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A R C H I V E D...S U N D A Y...M O N T H L Y S 


N A P A.. - .. S O N O M A ...L O R E


I came across a couple of very (very, very) old photos the other day. They brought back fuzzy memories of a five-year old - me, the one on the left with my grandfather, Adamo Polidori, and my cousin Julie.


This five-year-old vaguely remembers walking around fallen autumn leaves, in a woodsy area - some distance from our Napa home. It was dark and cold, maybe 5-ish in the morning. We were mushroom foraging. I'm not sure what Julie's and my duties were. Certainly not selecting which mushrooms to dig as some were deadly. Oh how I wish I could fill in lost memories of these treasured adventures.

Alert! Tangent Ahead


These photos were taken in my grandparent's garage. When I was a child, Napa had a large Italian population that immigrated during the first decade of the 20th century. My grandfather came to San Francisco in 1907 along with relatives, the Bertellotti and Viviani families, who eventually established the Cheese Factory on Sonoma's Square and Della Santina across the Square on East Napa Street..


However, Della Santina was not a restaurant at the time but a bakery. The Bertellotti family lived in the stone house next door - now designated a historic building. If you go, you'll see the plaque.  

While mental images of mushroom foraging are dull, spending much of my childhood in my grandparent's garage are very clear. You might think it strange, and maybe it was, but all the Italians I knew had a second kitchen in their garage. My grandparent's real kitchen was upstairs and used for morning coffee, or hot chocolate, with a Stella D'Oro cookie. Garage kitchens were spotless - even those sharing vehicles. You can barely see my grandfather's red Rambler by my right arm. Trust me, the floors, appliances and countertops were spotless.


When that big table did not hold freshly-picked mushrooms, there was a good chance that my grandmother was rolling out ravioli dough. I said "big table" but as I see it now, it's not so big. Anyway, if this lifestyle sounds familiar to you, will you tell me about it? For many years, I mistakenly thought that everyone had a kitchen in their garage. Did you?..


Would you grant me another tangent? A forgotten garage-memory just flashed before me.

It was customary for all these "old" Italians (most younger than I am today) to gather at each other's homes -

usually in the garage and then spill out to the backyard's picnic table.

Eating ... always eating.


I can still clearly hear my grandmother's plea to me, "Peri (not Patti), a mangiare ... sembri così

magro." (come eat ... you look so skinny.)


One day, a gathering of ladies met in my grandparent's garage with ice, needles, rubbing alcohol, and tiny gold hoop earrings. Pain was then lovingly inflicted on little girls' ears as they were pierced.

A rite of passage I guess. Now back to mushrooms.


Did you know that mushroom foraging has a rich 1,000-year-old history in California? Indigenous people used them for food or medicinal or spiritual purposes. Early 19th century European settlers continued the tradition and established dozens of clubs, state-wide, dedicated to the study and appreciation of these funghi. California's climate provides ideal growing conditions for a wide range of varieties. They grow year-round but are best harvested in autumn and winter.


I've always heard that mushrooms had health benefits. Seems likely but I didn't know exactly what they were. So, in doing a quick Google search, I learned a few things. Some curious. For instance, according to the site, "There are an estimated 140,000 species of mushrooms. Mycologists are acquainted with less than 10-percent of them." Wait ... what? Then how did they estimate that there are 140,000 species? Maybe there are more then, right?


The site says that 100 species are currently under review for their medicinal application and health benefits. If it is to be believed (sure, why not), then mushrooms can alleviate inflammation and hypertension, improve gastrointestinal health, fight off cancer and diabetes, lower cholesterol, and boost the immune system. They are also an excellent source of vitamin D, copper and zinc - all essential for the development of new bone cells.

B A K E D...M U S H R O O M...C R O S T I N I


I've adapted chef and restauranteur, Lidia Bastianich's recipe to suit my picky texture thing by chopping the mushrooms rather than slicing. But before getting to her recipe, a couple of fun facts:


Both crostini and bruschetta are small, thin slices of toasted bread. Both are usually rubbed with garlic and then brushed with olive oil. But crostini have added toppings like cheese, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, shrimp, or mushrooms while bruschetta does not.


Bruschetta is pronounced bru-SKET-ta where the "che" is a hard "k." Capisce?


While my family liked mushrooms, I did not. It was a texture thing. But I eventually grew out of my finickiness (somewhat) and now enjoy them -

if pureed or finely chopped.

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (or roughly chopped)

1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms (cremini, button, shitake, oyster, chanterelle) thinly sliced - I prefer finely chopped

4 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/2 t kosher salt

2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley

8 slices country bread very lightly toasted (I like Acme sourdough baguette sliced on a severe diagonal)

1 C grated Fontina cheese

1/2 C freshly grated parmesan, romano or grana padano


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Add 2 T olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic when oil is hot. Add mushrooms and sage once garlic is sizzling.


Cook WITHOUT stirring (helps to release water and brown the exteriors) until browned on one side - about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir and brown the other side. Season with the salt. Cover and cook until tender - about 5 minutes.


Uncover and remove garlic (I don't remove as I like soft, cooked chunks of garlic.) Stir in parsley and set aside.


On a baking sheet, brush both sides of the already-lightly toasted bread with olive oil. In a medium bowl, toss together the grated cheeses. Stir half of the cheese mixture with the mushrooms.


Put cheese-mushroom mixture on toast and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake until tops are browned and cheese bubbly - about 10-12 minutes. Serve hot.


B O O K.. B O U N D


I tend to read books in clusters. That is, when I'm interested in a topic, I seek out a handful of books on that topic until I find a new interest. About 30 years ago, I was on a B.C. empire kick and started with The Assyrian by Nicholas Guild. It led to The Persian Wars by Herodotus and The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. And for a time, I was an Alexander the Great geek.


This phase was later replaced by my Knights Templar geekdom-hood when I found a book so good that I enthusiastically reommended it to a friend. An obscure book at that time. But sometime between my recommendation and my friend's trip to the Sausalito library, it must have hit "the pink section" of the old San Francisco Chronicle (who remembers that? - it was soooo good) because my friend ended up being number 100-plus on the library's waiting list for the book! What was it? Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

I have no doubt that my new recommendation is just as good or better. It's a #1 Best Seller. Per Amazon, "It answers the hundred-year-old mystery of what really became of Rudolf Diesel ... author Douglas Brunt reopens the case and provides an astonishing new conclusion about Diesel’s fate ... yanks back the curtain on the greatest caper of the 20th century in this riveting history.”


Diesel's disappearance would have been front page news day after day had it not been overshadowed by the outbreak of WW1. This Elon Musk-type figure had two powerful enemies - John D. Rockefeller and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. Was one responsible for his disappearance? Hmm...


R E A D E R...D E S I G N...Q U E S T I O N


I received another design question from a reader. This time regarding doors - colors, sheens, paints, stains. I'm a fan of painted doors as I'm a fan of color, in general. As for interior door color, it depends on the style of house. Any color suits cottage and farmhouse styles whereas I'd go with black or grey in modern applications. Nothing beats an oil-based paint on wood but it is heavily regulated in California and banned in some retail stores. The next best thing is C2 Paint. Once I discovered this brand at Napa's Devine Paint Store on Lincoln, I used it for my clients' kitchen and bath cabinets as well as door and millwork. It's fantastic! Ask the guys at Devine. They are over-the-top helpful. (If you talk to Owen, tell him you receive The Sunday Monthly. He'll know what you mean.)


I make a couple of exceptions in terms of paint vs stain. Arts and Crafts (or Craftsman) houses should have stained doors because the philosophy behind this movement is an appreciation of all things natural. I don't think Frank Lloyd Wright ever opened or closed a single painted door in his life.

If you're interested in front doors specifically, read "The Power of the Front Door" and "Is Yellow the New Red?" in my archived columns (click purple button at bottom of this newsletter.)


I love the color orange so when my clients wanted to do a bit of cosmetic zushing on doors, walls and upholstery, I was over-the-moon when they chose this color. With their permission, I will show you their project in the future.

Left and right: One of my all-time fave pair of front doors. The opened left side shows the exterior's coffee-bean color while the right side shows its persimmon interior. 


Right: Another fave front door along with its interior doors below. Semi-gloss black.


An entire rebuild after a Napa wildfire. I liked this color scheme so much that I copied it in my own home.


An entirely wallpapered two-story 1890s home.


(We used 5 different but coordinating - of course - wallpaper patterns upstairs and down.) Grey doors and woodwork throughout unify its blue, white, grey, and green color story. 


Below: A late 19th c. home in Napa's historic district. An almost-total gut and reno project. So happy my client was on board with the grey-white-mustard floor tile. It inspired the grey and mustard woodwork. Doors are dark charcoal grey.  




Left: A late 19th c. home in Napa's historic district. An almost-total gut and reno project. So happy my client was on board with the grey-white-mustard floor tile. It inspired the grey and mustard woodwork. Doors are dark charcoal grey.  





More photos of these projects here:

Left: A blue door coordinates with the San Francisco Bay beyond this Tiburon home. 

Looks like I don't have photos of stained doors in my portfolio. I've done them but doors usually aren't the focus on photo-shoot day. But if stained is your preference, I support you!


B U T.. W A I T .. T H E R E ' S.. M O R E


If you read my last issue, you know I'm an old '40s black & white movie fan. But I was never crazy about Cary Grant. Didn't not like him but just not a super fan. For some time, the documentary about his life, "Archie", has been on BritBox - of which I am a huge fan. I eventually decided to watch it. Thought it was really well-done. A heartbreaking and interesting story. I give it 5-stars and a thumbs-up.


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