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Sweet (Potato) Surprise

When Natalia Fritz accidentally combined her homemade sweet potato puree with a simmering pot of marinara, she didn’t panic. On the contrary, she introduced her hungry family to Natalia’s Sweet Potato Tomato Sauce, which became a favorite.

After that pivotal dinner meal, it wasn’t long until I was cooking up batches of my sauce for lasagna, chicken Parmesan, homemade pizza and as a dip for meatballs and chicken fingers. Each dish was a bigger hit than the last,” she writes on her website. “I bought myself a pressure canner and began making it and jarring it for friends and their families.”

Now available online and at select North Bay grocers, it’s gluten free, low fat (no sugar added), has no artificial ingredients and contains 75 percent vegetables (more than 50 percent sweet potato). We used it to season stuffed bell peppers and as a base for pepper pot soup. The sweet potato flavor adds a deliciously unexpected, earthy twist to anything typically made with tomato sauce or paste.


Lift Your Spirits

If you enjoy a special mixed drink on a night out, but making them at home for yourself or guests feels like more work (and expense) than fun, check out Sonoma Coast Spirits’ premixed cocktails.

For years, company cofounder Jill Olson (with her husband, David) has been creating concoctions and giving them away to family and friends during the holidays. They started the company in 2011 after she perfected her lemon drop. It was so popular she decided, after much coaxing from her girlfriends, to formulate and bottle it for everyone to enjoy.

“I wanted to create a lemon drop that tastes exactly like, if not better, than if you went to a club or restaurant and ordered one that was made fresh on the spot. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and tart, yet still has the right amount of vodka and is all natural,” says Jill.

She nailed it. This vodka-based, premixed cocktail is delicious served either over ice or in a martini glass rimmed with sugar—not overly sweet and with enough kick (32 proof) to make it worth your while.

The product line now includes the Lemon Drop Martini as well as Mango Tango and Pomegranate Lime craft cocktails. A Whiskey Sour will be introduced soon.

Magical Blend

Sonomic Almost Vinegar began as a kitchen experiment in 2008, using Cabernet Sauvignon juice as the base. It was a collaboration between a distiller, a chef and Bill Reading, a winemaker and owner of Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma.

Beginning with small batches in 2009, Sonomic was introduced in the Sonoma Portworks tasting room. In 2010 and 2011, the other collaborators dropped out, and Bill and his wife, Caryn, moved forward on their own. In 2013, Reading added Sonomic Gold, made with white grapes, which has bright apricot flavors and a bit more acidity.

Sonomic is called “almost vinegar” because, as a blend of fermented and unfermented juice (Reading keeps the full process proprietary), it doesn’t meet the acid level of a full vinegar. It does have the richness of an aged balsamic, and the sweetness of ripe winegrapes, but there’s no aging, alcohol or added sugar.

Sweet and tart, rich and earthy, Sonomic can flavor lemonade, sparkling water or cocktails. It can enhance vegetables, dress salads or add the finishing touch to grilled meat or fish. It can turn fresh strawberries or ice cream into an elegant dessert (we drizzled Sonomic Gold on Three Twins’ Land of Milk and Honey ice cream—wow!). As Reading likes to say, “You’ve never tasted anything like this.”