Sonoma is known as Wine Country, but it may well be called Olive Country, too, since the tangy orbs are actually the Valley’s second-largest crop.
And did you know that olives are an alternate bearing fruit? Meaning that one year, a tree may produce plentiful harvest, but the next year, the branches may be nearly bare.
One thing is consistent, however, and that is Sonoma’s annual olive festivals. Starting Saturday Jan. 28, the celebration kicks off with the Eleventh Annual Feast of the Olive Dinner, hosted at Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma and showcasing the talents of eighteen chefs – the largest number of toques ever for the Feast.
As expected, recipes are inspired by opulent olives, in a multi-course wine-paired supper prepared by Sonoma Valley’s top chefs, including John Toulze (the girl & the fig), Bruno Tison (the Michelin-starred Santé), Jeffrey Lloyd (Zagat rated Café La Haye), Jason Rose (the new Carneros hotspot Ram’s Gate Winery). You can see the complete red carpet round up of chefs here.
The menu is top-secret until the night of the dinner, but for some mouthwatering temptation, last year’s plates were swoon-worthy, such as wild boar with mushroom and olive risotto; scallops, Brussels sprouts, truffle ravioli, and smoked olive oil; red wine braised short rib with creamy garlic polenta, niçoise and picholine olives, caperberries and piquillo peppers; and rosemary grilled prawns with black olive tapenade, arugula salad and red pepper coulis finished with stone edge farm extra virgin olive oil.
Part of the fun is that a separate team of chefs is assigned to each table grouping, so guests can compare meals with their neighboring diners. Dessert is a highlight – last year wowed with delights like Guittard chocolate mousse with Moroccan black olive crème anglaise and tuile, picholine and blood orange tapenade.
Details: Eleventh Annual Feast of the Olive Dinner, Jan. 28, 6-10 p.m. at Ramekins Culinary School, 450 West Spain Street, Sonoma. For tickets ($150/person), call (707) 996-1090 ext.108 or visit sonomavalley.com.
For another olive-licious highlight, don’t miss the 7th Annual VinOlivo Grand Tasting, held Feb. 17, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Lodge at Sonoma. It’s an evening of sipping Sonoma Valley’s best wines, poured personally by the winemakers, and paired with food from more than two dozen Sonoma chefs, caterers, and artisans. The crowds love the pommes frites and sparkling wine bar, and the exclusive Port collection.
Details: VinOlivo, Friday, February 17, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Lodge at Sonoma, 1325 Broadway, Sonoma. Tickets are $75 per person in advance, $85 at the door. Pre-Sale tickets close Friday, February 17 at 3 p.m. PST. To purchase, call 707-935-0803 or sonomavalleywine.com.
The olive season doesn’t end with the supper, and so, neither does the celebration. Through February, there are many opportunities to celebrate the noble fruit, from complimentary tastings at the Olive Press and Figone’s, to an Olive Odyssey at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards on February 18 and 19, where olive curers will offer samples of their special delicacies and share their curing recipes in the beautiful Tuscan courtyard at the winery. The curious can get tours of the olive mill, while the hungry can enjoy an olive inspired lunch or snack like Village Bakery olive bread and Italian pastries. There will even be olive inspired photography, ceramics, glass bead art, paintings and more.
Admission is free, at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, (707) 931-7551, jacuzziwines.com.
Tip: Pure Luxury is perfect for olive your transportation needs, be it a limo to the Olive Feast, or a Town Car to the tastings.