At The Kitchen With the Divas

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I was at The Kitchen recently for a $250-a-head dinner to benefit the March of Dimes. The special guests were SacMag’s own Dining Divas. Chef/owner Randall Selland and his wife, Nancy Zimmer, donated the food and service; Renwood Winery donated the wines.

Randall was his characteristic wild self: shouting, gesticulating, sometimes hilarious, other times rude, always fascinating. We had seven food courses, or “acts,” as The Kitchen calls them. Act III was a salad of red endive, frisee, baby lettuces, cured pork belly, bleu cheese farma cotta and something called “tanned walnuts.” What the heck are those? Randall explained that tanned walnuts are the nuts that grow on the outside of the walnut tree, benefiting from the greater exposure to the sun. That makes them milder and less bitter tasting than regular walnuts. They were mild, almost vanilla-like, crisp, crunchy and delicious. The pork belly was served like a chip, in a crisp, paper-thin slice. It had a rich, deep bacon flavor.

Renwood Winery owners Robert and Renee Smerling attended, and Robert spoke a few times during the evening, describing the wines and giving a spellbinding history of California Gold Country wines. The evening’s wines included a 2005 Amador County Syrah, a 2006 Amador Viognier, a 2004 Zinfandel, a 2004 Renwood Vintage Port from Amador County, and the signature Renwood Granpere Zinfandel.

Renwood’s surprise star of the night: the 2006 Santino Pinot Grigio, from the self-named Roberto’s block in El Dorado. The Smerlings purchased the winery 10 years ago, and they make only 200 cases of this varietal per year. It was light, crisp and bracing, and its pleasant, smooth taste surprised many.

By the way, special recognition was given that night to Gloria Glyer and the Dining Divas. After departing from the Sacramento Union about 14 years ago, the Divas (Gayla Mace, Bernice Hagen, Paulette Bruce, Peg Tomlinson and Gloria) have dined on behalf of Sacramento magazine since 1994, meaning that Gloria has written about her experiences for SacMag a total of about 175 times. Lunches with the Divas are auctioned off well in advance to benefit a charity. The Divas have raised more than $300,000 for local charities.