Judges, I have tallied all the votes for the past 10 years, and had never seen such a unanimous vote for a single Grand Champion chili.

Copper River Salmon is here

After receiving a heads up from reader Michael Johnson of Petaluma Valley Hospital that he came across Copper River salmon at Santa Rosa Seafood, I too ran into my first Copper River salmon run of the season at the Safeway in Ukiah, but at the whopping price of $31 per pound. After talking it up so much, I felt obliged to buy a piece for a coworker of mine who eats salmon at least once a week, but due to the high price tag, it wasn’t a very big piece.

A man after my own stomach, “Spook the Luke,” as he is known in our office, returned to Safeway and bought some regular salmon so he could conduct a taste test. He reported back the next morning that not only was the Copper River salmon tender and juicy, but it was so flavorful that when he alternated bites back to the regular salmon, the regular stuff seemed to have no flavor at all.

As luck would have it, I phoned Costco last Friday night to inquire about Copper River salmon and was instructed to call back in the morning, which I did. Sure enough, they received a shipment, and it was more than reasonably priced at just $16 per pound. Needless to say, we headed up stream right away and bought a good portion of what they had, returning home to freeze some of it and cook up the rest for what will be a very tasty and healthy week of lunches and dinners.

Skip this salmon

While we are on the subject of salmon, I was surprised to stumble across a fifth type of Pacific salmon, which has started to pop up in local grocery stores, usually as pre-packaged smoked salmon. The marketing geniuses have branded it as “Keta,” but it’s true name is Chum or Dog salmon, which are perfect names for this lifeless, fishy smelling and flavored fish.

I suggest avoiding it at all cost, especially if you are fan of the fresh rich flavors we’ve come to expect from wild-caught West Coast salmon. Everyone has heard of the big three – Kings (Chinook), Reds (Sockeye), and Silvers (Coho), and most have likely run across Pinks (Humpy), which are abundant, but because of a lower fat content are less flavorful than the big three, and therefore are usually canned and exported. But until the other day, I had never heard of or seen Chum (Dog) salmon.

Although still a great source of protein and fish oils, chum are not as rich, firm, or flavorful as kings, reds, or silvers, and have the distinction of being the only Alaska salmon to have a fishy flavor. Fisherman “chum” the waters with ground-up, throwaway fish when trying to attract larger predator fish, such as sharks, so no better name could be found, because this fish it is almost unfit for human consumption.

If you are like me and eat salmon because you don’t like the fishy flavors that accompany most other types of fish, “Keta” salmon is definitely not for you. Disappointingly, it often sells for the same price as the good stuff, even though it is far inferior in taste. It is even popping up on some restaurant menus, because it can be hidden under flavorful sauces. However, they’ll simply list it as “salmon”, so when it doubt, ask. If they give you a name other than king (chinook), red (sockeye), or silver (coho), I’d suggest ordering something else. Yes, there are also Cherry (Masu) salmon (found in Asia), and Atlantic salmon (found in …the Atlantic), but growing up on the West Coast, I’ve always been partial to Pacific Salmon.

Biggest Little Parade

The Penngrove Social Firemen are looking for volunteers to help out with the Penngrove Parade, which will be held on Sunday, July 2 this year. Contact Kim Hanson at JavAmore Café in Penngrove for more info.

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