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Reason to be happy about Petaluma’s Crocodile

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Starting last week, Crocodile has introduced a delicious looking happy hour, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 3:30 p.m. to precisely 5:36 p.m. (the extra few minutes should give working folks a little additional time to get in their drink and food order). The entire happy hour menu is only $6 for any item and all sparkling wine is half price.

Guests wishing to order from the happy hour menu can do so while sitting at the bar, at one of the high-top tables, or in the outdoor seating area, with the regular tables reserved for diners ordering from the regular menu only. However, diners looking to enjoy the regular menu are not restricted to the dinner tables. As with the rest of their menu, I’m sure the happy hour choices will change with the seasons, so if something on the current list strikes your fancy, I would recommend getting down to Crocodile post-haste.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the real news, which is the menu. First off is the poutine, one of our favorites. Poutine is usually fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, and because it comes from Canada, is often referred to as Canadian nachos. However, Crocodile does theirs special by topping their excellent fries with braised oxtail, queso fresco, and jalapeño bread and butter pickles.

Other mouthwatering options include steak, lamb or fried fish sliders, chick pea croquettes (with sesame yogurt), mixed greens (with mustard vinaigrette), roasted asparagus (with nettle and sunflower seed emulsion), French fries (with blue cheese remoulade and Pyrenees ketchup), and Tarte Flambée (with green garlic, fromage blanc cheese, artichokes, and spring onions.)

Della’s Friday night dinners

Della Fattoria has a new kitchen, and after getting a chance to stretch their legs and test everything out, has just announced the return of their Friday night dinners. We have been to several of these dinners in the past and so can attest to how delicious and memorable they are, with no two menus being the same. I also highly recommend ordering paired wines because the staff at Della always does a great job of picking out the perfect wine for each dish.

Dinners are prix-fixe at $65 per person, and are served family-style on hand-finished cypress tables from the Sonoma County coastline. Tickets available through www.dellafattoria.com.

The meal on Friday, May 4, starts with grazing sheep salad with Bellwether Pepato cheese, mâche, microgreens and herb-shallot vinaigrette, followed by a main of spring lamb ragout with baby vegetables, new potatoes, turnips, spring onions, green garlic, carrots, and haricots verts, and finishes with dessert of mint chocolate cream puffs.

On the Friday of Mother’s Day Weekend (May 11), guests will start with sweet ‘n’ salty fertility almonds, followed by stuffed eggs in a baby lettuce cup nest, with an entrée of Petaluma spring chicken and mushroom pot pie, topped with puff pastry. Finishing out the meal is strawberry shortcake with chocolate-dipped rose petals.

On Friday, May 18, dinner will commence with a composed spring veggie salad with fresh green aioli, with an entrée of sautéed codfish in agrodolce Italian salsa rosa basmati rice and baby leek soubise with fresh peas, and an after dinner treat of lemon blueberry tart.

River Front Café

Sneaking in under the radar, River Front Café has opened its doors at the river front location formerly occupied by the Apple Box. I spoke to the owner a few months ago and he seems to know his stuff, which is echoed in the reports I have been hearing on the Petaluma Foodies page on Facebook. I am told the menu is a mixture of American, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Road Butler

Road Butler has a new owner. Petaluma resident and local college student, Hank Miller, has purchased Road Butler from Mark Urenda. Hank previously worked for Mark and when approached about buying the business, jumped at the opportunity. Road Butler’s pricing and business model will remain the same with a few schedule changes in consideration of Hank’s school schedule. Deliveries are still $13 from 3 to 9 p.m. and $10 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a flat rate of $10 for seniors. Road Butler delivers in and around Petaluma and can be reached at 217-5238.

Cinco de Mayo

While visiting last week in order to try their excellent pot pie, I saw that Rosen’s 256 North will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo all weekend with margaritas, street tacos, sopas, shrimp ceviche, chips and salsa, and of course a great selection of cervezas. The party starts on Friday, May 4 at 11:30 a.m. and doesn’t stop until Sunday, May 6 at closing.

Painting Classes

On Saturday, May 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., LaLa’s Jam Bar will host a painting class, instructed by Ellyn Pelikan. What caught my attention is that lunch will be catered by Sarah’s Eats and Sweets. Lunch and all materials are included in the $55 cost. www.lalasjams.com.

Rosen’s 256 North has joined forces with Boards and Bottle to offer a slightly different spin on painting classes, with their rustic wood painting night on Thursday, May 17, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Visit www.256north.com for tickets.

Barber Cellars wine release

We had a chance to try Barber Cellars’ latest releases at last weekend’s farm dinner, and highly recommend both. You too can try them out for yourself at Barber’s downtown tasting room wine release party on Friday, May 18, from 6 to 8 p.m., accompanied by some great food from the Bodega CA food truck.

Due to decreasing production from their cabernet vineyard, this is possibly their last cab. It was excellent, and you can tell it will age really well, so we’re stashing a few bottles for the future. Barber also introduces their first chardonnay, which happens to be their first Petaluma GAP labeled wine and is refreshingly crisp and tart.

Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff

Usually a week earlier, this year’s Chili Cookoff is on Saturday, May 19, with the gates opening at 1 p.m. at Herzog Hall at the Petaluma Fairgrounds. The reduced price of $30 for all-you-can-eat chili, salsa and beer, makes this is screaming deal. With over 15 breweries on hand, this is cheaper than a beer festival, only the ticket price also includes a plethora of world-class chili and salsa. (Non-beer tickets are $20.) There will also be music performed local favorites Stony Point and Bloomfield Blue Grass.

Awards come by way of both People’s Choice and this year’s introduction of the Golden Spoon Award. During the event, guests will get to vote for their favorite meat chili, veggie chili, fruit salsa, and veggie salsa, which makes up the People’s Choice Awards. For the Golden Spoon Award, a distinguished panel of judges, including yours truly, will meet a few days before the event at Rosen’s 256 North to pick our favorite.

Another new feature this year is the separate People’s Choice category for high school teams. The Chili Cookoff is a fundraiser for Cinnabar Theater so it makes sense that they would want to connect theater and culinary arts by introducing this new category. The winner takes home a $500 prize for their culinary program or high school team.

There are still spaces available for both regular and high school teams, so visit www.greatchilicookoff.com so you can get signed up in time to compete in Northern California’s premier chili and salsa competition.