New Patrick Amiot Sculpture Coming to SebastopolBy Sarah AmadorFor a free and fun outing this weekend, head to Sebastopol to visit the junk sculptures of Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. Made out of scrap or recyclable waste, these cartoon-like creations are sure to put a smile on your face. Rocket ships, monsters, mermaids, fishermen and pirates will spark your environmentally conscious imagination as you look closer to see what they’re made of.It’s hard not to laugh when you realize a caterpillar’s feet are made out of forks or that the nose of a girl is really a wrench. Pots are repurposed as hats, clocks become eyes.“People think it’s funny to see pots and pans put together,” Amiot said about their creations.In a few months, something new and unusual will be squatting in the streets of Sebastopol—a 10 foot tall junk sculpture of an orange tabby cat saying, “Slow down!” Amiot was commissioned by the Sebastopol Police Department to create the cat. It’s trailable, so it can be moved to different locations. It will be lit up at night.For Amiot, it’s all about recycling. He tries to recycle as much as he can.“I started to be peeved that I couldn’t use materials that were there,” Amiot said.He felt so strongly about this that he made the switch in 2011, letting go of the clay and bronze materials he worked with. From that point on, he only worked with reusable existing materials, such as steel and found objects, scrap and other recyclable waste.“The most important part is that I felt most comfortable reusing materials,” Amiot said, “instead of using new materials. And I still feel that way.”The husband and wife team describe themselves as urban folk artists, using bright bold colors and highly decorative design. Patrick sculpts; Brigitte paints. The artists use the beauty of their surroundings as inspiration—the colors, countryside and people of Sonoma County.One of his latest projects was making a carousel out of recycled materials. Those riding on the carousel can choose to sit on a crab, a moon, a phone, a chicken, a bumblebee or a fish, to name just a few. Plus, the carousel is solar powered! Talk about reusing, reducing and reinventing! This carousel is currently being prepared to be moved to Markham, a city near Toronto.Amiot says he finds his materials everywhere, sometimes from people that drop it, from scrappers or in the collections of Recycletown at Sonoma County’s landfill. (At Recycletown, you can see their caveman sculpture.)It’s easy to view these sculptures. You can get a map by visiting http://patrickamiot.com/visit.html and downloading the Sculpture Tour WebApp optimized for smartphones.In Sebastopol, you’ve probably seen the ambulance sculpture at Palm Drive Hospital or the tiger mascot at Analy High School. On Main Street, a sculpture of a bicyclist reminds residents to choose eco-friendly modes of travel. Dotting Highway 12 is the Big Bad Wolf Train, the Jersey Cow and Maureen the Dog.If you drive down Florence Avenue, you’ll see at least 20 sculptures, one in almost in every front yard. There’s Grateful Bird, Legend of Kootney Joe, Darlene the Waitress, Babe Ruth, Batman, a rat riding a hot rod, and a truck with a cow in the flatbed.More and more people are making a difference for our planet as they practice the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle). But have you heard about the 5 R’s? That’s reduce, reuse, recycle, rot (compost) and reinvent. The reinvent part is making art out of waste. For example, students at the school I teach at, Monte Rio Union, recently created a sculpture called “Bunny Rubble.” It’s made of marine debris collected from the Russian River Estuary and from the beaches of Sonoma Coast. The bunny is on a revolving display at the Jenner Visitor Center.For more information about Amiot and Laurent, visit http://www.patrickamiot.com or call Big Times Art Studio at (707) 824-9388.
Students Take Santa Rosa Safariby Sarah Amador“By teaching conservation through education, we create awareness. If you leave here with only one realization – that what we have on earth is perishable and we are what is making it perishable – that’s good enough for me.”— Peter Lang, Safari West founderLast week, the entire student body of Monte Rio Union School went on an African safari— without ever leaving Sonoma County. They went to Safari West, a 400 acre wildlife preserve for over 900 exotic mammals and birds, located off Mark West Springs Road. (It takes just 15 minutes to get there from downtown Santa Rosa!) The adventure was made possible for kindergarten through eighth grade students by the Safari West Foundation, an educational component of the company that teaches conservation through education.The company is dedicated to raising awareness of exotic animals, promoting understanding through in-person contact, and to the propagation of endangered species. Each year, over 10,000 school children visit the preserve on field trips! Each year, 60,000 visitors experience the thrill of seeing the exotic animals in-person.I have the privilege of teaching at Monte Rio Union School and went on the field trip as well. Around the grounds of Safari West, you could hear “oohing” and “ahing” as students pointed at giraffes, gazelles, zebras, oryx, antelopes, cape buffalo, wildebeests and cheetahs.For many children, the experience will be an once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Many of our students have never seen these kinds of animals except on a TV screen. I asked them what their impressions were. Here’s what they said:“We saw birds that looked like old people.”“The porcupines looked vicious.”“I got to see animals I have never seen before, like a monkey, rhino, flamingo, gazelle, antelope, porcupine, giant tortoise, and a cheetah. That was exciting!”“I like the monkeys that have the funny long beard.”“We got to see a bird that looked like it has a rainbow.”“My favorite was the big cows with horns.”“The keeper says if you stand on the ostrich egg, it won’t break!”“The Long Horned Cows had a pig in their family. The long horned cow saw the little boar coming along. The little boar had lost its mother; it was sad. So the long horned cow took him in and raised it like it was one of their own.”“It was really funny when a giraffe licked a lady’s hair in our group.”I was lucky enough to see this! We were on the tram tour, passing the giraffes, when one came up and tried to kiss our guide, Corrine Bishop, on the cheek! (At least, that’s what it looked like it was trying to do!) Bishop moved away, and the giraffe licked her hair. Bishop is the Events Manager for Safari West. When she heard that the Monte Rio students were going to visit, she jumped at the chance to volunteer to guide our students during the tram tour.Bishop was once herself a student at Monte Rio during her eighth grade year, from 1994-1995. It was the first year of the new Monte Rio School building.“My memories were great,” Bishop said of the Monte Rio Union School. “The teachers genuinely cared for each and every one of the students, and they created an atmosphere that was conducive to learning at our own levels. I truly enjoyed the time I spent there.”“My love of animals was strong from the get go,” Bishop added. “My parents raised me with all sorts of farm animals and taught me how important it was to protect and care for them. My love of Safari West started in high school at El Molino. My friend volunteered here many years before I ever thought about applying. He shared with me about how wonderful the owners were and all about how much they had taught him along the way.”Bishop began as a volunteer in 2008, fell in love immediately and never left. She was hired in 2008, and is getting ready to celebrate her six years of employment in August.Bishop’s craziest experience so far is falling head over heels in love with a Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture “Harvey.”“When I first started here I was terrified of most large birds,” Bishop reported. “I began working in our bird kitchen department and slowly I began to feel comfortable working around them. Then “it” happened. I was feeding a very large vulture his diet, and it just hit me—he needs love and attention just like everyone else does. He just looks scary; people were more afraid of him than they needed to be. I was afraid of him and he was reaching out for someone to love him. He and I were best buds from that point on.”It is Safari West’s belief that the more children know about animals, the more they appreciate them and want them to be around for the future.Safari West was rated by AAA as a must experience location in California, second only to Disney Land! Sunset Magazine has listed it as one of the top 300 destinations in the western United States.To book a tour or learn more about the animals of Africa, visit Safari West at http://www.safariwest.com or contact them at (707) 579-2551.
Petaluma’s 33rd Annual Butter & Eggs Day Parade & Festivalby Sarah AmadorFor a unique family outing this Saturday, April 26, head to Petaluma for the 33rd Annual Butter & Eggs Days Parade & Festival. You’ll get to participate in the celebration of Petaluma’s heritage, enjoy local food, shop arts and crafts, have fun with the kids, and more!Once known as the “Egg Capital of the World,” Petaluma has a rich history in farming and egg production. Nearly 100 years ago the city was shipping 16 million dozen eggs each year. Petaluma eggs were served to the president of the United States and the king of England. This fame earned the city the nickname of “Chickaluma.”Festivities will be kick-started with the Cutest Little Chick Contest at 10:15 a.m. (What can be cuter than toddlers in chick attire?) At the same time, cow chips will be flung at the Cow Chip Throwing Contest. (Free tip: Don’t make the mistake of thinking you throw dried cow dung like a frisbee. It might look like a discus, but it’s not. Throw overhand, like it’s a baseball.)At 11:30, the Clover Kids’ Parade will begin, followed by the Main Parade. Afterwards, you can enjoy El Dia de los Muertos pre parade entertainment and live music at the Riverfront Stage with Bad Neighbors. Beer gardens will offer local beer.Parade-goers will also get a chance to see this year’s “Good Egg” marching in the parade. The award is presented to a community member who h
as preserved the city’s history and contributed to its promotion. This year the award went to John Crowley, owner of the Aqus Café. The café has become a community hub, a way to connect as well as present local art and literature. Crowley also organized the Pub Crawl, a quarterly event that leads participants through the city’s historic buildings and streets, as well as restaurants, galleries, taverns, shops and back alley artist spaces.The Petaluma Downtown Association provides yet another community building component during this festival. If you wear a 2014 Friends of the Parade button, you will benefit from specials at local businesses, such as a free appetizer at Buffalo Wild Wings, two for one tastings at Enriquez Estate Wines, or free hair glitter at Lions & Tigers & Hair. Buttons are $5 and are available at local businesses like Aqus Café and Petaluma Market.Petaluma Transit offers free rides all day. For more information about Friends of the Parade buttons and festival schedule, visit http://www.petalumadowntown.com/butter-and-egg-days-parade.html.
68th Annual Blossom Festival in Sebastopolby Sarah AmadorFor 67 years, apple blossoms have festooned the streets of Sebastopol during the Gravenstein Apple Blossom Festival. Last weekend was no exception, when the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center hosted the 68th festival, themed “Red, White and Blues Blossoms.” This was my first year attending. My husband and I made a date of it, and had a great tim
e. We plan on returning every year.This festival is for everyone, and especially delightful for families. Attendees enjoyed a parade of over 100 entries (from floats to horses to electric vehicles) and danced to the bluesy groove of local talent and legends. With 85 exhibitors, you could get almost anything you craved. My husband and I chose falafel and Lagunitas beer (who knew what a great combo that would be?), and finished it off with a dessert of kettle corn. For those who preferred first-rate local wine, Balletto Vineyards, Gary Farrell and Harvest Moon were pouring, to name just a few. The food options were diverse, such as homespun organic cotton candy, gourmet corn dogs, Frozen Art Ice Cream and Thai Kebob BBQ. If one’s dream was to shop local crafts and creations, that was provided too.For the younger set of parade-goers, there was cornucopia of adrenalin rushes to choose from, like spinning in a teacup, zip lining or petting a baby turkey. The expandedkids area included mechanical bull rides, carnival games, super bounce houses with giant slides, a train and a pirate ship that swung like a pendulum. A small-scale petting zoo completed the kid fun, with chickens and chicks, ducks, baby turkeys and goats. The playgrounds at Ives Park were also full of children playing. It was sweet, watching the kids play while the parents swayed to the blues. Everyone got into the groove—grandparents dancing with children, couples dancing with each other.Live music was performed on two stages. My husband and I were lucky enough to see Joe Louis Walker (Blues Hall of Fame member and participant in Grammy-winning records by B.B. King and James Cotton) and local Forestville celebrity David Luning (American Idol alum). During the festival, attendees also got to groove to the Grammy-nominated band Frobeck, award-winning blues artist Janiva Magness and other great local musicians.Near the end of the festival, my husband and I sat on a bench in the shade, listened to the mellow crooning of David Luning, and watched a child and his mother spin each other in a two-step dance. It was a perfect way to end a lovely festival.
Some Favorite Picnic Sitesby Sarah AmadorAt Bodega Head, whales are spouting and breaching. At Jenner, the seal pups are rolling around to show off how cute they are. Flowers are blooming, gardens growing so fast we can almost sit and watch them get taller. At times, the birds are so loud they’re deafening.As we experience bliss in Sonoma County along with this fabulous weather, it’s time to dust off that picnic basket. Wonder where to picnic next?Try some of our favorite picnic spots:
- Jack London State Park
- Spring Lake
- Ragle Ranch
- Armstrong Woods
- Kortum Trail in Jenner (Good spot for whale sightings! Later, you can walk down Goat Rock Beach to designated areas to view the seal pups!)
- Bodega Head (Awesome whale sightings!)And here’s some of our favorite places to pick up picnic food!1. Community MarketAt the Barlow in Sebastopol6762 Sebastopol Ave. #100(707) 407-2040Hours: 8 am – 9 pm dailyIn Santa Rosa1899 Mendocino Ave.Hours: 8 am – 9 pam weekdays; 9 am – 9 pm weekends(707) 546-1806This market is more than just a grocery store. Community Market offers local, organic and wholesome food, as well as the chance to make community connections. It also provides a 100% organic produce department! With markets in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, there’s one close to most residents of Sonoma County.The newer Sebastopol location is situated in The Barlow. If you haven’t visited this community yet, you’re in for a treat. Not only is there access to quality local goods, but you get to meet the artisans and makers themselves. At the Community Market’s location at The Barlow, you can also relax in a wine and beer garden!2. Dry Creek General Store3495 Dry Creek RoadHealdsburg, CA 95448(707) 433-4171Hours: Monday-Saturday, 6:30 am – 5:30 pmSunday, 7:00 am – 5:30 pmFor farm fresh produce, food and local wines, visit the Dry Creek General Store. It offers a large selection of artisanal meats, cheeses, crackers, jams and hand-made treats. To complete the perfect picnic, the store sells wine, of course. At the deli you can buy delicious sandwiches like the Imported Mortadella, as well as soups and salads.3. JimtownAlexander Valley6706 California 128Healdsburg, CA 95448(707) 433-1212Hours: Monday & Thursday 7:30 am – 3:00 pmFriday-Sunday 7:30 am – 5:00 pmClosed Tuesday & WednesdayIn the heart of Alexander Valley, Jimtown offers homemade food, unique condiments and wine too. It has been featured in publications such as USA Today, The New York Times and Better Homes and Gardens. Plus, they offer boxed lunches. When planning a picnic, sometimes these two words can be magical (aka, no preparation)!4. Kozlowski Farms5566 Hwy. 116Forestville, California 95436(707) 887-1587, (800) 473-2767Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.Saturday, Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.Visiting Kozlowski Farms is like stepping back to the 1950s and into the kitchen of founder Carmen Kozlowski. At this family-owned farm and store, they still make Carmen’s recipes, like her Gravenstein Apple Pie. In 1984, Carmen made her raspberry bread with Julia Child on Good Morning America. In 1997, Carmen received the Sonoma County Lifetime Achievement in Agriculture Award. Kozlowski Farms has been named an area destination on the PBS program: “California Heartland” and KRON-TV’s “Bay Area Back Roads. Although perhaps most famous for pies and jam, their Russian River Valley store offers much more. Think fruit butters, chipotle grilling and dipping sauce, chutney and marmalades. Plus, they also make a boutique-production Pinot Noir!5. Korbel Delicatessen13250 River RoadGuerneville, CA 95446Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., daily(707) 824-7313Gourmet award-winning food, box lunches and wine! At Korbel, you can wine taste, select your picnic wine or champagne, and buy plenty of local artisan cheese, bread, and sweets for a great picnic.My favorites are the Roasted Turkey Breast sandwich (with their special cranberry chutney) and the Grilled Marinated Eggplant sandwich. For something sweet, I recommend the organic lemon curd from Forestville. It’s fabulous with a baguette or just plain, on a spoon! This spread has been a hit every time I’ve brought it to potlucks.But beware—with patio seating near a fountain, a view of the vineyards and redwoods, you may not want to leave!For the menu, visit http://www.korbel.com/pdfs/Brochure2012.pdfFor box lunches, pre-order at least 24 hours in advance by calling 707-824-7708, Monday-Friday 8 am – 4 pm.6. Sophie’s Cellars25179 Hwy. 116Duncans Mills, CA 95430Hours: Monday & Thursday 11 am – 5 pm.Friday 11 am – 7 pmSaturday & Sunday 11 am – 5 pm(707) 865-1122If you’re already headed out to the coast, and have passed Guerneville, no worries! At Sophie’s Cellars you can pick up picnic items such as local artisan cheese (Cowgirl Creamery and Humboldt Fog!), gourmet crackers and local fine wine.
The Perfect FinishBy Sarah AmadorWhat’s the perfect finish to a day of savoring wine? Chocolate tasting, of course.A couple of Sundays ago, my husband and I were in Sonoma. (We had just taken our biplane ride.) After doing some wine tasting, we visited Wine Country Chocolates in Sonoma Plaza. The shop offers free daily chocolate tastings of ganache (the inside of a truffle) and three kinds of chocolate. The chocolate shop models itself after the way a wine tasting room is run. As you sample, you learn.For instance, did you know you are supposed to keep dark chocolate the way you keep red wine? (Out of the light.)They even have a Truffle Club, in which patrons receive a personalized selection of chocolates each month.We tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon ganache; it melted in our mouths like a cloud of rich, luxurious silk. Wine Country Chocolates creates a ganache from blended Guittard and Sharffen Berger chocolates, fresh dairy cream and butter.I bought 12 truffles and a 1.1 pound 91% cacao Guittard chocolate bar. All the chocolates are free of preservatives and waxes. What am I going to do with a huge square of dark chocolate? Lots of things—bake with it, create shavings for the top of desserts, and melt it into a spicy sipping chocolate drink.Wine Country Chocolates began when Betty Kelly and her husband bought a truffle-making operation in 2000. Now it has transformed into a successful mother-and-daughter chocolate company. Betty Kelly partners with her daughter, Caroline, in running the chocolate shops in Glen Ellen and Sonoma.In Glen Ellen, you can watch the chocolatiers make the ganache—forming, pressing and enrobing it in dark chocolate.It was hard, but when I returned home, I decided to share the truffles with my 18-year-old son. Within four days, we had polished them off. They were irresistible! I especially loved the vintner-inspired ones: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Port, Champagne. The Pomegranate with Orange Blossom Honey was incredible.But hands down, what was our favorite? The Cappuccinno-Tiramisu, a blend of coffee with one of the best desserts ever! It turns out, others agree. This truffle is a best-seller.“Sometimes you have a recipe that comes together perfectly,” Kelly said of the Cappuccinno-Tiramisu.Another treat in high demand is the Berry Pomegrenate. A blend of dried blueberries, pomegranates, cranberries and dark chocolate, it packs in the antioxidants. (Blueberries contain more antioxidants than any other of the 40 common fruits and vegetables. Pomegranates, cranberries and dark chocolate are also filled with them. What’s more—berries boost memory and play a key factor in healthy aging.)“I can’t keep those on the shelf,” Kelly said.Another favorite is the Caramel Rocky Road. Again, simple rich ingredients complement each other—almonds, marshmallows and chocolate, drizzled with caramel.Experience the chocolates for yourself at either the Glen Ellen location (14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen) from 10 am to 5 pm daily or in Sonoma (414 First Street East, Sonoma) from 11 am to 5 pm daily. You can buy their Wine Country Chocolates at the shops or online. Visit https://www.winecountrychocolates.com or call (707) 996-1010.
Hit the Trail for Earth Dayby Sarah Amador
Thrill of a Lifetime
10 Top Doggie Day Hikes
Just Created! Bald Eagle Bird Watch
Philip handed me the binoculars just in time to focus on the eagle, watch it jump on something, then flap its wings and leap into the sky. It flew upriver.
That made the third American Bald Eagle sighting for Philip this week in our Duncans Mills neighborhood. Last week, he saw a bald eagle flying in the thermals above a kettle of turkey vultures. It swooped down past the vultures, plucked its prey from the hill, and then flew south. It moved its prey from talon to talon in order to shake grass off, holding its prey captive all the while. On the next day, during a walk with our dogs, one flew right over him, over the tops of the redwoods.
More and more bald eagle sightings on the lower Russian River have been reported this year, so many that birders are beginning to ask questions like these: Gualala has a nesting pair—is the same pair coming down here? Are they nesting?
To answer these questions, we’ve joined with David Berman, Programs Director for Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, and created a new online discussion board at Yahoo! Group. It’s called the Bald Eagle Watch (bewrussianriver.org). Our goal is to collect and record evidence of bald eagles on the lower Russian River.
I’d like to think we have our own pair, and they are nesting, since my husband and I saw a pair back on “Canoozday” (my first 101 Travel Blog) and one of them had a large branch in its mouth. According to Jenner birders, a pair has taken up residence north of the estuary for many months out of the year, for some time now.
When I was little, no one ever saw bald eagles. Not one of my parents or relatives had ever seen one. In the 1960s, the bald eagle population had gone down to 450 breeding pair. In 1967, bald eagles were declared an endangered species. But what was the population like in our nation like before Columbus arrived? Most ornithologists believe that every lake and river had bald eagles. They estimate that the bald eagle population was at half a million.
Not many species have been strong enough to be removed from the endangered species list, but the bald eagle did so in 2007. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, our nation now has an estimation of 9,789 bald eagle breeding pairs. California has an estimation of 200 breeding pairs.
Have you witnessed the majestic flight of bald eagles lately on the lower Russian River? If you have, help us keep track of their growing population by posting on bewrussianriver.org. (You can do so by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/dir, and then browsing for our group by typing in “bewrr.” This Yahoo! Group is a public discussion group. Simply subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org and then post at email@example.com.)
Enjoy the Moment at Sophie’s Cellar Wine Bar
Give Yourself the Gift of Music at Green Music Center
Ode to Rainbow… My Special Valentines Dog
My mother spoke this prayer during my wedding ceremony, seven years ago. In reading it today, and thinking of Valentine’s Day around the corner, I think it applies to many relationships in our lives—spouses, best friends. And canines too.
Finding Petaluma Gems… My Journey
by Sarah Amador
One of my favorite places in Petaluma is the downtown small square on Petaluma Boulevard, between Washington Street and Western Avenue. The ambiance is just right, with weeping willows, a splashing fountain, and the Petaluma River only yards away.
Petaluma Pie Company, situated in the corner of the courtyard. Upon entering the pie shop, one of the first things I noticed was the humming. But it wasn’t bees making the sound, it was people. “Mmmmmm. . .mmmmmm.” I asked owner Angelo Sacerdote if he and co-owner Lina Hoshino hear that sound a lot.
“We get lots of that,” he admitted. “People aren’t used to smelling pie.”
What’s also excellent about this pie shop? Most of their ingredients are organic and grown locally.
“If it’s grown locally, we try to buy it locally,” Sacerdote said.Business has been good. Petaluma Pie Company has expanded their business and are now in their fourth year.
When I was handed my warm Sour Cream Apple pie, a two-year-old girl looked up at me. “Nice pie!” she said, looking very serious, observing my pie.
“Yes!” I agreed. My apple sour cream pie was delicious, with Fuji and Pink Lady apples. Sweet but not too sweet.
For those who decide to follow my journey, I’d recommend making the night a progressive dinner of sorts. Start with a savory pie, like the Mushroom and Goat Gouda or Organic Chicken Pot Pie. Share a pie or order your own mini. One mini pie is more than enough as an entree.
Next on my list—some wine. I walked past the fountain and rounded the corner to step into Vine & Barrel. The shop specializes in fine, rare and boutique wines with 90 point ratings and higher. These include international wines, Sonoma County and Petaluma wines. There are six beers on draft. There’s food too. A full menu of tapas and charcuterie is offered, such as Goat Cheese with Fruit and Nuts or the Grand Platter.
Owner Jason Jenkins poured me a glass of 2011 Americana Petite Syrah that was out of this world. It was like drinking liquid satin or European sipping chocolate. It left a warm feeling in my mouth, the taste free of tannins, the bouquet nicely blooming.
The true treasure of this gem may be the wine club. At only $35 per month, members receive two hand-picked bottles by Jenkins, and receive full-time happy hour prices plus a 15% discount on all the wine. That’s right, all the wine.
For my last stop of the evening, I walked across the street to Viva Cocolat. This artisan chocolate shop offers creations from 30 local, national, and international artisan chocolatiers, as well as a full espresso bar. Owner Lynn Wong began the shop because she wanted to bring in good chocolate and educate others.
“Nobody tastes chocolate,” Wong said. “Everyone eats chocolate, but nobody tastes it. For me, it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality.” Customers tell Wong that she has changed their relationship with chocolate.
Some of them admit they dream about the chocolate from her shop.
“It takes all five senses to taste chocolate,” Wong said. “Good chocolate, just a little will sustain you.” For the hot chocolate, Wong only uses Belgian chocolate. “I think about American hot chocolate, and how it is milk-based. European style is like a melted chocolate bar, like melted pudding.” When the cups and saucers arrived for my tasting, the cups were warm from the hot chocolate inside, just perfect for drinking. One was the traditional European style and one was spiced with cinnamon and cayenne. Atop each was a dollop of fresh whipped cream. On the side of each saucer sat a tiny spoon.
“Why the spoon?” I asked.
Wong smiled. “People were complaining they couldn’t get to the bottom of the cup.”
This February 9th will mark Viva Cocolat’s 6th year anniversary. In 2012, the shop was named Best Chocolate Shop by the North Bay Bohemian.For Valentines there will be hanging hearts in the back room, mood lighting, an intimate atmosphere fitting for a decadent selection of aphrodisiacal chocolate. Reservations are required.
If you don’t decide on sipping hot chocolate, you might try a pot of chocolate fondue. Dark, milk and white chocolate is available. The fondue has dipping edibles such as strawberries, cookies or cream puffs, pretzels, or fruits.
“Which one would you pick?” Wong wanted to know.
“The spicy chocolate,” I confessed.
The European style sipping chocolate was excellent, creamy, caressing even, but the spicy sipping hot chocolate was spicy as well as velvety sweet. It dipped me as if in a dance, the warmth crept up, and nearly overwhelmed.
I did need to use the spoon, after all. It seemed necessary to scrape up every last drop.
For the final section of this walkabout, I took a stroll behind Viva Cocolat to the canal. When you walk on the bridge spanning the canal, the string of lights from the restaurant reflect in the water, and you can’t help but think of Venice. If you squint just right, you could be there. Glorious food and wine at your fingertips. All that’s missing is some harpsichord music and a floating gondola.
My recommendation for those recreating this journey with romance in mind? Finish the evening here, on the bridge spanning the canal, and seal the night with a kiss.
Heroes: Keeping Your Parks Open – Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
When you walk through Armstrong Woods, you often see people with their eyes fixed to the sky, necks craned, catching silhouettes of treetops towering overhead. In places like this, you breathe deeper. A feeling of gratitude descends, for the trees and all they give, for their beauty, and for the stewards who protect them.
Bald Eagle Sightings in Wild America (Jenner)
by Sarah Amador