Martinis, Wine, New Restaurants & More

Go mad for martinis at this Sonoma event.

If you happen to be in Sonoma tomorrow, the hardest decision you might have to make is whether you prefer shaken or stirred.

That’s because top bartenders from 10 Sonoma restaurants and bars will be gathering in force at the Saddles Steakhouse at MacArthur Place Inn & Spa for the always popular Sonoma Valley Olive Season’s  “Martini Madness” event.

You’re invited to taste their creations and to vote for what you think is the best one. Lest you get hungry, appetizers will be available for noshing. And lest you need further inspiration, a live jazz band will entertain.

Tickets are $40 per person ($45 at the door). Dinner package deals are available for $85 per person, which includes all the fun at ”Martini Madness,” plus a three-course dinner.

Glasses of bubbly greet visitors to Saison.

Look for one of San Francisco’s most successful pop-up restaurants, Saison, to spiff up with a new and improved 3.0 version in the first half of 2010.

Who hasn’t fallen for the quirky charm of the teeny 25-seat, highly personal restaurant that turns out fine-dining dishes in a rustic, historic stable in the Mission District? What started out as a makeshift, once-a-week, dinner-only restaurant by Chef Joshua Skenes and Sommelier Mark Bright (both Michael Mina alums) has since expanded to three nights — Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Thursday nights soon will be added to the dinner line-up. The kitchen will get a major redo, including a new gourmet stove. And the plain-Jane, garden-variety slat chairs in the dining room will be replaced by sturdier, more stylish and much more comfy ones. Skenes even has plans to add a wood-fire oven to the garden patio to bake fresh bread for the restaurant.

Celebrate the Lunar New Year in the comfort of your own home — with some stylish and delicious help.

Fork and Spoon Productions of San Francisco is teaming with my good friend, Andrea Nguyen, author of “Asian Dumplings” (Ten Speed Press), to come to your house for a dumpling demonstration and banquet meal that features the likes of baked curried chicken baos, steamed Pacific bass with young ginger, Peking duck with pancakes, and tangerine pot de creme.

You can book the team anytime between Jan. 15-Feb. 28. You need at least 10 guests for this $185 event. The hostess receives a free copy of Nguyen’s cookbook, while guests can purchase their own at a special price. To make a reservation, call (415) 552-7130.

Everybody’s favorite “Dine About Town” promotion runs this year from Jan. 15-31. A bevy of San Francisco restaurants will be offering a two-course lunch for $17.95 and/or a three-course dinner for $34.95.

The bar at the Parc 55. (Photo courtesy of the hotel/restaurant)

Among the participating restaurants are Parc 55 (pictured above), Luna Park, Dosa on Valencia, and Amber India. For a full list, click here.

Get a sneak taste at the Jan. 13 launch party at the Westfield San Francisco Centre. For a donation of $20 to Meals on Wheels, guests can sample small bites and meet the chefs from a number of the “Dine About Town” participating restaurants. For reservations to this event, click here.

Just before the holidays, the newest venture by the owners of the popular Azzurro Pizzeria & Enoteca in downtown Napa opened its doors. Michael and Christina Gyetvan’s new Norman Rose Tavern debuted in downtown Napa’s West End district in what was an old bank building.

Find hearty favorites such as fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, and meatloaf — all updated with fresh, seasonal North Bay ingredients. Enjoy it all with an extensive list of beers, both by the bottle and on tap.

Executive Chef Daniel Patterson has hired a new executive pastry chef and new chef de cuisine for his acclaimed Coi in San Francisco

Bill Corbett, formerly executive pastry chef at restaurant Michael Mina in San Francisco and pastry sous chef at WD-50 in New York, not only is now executive pastry chef of Coi, but also will serve in that same capacity for the under-construction Bracina in Oakland, another Patterson project.

Evan Rich, former chef de cuisine at Quince in San Francisco and executive sous chef at Bouley in New York, is the new chef de cuisine at Coi.

Celebrate the food and wine of New Zealand from now through Feb. 27 at McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant in San Francisco and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley.

Enjoy such dishes as New Zealand shellfish stew, and New Zealand grass-fed filet mignon served Wellington-style with a kiwi-blue cheese onion tart. New Zealand wines, Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc and the Crossing Pinot Noir, will be available, as well as kiwi-inspired cocktails. Enter to win a drawing for a trip for two to New Zealand, too.

More wine tasting can be had at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay’s “Fire and Wine Experience,” Jan. 15-17.

The long weekend will feature a host of wine tastings, gourmet dinners, and workshops about wine-making and wine-blending.

Events are priced separately, ranging in price from $50 for a class to $265 for a Private Reserve Dinner with Silver Oak Winery. Guests staying at the hotel during that weekend can attend the classes and workshops for free. For more information, call (650) 712-7040.

That same weekend in Sonoma, more than 100 wineries in the Dry Creek, Russian River and Alexander valleys who are members of the Wine Road organization will open their cellars for a post-holiday celebration, Jan. 16-17.

At this 18th annual “Winter Wineland” event, guests will be able to sip limited-production wines, as well as new releases and older vintages. Select wineries also will offer food pairings and tours.

Price is $40 for both days; $30 for Sunday only; and $10 for designated drivers.

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