By Gretchen Giles
Fancy a bowl of hot beef stew "in the style of Trieste" for just $8.50? How about a roasted Hubbard squash married with Gruyère and tucked into a flaky cream cheese pastry itself topped with Point Reyes bleu cheese for the same price? Care to finish the meal off with a satin chocolate mousse cake with persimmons and pomegranates for just $4, and that's one fine meal for one tiny price.
Of course, it's entirely impossible—but only because the stew and the squash and satin chocolate mousse are so 2009. When the Santa Rosa Junior College's Culinary Cafe reopens for the winter on Jan. 20, it will have a whole new seasonal menu drawn from the fresh ingredients available at the school's Shone Farm. As part of SRJC's excellent culinary training program, students in white coats and tall toques begin filling the windowed kitchen of their cafe early each Wednesday–Friday morning, making specialty breads and pastries that are for sale, with local Taylor Maid coffee products, from 7:30am to 2:30pm.
But lunch is the real bargain, the modestly priced entrées, starters and desserts housemade under professional direction by students who will some day soon be filling back-of-the-house positions with some of the North Bay's finest restaurants. The college's food and wine pairing lunches begin soon and are just $35, all-inclusive. Gratuities are welcomed and are pooled to use for student supplies. Reservations are a must for the food and wine Friday series, and are hugely and highly recommended for an ordinary lunch. And listen up, ye elders: those age 60 and better get 15 percent off, all day every day. Such a deal! SRJC Cafe and Bakery, corner of Seventh and B streets, downtown Santa Rosa. Open Wednesday–Friday, 7:30am to 2pm. 707.576.0279.
A whopping 120 wineries are on board for the 18th annual Winter Wineland tasting that swathes northern Sonoma County this weekend, Jan. 16–17. Advance ticket sales have ended, but $40 for drinkers, $10 for designated drivers paid at the door of any participating winery gets you in to this two-day extravaganza aimed at bumping up the wine industry's "slow" season. 'Cept that there ain't nothing slow about Wineland, usually held under crisp blue skies and normally featuring tomfoolery not seen in the summertime. Wineland is hospitality crew dressed up like Olympic athletes, it's women disrobing in tasting rooms, it's live music and warm chili—and it's also a great time to take advantage of case discounts. For those who don't need to worry about a hotel room, it's also a super way to visit tasting rooms that might ordinarily be off your radar.
New participants this year include Bluenose (428 Hudson St., Healdsburg), Branham Estate (132 Plaza St., Healdsburg), Freestone Vineyards (12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone), Hart's Desire (53 Front St., Healdsburg), Hudson Street (428 Hudson St., Healdsburg), J. Keverson (53 Front St., Healdsburg), Mercury (21015 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville), Robert Rue (1406 Wood Road, Fulton) and Souverain (26150 Asti Road, Cloverdale). To learn more, go to www.wineroad.com.
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